Karl Kautsky

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Karl Kautsky
Karl Kautsky 01.jpg
Born
Karl Johann Kautsky

16 October 1854
Died17 October 1938(1938-10-17) (aged 84)
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Orthodox Marxism
Main interests
Political philosophy, politics, economics, history
Notable ideas
Evolutionary epistemology, social instinct, active adaption, hyperimperialism

Karl Johann Kautsky ( /ˈktski/ ; German: [ˈkaʊtski] ; 16 October 1854 – 17 October 1938) was a Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician. Kautsky was recognized as among the most authoritative promulgators of Orthodox Marxism after the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Orthodox Marxism body of Marxist thought that emerged following the death of Karl Marx which became the official philosophy of the socialist movement

Orthodox Marxism is the body of Marxist thought that emerged after the death of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and which became the official philosophy of the socialist movement as represented in the Second International until the First World War in 1914. Orthodox Marxism aims to simplify, codify and systematize Marxist method and theory by clarifying the perceived ambiguities and contradictions of classical Marxism.

Friedrich Engels German social scientist, author, political theorist, and philosopher

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, communist, social scientist, journalist and businessman. His father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford, England and in Barmen, Prussia.

Contents

Following the war, Kautsky was an outspoken critic of the Bolshevik Revolution, engaging in polemics with Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Joseph Stalin on the nature of the Soviet state.

Vladimir Lenin Russian politician, communist theorist and founder of the Soviet Union

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1924 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a communist, he developed a variant of Marxism known as Leninism; his ideas were posthumously codified as Marxism-Leninism.

Leon Trotsky Marxist revolutionary from Russia

Leon Trotsky was a Russian revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and Soviet politician whose particular strain of Marxist thought is known as Trotskyism.

Joseph Stalin Soviet leader

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Georgian revolutionary and Soviet politician who led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1953) and Premier (1941–1953). While initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, he ultimately consolidated enough power to become the country's de facto dictator by the 1930s. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin helped to formalise these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies became known as Stalinism.

Life and career

Early years

Karl Kautsky, born in Prague of an artistic and middle class family, his parents were Johann Kautsky (a scenic designer) and Minna (an actress and writer). The family moved to Vienna when Kautsky was the age of seven. He studied history, philosophy and economics at the University of Vienna from 1874, and became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) in 1875. In 1880 he joined a group of German socialists in Zürich who were supported financially by Karl Höchberg, and who smuggled socialist material into Germany at the time of the Anti-Socialist Laws (18781890). Influenced by Eduard Bernstein, Karl Höchberg's secretary, he became a Marxist and in 1881 visited Marx and Engels in England.[ citation needed ]

Prague Capital city of the Czech Republic

Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of 2.6 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters.

Johann Kautsky Czech scenic designer

Johann Wenzel Kautsky was a Czech scenic designer, landscape painter and co-owner of "Brioschi, Burghart und Kautsky", a stage decorating company in Vienna.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Political career

In 1883, Kautsky founded the monthly Die Neue Zeit ("The New Times") in Stuttgart, which became a weekly in 1890. He edited the magazine until September 1917: this gave him a steady income and allowed him to propagate Marxism. [1] From 1885 to 1890 he spent time in London, where he became a close friend of Friedrich Engels. His position as a prominent Marxist theorist was assured in 1888, when Engels put him to the task of editing Marx's three-volume work Theories of Surplus Value . [2] In 1891 he co-authored the Erfurt Program of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) together with August Bebel and Eduard Bernstein.

<i>Die Neue Zeit</i> periodical literature

Die Neue Zeit was a German socialist theoretical journal of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) that was published from 1883 to 1923. Its headquarters was in Stuttgart, Germany.

Stuttgart Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Stuttgart is the capital and largest city of the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Stuttgart is located on the Neckar river in a fertile valley known locally as the "Stuttgart Cauldron." It lies an hour from the Swabian Jura and the Black Forest. Its urban area has a population of 609,219, making it the sixth largest city in Germany. 2.7 million people live in the city's administrative region and another 5.3 million people in its metropolitan area, making it the fourth largest metropolitan area in Germany. The city and metropolitan area are consistently ranked among the top 20 European metropolitan areas by GDP; Mercer listed Stuttgart as 21st on its 2015 list of cities by quality of living, innovation agency 2thinknow ranked the city 24th globally out of 442 cities and the Globalization and World Cities Research Network ranked the city as a Beta-status world city in their 2014 survey.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Following the death of Engels in 1895, Kautsky became one of the most important and influential theoreticians of Marxism, representing the mainstream of the party together with August Bebel, and outlining a Marxist theory of imperialism. When Bernstein attacked the traditional Marxist position of the necessity for revolution in the late 1890s, Kautsky denounced him, arguing that Bernstein's emphasis on the ethical foundations of Socialism opened the road to a call for an alliance with the "progressive" bourgeoisie and a non-class approach.

August Bebel German social democrat politician

Ferdinand August Bebel was a German socialist politician, writer, and orator. He is best remembered as one of the founders of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany (SDAP) in 1869, which in 1875 merged with the General German Workers' Association into the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD). During the repression under the terms of the Anti-Socialist Laws, Bebel became the leading figure of the social democratic movement in Germany and from 1892 until his death served as chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Imperialism creation of an unequal relationship between states through domination

Imperialism is policy or ideology of extending a nation's rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. Imperialism was both normal and common worldwide throughout recorded history, the earliest examples dating from the mid-third millennium BC, diminishing only in the late 20th century. In recent times, it has been considered morally reprehensible and prohibited by international law. Therefore, the term is used in international propaganda to denounce an opponent's foreign policy.

Wartime years

In 1914, when the German Social-Democrat deputies in the Reichstag voted for war credits, Kautsky (who was not a deputy but attended their meetings) suggested abstaining. Kautsky claimed that Germany was waging a defensive war against the threat of Czarist Russia. However, in June 1915, about ten months after the war had begun and when it had become obvious that this was going to be a sustained, appallingly brutal and costly struggle, he issued an appeal with Eduard Bernstein and Hugo Haase against the pro-war leaders of the SPD and denounced the German government's annexationist aims. In 1917 he left the SPD for the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), which united Socialists who opposed the war.

Reichstag (German Empire) parliament of Germany from 1871 to 1918

The Reichstag was the Parliament of Germany from 1871 to 1918. Legislation was shared between the Reichstag and the Bundesrat, which was the Imperial Council of the reigning princes of the German States.

Hugo Haase German jurist, politician (SPD), and pacifist

Hugo Haase was a German socialist politician, jurist and pacifist. With Friedrich Ebert, he co-chaired of the Council of the People's Deputies after the German Revolution of 1918–19.

Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany political party

The Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany was a short-lived political party in Germany during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. The organization was established in 1917 as the result of a split of left wing members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The organization attempted to chart a centrist course between electorally oriented revisionism on the one hand and bolshevism on the other. The organization was terminated in 1931 through merger with the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD).

After the November Revolution in Germany, Kautsky served as under-secretary of State in the Foreign Office in the short-lived SPD-USPD revolutionary government and worked at finding documents which proved the war guilt of Imperial Germany.

Polemics with the Bolsheviks

Kautsky with the Georgian Social-Democrats, Tbilisi, 1920.
In the first row: S. Devdariani, Noe Ramishvili, Noe Zhordania, Kautsky and his wife Luise, Silibistro Jibladze, Razhden Arsenidze;
in the second row: Kautsky's secretary Olberg, Victor Tevzaia, K. Gvarjaladze, Konstantine Sabakhtarashvili, S. Tevzadze, Avtandil Urushadze, R. Tsintsabadze E. Klar. Kautsky in Georgia 1920.jpg
Kautsky with the Georgian Social-Democrats, Tbilisi, 1920.
In the first row: S. Devdariani, Noe Ramishvili, Noe Zhordania, Kautsky and his wife Luise, Silibistro Jibladze, Razhden Arsenidze;
in the second row: Kautsky's secretary Olberg, Victor Tevzaia, K. Gvarjaladze, Konstantine Sabakhtarashvili, S. Tevzadze, Avtandil Urushadze, R. Tsintsabadze
Kautsky's opening broadside against the revolutionary violence of the Russian Revolution, Die Diktatur des Proletariats (The Dictatorship of the Proletariat), first published in Vienna in 1918. 18-kautsky-diediktatur desproletariats.jpg
Kautsky's opening broadside against the revolutionary violence of the Russian Revolution, Die Diktatur des Proletariats (The Dictatorship of the Proletariat), first published in Vienna in 1918.

After 1919, Kautsky's prominence steadily diminished. In 1920, when the USPD split, he went with a minority of that party back into the SPD. He visited Georgia in 1920 and wrote a book on the Democratic Republic of Georgia that at that moment was still independent of Bolshevist Russia. By the time it was published in 1921, Georgia had been thoroughly influenced by the Russian Civil War, the Red Army had invaded Georgia, and the Bolsheviks had imposed the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1924, at the age of 70, Kautsky moved back to Vienna with his family, and remained there until 1938. At the time of Hitler's Anschluss, he fled to Czechoslovakia and thence by plane to Amsterdam, where he died in the same year.

Karl Kautsky lived in Berlin-Friedenau for many years; his wife, Luise Kautsky, became a close friend of Rosa Luxemburg, who also lived in Friedenau. A commemorative plaque marks where Kautsky lived at Saarstraße 14.

Vladimir Lenin described Kautsky as a "renegade" in his classic pamphlet "The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky"; Kautsky in turn castigated Lenin in his 1934 work Marxism and Bolshevism: Democracy and Dictatorship:

The Bolsheviki under Lenin's leadership, however, succeeded in capturing control of the armed forces in Petrograd and later in Moscow and thus laid the foundation for a new dictatorship in place of the old Czarist dictatorship. [3]

Both Lenin and Trotsky, however, defended the Bolshevik Revolution as a legitimate and historic social upheaval akin to the French Revolution, casting themselves and the Bolsheviks in the role of the Jacobins, and viewing the "opportunism" of Kautsky and similar figures as a function of "social bribery" rooted in their increasing intimacy with the privileged classes.

A collection of excerpts of Kautsky's writings, Social Democracy vs. Communism, discussed Bolshevist rule in Russia. He saw the Bolsheviks (or Communists) as a conspiratorial organization that had gained power by a coup and initiated revolutionary changes for which there was no economic rationale in Russia. Instead, a bureaucracy-dominated society developed, the miseries of which outweighed the problems of Western capitalism. He stated:

Foreign tourists in Russia stand in silent amazement before the gigantic enterprises created there, as they stand before the pyramids, for example. Only seldom does the thought occur to them what enslavement, what lowering of human self-esteem was connected with the construction of those gigantic establishments. [4]

And:

They extracted the means for the creation of material productive forces by destroying the most essential productive force of all - the laboring man. In the terrible conditions created by the Piatiletka, people rapidly perished. Soviet films, of course, did not show this. [4]

Death and legacy

Kautsky died on 17 October 1938, in Amsterdam. His son, Benedikt Kautsky  [ de ] spent seven years in concentration camps; his wife Luise Kautsky died in Auschwitz. [5]

Kautsky is notable for, in addition to his anti-Bolshevik polemics, his editing and publication of Marx's Capital, Volume IV (usually published as Theories of Surplus Value ).

Works in English

See also

Footnotes

  1. Gary P Steenson. ""Not One Man! Not One Penny!" German Social Democracy, 1863-1914". Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 2007-07-27.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. Blackledge, Paul (July 2006). "Karl Kautsky and Marxist Historiography". Science & Society. 70 (3): 338. JSTOR   40404839.
  3. http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1934/bolshevism/index.htm
  4. 1 2 Kautsky, Karl. "Is Soviet Russia A Socialist State?". Social Democracy vs. Communism.
  5. Callinicos, A. Social Theory: a historical introduction.

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