Who was Karl Kautsky? Information on German socialist theoretician Karl Kautsky biography, life story, theories and works.
Karl Kautsky Biography
Karl Kautsky (1854-1938) was a prominent German socialist theoretician and writer. He was one of the leading figures of the Second International, a federation of socialist parties and organizations that existed from 1889 to 1916.
Kautsky was born in Prague, then part of the Austrian Empire, and was active in the socialist movement from a young age. He joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the 1870s and became one of its leading theorists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Kautsky was particularly interested in the development of Marxist theory and wrote extensively on topics such as imperialism, the class struggle, and the relationship between capitalism and socialism.
Kautsky’s most famous work is “The Class Struggle,” which was published in 1892 and became a classic of Marxist literature. He also wrote influential works on topics such as the agrarian question, the theory of revolution, and the role of the state in socialist society.
After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Kautsky became a leading opponent of the war and argued for a socialist revolution to end it. However, his position was controversial within the SPD, and he eventually left the party in 1917 to join the newly-formed Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD).
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Kautsky was a vocal critic of the Bolsheviks and argued that their policies were not in line with Marxist theory. He continued to write and lecture on socialist theory and politics until his death in 1938.
Works and Career
Karl Kautsky was a prolific writer, publishing numerous books and articles throughout his career. He was known for his influential writings on Marxist theory, particularly his emphasis on the importance of the class struggle and the development of socialism.
Some of Kautsky’s most notable works include “The Class Struggle” (1892), “The Agrarian Question” (1899), “The Road to Power” (1909), and “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat” (1918). He also wrote extensively on topics such as imperialism, colonialism, and the role of the state in socialist society.
Kautsky’s writing and political activity were closely tied to his involvement in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). He was a prominent figure within the party and served as the editor of its theoretical journal, Die Neue Zeit, from 1883 to 1917.
During World War I, Kautsky became a leading opponent of the war and argued for a socialist revolution to end it. He was one of the leaders of the SPD’s left wing, which opposed the party’s support for the war. In 1917, he left the SPD to join the newly-formed Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), which was formed by dissidents from the SPD.
In the years after World War I, Kautsky continued to be active in socialist politics and writing. He was critical of the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union, arguing that their policies were not in line with Marxist theory. Kautsky remained a prominent figure in the socialist movement until his death in 1938.
Karl Kautsky; (1854-1938), German socialist theoretician. He was born in Prague, Bohemia, on Oct. 16, 1854. While a student in Vienna, he became a socialist. In Zurich in 1880, influenced by the exiled German writer Eduard Bernstein, he became an ardent Marxist. In 1883, in Stuttgart, Kautsky founded Die Neue Zeit, a socialist review that he edited until 1917. From 1885 to 1888 he directed it from London, where he was a friend of Karl Marx’s collaborator, Friedrich Engels.
Kautsky was instrumental in the formulation of the Erfurt Program (1891), which became the official platform of the German Social Democratic party. As an opponent of Bernstein’s influential “revisionist” doctrines, Kautsky was a cofounder in 1917 of the Independent Socialist Democratic party. He also opposed Lenin and Trotsky—indeed, the entire radical Bolshevik revolutionary program. Certain scholars have pointed out that, despite his “orthodoxy,” some of Kautsky’s interpretations—especially his theory of history—differ distinctly from those of Marx and Engels. Specifically, Kautsky’s writings reflect aspects of social Darwinism.
Kautsky settled in Vienna in 1924. With the arrival of the Nazis in 1938 he fled, settling in Amsterdam, where he died on Oct. 17, 1938. His most important work was Die materialistische Geschichtsauffassung (2 vols., 1927).