Karl Kautsky 1909

Letter From Karl Kautsky to Upton Sinclair

Source: Upton Sinclair (pub.): My Lifetime in Letters, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1960, pp. 74ff.
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Berlin-Friedenau, September 25th, 1909
Dear Comrade Sinclair:

You have bad luck with us Germans. Your letter to the Vorwärts did not get any answer and your letter to me does not get it directly. It was sent after me to the convention of Leipzig, where I read it and had the mischance to lose it. So I have not your address and must ask a friend of mine in America to send this letter to you.

Your manifesto against war I have read with great interest and warm sympathy. Nevertheless I am not able to publish it and you will not find anybody in Germany – nor in Austria or Russia, who would dare to publish your appeal. He would be arrested at once and get some years imprisonment for high treason.

But that were not the worst. Sometimes one must take such risk, if something good for the cause comes out of it. But your manifesto were useless if it was only the publication of an isolated individual. Published not by an individual but by the party and approved by it, it meant the destruction of the party by the government. We are here not in a free country. But something worse still: By publishing the manifesto we would instead mislead our own comrades, promise to them more than we could fulfil. Nobody, and not the most revolutionary amongst us Socialists in Germany, thinks to oppose war by insurrection and general strike. We are too weak to do that – in that point Blatchford is right. I hope, after a war, after the debacle of a government, we may get strength enough to conquer the political power. But the German government is much too strong, to let us try an insurrection, when it prepares war. That were sheer folly. That’s not my personal opinion only, in that point the whole party without any exception, is unanimous.

The only thing we can promise is: To oppose war with all our means that are not beyond our power. And that opposition is not without success. No government risks lightly a war, that is strongly opposed by one-third of the population. You may be sure there will never come the day when German socialists will ask their followers to take the arms for the fatherland. What Bebel announced will never happen, because today there is no foe, who threatens the independence of the Fatherland. If there will be war today, it won’t be a war for the defense of the Fatherland, it will be one for imperialistic purposes, and such a war will find the whole socialist party of Germany in energetic opposition.

That we may promise. But we can’t go so far and promise this opposition shall take the form of insurrection or general strike, if necessary, nor can we promise that our opposition will in every case be strong enough to prevent war. It were worse than useless to promise more than we can fulfil.

I hope these reasons are strong enough to excuse my not publishing your beautiful and powerful manifesto.

I am dear comrade, yours truly,
K. Kautsky