Bernsteinism

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bernsteinism

 

one of the first varieties of revisionism, the forefather of which was E. Bernstein; an opportunistic current which proclaims the revision of the fundamental tenets of Marxism on the pretext of their “lack of correspondence” with changed conditions. The dissemination of Bernsteinism reflected the process of the reformist degeneration of the leadership elements of the Western European parties of the Second International; the process was connected with the growth of the “workers’ aristocracy,” and also with the influx of a petit bourgeois strata into the workers’ movement. Bernsteinism became the banner for the most opportunistic elements, such as the German right-wing social democrats (E. David, G. von Vollmar, and others), the French Millerandists, and the Dutch right-wingers. In Russia the ideas of Bernsteinism were snatched up by the “legal Marxists” (P. B. Struve) and the “economists” (S. N. Prokopovich and E. D. Kuskova).

In the area of theory, Bernsteinism was an attempt to disarm the proletariat ideologically. It tried to replace dialectical materialism with neo-Kantian idealism, the economic teaching of K. Marx by a vulgar apologetics of capitalism and dogmas borrowed from Katheder-Socialists and other liberal economists, and revolutionary socialism by the “theory” that capitalism would grow gradually into a socialist society. Bernsteinism advocated the implementation of small reforms as the main task of the workers’ movement and parliamentary activity as the basic means of struggle. In the words of V. I. Lenin, Bernstein and his followers denied too many important points: “denied was the possibility of putting socialism on a scientific basis and of demonstrating its necessity and inevitability from the point of view of the materialist conception of history; denied was the fact of growing impoverishment, the process of proletarization, and intensification of capitalist contradictions; the very concept ’ultimate aim’ was declared to be unsound and the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat was completely rejected; denied was the antithesis in principle between liberalism and socialism; denied was the theory of the class struggle on the alleged grounds that it could not be applied to a strictly democratic society governed according to the will of the majority, etc.” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 6, p. 7).

In practice, Bernsteinism took the form of conciliation and adaptation to bourgeois politics, with the acceptance of sops from the bourgeoisie in the form of ministerial posts, “cushy jobs,” and the like. Bernsteinism did not encounter the proper resistance from the leaders of the Second International. K. Kautsky produced a halfway critique of the views of Bernstein, while allowing a host of theoretical concessions to him. While A. Bebel decisively condemned the views of Bernstein, he did not pose the question of their incompatibility with membership in a socialist party. The struggle against Bernsteinism was waged by G. V. Plekhanov, F. Mehring, P. Lafargue, A. Labriola, and R. Luxemburg. However, only V. I. Lenin carried the critique of Bernsteinism to the end, uncovering its social roots and pointing out its connection to the peculiarities of the imperialist era (such as the bribery of the “workers’ aristocracy” by the imperialist bourgeoisie). Lenin stressed the danger not only of Bernsteinism but also of conciliatoriness to it.

L. I. GOL’MAN

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Revisionism is a special terminology designating only Eduard Bernstein, Bernsteinism, at the beginning of the imperialist stage.