Th. Rothstein, under his pseudonym W.A.M.M. 1918

The German Socialist Minority

Source: The Call Index, 11 July 1918, p.3, (1,078 words)
Transcribed: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.

Dear Comrade, — I am much obliged to comrade Popovitch (to whom I apologise for not replying earlier) for his kind advice to make a “proper” study of Kautsky’s works both before and during the war, and the less kind charge of falsifying Kautsky’s thought by not quoting passages more fully. In the particular instance he mentions I do not see that the addition of the paragraph he quotes would have made any difference. My contention was that Kautsky at the beginning of the war was (and to a large extent now is) hopelessly floundering in the quagmire of national defence, and the additional passage only confirms my contention. The war, forsooth, has caused to Kautsky “many extraordinary difficulties.” Poor Kautsky! The war did not cause any difficulties to Mehring, or to Rosa Luxemburg, or to Clara Zetkin, or to Liebknecht, or to Lenin, or to Katzlerowitch, but it caused them to the “great thinker and revolutionist,” Kautsky. Why? Because, as Kautsky states in the sentence immediately preceding the passage quoted by Popovitch, but omitted by, him, “every war places Social Democracy in the fatal dilemma as between the necessity of defending the native hearth and international solidarity.” That is where Kautsky’s original sin lies. He lost his way “among three pines,” as the Germans say, and was left stranded between “national defence” and international Socialist solidarity. If comrade Popovitch does not perceive in this the immense platitude of the “great thinker’s” “revolutionary” thought, I am afraid our further discussion of the question will be useless: we shall be speaking two different languages.

Again, comrade Popovitch taunts me with having left out “the most essential sentence” in Kautsky’s “whole article,” in which he said that “whether the reasons for approving of the war credits were really compelling, and whether the voting was objectively correct can only be proved by a correct historical investigation after the war.” I am sorry I left out this passage, because it is really “essential,” Liebknecht and Mehring and Lenin and Katzlerowitch did not leave the question of the voting of the war credits to the judgment of history after the war, but decided it there and then. But the mind of the “great thinker and revolutionist” got so distracted by the above-mentioned dilemma, and probably by the question as to whether Germany was the attacking or the attacked party, that he postponed the question of war credits to the time after the war. Comrade Popovitch thinks that he was “right both theoretically and tactically,” though his own comrades in the Serbian Skupshtina did not wait for the judgment of history and—most curious of all!—Kautsky himself a year later found that it was no good waiting for the time after the war, and decided to settle it there and then. In the same article he argued that it would be not only “false, but also disastrous” to create a split on account of the divergence of views on the question of war credits. Fifteen months later Kautsky himself created a split over this question—what a wonderful perspicacity and “theoretical” and “tactical” alertness.

But it is useless to continue the controversy on these minor points. The main difference between comrade Popovitch and myself seems to be that I take a revolutionary view of the task of Socialists, both during and after the war, while of him it may be said what Clara Zetkin recently wrote of the Independent Socialists in Germany: he is still connected by the “navel-string” with the opportunist Socialism of the pre-war period. That my view of these Socialists and of Kautsky in particular is not due to my lack of knowledge of what the last-named has written both before and during the war can be seen from a letter recently written by Mehring (who, comrade Popovitch will admit, knows something of Kautsky and Marxism) to the Bolshevik “Pravda,” In it he states that “the Independent Socialists lack the power to attract, to arouse and to sweep the masses,” and explains:—

“Too late and only after long hesitation did they tear themselves away from the Government Socialists, in whose sins they more or less participated for a considerable time. Their constitution as a party, too, did not take place on the foundation of a clear and all-embracing system of thought. On many very important questions their views diverge, and the tie which unites them is not the watchword: Forward! but the one: Backward! For they would like to restore the old German Social Democracy as it existed before August 4th, 1914 . But that aim is a Utopia, and a reactionary one into the bargain. It wants to exhume a corpse arid to paint it with new colours of life . They are stricken by complete blindness as to the motor forces of the present day. They want to palliate the pain caused to them by the defeat at Niederbarnim by a violent campaign against the Bolsheviks, which is here being led by the Menshevik Stein and, by his side or, rather, above him, by the great theoretican Kautsky . If Karl Marx could see this he would turn in his grave! It is altogether characteristic of the party that it continues to admire Kautsky as the holy prophet, although they ought to know, at least, since August 4th, 1914, that this learned schoolmaster does not possess the slightest trace of Marx’s revolutionary spirit.”

Need I add anything else? This is just my position, and let me hope that comrade Popovitch, who also seems to “continue to admire Kautsky as the holy prophet” of Marxism, will in due course—let me also hope, before the end of the war—find it correct. The latest rumour that the Independent Socialist Party is about to split will, if borne out by events, help him in the matter. He will see the larger portion of it under Bernstein and other “revolutionists,” rejoining the parent party, and the more determined minority cutting the “navel-string” and joining Mehring and Liebknecht. As to whether Kautsky will also be among the minority, I frankly confess I do not know. His mind is so frequently beset with “difficulties” that far the sake of his old fetish, unity, he may choose to come, with Bernstein and Breitscheid, back to Scheidemann rather than to stand among those with whom the Stuttgart-Basel resolution is not a mere scrap of paper.