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Lenin-Kautsky Post-1914 Database

August 5, 2019

What follows is the first online publication of a research tool created by Lars Lih in February 2008 and updated February 2011. — JR

By Lars T. Lih: The Kautsky-as-Marxist database is a collection that I have compiled of all comments by Lenin in his final decade, 1914-1924, that bear on the issue on his attitude during those years toward Kautsky’s prewar writings—or rather, his writings up to and including 1909.  The original aim of the database was to provide empirical material on a dispute about Lenin’s attitude toward Kautsky after 1914.

Both sides acknowledge that Lenin admired Kautsky strongly before 1914 and that he reacted in strongly negative terms to everything that Kautsky wrote starting in 1914.  The question is: did Lenin’s post-1914 negative attitude spill over into a reevaluation of writings by Kautsky earlier endorsed by Lenin?

According to one side of the dispute, Lenin regarded Kautsky as a renegade who failed to live up to his earlier, still valid, positions.  According to the other side, the scales fell from Lenin’s eyes about Kautsky in general, leading to a root-and-branch reevaluation not only of Kautsky but of “Second International Marxism” in general.  The two sides of the debate are set forth in the Symposium on Lenin Rediscovered in Historical Materialism, 18:3 (2010), pp. 25-174.

The aim of the database is to collect and arrange all evidence in Lenin’s collected works relevant to deciding this dispute.  The database is divided into two categories.  The first is a comprehensive collection of all references in Lenin’s post-1914 works to anything Kautsky did or wrote up to and including 1909.  The cutoff date of 1909 is imposed by unambiguous statements by Lenin himself that Kautsky’s Road to Power, published in 1909, was his last production as a consistent Marxist.  The main tool for locating these references is the bibliographies provided in each volume of the 5th Russian edition of Lenin’s collected works.  These bibliographies provide full information on every work mentioned or even alluded to by Lenin.  Added to the systematic search based on these bibliographies are the results of a less systematic hunt for any relevant item.  The aim in this category is to include every relevant item (NB: I rather doubt I have achieved this aim, but close enough to go on.)

The second category in the database is material on various topics that provide relevant context for the questions that concern us.  The aim here is to be accurately representative rather than comprehensive.  The topics included are: the meaning of Lenin’s coinage kautskianstvo (translated in the English-language Collected Works as “Kautskyism”); Lenin’s view of the Second International as a whole; Lenin’s view of Kautsky as a person after 1909; Lenin’s view of other “renegades” such as Jules Guesde.  The most important of these topics is the meaning of kautskianstvo.  Lenin’s post-1914 polemics will be thoroughly misunderstood if this term is thought of as an “ism,” that is, an ideology or system of ideas similar to those of Karl Kautsky.

The evidence gathered here show beyond doubt Lenin’s own view of the matter: Kautsky was a renegade who had betrayed the truths for which he earlier had been such an eloquent spokesman.  Furthermore, the database unexpectedly turns out to be a powerful and insightful portrait of Lenin’s major concerns during these years.  We should be astonished at the sheer quantity, range and variety of the topics about which Lenin felt it necessary to refer to “Kautsky when he was a Marxist.”  These include the fundamental features of the new era of revolutions, the state, nationalism, opportunism, foreign policy, peasant policy and dialectics.  In many cases, Lenin had recently reread the Kautsky texts in question.  On more than one occasion, Lenin went out of his way to pay tribute to the special role Kautsky played as ideological mentor to Russian Social Democracy and to the Bolsheviks in particular.  Kautsky past and present was clearly a major obsession for Lenin during these years.

The database has served me as a starting point for research into a whole range of issues concerning Lenin’s outlook and its roots in international Social Democracy.  But I believe that anyone interested in Lenin will also be fascinated by the partial but hugely revealing portrait that emerges from this mosaic of comments throughout the most dramatic decade of his life.

Volume and page references below refer to the fifth Russian-language edition of Lenin’s works, Polnoye Sobranie Sochinenii.

‘Road to Power’

Introduction

Kautsky’s Road to Power was published in 1909 and for Lenin represented the last full-bodied production of Kautsky the Marxist.   Kautsky’s book was particularly important to Lenin because of its prediction of an approaching “new era of revolutions” on a global scale.  Before the war broke out, there is no mention in Lenin’s writings of Road to Power, although its influence can be seen in articles by Lenin and Kamenev (and possibly others).  Its extraordinary significance for Lenin becomes manifest only in his outraged reaction to Kautsky’s actions after war broke out.  Lenin often associates Road to Power with the 1912 Basel resolution as evidence of a consensus of revolutionary Social Democracy prior to the war.  In one of his first wartime programmatic statements in September 1914, Lenin ties his central slogan—“turn the imperialist war into a civil war”—directly to the Basel Manifesto (“The War and Russian Social Democracy,” 26:22).

Citations

  1. October 1914. Tony Cliff and others have cited Lenin’s very angry attacks on Kautsky in his letters to Shliapnikov.  For us, the key passage is the following: “Obtain without fail and reread (or ask to have it translated for you) Road to Power by Kautsky [and see] what he writes there about the revolution of our time! And now, how he acts the toady and disavows all that!”  49:24
  2. October 1914. From a lecture in Switzerland on “The Proletariat and the War”: “In his book Road to Power, Kautsky shows, after attentively considering economic phenomena in detail and drawing extremely cautious conclusions from them, that we are entering into a phase that is utterly dissimilar to the previous peaceful gradual development.”  (Lenin often refers to Kautsky’s theoretical caution, not as an insult, but as a quality that adds extra weight to his conclusions.)  26:30
  3. December 1914. In his article “Dead Chauvinism and Living Socialism,” Lenin starts off by noting that in previous decades German Social Democracy was a model even more for Russians than for other Social Democrats.  He then asks: “What was it [German Social Democracy]?  What is it?  What will it be?  An answer to the first question can be found in K. Kautsky’s Road to Power, published in 1909 and translated into many European languages.  This book, written by the most authoritative writer of the Second International, contains the most complete exposition of the tasks of our times; it is the most advantageous [evidence] for the hopes one could put on the German Social Democrats.  Let us go over this book in detail; this will be all the more useful, the more often people now shamefully discard these ‘forgotten words’.”  Lenin then goes on for a full page and a half on the basic points of Road to Power.  He concludes: “That’s what Kautsky wrote in the days ever so long ago—a whole five years ago.  This is what German Social Democracy was—or rather, promised to be.  This is the Social Democracy that one could and had to respect.”  On two key points—a revolution in Europe cannot now be premature and war leads to revolution—“Kautsky expressed in 1909 the undisputed opinion of all revolutionary Social Democrats.”  26:98-105.
  4. January 1915. This article, “Under an Alien Flag,” was written for an abortive attempt at legal publication in Russia; the article was published only in 1917.  Owing to the censor, Lenin speaks only of “democracy,” not “socialism.”  Lenin talks about three epochs: the first from 1789 to 1871; the second from 1871 to 1914, the third from 1914 to indefinite future.  “It was none other than Kautsky himself, in a whole series of articles and in his book Road to Power (which came out in 1909), who described with the fullest possible definiteness the basic traits of the approaching third epoch and who pointed out its radical distinctiveness from the second (yesterday’s) epoch.  He acknowledged the change in immediate tasks, and, along with this, a change in the conditions and forms of the struggle of contemporary democracy—a change that flows out of the shift in objective historical circumstances.  But Kautsky now commits to the flame what he once worshipped and he is changing front in the most incredible, most indecent, most shameless fashion.”  Kautsky predicted exactly the kind of war that indeed broke out in 1914.  [That is, an imperialist war: Lenin resorts to euphemism for the censor.]  All you have to do is compare passages from his book to what he’s saying now, and you will see his betrayal of his own convictions and solemn pronouncements.  And in this, Kautsky is typical of the whole upper stratum of contemporary socialism.  26:143-44.
  5. Spring 1915. “The Collapse of the Second International.”  In his polemic against Kautsky’s current theory of “ultra-imperialism,” Lenin insists that a great power can’t opt out of imperialist competition, because it would then be unable to provide the privileges to the petty bourgeoisie need to stave off revolution.  “This is a fact fully demonstrated by the war.  This is in practice what the sharpening of contradictions—as acknowledged long ago by everybody, including Kautsky himself in his book Road to Power—is moving towards.”    A few pages later, Lenin returns to Road to Power, goes over its main points (a new “revolutionary period,” no premature revolution, need for optimistic confidence in an uprising), and describes these points as “not refuted by anybody and irrefutable.”  26:234
  6. Summer 1915. Socialism and War.  In a section entitled Kautskianstvo, Lenin writes: “Kautsky, who in 1909 wrote a whole book of the nearness of the epoch of revolutions and the links between war and revolution, Kautsky, who in 1912 signed the Basel Manifesto about the revolutionary utilization of the coming war, now in every way justifies and prettifies social chauvinism, and like Plekhanov, unites with the bourgeoisie to mock any thought of revolution, any steps toward immediate revolutionary struggle.”  (More from this section under Kautskianstvo.) 26:324
  7. September 1915. “True Internationalists: “Kautsky, Axelrod, Martov.”  Lenin makes an analogy between 1901 (when the revolutionary situation in Russia was evident, although the revolution itself only broke out years later) and the current situation in Europe: “We stand, without a doubt, on the eve of a socialist revolution.  This was acknowledged even by ‘super-cautious’ theorists such as Kautsky, already in 1909 (Road to Power).” The Basel Manifesto shows the same thing.  27:56-7
  8. December 1915. Introduction to Bukharin’s “World Economy and imperialism.”  Kautsky dreams of “peaceful” capitalism.  But: “That ‘peaceful’ capitalism has been replaced by non-peaceful, warring and catastrophic imperialism is something that Kautsky is compelled to admit, because he admitted it in 1909 in a work on the topic in which he came forth the last time with undiluted conclusions as a Marxist … Kautsky swore to be a Marxist in this impending acute and catastrophic epoch that he was compelled to predict and admit with complete precision when he wrote his 1909 book about the coming epoch.”  27:96-7
  9. In a footnote added to a republication of Lenin’s 1914 writing On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination, he speaks of Kautsky’s “excellent book Road to Power,” written at a time when Kautsky was still a foe of opportunism” (see under Nationalism, Spring 1914, for full passage). 25:259
  10. January 1916. “Opportunism and the Collapse of the Second International.”  The Basel Manifesto is a summary of “millions and millions of proclamations, newspaper articles, books, speeches of the socialists of all countries” from the entire epoch of the Second International.  “To brush aside the Basel Manifesto means to brush aside the whole history of socialism.  The Basel Manifesto does not say anything special, anything extraordinary.  It says this, and only this: what socialists had used in order to gain the following of the masses: the acknowledgement of ‘peaceful’ work as a preparation for the proletarian revolution.” It only repeats what Guesde said in 1899 “or Kautsky in 1909 in Road to Power, when he pointed to the end of the ‘peaceful epoch,’ to the coming on of the epoch of wars and revolutions, of the struggle of the proletariat for power.”  (Also listed under Second International.)  27:102
  11. January 1916. “Opportunism and the Collapse of the Second International.”  Lenin is outraged that Kautsky is denying the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat—during the very crisis that he himself predicted!  “And the one denying revolutionary action is the very same authority of the Second International who in 1909 wrote a whole book, Road to Power, translated into practically all the major European languages and demonstrating the link between the future war and revolution, demonstrating that ‘the revolution cannot be premature’!!  In 1909 Kautsky demonstrated that the epoch of ‘peaceful’ capitalism was past, the epoch of wars and revolutions was approaching.”  The Basel resolution said the same thing, and the very war predicted by Stuttgart and Basel came out in 1914.  “And Kautsky is thinking up theoretical ‘reservations’ against a revolutionary tactic!”  27:109-10
  12. Imperialism.  Lenin discusses the position of “bourgeois writers” about international cartels, and mentions that in agreement with them is “K. Kautsky, completely unfaithful to his Marxist position, for example, of 1909.”  27:372
  13. January-February 1917. “Marxism and the State” Notebooks.  Lenin takes notes on Road to Power and adds comments that mainly point to lack of concreteness.  For example, Kautsky writes: Revolution is a change in the essence of state power (Wesen der Staatsgewalt).  Lenin comments: “That’s all? [I tol’ko?] How exactly?”  Kautsky states: The dictatorship of the proletariat is its political Alleinherrschaft.  Lenin: “That’s all? of what it consists, not a word.”  Lenin cites the statement he admired earlier, about always starting a fight with a belief in victory, and adds: That’s all?  Nothing about making revolutionary use of a revolutionary situation?  Lenin grudgingly notes that Kautsky “is aware of the growth of bureaucracy and army,” and he fills a page with passages from the book about the “new era of revolutions.”  His final judgment: the particularities of the proletariat revolution are passed over, and the “concretization” provided by Marx and Engels in their Commune writings is not mentioned.  33: 278-88.
  14. August 1917. State and Revolution. The page that Lenin devotes to Road to Power is almost all complimentary.  It is the “best of Kautsky’s writings against the opportunists … a giant step forward” because it talks about “concrete conditions.”  Lenin repeats his 1914 comment that Path shows the great potential promise of German Social Democracy and therefore how far it has fallen, since it turned out to be “more moderate and opportunist than it seemed!”  His entire criticism is contained in one sentence: “All the more characteristic, then, that with such definiteness about the era of revolutions that is already beginning—in a book that is dedicated (as he himself says) to the ‘political revolution’—he nevertheless completely evades the question of the state.”  33:110-1.
  15. October 1918. The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.  In the foreword, Lenin documents that the Bolsheviks had been calling Kautsky a renegade long before they took power and Kautsky became an open opponent.  He cites the passage from Socialism and War (1915) about Kautsky who “wrote in 1909 a whole book about the closeness of the epoch of revolutions and about the link between war and revolution,” who signed the Basel resolution, but who nevertheless justifies and prettifies social-chauvinism (see above for whole passage).  37:238
  16. October 1918. The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. How can Kautsky say, without self-contradiction, that soviets are unfit to be the basis of the state?  “Kautsky wrote in 1909, when he was not yet a renegade, that a premature revolution is no longer something that anyone need fear, that anyone who refuses revolution from fear of defeat is a traitor.  Kautsky can’t bring himself to disavow these things directly.”  Thus, Kautsky’s self-contradictory argument is: on the one hand, “Europe has matured for socialism and is approaching the decisive battle between labor and capitalism,” while on the other, a militant, vanguard, organizing vozhd of the oppressed (the proletarian soviets) must not be turned into a state form!  37:272-3
  17. October 1918. The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. “When Kautsky was still a Marxist, for example, in 1909, when he wrote Road to Power, he defended precisely the idea of the inevitability of revolution in connection with the war, he talked about the nearness of the era of revolutions.”  The same is true of the Basel resolution.  You mean this isn’t renegade behavior?  37:294
  18. October 1918. The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. “Long before the war, all Marxists, all socialists were in agreement that a European war would create a revolutionary situation.  When Kautsky was not yet a renegade, he clearly and with definiteness acknowledged this—in 1902 with Social Revolution and in 1909 (Road to Power).”  37:300

Kautsky and the State

Introduction

In his Notebooks on the State and in State and Revolution, Lenin also takes note of a few other early Kautsky productions.  I have also included in this section the summary passages on the pre-1909 material found in State and Revolution.  The basic argument is that silences and evasions have led the way to the open betrayal found in Kautsky’s 1912 article on Pannekoek.  (NB: Lenin reacted angrily to this article right after it came out.)  The critique of the 1912 article is the heart of Lenin’s case.  This is shown by later references to his findings.  I have put these later references in the data base, although they are perhaps not strictly relevant, since they refer to a post-1909 work.

Citations

  1. January-February 1917. “Marxism and the State” Notebooks.  After listing various differences between opportunists and Marxists on the question of the state, Lenin adds: “And also don’t forget that the dictatorship of the proletariat is directly denied by the opportunists in Germany (Bernstein, Kolb and so forth), and indirectly by the official program and Kautsky, remaining silent about it in everyday agitation and tolerating the apostasy of Kolb and Co.”  33:173
  2. January-February 1917. “Marxism and the State” Notebooks.  Lenin quotes a passage from a 1904 article in which Kautsky puts off agitation in the troops until the situation is such that direct disobedience is the aim.  Lenin comments: “In opportunist fashion, against agitation in the troops.”  33:277-9
  3. January-February 1917. “Marxism and the State” Notebooks.   Lenin cites what Kautsky said in his anti-Bernstein book (1899) in reaction to Bernstein on the dictatorship of the proletariat: “A solution of the problem of the proletarian dictatorship we can with complete calm leave to the future.”  Lenin comments: “What a pearl! Ha-ha-ha!! ‘With complete calm’!!”  Another marginal comment on this Kautsky passage: “Cf. Engels on revolution in Anti-Dühring!! Look at the extent to which Marxism has been philistinized!!” 33:302.
  4. January-February 1917. “Marxism and the State” Notebooks.  Bernstein cites Marx’s words about not taking over the state machine ready-made.  Kautsky’s response is (in Lenin’s paraphrase): “You can’t take it over simply and ready-made, but in general you can!”  33:305
  5. August 1917. State and Revolution.  Lenin spends a page on the debate between Bernstein and Kautsky about Marx’s Civil War in France.  Bernstein’s comments are described as a “crude and scandalous distortion of the thought of Marx.”  Kautsky is criticized because he limits himself to the general arguments that Lenin cited in his Notebook (see above).  Lenin sums up: “The result is that the most essential distinction between Marxism and opportunism on the issue of the tasks of the proletarian revolution is glossed over by Kautsky!”  33:106
  6. August 1917. State and Revolution.   Lenin introduces his analysis by saying that in his very polemics with the opportunists, Kautsky shows a “systematic deviation toward opportunism precisely on the question of the state.”  He ends up by saying: “From all these evasions of the question, silences and equivocations, there inevitably has resulted the full transition to opportunism about which we must now speak [that is, Kautsky’s 1912 polemic with Pannekoek].  German Social Democracy, speaking through Kautsky, seems to have declared: I stand by revolutionary views (1899).  I acknowledge in particular the inevitability of the social revolution of the proletariat (1902).  I acknowledge the coming of a new era of revolutions (1909).  But I nevertheless go backwards in comparison to what Marx said in 1852, once the question is raised of the tasks of the proletarian revolution in relation to the state (1912).”  33:105, 110.
  7. August 1917. State and Revolution.   In the section on Pannekoek, Lenin says that Kautsky is now (1912) repeating the old sneers of Bernstein and the Webbs against “primitive democracy.”  As I point out in Lenin Rediscovered, Lenin has here forgotten that he himself sided with Kautsky in a very similar rejection of “primitive democracy” in What Is to Be Done?.  33:115-6.
  8. March 1917. Letters from Afar.  “We need a state.  But what we need is not the kind of state that the bourgeoisie everywhere create, starting with constitutional monarchies and ending with the most democratic republics.  And this marks our distinctiveness from opportunists and kautskiantsy of the old socialist parties who are starting to rot away and who have distorted or forgotten the lessons of the Paris Commune and the analysis of those lessons by Marx and Engels.”  In a footnote to this paragraph, Lenin remarks that in a later letter or in a special article, he will set out this analysis and also “the complete distortion of Marxism by Kautsky in his polemic of 1912 against Pannekoek on the question of the so-called ‘destruction of the state’.”  31:39
  9. April 1917. Speech to Bolshevik meeting explaining April Theses.  Not a parliamentary republic, but a republic of soviets, without police, etc.  “This is the lesson that the French Commune gave, that Kautsky forgot and that the workers learned in 1905 and 1917.”  31:108
  10. April 1917. “On Dual Power.”  Lenin explains the features of the Commune-type state, and comments that the “essence” of the Paris Commune was forgotten and distorted by the Plekhanovs (outright social chauvinists) and the Kautskys (“people of the ‘center,’ that is, wavering between chauvinism and Marxism”).  31:146
  11. June 1917. “The Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution.”  In another exposition of the Commune state, Lenin says that Kautsky and Plekhanov defend “an ordinary parliamentary bourgeois republic” as the appropriate type of state in the revolutionary period and the transition to socialism.  The more we reject the prejudices of their pseudo-Marxism, the more we will be able to help the narod create soviets.  31:162-4.   A similar charge is made later in this pamphlet, 31:180.
  12. March 1918. Seventh Party Congress, Program Debate.  Lenin gives an example of what should and should not be included in a party program: We don’t know yet what completed socialism will look like.  “Theoretically, in theoretical writings, in articles, in speeches, in lectures, we can develop the line of thought that Kautsky conducts the struggle against the anarchists improperly, but we can’t put that in the program, because there does not yet exist [experiential] materials for the characterization of socialism.”  36:65-6.
  13. October 1918. The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.  In his introduction, Lenin documents the fact that he had been calling Kautsky a renegade since 1914.  He mentions the section in State and Revolution devoted to Kautsky and quotes a sentence from the section on the dispute with Pannekoek: Kautsky “disavows the revolution in practice while acknowledging it in words.”  “In essence, the basic theoretical mistake of Kautsky in his book on the dictatorship of the proletariat consists precisely in the opportunist distortions of Marx on the state that are set out in detail in my book State and Revolution.’  37:239

Kautsky’s ‘Social Revolution’

Introduction

Lenin had a long history with Kautsky’s Social Revolution, which was originally published in 1902, only a month or two after What Is to Be Done?.  Lenin immediately organized a Russian translation.  In 1907 Kautsky published a second edition of Social Revolution which incorporated the experience of the 1905 revolution.  In l908, Lenin wrote an article that praised Kautsky’s remarks and used them to support the Bolshevik position on the December uprising (“The Assessment of the Russian Revolution”).  After 1914, Lenin did not refer to Social Revolution (but see under Dialectics) until early 1917, when he decided to re-read it in conjunction with his investigations into Marxism and the state.  Lenin did not find in Social Revolution exactly what he suspected he would not find, namely, a sufficiently robust critique of the state.  But he was also obviously reminded of why he liked the book in the first place (“a great deal that is extraordinarily valuable”) and positive references to the 1902 book begin almost immediately, even before the writing of State and Revolution several months later.

Citations

  1. January-February 1917. “Marxism and the State” Notebooks.  As with Road to Power, Lenin’s marginal comments to the passages he cited ring variations on “That’s all?”  “Everywhere he talks about the state in general!”  Kautsky says that the revolution will be a long battle that will transform political and social structures: “That’s all!! Too little!”  Kautsky says that the proletariat in power will immediately carry out the democratic part of the program.  “That’s all!! Not a peep about the special combination of democracy with the dictatorship of the proletariat.”  Kautsky mentions the Machtmittel des modernen Grossstaates: seine Bureaukratie and Armee, but “nevertheless not a word about the destruction, Zerbrechen, of these Machtmittel!!!”  Lenin also expresses surprise to find some sentiments of which he presumably approves, for example, that English workers are little more than petty bourgeois.  33:272-7.
  2. January-February 1917. “Marxism and the State” Notebooks.  In his notes on Marx’s Civil War in France, Lenin is impressed with Marx’s idea of combining legislative and executive functions, and notes: “With K. Kautsky (p. 43, here) a philistinization: not a shadow of an idea of another kind of democracy.”  This reference is to Social Revolution.  33:272.
  3. August 1917. In State and Revolution, Lenin introduces Social Revolution by saying “The author gives here a great deal that is extraordinarily valuable, but he avoids precisely the question of the state.”  Kautsky shows what Engels calls ‘superstitious reverence’ toward the state, because he a. stays too much at the level of “ringing banalities” and b. does not take up certain subjects that Lenin thinks he should have taken up, for example, how the experience of the Paris Commune in 1871 showed the difference between bourgeois democracy and proletarian democracy.  33:107-8.
  4. August 1917. State and Revolution.  So far, Lenin’s critique and the materials used to support it are what we find in the Notebooks.  Lenin at this point brings up a new passage from Social Revolution in which Kautsky seems to endorse the continuance of “bureaucracy” under socialism.  About half of the three pages given to Social Revolution in State and Revolution is devoted to this passage.  33:108-10
  5. August 1917. State and Revolution.  Lenin mentions a few passages from Social Revolution of which he seems to approve, but which he feels are not worth much, given the evasion of the question of the state: the significance of the ‘idea of revolution,’ ‘revolutionary idealism first of all,’ and the characterization of English workers as ‘little more than petty bourgeois.’  33:108
  6. January 1917. Lenin wrote State and Revolution several months after rereading Social Revolution.  Lenin’s January lecture to Swiss workers about the significance of the 1905 revolution show the immediate impact of his rereading.  “The higher rose the waves of the movement [in 1905], all the more did the reaction arm itself against the revolution with ever greater energy and decisiveness.  The case of the Russian revolution of 1905 confirmed what K. Kautsky wrote in 1902 in his book Social Revolution (by the way, he was then still a revolutionary Marxist, and not a defender of social-patriots and opportunists, as at present).  He wrote the following: ‘The coming revolution … is less similar to a sudden rising against the government than to a drawn-out civil war.’  And that’s how it happened! Undoubtedly, that’s the way it will be in the coming European revolution!”  30:323
  7. April 1917. 7th Bolshevik Conference.  In a speech explaining peasant policy: “Kautsky himself writes: ‘not one socialist talks about eliminating private property for peasants’.”  (This particular formulation seems to come from Social Revolution, although Lenin also associates the basic point with Kautsky’s Agrarian Revolution.  See under Agriculture and Peasant Policy for a fuller discussion of this Lenin’s remark.)
  8. April 1918. From a debate in the Executive Committee of the Soviets (Karelin was a Left SR).  “When people such as Karelin and Martov talk here about conciliation with the bourgeoisie, this is nonsense.  I remind you of the authoritative book of Kautsky’s, where he talks about life on the day after the social revolution.  I will tell you approximately what he wrote: It won’t do to have the organizers of trusts sitting around with nothing to do.  This was written by a person who understands that organizing tens of millions of people for the production and distribution of products—that’s something!  We [undergrounders] didn’t learn this and there was no place we could learn it, but the organizers of trusts know that without it there is no socialism.  And we have to know this as well.  And therefore all these phrases [accusing us of] conciliation and compromise with the bourgeoisie are empty chatter.  You will not be able to refute Kautsky’s position, namely, you have to know [how to handle] large-scale production from experience.”  36:276
  9. October 1918. The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.  After Lenin’s re-reading, he realized that Kautsky predicted that war would lead to revolution not only in Road to Power but also in the earlier Social Revolution, so he mentions the two books together when referring to Kautsky’s prewar prediction.  (For the full citation, see under Road to Power.)  37:300
  10. December 1918. Remarks at Moscow Party Conference (unpublished during Lenin’s lifetime).  “If we aspire to install kontrol and to organize the economy in a practical way for hundreds of thousands of people, then we must not forget that when socialists think about this question, they note that leaders of trusts, as experienced practical men, can be useful to them.”  Other comments in this section make it clear that Kautsky is foremost in Lenin’s mind on this issue.  37:230
  11. July 1919. “Lackeys” (not published in Lenin’s lifetime).  “Martov, like Kautsky, like the entire Bern International, knows very well that they enjoyed sympathy from the workers as socialists because they preached the necessity of the revolution of the proletariat.  In 1902 Kautsky wrote of the possible link of revolution with war and also that the coming revolution of the proletariat would likely coincide more with civil wars than previous revolutions.”  The Basel resolution in 1912 also tied the war to the revolution.  “But when the war broke out, the ‘revolutionaries’ of the Second International turned out to be lackeys of the bourgeoisie!”  39:144.
  12. Autumn 1919. Outline for “On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” (the planned book or article itself was never written). Under the heading “Civil War,” Lenin puts: “cf. K Kautsky 1902 in Social Revolution.”  Next to it he has a reference to a recent Kautsky pronouncement on civil war as the ‘annihilation’ of the party.  (Presumably Lenin means to contrast Kautsky’s 1902 description of revolution as civil war to his current position.) 39:262

Kautsky as Mentor

Introduction

On several occasions Lenin described in broader terms Kautsky’s historical role as mentor specifically to the Russian proletariat and to the Bolsheviks.  Kautsky played a central role in allowing the young Russian movement to assimilate European experience, he was an inspiring fighter against opportunism and he taught valuable lessons in the dialectics of tactical flexibility.  I have included a passage from Left-Wing Communism that does not mention Kautsky but when we put this passage alongside the others, we see that, from Lenin’s point of view, Kautsky played a key role in giving the Bolsheviks the “granite theoretical base” mentioned in this passage.    Indeed, Lenin (modestly or accurately?) does not claim any originality here.

Citations

  1. August 1917. State and Revolution.  “Undoubtedly an immeasurably larger number of Kautsky’s works have been translated into Russian than into any other language.  It is not without justification that some German Social Democrats make the joke that Kautsky is more widely read in Russia than in Germany (we may say, in parentheses, that there is deeper historical significance in this joke than those who first made it suspected; for the Russian workers, having manifested in 1905 an unusually strong, an unprecedented demand for the best works of the best Social Democratic literature in the world, and having been supplied with translations and editions of these works in quantities unheard of in other countries, thereby transplanted, so to speak, in accelerated fashion the immense experience of a neighboring, more advanced country to the almost virgin soil of our proletarian movement).”  33:104
  2. April 1920. Remarks on the Occasion of Lenin’s 50th  Lenin introduces the long citation from Kautsky’s Slavs and Revolution with the following words: “I would now like to say a few words about the present position of the Bolshevik party.  I was led to these thoughts by a passage of a certain writer, written by him 18 years ago, in 1902.  This writer is Karl Kautsky, from whom at the present time we have had to break away and fight in exceptionally sharp form, but who earlier was one of the vozhdi of the proletarian party in the fight against German opportunism, and with whom we once collaborated.  There were no Bolsheviks then, but all future Bolsheviks, collaborating with him, valued him highly.”  40:325-6 (For a similar passage introducing the same Kautsky citation in Left-Wing Communism, see under Slavs and Revolution.)
  3. Summer 1920. Left-Wing Communism.  Kautsky’s role in “teaching Marxist dialectics” is recalled (see full passage under Dialectics).  41:87-8
  4. Summer 1920. Left-Wing Communism.  Why were the Bolsheviks able to achieve the party discipline necessary for victory in the civil war?  The answer lies “very simply” (prosto-naprosto) in some historical peculiarities of Russia: a. ability to rely on the “latest word” of European experience and b. the many forms of struggle compressed into a short period.  Lenin then describes how, in the period form the 1840s to the 1890s, Russia arrived at Marxism through suffering (vystradala): “half a century of unparalleled torment and sacrifice, of unprecedented revolutionary heroism, incredible energy, devoted searching, study, practical trial, disillusionment, verification, and comparison with European experience.  Thanks to the political emigration caused by tsarism, revolutionary Russia, in the second half of the 19th-century, acquired a wealth of international links and excellent information on the forms and theories of the world revolutionary movement, such as no other country possessed.”  The struggle of the Russian proletariat “matured with exceptional rapidity, and assimilated most eagerly and successfully the appropriate ‘last word’ of American and European political experience.”  Thus, “Bolshevism arose in 1903 on the strongest possible basis of Marxist theory” and went through its 15-year pre-revolutionary history “on this granite theoretical base.”  (This kind of compliment to the Russian workers can itself be found in Kautsky’s prewar writings.)  41:7-8
  5. September 1920. Lenin’s party re-registration form.   Among the questions is the following: “What have you read from the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Kautsky and Plekhanov?”  Lenin underlined everybody but himself and answered: “Practically everything (of the underlined authors).”  41:468

Articles by Lars Lih on This Website

 

 

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