Karl Kautsky

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But if socialism is a social necessity, then it would be human nature and not socialism which would have to readjust itself, if ever the two clashed.

Karl Johann Kautsky (16 October 185417 October 1938) was a Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician.  Kautsky was recognised 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 and was called by some the "Pope of Marxism."  Following the war, Kautsky was an outspoken critic of the Bolshevik Revolution and its excesses, engaging in polemics with V. I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky on the nature of the Soviet state.


  • Ist aber der Sozialismus eine gesellschaftliche Notwendigkeit, dann wäre, wenn er in Konflikt mit der Menschennatur käme, diese es, die den Kürzeren ziehen würde und nicht der Sozialismus.
    • Preface to Atlanticus, Produktion und Konsum im Sozialstaat (Production and Consumption in the Social State or in the Welfare State; Stuttgart: Verlag J.H.W. Dietz Nachf, 1989), p. xiv.
    • Translation:
  • When brought to the proletariat from the capitalist class, science is invariably adapted to suit capitalist interests. What the proletariat needs is a scientific understanding of its own position in society. That kind of science a worker cannot obtain in the officially and socially approved manner. The proletarian himself must develop his own theory. For this reason he must be completely self-taught.

“Marxism and Bolshevism: Democracy and Dictatorship,” (1934) [1][edit]

published by the American League for Democratic Socialism, 1934

  • The worst reproach that Engels could make against the first English Marxists was that they were applying Marxism in a sectarian spirit. What would he have said, had he lived to see it, about a school of Marxists who after succeeding in capturing the state power proceeded to make a state religion of Marxism, a religion whose articles of faith and their interpretation are watched over by the government, a religion, the criticism of which, nay, the slightest deviation from which, is sternly punished by the State; a Marxism ruling by the methods of the Spanish Inquisition, propagated with fire and sword, practicing a theatrical ritual, as illustrated by the embalmed body of Lenin: a Marxism reduced to the status not only of a state religion but of a medieval or oriental faith? Such a Marxism may indeed be called a doctrinaire fanaticism.
    • Chap. I, The Beginnings of Marxism
  • 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.
    • Chap. IV, Democracy and Dictatorship
  • According to the laws of social development established by Marx, a backward agricultural country cannot show the way to Socialism to other countries. Its failure in this respect is foreordained. It is merely a question of when and how this failure will finally manifest itself. Until now the Bolsheviki have been skillful in disguising their failure under the mask of promises of a glorious future. The last such promise was the Five-Year plan. But the Bolshevist state economy has been in existence now more than fifteen years. For more than ten years the USSR has been enjoying complete peace. And yet, contrary to all promises, things under the Bolshevist state economy have been getting worse every year, (excepting the short period of the Nep), and the day is not far distant when even the most credulous will become convinced that the Bolshevist way leads not upward, toward Socialism, but downward, to open ruin or slow disintegration.
    • Chap. IV, Democracy and Dictatorship
  • I expect that soon the failure of the attempts to transform Russia into a Socialist community by methods of dictatorship will become apparent to all. The failure of the Communist experiment in Russia, however, does not mean the downfall of the Bolshevik regime. The two things are not necessarily linked together. Nay, they are mutually exclusive. The same backwardness that makes Socialism in Russia at the present time impossible favors the strengthening of despotism once it has taken root.
    • Chap. IV, Democracy and Dictatorship

Quotes about Kautsky[edit]

  • Der naheliegende Einwand, daß es für den einzelnen nur sehr wenig ins Gewicht fällt, ob er selbst fleißig und eifrig ist, daß es für ihn wichtiger ist, daß alle anderen es sind, wird von ihnen entweder gar nicht oder in unzulänglicher Weise berücksichtigt.  Sie glauben, auf dem kategorischen Imperativ allein das sozialistische Gemeinwesen aufbauen zu können.  Wie leicht sie es sich dabei zu machen pflegen, zeigt wohl am besten Kautsky, der die Behauptung aufstellt:  »Ist der Sozialismus eine gesellschaftliche Notwendigkeit, dann wäre, wenn er in Konflikt mit der Menschennatur käme, diese es, die den Kürzeren ziehen würde, und nicht der Sozialismus«.  Das ist reinster Utopismus.
  • Hitler's seizure of power in Germany dumfounded the whole Socialist world. German socialism had long been looked upon by the more conservative Socialist groups as a shining example. After all, it was the movement that had produced Bebel and Kautsky; its membership ran into the millions; it had organized powerful and wealthy labor and co-operative movements.
    • Murray B. Seidler, Norman Thomas: Respectable Rebel, Syracuse University Press (1961) p. 113

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