The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx

The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx

The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx

The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx

Excerpt

A democratic Socialist movement that attempts to transform a capitalist into a Socialist order is necessarily faced with the choice between two incompatibles--principles and power. Socialist parties that are dedicated to democracy proceed on the fundamental assumption that their enemies are human, too, an assumption that limits the range of their weapons. Discussion, vote-getting, parliamentarism--rather than terrorism, violence, revolution--constitute the arsenal of the democratic Socialist. Again, the Socialist who is also a democrat will eschew dictatorship to maintain himself in power and rely, instead, on persuasion.

But a democratic Socialist movement that remains faithful to its principles may never achieve power. Or, if an accident should put control into its hands, it may soon lose it to less scrupulous adversaries. Is democratic Socialism, then, impossible? Or can it be achieved only if the party is willing to abandon the democratic method temporarily to attain power by violence in the hope that it may return to parliamentarism as soon as control is secure? Surely this second alternative contains tragic possibilities: a democratic movement that resorts to authoritarian methods to gain its objective may not remain a democratic movement for long. Still, the first alternative--to cling to democratic procedures under all circumstances--may doom the party to continual political impotence.

The dilemma is real enough, and it has repeatedly plagued all great democratic Socialist movements, particularly the British Labour Party and the German Social Democrats. In . . .

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