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Socialist "Revisionism": The Immediate Tasks of Social Democracy (1899)

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[ . . . ] Where the economic and legal preconditions are in place, Social Democracy can allow the establishment of workers’ consumer cooperatives for workers without any concerns, and it would do well to give them its full goodwill and to support them wherever possible. [ . . . ]

This, finally, brings us to Social Democracy’s municipal policy. For a long time, it, too, was the stepchild of the socialist movement, or one of them. [ . . . ] What does Social Democracy demand for the local municipality, and what does it expect from it?

If a socialist municipal policy is to be possible, Social Democracy must demand for the municipalities, alongside the democratization of suffrage, an expansion of the right of expropriation, which is still very restricted in various German states. It must also demand that their administration, especially of the security police, be completely independent of the state. [ . . . ] Moreover, what has moved front and center, and for good reason, are demands pertaining to the development of municipal enterprises, public services, and the labor policies of the municipalities. As for the former, it will be necessary to raise the principled demand that all enterprises that concern the general needs of the members of the community and are monopolistic in character should be run by the municipality under its own control, and that the municipalities should, moreover, strive to constantly expand the range of services for their members. With respect to labor policies, we must demand that the municipalities, as employers of workers, whether on their own account or under contract, maintain, as the minimum condition, the wages and work hours accepted by the organizations of the workers in question, and that they guarantee these workers freedom of association. [ . . . ]

To be sure, Social Democracy is not entirely dependent on the franchise and parliamentary activity. It also has a large and rich area of work outside parliament. The socialist workers’ movement would exist even if the parliaments remained closed to it. [ . . . ] But with its exclusion from the representative bodies, the German workers’ movement would lose much of the internal cohesion that binds together its various parts today; it would take on a chaotic character; and in place of a calm and steady advance at a regular pace, there would be erratic forward movements, with the inevitable setbacks and weariness.

This kind of development cannot be in the interest of the working class, nor can it strike as desirable those enemies of Social Democracy who have realized that the current social order has not been created for all eternity, but is subject to the laws of change, and that a catastrophic development, with all its horrors and devastations, can be prevented only if legislation takes into account changes in the relationships of production and exchange and in the development of classes. And the number of those who understand this is growing steadily. Their influence would be much greater than it is today if Social Democracy could muster the courage to emancipate itself from a phraseology that is indeed obsolete and give the impression that it wants to be what it is in reality today: a democratic-socialist reform party.

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