Criticising the theorist Kautsky, Lenin argues that the task of a proletarian revolution would be to break up the bureaucracies of the bourgeois state, replacing all functionaries with elected workers, who are subject to recall and receive an average working wage. However, it would also be necessary to transition into a state where administration becomes a collective endeavour, such that ‘all become “bureaucrats” for a time, and no one, therefore, can become a “bureaucrat”’.
Kautsky distorts Marx’s position on the state – the proletariat’s conquest of state power is not achieved by simply governing the bourgeois state by parliamentary majority, but when the state’s class character changes such that the proletariat is organised as the ruling class, not the bourgeoisie. This can only be achieved by revolution.
Lenin explains that under capitalism society cannot function without a bureaucracy as the working masses are prevented from engaging in political activity. A loyal bureaucracy is one of the ways that the capitalists maintain control over the state. A shortened working day enables workers to engage in political activity and running of the state, thus depriving the capitalists of a bureaucracy they can control.
Unfortunately, Lenin was unable to finish the book due to the onset of the October Revolution. In the postscript he writes; ‘It is more pleasant and useful to go through the “experience of revolution” than to write about it.’
- How did Bernstein distort a quote from Marx which said; ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes’?
- Why is it necessary to ensure that the task of administration is one that is shared by all workers?
- What does the term ‘centrism’ mean when used in a Marxist context?
- What are the three ways that Marxists and Anarchists differ according to Lenin?
- Why is there a risk of proletarian officials becoming ‘bureaucratised’ under capitalism?
- Why is it vital that any administrators are subject to election and recall by workers?
Chapter 6: The Vulgarisation of Marxism by Opportunists
The question of the relation of the state to the social revolution, and of the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, was given very little attention by the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International (1889-1914). But the most characteristic thing about the process of the gradual growth of opportunism that led to the collapse of the Second International in 1914 is the fact that even when these people were squarely faced with this question they tried to evade it or ignored it.
In general, it may be said that evasiveness over the question of the relation of the proletarian revolution to the state--an evasiveness which benefited and fostered opportunism--resulted in the distortion of Marxism and in its complete vulgarization.
To characterize this lamentable process, if only briefly, we shall take the most prominent theoreticians of Marxism: Plekhanov and Kautsky.
1. Plekhanov’s Controversy with the Anarchists
Plekhanov wrote a special pamphlet on the relation of anarchism to socialism, entitled Anarchism and Socialism, which was published in german in 1894.
In treating this subject, Plekhanov contrived completely to evade the most urgent, burning, and most politically essential issue in the struggle against anarchism, namely, the relation of the revolution to the state, and the question of the state in general! His pamphlet falls into two distinct parts: one of them is historical and literary, and contains valuable material on the history of the ideas of Stirner, Proudhon, and others; the other is philistine, and contains a clumsy dissertation on the theme that an anarchist cannot be distinguished from a bandit.
It is a most amusing combination of subjects and most characteristic of Plekhanov’s whole activity on the eve of the revolution and during the revolutionary period in Russia. In fact, in the years 1905 to 1917, Plekhanov revealed himself as a semi-doctrinaire and semi-philistine who, in politics, trailed in the wake of the bourgeoisie.
We have now seen how, in their controversy with the anarchists, Marx and Engels with the utmost thoroughness explained their views on the relation of revolution to the state. In 1891, in his foreword to Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme, Engels wrote that “we”—that is, Engels and Marx—"were at that time, hardly two years after the Hague Congress of the [First] International, engaged in the most violent struggle against Bakunin and his anarchists.”
The anarchists had tried to claim the Paris Commune as their “own”, so to say, as a collaboration of their doctrine; and they completely misunderstood its lessons and Marx’s analysis of these lessons. Anarchism has given nothing even approximating true answers to the concrete political questions: Must the old state machine be smashed? And what should be put in its place?
But to speak of “anarchism and socialism” while completely evading the question of the state, and disregarding the whole development of Marxism before and after the Commune, meant inevitably slipping into opportunism. For what opportunism needs most of all is that the two questions just mentioned should not be raised at all. That in itself is a victory for opportunism.
- Plekhanov's pamphlet on the relation of anarchism to socialism evaded the crucial issue of the relation of revolution to the state and the question of the state in general.
- Plekhanov's pamphlet consisted of two parts: a historical and literary section on the ideas of Stirner, Proudhon, and others, and a philistine section claiming that an anarchist cannot be distinguished from a bandit.
- Plekhanov's activity during the revolutionary period in Russia revealed him as a semi-doctrinaire and semi-philistine who trailed behind the bourgeoisie in politics.
- Marx and Engels vigorously fought against Bakunin and his anarchists, clarifying their views on the relation of revolution to the state.
- Anarchism failed to provide true answers to concrete political questions such as whether the old state machine should be smashed and what should replace it.
- Evasion of the questions of the state and the tasks of revolution inevitably led to slipping into opportunism, which seeks to avoid raising these questions.
2. Kautsky’s Controversy with the Opportunists
Undoubtedly, an immeasurably larger number of Kautsky’s works have been translated into Russian than into any other language. It is not without reason that some German Social-Democrats say in jest that Kautsky is read more in Russia than in Germany (let us say, in parenthesis, that this jest has a far deeper historical meaning than those who first made it suspect. The Russian workers, by making in 1905 an unusually great and unprecedented demand for the best works of the best Social- Democratic literature and editions of these works in quantities unheard of in other countries, rapidly transplanted, so to speak, the enormous experience of a neighboring, more advanced country to the young soil of our proletarian movement).
Besides his popularization of Marxism, Kautsky is particularly known in our country for his controversy with the opportunists, with Bernstein at their head. One fact, however, is almost unknown, one which cannot be ignored if we set out to investigate how Kautsky drifted into the morass of unbelievably disgraceful confusion and defence of social-chauvinism during the supreme crisis of 1914-15. This fact is as follows: shortly before he came out against the most prominent representatives of opportunism in France (Millerand and Jaures) and in Germany (Bernstein), Kautsky betrayed very considerable vacillation. The Marxist Zarya which was published in Stuttgart in 1901-02, and advocated revolutionary proletarian views, was forced to enter into controversy with Kautsky and describe as “elastic” the half-hearted, evasive resolution, conciliatory towards the opportunists, that he proposed at the International Socialist Congress in Paris in 1900. Kautsky’s letters published in Germany reveal no less hesitancy on his part before he took the field against Bernstein.
Of immeasurably greater significance, however, is the fact that, in his very controversy with the opportunists, in his formulation of the question and his manner of treating it, we can now see, as we study the history of Kautsky’s latest betrayal of Marxism, his systematic deviation towards opportunism precisely on the question of the state.
Let us take Kautsky’s first important work against opportunism, Bernstein and the Social-Democratic Programme. Kautsky refutes Bernstein in detail, but here is a characteristic thing:
Bernstein, in his Premises of Socialism, of Herostratean fame, accuses Marxism of “Blanquism” (an accusation since repeated thousands of times by the opportunists and liberal bourgeoisie in Russia against the revolutionary Marxists, the Bolsheviks). In this connection Bernstein dwells particularly on Marx’s The Civil War in France, and tries, quite unsuccessfully, as we have seen, to identify Marx’s views on the lessons of the Commune with those of Proudhon. Bernstein pays particular attention to the conclusion which Marx emphasized in his 1872 preface to the Communist Manifesto, namely, that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes”.
This statement “pleased” Bernstein so much that he used it no less than three times in his book, interpreting it in the most distorted, opportunist way.
As we have seen, Marx meant that the working-class must smash, break, shatter (sprengung, explosion—the expression used by Engels) the whole state machine. But according to Bernstein it would appear as though Marx in these words warned the working class against excessive revolutionary zeal when seizing power.
A cruder more hideous distortion of Marx’s idea cannot be imagined.
How, then, did Kautsky proceed in his most detailed refutation of Bernsteinism?
He refrained from analyzing the utter distortion of Marxism by opportunism on this point. He cited the above-quoted passage from Engels’ preface to Marx’s Civil War and said that according to Marx the working class cannot simply take over the ready-made state machinery, but that, generally speaking, it can take it over—and that was all. Kautsky did not say a word about the fact that Bernstein attributed to Marx the very opposite of Marx’s real idea, that since 1852 Marx had formulated the task of the proletarian revolution as being to “smash” the state machine.
The result was that the most essential distinction between Marxism and opportunism on the subject of the tasks of the proletarian revolution was slurred over by Kautsky!
“We can quite safely leave the solution of the problems of the proletarian dictatorship of the future,” said Kautsky, writing “against” Bernstein. (p.172, German edition)
This is not a polemic against Bernstein, but, in essence, a concession to him, a surrender to opportunism; for at present the opportunists ask nothing better than to “quite safely leave to the future” all fundamental questions of the tasks of the proletarian revolution.
From 1852 to 1891, or for 40 years, Marx and Engels taught the proletariat that it must smash the state machine. Yet, in 1899, Kautsky, confronted with the complete betrayal of Marxism by the opportunists on this point, fraudulently substituted for the question whether it is necessary to smash this machine the question for the concrete forms in which it is to be smashed, and then sought refuge behind the “indisputable” (and barren) philistine truth that concrete forms cannot be known in advance!!
A gulf separates Marx and Kautsky over their attitude towards the proletarian party’s task of training the working class for revolution.
Let us take the next, more mature, work by Kautsky, which was also largely devoted to a refutation of opportunist errors. It is his pamphlet, The Social Revolution. In this pamphlet, the author chose as his special theme the question of “the proletarian revolution” and “the proletarian regime”. He gave much that was exceedingly valuable, but he avoided the question of the state. Throughout the pamphlet the author speaks of the winning of state power—and no more; that is, he has chosen a formula which makes a concession to the opportunists, inasmuch as it admits the possibility of seizing power without destroying the state machine. The very thing which Marx in 1872 declared to be “obsolete” in the programme of the Communist Manifesto, is revived by Kautsky in 1902.
A special section in the pamphlet is devoted to the “forms and weapons of the social revolution”. Here Kautsky speaks of the mass political strike, of civil war, and of the “instruments of the might of the modern large state, its bureaucracy and the army"; but he does not say a word about what the Commune has already taught the workers. Evidently, it was not without reason that Engels issued a warning, particularly to the German socialists, against “superstitious reverence” for the state.
Kautsky treats the matter as follows: the victorious proletariat “will carry out the democratic programme”, and he goes on to formulate its clauses. But he does not say a word about the new material provided in 1871 on the subject of the replacement of bourgeois democracy by proletarian democracy. Kautsky disposes of the question by using such “impressive-sounding” banalities as:
“Still, it goes without saying that we shall not achieve supremacy under the present conditions. Revolution itself presupposes long and deep-going struggles, which, in themselves, will change our present political and social structure.”
Undoubtedly, this “goes without saying,” just as the fact that horses eat oats of the Volga flows into the Caspian. Only it is a pity that an empty and bombastic phrase about “deep-going” struggles is used to avoid a question of vital importance to the revolutionary proletariat, namely, what makes its revolution “deep-going” in relation to the state, to democracy, as distinct from previous, non-proletarian revolutions.
By avoiding this question, Kautsky in practice makes a concession to opportunism on this most essential point, although in words he declares stern war against it and stresses the importance of the “idea of revolution” (how much is this “idea” worth when one is afraid to teach the workers the concrete lessons of revolution?), or says, “revolutionary idealism before everything else”, or announces that the English workers are now “hardly more than petty bourgeois”.
“The most varied form of enterprises—bureaucratic [??], trade unionist, co-operative, private... can exist side by side in socialist society,” Kautsky writes. “... There are, for example, enterprises which cannot do without a bureaucratic [??] organization, such as the railways. Here the democratic organization may take the following shape: the workers elect delegates who form a sort of parliament, which establishes the working regulations and supervises the management of the bureaucratic apparatus. The management of other countries may be transferred to the trade unions, and still others may become co-operative enterprises.”
This argument is erroneous; it is a step backward compared with the explanations Marx and Engels gave in the seventies, using the lessons of the Commune as an example.
As far as the supposedly necessary “bureaucratic” organization is concerned, there is no difference whatever between a railway and any other enterprise in large-scale machine industry, any factory, large shop, or large-scale capitalist agricultural enterprise. The technique of all these enterprises makes absolutely imperative the strictest discipline, the utmost precision on the part of everyone in carrying out his allotted task, for otherwise the whole enterprise may come to a stop, or machinery or the finished product may be damaged. In all these enterprises the workers will, of course, “elect delegates who will form a sort of parliament”.
The whole point, however, is that this “sort of parliament” will not be a parliament in the sense of a bourgeois parliamentary institution. The whole point is that this “sort of parliament” will not merely “establish the working regulations and supervise the management of the bureaucratic apparatus,” as Kautsky, whose thinking does not go beyond the bounds of bourgeois parliamentarianism, imagines. In socialist society, the “sort of parliament” consisting of workers’deputies will, of course, “establish the working regulations and supervise the management” of the “apparatus,” but this apparatus will not be “bureaucratic.”
Kautsky has not reflected at all on Marx’s words: “The Commune was a working, not parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time.”
Kautsky has not understood at all the difference between bourgeois parliamentarism, which combines democracy (not for the people) with bureaucracy (against the people), and proletarian democracy, which will take immediate steps to cut bureaucracy down to the roots, and which will be able to carry these measures through to the end, to the complete abolition of bureaucracy, to the introduction of complete democracy for the people.
Kautsky here displays the same old “superstitious reverence” for the state, and “superstitious belief” in bureaucracy.
Let us now pass to the last and best of Kautsky’s works against the opportunists, his pamphlet The Road to Power (which, I believe, has not been published in Russian, for it appeared in 1909, when reaction was at its height in our country). This pamphlet is a big step forward, since it does not deal with the revolutionary programme in general, as the pamphlet of 1899 against Bernstein, or with the tasks of the social revolution irrespective of the time of its occurrence, as the 1902 pamphlet, The Social Revolution; it deals with the concrete conditions which compels us to recognize that the “era of revolutions” is setting in.
The author explicitly points to the aggravation of class antagonisms in general and to imperialism, which plays a particularly important part in this respect. After the “revolutionary period of 1789-1871” in Western Europe, he says, a similar period began in the East in 1905. A world war is approaching with menacing rapidity. “It [the proletariat] can no longer talk of premature revolution.” “We have entered a revolutionary period.” The “revolutionary era is beginning”.
These statements are perfectly clear. This pamphlet of Kautsky’s should serve as a measure of comparison of what the German Social-Democrats promised to be before the imperialist war and the depth of degradation to which they, including Kautsky himself, sank when the war broke out. “The present situation,” Kautsky wrote in the pamphlet under survey, “is fraught with the danger that we [i.e., the German Social-Democrats] may easily appear to be more ’moderate’than we really are.” It turned out that in reality the German Social-Democratic Party was much more moderate and opportunist than it appeared to be!
It is all the more characteristic, therefore, that although Kautsky so explicitly declared that the era of revolution had already begun, in the pamphlet which he himself said was devoted to an analysis of the “political revolution”, he again completely avoided the question of the state.
These evasions of the question, these omissions and equivocations, inevitably added up to that complete swing-over to opportunism with which we shall now have to deal.
Kautsky, the German Social-Democrats’spokesman, seems to have declared: I abide by revolutionary views (1899), I recognize, above all, the inevitability of the social revolution of the proletariat (1902), I recognize the advent of a new era of revolutions (1909). Still, I am going back on what Marx said as early as 1852, since the question of the tasks of the proletarian revolution in relation to the state is being raised (1912).
It was in this point-blank form that the question was put in Kautsky’s controversy with Pannekoek.
- Kautsky's works are more translated into Russian than any other language, possibly due to the demand for Social-Democratic literature in Russia in 1905.
- Kautsky is known for his controversy with the opportunists, particularly Bernstein.
- Kautsky showed significant vacillation before opposing prominent representatives of opportunism in France and Germany.
- Around 1914-15, Kautsky defended social-chauvinism, showing systematic deviation towards opportunism on the question of the state.
- Despite refuting Bernstein in detail, Kautsky's work against opportunism showed significant concessions to opportunism.
- Kautsky avoided the question of the state in his pamphlet, The Social Revolution, instead speaking only of winning state power.
- Kautsky's attitude towards the proletarian party's task of training the working class for revolution separated him from Marx and Engels.
- Kautsky's handling of the concept of bureaucracy shows a "superstitious reverence" for the state and a belief in bureaucracy.
- The onset of the imperialist war revealed the German Social-Democratic Party, including Kautsky, to be more moderate and opportunistic than they appeared.
- Despite declaring the beginning of a revolutionary era, Kautsky avoided the question of the state, leading to a complete swing-over to opportunism.
3. Kautsky’s Controversy with Pannekoek
In opposing Kautsky, Pannekoek came out as one of the representatives of the “Left radical” trend which included Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Radek, and others. Advocating revolutionary tactics, they were united in the conviction that Kautsky was going over to the “Centre”, which wavered in an unprincipled manner between Marxism and opportunism. This view was proved perfectly correct by the war, when this “Centrist” (wrongly called Marxist) trend, or Kautskyism, revealed itself in all its repulsive wretchedness.
In an article touching on the question of the state, entitled “Mass Action and Revolution” (Neue Zeit, 1912, Vol.XXX, 2), Pannekoek described kautsky’s attitude as one of “passive radicalism”, as “a theory of inactive expectancy”. “Kautsky refuses to see the process of revolution,” wrote Pannekoek (p.616). In presenting the matter in this way, Pannekoek approached the subject which interests us, namely, the tasks of the proletarian revolution in relation to the state.
“The struggle of the proletariat,” he wrote, “is not merely a struggle against the bourgeoisie for state power, but a struggle against state power.... The content of this [the proletarian] revolution is the destruction and dissolution [Auflosung] of the instruments of power of the state with the aid of the instruments of power of the proletariat. (p.544) “The struggle will cease only when, as the result of it, the state organization is completely destroyed. The organization of the majority will then have demonstrated its superiority by destroying the organization of the ruling minority.” (p.548)
The formulation in which Pannekoek presented his ideas suffers from serious defects. But its meaning is clear nonetheless, and it is interesting to note how Kautsky combated it.
“Up to now,” he wrote, “the antithesis between the Social-Democrats and the anarchists has been that the former wished to win the state power while the latter wished to destroy it. Pannekoek wants to do both.” (p.724)
Although Pannekoek’s exposition lacks precision and concreteness—not to speak of other shortcomings of his article which have no bearing on the present subject—Kautsky seized precisely on the point of principle raised by Pannekoek; and on this fundamental point of principle Kautsky completely abandoned the Marxist position and went over wholly to opportunism. His definition of the distinction between the Social-Democrats and the anarchists is absolutely wrong; he completely vulgarizes and distorts Marxism.
The distinction between Marxists and the anarchists is this: (1) The former, while aiming at the complete abolition of the state, recognize that this aim can only be achieved after classes have been abolished by the socialist revolution, as the result of the establishment of socialism, which leads to the withering away of the state. The latter want to abolish he state completely overnight, not understanding the conditions under which the state can be abolished. (2) The former recognize that after the proletariat has won political power it must completely destroy the old state machine and replace it by a new one consisting of an organization of the armed workers, after the type of the Commune. The latter, while insisting on the destruction of the state machine, have a very vague idea of what the proletariat will put in its place and how it will use its revolutionary power. The anarchists even deny that the revolutionary proletariat should use the state power, they reject its revolutionary dictatorship. (3) The former demand that the proletariat be trained for revolution by utilizing the present state. The anarchists reject this.
In this controversy, it is not Kautsky but Pannekoek who represents Marxism, for it was Marx who taught that the proletariat cannot simply win state power in the sense that the old state apparatus passes into new hands, but must smash this apparatus, must break it and replace it by a new one.
Kautsky abandons Marxism for the opportunist camp, for this destruction of the state machine, which is utterly unacceptable to the opportunists, completely disappears from his argument, and he leaves a loophole for them in that “conquest” may be interpreted as the simple acquisition of a majority.
To cover up his distortion of Marxism, Kautsky behaves like a doctrinaire: he puts forward a “quotation” from Marx himself. In 1850, Marx wrote that a “resolute centralization of power in the hands of the state authority” was necessary, and Kautsky triumphantly asks: does Pannekoek want to destroy “Centralism”?
This is simply a trick, like Bernstein’s identification of the views of Marxism and Proudhonism on the subject of federalism as against centralism.
Kautsky’s “quotation” is neither here nor there. Centralism is possible with both the old and the new state machine. If the workers voluntarily unite their armed forces, this will be centralism, but it will be based on the “complete destruction” of the centralized state apparatus—the standing army, the police, and the bureaucracy. Kautsky acts like an outright swindler by evading the perfectly well-known arguments of Marx and Engels on the Commune and plucking out a quotation which has nothing to do with the point at issue.
“Perhaps he [Pannekoek],” Kautsky continues, “wants to abolish the state functions of the officials? But we cannot do without officials even in the party and trade unions, let alone in the state administration. And our programme does not demand the abolition of state officials, but that they be elected by the people.... We are discussing here not the form the administrative apparatus of the ’future state’will assume, but whether our political struggle abolishes [literally dissolves - auflost] the state power before we have captured it. [Kautsky’s italics] Which ministry with its officials could be abolished?” Then follows an enumeration of the ministeries of education, justice, finance, and war. “No, not one of the present ministries will be removed by our political struggle against the government.... I repeat, in order to prevent misunderstanding: we are not discussing here the form the ’future state’will be given by the victorious Social-Democrats, but how the present state is changed by our opposition.” (p.725)
This is an obvious trick. Pannekoek raised the question of revolution. Both the title of his article and the passages quoted above clearly indicate this. By skipping to the question of “opposition”, Kautksy substitutes the opportunist for the revolutionary point of view. What he says means: at present we are an opposition; what we shall be after we have captured power, that we shall see. Revolution has vanished! And that is exactly what the opportunists wanted.
The point at issue is neither opposition nor political struggle in general, but revolution. Revolution consists in the proletariat destroying the “administrative apparatus” and the whole state machine, replacing it by a new one, made up of the armed workers. Kautsky displays a “superstitious reverence” for “ministries”; but why can they not be replaced, say, by committees of specialists working under sovereign, all-powerful Soviets of Workers’and Soldiers’Deputies?
The point is not at all whether the “ministries” will remain, or whether “committees of specialists” or some other bodies will be set up; that is quite immaterial. The point is whether the old state machine (bound by thousands of threads to the bourgeoisie and permeated through and through with routine and inertia) shall remain, or be destroyed and replaced by a new one. Revolution consists not in the new class commanding, governing with the aid of the old state machine, but in this class smashing this machine and commanding, governing with the aid of a new machine. Kautsky slurs over this basic idea of Marxism, or he does not understand it at all.
His question about officials clearly shows that he does not understand the lessons of the Commune or the teachings of Marx. “We cannot do without officials even in the party and the trade unions....”
We cannot do without officials under capitalism, under the rule of the bourgeoisie. The proletariat is oppressed, the working people are enslaved by capitalism. Under capitalism, democracy is restricted, cramped, curtailed, mutilated by all the conditions of wage slavery, and the poverty and misery of the people. This and this alone is the reason why the functionaries of our political organizations and trade unions are corrupted – or rather tend to be corrupted—by the conditions of capitalism and betray a tendency to become bureaucrats, i.e., privileged persons divorced from the people and standing above the people.
That is the essence of bureaucracy; and until the capitalists have been expropriated and the bourgeoisie overthrown, even proletarian functionaries will inevitably be “bureaucratized” to a certain extent.
According to Kautsky, since elected functionaries will remain under socialism, so will officials, so will the bureaucracy! This is exactly where he is wrong. Marx, referring to the example of the Commune, showed that under socialism functionaries will cease to be “bureaucrats”, to be “officials”, they will cease to be so in proportion as—in addition to the principle of election of officials—the principle of recall at any time is also introduced, as salaries are reduced to the level of the wages of the average workman, and as parliamentary institutions are replaced by “working bodies, executive and legislative at the same time”.
As a matter of fact, the whole of Kautsky’s argument against Pannekoek, and particularly the former’s wonderful point that we cannot do without officials even in our party and trade union organizations, is merely a repetition of Bernstein’s old “arguments” against Marxism in general. In his renegade book, The Premises of Socialism, Bernstein combats the ideas of “primitive” democracy, combats what he calls “doctrinaire democracy": binding mandates, unpaid officials, impotent central representative bodies, etc. to prove that this “primitive” democracy is unsound, Bernstein refers to the experience of the British trade unions, as interpreted by the Webbs. Seventy years of development “in absolute freedom”, he says (p.137, German edition), convinced the trade unions that primitive democracy was useless, and they replaced it by ordinary democracy, i.e., parliamentarism combined with bureaucracy.
In reality, the trade unions did not develop “in absolute freedom” but in absolute capitalist slavery, under which, it goes without saying, a number of concessions to the prevailing evil, violence, falsehood, exclusion of the poor from the affairs of “higher” administration, “cannot be done without”. Under socialism much of “primitive” democracy will inevitably be revived, since, for the first time in the history of civilized society the mass of population will rise to taking an independent part, not only in voting and elections, but also in the everyday administration of the state. Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing.
Marx’s critico-analytical genius saw in the practical measures of the Commune the turning-point which the opportunists fear and do not want to recognize because of their cowardice, because they do not want to break irrevocably with the bourgeoisie, and which the anarchists do not want to see, either because they are in a hurry or because they do not understand at all the conditions of great social changes. “We must not even think of destroying the old state machine; how can we do without ministries and officials>” argues the opportunist, who is completely saturated with philistinism and who, at bottom, not only does not believe in revolution, in the creative power of revolution, but lives in mortal dread of it (like our Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries).
“We must think only of destroying the old state machine; it is no use probing into the concrete lessons of earlier proletarian revolutions and analyzing what to put in the place of what has been destroyed, and how,” argues the anarchist (the best of the anarchist, of course, and not those who, following the Kropotkins and Co., trail behind the bourgeoisie). Consequently, the tactics of the anarchist become the tactics of despair instead of a ruthlessly bold revolutionary effort to solve concrete problems while taking into account the practical conditions of the mass movement.
Marx teaches us to avoid both errors; he teaches us to act with supreme boldness in destroying the entire old state machine, and at the same time he teaches us to put the question concretely: the Commune was able in the space of a few weeks to start building a new, proletarian state machine by introducing such-and-such measures to provide wider democracy and to uproot bureaucracy. Let us learn revolutionary boldness from the Communards; let us see in their practical measures the outline of really urgent and immediately possible measures, and then, following this road, we shall achieve the complete destruction of bureaucracy.
The possibility of this destruction is guaranteed by the fact that socialism will shorten the working day, will raise the people to a new life, will create such conditions for the majority of the population as will enable everybody, without exception, to perform “state functions”, and this will lead to the complete withering away of every form of state in general.
“Its object [the object of the mass strike],” Kautsky continues, “cannot be to destroy the state power; its only object can be to make the government compliant on some specific question, or to replace a government hostile to the proletariat by one willing to meet it half-way [entgegenkommende]... But never, under no circumstances can it [that is, the proletarian victory over a hostile government] lead to the destruction of the state power; it can lead only to a certain shifting [verschiebung] of the balance of forces within the state power.... The aim of our political struggle remains, as in the past, the conquest of state power by winning a majority in parliament and by raising parliament to the ranks of master of the government.” (pp.726, 727, 732)
This is nothing but the purest and most vulgar opportunism: repudiating revolution in deeds, while accepting it in words. Kautsky’s thoughts go no further than a “government... willing to meet the proletariat half-way"—a step backward to philistinism compared with 1847, when the Communist Manifesto proclaimed “the organization of the proletariat as the ruling class”.
Kautsky will have to achieve his beloved “unity” with the Scheidmanns, Plekhanovs, and Vanderveldes, all of whom agree to fight for a government “willing to meet the proletariat half-way”.
We, however, shall break with these traitors to socialism, and we shall fight for the complete destruction of the old state machine, in order that the armed proletariat itself may become the government. These are two vastly different things.
Kautsky will have to enjoy the pleasant company of the Legiens and Davids, Plekhanovs, Potresovs, Tseretelis, and Chernovs, who are quite willing to work for the “shifting of the balance of forces within the state power”, for “winning a majority in parliament”, and “raising parliament to the ranks of master of the government”. A most worthy object, which is wholly acceptable to the opportunists and which keeps everything within the bounds of the bourgeois parliamentary republic.
We, however, shall break with the opportunists; and the entire class-conscious proletariat will be with us in the fight—not to “shift the balance of forces”, but to overthrow the bourgeoisie, to destroy bourgeois parliamentarism, for a democratic republic after the type of the Commune, or a republic of Soviets of Workers’and Soldiers’Deputies, for the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
To the right of Kautsky in international socialism there are trends such as Socialist Monthly in Germany (Legien, David, Kolb, and many others, including the Scandinavian Stauning and Branting), Jaures’ followers and Vandervelde in France and Belgium; Turait, Treves, and other Right-wingers of the Italian Party; the Fabians and “Independents” (the Independent labor Party, which, in fact, has always been dependent on the Liberals) in Britain; and the like. All these gentry, who play a tremendous, very often a predominant role in the parliamentary work and the press of their parties, repudiate outright the dictatorship of the proletariat and pursue a policy of undisguised opportunism. In the eyes of these gentry, the “dictatorship” of the proletariat “contradicts” democracy!! There is really no essential distinction between them and the petty-bourgeois democrats.
Taking this circumstance into consideration, we are justified in drawing the conclusion that the Second International, that is, the overwhelming majority of its official representatives, has completely sunk into opportunism. The experience of the Commune has been not only ignored but distorted. Far from inculcating in the workers’minds the idea that the time is nearing when they must act to smash the old state machine, replace it by a new one, and in this way make their political rule the foundation for the socialist reorganization of society, they have actually preached to the masses the very opposite and have depicted the “conquest of power” in a way that has left thousands of loopholes for opportunism.
The distortion and hushing up of the question of the relation of the proletarian revolution to the state could not but play an immense role at a time when states, which possess a military apparatus expanded as a consequence of imperialist rivalry, have become military monsters which are exterminating millions of people in order to settle the issue as to whether Britain or Germany—this or that finance capital—is to rule the world.[*]
- Pannekoek, along with Luxemburg, Radek, and others, represented the "Left radical" trend, opposing Kautsky and his shift towards the "Centre".
- The "Centre", according to Pannekoek, wavered between Marxism and opportunism, which was proven during the war.
- Pannekoek criticized Kautsky's "passive radicalism" and accused him of ignoring the process of revolution.
- The struggle of the proletariat, according to Pannekoek, is against state power, aiming to destroy and dissolve the state's instruments of power.
- Kautsky criticized Pannekoek's views, arguing that the distinction between Social-Democrats and anarchists was the former's aim to win state power, while the latter sought to destroy it.
- Kautsky accused Pannekoek of wanting to do both, which he argued was a distortion and vulgarization of Marxism.
- Kautsky maintained that the aim of political struggle was the conquest of state power through winning a majority in parliament.
- The author argues that Kautsky's argument is pure opportunism, avoiding revolution while accepting it in words.
- The author supports the destruction of the old state machine, so that the armed proletariat can become the government.
- The author criticizes Kautsky for his alignment with the opportunists who aim to work within the bounds of the bourgeois parliamentary republic, rather than overthrowing the bourgeoisie.
[*] The MS. continues as follows:
Chapter VII: The Experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917
The subject indicated in the title of this chapter is so vast that volumes could be written about it. In the present pamphlet we shall have to confine ourselves, naturally, to the most important lessons provided by experience, those bearing directly upon the tasks of the proletariat in the revolution with regard to state power. [Here the manuscript breaks off—Ed.]
 The Hague Congress of the First international sat from September 2-7, 1872. It was attended by 65 delegates, among whom were Marx and Engels. The powers of the General Council and the political activity of the proletariat were among the items on the agenda. The Congress deliberations were marked throughout by a sharp struggle against the Bakuninists. The Congress passed a resolution extending the General Council’s powers. Its resolution “On the Political Activity of the Proletariat” stated that the proletariat should organise a political party of its own to ensure the triumph of the social revolution and that the winning of political power was becoming its great task. The Congress expelled Bakunin and Guillaume from the International as disorganisers and founders of a new, anti-proletarian party.
 Zarya (Dawn)—a Marxist scientific and political journal published in Stuttgart in 1901-02 by the editors of Iskra. Four issues appeared in three instalments.
 Reference is to the Fifth World Congress of the Second international, which met in Paris from September 23 to 27, 1900. On the fundamental issue, “The Winning of Political Power, and Alliances with Bourgeois Parties”, whose discussion was prompted by A. Millerand becoming a member of the Valdeck-Rousseau counter-revolutionary government, the Congress carried a motion tabled by Kautsky. The resolution said that “the entry of a single Socialist into a bourgeois Ministry cannot be considered as the normal beginning for winning political power: it can never be anything but a temporary and exceptional makeshift in an emergency situation”. Afterwards opportunists frequently referred to this point to justify their collaboration with the bourgeoisie.
Zarya published (No. 1, April 1901) an article by Plekhanov entitled “A Few Words About the Latest World Socialist Congress in Paris. An Open Letter to the Comrades Who Have Empowered Me”, which sharply criticised Kautsky’s resolution.
 This refers to Sydney and Beatrice Webb, Industrial Democracy.
 Socialist Monthly (Sozialistische Monatshefte)—the principal journal of the opportunists among the German Social-Democrats, a periodical of international opportunism. It was published in Berlin from 1897 to 1933. During the world imperialist war of 1914-18 it took a social-chauvinist stand.