A Private Circulation Letter from Marx and Engels to Germany's Social-Democratic leadership -- Bebel, Liebknecht, Fritzsche, Geiser, Hasenclever, Bracke
This was largely in response to an August 1879 article written by Karl Hochberg, Eduard Bernstein, and Carl August Schramm, entitled "Retrospects on the Socialist Movement in Germany". The magazine piece advocated transforming the German Social-Democratic party from a revolutionary to a reformist platform.
SECOND, when such people from other classes join the proletarian movement, the first demand upon them must be that they do not bring with them any remnants of bourgeois, petty-bourgeois, etc., prejudices, but that they irreversibly assimilate the proletarian viewpoint. But those gentlemen, as has been shown, adhere overwhelmingly to petty-bourgeois conceptions. In so petty-bourgeois a country as Germany, such conceptions certainly have their justification, but only _outside_ the Social-Democratic Labor party. If the gentlemen want to build a social-democratic petty-bourgeois party, they have a full right to do so; one could then negotiate with them, conclude agreements, etc., according to circumstances. But in a labor party, they are a falsifying element. If there are grounds which necessitates tolerating them, it is a duty _only_ to tolerate them, to allow them no influence in party leadership, and to keep in mind that a break with them is only a matter of time.
In any case, the time seems to have come.
It is inconceivable to us how the party can any longer tolerate in its midst the authors of that [Hochberg, Bernstein, Schramm] article. If the party leadership more or less falls into the hands of such people, the party will simply be emasculated and, with it, an end to the proletarian order.
So far as we are concerned, after our whole past only one way is open to us. For nearly 40 years we have raised to prominence the idea of the class struggle as the immediate driving force of history, and particularly the class struggle between bourgeois and the proletariat as the great lever of the modern social revolution; hence, we can hardly go along with people who want to strike this class struggle from the movement. At the founding of the International, we expressly formulated the battle cry:
The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself.
We cannot, therefore, go along with people are openly claim that the workers are too ignorant to emancipate themselves but must first be emancipated from the top down, by the philanthropic big and petty bourgeois. Should the new party organ take a position that corresponds with the ideas of those gentlemen, become bourgeois and not proletarian, then there is nothing left for us, sorry as we should be to do so, than to speak out against it publicly and dissolve the solidarity within which we have hitherto represented the German party abroad. But we hope it will not come to that.
This letter is to be communicated to all the five members of the Committee in Germany, as well as Bracke.... On our part, we have no objection to this being communicated to the gentlemen in Zurich.