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Karl Kautsky

(1854—1938)


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(1854–1938)

A German socialist politician and social theorist. His The Agrarian Question (1899) argued that small-scale peasant production was doomed to disappear in the face of capitalist development, and that social democrats should not seek to defend peasant interests, their future lying in proletarianization. For Kautsky, the peasantry embodied the ‘backward’ social characteristics of isolation, tradition, and individualism. He was opposed to revisionism; that is, the electoral politics of Edward Bernstein in the 1900s, and adopted a pacifist position in the First World War. He criticized the Bolshevik revolution and its policy of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, attracting the hostility of Lenin, who attacked Kautsky as the epitome of the social democratic betrayal of the working class (see The Road to Power, 1909, and The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, 1918). His major of 1927 has been translated into English as The Materialist Conception of History (1988). See also Marxism.

Subjects: Social Sciences — Arts and Humanities.


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