V. I.   Lenin

Kautsky’s Unpardonable Error

Published: Proletarskaya Pravda No. 8, December 15, 1913. Published according to the Proletarskaya Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 546-547.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

In Proletarskaya Pravda No. 6, we commented on the speech Comrade Kautsky delivered[1] during the discussion of Russian affairs in the International Socialist Bureau, and on the amazing—to the Russian reader—complete and deplorable ignorance of Russian affairs that he then displayed.

In his speech Kautsky said that in Russia “the old Party is dead”. In a second speech, replying to the objections that had been raised to this, Kautsky said: “I did not say that Russian Social-Democracy is dead; I merely assert that the old forms are broken and that new forms must be created.” This is how Vorwärts, the central organ of the German party, whose delegate Kautsky was, reports the matter. Vorwärts is published in the city where Kautsky lives, and, of course, if he had found that he had been incorrectly reported he would have hastened to correct the report, as he has done on more than one occasion on questions far less important than the “question of the existence” of an entire Party, and of one affiliated to the International at that.

And now, No. 101 of Novaya Likvidatorskaya Gazeta publishes its own report of the meeting of the International Bureau, in which Kautsky’s second speech is so reported as to make it appear that Kautsky definitely denied that he had stated that the “Party is dead”.

We would have been the first to rejoice had Kautsky really spoken a second time in order emphatically to with draw the view which he had expressed, and which was based on his most deplorable ignorance of Russian Party life. But alas! We have no grounds whatever for giving more credence to the report in Novaya Likvidatorskaya Gazeta than to the report in the central organ of the German party.

The liquidators’ newspaper is trying to hush up the matter. But it is quite clear. In his statement about the old Party being “dead” Kautsky not only betrayed ignorance of the facts about the Russian working-class movement, but also revealed what sort of influence the liquidator whisperers abroad exercise upon our foreign comrades.

After uttering his monstrous phrase and meeting with objections, Kautsky tried to correct himself. As reported in Vorwärts, the central organ of the German Social-Democratic Party, he appears to have corrected himself badly, and as reported by the liquidator correspondent he appears to have corrected himself better, but not very much better, for what does he mean by the “form” of Social-Democracy, if not the Party?

The point, however, is not how Kautsky corrected him self, but the unpardonable mistake he committed as a result of liquidator efforts abroad. Class-conscious workers in Russia could, of course, easily expose these whisperers abroad if only they wanted to, and it is high time they did want to! They must organise the work of informing our foreign comrades about their movement in such a way as to tear this business out of the hands of irresponsible émigré coteries. They must counteract the efforts being made by whisperers to use the ignorance (natural) of foreign parties for their own liquidator ends. That is why we called upon the worker comrades to respond as vigorously as possible to the International Bureau’s appeal to clarify the disagreements between the Marxists and the liquidators. Let the foreign comrades at last hear the voices of the workers themselves and not those of the liquidator whisperers. This is important, this is essential if we value the idea of international unity.

We make this appeal for a genuine clarification of disagreements, for keeping our foreign comrades informed by means of resolutions, decisions and voting by the workers them selves in order to counteract the liquidators’ attempts to conceal or garble the facts of what took place at the meeting of the Bureau.


[1] See pp. 528–30 of this volume.—Ed.

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