Rudolf Hilferding November 1905

Parliamentarianism and the General Strike

Source: “Parliamentarianism and the General Strike,” The Social Democrat, Vol. IX No. 11, November, 1905, pp. 675-687;
Translated: by Jacques Bonhomme;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

R. Hilferding contributes an interesting article under the above title to the “Neue Zeit” for September 16.


He begins by saying that it is important that an answer should be given to the question of Jaurès, raised at the Amsterdam Congress, why the important Social-Democratic Party of Germany had had such little influence in the government of its own country. This is especially noteworthy, because in France the Socialists have had a very great influence on the conduct of the Ministry, and even in Austria, where they are by no means numerous, they have not been without modifying in some ways the action of their rulers. It would appear that in Germany too much attention has been paid in merely endeavouring to get members elected to the Reichstag.

Parliamentarianism is often considered as a safety-valve, and in countries where it has full liberty the number of members representing particular parties affords a somewhat rough guess of the relative strength of parties. Then there ensues a more or less friendly rivalry in the parliament, so that sometimes one party rules and sometimes another.

This account of the parliamentary system does not, however, take sufficiently into account that the system may often act quite differently when a totally different set of conditions prevails. It must first be granted that the parliament shall have full power to carry out its decisions without interference, but if this be not possible then the influence of a particular party will not be in a direct ratio with its strength. The election only gives them the number of the supporters of a particular party, and this only in a rough and ready way, for it may be that all those who have voted for the candidates of the party would not be in agreement with its aims and objects. These aims themselves will not always be quite what the candidates would agree to. Besides a comparison of what is desired and what is likely to be obtained will show great differences. Here the question of organisation of the electorate and the method of utilising it plays a very important part; it may be said, in brief, that in every modern election the result depends on organisation, and that this is the great test. But the arrangements to be made for organisation are of vast importance, and everything in an election rests on them. There is always the possibility when there is a struggle between parties that there may be an internecine struggle between the leaders of an organisation and their followers, unless, indeed, organisations were controlled by a military power. It is always doubtful if, in a crisis, the commands of the leaders of the organisation would be followed. Parliamentarianism therefore does not afford any absolute security as far as concerns the management of the masses, and the issue of the struggle may always be doubtful, just as it is doubtful whether the decrees of an arbitration court will always prevent war.

Many members of the party consider that parliamentarianism is a means of putting a stop in a peaceful way to all the conflicts of society, and it appears at first sight that this may be right. A more rigid analysis, however, of the matter may show reasons for a change of opinion.


There are, practically, two methods by which a parliamentary majority can retain its power. It may, in the first instance, try to carry out itself those demands of the minority which constitute the most popular parts of its programme, and thus take the wind out of its sails. These tactics will be the easiest to apply when the demands of the majority do not differ from those of the minority in principle; when, in consequence, their realisation will only modify the power of the majority and at the same time gain for the majority new elements in power. By so doing, the majority may hope to remain such for a very long time, or, at all events, to prevent the minority becoming a majority for some time. If the differences, however, are on matters of principle, then, though this policy is still possible, yet it assumes another character. It then becomes the policy of a demagogue. The majority makes concessions in matters of minor importance, because it hopes in that way to conciliate some of the members who belong to the minority. It is expected that some who are indifferent, or who are not very keen, will leave their party when they see that the majority is conciliatory, and in that way the majority will become more powerful at the expense of the minority.

In that way it may happen that the very measures advocated by the minority will be carried by the majority, and as, according to the hypothesis, the members belong to the same class of society, it is really a matter of secondary importance which party is in power.

But it will be quite different if it be a question of difference in principle – if it is a matter of a struggle between two classes. Then the majority will soon come to the end of its concessions, of which the limits will be determined by its class interests. It will realise that further concessions will not strengthen its position, but that of its opponents. Its tactics will change; it will become rigid, and will try to discredit the minority among the electorate by saying that nothing can be done with those fellows, that their impractical, utopian policy is bound to preclude every understanding with the majority. If, in the former case, the minority appears influential because it forces its opponents to make concessions, and is thus able to show some tangible success, it appears in this case to be without influence and power, while their opponents use their opportunities to a greater extent than ever. So that though a party may appear to become more powerful by getting more votes, yet all the time it is not really gaining strength.

The minority should direct its tactics according as it sees clearly what is the aim of the majority. As the majority refuses any concession, the minority should act in such a way as to show that their aims can be realised – they should endeavour to mitigate the keenness of the struggle, and thus win new concessions from the majority.

If the majority at this point grant certain concessions – as was done by the English middle-class when, in order to retain their colonies and the world-market, it conceded some of the demands of the English workers – then it will show that the minority has been clever in its tactics by thus effecting a parliamentary compromise till the time comes for a new struggle.

If no concessions are made, either because the aims of the opposition are too well known and too dangerous, or because the rulers think that too much is asked for, then the parliamentary struggle will go on, and there will be much bitterness between the two parties.

The parliamentary system will be more complicated when there are more than two parties, and especially when one party is more or less identified with the ruling class. If, too, the parties are of different strength, then the government will play one party against the other, and will grant concessions sometimes to one party, sometimes to another, so as not to discredit any one in the eyes of the electors, and so as to be able at any time to make use of it if necessary. In the same way the parties which are not in power have to agree to make concession after concession, and are thereby weakened, and often modify their demands. No one party is all-powerful, but at the same time no one party is absolutely without influence.

As long as the proletariat is still weak, and does not know its aims, it serves as a battering-ram for the middle-class parties to attain their ends. It is used as a means of strength for other parties, or to aid the imperialist policy of the government. The proletariat then helps to obtain concessions for the train of vassals. The want of any real principle in politics enables the middle-class to control parliament, to obtain power, and to use it for its own ends. For the political weakness of the proletariat is the strength of middle-class parliamentarianism, because a self-conscious proletariat will demand things which will injure the middle-class. There comes a time when the proletariat constitutes itself into an independent party, and formulates its demands by its own leaders. It is soon seen that this is a blow for the middle-class parties, and the struggle begins. The first aim of the proletariat is clearly to state and formulate its principles, and to free the workers from the bondage of the middle-class parties. Therefore it is not strange that there should be much acrimonious controversy in meetings and newspapers, and that the middle-class should bitterly complain about “agitators and ne’er-do-wells.” They would like and hope to imprison them. The workers’ party will be few in numbers, badly organised, and entirely without influence.

When, however, the proletariat begins to grow, it begins to get free from the hindrances which affected its childhood. Its growth is a threat for the other parties, which begin to fear that it may injure them. The middle-class parties of the majority begin the tactic of concessions, in order to take the “wind out of the sails” of the democracy. Here parties begin to be separated, the “reactionary party” will even be ready to make concessions to the workers if, by so doing, they can gain votes which would have gone to the Liberals. Now the “era of reforms” begins. We have seen examples of this in Germany, and also in Austria. The young middle-class party which rules in Germany would never have been able to indulge in its policy of world-power and colonisation if it had not been prepared to grant concessions to the proletariat. The various laws granting old age pensions, workers’ insurance, were really paid by the proletariat, owing to the new laws instituting protection. This policy would not have succeeded if the Government had had to deal with a proletariat which was self-conscious. At the same time, and this shows the demagogic character of this policy, there goes hand-in-hand in Germany, as well as in Austria, persistent and constant attacks on Social-Democracy. The whole aim of this policy was, by granting material concessions to the proletariat, to ensure the rule of the middle-class, and at the same time to increase its power and influence. And it then appears right to let the proletariat think that it will attain its freedom not by means of the Social-Democracy but owing to the action of other parties. Thus the policy of concession ends by its entire failure, and this marks a second stage in the struggle between the two classes.

Up to this point events occurred in this way both in Germany and in Austria. But in France the defeat of the Commune caused the middle-class to be no longer afraid of the proletariat. The Republic was also founded, and did not trouble itself much about the proletariat, which for some time was out of spirits and weak, musing on its defeat, and rather sceptical about political activity.

But in recent years things assumed a different aspect. In Austria and in France the Socialists increased rapidly, their political influence became great, and the more so as their demands were more clearly formulated. In Germany, where the party seemed to increase greatly in numbers, its influence diminished; and the more the numbers increased the more its influence seemed to diminish. There seems contradiction in this, and yet it is only the necessary result of different economic conditions, which lead to different results, owing to the different policy adopted by the ruling classes. The policy of the ruling classes is responsible for this, and not a difference in the tactics adopted by the Social-Democracy in different countries.

In Germany the economic development has been particularly rapid; in that country there has been great concentration of capital, while on the other hand there has been the formation of a great proletarian party, and, consequently, there has been much Socialism. Socialism itself, and not isolated demands of the proletariat from present-day society, is here the important question. This hinders really, though it makes more urgent, the attainment of most of the preliminary demands of the proletariat which are less easily attained. But – what was always our contention – these claims, which are sought to be attained to-day, are not a means of propitiation, but indicate a change and strengthening of the proletariat. At the same time the enemy, resisting with terror all appeals, thinks – and in this he is right – that each demand of the proletariat is only a step to the attainment of the state of the future (i.e., Socialism).

Among the middle-class the economic development has brought about an entire transformation. Population has drifted more and more towards the towns, and the country districts become more and more sparsely populated. The population of the towns itself has also undergone a complete change. The old-fashioned middle-class is quite altered. The small capitalist, with his petty, dear class-interests, has lost the position which he formerly occupied; the new “middle-class,” as it is called, is no longer an organic unity – either political or economic – but a gathering of all kinds of men: skilled artisans, small capitalists, managers, directors, clerks, etc. Its outlook has been entirely revolutionised by the capitalistic development: its formation is different, the economic existence of its members is no longer assured. This new middle-class is not, therefore, in its present condition, able to form a new great political party. Its various elements afford rather a recruiting-ground for other parties, and that is what takes place. But the other historic parties are also entirely changed.

The old-fashioned sharp distinction between agricultural and industrial capitalists no longer holds good, their old commercial struggle has ceased, and they have joined hands in the modern protectionist policy, for the common robbery of the public. And since most of the agricultural capitalists have made their peace with industrial capitalists the agreements on the tariff have made the bonds of union much closer than before. This union has been strengthened through the common interest in the “world” policy of the State by militarism, and by the latter in the policy of colonial expansion. The exponents of these policies belong to the two above-mentioned classes. All this would be unbearable unless the growth of Social-Democracy did not threaten their power.

The same economic development which has tended to make the proletariat more numerous, and has made the Social-Democratic Party more numerous, has also healed the differences in the middle-class parties; it has been of great benefit to the “reactionary masses,” and has thus increased the power of resistance of the middle-class, and given it a new lease of life.

The more Social-Democracy grew, the more the other parties lost the help which they formerly received from the proletariat, but at the same time the middle-class parties no longer were willing to advocate measures in the interests of the workers, and they followed more and more their own purely middle-class interests. Therefore, while the Social-Democracy became more powerful, its opponents also increased in strength. At the present time, it is only the Centre[1] which still depends on working-class votes, that still tries to give a demagogic direction to its policy.

When, however, the economic development has reached a certain point, so that the complexity of Socialism only appears to be a simple question of political power, then the tactics which sought to appease the proletariat by making concessions can no longer be followed. Then they are seen to be too small and too unimportant to be able to have any effect at preventing a change in the system of classes.

But if these concessions appear to the proletariat to be too small, they appear to the ruling classes to be too great. For these concessions must be important if they are to be of any use. They must be material concessions, for political concessions to the proletariat, which allow it more freedom and development in agitation, can only strengthen the party of the workers. If, however, these concessions are to be great, then they must for that very reason be injurious to the interests of the ruling classes. Besides, the result is also uncertain, because the proletariat soon gets to see what the game is, and therefore there is the danger that these concessions will only tend to strengthen the power of the Social-Democracy. It is no wonder, then, that the ruling classes are in no hurry to do anything to bring this about.

In this third stage of development the influence and the direct action of Social-Democracy are not very great. The ruling classes still have the hope of keeping, by fear, the indifferent masses away from Social-Democracy. The watchword is now, No concessions! For concessions would only strengthen Social-Democracy, and also greatly increase the faith of its adherents, who would think that it was by means of Socialism that something might be gained. Here and there, where resistance seems to grow less, it is sought at all events to save appearances and to say that these reforms were not the result of Social-Democracy, but were due to middle-class parties or to the “social kingdom” which has laboured for the workers. Thus it appears that Social-Democracy has been put on one side out of practical, successful politics, and that reaction and obscurantism in German politics have been still further strengthened, and have become more fruitful because they no longer have quite the same appearance as before. So that while in the former stage there might have been some truth in the attempt to distinguish between Social-Democracy and the power of the working classes, at present there is not even an appearance of doing this.

It is the middle-class, the ruling classes of Germany, who proclaim that the aims of Social-Democracy and of Labour are identical. No special laws against Social-Democracy, but the exclusion of all workers from voting, the fury of class justice against all workers, whether they come before the courts in criminal or in social matters, oppression and weakening in all ways of the working classes as far as is in the power of the State.

The Socialist parties in Austria and in France occupy quite a different position, and this is due to the entirely different structure of society in those countries, and also to the entirely different political conditions which exist there.

The great industrial development does not alter in such a startling way the differences between the town and the country population. The closed phalanx of the peasant population remains unchanged by the increase of Social-Democracy, and this does not appear to be such a very great danger. There are a great number of small towns in those countries, and in these the worker often works at home; the towns are reactionary both in politics and in economics, and there is still very much power in the hands of the middle-class, which, in the case of Austria, is increased by the existing system of voting. The industrial capitalists are not so powerful as they would like against the small capitalists and the agrarians, and they still are able to reckon on the help of the proletariat in many questions of economic policy which they could not hope to attain in Germany. Social-Democracy appears to be such a very small party that it causes no terror, and its increase is very small. The Government has no immediate fear of it; it looks upon the demands made by the leaders of the Socialists as something utopian, with which “practical politicians” – as they call themselves – have “not yet” to reckon with. It is not Socialism, only a few practical demands of the proletariat, which are here thought to be important. The Socialists therefore seem to be a party, just like the others, with whom it is possible to cooperate. The “red peril,” which plays a part in the agitation for the suffrage, is yet only a phrase used by the middle classes to frighten people. Certainly the class distinctions are felt here too, the class struggle is also often bitter, but the fight is not so close nor so sharp as in Germany. It is still thought that the indifferent workman may be won over by a few trivial concessions, and it is sought to set one party against the other. The middle classes are more reasonable, because they fear that if the reactionary and retrograde classes were to attain power they would bring about a crisis which would greatly injure the middle classes. This reaction is quite different from that existing in Germany. Here it is not due to the desire for rule on the part of old and worn-out classes, but to the fear of the rule of the proletariat; it is directed against that especially, and this is particularly shown in the hideous form of the laws which have been passed against the working classes. This is seen by the laws against the suffrage, against unions, etc. It is the way of reaction always to become more reactionary, and a bad government is succeeded by a worse one. Once the process is begun there is no stopping, and this is seen in the methods adopted by the reaction of the feudalist small proprietors. Yet reaction in Germany shows itself at all events in all important matters; while on the other hand, in Austria, the middle-class clerical reaction often does interfere with capital, and in that way helps the freedom of the proletariat. Reaction there is too much occupied with its struggle against all modern tendencies of development to find time and strength to ally itself with other parties against the proletariat. Social-Democracy is not, therefore, so much its enemy, as of the middle-class.

Here, too, the backward social structure of society has resulted in there being more parties, and has also in that way weakened the force of the Government. The German Government in all important questions can always count on the support of all the middle-class parties. Even if this were not the case the middle-class opposition would not ally itself with the Socialist parties. In France – and in Austria, too, to some extent – the Government may always have to face a coalition of parties which is not easily overcome.

To these circumstances, which are due to the difference in social structure, there are to be added others of a historic nature, which may be thus stated: In Austria there is the question of the suffrage, which hinders the expansion of Social-Democracy, the acuteness of military questions and sectional politics. In France the middle-class hope to see the Socialist Party split up into fragments, and then to win over part of the proletariat. This hinders the Socialist parties in their opposition to the Government, especially in the questions which are of greatest importance – those relating to commerce, to foreign politics, to militarism, and to colonial policy.

Middle-class society is always feeling that it is threatened by the increase of power of the Social-Democracy, and is always prepared to resist these encroachments to the best of its ability. This explains to a large extent the attitude in politics of the ruling classes in North and South Germany, where there exists a strong agricultural party, and where, therefore, owing to the slower and lesser industrial increase there is a weaker proletariat. In those districts it is possible to grant electoral reforms, so that though the proletariat is weaker, it really appears to have more influence than the stronger proletarian party in Prussia, in Saxony, or in the Hanse Towns.

It appears at first to be a wonderful paradox that the Social-Democracy, though it may be more numerous, should really have less influence on politics, but it is so, and this is due to the existing social conditions. The stronger the state of society, the weaker is the electoral position of the party. It is the conflict between the State and society which appears to be most conspicuous in the Russian revolution: to use the terminology of Russian politics, State and society are set in opposition to each other.

The parliamentary want of influence of Social-Democracy is not the result of bad tactics, but the necessary product of historical development, which in the condition of middle-class society must first attain its full development before it can be overthrown.

Social-Democratic tactics are necessarily in this way influenced by the attitude of the opponent. Only in that stage, when the party is not completely formed, but is still greatly influenced by the past, will there be divergences of opinion, which will go on till the party is thoroughly unified. Then, when there is a strong reforming spirit in the party, it will be able better to withstand the attacks of the enemy, whatever may be the tactics adopted. For it is always the object of the moderate reformers to minimise the abiding class interests of the proletariat, and to make out that these are not of pressing importance. These tactics, however, fail necessarily when it is no longer possible for concessions to be made on the part of the ruling classes because then it has become abundantly clear that it is quite useless to try and stem the revolutionary tide by these trifling gifts. In Germany, in the second stage, there was no split, and, indeed, not even important differences; this was due to the fact that the condition of politics did not allow it. In the same way, owing to the contest for universal suffrage, there were not many differences in Austria. But in France and in Italy these interests of the party were a source of danger, and threatened at times to obscure the class character of the struggle.


So that it is not strange if the practical “revisionism” has had no direct influence in the party in Germany. It came too late. The laws directed against Socialism hindered in a way its regular development and then its progress was too rapid to make it worth while for the ruling classes to try and pay any attention to it unless they could have initiated some measure which would have put a stop to it altogether. But “revisionism” has only been overcome to-day in its first and primitive form, and it is still likely to crop up in a modified form as parliamentarianism. We have seen that “revisionism” always demands concessions as its object. Now, it cannot receive these now. But if it cannot attain this end through an analysis of the economic development it may try to obtain them by means of politics. As in Germany, Socialism was not able, owing to the reaction, to acquire the same influence as in France, it has been sought to account for the stationary state of Germany by means of the development of parliamentarianism. It is not seen that the weakness of a middle-class parliament is really a consequence of the strength of Socialism. If the danger is once seen that the proletariat can become powerful in Parliament, then it is the interest of the ruling classes to divest this parliament of all possible power. The more powerless parliament is then the less attention is paid to political life, and the more numerous will be those who care nothing for politics, especially for parliamentary politics, and will not bother to go to the polls. Therefore it becomes more and more a duty to use this power outside of parliament as a means of attacking parliament itself. In that way, too, the ruling classes in Germany do their best to discredit Parliament. They use their power in other ways, either in more directly increasing the direct influence of Government officials in all kinds of ways, or through the pressure which they can bring to bear on the dependent classes. Whenever it is possible they try to weaken the power of a Parliament chosen by universal suffrage by increasing the influence of the local assemblies, which are much under the influence of the Government.[2] The Prussian Parliament (Landtag) is fostered by the Government because it has no Socialist member, the German Reichstag is contemned because it contains a Socialist Party. “Revisionism” will only cure the symptoms if it makes for more parliamentarianism, and if it thus was able to put something in the place of the democracy. It is not sufficiently realised in Germany that the struggle for political power is between two classes, and that it involves the question of the whole order of society. In this weakening of Parliament there is really room for much deception, and it is very problematical whether the function of Parliament is to be a safety valve. As the Social-Democracy appears to have no real power in Parliament, therefore the Parliamentary men begin to think that in real life Socialism is also a thing which need not be taken into account. The wishes of these clever people almost appear to be realised, and they think, judging from what goes on in Parliament, that the growth of Socialism is quite unattended with any danger. The clever people seem to have good reason for their belief.

The proletariat, having been for a moment taken aback by its Parliamentary weakness, remembers its real power, and is ready to make use of this now that it can no longer apply the former. So that in Germany the idea of attaining universal suffrage for all Parliaments[3] has become a pressing question, and it has been thought that this could be done by means of a general strike, which has been advocated both in Austria and in Belgium. We must, however, first carefully distinguish as to what can be done by the general strike. It is important to consider whether the proletariat is to remain for a very long time in the minority, and whether middle-class society can or cannot be modified by the action of the workers.

The same demands of the proletariat, according to the stage of development attained in different countries, will meet with more or less opposition on the part of the ruling classes. It therefore follows that the method of fighting which in one country may be successfully followed and made use of cannot in another country be employed, or, if so, will not lead to any result. If the resistance of the ruling classes cannot be broken, then the use of some means will only weaken the proletariat. Each means employed in the struggle between the two classes may acquire a different meaning. However great or little the development has been in a general strike, the power of the proletariat appears free from any control and any influence of the organised power of the middle-class, and is, in fact, in direct opposition to it. A general strike will, therefore, always and everywhere meet with strong opposition from middle-class society. Yet this opposition, however, will assume quite different forms of intensity, energy, resistance and opportunity in different countries.

In Germany and Austria the general strike is part of the party’s programme, under certain conditions.

And yet in these two countries it would have to be decided upon on quite different principles. A general strike, initiated by the most numerous political party in Germany against the strongest Government and the best-organised class in the world, is a very different thing from a general strike in Austria, begun by a small party against a weak Government, and in a State where middle-class parties are very much opposed to each other. In Germany a general strike, whatever the result may be, must meet with the greatest resistance. For the ruling classes in Germany are keen enough to see what is economically determined by any victory of the proletariat, whatever form it may assume. The all-important question would be that the mass organisation of the proletariat by its own power had defeated the mass organisation of the middle-class. The decision in one question in favour of the proletariat would, in the opinion of its opponents, tend to the solution of other questions, likewise in its favour. If the proletariat is victorious once, it may hope to conquer again. If the proletariat can attain its desired end, then it will be a question of “to be or not to be” for the ruling classes.

Therefore the general strike is a decisive crisis in Germany, a struggle which must be fought to a finish, and which must either be a great victory or a very severe defeat for the proletariat. The general strike in Germany will not be a skirmish but a general engagement between the two parties, in which the one will use all the means in its power to be victorious, and the other will equally resist with all its might – it will be a great, decisive struggle between the middle-class and the proletariat.

The political strike in Germany is no mere demonstration, and will not be considered such by its opponents. It is not an issue which will be decided on one point, but a question which must be solved on entirely political grounds. Whatever a strike might mean to the proletariat, it would sound the death-knell of its opponents. Things are quite different in Austria. There the general strike will only be a very powerful demonstration or means of exercising pressure in order that the proletariat may thus attain a result which could not otherwise be accomplished in a middle-class State. There it is not a question of the political supremacy of the proletariat. The resistance of the ruling classes would not there be so extreme or so determined. The middle-class parties are not united, indeed some of them are in opposition to the Government. The proletariat appears to be the opponent of a single section and not of the whole of the middle-class. While the proletariat is weaker, the resistance of the middle-class parties is also weaker, and the result is easier, because it only involves a part of the victory of the proletariat, and not its complete victory. Therefore it is felt that in Austria the general strike would only, if successful, partially accomplish what would be attained in Germany. The general strike is therefore a weapon which, under different circumstances, serves different ends, and would accomplish quite different results. It is therefore quite clear why in one country preparations are actually made for this strike, and that it is considered to be the signal for the proletarian revolution, while in the other it is only looked upon as an incident in the class warfare.

But those who do not recognise the historical position of parliamentarianism in Germany, think that it has not increased as rapidly as that of France, and will not see that its weakness is due to the strength of the class struggle. They deceive themselves concerning the object of the fight and also of the resistance which will take place in the battle. They think that it all resolves itself into a question of parliamentary reform while really it is a matter of a Social Revolution. For if the proletariat comes out successfully in the question of a general strike the Government will be defeated and the power of the middle-class broken. The proletariat will then by its victory have completely changed the character of Parliament. Instead of being a middle-class Parliament it will be a means of carrying on the commands of the proletariat. In order to fully recognise the greatness of the class struggle in Germany we must look on the general strike in Germany as the last step to be taken for the attainment of political power.

Those, then, who do not think of what is the real object to be gained, might be of opinion that it would be advisable to begin a general strike in order to obtain the extension of the suffrage for the Prussian local Diet (the Landtag), or to protest against the curtailment of the suffrage at Lubeck. But we who think otherwise cannot agree with that opinion, and urge the advisability of well considering the question and the possible danger of the struggle. It might appear to some people who do not fully realise the consequences of their actions that the policy of the “moderates,” who live from hand to mouth and who provide for the needs of each day, would not be so dangerous as that of the “radicals.” But in this case, in Germany, one must not underestimate the powers of the opponents, and remember that it is a struggle between those who are well armed and the power of the proletariat. Some people would see in the general strike a mere episode when the loss or gain really is the key to the whole of the situation.

Rudolph Hilferding.
(Translated by Jacques Bonhomme.)

1. i.e., the Catholic Party. – J.B.

2. It must be remembered that while the Reichstag is elected by universal suffrage, the local parliaments of Prussia, Saxony, etc., are elected by a very restricted suffrage. Though five out of the six members for Berlin in the Reichstag are Socialists, there is not a single Socialist who is a member of the local Prussian parliament. – J.B.

3. i.e., both for the Reichstag and for local Parliaments. – J.B.

Note by transcriber. The translator here uses the term “middle class” meaning “bourgeoisie”