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Opposition within the SPD (June 19, 1915)

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Now that the plans of conquest are obvious to the world, Social Democracy is free to assert its opposition in emphatic terms, and the current situation makes this freedom an obligation. The proletariat surely expects that just as in 1870, when in a similar situation all Social Democrats, irrespective of their differences of opinion, rallied to unanimous action at the outbreak of war, Social Democracy will stand together today.

We know that peace terms that are forced by one warring country on another bring no real peace; instead, they mean only new armaments with the specter of new war. A genuine and lasting peace is possible only upon the basis of a free agreement. It is not possible for Social Democracy in only one country to create this basis. However, every individual party can, to the extent that its position and strength allow, contribute to creating such a foundation.

The present state of affairs moves German Social Democracy to undertake a decisive step toward this goal. It today faces the choice of taking this step or dealing a mortal blow to the confidence that it has until now enjoyed among the German people and the whole world as the champion of international peace.

We have no doubt that our party will draw the proper conclusions for our party’s position within the parliament and without. Along with the finest traditions of Social Democracy, the future of our people is at stake – its welfare and freedom. Even if our party lacks the power to make the decisions, we nevertheless face the obligation to take the initiative in pushing policy forward in the direction that we have recognized as proper.

Eduard Bernstein
Hugo Haase
Karl Kautsky

Source: Eugen Prager, Geschichte der USPD: Entstehung und Entwicklung der Unabhängigen Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands [History of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD): The Formation and Development of the USDP]. Berlin, 1921, pp. 72-74.

Reprinted in Wolfdieter Bihl, Deutsche Quellen zur Geschichte des Ersten Weltkrieges [German Sources on the First World War]. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1991, pp. 118-21.

Translation: Jeffrey Verhey and Roger Chickering

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