Why Rehabilitate Kautsky?

Caught in the foggy terrain of a newly resurgent left, regaining prominence on the national stage after decades of repression and strategic failure, the socialists of our age are confused and lost. All those who are worth listening to recognize the importance of the past and the necessity of studying our forebears in earlier communist and liberatory movements, but what this means in the concrete situation varies. Some stick to aging tendencies reflecting the political priorities of a totally different geopolitical situation, acting as if Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyism, or Bordigist Left Communism are coherent politics after the disappearance of the USSR. Others, however, recognize the need to develop new tendencies for the current cycle of struggle, and some of this group turn to past thinkers whose ideas have faded into the abyss of time. Luxemburgists, Bukharinists, all of these make use of departed comrades to justify a new expression of the communist movement. While there’s some amount of disingenuity to all of these new ‘tendencies’ — divorced from current practice as they are, they can’t really be called such a thing — none are worse than Kautskyism, which has seen a revival over the last few years in the wake of DSA’s rapid growth and the Bernie Sanders campaign.

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