Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

ism gradually produced an organization of industry where the qualitative differences between masses of men were not wanted and were discouraged; where craftsmanship decayed and nothing more was wanted to the majority of those employed but repetitive standardized actions. Planning and organization became the monopoly of the few.


51
Revolution in the Nineteenth Century

Theodor Schieder

Karl Marx's conception of revolution occupies a position between social-economic determinism and political activism. The final uncertainty in which his whole political system wavers was transmitted to those Socialist parties that were his followers, and it resulted not merely in fluctuations in theory but in very great feebleness in their political strategy and tactics. If we take for example the strongest among them, German Social Democracy, we see clearly to what extent the dilemma at the heart of Marxist revolutionary theory affected its political effectiveness. August Bebel was no ordinary revolutionary leader of the workers; he fought passionately for the downfall of "sabre and class rule" and never denied that he was a "social revolutionary." But the more his thought became permeated with Marxist conceptions, the less real became his determination for violent revolution. As Social Democracy gained strength he and his party increasingly stressed the more immediate aim of the politically organised working class—the achievement of democracy by means of electoral agitation and parliamentary opposition. The testing time for the tactics of formal legalism was the period of the anti-Socialist laws; and by the retention of these tactics the Social Democrats even earned some measure of rebuke from Marx and Engels. This formal legalism was, however, very far from being collaboration; for Social Democracy under Bebel, without overstepping the limit of parliamentary opposition or obstruction or using any revolutionary or terrorist methods, retained its attitude of uncompromising non-co-opera‐

tion with the German state created by Bismarck. In his "Social Democratic catechism" of 1893 Kautsky described it as the "party that is revolutionary but does not make a revolution." 1 And German Social Democracy does indeed occupy a position between the English trade-union movement with its social policy of practical reform and the Russian Socialists' programme of underground activity and terror.

The opponents of the Social Democrat party had difficulty in even comprehending this sort of policy —indeed, its own leaders were not all fully conscious of its significance—and it by no means lacked critics. We today are only at the outset of the impartial historical analysis which would enable us to assess its worth. 2 Bismarck saw nothing in it but its purely negative attitude to the state he had built up, and called the Social Democrat programme the "gospel of negation." 3 But he did not clearly discern the revolutionary tactical method that lay behind it and he took no trouble to do so, for he thought he had explained it sufficiently by analogy with the social‐ revolutionary movement in neighbouring countries. Bebel gave him what might have been a hint on two quite separate occasions. The first was during the first session of the Reichstag in May 1871, when he called the Commune revolt in Paris "a small skirmish on the outposts" and expressed the assurance "that the main events in Europe are still to come; before many decades the war-cry of the Paris proletariat: War on the palaces, peace for the humble homes, death to poverty and idleness—this war-cry will be that of the whole proletariat of Europe." The second time came during the discussion on the anti-Socialist laws, and just before the murder of Czar Alexander in 1881. Bebel, in much more guarded and moderate language, was

____________________
From Theodor Schieder, The State and Society in Our Times (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., 1962), pp. 24-32. Reprinted by permission of R. Oldenbourg Verlag, publisher of the original German edition.

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