Eduard Bernstein

On the Russian and German Revolutions

(7 December 1922)

Bernstein on the Russian and German Revolutions, Justice, 7 December 1922, p.4.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The world-known German Socialist, Edward Bernstein, published in the Breslau Social Democratic journal Volkswacht on the anniversary of the two revolutions, Russian and German, a very interesting article, in the course of which he draws a parallel between these two important historical events. Below we give a few extracts from this article:

“The rebellion in Russia on November 7, 1917, and the revolt in Germany which reached its summit on November 9, 1918, are so different in their nature and in their ideology that it is hardly possible to define them both by the same word ‘revolution.’ In any case the statement must be made with some reservation.

“On November 7, 1917, there was a typical coup d’état which, I think, can be defined as ‘a revolution’ only in the sense of those acts of violence in Asiatic countries resulting in the change of a regime without any regard of the final issue of such acts. In its essence it was a rebellion which was effected with the assistance of the rough, politically uneducated soldiery – a rebellion against the Revolution and against revolutionary events. The Revolution was killed by a despotic party, which was able to retain power by means of a military dictatorship. And if during these last five years until this day the Communist Party does not permit freedom of action to any political party Socialist or capitalist one sees in this very fact the tragedy of the position of this Party, because this fact bears evidence of its inner weakness.

“The Bolsheviks are pretending to be the most extreme party of all the Socialist parties of the world, and at the same time they are trying nowadays to come to a compromise with foreign capitalists. They are creating in their own country a new capitalist order which differs from the one only by its being on lower level of culture.

“However, owing to the suppression of all spiritual life and the extermination of the independent Press Bolsheviks are nearer to the old Tsarism than any other party which took part in the revolution. However honest might be the aims which the leaders of the coup d’état had in view, history will never give this rebellion the name of a revolution, because the Bolsheviks have subjugated a great country to spiritual and moral slavery.

“The new political situation created in Germany on November 9, 1918, has not realised what was expected by many of the participators in these events. The German Republic established by the Berlin workers is not Workers’ Republic. And if it is not a republic of the bourgeoisie, it still remains a bourgeois republic in the old democratic sense of the word. However, it is not only in the form that the present republic differs from the late Empire. In the stormy November of 1918, not only were thrones smashed and crowns torn away: in those days the chains which hindered the further developments of the Labour movement were broken. The revolution gave the German workers not only political rights, but improved their social conditions.

“At present a German worker enjoys more political freedom than he did under the Kaiser. The November revolt gave to German workers in general, no matter to what political party they belonged, more freedom, and therefore it can be defined as ‘a revolution’ in the proper sense of the word. Nowadays only those social changes can be called ‘revolutions’ which result in political freedom to the vast masses of people.”


Last updated on 13.12.2022