[Marxism] Marxist Left Review | Kautsky: the abyss beyond parliament

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 24 06:45:21 MDT 2019

Eric Blanc’s recent articles on Karl Kautsky2 have provided an 
opportunity to critically return to the historically preeminent theorist 
of the German socialist movement. This is useful. Some pre-war strategic 
debates are archaeological sites worth re-excavating because they speak 
to present debates on the left.3 But the positive historical 
re-excavation of Kautsky’s work has often been coupled with an equally 
pragmatic argument for the broad party.

Kautsky became a renegade, but there is a connecting line between his 
earlier strengths and weaknesses and his subsequent shift to the right. 
His pre-war framework was historically progressive until it hit the 
limits of its own inbuilt fetters. His framework was tightly bound up 
with the evolution of German Social Democracy. Insofar as the social 
democratic project represented a step forward for the workers’ movement 
it was progressive; but the parliamentarist project and rising power of 
the trade union bureaucracy eventually stifled the struggle for 


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