Karl Kautsky

The Road to Power

Chapter IX
A New Period Of Revolution

We have seen how rapidly the cost of militarism has risen in Switzerland. That, however, is little more than a weak reflection of what is taking place in the great military nations. Let us now turn to the German empire. According to the statistical year book of the German empire the following have been the expenditures for this purpose, in millions of marks



















Colonial government









Interest on public debt













Annual increase







Total government expense




      1,640 [1]


Annual increase






We see that the expenses rise steadily, but in an ever increasing rate. During the first decade of the empire the increase was in the neighborhood of 21,000,000 a year. Finally during the last decade the increase rose at the rate of nearly 91,000,000 a year, and during these last years the yearly increase reached almost 200,000,000.

The principal increase is in the cost of the preparations for war. Of these the cost of the navy rises more rapidly than that of the army. While the population of the empire during the years from 1891 to 1908 increased from 50,000,000 to 60,000,000, or about. ONE-FOURTH, the cost of the army has in the meantime almost DOUBLED, the expenditures for pensions and interest on the public debt have TRIPLED, and the naval expenses have QUADRUPLED. And there can be no halt in this mad increase until the present system is changed from the VERY FOUNDATION. The continuous technical transformation which is bringing the capitalist machine system and natural science into the field of production forces its way into the art of war, and there creates a continuous competition of new discoveries, a continuous depreciation of what now exists, and a continuous extension of power, but not, as in the field of production, a continuous increase in the productivity of labor, but a continuous aggravation of the destructiveness of war and a continuous increase in the unproductive wastes of peace.

Along with the transformation through technical evolution there goes also a constant extension of the domination, or at least of the sphere of influence of every great nation, due to the policy of expansion, which in turn makes necessary ever increasing armament.

So long as the policy of expansion continues the delusion of competitive armament must continue to increase until complete exhaustion is reached. Imperialism, however, as we have already seen, is the single hope, the single idea of the future which offers anything to present society. Consequently this delusion will increase until the proletariat gains the power to determine the policy of the nation, to overthrow the policy of imperialism and substitute the policy of Socialism. The longer this competitive armament continues, the heavier the load that will be laid upon the people of each country. Consequently each class will seek more and more to shove these loads off upon other classes, and therefore the more this competitive armament will tend to sharpen class antagonism.

In Germany it is naturally the laborers upon whom the heaviest load is shoved. This was bad enough in a time of industrial prosperity, of low cost of living, of advancing trade unions. It becomes unbearable in a time of crisis, of rising prices, of the ascendancy of employers’ associations. But the increasing load of taxes does not simply diminish the income of the laborers and reduce the purchasing power of their wages. It greatly threatens industrial progress itself, which the policy of expansion pretends to further.

The United States is the most dangerous competitor of German industry. The latter is greatly handicapped in this struggle by the German tariff system. To be sure, America has an even higher tariff. But it is an INDUSTRIAL and not an AGRARIAN tariff. It is provided with the cheapest food products and produces nearly all raw materials itself. Along with this it possesses the advantage of having no important land power as neighbor. It does not need to draw more than half a million men year in and year out from production to engage in the foolish waste of soldiery.

The more militarism grows in Europe, the greater grows the industrial superiority of the United States, and the more the economic progress of Europe languishes. Consequently, the more unfavorable grows the economic condition of the European working class. And in order to further this process the greatest sacrifices are demanded of us.

To be sure, the United States has also entered upon the road of imperialism and therewith upon the road of increased military preparations. Since the war with Spain the expenses for army and navy have been increasing. Nevertheless they are still less injured by this than the great powers of Europe, since, unlike these, they do not need to maintain a great standing army at home. In the whole United States there are barely 60,000 men in the army. [2]

As in the field of industrial competition, the United States can still go a long way in military competition before it is exhausted.

The following table shows the position of the United States in these respects in round millions:



Value of Exports Per Cent of Total




of Army

of Navy




































We see that the national debt of the United States is decreasing. To be sure, it increased in 1900, together with the expenditures for the army, as a result of the war with Spain. But since then it has again decreased in spite of increasing expenditures for the army and navy. The cost of the land forces for 1908 was $190,000,000, almost as much as in Germany, although, to be sure, with a population of eighty-six million.

The table of exports, however, shows how rapidly the export of manufactured articles from America is increasing and how much it is growing to be an industrial and not an agricultural nation in relation to the world market.

Out of a total export of $1,875,000,000 worth of goods from Germany in 1907, $1,750,000,000 were manufactured goods. In the United States, out of a total export of $1,853,000,000 worth of goods of domestic production, over $740,000,0 worth were manufactured articles. In 1890 the value of the manufactured goods exported from Germany amounted to $530,000,000 and of the United States to $170,000,000. Since then Germany has increased its exports of manufactures 150 per cent and the United States 300 per cent.

It is evident that the United States is already pushing Germany hard as an industrial nation.

And in this situation, while the United States in the period from 1900 to 1907 reduced its national debt in the neighborhood of $230,000,000, Germany increased its load of debt during the same period about $360,000,000. And even now, while this is being written, new colossal increases in expenses and higher taxation to raise a half million more are being planned.

The working class are struck hardest by these loads and crushed down, and this hampers industry, and handicaps the nation in its competitive struggle, which again reacts upon the laborers, upon whose shoulders this whole battle is fought. But there is a limit to the burden the laborers can bear, so at last this competitive armament cripples industrial progress.

At the same time the national antagonisms grow sharper, which stirs up the danger of war. Each government finds the constant and ever revolutionized war preparations more unbearable, but none of the ruling classes seeks the fault in the world politics that they follow. They dare not see it there, for this is the last refuge of capitalism. So each one finds the fault with the other, the German with England and the English with Germany. All become more and more nervous and suspicious, which in turn creates a new spur, to add new haste to the warlike preparations, until they are at last ready to cry. “Better a terrible end than an endless terror.”

Long ago this situation would have led to war, as the only alternative except revolution by which to escape from this crazy situation of reciprocal screwing up of the national burdens, had it not been for the fact that this alternative would have brought the revolution that stands behind the war – nearer than even behind an armed peace. It is the rising power of the proletariat which for three decades has prevented every European war, and which today causes every government to shudder at the prospect of war. But forces are driving us on to a condition where at last the weapons will be automatically released.

There is another phenomenon that is working in the same direction, and which, even more than the competitive arming, is destined to reduce the policy of expansion to an ad absurdam, and thereby to cut off from the present method of production its last possibility of further evolution.

The policy of expansion or imperialism rests upon the supposition that only peoples belonging to the European civilization are capable of independent development. The people of other races are looked upon as children, idiots, or beasts of burden who may be handled with more or less gentleness, and in any case are beings of a lower stage, which can be controlled according to our desires. Even Socialists have proceeded upon this supposition so far as to advocate colonization – to be sure, in an ethical manner. But actual events soon teach them that the fundamental principle of our party – the equality of all men – is not a mere phrase, but a very real power.

To be sure, the peoples who are outside the circle of influence of European civilization are almost incapable of any resistance during this century. This does not rest upon any natural inferiority, as the conceited ignorance of European bourgeois scholars would have us believe, whose science finds expression in the phantasies of our racial theoreticians. These people are crushed simply by the superiority of European technical development, including, to be sure, European mentality, which, in the last analysis, rests upon that technical development.

With the exception of some very backward branches including but a few thousand men, the peoples belonging to non-European civilizations are fully capable of taking up that civilization, but the material conditions hitherto have been lacking.

The extension of capitalism changes these conditions but little. Capitalist exportation brings into the localities lying outside the scope of European civilization (within which America and Australia are, of course, included) at first only capitalist PRODUCTS, and not capitalist PRODUCTION. Most important of all, even this influence is confined to the waterways, the sea coast and a few great rivers.

A tremendous transformation has taken place in this respect during the last generation, and especially during the last two decades. They have not only brought a new era of transoceanic conquest. The exports from industrial countries to undeveloped lands are no longer composed exclusively of PRODUCTS; they now include the INSTRUMENTS OP PRODUCTION AND TRANSPORTATION of modern industrialism.

We have already seen what a rapid advance there has been in railroad construction during recent years, especially in the Orient (Russia is here included). But capitalist industry is also rapidly developing in these countries. This is especially true of the textile and iron industries and mining. The latter has revolutionized South Africa.

It is from this export of the means of production that capitalist industry has drawn its new blood since the second half of the ’80s of the last century. It appeared to be at the end of its capacity for expansion by the first half of the ’80s, and it really was, so far as the export of manufacture is concerned. But the export of the means of production made possible a wholly unexpected and striking expansion, and developed the capitalist method of production in non-European civilizations, driving the previous economic conditions quickly out of existence. This, however, made impossible the continuance of the old methods of thought in the Orient. Along with the new methods of production of European origin, hitherto barbaric peoples suddenly acquired the intellectual capacity of developing to the European level. This new spirit breathes no love for Europe. The new countries become competitors of the old. But competitors are ENEMIES. The existence of the European spirit in Oriental countries does not make them our friends, but only our equals as enemies. That does not take place immediately. We have already seen what a role the CONSCIOUSNESS of STRENGTH plays in the social life, and how long a newly rising class or nation may remain in a subservient position which already possesses the power of securing independence, but is nOt yet conscious of that fact. This is showing itself now. The people of the Orient have been so often conquered by Europeans that they look upon all resistance as hopeless. Europeans have the same opinion. Their colonial policy is based on this, and so they treat, dispose of and deceive these people as if they were cattle.

But as soon as the Japanese broke the ice there was an instant reaction throughout the entire Orient. All Eastern Asia, as well as the whole Mohammedan world, raised to an independent policy, to a resistance against all domination from without.

This brought imperialism to a sudden stop. It can move no further. Yet it must constantly proceed further, since capitalism must constantly expand if its exploitation is not to become absolutely unbearable.

Equatorial Africa remains as the only possible field of expansion, where the climate is the best ally of the native, where European soldiers cannot be used, and where the Europeans must obtain natives as soldiers, and arm and train them – in preparation for the time when these mercenary troops will turn against their masters.

Everywhere in Asia and Africa the spirit of rebellion is spreading, and with it is spreading also the use of European arms, and a growing resistance to European exploitation. It is impossible to transplant capitalist exploitation into any country without therewith sowing the seeds of revolt against that exploitation. This expresses itself first in a growing difficulty in colonial politics, and a constant increase in their cost. Our colonial enthusiasts comfort us for the burdens that the colonies now impose upon us with promises of the rich rewards that the future is to bring. In reality the military expenses for the maintenance of colonies will, from now on, constantly increase – and this will not be all. The majority of the countries in Asia and Africa are reaching a condition in which the temporary uprisings will become open and continuous, and will end with the destruction of the foreign yoke. The British colonies of East India are nearest to this stage; their loss is equivalent to the bankruptcy of the English government.

We have already called attention to the fact that the Russo-Japanese war has inspired Eastern Asia and the Mohammedan world to throw off European capitalism. In this they are fighting the same enemy that the European proletariat is fighting. To be sure, we must not forget that while they are fighting the same enemy they are not fighting it with the same object – not in order to gain a victory for the proletariat over capital, but in order to substitute an internal national capitalism for an external one they are rising. We must not have any illusions on this point. Just as the Boers were the closest skinners of the people, so the Japanese rulers are the worst persecutors of Socialists and the Young Turks have already felt themselves compelled to proceed against striking workers. We must not take an uncritical attitude to the non-European opponents of European capitalism.

This, however, does not alter the fact that these opponents weaken European capitalism and its governments and introduce an element of political unrest into the entire world.

We have seen how in Europe a period of constant political unrest continued from 1789 to 1871, until the industrial bourgeoisie had conquered everywhere the political positions which their rapid development made possible. Since the Russo-Japanese war, since 1905, a similar period of constant political unrest has existed in the Orient. The people of Eastern Asia and the Mohammnedan world, together with those of Russia, have just entered upon a position in many ways similar to that of the West European bourgeoisie at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. Naturally the conditions are not wholly the same. One thing that makes them different is that the world is a hundred years older. The political development of a country does not depend entirely upon its own social conditions, but upon the conditions of the whole surrounding world, which affect that country. The different classes of Russia, Japan, India, China, Turkey, Egypt, etc., may stand in a similar relation to one another as did the classes of France before the great Revolution. But they will be influenced by the experiences of the class straggles that have taken place since then in England, France, and Germany. On the other hand, their struggle for favorable conditions for a national capitalist system of production, is at the same time a struggle against foreign capital and its foreign domination – a struggle which the people of Western Europe did not have to conduct during their revolutionary period from 1789-1871.

But however great these differences which tend to prevent the East from simply repeating the events of the West of a century ago, the similarity is still great enough to make it certain that the East is now entering upon a revolutionary period of a similar character – a period of conspiracies, coup d’etats, insurrections, reactions and renewed insurrections and continuous transformations that will continue until the conditions of a peaceful development and a secured national independence is obtained for this portion of the world.

Thanks to world politics, however, the Orient (using this word in the widest sense) is so closely connected with the Occident that the political unrest of the East cannot but affect the West. The political equilibrium of nations that has been so carefully obtained is now confronted with wholly unexpected alterations, that stagger it, and upon which it can exercise no influence. Problems whose peaceful solution appears impossible, and that leave consequently been avoided and put aside (such, for example, as the, relations of the Balkan states) now suddenly arise and demand a solution. Unrest, mistrust, uncertainty everywhere, are forced to a climax through the nervousness already raised to a high degree by the competitive armament. A world war is brought within threatening proximity.

The experience of the last decade, however, shows that war means revolution, that it has as a result great changes in political power. In 1891 Engels still held that it would be a great misfortune for us if a war broke out which should bring a revolution with it, precipitating us prematurely into power. For some time, he thought, the proletariat could proceed more securely by the utilization of the present governmental foundations than by running the risk of a revolution precipitated by a war.

Since then the situation has changed much. The proletariat has now grown so strong that it can contemplate a war with more confidence. We can no longer speak of a PREMATURE revolution, for it has already drawn so great strength from the present legal basis as to expect that a transformation of this basis would create the conditions for its further upward progress.

The proletariat hates war with all its strength. It would sacrifice everything rather than raise a cry for war. But if war should break out in spite of it, the proletariat is the only class that could confidently await its outcome.

Since 1891 it has not only grown greatly in numbers, not only been solidified by organization, it has also gained enormously in MORAL CONVICTION. Two decades ago the Socialists of Germany were still confronted with the great prestige which the rulers of the empire had gained in the struggles for its foundation. Today that prestige is scattered to the winds.

On the other hand, the more the idea of imperialism becomes bankrupt, the more the Socialists become the only party that is fighting for a great ideal and a great object, that is capable of arousing all the energy and devotion that flows to such an object.

In the ranks of our opponents, on the contrary, hesitation and apathy is sown by the consciousness that incapacity and corruption has degraded their leaders. They no longer believe in their cause, nor in their leaders, who right now, in the face of the situation whose difficulties are increasing from day to day, must fail and continue to fail and to more and more expose their complete incapacity.

This also is no accident, no fault of any individual persons, but is a necessary consequence of conditions.

The causes of this condition are manifold in character. As soon as a class or a government passes out of the revolutionary into the conservative stage, as soon as it is no longer compelled to fight for its existence or its further progress, as soon as it is contented with the present, the intellectual horizon of its spokesmen and rulers is narrowed and confined. Its interest in great questions dies out, it loses the power to do and dare, bold thinkers and fighters become undesirable and are pushed aside. Petty intrigue and cowardly unprincipledness push to the front.

In the same way the fact that statesmen and thinkers of a class or a country no longer struggle for anything great tends to develop selfish interests, and to cause the interests of individual persons to be pressed forward instead of the general interests of a class, a community or a society. The persons who are striving for power are no longer inspired by the impulse to create something great and new for the community, but only to obtain riches and power for themselves. This unscrupulous striving finds its expression in the efforts of the seekers after power, to attract, not those forces that are most capable of serving the community, but of such as can be most easily utilized to satisfy the needs and inclinations of the seekers for power.

To these general causes of the moral and intellectual collapse of all possessors of power in a conservative stage, must be added certain ones that spring peculiarly from capitalism.

Hitherto the exploiting classes have been the governing classes. They at least reserved the apexes of the governing machinery for themselves. The capitalist class, on the contrary, is so filled with the greed for business profits, that it relinquishes politics to others, who, to be sure, are at bottom but its agents. In democratic countries they are professional politicians, parliamentarians and journalists, in absolutisms the court circle, in intermediate nations, a mixture of these two elements with sometimes one, sometimes the other dominating.

So long as capitalist exploitation is small, the watchword of capital is economy, and it seeks to introduce this into the administration of government also. The small capitalists are forced, willy-nilly, to remain true to this watchword. The big capitalists, on the contrary, as the degree of exploitation rises practice ostentation and extravagance, that finally reaches such a mad pace as finds its extreme in insane forms of competitive armament.

In other ages the rulers of the state led all their subjects in display. Now the politicians and the statesmen even in the highest places are left far behind by the kings of high finance. It is difficult to increase the income of the government officials from the national treasury, especially in parliamentary nations, where heed must be paid to the voters and taxpayers who are always crying for economy. This is all the more difficult as the preparations for war absorb all the increase in national income.

If the politicians and statesmen are to keep up with the rising standard of living of the great exploiters, there is nothing left for them but to open up illegitimate sources of income alongside of their legitimate ones, by the utilization and prostitution of their political influence. They use their knowledge of governmental secrets and their influence upon governmental policies in speculation on the board of trade; they sponge upon the hospitality of great exploiters in a parasitic manner; they permit such persons to pay their debts, and in the worst cases accept bribes for the sale of their political influence.

The evil of corruption is invariably found wherever there are capitalist states with great exploiters. It always seizes the politically influential organs first, in democratic states the parliamentarians and journalists, in absolutisms the court nobility. Everywhere it breeds a far-reaching corruption that spreads the more rapidly in proportion as the exploitation and extravagance, and therewith the needs of the politicians and officials grow, and the power and the economic functions of the government increase.

To be sure, it is not claimed that all those who are touched by corruption are aware of it, or that all politicians and statesmen of the ruling class are corrupt. That would be to exaggerate. But the TEMPTATION to corruption continuously increases in these circles. It demands a constantly increasing strength of character to resist this temptation. It becomes easier to yield to this temptation the more extensive the atmosphere of corruption and the more developed and insinuating its methods, which do not permit those who are seized by corruption to become conscious of their own downfall.

So we see that in the same degree that the problems of politics become more and more complicated and make greater demands on the knowledge, intellectual activity, foresight and decision of statesmen, that in just the same degree the ruling class substitutes superficial babbling for scientific earnestness, fickleness for intellectual stability, personal rivalry and narrow intrigues in place of calculated pursuit of a distant goal, constant wavering between provocative brutality and cowardly retreat in place of quiet, decisive firmness.

At the same time an almost universal greediness and corruption appears. This manifests itself, now in a Panama scandal, then in an alliance between officials and swindlers, almost everywhere in fraudulent contracts for war material, sometimes in blow-hole armorplate, and again in useless weapons, and in other places again the fatherland is charged double what the same goods are sold for to other countries. For a long time contracts for war material have been a means of enriching the capitalists. Never, however, have the contractors for military supplies been so close to the government as now; never have they had so much influence over the policies that make for peace or war.

These same contractors are today the greatest industrial capitalists, the greatest exploiters of the proletariat. They have the greatest interest in the brutal war upon the inner as well as the outer enemy, and the greatest influence upon the government, which is more and more made up of unstable individuals.

Consequently every state must regard its neighbors, and the working class of every state must look upon its rulers as liable upon the slightest provocation, or as a result of any accident, to release the most inconceivable horrors upon it. All this is bound to produce a new transformation in the little capitalist class.

Naturally the moral bankruptcy of the ruling class is most complete in those localities where it is inaccessible to the mass of the people. Some great catastrophe, like the Russo-Japanese war, is required to expose the full rottenness of the system. In ordinary times it is only here and there that some special unskillfulness lifts a corner of the blanket that at other times shamefully conceals all. The class-conscious proletariat are touched but little by such disclosures. The laborers are much more antagonistic to the ruling class than formerly and do not deceive themselves about its moral qualities.

It is different with the small capitalist class. The more it becomes untrue to its democratic past, the more it crawls under the government and expects help from it, and the more it trusts in that government and its stability, and all the greater its horror when the foundation is torn away and its prestige goes to the devil.

There is a simultaneous increase in the pressure by the great capitalist combines and through the demands of the state upon their purses. This does not improve their confidence in the ruling class.

That confidence must completely disappear when the incapacity, indiscretion and corruption of the governing class frivolously precipitates a catastrophe – a war or a coup d’etat – that would expose the country to extreme distress. The blind rage of the little capitalists would be all the more easily and fiercely turned against the class that chanced to be ruling at such a time in proportion as it had expected much from this class previously, and the more it had exaggerated the ability and honesty of such a ruling class.

The last decade has certainly increased the hatred of the small capitalists for the proletariat. The latter must henceforth direct its policy with the expectation of fighting the coming battle unaided. But Marx has already shown that the little capitalist, as an intermediate thing between the capitalist and proletarian, wavers back and forth between the two, now the man of one and now of the other. We dare not reckon upon him, he will always be an uncertain ally – as a body. Individuals may well become very excellent party comrades, or their enmity to us may grow still greater. But that does not necessarily mean that some day, because of an unbearable burden of taxation and sudden moral collapse of the ruling class, they will come into our ranks en masse and perhaps thereby sweep away our enemies and decide our victory. Certainly it could make no cleverer stroke, for the victorious proletariat offers to all those who are exploiters, to all oppressed and exploited, as well as to all who vegetate like the small capitalists and small farmers, a tremendous betterment in their conditions of life.

However hostile the little capitalist class may be to us today, it is far from being a firm support of the possessing class. It also is wobbling .and cracking in all its joints, like every other support of present society.

The security of the existing order is failing in the consciousness of the people as well as in reality. There is a general feeling that we are entering upon a period of general uncertainty, that things cannot go on as they have gone for a generation, that the present situation is becoming rapidly untenable and cannot survive another generation.

In this time of universal uncertainty the immediate task of the proletariat is clear. We have already developed it. It cannot progress further without changes in the national foundation upon which it is waging its fight. To strive for democracy, not only in the empire, but also in the individual states and especially in Prussia – that is its next task in Germany; its next international task is to wage war on world politics and militarism.

Just as clear as these tasks are the means which are at our disposal for their solution. In addition to those that have already been utilized we have now added the MASS STRIKE, which we had already theoretically accepted at the beginning of the 90s, and whose application under favorable conditions has been repeatedly tested since then. If it has been somewhat pushed into the background since the glorious days of 1905, this only shows that it is not workable in every situation, and that it would be foolish to attempt to apply it under all conditions.

So far the situation is clear. But it is not the proletariat alone that must be considered in the fight that lies before us. Many other factors will participate therein that are wholly incalculable.

Incalculable are our statesmen. Their personalities change rapidly and their views more rapidly still. They no longer have any logical, definite policy.

Incalculable also are the small capitalist masses that, now here, now there, throw their weight into the scale, balancing it up and down.

Furthermore, the insanity of foreign politics, which involves so many nations, is still incalculable, so that the incalculableness of the internal politics of such states is increased manifold by the complications of its foreign relations.

All these factors are now in the closest and most continuous interrelation, so that it is impossible to come to any conclusions concerning them.

The Socialists will be able to assert themselves in the midst of this universal uncertainty just in proportion as they do not waver and as they remain true to themselves.

In the midst of this constant wavering policy they will increase the conscious strength of the laboring masses just in proportion as their theory makes possible a logical, definite practice. The more the Socialist party maintains an indestructible power in the midst of the destruction of all authority, the more the Socialists will increase their authority. And the more they persevere in their irreconcilable opposition to the corruption of the ruling class the more complete the trust that will be vested in them by the great masses of the population in the midst of the universal rottenness which has today seized the bourgeois democracy, which has completely surrendered its principles for the purpose of gaining governmental favors.

The more immovable, logical and irreconcilable the Socialists remain, the sooner will they conquer their opponents.

It is to ask the Socialists to commit political suicide to demand that they join in any coalition or “bloc” policy, in any case where the words “reactionary mass” are truly applicable. It is demanding moral suicide of the Socialists to ask them to enter into an alliance with capitalist parties at a time when, these have prostituted themselves and compromised themselves to the very bottom. Any such alliance would only be to join in furthering that prostitution.

Anxious friends fear that the Socialists may prematurely gain control of the government THROUGH a revolution. But if there is ever to be such a thing as a premature attainment of governmental power, it will come from the gaining of the appearance of governmental power BEFORE the revolution ; that is, before the proletariat has actually gained political power. So long as it has not gained this, the Socialists can obtain a share in governmental power only by SELLING its political strength.

The PROLETARIAT as a class can gain nothing in this manner. Even in the best cases the only gain will be to the PARLIAMENTARIANS who have carried out the sale.

Whoever looks upon the Socialist party as a means for the freeing of the proletariat, must decisively oppose any and all forms of participation by that party in the ruling corruption. If there is anything that will rob us of the confidence of all honorable elements in the masses, and that will gain us the contempt of all those sections of the proletariat that are capable of and willing to fight, and, that will bar the road to our progress, it is participation of the Socialists in any coalition or “bloc” policy.

The only elements that would be served by such a policy would be those to whom our party is nothing more than a ladder by which they can personally climb – the strivers and the self-seekers. The less of such elements we attract to us and the more we can drive away, the better for our battle.

How what has been said will be applied in individual cases it is impossible to say definitely. Never was it more difficult than now to foretell the form and tempo of the coming developments, where all the factors that are to be considered, with the exception of the proletariat, are so indefinite, incalculable.

The only certain thing is universal uncertainty. It is certain that we are entering upon a period of universal unrest, of shifting of power, and that whatever form this may take, or how long it may continue, a condition of permanent stability will not be reached until the proletariat shall have gained the power to expropriate politically and economically the capitalist class and thereby to inaugurate a new era in the world’s history.

Whether this revolutionary period will continue as long as that of the bourgeoisie, which began in 1789 and lasted until 1871, is, naturally, impossible to foresee. To be sure, all forms of evolution proceed much, more rapidly now than previously, but, on the other hand, the field of battle has grown enormously. When Marx and Engels wrote the “Communist Manifesto” they saw before them only Western Europe as the battle field of the proletarian revolution. Today it has become the whole world. Today the battles in the struggle of the laboring and exploited class for freedom will be fought not alone upon the banks of the Spree and the Seine, but on the Hudson and the Mississippi, on the Neva and the Dardanelles, on the Ganges and the Hoangho.

Equally gigantic with the battle field are the problems that spring from it – the social organization of the world industry.

But the proletariat will arise from this revolutionary era, that may perhaps continue for a generation, wholly different from what it was when it went in.

If today the elite of the workers are the strongest, most far-seeing, unselfish, keenest, best and freest organized section of the nations of European civilization, then it will draw to itself in the fight and through the fight the most unselfish and far-seeing elements of all classes, and will organize and educate the backward elements within its own bosom and inspire them with the joy and hope of freedom. It will raise its elite to the height of civilization and make them capable of directing that tremendous economic transformation that shall forever make an end of the whole world round of all misery arising from slavery, exploitation and ignorance.

Happy he who is called to share in this sublime battle and this glorious victory.



1. From 1900 on the expense of post office, railroads and government printing are included. These amounted in 1900 to 416,000,000 marks.

2. This, of course, does not include the militia. – Trans.


Last updated on 25.12.2003