Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kautsky on revolution

Kautsky is best known negatively, the great betrayer, the renegade - people only read of him rather than read him.

Frankly, I rate Kautsky as a writer - and that rating is that he is worth reading, even where you disagree with him. He's not like David Icke who you can not bother with because the refutation isn't productive, refuting Kautsky bears fruit. I was scrolling through his book The Social Revolution and on the day After the Social Revolution.

It is an intriguing glimpse of Marxistant social democracy - and something the present day left so lost in the wilderness would do well to catch. here's his prescription for a victorious proletariat:
In the first place it is self-evident that it would recover what the bourgeoisie has lost. It would sweep all remnants of feudalism away and realize that democratic programme for which the bourgeoisie once stood. As the lowest of all classes it is also the most democratic of all classes. It would extend universal suffrage to every individual and establish complete freedom of press and assemblage. It would make the State completely independent of the church and abolish all rights of inheritance. It would establish complete autonomy in all individual communities and abolish militarism. This last could be brought about in two ways; through the introduction of universal armament and the dissolution of the army. Universal armament is a political measure and dissolution of the army a financial one. The former can under certain conditions cost as much as a standing army. But it is essential to the security of democracy, in order to take away from the government its most powerful means of opposing the people. Dissolution again aims mainly at a diminution of the military budget.
Undoubtedly the victorious proletariat would also make fundamental reforms in taxation. It would endeavor to abolish all the taxes that today rest upon the laboring population – first of all the indirect ones that increase the cost of living, and would draw the sums necessary to the covering of governmental expenses from the great properties by means of a progressive income tax supplemented by a property tax. I shall return to this point later. This must suffice for the present suggestion.

A particularly important field for us is that of education. Popular schools have always occupied the attention of proletarian parties and they even played a great role in the old communistic sects of the Middle Ages. It must always be one of the aims of the thinking proletariat to deprive the possessing classes of the monopoly of culture.
There is one problem above all others with which the proletarian regime must primarily occupy itself. It will in all cases be compelled to solve the question of the relief of the unemployed. Enforced idleness is the greatest curse of the laborer. For him it signifies misery, humiliation, crime.
I'll leave the question of taxation to another post, since it is encompassed in my point of significant disagreement.

What is interesting is although he consciously commits to radical bourgeois measures, he tags on the significant radical measures of anti-militarism (a biggy in Germany) and also a clear class conscious necessity of dealing with unemployment, in effect (and this is made clear later in the passage) destroying the labour market, by removing the compulsion of poverty.
If the laborer can once be secure of existence even when he is not working, nothing would be easier than for him to overthrow capital. He no longer needs capitalists, while the latter cannot continue his business without him. Once things have gone thus far the employer would be beaten in every conflict with his employees and be quickly compelled to give in to them. The capitalists could then perhaps continue to be the directors of the factories, but they would cease to be their masters and exploiters. Once the capitalists recognized, however, that they had the right to bear only the risk and burdens of capitalist business, these men would be the very first ones to renounce the further extension of capitalist production and to demand that their undertakings be purchased because they could no longer carry them on with any advantage.
This would enable many differing forms of joint ownership by the workers - nationalisation, municipalisation and co-operativism.

The point being, contrary to the Labour movement, he didn't see state power and nationalisation as the means to socialism, but rather a clear class analysis led him to see resolving and abolishing the wages system as the means of dissolving the market system.

More another day.

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Anonymous Jacob Richter said...

Except that the abolition of the wage system necessarily means finding a means of exchange replacement for money, whose circulation is key to the formation of capital.

Good on you reading Kautsky as I have, and I hope you read more, especially The Road to Power.

7:47 AM  

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