|File:Bernstein Eduard 1895.jpg|
6 January 1850|
18 December 1932 (aged 82)|
|Known for||Founder of evolutionary socialism (democratic socialism), social democracy and revisionism (reformism)|
Eduard Bernstein (6 January 1850Template:Spaced ndash18 December 1932) was a German social democratic political theorist and politician, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the founder of evolutionary socialism, social democracy and revisionism. Bernstein had held close association to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, but he saw flaws in Marxist thinking and began to criticize views held by Marxism when he investigated and challenged the Marxist materialist theory of history. He rejected significant parts of Marxist theory that were based upon Hegelian metaphysics; he rejected the Hegelian dialectical perspective.
Bernstein distinguished between early Marxism as being its immature form: as exemplified by The Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Engels in their youth, that he opposed for what he regarded as its violent Blanquist tendencies; and later Marxism as being its mature form that he supported. This mature form of Marxism refers to Marx in his later life acknowledging that socialism could be achieved through peaceful means through legislative reform in democratic societies. Without the need for a revolution, Bernstein stated that ethics could be restored to socialism in a capitalist system, with the state as a pivotal asset to the workers.
Bernstein was born in SchÃ¶neberg (now part of Berlin), to Jewish parents, who were active in the Reform Temple on the Johannistrasse where services were performed on Sunday. His father was a locomotive driver. From 1866 to 1878, after leaving school, he was employed in banks as a banker's clerk. His political career began in 1872, when he joined a socialist party with Marxist tendencies, known formally as the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Eisenacher Programms â a proponent of the Eisenach (named after the German town Eisenach) type of German socialism â and soon became known as an activist. Bernstein's party contested two elections against a rival socialist party, the Lassalleans (Ferdinand Lassalle's Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein), but in both elections neither party was able to win a significant majority of the leftist vote. Consequently Bernstein, together with August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, prepared the Einigungsparteitag ("unification party congress") with the Lassalleans in Gotha in 1875. Karl Marx's famous Critique of the Gotha Program criticized what he saw as a Lassallean victory over the Eisenachers whom he favored; interestingly, Bernstein later noted that it was Liebknecht, considered by many to be the strongest Marxist advocate within the Eisenacher faction, who proposed the inclusion of many of the ideas which so thoroughly irritated Marx.
In the Reichstag elections of 1877, the German Social Democratic Party gained 493,000 votes. However, two assassination attempts on Kaiser Wilhelm I the next year provided Chancellor Otto von Bismarck with a pretext for introducing a law banning all socialist organizations, assemblies, and publications. There had been no Social Democratic involvement in either assassination attempt, but the popular reaction against "enemies of the Reich" induced a compliant Reichstag to approve Bismarck's "Socialist Law."
Bismarck's strict anti-Socialist legislation was passed on 12 October 1878. For nearly all practical purposes, the Social Democratic Party was outlawed and, throughout Germany, it was actively suppressed. However, it was still possible for Social Democrats to campaign as individuals for election to the Reichstag, and this they did. Indeed, despite the severe persecution to which it was subjected, the party actually increased its electoral success, gaining 550,000 votes in 1884 and 763,000 in 1887.
The vehemence of Bernstein's opposition to the government of Bismarck made it desirable for him to leave Germany. Shortly before the "Socialist Law" came into effect, he went into exile in Zurich, accepting a position as private secretary for social democratic patron Karl HÃ¶chberg, a wealthy supporter of Social Democracy. A warrant subsequently issued for his arrest ruled out any possibility of his returning to Germany, and he was to remain in exile for more than twenty years. In 1888, Bismarck convinced the Swiss government to expel a number of important members of German social democratism from its country, and so Bernstein relocated to London, where he associated with Friedrich Engels and Karl Kautsky. It was soon after his arrival in Switzerland that he began to think of himself as a Marxist. In 1880, he accompanied Bebel to London in order to clear up a misunderstanding concerning his involvement with an article published by HÃ¶chberg and denounced by Marx and Engels as being "chock-full of bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideas." The visit was a success. Engels in particular was impressed by Bernstein's zeal and his ideas.
Back in Zurich, Bernstein became increasingly active in working for Der Sozialdemokrat ("Social Democrat"), and later succeeded Georg von Vollmar as the paper's editor, a job he was to have for the next ten years. It was during these years between 1880 and 1890 that Bernstein established his reputation as a major party theoretician and a Marxist of impeccable orthodoxy. In this he was helped by the close personal and professional relationship he established with Engels. This relationship owed much to the fact that he shared Engels's strategic vision and accepted most of the particular policies which, in Engels's opinion, those ideas entailed. In 1887, the German government persuaded the Swiss authorities to ban Der Sozialdemokrat. Bernstein moved to London where he resumed publication from premises in Kentish Town. His relationship with Engels soon developed into friendship. He also communicated with various English socialist organizations, notably the Fabian Society and Henry Hyndman's Social Democratic Federation. Indeed, in later years, his opponents routinely claimed that his "revisionism" was due to his having come to see the world "through English spectacles." It is, of course, impossible to determine how far the charge was justified. Bernstein himself denied it.
In 1891, he was one of the authors of the Erfurt Program, and from 1896 to 1898, he published a series of articles entitled Probleme des Sozialismus ("Problems of Socialism") that resulted in the revisionism debate in the SPD. He also published a book titled Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus und die Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie ("The Prerequisites for Socialism and the Tasks of Social Democracy") in 1899. The book was in great contrast to the positions of August Bebel, Karl Kautsky and Wilhelm Liebknecht. Rosa Luxemburg's 1900 essay Reform or Revolution? was also a polemic against Bernstein's position. In 1900, Berstein published Zur Geschichte und Theorie des Sozialismus ("The history and theory of socialism," 1900).
In 1901, he returned to Germany, after the end of a ban that had kept him from entering the country. He became an editor of the newspaper VorwÃ¤rts that year, and a member of the Reichstag from 1902 to 1918. He voted against the armament tabling in 1913, together with the SPD fraction's left wing. Although he had voted for war credits in August 1914, from July 1915 he opposed World War I and in 1917 he was among the founders of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), which united anti-war socialists (including reformists like Bernstein, "centrists" like Kautsky and revolutionary Marxists like Karl Liebknecht). He was a member of the USDP until 1919, when he rejoined the SPD. From 1920 to 1928 Bernstein was again a member of the Reichstag. He retired from political life in 1928.
Bernstein died on 18 December 1932 in Berlin. A commemorative plaque is placed in his memory at Bozener StraÃe 18, Berlin-SchÃ¶neberg, where he lived from 1918 until his death. His grave in the Eisackstrasse Cemetery became a "Protected Grave" (Ehrengrab) of the city-state of Berlin.
|Part of a series on|
|40x40px||Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eduard Bernstein.|
|40x40px||Wikiquote has quotations related to: Eduard Bernstein|
- Wikisource logo Works written by or about Eduard Bernstein at Wikisource
- Works by Eduard Bernstein at Project Gutenberg
- Lua error in Module:Internet_Archive at line 634: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
- Eduard Bernstein Archive at marxists.org.
- Bernstein on Homosexuality, Articles from Die Neue Zeit, 1895 and 1898.
Lua error in Module:Authority_control at line 346: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).