Bernstein, Eduard

Bernstein, Eduard

(ā`do͞oärt bĕrn`shtīn), 1850–1932, German socialist. From 1872 he was actively associated with the Social Democratic party. In 1878, antisocialist legislation sent him into exile. In 1898, he aroused controversy among German socialists by critiquing Marxism, denying that the collapse of capitalism was imminent, and maintaining that the bourgeoisie was not wholly parasitic. He saw socialism as the final result of liberalism, not revolution. Returning from England to Berlin in 1901 he became the leader of revisionism, opposed by Karl Johann KautskyKautsky, Karl Johann
, 1854–1938, German-Austrian socialist, b. Prague. A leading figure in the effort to spread Marxist doctrine in Germany, he was the principal deviser of the Erfurt Program, which set the German Social Democratic party on an orthodox Marxist path and
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. Bernstein protested his party's support for war by resigning in 1914. He rejoined the party after World War I, leading it as a popular reformist party. He served briefly in the government (1919), and later opposed the Nazis. His most important book setting forth criticisms of Marxism is Evolutionary Socialism (1898, tr. 1909).


See his reminiscences, My Years of Exile (1921); P. Gay, The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism (1954); J. W. Hulse, Revolutionists in London (1970).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bernstein, Eduard


Born Jan. 6, 1850, in Berlin; died there on Feb. 18, 1932. One of the leaders of the opportunist wing of German social democracy and of the Second International; ideologist for revisionism.

Bernstein joined social democracy in 1872. He was a follower of E. Dühring and an advocate of ideological compromise with Lassalle and his adherents. In the late 1870’s, Bernstein, along with K. Höchberg and K. Schramm, called for a renunciation of revolutionary struggle and adaptation to Bismarck’s regime. Under the influence of the criticism of K. Marx and F. Engels, he temporarily retreated from his opportunist standpoints. Between 1881 and 1890, Bernstein was the editor of the central organ of the Social Democratic Party, Sozialdemokrat. He broke completely with Marxism from the mid-1890’s. In his articles Problems of Socialism (published in 1896–98 in the journal Neue Zeit and in the book Problems of Socialism and Tasks of Social Democracy [1899; Russian translation 1901]), Bernstein advanced a program revising all the fundamental propositions of Marx’s doctrine as allegedly obsolete. Replacing revolutionary Marxism by reformism (the thesis: “the end is nothing, the movement everything”), he defended the ideas—borrowed from bourgeois economists and philosophers—of peaceful evolution and social harmony; he exalted bourgeois democracy and disputed Marx’s thesis on socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat as the way to socialism. Denying Marx’s theory on the impoverishment of the proletariat, he contended that under capitalism the process of concentration of production in industry slows down and in agriculture does not take place, that monopolies eliminate anarchy of production and lead to the disappearance of economic crises, and that the development of joint-stock companies meant the “democratization of capital.” Bernstein’s book became literally a code for renegades betraying the interests of the working class. His action was an attempt to subordinate the workers’ movement to bourgeois ideology, to corrupt the consciousness of the working class, and to divert the proletariat from the revolutionary struggle. The ideas of Bernstein and his followers—Bernsteinism as such—were severely condemned by revolutionary Marxists (V. I. Lenin, F. Mehring, R. Luxemburg, P. Lafargue, and others). However, the leadership of German social democracy left Bernstein in the party. Bernstein was in the social democratic faction of the Reichstag from 1902. In the commentaries to his correspondence with Marx and Engels, which he published in 1913 (with arbitrary omissions), in his works The History of the Workers’ Movement in Berlin (parts 1–3,1907–10; Russian translation 1908), Ferdinand Lassalle (1904; Russian translation 1905), and others, Bernstein emerged as a falsifier both of the literary legacy of the founders of Marxism and of the history of the workers’ movement. During World War I, Bernstein was a centrist. In 1917, along with K. Kautsky, he took part in the creation of the Independent Social Democratic Party, but as early as 1919, he openly passed to the side of the rightists. He was extremely hostile to the international communist movement and to Soviet Russia.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Tsirkuliarnoe pis’mo A. Bebeliu, V. Libknekhtu, V. Brakke i dr.” Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 19.
Lenin.V.I. “Nashaprogramma.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 4.
Lenin, V. I. “Chto delat’?” Ibid., vol. 6.
Lenin, V. I. “Marksizm i revizionizm.” Ibid., vol. 17.
Lenin.V.I. “OpportunizmikrakhIIInternatsionala.” /Wi/., vol.27.
Plekhanov, G. V. “O mnimom krizise marksizma.” In Izbr. filosofskie proizvedeniia, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Plekhanov, G. V. “Bernshtein i materializm.” Ibid.
Plekhanov, G. V. “Za chto nam ego blagodarit’.” Ibid.
Luxemburg, R. Sotsial’naia reforma ili revoliutsiia. Moscow, 1959.
Chagin, B. A. Iz istorii bor’by protiv filosofskogo revizionizma ν germanskoi sotsial-demokratii 1895–1914 gg. Moscow-Leningrad, 1961.
Aizin, B. A. “V. I. Lenin protiv revizionizma i opportunizma ν germanskom rabochem dvizhenii.” In the collection Rabochee dvizhenie ν novoe vremia. Moscow, 1964.
Ocherki istorii ideinoi bor’by vokrug “Kapitala” K. Marksa. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.