MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE |  Marx Engels

Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 1879

Circular Letter
to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Wilhelm Bracke and Others


Source: MECW, Volume 24, p. 253;
Written:on September 17-18, 1879:
First published:in Die Kommunistische Internationale, June 15, 1931;
Transcribed: Andy Blunden.


Dear Bebel,

The delay in replying to your letter of August 20 has been due, on the one hand, to Marx’s prolonged absence and, on the other, to a number of incidents: first, the arrival of the “Richter” Jahrbuch, secondly that of Höchberg himself .

I can only conclude that Liebknecht did not show you the last letter I wrote him, although I specifically instructed him to do so. Otherwise you would certainly not have adduced the same reasons as had been put forward by Liebknecht, and to which I had already replied in the aforesaid letter.

Let us now run through the individual points with which we are concerned here.

I. The Negotiations with Carl Hirsch

Liebknecht asked Hirsch whether he would undertake to edit the party organ that was about to be founded in Zurich. Hirsch sought information as to the financing of the paper: what funds were available and who was providing them? Firstly, so as to know whether the paper might not peter out within a few months. Secondly, to ascertain who held the purse-strings, thus having the final say as to the paper’s stance. Liebknecht’s reply, telling Hirsch that “everything is in order; you will be getting further information from Zurich” (Liebknecht to Hirsch, July 28), didn’t arrive. But what did reach Hirsch from Zurich was a letter from Bernstein (July 24) in which Bernstein informed him that “We are being entrusted with the production and supervision (of the paper)”. A discussion had taken place “between Viereck, Singer and ourselves” during which it was suggested

“that your position might be rendered somewhat difficult by the differences of opinion which you, as a Laterne man, have had with individual comrades, though I myself do not consider this objection carries much weight”.

Not a word about the financing.

Hirsch answered by return on July 26, enquiring about. the paper’s material circumstances. Which comrades had undertaken to cover the deficit? Up to what amount and for how long? — The question of the editor’s salary didn’t enter into this at all; Hirsch merely wanted to know whether “means have been secured to ensure the paper’s continued existence for at least a year”.

On July 31, Bernstein replied, saying that any deficit there might be would be covered by voluntary contributions of which some (!) had already been subscribed. Hirsch’s remarks about the stance he thought the paper should adopt, of which more below, elicited deprecating remarks and injunctions:

“It is all the more necessary for the supervisory committee to insist on it in that it, in turn, is subject to control, i.e. is responsible. On these points, therefore, you must come to an understanding with the supervisory committee.”

They asked him to reply by return, preferably by telegraph.

Hence, instead of getting a reply to his justified questions, Hirsch was informed that he was to be editor under a supervisory committee based in Zurich, with views differing very materially from his own and members of whose names he wasn’t even informed!

Hirsch, quite justifiably outraged by this treatment, chose rather to come to an understanding with the Leipzigers. His letter of August 2 to Liebknecht must be known to you, since Hirsch expressly demanded that it be shown to you and Viereck. Hirsch is even willing to submit to a supervisory committee in Zurich, inasmuch as the latter is to put its comments to the editor in writing and these may be referred for decision to the controlling committee in Leipzig.

In the meantime Liebknecht had written to Hirsch on July 28:

Of course finance is available for the undertaking, seeing that it is backed by the entire party+(inclusive) Höchberg. But I'm not concerned with the details.”

Nor does Liebknecht’s next letter contain anything about the financing — only an assurance that the Zurich committee is not an editorial committee, but is only to be entrusted with administration and the financial side. As late as August 14, Liebknecht wrote to me along the same lines, and asked that we persuade Hirsch to accept. You yourself, as late as August 20 were still so little acquainted with the actual circumstances that you wrote to me saying:

“He” (Höchherg) “has no more say in the editing of the paper than any other well-known member of the party.

Finally, Hirsch received a letter from Viereck, dated August 11, containing the admission that

“the 3 men domiciled in Zurich are to, qua editorial committee, apply themselves to founding the paper and, subject to the agreement of the three Leipzigers, select an editor ... so far as I recall, the resolutions that were sent them also asserted that the (Zurich) founding committee mentioned under 2., was to assume both political and financial responsibility towards the party.... From this state of affairs it follows, or so it seems to me, that ... there can be no question of anyone assuming the editorship without the concurrence of the 3 men domiciled in Zurich and entrusted with the founding by the party”.

Here at last was something definite, at least, for Hirsch to go on, if only in regard to the position of the editor vis-à-vis the Zurichers. They were an editorial committee; they were also politically responsible; without their concurrence no one could assume the editorship. In short, Hirsch was simply instructed to come to an understanding with three men in Zurich whose names had still not been disclosed to him.

But to make the confusion worse, Liebknecht added a postscript to Viereck’s letter:

“Singer from Berlin was here just now and informed us that the supervisory committee in Zurich is not as Viereck imagines, an editorial committee, but essentially an administrative committee which is financially responsible to the party, i.e. to ourselves, for the paper; of course, its members also have the right and the duty to discuss the editing with you (a right and a duty of which, by the way, every member is possessed); they are not empowered to place you under their guardianship.”

The Zurich trio and one member of the Leipzig committee — the only one present at the discussions — insist that Hirsch is to be subject to official direction by Zurich, while another Leipzig member [Wilhelm Liebknecht] contests this outright. And yet Hirsch is to make up his mind before these gentlemen are agreed amongst themselves! The fact that Hirsch was entitled to acquaint himself with the resolutions they had adopted and which embodied the conditions with which he was expected to comply, was entirely overlooked, the more so since it never seems to have occurred to the Leipzigers that they themselves should become properly acquainted with those resolutions. How, otherwise, can the above-mentioned inconsistency be accounted for?

If the Leipzigers were unable to agree upon the powers vested in the Zurich people, the latter harboured no doubts on this score.

Schramm to Hirsch, August 14:

“Had you not written at one time that in a similar case” (as that of Kayser), “you would do just as you had done before, thus holding out the prospect of a similar modus operandi, we would not be wasting words on the subject. As it is, however, and in view of that statement of yours, we must reserve the right to have the casting vote as to what articles the new paper should take.”

The letter to Bernstein in which Hirsch was alleged to have said this was dated July 26, long after the conference in Zurich at which the Zurich trio’s powers were laid down. But so much were those in Zurich already revelling in the sense of their own bureaucratic authority that, in reply to this subsequent letter of Hirsch’s, they were already laying claim to new powers, namely the decision as to what articles should be included. The editorial committee was already a censorship committee.

Not until Höchberg arrived in Paris did Hirsch learn from him the names of the members of the two committees.

If, then, discussions with Hirsch broke down, what was the cause?

1. The obstinate refusal, on the part of both Leipzig and Zurich, to give him any hard and fast information about the paper’s financial basis and hence the likelihood of keeping it afloat, if only for a year. Not until he was over here did he learn from me (following your communication to me) how much had been subscribed. Hence, the only conclusion it was really possible to draw from previous communications (the party + Höchberg) was either that the paper was already being largely financed by Höchberg or that it would soon be entirely dependent on his subsidies. And this latter eventuality is still far from being excluded. The sum of — if I read it right — 800 marks is precisely the same (40 pounds sterling) as had to be contributed by the local association, Freiheit, during the first half year.

2. Liebknecht’s repeated assurances, which have since proved totally erroneous, that Zurich was to have no official control whatever over the editorship, and the resulting comedy of errors;

3. The certainty finally established that not only were the Zurich people to control the editing, they were actually to censor it, and that the only role that would redound upon him, Hirsch, would be that of the man of straw.

His refusal at that juncture is something we cannot but approve. The Leipzig committee, or so we hear from Höchberg, has received reinforcements in the shape of two more who do not live in the place and hence that committee can intervene quickly only if the three Leipzigers are agreed. As a result, the real centre of gravity has altogether shifted to Zurich, and Hirsch or, for that matter, any true revolutionary and proletarian-minded editor, would not have been able to work with the people there for any length of time. More about this later.

II. The Proposed Stance of the Paper

As early as July 24 Bernstein had informed Hirsch that the differences he, as a Laterne man, had had with individual comrades would render his position more difficult.

Hirsch replied that in his view the paper’s stance would in general have to be the same as that of the Laterne, i.e. such as to avoid prosecution in Switzerland and not cause undue alarm in Germany. He inquired who those comrades might be and continued:

“I know of only one and can promise you that in a similar case of undisciplined conduct I should deal with him in exactly the same way.”

Whereupon Bernstein, conscious of his newly acquired dignity as official censor, replied:

“Now as regards the paper’s stance, it is the view of the supervisory committee that the Laterne should not serve as a model; in our view the paper should be less taken up with political radicalism, but rather adopt a line that is socialist on principle. Instances such as the attack upon Kayser, which was frowned on by all comrades without exception,” (!) “must under all circumstances be avoided.”

And so on and so forth. Liebknecht called the attack on Kayser “a bloomer”, and so dangerous did it seem to Schramm that he immediately imposed censorship on Hirsch.

Hirsch again wrote to Höchberg, saying that a case such as that of Kayser

“Could not occur should an official party organ exist, whose lucid expositions and friendly hints could not be so presumptuously brushed aside by a deputy”.

Viereck also wrote, saying that what was required of the new paper was that it adopt a

“dispassionate attitude and, in so far as possible, bury the hatchet”; it ought not to be an “enlarged version of the Laterne” and “the most Bernstein can be reproached with is that he holds views that are too moderate, if reproach it be at a time when we cannot, after all, crowd on sail”.

Well, now, what is this Kayser case, this unpardonable crime Hirsch is supposed to have committed? In the Reichstag, Kayser spoke in favour of and voted for protective tariffs, the only one of the Social-Democratic deputies to do so. Hirsch accused him of having infringed party discipline, in that Kayser

1. voted for indirect taxation, the abolition of which is expressly demanded by the party programme;

2. voted Bismarck funds, thus infringing the first and fundamental rule of our party tactics: not a farthing for this government.

Hirsch is undeniably right on both counts. And, after Kayser had spurned, on the one hand, the party programme to which the deputies, by their resolution in congress, had in effect been solemnly pledged and, on the other hand, the most imperative and all-important rule of party tactics, after he had voted Bismarck funds, out of gratitude for the Anti-Socialist Law, Hirsch was again perfectly justified in our opinion in handling him as roughly as he did.

We have never understood how it was that this attack upon Kayser could have aroused such a furore in Germany. I am now told by Höchberg that it was the “faction” which gave Kayser permission to act as he did, and Kayser is held to be covered by that permission.

If such is the case, then it is really too bad. In the first place, Hirsch could have known no more than the rest of the world about this secret resolution. Then, again, the discredit incurred by the party, for which previously Kayser alone could have been blamed, is all the greater for this affair, as is Hirsch’s merit in having brought to light in public and for all the world to see Kayser’s preposterous phraseology and his even more preposterous vote, thus saving the honour of the party. Or has German Social-Democracy indeed been infected with the parliamentary disease, believing that, with the popular vote, the Holy Ghost is poured upon those elected, that meetings of the faction are transformed into infallible councils and factional resolutions into sacrosanct dogma?

Admittedly, a bloomer has been made — not by Hirsch, however, but by the deputies who gave Kayser the protection of their resolution. And if those upon whom, above all others, it is incumbent to see that party discipline is maintained, themselves so glaringly infringe that party discipline by a resolution of this kind, then so much the worse. But it is even worse still if they have the audacity to believe that it was not Kayser, by his speech and vote, or the other deputies by their resolution, who infringed party discipline, but Hirsch, inasmuch as he attacked Kayser despite that resolution about which, moreover, he knew nothing.

For the rest, there can be no doubt that the policy the party had adopted towards the question of protective tariffs was as muddled and vacillating as it has always been in regard to virtually all economic questions — e.g. state railways — when they have become a practical issue. The reason for this is that the party organs, notably Vorwärts, rather than subject such questions to a thorough discussion, have preferred to apply themselves to the construction of the future social order. When, subsequent to the Anti-Socialist Law, the question of protective tariffs suddenly became a live issue, views on the subject diverged, assuming a wide variety of nuances, and there was absolutely no one to hand possessing the qualification that would have enabled him to form a lucid and accurate opinion, namely a knowledge of conditions in German industry and the latter’s position in the world market. Again, as was bound to happen, protectionist tendencies cropped up here and there amongst the electorate, tendencies which, it was felt, ought also to be taken into consideration. The only possible way out of the confusion would have been to take a purely political view of the question (as was done in the Laterne), but this was not pursued with any determination. Thus it was inevitable that in this debate, the party acted for the first time in a hesitant, uncertain and muddled way and ended up by thoroughly discrediting itself through the person of and in company with Kayser.

The attack on Kayser is now being used as a pretext to admonish Hirsch, in tones ranging through the whole gamut, to the effect that the new paper must on no account repeat the excesses of the Laterne, must be less taken up with political radicalism and rather adopt a line that is ‘dispassionate and socialist on principle’. And this from Viereck no less than from Bernstein who, precisely because he is too moderate, appears to the former to be the right man, seeing that just now we cannot, after all, crowd on sail.

But why go abroad at all, unless one intends to crowd on sail? Abroad, there’s nothing to prevent this being done. In Switzerland there are no German press, combination and penal laws. Hence, not only can one say things there, which could not, even before the Anti-Socialist Law, be said at home because of the ordinary German laws, but one is actually duty-bound to do so. For here one is under the eyes, not of Germany alone, but of Europe and it is one’s duty, insofar as the Swiss laws allow, openly to proclaim for Europe’s benefit the methods and aims of the German party. Anyone in Switzerland seeking to abide by the German laws would only prove that he is deserving of those German laws and that he has, in effect, nothing to say save what he was allowed to say in Germany before the Exceptional Law. Nor should any account he taken of the possibility that the editors might be temporarily deprived of the chance to return to Germany. Anyone who is not prepared to run that risk is not fit to occupy so exposed and honourable a post.

More. If the German party was ostracised by the Exceptional Law, this was precisely because it was the only serious opposition party in Germany. If, in an organ published abroad, it renders thanks to Bismarck by abandoning its role as the only serious opposition party, by behaving in a nice, docile manner and adopting a dispassionate stance when kicked, it only proves that it deserved to be kicked. Of all the German émigré papers that have appeared abroad since 1830, the Laterne is undoubtedly one of the most moderate. If, however, even the Laterne was too insolent — then the new organ could not but compromise the party in the eyes of sympathisers in non-German countries.

III. The Manifesto of the Zurich Trio

In the meantime we have received Höchberg’s Jahrbuch, containing an article, “Rückblicke auf die sozialistische Bewegung in Deutschland,” which, as Höchberg himself informed me, was actually written by the three members of the Zurich committee.

Here we have their authentic critique of the movement up till now, and hence their authentic programme for the new paper’s stance insofar as this is dependent on them.

At the very start we read:

“The movement, regarded by Lassalle as an eminently political one, to which he sought to rally not only the workers but all honest democrats, and in the van of which were to march the independent representatives of science and all men imbued with a true love of mankind, was trivialised under the chairmanship of J. B. von Schweitzer into a one-sided struggle of the industrial workers to promote their own interest.”

I shall not inquire whether and to what extent this is historically true. The specific charge against Schweitzer is that Schweitzer trivialised Lassalleanism, here regarded as a bourgeois democratic-philanthropic movement, into a one-sided struggle of the industrial workers to promote their own interests — trivialised it by emphasising its character as a class struggle of industrial workers against the bourgeoisie. He is further charged with having “repudiated bourgeois democracy”. But has bourgeois democracy any business to be in the Social-Democratic Party at all? If it consists of “honest men”, it surely cannot wish to join, and if it nevertheless wishes to join, this can only be for the purpose of stirring up trouble.

The Lassallean party “chose to present itself in a most one-sided manner as a workers’ party”. The gentlemen who wrote those words are themselves members of a party which presents itself in the most one-sided manner as a workers’ party, and now hold office in the same. Here we have a complete incompatibility. If they think as they write, they ought to leave the party or at least resign from office. If they don’t, it is tantamount to admitting that they intend to use their official position to combat the party’s proletarian character. Hence the party is betraying itself if it allows them to remain in office.

Thus, in the view of these gentlemen, the Social-Democratic Party ought not to be a one-sided workers’ party but a many-sided party of “all men imbued with a true love of mankind”. This it is to prove, above all, by divesting itself of crude proletarian passions and applying itself, under the direction of educated philanthropic bourgeois, “to the formation of good taste” and “the acquisition of good manners” (p. 85). After which the “seedy appearance” of some of the leaders would give way to a respectable “bourgeois appearance”. (As though the outwardly seedy appearance of those referred to here were not the least that could be held against them!) After which, too,

“there will be an influx of supporters from the ranks of the educated and propertied classes. These, however, must first be won over if the ... agitation engaged in is to have perceptible results... German socialism has laid “too much stress on winning over the masses, thus omitting to prosecute vigorous” (!)"propaganda amongst the so-called upper strata of society”. For “the party still lacks men who are fit to represent it in the Reichstag”. It is, however, “desirable and necessary to entrust the mandates to men who have had the time and the opportunity to become thoroughly conversant with the relevant material. Only rarely and in exceptional cases does ... the simple working man and small master craftsman have sufficient leisure for the purpose”.

Therefore elect bourgeois!

In short, the working class is incapable of emancipating itself by its own efforts. In order to do so it must place itself under the direction of “educated and propertied” bourgeois who alone have “the time and the opportunity” to become conversant with what is good for the workers. And, secondly, the bourgeois are not to be combatted — not on your life — but won over by vigorous propaganda.

If, however, you wish to win over the upper strata of society, or at least their well-intentioned elements, you mustn’t frighten them — not on your life. And here the Zurich trio believe they have made a reassuring discovery:

“Now, at the very time it is oppressed by the Anti-Socialist Law, the party is showing that it does not wish to pursue the path of forcible, bloody revolution, but rather is determined ... to tread the path of legality, i.e. of reform.”

If, therefore, the 5-600,000 Social-Democratic voters, 1/10 to 1/8 of the total electorate — and dispersed, what is more, over the length and breadth of the country — have sense enough not to beat their heads against a wall and attempt a “bloody revolution” with the odds at one to ten, this is supposed to prove that they will, for all time, continue to deny themselves all chance of exploiting some violent upheaval abroad, a sudden wave of revolutionary fervour engendered thereby, or even a people’s victory won in a clash arising therefrom! Should Berlin ever be so uneducated as to stage another March 18, it would behove the Social-Democrats not to take part in the fighting as “louts besotted with barricades” (p. 88) but rather to “tread the path of legality”, to placate, to clear away the barricades and, if necessary, march with the glorious army against the one-sided, crude, uneducated masses. Or if the gentlemen insist that that’s not what they meant, then what did they mean?

But there’s better in store.

“Hence, the more calm, sober and considered it (the Party) shows itself to be in its criticism of existing circumstances and its proposals to change the same, the less likelihood is there of a repetition of the present successful move” (introduction of the Anti-Socialist Law) “by means of which conscious reaction has scared the bourgeoisie out of their wits by holding up the red spectre” (p. 88).

In order to relieve the bourgeoisie of the last trace of anxiety, it is to be shown clearly and convincingly that the red spectre really is just a spectre and doesn’t exist. But what is the secret of the red spectre, if not the bourgeoisie’s fear of the inevitable life-and-death struggle between itself and the proletariat, fear of the unavoidable outcome of the modern class struggle? Just abolish the class struggle, and the bourgeoisie and “all independent persons” will “not hesitate to go hand in hand with the proletarians"! In which case the ones to be hoodwinked would be those self-same proletarians.

Let the party, therefore, prove, by its humble and subdued demeanour, that it has renounced once and for all the “improprieties and excesses” which gave rise to the Anti-Socialist Law. If it voluntarily undertakes to remain wholly within the bounds of the Anti-Socialist Law, Bismarck and the bourgeoisie will, no doubt, oblige by rescinding what would then be a redundant law!

“Let no one misunderstand us”; we don’t want “to relinquish our party and our programmed but in our opinion we shall have enough to do for years to come if we concentrate our whole strength, our entire energies, on the attainment of certain immediate objectives which must in any case be won before there can be any thought of realising more ambitious aspirations.”

Then, too, the bourgeois, petty-bourgeois and workers, who “are now scared off ... by ambitious demands”, will join us en masse.

The programme is not to be relinquished, but merely postponed — for some unspecified period. They accept it — not for themselves in their own lifetime but posthumously, as an heirloom for their children and their children’s children. Meanwhile they devote their “whole strength and energies” to all sorts of trifles, tinkering away at the capitalist social order so that at least something should appear to be done without at the same time alarming the bourgeoisie. Here I can only commend that communist, Miquel, who gives proof of his unshakable belief in the inevitable downfall of capitalist society within the next few hundred years by swindling it for all he’s worth, contributing manfully to the crash of 1873, and thus really doing something towards the collapse of the existing order.

Another offence against good manners was the “exaggerated attacks on the Gründer”, who, after all, were “only children of their time”; hence “the vilification of Strousberg and suchlike men ... would have been better omitted”. Sadly we are all “children of our time”, and if this be sufficient grounds for excuse, it is no longer permissible to attack anyone, and we for our part would have to desist from all polemic, all struggle; we would calmly submit whenever kicked by our opponents, because we would know in our wisdom that they are “only children of their time” and cannot act otherwise than they do. Instead of repaying them their kicks with interest, we should rather, it seems, feel sorry for the poor fellows.

Similarly, our support for the Commune had one drawback, at any rate, namely

“that it put off people otherwise well-disposed towards us, and generally increased the hatred felt for us by the bourgeoisie”. Moreover, the party “cannot be wholly exonerated from having brought about the October Law, for it had needlessly exacerbated the hatred of the bourgeoisie”.

There you have the programme of the three censors of Zurich. As regards clarity, it leaves nothing to be desired. Least of all so far as we're concerned, since we are still only too familiar with all these catch-phrases of 1848. There are the voices of the representatives of the petty bourgeoisie, terrified lest the proletariat, impelled by its revolutionary situation, should “go too far”. Instead of resolute political opposition — general conciliation; instead of a struggle against government and bourgeoisie — an attempt to win them over and talk them round; instead of defiant resistance to maltreatment from above — humble subjection and the admission that the punishment was deserved. Every historically necessary conflict is reinterpreted as a misunderstanding and every discussion wound up with the assurance: we are, of course, all agreed on the main issue. The men who in 1848 entered the arena as bourgeois democrats might now just as well call themselves Social-Democrats. To the former, the democratic republic was as unattainably remote as the overthrow of the capitalist order is to the latter, and therefore utterly irrelevant to present political practice; one can conciliate, compromise, philanthropise to one’s heart’s content. The same thing applies to the class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie. On paper it is recognised because there is no denying it any longer, but in practice it is glossed over, suppressed, emasculated. The Social-Democratic Party should not be a workers’ party, it should not bring upon itself the hatred of the bourgeoisie or, for that matter, of anyone else; above all, it should prosecute vigorous propaganda amongst the bourgeoisie; instead of laying stress on ambitious goals which are calculated to frighten off the, bourgeoisie, and unattainable anyway in our own generation, it should rather devote all its strength and energies to those petty-bourgeois stop-gap reforms which provide new props for the old social order and which might, perhaps, transform the ultimate catastrophe into a gradual, piecemeal and, as far as possible, peaceable process of dissolution. These are the same people who keep up an appearance of ceaseless activity, yet not only do nothing themselves but also try to ensure that nothing at all is done save — chin-wagging; the same people whose fear of any kind of action in 1848 and ’49 held back the movement at every step and finally brought about its downfall; the same people who never see reaction and then are utterly dumbfounded to find themselves at last in a blind alley in which neither resistance nor flight is possible; the same people who want to confine history within their narrow philistine horizons, and over whose heads history invariably proceeds to the order of the day.

As for their socialist import, this has already been adequately criticised in the Manifesto, Chapter: “German, or ‘True’ Socialism”. Wherever the class struggle is thrust aside as a distasteful, “crude” manifestation, the only basis still left to socialism will be a “true love of mankind” and empty phrases about “justice”.

It is an inevitable manifestation, and one rooted in the process of development, that people from what have hitherto been the ruling class also join the militant proletariat and supply it with educative elements. We have already said so clearly in the Manifesto. But in this context there are two observations to be made:

Firstly, if these people are to be of use to the proletarian movement, they must introduce genuinely educative elements. However, in the case of the vast majority of German bourgeois converts, this is not the case. Neither the Zukunft nor the Neue Gesellschaft has contributed anything that might have advanced the movement by a single step. Here we find a complete lack of genuinely educative matter, either factual or theoretical. In place of it, attempts to reconcile superficially assimilated socialist ideas with the most diverse theoretical viewpoints which these gentlemen have introduced from the university or elsewhere, and of which each is more muddled than the last thanks to the process of decay taking place in what remains of German philosophy today. Instead of first making a thorough study of the new science, each man chose to adapt it to the viewpoint he had brought with him, not hesitating to produce his own brand of science and straightaway assert his right to teach it. Hence there are, amongst these gentlemen, almost as many viewpoints as there are heads; instead of elucidating anything, they have only made confusion worse — by good fortune, almost exclusively amongst themselves. The party can well dispense with educative elements such as these for whom it is axiomatic to teach what they have not learnt.

Secondly, when people of this kind, from different classes, join the proletarian movement, the first requirement is that they should not bring with them the least remnant of bourgeois, petty-bourgeois, etc., prejudices, but should unreservedly adopt the proletarian outlook. These gentlemen, however, as already shown, are chock-full of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas. In a country as petty-bourgeois as Germany, there is certainly some justification for such ideas. But only outside the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. If the gentlemen constitute themselves a Social-Democratic petty-bourgeois party, they are fully within their rights: in that case we could negotiate with them and, according to circumstances, form an alliance with them, etc. But within a workers’ party they are an adulterating element. Should there be any reason to tolerate their presence there for a while, it should be our duty only to tolerate them, to allow them no say in the Party leadership and to remain aware that a break with them is only a matter of time. That time, moreover, would appear to have come. How the Party can suffer the authors of this article to remain any longer in their midst seems to us incomprehensible. But should the Party leadership actually pass, to a greater or lesser extent, into the hands of such men, then the Party will be emasculated no less, and that will put paid to its proletarian grit.

As for ourselves, there is, considering all our antecedents, only one course open to us. For almost 40 years we have emphasised that the class struggle is the immediate motive force of history and, in particular, that the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat is the great lever of modern social revolution; hence we cannot possibly co-operate with men who seek to eliminate that class struggle from the movement. At the founding of the International we expressly formulated the battle cry: The emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself. Hence we cannot co-operate with men who say openly that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves, and must first be emancipated from above by philanthropic members of the upper and lower middle classes. If the new party organ is to adopt a policy that corresponds to the opinions of these gentlemen, if it is bourgeois and not proletarian, then all we could do — much though we might regret it — would be publicly to declare ourselves opposed to it and abandon the solidarity with which we have hitherto represented the German Party abroad. But we hope it won’t come to that.

It is intended that this letter should be communicated to all five members of the committee in Germany, and also to Bracke....

Nor have we any objection to its being communicated to the people in Zurich.