Gotha Program

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gotha Program


the program of the German Social Democrats adopted at the Gotha Congress of May 22–27, 1875, at which the Eisenachers (the Social Democratic Workers’ Party, founded in 1869) and the Lassallean-oriented General Association of German Workers united to form the Socialist Labor Party of Germany.

The creation of a united party of the working class was a major event in the history of the German workers’ movement. The proposition that the emancipation of the working class requires the transformation of the means of production into socialized property was formulated in the party program. The party’s aim was declared to be the emancipation of the working class and the creation of a socialist society. The party adopted the slogan of proletarian internationalism. At the same time, seeking to achieve unity at any price, the Eisenachers made a number of concessions to the Lassal-leans. The comments of K. Marx and F. Engels, criticizing the draft program in very sharp and profound terms, were hardly considered.

The Gotha Program contained crude distortions of the programmatical and tactical bases of the proletarian movement. The idea of the socialist revolution and the conquest of political power by the proletariat was left out of the program. Lasalle’s concept of the “iron law of wages,” corresponding to the Malthusian “theory” of the poverty of the toiling masses as a natural law, and Lassalle’s thesis that, in relation to the proletariat, all other classes including the peasantry supposedly constitute a single reactionary mass were essentially reproduced in the program. Marx especially sharply criticized the draft program for asserting that the working class can achieve its aims only through universal suffrage and the establishment of producer’s cooperative societies with state aid (the state in question being the bourgeois-Junker empire of Bismarck). Criticizing the draft program for obscuring the class nature of the state, Marx emphasized that the dictatorship of the proletariat was necessary to assure the rule of the proletariat and to build a socialist society.

The Gotha Program was a step backward by comparison with the program of the Eisenachers. Several passages from the Gotha Program were subsequently used by the revisionists.

Marx and Engels refrained from publicly condemning the Gotha Program because the rank-and-file members of the party placed a revolutionary interpretation upon it in spite of its real content. Nevertheless, when the question of revising the Social Democratic program came up on the eve of the Erfurt Congress of German Social Democracy in 1891, En-gels published Marx’ Critique of the Gotha Program, which had been written in early May 1875. Engels did this in spite of the opposition of several Social Democratic leaders.

The new program adopted at the Erfurt Congress was politically more mature than the Gotha Program had been.


“Gotskaia programma.” In F. Mehring, Istoriia germanskoi sotsial-demokratii, vol. 4. Moscow, 1921.
Marx, K. “Kritika Gotskoi programmy.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 19.
Engels, F. A. Bebeliu, 18–28 marta 1875 g. (Letter.) Ibid
Engels, F. A. Bebeliu, 12 okt. i 15 okt. 1875. (Letters.) Ibid., vol. 34.
Engels, F. V. Brakke, 11 okt. 1875. (Letter.) Ibid.
Engels, F. K. Kautskomu, 7 i 15 ianv., 3, 11 i 23 fevr. 1891. (Letters.) Ibid., vol. 38.
Engels, F. F. A. Zorge, 11 fevr. i 4 marta 1891. (Letters.) Ibid.
Engels, F. A. Bebeliu, 1–2 maia 1891. (Letters.) Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Chto delat’?” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 6.
Lenin, V. I. “Gosudarstvo i revoliutsiia.” Ibid., vol. 33.
Barvenko, E. N. “K. Markc i F. Engel’s v bor’be za edinstvo ger-manskogo rabochego klassa v 70-kh godakh XIX v.” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1968, no. 3.
Kundel, E. Marx und Engels im Kampf um die revolutionäre Ar-beitereinheit Berlin, 1962.

G. BECKER (German Democratic Republic)

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
He discusses Marx's reputation, the philosophy of alienation, alienation and politics, the theory of exploitation, class struggle and formation, revolution, and proletarian democracy, and ends with excerpts from oNotes on James Mill,o The German Ideology, oTheses on Feuerbach,o The Communist Manifesto, Capital, The Civil War in France, and Critique of the Gotha Program. Portions of the book were previously published in On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present.
73: To each according to his excitability- Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program (1875)
First of all, Marx saw the labor of "overseeing" and "superintendence" as productive in its planning and directive functions, and conceived of "engineers" as primary bearers of "society's greatest productive wealth, scientific labour-power." He also more than once declared (in Capital and the Gotha Program, for example), that clerks in the form of "accountants" would be essential workers in any post-capitalist social order.