Erfurt Program

The Erfurt Programme was adopted by the Social Democratic Party of Germany during the SPD Congress at Erfurt in 1891. Formulated under the political guidance of Eduard Bernstein, August Bebel, and Karl Kautsky, it superseded the earlier Gotha Program.

Protokoll des Parteitages der SPD in Erfurt (14. bis 20. Oktober 1891).jpg

The programme declared the imminent death of capitalism and the necessity of socialist ownership of the means of production. The Party intended to pursue these goals through legal political participation rather than by revolutionary activity. Kautsky argued that because capitalism, by its very nature, must collapse, the immediate task for socialists was to work for the improvement of workers' lives rather than for the revolution, which was inevitable.

Reception and responseEdit

The draft programme was criticised by Friedrich Engels for its opportunist, non-Marxist views on the state in a criticism he sent to Kautsky on 29 June 1891.[1]

Official commentaryEdit

Kautsky wrote the official SPD commentary on the program in 1892, which was called The Class Struggle. The Marxism exemplified by The Class Struggle was often refereed to by later critics as 'vulgar Marxism' or the 'Marxism of the Second International'.[2] The popular renderings of Marxism found in the works of Kautsky and Bebel were read and distributed more widely in Europe between the late 19th century and 1914 than Marx's own works. The Class Struggle was translated into 16 languages before 1914 and became the accepted popular summation of Marxist theory. This document came to be defined against 'orthodox' socialist theory before the October Revolution of 1917 caused a major split in the international socialist movement.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lenin, Vladimir I (1917). "4.4 Criticism of the draft of the Erfurt Programme". The State and Revolution.
  2. ^ Korsch, Karl (1923). Marxism & Philosophy. 146 West 29th Street, Suite 6W New York, NY 10001: Monthly Review Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-85345-153-2. Marxist theory in the second half of the nineteenth century became gradually impoverished and degenerated into vulgar-marxism.CS1 maint: location (link)
  • Kautsky, Karl Das Erfurter Programm Dietz Nachf. Verlag, Stuttgart, 1920
  • Sassoon, Donald One Hundred Years of Socialism. The New Press, New York, 1996.

External linksEdit