Edouard Bernstein

German Influence

(22 September 1894)

Letter to the Editor of Justice, 22 September 1894.
Transcribed by Adam Buick.
Transcribed by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Dear Comrade, –

In your last issue you publish an article of Mr. Hyndman about a new pamphlet of Mr. F. Domela Nieuwenhuis, Socialisme in Danger. It is not my intention to argue in your paper about that pamphlet, being quite willing to believe that something is “in danger” in Holland, and makes a new compilation of misquotations and the like, an urgent task for the author in question. But I beg leave to offer a few words about Mr. Hyndman’s commentary.

Mr. Hyndman judges the appearance of a book destined to propagate tactics and methods he is himself compelled to oppose a very fit and proper moment to fall foul of just the same body of men Mr. Nieuwenhuis vilifies in order to better induce people to adopt those tactics.

Mr. Hyndman allows his rancour to talk about a “German International Congress in the French metropolis, 1889”, and thus revive the old, and at that time exploded, misrepresentations about the congress of the Rue Rochechouart. I ask your permission to protest against the allegations of Mr. Hyndman. The said congress was invited by the congress of the French trade societies (Chambres syndicales), Bordeaux, November, 1888, and the congress of the French Socialist Workingmen’s Party, Troyes, December, 1888. It was visited by 467 delegates of more than 20 nationalities, of whom 223 were French, 22 English (amongst those comrades Cunninghame Grahame, Keir Hardie, W. Morris, etc.), 140 Belgians, 12 Italians, 10 Austrians, 6 Russians, etc., etc. The German Social-Democratic Party had 81 delegates, compared with the strength of the Party, rather an under than an over representation. But it seems to have been an unpardonable crime of the Germans to have accepted in such a number the invitation of the French comrades.

Further, Mr. Hyndman speaks about an “official German”, or “German official” view of the “proper tactics” to be pursued in regard to the Socialist propaganda in Europe. “This means,” says he, “that all true Socialists should turn to Berlin as to the Mecca of the modern materialist religion, and should accept, at the same time, without questioning, the oracles emitted by the Marxian Mahatma of the Regent’s Park Road – Friedrich Engels to wit”. Will Mr. Hyndman be so kind as to furnish your readers with only one sample of the utterances of one of those he styles the “German official Socialists”, or of Mr. Friedrich Engels, which allows him to impute to them such ludicrous pretensions? Will he be kind enough to state only one case where our party has interfered, or tried to interfere, in the internal affairs of the Socialists of another country? I hope Mr. Hyndman will not regard occasional criticism in the organs of the party as such an interference, or, as he alleges, “dictation”. For then, although the Vorwärts is a daily paper and Justice a weekly paper, I have to offer him, for every paragraph in the Vorwärts criticising actions of the SDF at least six in Justice criticising adversely the Social Democratic Party in Germany.

A few lines after that very tasteful sally upon us German Socialists because of an alleged pretension of leadership or censorship on our part, Mr. Hyndman proves his disgust of such censorship by talking repeatedly of “the failure of the German Social-Democratic Party in Parliament.” Now, comrade, it is of course free to Mr. Hyndman to judge the parliamentary action of our representatives as he likes. Meanwhile, what does the word “failure” mean? The action of our members in Parliament has had as a result that the Social-Democratic Party is numerically the biggest of all the parties in Germany, strengthening position from election to election (only quite recently we have won two bye-elections against all parties combined) so that the Chancellor of the Empire, Count Caprivi, confessed the other day in the Reichstag that no bill is proposed, no measure taken by the Government without very seriously considering their effect upon Social-Democracy; that the reactionary middle-class parties cry louder than ever for the abolition of universal suffrage, and that the creation of a new and more drastic anti-socialistic law begins to become the talk of the political world in Germany. Does all this, and the latest speech of the German Emperor calling upon his faithful subjects to rally round him in the fight against the “party of revolution” – does all this look as if the members of the party failed to do their duty in Parliament?

Perhaps in the eyes of Messrs. Hyndman and Nieuwenhuis it does, as it does in the eyes of the Anarchists; but it certainly does not look so in the eyes of the great majority of the Social-Democrats of all countries, who continue to entertain the most friendly relations with our party, and who do look towards Berlin, not as a “Mecca”, but as an encouraging example of the results steadiness and perseverance have achieved.

I am sorry to see that the promise Justice lately made of burying all the old quarrels is so badly kept by one of the most prominent members of the SDF. It does not augur well for good comradeship in the future.


I am, dear comrade, yours in the cause,
Ed. Bernstein

Last updated on 28 May 2021