Karl Kautsky

Terrorism and Communism

Chapter I
Revolution and Terror

Up to the outbreak of war, the idea was current in the widest circles of social democracy that the time for revolutions, not only for West Europe, but also for Germany and Austria., was long since past. Whoever thought differently was scoffed at as a revolutionary romancer.

Now we have the Revolution with us, and it is taking on forms of barbarity, which even the most fantastic of revolutionary romancers could scarce have expected.

The abolition of the death penalty was for every social democrat a perfectly obvious claim. The Revolution, however, has brought with it the most bloody terrorism practised by Socialist Governments. The Bolsheviks in Russia started this, and were in consequence condemned in the most bitter terms by all who did not accept the Bolshevik standpoint. Among them are the German Majority Socialists. Rut these latter hardly felt their own power threatened before they resorted to the same means practised by the Regime of Terror, which have characterised the Revolution in the East. Noske has boldly followed in Trotsky’s footsteps; certainly with this difference, that he himself does not regard his dictatorship as the dictatorship of the proletariat. But both justify their slaughter on the grounds of the rights of the Revolution.

It is, in fact, a widely spread idea that Terrorism belongs to the very essence of revolution, and that whoever wants a revolution must somehow come to some sort of terms with terrorism. As proof of this assertion, over and over again the great French Revolution has been cited. It is regarded as the Revolution par excellence.

An examination of Terrorism, of its conditions and consequences, can best proceed from a description of the Regime of Terror instituted by the Sans-culottists. With this we will begin. This will take us back same considerable distance from contemporary events, but these we shall better understand after an examination of the past. It is striking to find how many resemblances there are between the great French Revolution and the revolutions of the present time, especially the Russian.

Yet the revolutions of our times differ in many essential points from the revolution of the 18th century. This is shown at once by a comparison of our proletariat, our industry and commerce, with the corresponding phenomena of that period.


Last updated on 19.1.2004