After reading this article you will learn about the bio, life and political ideas of Eduard Bernstein.
Life of Eduard Bernstein:
Eduard Bernstein was the leader of German socialist movement and by virtue of his position he came in close contact with Engels and subsequently became a leading Marxist. He then revised his views and this revision branded him as revisionist.
Eduard Bernstein was born in 1850 two years after the publication of Manifesto of the Communist Party, in a poor family of Berlin. His parents were Jewish. Because of poverty his parents could not give him proper education.
He was sent to a very ordinary school and even there he could not complete his education. Severe poverty and other factors stood on the way of the continuation of studies and Bernstein was forced to put an end of study.
After receiving the training of banking service he was appointed to a post of clerk to it. He then served the bank up to 28. While in service he studied literature on socialism and developed an inclination to it. He then became a member of German Social Democratic Worker’s Party.
In 1874 he was influenced by During’s philosophy. He then attended the Gotha Congress of 1875 as a delegate of the Social Democratic Party. The ever rising influence of socialists and the growing number of socialists created a nightmarish situation in the mind of Bismark and in 1878 he made an anti- socialist law.
The purpose of this law was to curtail the influence of socialists. The organisations, magazines, and journals all were banned by this law.
Before the promulgation of the Anti-Socialist Law, Bernstein left Germany and went to Switzerland to act as a private secretary of Karl Hochberg. Hochberg was a wealthy businessman and philanthropist.
Towards the end of 1870s Bernstein actively associated himself with the Social Democratic Party of Germany and assumed all the financial liabilities of the party. In 1879, the Anti-Socialist Law of Germany came into force and the S.D.P. was declared illegal.
Socialist party, newspapers and all socialist outfits were banned by the Anti- Socialist Law of Germany and the Social Democratic Party was faced with crisis. It was difficult to run the day to day activities in the midst of stringent anti-socialist laws and stiff government opposition.
Marx and Engels advised Liebknecht to set up an underground paper abroad and assisted in determining its political orientation and selecting its editors. Marx and Engels adopted this way because they were convinced that the socialist ideas must reach the largest number of people. Otherwise the goals of socialism will never be achieved.
In the second half of 1879 Marx and Engels kept in close touch with the German Social-Democrats and held discussions with them for setting preliminaries regarding the publication of a paper Sozialdemokrat whose head office would be in Zurich. The paper commenced its publication from Zurich and in the editorial board there were Hochberg, Karl August Schramm and Eduard Bernstein.
This Marx and Engels considered unacceptable, because they knew the attitude and character of every person. Hochberg was a social reformist and bourgeois. Bernstein and Schramm were enthusiastic admirers of Eugen Duhring.
In a letter to Bebel in 1879 Engels in clear language stated that it was not possible for him as well as for Marx to make them associate with the paper which was financed by Hochberg, a bourgeois and social philanthropist.
Under the intellectual guidance of Bernstein and financial leadership of Hochberg the paper was published.
A remarkable article was – “The Socialist Movement in Germany in Retrospect.” This was virtually a manifesto of the right opportunist elements. Engels complained that the paper published by three Zurichers was practically the personal property of Hochberg.
While in Switzerland he developed friendship with Kautsky. He was then expelled from Switzerland and after that he went to London and he also shifted his editorial activities to London.
In London Bernstein came in contact with the Fabian Society and he shared with its views and ideas. All these happened at the beginning of the nineties of the 19th century and those were the years of the heyday of Fabianism.
In London there occurred another interesting incident. Bernstein’s friendship with Engels became deep although the latter indulged in critical notion about English socialists, particularly Fabians.
During Engels’s life-time the political ideas of Bernstein did not assume explicitly revisionist nature. In London he maintained friendship with the Fabians and also with Engels. He was also an executor of will.
However, after Engels’s death in 1895, Bernstein began to express his own political and academic views and opinions. He published several essays under the title “Problems of Socialism and the Tasks of Social Democracy”. The purpose of these essays was to attack Marx’s materialism arid other theories.
His most famous work was Evolutionary Socialism; A Criticism and Affirmation. After propagating revisionism for about four decades Bernstein died on 18th April 1932. Eduard Bernstein was undoubtedly a flamboyant propagator of revisionism and he welcomed all sorts of hardships for the propagation of revisionism. But after his death revisionism was practically a forgotten political ideology. It was satisfied with its confinement only in intellectual circles.
Political Ideas of Eduard Bernstein:
1. Collapse of Capitalism and Theory of Breakdown:
Colletti in his ‘From Rousseau to Lenin’ says, The pivot upon which the whole of Bernstein’s argument turns is his critique of the “theory of breakdown”. The “theory of breakdown” is Bernstein’s own discovery.
Marx or Engels never uttered such words. From Marx’s collapse of capitalism Bernstein derived this theory. In volume one of Capital there is a chapter “Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation”.
In this chapter Marx says that at a certain stage of development the capitalist accumulation brings forth the material agencies for its own dissolution. From that moment new forces and new passions spring up in the bosom of society, but the old social organization fetters them and keeps them down.
The development of capitalism is accompanied by the centralization of capital. With the progress of capitalism the competition among the capitalists becomes keen and keener. The small capitalists are forced to retreat, that is, to close their units or they are merged with the big capitalists. This leads to the centralization of capital.
Along with the constantly diminishing number of magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolise all advantages of this process of transformation, grow the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class.
In Capital Marx says:
“The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production which has sprung up and flourished along with and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. Thus integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”
This is Marx’s historical tendency of capitalist accumulation. The capitalist accumulation begets its own negation. It is the negation of negation. This negation is due to the inexorability of the law of Nature.
The capitalist, whatever may be the extent of his power, cannot escape from this inexorability of the law of Nature. That is, capitalism is bound to collapse. So far as the collapse of capitalism is concerned Marx arrived at the above conclusion on the basis of his study of capitalist development.
Eduard Bernstein challenged Marx’s observation regarding the collapse of capitalism and he claimed that his opinion was based on his study of the functioning of capitalism. In his judgment it is a “purely” “speculative anticipation”.
Eduard Bernstein not merely rejected a certain form of collapse, he also rejected the very possibility of collapse. According to Marx, the capitalist order is a historical phenomenon, a transitory and non-natural order. There are contradictions within capitalism and these lead to its own breakdown. Bernstein rejects all these. Capitalism is endowed with self-regulatory mechanism and this saves capitalism from any collapse.
Bernstein admits that there are contradictions within capitalism. But with the improved methods of communication, credit system and also various other ways, the capitalists are able to fight against the forces of imminent collapse.
Interpreting Bernstein’s view Colletti observes, “Cartels, credit, the improved system of communications, the rise of working class, in so far as they act to eliminate or at least mitigate the internal contradictions of the capitalist economy, hindering their development and aggravation, ensure for the system the possibility of unlimited survival.”
About the establishment of socialism or a socialist society Marx said that the roots of socialism contained in the development of capitalist economy. In capitalist development the impoverishment and oppression of working class will rise and at the peak of capitalist development poverty and oppression will reach a stage of in toleration.
The working class will launch a struggle that will lead to the setting up of a socialist society. According to Bernstein, socialism is based upon ethical ideal. The higher form of civilization ingrains in the mind of people the feeling for a socialist society.
When man will be confirmed that socialist society is better than any other society he will be morally or ethically bound to set up such a society. It is not due to the inherent or internal contradictions of capitalist system.
It is simply a speculation. Again, he does not agree with Marx that socialism is inevitable. Here we note that so far as the establishment of socialism is concerned Bernstein differed from Marx. He did not believe that advent of socialism was connected with the capitalist’s own view and has no real basis.
Eduard Bernstein also rejected Marx’s concept of “Centralisation of Capital”. He admitted that industrialization had resulted in the concentration of industry. This concentration, according to Bernstein, was due to the availability of the factors of production or due to extraneous factors. But he did not accept the view that concentration of industry was the concentration of property.
On the other hand, he concluded there was remarkable diffusion of property. The big industrial units did not gobble the small units. The actual picture was that the small industrial units existed side by side of the big industrial establishments. The history of capitalism had shown that the number of property owners was increasing day by day which had falsified Marx’s prediction or speculation.
Eduard Bernstein said that Marx’s prediction of imminent crisis was farthest from reality. Through the new tactics and strategies the capitalists had been able to resist the advance of crisis and to ensure their survival.
At the same time the workers were able to mitigate their sufferings by means of collective bargaining and concerted trade union activities. Bernstein said that Marx knew all these things, but he did not recognize the impact of worker’s collective efforts.
Here is the un-fortunateness of his theory. Capitalists’ rate of profit had increased, but that did not lead to the decline in wages. The fall in employment, Bernstein said, was not always due to the exploitative nature of capitalism. Bernstein also spoke proudly of the progressive democratisation of the capitalist system.
2. Theory of Value:
In criticizing Marx’s theory of value Eduard Bernstein pointed out that there was enough confusion between what had been said in the third volume of Capital and in the earlier volumes. In the third volume Marx makes the following observation market value is represented as equal to the cost of production including average profit.
In the earlier volume the exchange value is represented as measured solely by the amount of necessary labour used in production. Bernstein criticized Marx’s theory of value on the ground that labour-created value was untenable as a basis for discovering a just system of distribution. That is, Marx’s theory of value (or labour theory of value as it is called) does not solve the problem of distribution faced by the economy.
In the following opinion Bernstein makes his stand clear:
“The theory of value gives a norm for the justice or injustice for the partition of product of labour just as little as does the atomic theory for the beauty or ugliness of a piece of sculpture. We compare today the best placed workers just in those trades with a very high rate of surplus value, the most infamously ground-down workers in those with a very low rate. A scientific basis for socialism or communism cannot be supported on the fact that only the wage worker does not receive the full value of the product of his work.”
Eduard Bernstein has criticized Marx’s labour theory of value from another standpoint; “Labour value is nothing more than a key, an abstract image, like the philosophical atom endowed with a soul—a key which, employed by the master hand of Marx, has led to the exposure and presentation of mechanism of capitalist economy as this had not been hitherto treated, not so forcibly, logically and clearly. But this key refuses service over and above a certain point.”
Marx has borrowed the concept of labour theory of value from his predecessors. He himself did not propound it. What Marx has said is that he treated the theory for building up the concept of surplus value which is a very important part of capitalist exploitation. On this issue again Bernstein differed from Marx.
His own view is this – Value is mere thought-construct – it is, in Marx’s word, a formal principle which serves to bring system and order to the complexity of the analysis, but itself has no real existence.
Bernstein comments, “In so far as we take into consideration the individual commodity, value loses any concrete content and becomes a mere mental construction…Hence it is clear that the moment that labour value is only valid as a mental formula or scientific hypothesis, surplus value also becomes a pure formula, a formula based on a hypothesis.”
On his interpretation of labour theory of value Bernstein cannot claim any credit because, before him, Wenner Sombart and Conrad Smidt held this view. Value, according to Sombart, is not an empirical but a mental and a logical fact. In Smidt’s view, the law of value within the capitalist mode of production is a pure—although theoretically necessary fiction.
Eduard Bernstein opposed Marx’s labour theory of value still from another angle. He wanted to consider value as function of utility. He said that the value of a commodity depended upon the utility which the consumer expected to derive from it. The value is also decided by the upward and downward movements of demand and supply.
Bernstein and his fellow revisionists, rejected Marx’s theory of value in so far as the theory involves the principle that the exchange value of commodities is measured solely by the efforts of the wage earners and that the surplus value absorbed by the capitalists is measurably only by the excess of what labourers produce over what they receive. But they did not reject the contention that there is surplus value or that the surplus represents generally the excess of what capitalists receive for the sale of commodities over what they contribute the value of those commodities. And they held to the belief that the effort of capitalists to increase the surplus supplies the propelling force in the natural development of capitalism and creates an exploitation of wage-earners.
3. Nature of Society:
Eduard Bernstein rejected Marx’s class structure of society. In The Communist Manifesto and in several other works Marx and Engels have said that the society is divided into mainly two classes’ bourgeois and proletariat.
Marx and Engels admitted the existence of other classes but so far as capitalist development, inherent contradictions in capitalism and conflict between the classes are concerned the importance or existence of other classes is of no real value. Marx emphasized the existence of two classes keeping in mind the idea of class struggle.
In Bernstein’s opinion the class structure depicted by Marx and Engels suffers from oversimplification. Bourgeois and proletariat are not two main classes and there is no clear evidence of gradual proletarisation.
In every industrial society there is a powerful or influential middle class. He admits that there is no fixed character of middle class. But in spite of this the existence and importance of middle class is undeniable. Particularly in industrial society, intellectual development comes from the middle class.
Marx has said that the additional wealth produced by capitalist development has been captured by the capitalists. But the workers and smaller classes have a microscopic fraction of the huge wealth. Bernstein again did not agree with this contention of Marx. He is of opinion that the workers, middle class people and other persons have got a share of this wealth.
The workers have got greater share of wealth which they have acquired through the technique of collective bargaining. The improved economic conditions have raised them to the status of the middle class.
In his own words “The enormous increase of social wealth is not accompanied by a decreasing number of large capitalists but an increasing number of capitalists of all degrees. The middle classes change but they do not disappear from the social scale.”
Bernstein has further observed that what is generally called working class is not a homogeneous group of people. There are different categories of people in the working class.
In any industrial society the proletarians form the majority. But among them there are diverse interests, outlooks and cultural affinities. According to Bernstein these diversities create the most powerful stumbling block to any revolution.
It is unfortunate that Marx failed to take it into active consideration. His “constructive” suggestion is that the working men should patiently wait for their supremacy over economic and political affairs and they can achieve it through democratic or parliamentary methods.
Bernstein does not agree with Marx’s theory of class struggle. The existence of classes does not imply the struggle or conflict between them. Things do not always proceed according to the line prescribed by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto. In past there were conflicts between classes but the repetition cannot be predicted for the future.
The workers, on the contrary, have realized quite well that a cooperation is needed for their survival as well as development. In the view of Bernstein the workers regard as indispensable the cooperation of those among the bourgeoisie who if not repelled by an antagonistic attitude on the part of the workers are disposed to make common cause with them in restricting capitalist exploitation and abolishing political privileges.
In this connection it may be maintained that the sociologists have assertively said that the existence of classes does not always lead to conflict among them, rather, there is cooperation.
Bernstein’s conception of non-antagonistic classes and the coordination between them constitutes an important aspect of revisionism. Marx thought that, because of the antagonism, class struggle was inevitable.
Eduard Bernstein thought that class collaboration was the basis of social relationship. Marx, according to Bernstein, committed a blunder by elaborating the class antagonism.
Moreover, progressive democratization of society would obliterate the ill-feeling among the classes. While Marx ruled out any rapprochement Bernstein used it as the main issue of analysis of the nature of society. Bernstein held that only the proletarians were not fighting for their cause, even some people of middle class supported their cause.
After a prolonged struggle against the capitalists the working class would ultimately capture political power and then set up a social democracy. Bernstein threw an open challenge to this view of Marx.
Social democracy, a different form of socialism, could never be set up by class struggle. Nowhere in the world Marxism technique has succeeded in this regard Rather people are more and more inclining to parliamentary ways and tactics for building up a social democratic society.
Moreover, parliamentary ways are safer than class struggle. It is to be held that there is nothing new in this contention of Eduard Bernstein since he was against any type of revolutionary struggle.
4. Dialectical and Historical Materialism:
Eduard Bernstein challenged the core of Marxian philosophy by rejecting the dialectics which he regarded as the offshoot of Hegelianism.
The dialectic method was termed by him as the “treacherous elements in the Marxian doctrine, the trap that is laid for all consistent thinking.” Marx used dialectics to show the process of the development of society.
There are opposite forces in every non-socialist or non- communist society and these forces are proceeding towards perfection through dialectical method. The conflict between the forces will come to a halt at communism when there will be no existence of opposite forces.
So, in Marxian philosophy, dialectics is an integral part of socialism. Bernstein does not accept this contention. Eduard Bernstein emphatically states that there is no remotest relationship between socialism and dialectics. It emerges neither through revolution nor through conflict of forces, but through democratic processes.
Dialectic is harmful to socialism. It misleads people. They fail, being under the illusion of dialectics, to understand the nature of social forces as well as their activities. Bernstein defends the matter of fact quality of the fixed and stable objects as against any notion of this dialectical negation.
He maintains “If we wish to comprehend the world, we have to conceive it as a complex of readymade objects and processes.”
Here the main point of difference between Marx and Bernstein is according to the former progress of society takes place dialectically and it is not possible for few or many people to change the dialectic course.
On the other hand, Bernstein does admit the importance of dialectical method. It is man whose efforts and intelligence have enough power to change the social process as well as its progress. This basic difference cannot be solved easily.
Eduard Bernstein strongly criticizes Marx’s materialist interpretation of history. In his judgment, Marx put the progress or evolution of society into the steel frame of dialectics and by doing this he denied the importance of man’s rationality, intelligence.
There is no place of man’s creative role in determinism and fatalism.
Bernstein held “With the developing intelligence and insight of mankind, individuals and nations acquire increased freedom in shaping their progress. He contended generally that intellectual or ideal factors operate as coordinate causes with economic factors in determining the course of history.”
“To be a materialist means, first and foremost, to reduce every event to the necessary movements of matter.” Secondly “movement of matter takes place, according to the materialist doctrine, in a necessary sequence like a mechanical process. Since this movement is also that which must determine the formation of ideas and the orientation of the will, it follows that the historical and human world is represented as a chain of predetermined and inevitable events. In this sense the materialist, Bernstein concluded, is a Calvinist without God”.
The innovation of economic determinism is the most important part of materialist interpretation of history and Eduard Bernstein criticized Marx and Engels for their concept of economic determinism.
In a letter to Block, Engels made certain critical observations which have to some extent exonerated him and Engels from criticism. In this letter Engels observes, “According to materialist conception of history the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life.
More than this neither Marx nor I have asserted.” Bernstein regarded this self- criticism as a substantial relaxation of the original “determinism.” But his charge is that the concept per se remains.
His revisionism asserts that the “autonomy” of non- economic factors is more important than that of economic factors. Virtually the non- economic factors determine the course of social progress.
Eduard Bernstein said:
“The point of economic development attained today leaves the ideological, and especially the ethical, factors greater space for independent activity than was formerly the case.” The ideological development of modern society has reached such a stage that it has considerably eclipsed the economic factors.
In the opinion of Engels economic factors largely determine the political, religious, judicial, philosophical, literary and artistic progress. But this is never one way. Again all these determine or influence the economic factors and at the same time economic development.
Bernstein in clear language states that he does not agree with this contention of Marx. His opinion is that it did more harm than good to historical materialism. He rebels against doctrinaire attitude and he always favours reason.
Doctrine in his opinion fetters the thought. One must try to see what is happening in the real situation. Less dependence on doctrine and more dependence on reason and the desire to judge everything with an eye to the facts make our analysis more and more coherent and reasonable. Unfortunately, Marx and Engels have neglected that.
If we go through the writings of Bernstein we shall find that he makes certain amount of relaxation in his contention regarding the relationship between economic progress and philosophical and artistic progress.
He admits that sometimes capitalist mode of production influences the advent of socialism. But this influence is not quite spectacular. He has associated the value judgments with the emergence of socialism.
Socialism is not something that must be but something that ought to be. Socialism is preferable to any other type of system and men by concerted efforts will bring it about.
It will not come on its own accord due to the inherent contradictions of capitalism. Moral and ethical forces impel people to seek for socialism. Voluntaristic stance is more important than any hypothetical and speculative stance. To fulfill their ethical and moral demands and desires people will set up a socialist society.
5. Other Political Ideas:
Bernstein once said:
“What is generally called the ultimate goal of socialism is nothing to me, the movement is everything”. Eduard Bernstein dealt exhaustively with issues like the right of the people, role of the parties and democracy. In his famous letter to the Stuttgart Congress he expressed his views on these subjects. The party at the present time should not rely on a great cataclysm.
According to Bernstein the parliamentary ways, democratic movement, the consciousness of people and their consistent demand for the proper realization of democratic rights can ensure the working men’s emancipation. In this regard, he further observes Marxian theory of class struggle has hardly any importance.
It achieves practically nothing but invites disorder or chaos. To capture power cannot be treated as an end in itself, nor is democracy an end. Power and democracy are instruments to attain the goal.
Democratic means, he asserts, are more powerful than the armed struggle. Bernstein had arrived at this conclusion on the basis of his experience which he gathered from the working of several governments of western European states. This is the tall claim of Bernstein. This claim of Bernstein is, however, not above criticism.
Bernstein criticizes Marx’s theory of revolution still from another angle. In his view the mental preparation and physical environment of workers were not congenial for any revolution. But they were capable of adapting to peaceful ways of movement.
Some people might have reservations about revolution, but there is no difference of opinion about democratic movement, Revolution is generally followed by repressive measures, but there is hardly any scope of repression in peaceful movement.
Summarizing Bernstein’s views Kolakowski comments. “The socialist movement was capable of fighting successfully for many changes which would mean the realization of more and more socialist values, if it were to live merely on the expectation of an once-and-for-all cataclysm, it would not be serving the interests of the proletariat” (Main Currents of Marxism).
Let us slightly recapitulate. The Fabian Society of the mid-eighties of the nineteenths century laid the foundation of evolutionary socialism or gradualism and, after the death of Engels, Bernstein got an opportunity to bring the evolutionary socialism in the limelight.
He claimed that his experiences about the economic functions of German economy do not corroborate Marx’s view class struggle and armed revolutions are not the surest ways to establish socialism. But he admitted that in many parts of Europe there were sporadic revolutionary movements.
He was not, however, sure of the success of these revolutionary movements. He observes that the sporadic and rapid revolutionary movements are not the guarantor of the coveted or ultimate goal of the working class.
This goal, in general terms, is emancipation of workers. In every revolution there is a possibility of counterrevolution and this is more powerful than the revolution itself. But the peaceful agitation is unaccompanied by any risk. In democratic movement there is rationality, perspicacity and intelligence.
In revolution there is emotion and irrationality. He says that, in legislation, intellect dominates over emotion in quiet times; during a revolution emotion dominates over intellect. But if emotion is often an imperfect leader, the intellect is a slow motive force. Legislation works as a systematic force, revolution as an elemental force.
Eduard Bernstein had expressed doubt about the nature of society created by revolution. The society coming out of the revolution was always dominated by revolutionary ideas. The proletarians were deprived of exercising legitimate power. Democracy and democratic institutions appeared to be the greatest victim of revolution.
In pre- revolutionary society, the capitalists dominated the entire situation, after revolution the control of the society goes to the hands of the professional revolutionaries and few intellectuals.
Revolution never guarantees power to the common people. Bernstein emphatically points out that the rule of the few is always the characteristic feature of both pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary societies.
Elitism, hated by Marxism, appears in different guise. Virtually the “dictatorship of the proletariat” was a meaningless concept in a socialist society. This view of Bernstein clearly indicates that he wanted a socialist society based on liberal democratic principles. Liberalism and socialism must exist side by side. Whether this is possible or not that we do not know. But Bernstein thought in this light.
Bernstein’s view of liberalism and its relation to socialism is worth mentioning. It is to be recommended that some moderation should be kept in the declaration of war against “liberalism”.
It is true that the great liberal movements of the modern times arose from the advantage of the capitalist bourgeoisie first of all, and the parties which assumed the names of liberals were, or became in due course, simple guardians of capitalism.
Naturally, only opposition can reign between these parties and Social Democracy. But with respect to liberalism, as a great historical movement, socialism is its legitimate heir, not only in chronological sequence, but also in its spiritual qualities.
So in Bernstein’s judgment socialism is the real consequence of liberalism. We may not like liberalism, but, if there were no liberalism, socialism would never come.
There is actually no liberal thought which does not also belong to the elements of the ideas of socialism. Even the principles of economic personal responsibility which belongs apparently so entirely to the Manchester School cannot be denied in theory by socialism nor be made inoperative under any conceivable circumstances. To sum up, socialism is the actualisation of liberalism. It is even called the “organised liberalism”.
Bernstein’s view of liberalism and its relation to socialism amply proves that he was enormously influenced by Fabian Socialism of Great Britain.
In fact, both Fabian Socialism and Bernstein’s socialism fall in the same group evolutionary socialism. This type of socialism is fundamentally different from scientific socialism of Marx and Engels. Marxian socialism is the product of revolution and embodies revolutionary thought.
Bernstein also rejected the formula contained in the Manifesto that the workers had no definite nationality or fatherland. This was correct in the 1840s when Marx and Engels were writing the Manifesto and other books. Workers in those days were not politically conscious and did not enjoy any rights.
They were not even an organized force to fight the capitalist forces. So the workers, for the sake of emancipation and to keep their physical existence running, were advised to forget their individual nationality and extend helping hand to all the fighting workers of different countries and they were also advised to build up a common force on international level.
Bernstein criticized Marx’s view regarding workers’ nationality concept. Every individual or worker is quite conscious of his own nationality and feels a deep attachment to his fatherland. There is a difference between what Marx said and what really exists.
The darkest aspect of Bernstein’s political ideas is his unstinted support to colonialism. On this issue he comes very much closer to many Fabian socialists.
Territory was not simply to be conquered, it was to be economically used and developed for the benefit of all. This objective was to be achieved by the civilized nations. “Civilized peoples who could cultivate the land to advantage had a better right to it than savages”. British colonialists had performed yeoman’s service for Indian people.
This view indicates that he fully realized the traditional theory of colonialism. As to the theory of colonialism, Eduard Bernstein comes closer to Fabian socialism. G. B. Shaw also used the same argument in support of colonialism. The nineties of the past century was the heyday of colonialism. Neither Shaw nor Bernstein could keep themselves away from the current tendency.