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New Left Review I/118, November-December 1979


Raimund Loew

The Politics of Austro-Marxism

Today Austro-Marxism is experiencing a certain renaissance, after being forgotten for several decades. Nor is this renewed interest confined to the German-speaking world, where the writings of Otto Bauer, Max Adler and Karl Renner have been reprinted, let alone simply Austria, where the Social-Democratic leaders now appeal more strongly to their historic tradition than they did during the Cold War and immediately after. In recent years, substantial contributions on the subject of Austro-Marxism have appeared also in French, English and Italian. [1] Cf. Yvon Bourdet, Otto Bauer et la révolution, Paris, 1968, and Max Adler: Démocratie et conseils ouvriers, Paris, 1967; Giacomo Maramao, Austromarxismo e socialismo di sinistra fra le due guerre, Milan, 1977, and Tom Bottomore and Patrick Goode (eds), Austo-Marxism, oup London, 1978. This development should not be surprising, in as much as the new problems facing the workers’ movement in the wake of the upswing of class struggle in Europe since 1968, as well as the crisis of the traditional bureaucratic leaderships, have led to a relatively wide-ranging discussion on the basic questions of Marxist politics. In particular, it is the leaders and ideologists of the ‘Eurocommunist’ parties who have referred on many occasions to the debates in the international workers’ movement that followed the Russian revolution. The question of the contemporary relevance of the Bolsheviks critique of reformism has thus been raised anew. The leaders of Austro-Marxism, for their part, were not just pragmatists pure and simple, like the majority of reformist politicians. They gave their policies detailed theoretical support, and always claimed to defend the tradition of the ‘Marxist centre’ against reformism, to the right, and, Bolshevism, to the left. Their appeal to Marx and Engels gives them a certain attraction today that is nor marched by the total lack of ideology on the part of the right social-democratic tradition. On closer examination it is possible to find a great many theses that are strikingly similar to the ideological statements of the ‘Eurocommunist’ parties, and which it is thus still politically relevant to review.

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