Who is Eduard Bernstein?June 25, 2021
Eduard BernsteiEduard Bernstein (6 January 1850 – 18 December 1932) was a German social democratic theorist and politician. He is a member of the SPD and the founder of reformism and socialist revisionism.
He was the son of a Jewish family who came from Danzig and settled in Berlin, the capital of Prussia. His father was a railway mechanic, and his uncle Aaron Bernstein was the editor of the newspaper Berliner Volk Zeitung, which had a large readership in workers’ circles. In this environment, he easily shared many cultured Germans’ aspirations for national unity and democracy at a younger age. He joined the Social Democratic Party in 1872 as a young bank clerk. The turbulent years following Prussia’s defeat of France in 1871 played an important role in the formation of his political beliefs.
When he joined the party, he started working for the socialist publication Die Zukunft. The economic depression of 1873, which lasted until the 1890s, reinforced his belief in the weakness of capitalism. But it was the antisocialist laws of Knight Otto von Bismarck that forced him to take a more radical stance.
After being exiled from Germany, he settled in Switzerland. He distanced himself from the “moral socialist” views of Karl Höchberg, the wealthy patron of Die Zukunft. Here he undertook the editorship of the Zurich edition of Der Sozialdemokratie, which was the gathering center of the secret socialist party, with the approval of Karl Marx. When he was expelled from Switzerland on Bismarck’s application in 1888, he continued to publish the journal in London. There he became a close friend of Marx’s collaborator Friedrich Engels; He also established close relations with the leader of the influential Fabian Society, which advocated that socialism would develop step by step. He displayed his increasingly changing views in a series of articles and in a letter to the Social Democratic Party meeting in Stuttgart in 1898. The following year he published Die Voraussetzungen de Sozialismus und die Sozialdemokratie (Evolutionary Socialism).
Returning to Germany in 1901, Bernstein became the theorist of the progressive revisionist school of the reformist labor movement. He argued that socialism was not the direct and pure product of an uprising against the capitalist middle class, but the final result of liberalism, which was an integral and intrinsic part of human passions. He abandoned the view that capitalism would collapse immediately and that the bourgeoisie was a mere and oppressive class. He also concluded that the concentration of productive industry in particular hands was not in all areas as complete or more rapid as Marx had envisioned.
He was elected to the Reichstag (parliament) in 1902 and was a member until 1928. As the dogmatic marxism of the socialist theorist Karl Kautsky and the eclectic Marxism of the German labor leader August Bebel gradually faded away, revisionism became the ideology of social democracy.
Finally, social democracy became the great reformist popular movement that Bernstein had longed for for 20 years. Bernstein, now a respected mentor of his party, was the brainchild of much of the social democratic program. Bernstein, who played an important role in deterring the German people from the Russian example of 1917, could not prevent the Italian fascist model from spreading to Germany in 1922. He regarded the bloody attacks of the Nazis as the thoughtless acts of deranged minds. He failed to grasp the essence of National Socialism and was helpless to prevent the Nazis from seizing power. Less than six months after Berstein’s death, the democratic state, on which he had pinned all his hopes, opened its doors to the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM) Who is he?