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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: August 2018

7 - My Life's Purpose: Molding the Readership (1902–1903)


THE RUTHLESSNESS OF MEHRING and Luxemburg in consolidating control at the Leipziger Volkszeitung and converting it into the organ of the extreme Left angered many besides the purged staff, and soon the contentious coeditors turned on each other. By early summer they were scarcely on speaking terms, yet in an attempt to discredit Eisner's moderate leadership of the central organ, they printed a series of attacks on Vorwärts by Parvus, pen name of Alexander Helphand, an unstable Russian émigré who served as Bebel and Kautsky's cudgel against anyone they suspected of harboring revisionist sympathies or even of willingness to hear the reformist viewpoint. Eisner protested directly to Mehring in a letter dated 14 July. “Whenever the L.V. prints now Comrade Parvus's hallucinations that we—infinitely insidious and base conduct on our part—schemed hypocritically to compromise and undermine the L.V. or indeed the view it represents, I fail to understand how a serious paper can repeat obsessive accusations of that kind. At the least I would move simultaneously that the fellows pushing such a filthy agenda at Vorwärts be expelled from the party at once. I have enough sense of party camaraderie to want every party paper, including the L.V., to be so superior as to serve as a model for us colorfast Vorwärts editors.” Eisner was particularly concerned about public perceptions of discord among the leadership with the annual congress set to convene in September in Munich. He considered this meeting of crucial importance in preparation for the elections of 1903. “This time,” he wrote in the lead of 31 July, “we have no time to appear divided.”

In the same article Eisner proposed for discussion at Munich two measures he deemed prerequisite for success in the coming elections. The first was the development of a strategy to overturn state suffrage statutes depriving the proletariat of its rightful voice, as Prussia and Saxony could no longer simply be forfeited to the “unchecked forces of reaction.” The second was a concerted campaign to break the Center Party's stranglehold in Catholic states on wards with sizable constituencies of industrial workers, miners, and farm laborers.