Thursday, February 23, 2006

Karl Kautsky (1854-1938)

Karl Kautsky was a leading theoretician of social democracy.

Karl Kautsky became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) in 1875. From 1885 to 1890, he spent time in London, where he became a close friend of Friedrich Engels; in 1891, he co-authored the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)'s Erfurt Program together with August Bebel and Eduard Bernstein.

Following the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895, Kautsky became one of the most important and influential theoreticians of socialism. He stayed with the party when Rosa Luxemburg and the party's left wing broke with it in 1916 over its support for the First World War (see Spartacist League), but changed his mind in 1917 and left for the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), of which he was a member from up to 1919. In 1922 he re-joined the SPD.

Kautsky was described as a "renegade" by Vladimir Lenin, and he in turn castigated Lenin in his 1934 work Marxism and Bolshevism: Democracy and Dictatorship:
"The Bolsheviki under Lenin’s leadership, however, succeeded in capturing control of the armed forces in Petrograd and later in Moscow and thus laid the foundation for a new dictatorship in place of the old Tsarist dictatorship.*"[1]

Karl Kautsky lived in Berlin-Friedenau for many years; his wife, Luise Kautsky, was a close friend of Rosa Luxemburg, who also lived in Friedenau, and today there is a commemorative plaque where Kautsky lived at Saarstraße 14. He died in exile in Amsterdam at age 84.

The above is from the Wikipedia article.

Below is a selection from his "Methods of Peace-Making" (8 February 1923) pasted from a Marxist site. More of Kautsky's writings can be found here.

Kautsky's recommendations for peace are more negative than positive. Dictatorship and militarism make peace fragile. Bolshivism and its ruthlessness are threats to peace. He says we must fight against it, but he doesn't say how. Certainly, a political struggle is implied. Today, almost fifteen years after the fall of the Soviet Union, what Kautsky called "National Bolshevism" seems strong in too many parts of the world: the idea that the force of arms can and should be used to achieve social goals. If democracy is to mean more than the holding of elections, it cannot be imposed by the force of arms any more than religious orthodoxy can, if that is to mean real faith and not coerced conformity to the external trappings of religion.

Karl Kautsky, Methods of Peace Making, Justice, 8 February 1923, p.2.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

When the great Powers of the West went into the war against Germany they declared that this must be the last war. The victory should bring a peace of perpetual duration. However sceptical one might be as regards this latter prospect, one might at least have expected that the peace would last as long as the peace concluded by the conquerors of Napoleon a hundred years ago. Instead of this, the various Treaties of 1919 have only altered the form of war: the latter is still going on. Just now we are experiencing a military invasion of Germany, which is war none the less for being an attack on an unarmed civilian population by a force fitted out with all the up-to-date instruments of destruction.

1814 and 1919

How is it possible that the most enlightened democracies of our own days have not succeeded in doing what the very reactionary Governments of the Holy Alliance accomplished? The reason is that the latter had at least some notions of European solidarity. True it was a solidarity of anti-revolutionary Governments, but it was strong enough to make them reconstitute France in 1814, after a series of wars lasting over twenty years, with the frontiers of 1792 and without any indemnities. Even after the return and defeat of Napoleon in 1815 the conditions were not materially worsened, and an indemnity of 790 million francs imposed. France had its representatives at the Council Board when the treaties were negotiated. Why? Because the purpose was to get rid of Napoleon, not only by defeat in battle, but by creating such conditions that the regime in France which succeeded him had a reasonable prospect of stability.

The Allies of 1918 had no such concern. True, they had declared to make war upon the dynasties of the Hohenzollerns and Habsburgs. Paragraph 227 of the Versailles Treaty names William II as the culprit, but in paragraph 231 it is “Germany” which is responsible. The reactionist Governments of 1814 were conscious of their solidarity with the reactionist Government of France. The democratic Governments did not show the least sympathy for the German Republic, which was treated as if the German nation was a gang of criminals. And yet the German people of 1918 had taken more decisive steps against William than the French in 1814 against Napoleon, whom, in fact, they received again with jubilation in 1815 and followed faithfully to Waterloo.

“National Bolshevism”

If the Governments of the Entente had treated the German Republic, with at least some consideration, the ideas of Kaiserism and militarism would have disappeared for ever from Germany, the development of the productive forces would have sufficed to make good the ravages of the war, and the blessings of peace secured for a long time, perhaps for ever, if the Socialist Parties in the decisive great States should during the next few decades succeed in establishing governments of their own.

And yet! The protagonists of the democracies, Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau, all good Radicals and Democrats, put together the least durable of peace treaties that ever was framed. Why? The brutalising effects of this most terrible of all wars, the intoxication of complete victory, the utter defeat of the antagonists, the gigantic character of the task to put right a world completely out of joint – these created the situation. Never were the methods of procedure by full debate and negotiation more called for. Instead of which we had peace terms dictated autocratically, and the era of continuing the war in peace commenced. This may be called the era of “National Bolshevism,” as the victory of a section of the Russian movement has produced Social Bolshevism. Here as there the same disregard of facts, the same ruthlessness and pitiless destruction of opponents.

French and Prussian Militarism

This process of destruction cannot last, of course. Sooner or later other methods must be adopted. The sobering process has made itself felt first in the Anglo-Saxon countries, not in France. There is a French militarism as well as a Prussian militarism. Now militarism means not only having a large army, but being enthusiastic about it and sharing its mentality. French militarism had two culminating periods, under Louis XIV, and Napoleon I., but on the whole has not been so successful as Prussian militarism, which up to 1918 had known only one great and real defeat in 1806.

That the policy adopted by Poincaré and its consequences will have a sobering effect on French mentality is certain, though the National Bolshevism in that country has larger resources of power than anywhere else, But National Bolshevism ruins not only other countries but its own as well. The Ruhr adventure cannot by any discernible possibility relieve the burdens of taxation already imposed and yet to be imposed upon the French masses of peasants and workers. The economic motive behind this policy, the demand of the French heavy industry for the Ruhr coal, is not likely to make these burdens more acceptable to the French people, nor will it profit by the dismemberment of Germany. However, if by passive resistance Poincaré’s attempt is defeated, this may mean for France great inconveniences and burdens, but for Germany hunger and misery amongst the workers, and a bankrupt industry. When that moment arrives it will be time to replace dictatorial methods, by democratic negotiation.

No Preaching Of Revenge

To do all this it is however necessary for us to keep tight grip on our own National Bolsheviks.

Therefore, no preaching of revenge, of hatred, and repudiation of the Versailles Treaty off our own bat. Our enemy is National Bolshevism everywhere; our friend, whichever nation he may belong to, who will fight against it, so that at long last we may arrive at democratic methods in settling differences between nations, bring peace to the world, and secure economic welfare, which can never be reached by methods of dictatorship.

From Vorwärts

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama is Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the International Development Program at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
Johns Hopkins University. He has been associated in various ways with neoconservatism, described in an astounding article published by the New York Times, "After Neoconservatism".

In this article, aside from sketching the main currents of neoconservative thought and his own relations to other leading neoconservatives, he disowns the movement: "Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support." The problem, as he sees it, is its militarism: "The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them." He attacks the idea of "benevolent hegemony" advocated by the Bush administration and its supporters as being misinformed, premised on a morally unacceptable "American exceptionalism" according to which "America could use its power in instances where others could not because it was more virtuous than other countries," and based on various other misjudgments about domestic and international politics. With regard to its program in Iraq, Fukuyama writes: "The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism.... Overestimation of this threat was then used to justify the elevation of preventive war to the centerpiece of a new security strategy, as well as a whole series of measures that infringed on civil liberties, from detention policy to domestic eavesdropping." He recommends: "In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments." He also cautions: "By definition, outsiders can't "impose" democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic." Finally, he urges the creation of "effective international institutions." Still a UN skeptic, he calls for: "overlapping and occasionally competing international institutions that are organized on regional or functional lines." All of this is supposed to be elaborated further in a new book: America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006, forthcoming).

Francis Fukuyama, “Why Shouldn't I Change My Mind?” Los Angeles Times (9 April 2006).
“Seven weeks ago, I published my case against the Iraq war. I wrote that although I had originally advocated military intervention in Iraq, and had even signed a letter to that effect shortly after the 9/11 attacks, I had since changed my mind. But apparently this kind of honest acknowledgment is verboten. In the weeks since my book came out, I've been challenged, attacked and vilified from both ends of the ideological spectrum. From the right, columnist Charles Krauthammer has accused me of being an opportunistic traitor to the neoconservative cause — and a coward to boot. From the left, I've been told that I have ‘blood on my hands’ for having initially favored toppling Saddam Hussein and that my ‘apology’ won't be accepted.”
“In our ever-more-polarized political debate, it appears that it is now wrong to ever change your mind, even if empirical evidence from the real world suggests you ought to. I find this a strange and disturbing conclusion. For the record, I did change my mind, but in the year preceding the war — not after the invasion. In 2002, I told the London Times that ‘the use of military power to push [Iraqi democracy] forward is a big roll of the dice. We may not win on this one.’ On the first anniversary of 9/11, I argued in the Washington Post that we should invade Iraq only with approval from the U.N. Security Council, and in December of that year, I wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal warning that the project of democratizing Iraq and the Mideast might come to look like empire and that it violated the conservative principle of prudence.”
“But when my political shift occurred is not important: Even if it had come a year or two later, it would still not have represented a cowardly retreat or an apologia, but a realistic, intellectually honest willingness to face the new facts of the situation. In my view, no one should be required to apologize for having supported intervention in Iraq before the war. There were important competing moral goods on both sides of the argument, something that many on the left still refuse to recognize.”
“The U.N. in 1999 declared that all nations have a positive ‘duty to protect, promote and implement’ human rights, arguing in effect that the world's powerful countries are complicit in human rights abuses if they don't use their power to correct injustices. The debate over the war shouldn't have been whether it was morally right to topple Hussein (which it clearly was), but whether it was prudent to do so given the possible costs and potential consequences of intervention and whether it was legitimate for the U.S. to invade in the unilateral way that it did.”
“It was perfectly honorable to agonize over the wisdom of the war, and in many ways admirable that people on the left, such as Christopher Hitchens, George Packer, Michael Ignatieff and Jacob Weisberg, supported intervention. That position was much easier to defend in early 2003, however, before we found absolutely no stocks of chemical or biological weapons and no evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program. (I know that many on the left believe that the prewar estimates about Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were all a deliberate fraud by the Bush administration, but if so, it was one in which the U.N. weapons inspectors and French intelligence were also complicit.) It was also easier to support the war before we knew the full dimensions of the vicious insurgency that would emerge and the ease with which the insurgents could disrupt the building of a democratic state.”
“But in the years since then, it is the right that has failed to come to terms with these uncomfortable facts. The failure to find WMD and to make a quick transition to a stable democracy — as well as the prisoner abuse and the inevitable bad press that emerges from any prolonged occupation — have done enormous damage to America's credibility and standing in the world. These intangible costs have to be added to the balance sheet together with the huge direct human and monetary costs of the war.”
“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently admitted that the United States made numerous tactical errors in Iraq, but she insisted that the basic strategic decision to go to war was still as valid as ever because we foreclosed once and for all the possibility that Iraq would break out of sanctions and restart its WMD programs. But we now know a lot that throws that fundamental strategic rationale into question.”
“The Iraq Survey Group and the U.S. military have released hundreds of pages of documents on Iraq's prewar WMD programs showing that, at times, Hussein believed he possessed biological weapons that didn't exist and that, at other times, he led his most senior commanders to believe he had WMD capabilities that he knew were entirely fictitious. His government was so corrupt, incompetent and compartmentalized that it is far from certain that he would have succeeded in building a a nuclear program even if sanctions had been lifted. Nor is it clear that a breakdown of the sanctions regime was inevitable, given an energized United States and the very different political climate that existed after 9/11.”
“The logic of my prewar shift on invading Iraq has now been doubly confirmed. I believe that the neoconservative movement, with which I was associated, has become indelibly associated with a failed policy, and that unilateralism and coercive regime change cannot be the basis for an effective American foreign policy. I changed my mind as part of a necessary adjustment to reality. What has infuriated many people is President Bush's unwillingness to admit that he made any mistakes whatsoever in the whole Iraq adventure. On the other hand, critics who assert that they knew with certainty before the war that it would be a disaster are, for the most part, speaking with a retrospective wisdom to which they are not entitled.”
“Many people have noted the ever-increasing polarization of American politics, reflected in news channels and talk shows that cater to narrowly ideological audiences, and in a House of Representatives that has redistricted itself into homogeneous constituencies in which few members have to appeal to voters with diverse opinions. This polarization has been vastly amplified by Iraq: Much of the left now considers the war not a tragic policy mistake but a deliberate criminal conspiracy, and the right attacks the patriotism of those who question the war.”
“This kind of polarization affects a range of other complex issues as well: You can't be a good Republican if you think there may be something to global warming, or a good Democrat if you support school choice or private Social Security accounts. Political debate has become a spectator sport in which people root for their team and cheer when it scores points, without asking whether they chose the right side. Instead of trying to defend sharply polarized positions taken more than three years ago, it would be far better if people could actually take aboard new information and think about how their earlier commitments, honestly undertaken, actually jibe with reality — even if this does on occasion require changing your mind.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Freedom and Faith

by Fred Dallmayr

These are dark and dangerous times. Everywhere one turns one finds rancor, ill will, and animosities galore. The situation is starkly illustrated by the ongoing uproar over the cartoons published in Denmark. As a result of this uproar, people have been killed and property has been destroyed in numerous places; and there is no end in sight. This outcome is surely highly deplorable; my point in any case is not to condone or whitewash acts of violence committed against people or property. However, the outcome is hardly fortuitous; as in any confrontation, there are two sides to the story. It is well to remember that the uproar in this instance was not instigated by Muslims or Muslim countries. It was a response to a prior incident or provocation. Reason dictates that, here as elsewhere, one consider the cause-effect nexus, the relation between action and reaction. In this matter, it is tempting to wax fundamentalist on both sides. In Western media, the uproar is usually portrayed as the conflict between "freedom" and dogmatism or fanaticism. "Freedom" in this context is often treated as something absolute and nearly sacred, while religious faith is presented as deplorable and obsolete.

For a Western person, it is important to ponder a bit this "absolutism". Does freedom really mean that we can do as we please, that we can insult or malign other people at will? This assumption is at odds with both
the religious and the ethical traditions of the West. Western civilization is often called "Judaeo-Christian"; but neither Judaism nor Christianity instructs believers to insult or injure other people. On the contrary,
both Judaism and Christianity uphold the biblical injunction to love our fellow-beings (and this does not exclude Muslims). A prominent peak of the ethical tradition of the West is the moral philosophy of Kant. That philosophy stipulates as a "categorical imperative" the duty to treat other human beings as ends, not as means. And nowhere in Kant's work is there a hint that this imperative does not extend to Muslims.

So Western religious and ethical traditions are united in condemning the use of "freedom" as a weapon of insult or injury. There are also legal considerations pointing in the same direction. In America, the great
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared that individual freedom does not entitle a person to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. Anyone who has traveled in the Near East, or simply has read the
newspapers, knows that the Muslim world today is like a tinder box where a single match can cause a major conflagration. This is or should be common knowledge. There is a further legal consideration. As a
deterrent to ethnic cleansings and other forms of collective violence, several countries, and also some states in America, have adopted statutes prohibiting "hate crimes" committed against groups of people.
In addition, there is the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (in force since March 1976) which states in one article: "Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement
to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law."

Again, I do not in any way condone the violence committed in response to the cartoons. But as I stated at the beginning: these are dark and dangerous times. Humankind seems be inching its way toward
catastrophe, possibly a nuclear catastrophe. There are people in capitals of the world whose fingers are itching to press the nuclear button. In this situation it behooves all of us to exercise sober restraint, and to keep a guard on our words and deeds in order to prevent the worst from happening. Neither freedom nor religious faith entitle anyone to jeopardize the future of this earth.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

When I first met Bonhoeffer
by Jim Wallis

When I first met Dietrich Bonhoeffer, through reading his books as a young seminarian, he explained the world of faith to me. This young German theologian who was executed by the Nazis for his opposition to Hitler helped me to understand the difficult religious experiences I had known in America.

I had just come back to Jesus after rejecting my childhood faith and joining the student movements of my generation when I discovered for the first time the Sermon on the Mount as the manifesto for a whole new order called the reign of God. I discovered Matthew 25: "As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me."

The evangelical Christian world I had grown up in talked incessantly about Christ but never paid any attention to the things that Jesus taught. Salvation became an intellectual assent to a concept. "Jesus died for your sins and if you accept that fact you will go to heaven," said the evangelists of my childhood. When it came to the big issues that cropped up for me as a teenager - racism, poverty, and war - I was told explicitly that Christianity had nothing to do with them: they were political, and our faith was personal. On those great social issues, the Christians I knew believed and acted just like everybody else I knew - like white people on racism, like affluent people on poverty, and like patriotic Americans on war.

Then I read Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship, which relied heavily on the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount and the idea that our treatment of the oppressed was a test of faith. Believing in Jesus was not enough, said Bonhoeffer. We were called to obey his words, to live by what Jesus said, to show our allegiance to the reign of God, which had broken into the world in Christ. Bonhoeffer warned of the "cheap grace" that promotes belief without obedience. He spoke of "costly discipleship" and asked how the grace that came at the tremendous cost of the cross could require so little of us. "Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship," he said, "and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth."

At the time, I had just experienced a secular student movement that had lost its way. Without any spiritual or moral depth, protest often turned to bitterness, cynicism, or despair. Finding Jesus again, after years of alienation from the churches, reenergized my young social conscience and provided a basis for both my personal life and my activist vision. Here again Bonhoeffer showed the way, by providing the deep connection between spirituality and moral leadership, religion and public life, faith and politics. Here was a man of prayer who became a man of action - precisely because of his faith.

Bonhoeffer will appeal today to all those who are hungry for spirituality. But his was not the soft New-Age variety that only focuses on inner feelings and personal enlightenment. Rather, it was Bonhoeffer's spirituality that made him so politically subversive. And it was always his deepening spiritual journey that animated his struggle for justice.

Bonhoeffer will appeal today to all who are drawn to Jesus Christ, because at the heart of everything Bonhoeffer believed and did was the centrality of Christ. The liberal habit of diminishing the divinity of Christ or dismissing his incarnation, cross, and resurrection had no appeal for Bonhoeffer. But his orthodoxy has demanding implications for the believer's life in the world. He refused to sentimentalize Jesus, presenting him as the fully human Son of God who brings about a new order of things.

During a stint at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Bonhoeffer's response to theological liberalism was tepid, but he became inspired by his involvement with the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Meeting the black church in America showed the young Bonhoeffer again that a real Christ was critical of the majority culture.

Bonhoeffer will appeal today to all those who love the church and long for its renewal. But they won't find in Bonhoeffer somebody who was primarily concerned with new techniques for more contemporary worship, management models for effective church growth, or culturally relevant ways to appeal to the suburban seekers. Bonhoeffer could not imagine the life of solitary discipleship apart from the community of believers. But he would not tolerate the communal life of the church being more conformed to the world than being a prophetic witness to it.

And, of course, Bonhoeffer appeals today to all those who seek to join religion and public life, faith and politics. Because he doesn't fit neatly into the categories of left and right, and liberal and conservative, Bonhoeffer can speak to Democrats trying to get religion, to Republicans who want a broader approach than hot-button social issues, and to people who are unhappy with our contemporary political options. He was drawn to the nonviolence of Jesus and, like Martin Luther King Jr., was planning to visit Gandhi in India to learn more about nonviolent resistance. Like King, he was killed before he could make the trip. But Bonhoeffer's pacifism gave way to what he saw as the overriding need to confront the massive evil of Nazism by participating in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Yet, according to F. Burton Nelson and Geffrey Kelly, in their book The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he believed that violence was "still a denial of the gospel teachings of Jesus," and his decision to join the conspiracy against Hitler was accompanied by "ambiguity, sin, and guilt" that were only expiated by a reliance on Christ who "takes on the guilt of sinners, and extends the forgiveness of his Father God to those sinners." That decision, which cost him his life, demonstrates Bonhoeffer's profound wrestling with the always-difficult questions of how faith is to be applied to a world of often imperfect choices.

Excerpted from Jim Wallis' introduction to A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer, published by Harper San Francisco, 2006.

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