Karl Kautsky

Communism and Socialism

1. The Idea of a Socialist-Communist Coalition

The German proletariat faces a severe struggle against the rising power of Hitlerite fascism. Only as a united mass can it expect to assert itself victoriously. Communists and Socialists are equally threatened by the National Socialists. Nevertheless, the Communists persist in their old policy of considering the Socialists as their worst enemies, to be destroyed first before the attack on the Hitlerites is unleashed.

The senselessness of this policy has been clearly perceived even by the Communist Trotsky, who has called upon the German Communists to unite with the Socialists on a joint program of defense against National Socialism.

But however urgent this may be, it will not materialize. The Communists will continue to support the Fascists in this crisis of the republic by fighting the Socialists, whom they oppose more bitterly than any other party, at times hand in and with the Fascists.

Are we not confronted here by an unfortunate misunderstanding? What is it that divides us from the Communists? Like the Socialists, they are a proletarian party. The emancipation of the proletariat by establishment of a socialist society is our common aim. Nay, more: we have a common theoretical basis for our practical struggles: the teaching of Karl Marx. It appears as if the only thing that divides us is a varying interpretation of some of his utterances. Shall we permit our cooperation to be shattered by any such difference at a moment when the entire movement for emancipation of the proletariat faces a life and death struggle?

Were this true, we would be justified in condemning our whole movement as no higher than some Christian sect whose members seek to devour each ocher over the interpretation of some particular words in the Bible.

However, even such sectarians do not appear upon closer study to be as senseless as they seem at first glance. Behind the various interpretations of particular words may be found very real differences. For example: upon superficial examination Luther and Zwingli appear to be fighting each other over different interpretations of the words spoken by Christ at the Last Supper. Yet, the disagreement between them really arose from the fact that Zwingli was a republican while Luther expounded the idea of absolute monarchy.

The same holds true to day with respect to our relation to the Communists. They fight us not only because our interpretation of Marx differs from theirs but because they must perforce interpret him differently in order that they may find arguments against us. There was a time when we both had a common theoretical basis. But later a gulf developed between us which cannot be bridged, however much we may desire and consider this necessary. This gulf arises neither from a misunderstanding nor from any mere difference of opinion.


Last updated on 27.1.2004