His father was a locomotive driver. Consequently, Bernstein, together with August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht , prepared the Einigungsparteitag "unification party congress" with the Lassalleans in Gotha in However, two assassination attempts on Kaiser Wilhelm I the next year provided Chancellor Otto von Bismarck with a pretext for introducing a law banning all socialist organizations, assemblies and publications. For nearly all practical purposes, the SPD was outlawed and throughout Germany it was actively suppressed. However, it was still possible for Social Democrats to campaign as individuals for election to the Reichstag and they did so despite the severe persecution to which it was subjected the party actually increased its electoral success, gaining , votes in and , in
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The tasks of a party are determined by a multiplicity of factors by the position of the general, economic, political, intellectual and moral development in the sphere of its activity, by the nature of the parties that are working beside it or against it, by the character of the means standing at its command, and by a series of subjective, ideologic factors, at the head of them, the principal aim of the party and its conception of the best way to attain that aim.
It is well known what great differences exist in the first respect in different lands. Even in countries of an approximately equal standard of industrial development, we find very important political differences and great differences in the conceptions and aspirations of the mass of the people. Peculiarities of geographical situation, rooted customs of national life, inherited institutions, and traditions of all kinds create a difference of mind which only slowly submits to the influence of that development.
Even where socialist parties have originally taken the same hypotheses for the starting point of their work, they have found themselves obliged in the course of time to adapt their activity to the special conditions of their country. At a given moment, therefore, one can probably set up general political principles of social democracy with a claim that they apply to all countries, but no programme of action applicable for all countries is possible.
As shown above, democracy is a condition of socialism to a much greater degree than is usually assumed, i. Without a certain amount of democratic institutions or traditions, the socialist doctrine of the present time would not indeed be possible. The modern socialist movement — and also its theoretic explanation — is actually the product of the influence of the great French Revolution and of the conceptions of right which through it gained general acceptance in the wages and labour movement.
The movement itself would exist without them as, without and before them, a communism of the people was linked to primitive Christianity. A working class politically without rights, grown up in superstition and with deficient education, will certainly revolt sometimes and join in small conspiracies, but never develop a socialist movement.
It requires a certain breadth of vision and a fairly well developed consciousness of rights to make a socialist out of a workman who is accidentally a revolter. Political rights and education stand indeed everywhere in a prominent position in the socialist programme of action.
So much for a general view. For it does not lie in the plan of this work to undertake an estimation of individual points of the socialist programme of action.
As far as concerns the immediate demands of the Erfurt programme of the German social democracy, I do not feel in any way tempted to propose changes with respect to them. Probably, like every social democrat, I do not hold all points equally important or equally expedient. For example, it is my opinion that the administration of justice and legal assistance free of charge, under present conditions, is only to be recommended to a limited degree, that certainly arrangements should be made to make it possible for those without means to seek to have a chance of getting their rights; but that no pressing need exists to take over the mass of the property law suits to-day and put the lawyers completely under the control of the State.
Meanwhile, although legislators of to-day will hear nothing of such a step, as a socialist legislature cannot be achieved without a full reform of the legal system, or only according to such newly created legal institutions, as, for example, exist already in arbitration courts for trade disputes, the said demand may keep its place in the programme as an indication of the development striven after.
One need really be no anarchist in order to find the eternal heaping of duties on the state too much of a good thing. We will hold fast to the principle that the modern proletarian is indeed poor but that he is no pauper. In this distinction lies a whole world, the nature of our fight, the hope of our victory. To-day in spite of the enormous increase in the intercourse between nations it has already forfeited a great part of its truth and will always forfeit more, the more the worker, by the influence of socialism, moves from being a proletarian to a citizen.
The workman who has equal rights as a voter for state and local councils, and who thereby is a fellow owner of the common property of the nation, whose children the community educates, whose health it protects, whom it secures against injury, has a fatherland without ceasing on that account to be a citizen of the world, just as the nations draw nearer one another, without, therefore, ceasing to lead a life of their own.
The complete breaking up of nations is no beautiful dream, and in any case is not to be expected in the near future. But just as little as it is to be wished that any other of the great civilised nations should lose its independence, just as little can it be a matter of indifference to German social democracy whether the German nation, which has indeed carried out, and is carrying out, its honourable share in the civilising work of the world, should be repressed in the council of the nations.
In the foregoing is shown in principle the point of view from which the social democracy has to take its position under present conditions with regard to questions of foreign politics. If the worker is still no full citizen, he is not without rights in the sense that national interests can be indifferent to him. And if also social democracy is not yet in power, it already takes a position of influence which lays certain obligations upon it.
Its words fall with great weight in the scale. With the present composition of the army and the complete uncertainty as to the changes in methods of war, etc. Even without the celebrated general strike social democracy can speak a very important, if not decisive, word for peace, and will do this according to the device of the International as often and as energetically as it is necessary and possible. It will also, according to its programme, in the cases when conflicts arise with other nations and direct agreement is not possible, stand up for settling the difference by means of arbitration.
But it is not called upon to speak in favour of renunciation of the preservation of German interests, present or future, if or because English, French, or Russian Chauvinists take umbrage at the measures adopted. Where, on the German side, it is not a question merely of fancies or of the particular interests of separate groups which are indifferent or even detrimental to the welfare of the nation, where really important national interests are at stake, internationalism can be no reason for a weak yielding to the pretensions of foreign interested parties.
This is no new idea, but simply the putting together of the lines of thought which lie at the bottom of all the declarations of Marx, Engels, and Lassalle on the questions of foreign politics. It is also no attitude endangering peace which is here recommended. Nations to-day no longer lightly go to war, and a firm stand can under some circumstances be more serviceable to peace than continuous yielding.
The doctrine of the European balance of power seems to many to be out of date to-day, and so it is in its old form. But in a changed form the balance of power still plays a great part in the decision of vexed international questions.
It still comes occasionally to the question of how strong a combination of powers supports any given measure in order that it may be carried through or hindered. I consider it a legitimate task of German Imperial politics to secure a right to have a voice in the discussion of such cases, and to oppose, on principle, proper steps to that end, I consider, falls outside the domain of the tasks of social democracy.
To choose a definite example. The leasing of the Kiauchow Bay at the time was criticised very unfavourably by the socialist press of Germany. As far as the criticism referred to the circumstances under which the leasing came about, the social democratic press had a right, nay, even a duty, to make it. Not less right was it to oppose in the most decided way the introduction of or demand for a policy of partition of China because this partition did not lie at all in the interest of Germany.
But if some papers went still further and declared that the party must under all circumstances and as a matter of principle condemn the acquisition of the Bay, I cannot by any means agree with it. It is a matter of no interest to the German people that China should be divided up and Germany be granted a piece of the Celestial Empire.
Its commerce with China demands such a right to protest. In so far as the acquisition of the Kiauchow Bay is a means of securing this right to protest, and it will be difficult to gainsay that it does contribute to it, there is no reason in my opinion for the social democracy to cry out against it on principle. It was a matter of securing free trade with and in China. For there can be no doubt that without that acquisition China would have been drawn to a greater degree into the ring of the capitalist economy, and also that without it Russia would have continued its policy of encircling, and would have occupied the Manchurian harbours.
It was thus only a question as to whether Germany should look on quietly whilst, by the accomplishment of one deed after, another, China fell ever more and more into dependence on Russia, or whether Germany should secure herself a position on the ground that she also, under normal conditions, can make her influence felt at any time on the situation of things in China, instead of being obliged to content herself with belated protests.
So far ran and runs the leasing of the Kiauchow Bay, a pledge for the safeguarding of the future interests of Germany in China, be its official explanation what it may, and thus far could social democracy approve it without in the least giving away its principles.
Meanwhile, owing to the want of responsibility in the management of the foreign policy of Germany, there can be no question of positive support from the social democracy, but only of the right foundation of its negative attitude. As can be seen the rule here unfolded for the position regarding questions of foreign policy turns on the attitude observed hitherto in practice by social democracy.
How far it agrees in its fundamental assumptions with the ruling mode of viewing things in the party, does not lie with me to explain. On the whole, tradition plays a greater part in these things than we think. It lies in the nature of all advanced parties to lay only scanty weight on changes already accomplished. The chief object they have in view is always that which does not change — quite a justifiable and useful tendency towards definite aims — the setting of goals.
Penetrated by this, such parties fall easily into the habit of maintaining longer than is necessary or useful opinions handed down from the past, in assumptions of which very much has been altered. They overlook or undervalue these changes; they seek for facts which may still make those opinions seem valid, more than they examine the question whether in the face of the totality of the facts appertaining to it, the old opinion has not meanwhile become prejudice.
Such political a priori reasoning often appears to me to play a part in dealing with the question of colonies. The assumption that the extension of colonies will restrict the realisation of socialism, rests at bottom on the altogether outworn idea that the realisation of socialism depends on an increasing narrowing of the circle of the well-to-do and an increasing misery of the poor.
That the first is a fable was shown in earlier chapters, and the misery theory has now been given up nearly everywhere, if not with all its logical conclusions and outright, yet at least by explaining it away as much as possible.
In this respect the German social democracy would have nothing to fear from the colonial policy of the German Empire. And because it is so, because the development of the colonies which Germany has acquired and of those which it could perhaps win, the same holds good will take so much time that there can be no question for many a long year of any reaction worth mentioning on the social conditions of Germany.
Just from this reason the German social democracy can treat the question of these colonies without prejudice. There can even be no question of a serious reaction of colonial possessions on the political conditions of Germany. Naval Chauvinism, for example, stands undoubtedly in close connection with colonial Chauvinism, and draws from it a certain nourishment. But the first would also exist without the second, just as Germany had her navy before she thought of the conquest of colonies.
It must nevertheless be granted that this connection is the most rational ground for justifying a thorough resistance to a colonial policy. Otherwise, there is some justification during the acquisition of colonies to examine carefully their value and prospects, and to control the settlement and treatment of the natives as well as the other matters of administration; but that does not amount to a reason for considering such acquisition beforehand as something reprehensible. Its political position, owing to the present system of government, forbids social democracy from taking more than a critical attitude to these things, and the question whether Germany to-day needs colonies can, particularly in regard to those colonies that are still to be obtained, be answered in the negative with good authority.
But the future has also its rights for us to consider. If we take into account the fact that Germany now imports yearly a considerable amount of colonial produce, we must also say to ourselves that the time may come when it will be desirable to draw at least a part of these products from our own colonies. However speedy socialists may imagine the course of development in Germany towards themselves to be, yet we cannot be blind to the fact that it will need a considerable time before a whole series of other countries are converted to socialism.
But if it is not reprehensible to enjoy the produce of tropical plantations, it cannot be so to cultivate such plantations ourselves. Not the whether but the how is here the decisive point. It is neither necessary that the occupation of tropical lands by Europeans should injure the natives in their enjoyment of life, nor has it hitherto usually been the case. Moreover, only a conditional right of savages to the land occupied by them can be recognised. The higher civilisation ultimately can claim a higher right.
Not the conquest, but the cultivation, of the land gives the historical legal title to its use. They also, in practice, would bring about no change worth mentioning in the vote of the party; but we are not only concerned, I repeat, with what would be voted in a given case, but also with the reasons given for the vote.
There are socialists to whom every admission of national interests appears as Chauvinism or as an injury to the internationalism and class policy of the proletariat. Belfort Bax also found reprehensible jingoism in a similar assertion by Mr. It is much more to be sought in a movement for the exchange of thought between the democracies of the civilised countries and in the support of all factors and institutes working for peace.
Here practical development has placed a whole series of questions on the orders of the day which at the drawing up of the programme were partly considered to be lying away too far in the future for social democracy to concern itself specially with them, but which were also partly, not sufficiently considered in all their bearings. To these belong the agrarian question, the policy of local administration, co-operation and different matters of industrial law. The great growth of social democracy in the eight years since the drawing up of the Erfurt Programme, its reaction on the home politics of Germany as well as its experiences in other lands, have made the more intimate consideration of all these questions imperative, and many views which were formerly held about them have been materially corrected.
Concerning the agrarian question, even those who thought peasant cultivation doomed to decay have considerably changed their views as to the length of time for the completion of this decay. In the later debates on the agrarian policy to be laid down by the social democracy, certainly many differences of opinion have been shown on this point, but in principle they revolved round this — whether, and in a given case to what limit, social democracy should offer assistance to the peasant as an independent farmer against capitalism.
The question is more easily asked than answered. The fact that the great mass of peasants, even if they are not wage earners, yet belong to the working classes, i. On the other side they form in Germany such an important fraction of the population that at an election in very many constituencies their votes decide between the capitalist and socialist parties.
But if social democracy would not or will not limit itself to being the party of the workers in the sense that it is only the political completion of trade unionism, it must be careful to interest at least a great part of the peasants in the victory of its candidates.
In the long run that will only happen if social democracy commits itself to measures which offer an improvement for the small peasants in the immediate future. He proposes quite a series of reforms, or declares it admissible to support them, which result in relieving the country parishes and in increasing their sources of income.
But to what class would these measures be a benefit in the first instance?
The tasks of a party are determined by a multiplicity of factors by the position of the general, economic, political, intellectual and moral development in the sphere of its activity, by the nature of the parties that are working beside it or against it, by the character of the means standing at its command, and by a series of subjective, ideologic factors, at the head of them, the principal aim of the party and its conception of the best way to attain that aim. It is well known what great differences exist in the first respect in different lands. Even in countries of an approximately equal standard of industrial development, we find very important political differences and great differences in the conceptions and aspirations of the mass of the people. Peculiarities of geographical situation, rooted customs of national life, inherited institutions, and traditions of all kinds create a difference of mind which only slowly submits to the influence of that development. Even where socialist parties have originally taken the same hypotheses for the starting point of their work, they have found themselves obliged in the course of time to adapt their activity to the special conditions of their country.
But it was mistaken in several special deductions, above all in the estimate of the time the evolution would take. The last has been unreservedly acknowledged by Friedrich Engels, the joint author with Marx of the Manifesto, in his preface to the Class War in France. But it is evident that if social evolution takes a much greater period of time than was assumed, it must also take upon itself forms and lead to forms that were not foreseen and could not be foreseen then. Social conditions have not developed to such an acute opposition of things and classes as is depicted in the Manifesto. It is not only useless, it is the greatest folly to attempt to conceal this from ourselves. The enormous increase of social wealth is not accompanied by a decreasing number of large capitalists but by an increasing number of capitalists of all degrees.
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