Kautsky and vanguardism

April 2024 Forums General discussion Kautsky and vanguardism

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  • #245035

    I think you are confusing the situation, the concept of vanguard party original was developed by the Jacobin, and then Lasalle adopted it, Kautsky was the head of the second international and the idea came from the second international, and Lenin considered it as a temporary measure only applicable to Russia, and he was not going to publish again, the stalinist turned it into a world phenomenon. It was Rosa Luxembourg who wrote about workers spontaneity it was not Kautsky. In 1900 ( instead of 1914 as Lenin wrote ) kautsky had already abandoned his socialist point of view


    Almamater (#244937):
    Plekhanov opposed the bolsheviks coup, but they do not say that Kautsky and Lasalle were the propagator of the vanguard party and the original idea came from the Jacobin

    Kautsky was not the propagator of the vanguard party! Although Kautsky shared Lenin’s distrust of “spontaneity” and his belief that socialist consciousness could not come from trade union struggles alone, he never supported the idea of a vanguard party as Lenin did. Kautsky believed that workers could only gain a “scientific” understanding of socialism with the aid of bourgeois intellectuals (like himself), and that it was the task of the Party to educate, organise and inspire workers to understand and overthrow capitalism. But that doesn’t mean he supported vanguardism as you appear to believe. Kautsky believed all his life in a democratic mass party of workers, quite the opposite of Lenin who created a party of professional revolutionaries giving orders to worker activists – along lines suggested by Chernechevsky whose book title “What is to be Done” (1862) was borrowed by Lenin in 1902. Lenin had no need to get his vanguardism from the Jacobins.


    The Socialist Party rejected Lenin and the Social Democracy since the very beginning

    “What is Socialism? International Social Democracy,”

    On March 23, 2017, the Platypus Affiliated Society organized a panel discussion, “What is Socialism? International Social Democracy,” at the London School of Economics. Moderated by Nunzia Faes of Platypus, the event brought together the following speakers: Jack Conrad of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Weekly Worker; Adam Buick of the Socialist Party of Great Britain; and Robin Halpin, translator of works by the Exit! group.

    This is Comrade Buick’s contribution

    Adam Buick: We in the SPGB are well qualified to speak about the Second International because we’re a breakaway from it. We are, if you like, pre-Leninist Marxism. We don’t accept Marxist-Leninism. In fact, we are a breakaway from the Social Democratic Federation in 1904. The Socialist Party sent the delegation to a congress of the Second International in that year and, when we found we had to sit next to people like Keir Hardie, we said, “no, this organization’s no good, and we want nothing more to do with it.”

    Anyway, what is socialism? What did the parties of the pre-First World War Second International mean when they said, what we want to replace capitalism with socialism? In 1893, William Morris, who himself had been a delegate to the Second International, took the initiative to draw up a manifesto for the English socialists. And this is what it said: “On this point, all socialists agree: our aim, one and all, is to obtain for the whole community, complete ownership, and control of the means of transport, the means of manufacture, the mines, and the land. Thus we look to put an end forever to the wage-system, to sweep away all distinction of class, and eventually to establish national and international communism on a sound basis.”[1] Now the fact that this manifesto was signed by such non-Marxists as George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb shows that, at that time, the disagreements between reformists and revolutionaries—between possibilists and impossibilists—were not so much over the aim, the sort of society they wanted to see established, as they were over how to get there. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels shared this idea of socialism. They didn’t invent it; they got it from groups of workers that they met in Paris and in Manchester, who called themselves socialists or communists. This is reflected in the text of the Communist Manifesto where Marx talks about the communistic abolition of buying and selling, and when he endorses the “Critical-Utopian Socialists and Communists.” He endorsed their stand on the abolition of the wages system and the view that the state should be converted into the mere superintendence of production. What you’re talking about, the definition of socialism, is classless, stateless, wageless, moneyless, society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, by and in the interests of the whole community—that is what socialism meant at the time, and that’s also what socialism meant to the parties of the Second International. You can read any lieutenants of those parties, such as August Bebel, Karl Kautsky, Rudolf Hilferding, or Rosa Luxemburg, or even Bolsheviks such as Alexander Bogdanov, Stalin, and Lenin himself—they all had this conception of socialism. They regarded socialism as being what the Germans called “natural economy,” which is one where goods are produced purely and simply to be used, not to be sold on the market, not to be bought. Now, I’ll back this up with a quote from August Bebel—the actual face of German Social Democracy. Kautsky was just an intellectual theoretician, the editor of the theoretical newspaper, but Bebel was a worker who was prominent amongst other workers. He wrote a book called Women and Socialism, and part of that book is a description of future society where he says, “It does not produce commodities to be bought and sold, but produces the necessities of life, to be used up, consumed, and have no other purpose.”[2] He goes on: “there’ll be no commodities, in the future society, neither can there be any money.” And for the benefit of our Bolshevik friend here, Alexander Bogdanov, in his book called A Short Course of Economic Science, which was used as a textbook by the Bolsheviks both before and after the seizure of power, says, “The new society will be based not on exchange, but on natural self-sufficing economy. Between production and consumption of products, there will not be the market buying or selling, but consciously and systematically organized distribution.”[3] This was the common view as to what socialism meant at that time.

    When the Communist Manifesto was first translated into English in 1888, Engels explained in his preface why it wasn’t called the Socialist Manifesto. In 1848, the word socialism was associated with all sorts of utopian projects by people who rejected the working class struggle for political power. But the implication is that, had the Communist Manifesto been written in 1888, it could easily have been called the Socialist Manifesto. What this shows is that the words socialism and communism were used interchangeably by Marx and Engels and the other members of the Second International. Now the big change in the meaning of the word socialism came in 1917 when the Bolsheviks were preparing to seize power. Up until then, the Bolsheviks, apart from the question of organization, had been orthodox social democrats. They shared the definition of socialism I’ve just given, but they also shared the view that a socialist revolution was impossible in backward Russia.

    When Lenin returned from exile in Switzerland in April 1917, he shocked even the members of his own party when he declared that, from now on the immediate aim of the Bolsheviks is to seize power—not to complete the bourgeois revolution, which had been their previous policy, but for socialism, to make a socialist revolution. Many Russians still adhered to the previous definition of socialism, and they said, “What do you mean? You can’t have socialism in Russia, it’s too backward.” Lenin had a quite clever and dishonest answer. He said, “You’re talking about communism, I’m talking about socialism.” This brings us to the question of the scientific difference between communism and socialism. No one even thought there was a difference between communism and socialism before, let alone a scientific distinction. Now it is true, as Jack has mentioned, that in 1875 Marx talked about a first phase of communist society, and a higher phase of communist society. But he could have equally talked about the first phase of socialist society, and a higher phase of socialist society. The important thing is that they were two phases of the same society, not two different societies. They were phases of a classless, stateless, moneyless, and wageless society, based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. But Lenin didn’t even have the same view as Marx’s first phase of communist or socialist society. Here is a quote from State and Revolution on the correct functioning of the first phase of communist society: “All citizens are transformed into hired employees of the state, which consists of the armed workers, all citizens become employees and workers of a single, nationwide syndicate. All that’s required is you work equally, do their proper share of work, and get paid equally.”[4] This is not the abolition of the wages system, which socialists in the Second International had stood for up till then. This is the integration of the wages system. It is, in fact, state capitalism—the wages system under new management, by state bureaucrats. It was state capitalism, which is what the Bolsheviks went on to establish. Lenin said this in 1918. It is alright to talk about 1928, but right from 1918 it was state capitalism. Because the Bolsheviks stayed in power, because they had a certain prestige amongst militant workers, and, of course, because they had the propaganda machine of the Russian state, their definition of socialism, which was really state capitalism, was able to triumph, and hence the confusion that’s with us.

    Now, this isn’t a meeting to discuss the failures of Bolshevism. This is a meeting to discuss the failures of social democracy. So what were the failings of social democracy? Well what they had as their objective in their maximum program, socialism, but they also had a minimum program, which involved economic, social, and democratic reforms to capitalism. What this meant is that they were the prisoners of their non-socialist supporters and, eventually, they became simple bourgeois-democratic reform parties. At the turn of the century, the revisionist Eduard Bernstein said, “listen, what we are—you might as well come out and recognize that that’s what the German Social Democratic Party is—is a bourgeois-democratic party of reform.” This was rejected, but it made no difference to the practice of the German Social Democratic Party. Of course, what demonstrated that these parties were built on an unsound basis was the outbreak of the First World War, when the members of the Social Democratic Party in the Reichstag voted for the war just as their counterparts in France voted to join the coalition of national unity.
    It has been downhill ever since.

    After World War One, the social democratic parties of Europe frequently participated in bourgeois coalition government. Bernstein was vindicated. But they claimed, or their theoreticians claimed, that what they were trying to do was gradually transform capitalism into a different type of society. But, of course, what happened was the opposite. They gradually got transformed into parties no different from those that they were competing against. In time they did not even claim to be socialist, just better managers of capitalism. Of course, when they got a chance they frequently failed. I agree with what Jack said about denouncing the Labour Party, but in his paper I’m sure it says “Vote Labour” at election time.

    What do we do today? What William Morris said, actually: make socialists. What we should do is not keep socialism under a bush, but shout it from the rooftops: “We are socialists. Socialism is the only viable alternative to capitalism. It provides the only lasting framework within which the problem which capitalism serves up can be dealt with.” If we don’t do this, then we just analyze what politics could be, or has been. And we have an endless series of demonstrations and protests—not even to get more reforms of capitalism, but to stop existing reforms being taken away. This is no way to work toward a socialist society. If you are a socialist, what you should be doing is proclaiming and propagating socialism, which is what we do in the Socialist Party.

    Adam added:

    To come to your point about social democracy, or reformism: The Labour Party in this country, like social democratic parties elsewhere, thought that there is a national solution to social problems, but there isn’t! Capitalism is a worldwide system, it’s an international capitalist system. So if they get state power in one particular country, what they can do is limited. They cannot introduce more and more social reforms. They can’t increase social benefits or wages because that would undermine the competitiveness of the capitalist industries of the country on the world market. Jeremy Corbyn is just Harold Wilson the Second.

    Capitalism cannot be reformed to work in the interests of the majority of the working class. So everything you say about why social democracy failed to us, it’s even worse today. Reformists today are not even campaigning for new reforms. I suppose we can go back to the 1970s and have arguments about what Lenin said and did, and how he was wrong, but there is never going to be another Bolshevik-type revolution in Western capitalist countries.
    Lenin knew in 1917 that if he seized power, he would have a problem organizing industry and production. What he looked to was not what Marx had written 40 or 50 years previously, but to the German war economy. He said, “That is what we should do. We want state monopoly controlling the economy, controlled not by the Junkers but by the Bolshevik Party.” This is what he said in 1917-1918. In 1921, they developed the New Economic Policy. What was it? It was the development of capitalism under the control of what he called the proletarian state, in other words, the development of capitalism under the Bolshevik state. And, of course, you give the standard justification as to why he thought he could get away with seizing power in the name of socialism: He was expecting a socialist revolution in Germany. But that was never on the cards. What was on the cards was a democratic revolution. Lenin made a complete miscalculation.
    There was then a Question and Answer session

    Question For Marx and Engels, the potential for social democracy was the potential of the proletariat’s leadership of the reconstitution of the democratic republic, itself the result of the bourgeois revolution, in order to go to beyond it and overcome it on its own basis. By contrast, often on the Left today, the working class is actually an object of administration. It seems to be rackets in production, or worse, an aggregate interest group. Why does Stalinism or the welfare state seems to mean social democracy today? What kinds of potential lies in presently trying to transform the Labour Party into a socialist party? And why is it the case that Lenin could have believed in 1920 that Labour entryism into the Second International was a win-win situation, and why, in the 1930s, when the CPGB was rejected from the party, was the working class not convinced of the Labour leadership’s bankruptcy? What’s changed between 1920 and 1930? What has changed from 1920 to 2015? Another way of putting that question is actually, what is the potential, if any, of Corbyn?

    AB’s Answer The title of this meeting is “What is socialism?” We’ve now come to the second part, “What is not socialism?” I’ll go through it: socialism is not nationalization, socialism is not government ownership, socialism is not what existed in Russia or Cuba, and socialism is not the Labour government. As Willie said, the Labour Party is not a socialist party, has never been a socialist party, and will never be. Socialists should not join the Labour Party and should not have anything to do with it. It is a reform party that thinks that you can make capitalism better for workers. You can’t. So, the Labour Party is a waste of time. I have never voted for the Labour Party, though I’m sure Jack has. That’s up to him.

    There is not going to be a civil war. That is not going to be how we get to socialism. Even in the 19th century, Marx and Engels thought it was possible under certain circumstances to have a peaceful transition to socialism. They were in favor of a democratic republic, of universal suffrage. And, under certain circumstances, the socialist working class could use universal suffrage to win control of the republic and then use that control to abolish capitalism.

    Before Marx and Engels were socialists, both were bourgeois democrats. This is the 21st century and we don’t have any barricades. A socialist revolution is going to come about when the majority of people want to understand it, and organize democratically to achieve it. Robin says that capitalism will collapse. I don’t think it will. But if it did and there were no socialist majority, the result is not going to be socialism. Herman Cahn wrote a book in 1920, The Collapse of Capitalism, saying that capitalism was going to collapse in the 1920s. James Maxton of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in the 1930s said capitalism has only got a few weeks to go. Capitalism is still here! Capitalism won’t collapse. It can stagger on from crisis to crisis until people decide consciously to put an end to it.

    Question Jack talked about how socialism itself is a word that came up in 19th century. Adam talked about lower and higher forms of communism, that they are both a continuation of, and a change from, the previous form of society. These points raise the questions of working class continuation or transformation of bourgeois revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the role of parties. Robin negatively characterized the relationship between party and state, in terms of the failure of struggles for socialism in the 20th century: the party becoming dependent on the state, and the state becoming dependent on the party. What ought to be the relationship between capitalism and socialism, and the party and state?

    AB Answer I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the materialist conception of history. It explains both the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and the transition from capitalism to socialism. It’s through the development of the means of production that different classes come into existence.

    The party is not separate from the workers or from socialism. The party is the working class organized politically to get rid of capitalism and replace it by socialism. I am opposed to the idea of a vanguard party that could lead the workers, opposed to the idea of a parliamentary party that is going to lead the workers. We accept the old Chartist slogan, “Peacefully if we may, forcibly if we must.”

    What happens after socialism has been established? I don’t think Marx used the words “lower stage” and “higher stage.” He talked about the “first stage.” In the first stage, it will not be possible to attain the full implications of the principle, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” There will need to be restrictions on consumption, because the priority is going to be stopping starvation and people living in slums. But that will be society already based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production of society—without class society, without state society, without money, without people working for wages.

    On the party and the state: You know, after we, the working class, abolish the monarchy and the House of Lords, the next thing they abolish is the socialist party. You don’t need a party in a socialist system. Why would you need it? There’d be no socialist party in a socialist society. It would not be needed.

    Question In The Class Struggle in France, Marx says,“Socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution. The class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, of the production relations on which those class distinctions rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to those relations of production, and to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to all that came before.” The question is not whether you need the state or not—it’s there. The only question is: Is it a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie that’s reinforcing the tremendously lopsided distribution of the productive forces on a global scale, thousands of years of the division of mental and labor, patriarchy and everything else, or is it the dictatorship of the proletariat that’s trying to do away with all that?
    AB: But Engels, in 1895, wrote a preface to that pamphlet, and said, “Look, we were wrong. We thought there was going to be an immediate bourgeois revolution followed by a proletarian revolution.” He also said that “the days of barricades and street fighting are over, an unconscious minority leading—those days are over, we’ve got universal suffrage now.” He was wrong. He had illusions about the German Social Democratic Party. It was winning elections and getting more and more votes, and he had the illusion that this would eventually lead to the establishment of socialism.
    So let’s make that point with Engels. In fact, he didn’t refute Marx but put it in its historical context. Marx only saw eighty days of the Paris Commune. Marx never saw a telephone, a radio, a motorcar, plastics. Things have moved on since that time. The means of production have developed much more, which means that we can easily go over straight away to socialism if people want it. We don’t need transitional periods and so on. In fact, that’s what’s happening now, the transition is taking place right now. When people’s ideas gradually change in a socialist direction, that’s the transition.
    Question The Abbé Sieyès said, “The Third Estate was nothing, but it will be everything.” The increasing obsolescence of labor still leads to social relations based upon labor and people’s demand for their bourgeois right. My understanding of State and Revolution is that, even when all the capitalists have been expropriated by the dictatorship of the proletariat, problems would continue because the workers—who equally function on the bourgeois ideology of labor—would be demanding that bourgeois right. So, why did Marx think that there needed to be a transition period—as Engels put it, a “semi-state”—that would wither away. What would its function be?
    AB: You say first phase of communist or socialist society is the same as the dictatorship of the proletariat, but it can’t be, because if it is genuinely a phase of socialist or communist society, then there would be no longer any proletariat, no longer any classes. Marx has, if you like, three stages. One is the revolutionary transformation of capitalism into socialism. That’s the bit that takes the proletariat. Once that’s over, there’s no more state, there’s no more proletariat. We’ve got socialism or communism. From then on, capitalism, private property rights, no longer exists. The means of production are now available under democratic control to the whole community. Once you’ve done that, you’ve abolished classes, the state doesn’t exist, and you don’t have wages.
    Question So what is the distinction then, in your conception, between the second and third stage?
    AB: Well Lenin conflates the first stage and the first phase of communism. They all do it—all the Trotskyists do it. Ernest Mandel did it in his book In the Defense of a New Society. Marx does not talk about a transitional society, he talks about transitional period—from one society to another—which would be more or less rapid.
    Question On the subject of reform and a minimum program: do the speakers think that there is a use for something similar to those minimum programs today for a socialist party? Was the idea of a minimum program of reforms wrong even in the Second International?
    AB: Socialists today should not make the same mistake that the social-democratic parties of the Second International made: campaigning for socialism by campaigning for a minimum program of reforms. Because that way you attract support not for socialism, but for the various reform measures. This idea is still popular with the Trotskyites or Trotskyists. They call the minimum program the transitional program, but it is the same thing. The Trotskyists are more honest than the social democrats. They hold it out as bait to try to get people to follow them. But that is a mistake. What we should do as socialists is propagating socialism. Nobody else is doing this. If you read the Weekly Worker today, you’ll find all these sorts of campaigns that are going on, “stop this” and “don’t do that.” These are not campaigns for socialism.
    Question When Marx writes his Critique of the Gotha Program, the first thing he says is that that program fails to call for the democratic republic. In that respect, it goes no further than the free-trade liberal party. Fast forward to Rosa Luxemburg’s argument against Lenin that the Bolsheviks were going to abolish the bourgeois state without replacing it with anything more democratic. So my question is who do you prefer, Lenin or Luxemburg, in regards to socialist democracy?
    AB: Rosa Luxemburg wins hands down. When Lenin wrote What is to be Done? this was the idea of the vanguard party with military command and structure. She wrote a thing accusing Lenin of being a Blanquist and of seeking to seize power by a vanguard party.
    Closing Remarks

    AB: Doom and gloom, isn’t it? On a general note, one of the first things that will end in a socialist society is the link between work and consumption: What people will consume will not depend on the amount of work that they do. But I’m not so sure about the disappearance of labor. Work would continue to exist in a socialist society. That was, in fact, one of William Morris’s main points in a pamphlet called Mutual Work vs. Useless Toil. What will disappear in a socialist system will not be work as such. It could be wage labor, it could be employment.
    Jack was describing a meeting not far from here in 1880 when Marx had the French socialists draw up their program. One thing that program called for was “Converting universal suffrage from an instrument… of trickery into an instrument of emancipation.” That, in fact, is in the declaration of principles of the Socialist Party.
    The full transcribed meeting of the other speakers’ contributions can be read here

    PS As Adam very clearly said: We make socialists, socialism or your money back. Are other political parties making socialists ? They are not


    Almamater (#245035):
    I think you are confusing the situation, the concept of the vanguard party original was developed by the Jacobin, and then Lasalle adopted it….
    It is of little interest to me to decide who first developed the concept of the vanguard party. My reference to Chernyshevsky was a deliberate one because it places Lenin in the relevant historical context – as a member of the unique revolutionary movement of nineteenth century Russia. According to Lenin, Chernyshevsky was the greatest influence on his thought after Marx. Lenin’s concept of the professional revolutionary, central to his theory of the vanguard party, was modelled on Rakhmetov, the hero of “What is to be Done?” You also mention Lasalle. Surely you mean Blanqui?

    The gist of my comments on your original post (#244937) was that you were seriously mistaken in claiming that Kautsky propagated the concept of the vanguard party, with the implication that Kautsky and Lenin shared the same theory of the party. But what they shared was the same or similar theory of consciousness: that a socialist consciousness “comes from without”, not directly from the working class. This chimed with Lenin’s view that, left to themselves, workers would never get beyond a “trade union consciousness”. Hence his strong opposition to “spontaneity” and his virulent criticism of the so-called “economists” who believed that socialists, members of Russian social democracy (RSDLP), should vacate the field of revolution and instead devote their energies to supporting workers’ industrial struggles (mass strikes etc).

    Rosa Luxemburg wrote about “spontaneity” in her controversy with Kautsky. But this was c. 1906, well after Kautsky and Lenin first spoke of it. She believed that spontaneous action by workers, as in mass strikes, could develop towards a true (revolutionary) socialist consciousness and so should be actively supported by the SPD. Kautsky expressed support for mass strikes, but only in the abstract – the fatal flaw in his socialist politics in Luxemburg’s view.

    I don’t agree that Kautsky “abandoned his socialist point of view” as early as 1900. I don’t think he ever abandoned it. He had a firm conviction, drawn from his extreme determinist, evolutionist, Darwinian thought that socialism was historically inevitable (I imagine there would be many SPGBers who would agree). But Kautsky believed all his life that socialism must never be imposed by a revolutionary minority. It must be the undisputed work of a majority. He was profoundly attached to democratic values. Just the opposite of Lenin and his Bolshevik party. By treating Kautsky as a “propagator of the vanguard party” you have put this completely out of sight.


    I am not the only saying that, the SPGB said it in 1920

    How valueless is Lenin’s judgement of Kautsky is shown by one outstanding fact. In Lenin’s view Kautsky was a Marxist until the war broke out in 1914, when he became a “renegade”. Yet as every Socialist knows, apart from previous actions in Germany, 14 years before the war Kautsky had proclaimed his renunciation of Marxism when he drafted the well-known “Kautsky resolution” at the 1900 International Socialist Congress. That resolution stated that a Socialist could accept a gift of a seat in a capitalist cabinet in a national emergency, such as war. His support of the German capitalist class in the war was therefore only the logical outcome of his resolution in 1900.

    The origin of the vanguard party the SP itself said that it came from the Jacobin, and in one article about what is to be done they said that too, and the Marxist Humanist are saying that all followers of the vanguard party are Lasallean because it was La Salle who first developed the concept and it was introduced later on in the Social Democracy. If Kautsky was the person in charge of the second international after the death of Engels, why did he permit that conception inside the Second International ? The butcher is not the only that insert the knife in the neck of the cow but also the one that holds the legs of the cow.

    The Marxist Humanists, and others organization within the left, and some left communists at the present they also has written and support Rosa concept of spontaneity, and Marx also considered that in some way there was some sense of spanteinity within the working class movement

    The SPGB said this about Kautsky in 2002 :
    Kautsky, however, had got his history wrong. Marx certainly added to socialist theory and made a major contribution to its elaboration, but he did not invent it and then bring it to the workers. It was rather the other way round. Marx learned his socialist ideas from the communist workers he met when he lived in Paris in 1843 and 1844. They taught him both what communism – an already existing current – was and the view that it should be achieved by the political action of the “proletariat”, a view derived from the experience of the most radical plebeian elements during the French bourgeois revolution. When he took up the study of economics he started out from the anti-capitalist theories which had already been developed by working-class thinkers involved in the Chartist and trade union agitation in Britain in the 1820s and 1830s.

    Also the SPGB said this about Kautsky :
    Lenin was not alone in holding Kautsky in high regard at this time. So did we. The first three pamphlets published by the Socialist Party after we were founded in 1904 were translations of his introduction to the 1891 Erfurt Programme of the German Social Democratic Party. Much of his stuff is still worth reading (certainly more than most of Lenin’s) but it has since become evident that Kautsky – and the European Social Democratic movement generally – shared Lenin’s view of the basic incompetence of the “masses” to act in their own interests. Thus we find Kautsky writing a couple of years before Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?:

    “ . . . the totality of the members of a class have never been seen to take part in social struggles. Everywhere we find only an elite fighting in the front rank whose political skills testify to the state of maturity of the party. In each class the mass partly follow the elite without showing any initiative and partly abstain from taking part in the struggle. The political sovereignty of the proletariat thus means in fact the sovereignty only of its elite–as we see for the bourgeoisie, for the nobility, for any ruling class. And it should not be expected that the Socialist party will come to power before this elite, joined to the masses following it, has become strong enough to conquer it” (Kautsky, Le Marxisme et son critique Bernstein, Paris, 1900, pp. 358-9).

    In other words, Kautsky – and European Social Democracy – also held a manipulative view of politics. The only difference between them and Lenin being that, whereas Lenin thought this manipulating elite should be a self-appointed vanguard of professional revolutionaries, they thought it should be the leaders of a parliamentary party.

    This is what we said about Blanqui ( I do not think he was one of the founder of the vanguard party to lead, probably he would be close to the concept of the ” Foquismo” , although Bakunin was a proto Leninist

    Louis Auguste Blanqui was the quintessential angry revolutionist, insurrectionist, conspiratorial socialist, who was in conflict with every French government from the ‘July monarchy’ of Louis-Philippe, the 1848 National Assembly, Napoleon III’s Empire, to the Third Republic. Anarchist Michael Bakunin was won over to ideas of socialism through the influence of Blanqui. Blanqui lived for 76 years and spent 44 of those years in prison! Blanqui was nicknamed ‘L’Enfermé’ which translates as the ‘the enclosed’ or ‘the locked one’ or even ‘the prisoner’. Engels in the 1874 article The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune wrote: ‘Blanqui is essentially a political revolutionist. He is a socialist only through sentiment, through his sympathy with the sufferings of the people, but he has neither a socialist theory nor any definite practical suggestions for social remedies. In his political activity he was mainly a “man of action”, believing that a small and well organized minority, who would attempt a political stroke of force at the opportune moment, could carry the mass of the people with them by a few successes at the start and thus make a victorious revolution.’


    Therefore, the vanguard party to lead is presented into two forms: one by the training of professional cadres, and the other one by the use of parliamentary leaders, both conceptions want to control workers from the top to the bottom, this is another form of the Prince of Machiavelli, political manipulation from the top, the preferred book of several dictators and authoritarian leaders

    Most Leninists are saying that Lenin was only influenced by Plekhanov since he was the first Russian Marxist after he renounced from Populism,( the original conception of populism was to consider the peasants as the vanguard ) but he was also influenced by Karl Kautsky, the social democrats and the second international, and there was not great difference between the second, and the third international. I think this topic must be discussed a separate thread

    You also mention Lasalle. Surely you mean Blanqui?

    No, I meant La Salle, and it was an idea that has been well covered by the Marxist Humanists including Raya Dunayeskaya , Peter Hudis, Kevin Anderson, CLR James and probably Andrew Gilman. Ferdinand Lasalle was one of the individuals that opposed Marx, therefore, the so called Marxist Leninist are supporting one of Marx oppositions, even more some other peoples that opposed Marx are saying Marx was racist because he called Lasalle a Jewish-N

    The Socialist Party in 1952
    The real value of the “Critique of the Gotha Programme ” lies in the attack Marx makes on the vague loose phraseology of a political party programme seeking to attract a working class ignorant of its real interests.

    Communist Party sympathisers should read the “Critique” and ask themselves what Marx would have had to say about a party which talks about “people’s states,” “people’s democracies,” “people’s governments,” and whose aim, to quote from a Communist Party document, is as follows:—

    “To achieve a Socialist Britain in which the social ownership of the means of production and exchange shall replace the existing capitalist system and the exploitation of man by man. By transforming man and creating abundance. Socialism creates the conditions for the ultimate goal of Communism, based on the principle: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
    “Only a Socialist Britain co-operating with all other peoples of the world in close, friendly, free and equal association, will be able so to plan the use of all Britain’s material, productive and scientific resources, that every citizen will be guaranteed security, the right to work and leisure, a steadily rising standard of living, liberty and equal opportunity to enjoy a full and happy life”— (Draft Rules of the Party, 22nd National Congress, issued by .Communist Party.)
    They might then agree that Engels’ words to Bebel when writing about the Gotha Programme would be most apt. He wrote, “Almost every word in this programme . . . could be criticised. It is such a character that if adopted Marx and I can never give adherence to the new party established on this basis.” (Engels to Bebel, March 18-28, 1875, Marx Engels’ Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 39.)


    Almamater #245052

    Your quote from a SPGB appraisal of Kautsky, written over a hundred years ago, refers to the so-called “Kautsky resolution” at the 1900 International Congress in Paris. This followed Kautsky’s condemnation of Millerand’s participation in a bourgeois government which Kautsky saw as a “normal” circumstance. The “Kautsky resolution” indicated that support for a socialist-bourgeois coalition government could apply only in an “exceptional” circumstance – like an invasion or occupation of a country perhaps. What your quote failed to say is that at the SPD Congress in Dresden in 1903 Kautsky drafted a resolution against government participation that removed all references to “exceptional” circumstances. He may have changed his mind because he wanted to support those French Marxists who opposed Millerand. Who knows? His position in 1900-1903 might be called ambiguous, opportunistic or compromising. But you cannot on this evidence say that he “proclaimed his renunciation of Marxism”, or that he abandoned his socialist views. I know that you and the SPGB take the opposite view, because you never make compromises and you condemn all opportunism and coalition building. But the price you have paid for your doctrinal purity is complete political irrelevance. Kautsky never had it that easy.

    I strongly disagree with your evaluation of Kautsky. You say that he “held a manipulative view of politics” yet you provide no hard evidence, drawn from Kautsky’s time as a leader of the SPD, of his “manipulative” behaviour. Who did he manipulate in your view? The only “evidence” you cite is the excerpt from Kautsky’s book on Marx and Bernstein published in Paris in 1900, at the tail end of the Revisionist debate and during the other debate on Millerand’s participation in a bourgeois government in France. I have several times read the quoted translation you have given and I cannot see how it can be read as proof of Kautsky’s “manipulative view of politics”. Two thirds of it is predominantly descriptive. The remaining part predictive, but in my view does not warrant a reading that can show Kautsky as a manipulative politician in the SPD.

    Things get no better when you equate Kautsky’s “manipulative view of politics” with Lenin’s vanguardism. Lenin’s vanguardism is plain in his theory of the Party, as he pronounced it in 1902. The Bolshevik party was designed as a hierarchy with a core leadership of professional revolutionaries giving command and direction to subordinated worker activists organised in Party cells isolated from each other. It was designed that way because in no other way could a truly revolutionary party survive in the conditions of Tsarist rule. No remotely similar situation existed in Germany. Even if one believes that Kautsky was a “manipulative politician”, it is seriously wrong to see him as a supporter of vanguardism, the same as Lenin.

    I am not going into a debate about Blanqui. I only mentioned him in an earlier post because I thought you must have had Blanqui in mind rather than Lasalle as a “propagator of the vanguard party”. But now you say that the Marxist Humanists (I take it you are referring to members of the Marxist Humanist Initiative in the US?) say that “all followers of ;; the vanguard party are Lasallean because it was Lasalle who first developed the concept”. This is news to me.


    This may be of interest…

    “A degree of malleability is present in Marx’s and Engels’ construct of a vanguard, opening possibilities for avoiding elitist or authoritarian characteristics. Orthodox views on the vanguard, explains Shandro, appear after Marx’s death. In particular, the work of Karl Kautsky promotes the need for enlightened vanguard leadership. An economic determinist, Kautsky posed that since “capitalist production transforms particular struggles into a universal one” the party in capitalism’s most advanced territorial sector is positioned to acquire consciousness able to perceive “the universal interest of the whole working class.”29 The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) became Kautsky’s vanguard, who “as a result of their consciousness…transcend their particular circumstances.” Unsurprisingly, the SPD were “skilled, urban, Protestant, German, male” workers, and since “Socialist consciousness donned the particular lenses of the advanced workers,” the SPD’s universalism conformed to Eurocentric views on capitalist development.”

    Vanguard or Avant-Garde? Revisiting questions on leadership: Part 1: The vanguard debate in history


    From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya: The vanguard role of Black masses in American freedom movements


    Another concept of vanguardism. They rejected Lenin vanguardism only, therefore, Lenin is not the only vanguardist. It was the same case of CLR que rejected the vanguard party concept and Hegel but he kept Leninism and Bolshevism, but Bolshevism is a combination of the vanguard part to lead, and the theory of the permanent revolution


    I suppose you could argue that parliamentary parties are vanguard parties in that they are a minority that seeks to lead the workers. But then we would need a new word to distinguish the structure of a reformist parliamentary party and a Leninist party, even though both are manipulative to get and obtain political power.

    Anyway, here’s the Socialist Standard’s obituary of Kautsky:

    Kautsky’s Work for Socialism


    We have more articles giving credit to Kaustky works on socialism than to his reformist stands, as well we have more articles on Marx and Engels giving credit to their works on socialism than to their mistakes. We have an articles on Kautsky which concludes that Lenin in front of Kuatsky is just a shadow


    The Programme of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune. by Frederick Engels

    Our Blanquists have this in common with the Bakounists, that they wish to represent the most advanced, most extreme line. For this reason they often choose the same means as the Bakounists, although they differ from them in their aims. The point with them is, then, to be more radical in the matter of atheism than all others. Fortunately it requires no great heroism to be an atheist nowadays. Atheism is practically accepted by the European working men’s parties, although in certain countries it may at times be of the same calibre as that of a certain Bakounist, who declared that it was contrary to all socialism to believe in God, but that it was different with the virgin Mary, in whom every good socialist ought to believe. Of the vast majority of the German socialist working men it may even be said that mere atheism has been outgrown by them. This purely negative term does not apply to them any more, for they maintain no longer merely a theoretical, but rather a practical opposition to the belief in God. They are simply done with God; they live and think in the real world, for they are materialists. This will probably be the case in France also. But if it were not, then nothing would be easier than to see to it that the splendid French materialist literature of the preceding century is widely distributed among the laborers, that literature; in which the French mind has so far accomplished its best in form and content, and which, with due allowance for the condition of the science of their day, still stands infinitely high in content, while its form has never been equalled since.

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