Readers committed to a reenactment of the 1917 Russian Revolution might want to look away now, for this is a post that will have Trots and Stalinists recoiling in horror.
It is 113 years since a famous (or notorious, depending on how you look at things) book rolled off the presses of the German workers' movement. The author's name is still enough to bring a derisive snort forth from many a Leninist nostril. He is the original renegade, the high priest of ex-left degenerates everywhere: Eduard Bernstein.
Bernstein is castigated by many a would-be revolutionary for suggesting that the perspectives advanced by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party might need revising in the context of the Imperial Germany of 50 years later. Bernstein also argued that not only could a socialist society come about through peaceful means that avoids a revolution, but also (horror of horrors) that a revolution isn't a particularly desirable thing to happen either.
These are so much red rags to the ever-shrinking bolshevik bull, and why his latter day opponents still strive to inoculate the cadre against his ideas. Of course, Bernstein was not without problems and these will be examined in the course of the series, which will be a rereading of his heretical Evolutionary Socialism. And by way of a postscript, we may take a look at Rosa Luxemburg's famous (and canonical) reply, Reform or Revolution.
Long-term readers carried over from A Very Public Sociologist 1.0 will know this blog has laid many acres of text analysing and discussing the problems of socialist strategy today. Needless to say I don't think sitting back and letting history take its course is going to grind out socialism. I also think self-described revolutionary parties are down a historical cul de sac. Attempting to build a Labour Party mk II in opposition to Labour, and calling for general strikes at a time our unions are weak underlines the political dead end they're stuck in. But whatever floats your activist boat, I guess.
Despite bringing many socialists out in a rash, a reexamination of Bernstein's contributions can shine an interesting light on many of the problems facing us. Even if little of value can be gleaned from his writings, he might have said the end point is nothing, but the 'movement'; the process of discussing and evaluating the arguments, is everything.
The format will follow the extended discussions of Georg Lukacs' History and Class Consciousness, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, and Antonio Gramsci's Selections from the Prison Notebooks. All contributions will be collated below.