Karl Kautsky e la rivoluzione socialista (1891-1899). Riesame di una questione storiografica

ANNO 54 2013
Nicola D’Elia

Kautsky and the socialist revolution (1891-1899). Review of a historiographical question
For a long time, especially in Italy, the historical judgment on Kautsky as established by Marxist historiography reproached him for having championed a conception of the class struggle based on a strict opposition between the proletariat and other social groups. According to this interpretation, a conception of this kind would have kept German Social Democracy from building a united front of forces capable of changing the political system of Wilhelminian Germany into democracy, as an essential stage toward socialism. This article, which investigates the development of Kautsky’s political positions during the final decade of the nineteenth century, points out how, to the contrary, he was convinced that the achievement of democracy in the German Empire was the necessary precondition for proletarian rule, and that such a goal could be gained with the collaboration of other progressive forces. At the same time, it also distances itself from scholars who have asserted Kautsky’s intransigence over the idea that the institutions of liberal democracy were the indispensable instrument for the exercise of power by the working-class party, and shows how his conceptions about what institutional shape the «dictatorship of the proletariat» would take changed over time: the initial conviction that such a power would be founded upon parliament vanished during the revisionist controversy.

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