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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: December 2009

7 - The Evolution of Bernstein's Stance on Antisemitism and ‘the Jewish Question’


As I indicated before, in terms of their sensitivity for the implications of antisemitism and ‘the Jewish Question’ much of the literature has tended to place Mehring and Bernstein at opposite ends of the spectrum. Mehring's attitudes have generally been portrayed as particularly ambivalent and problematic, while Bernstein's stance has been credited with an acuity and prescience fairly singular among his peers. I made it clear at the outset that I consider this a rather questionable juxtaposition. I have argued throughout that Mehring's take on these matters, the occasional idiosyncrasy notwithstanding, was entirely in keeping with attitudes prevalent amongst leading Imperial German Social Democrats. In this final chapter, I want to take another more systematic look at Bernstein's position to demonstrate that not only Mehring's approach but Bernstein's too was rather closer to the mainstream of relevant perceptions among their peers than most of the literature would have us believe.

The conventional juxtaposition of Mehring and Bernstein is underpinned by a larger conceptual and ideological issue. Mehring stood on the radical wing of the party and died a founding member of the German Communist Party (KPD). Bernstein was the conceptual father of revisionism and died a respected doyen of mainstream Social Democracy as it had emerged from the split of organised Socialist labour during and after the First World War. Neither the KPD nor the SPD managed to muster anything even approximating an adequate response to the (renewed) rise of political antisemitism in the Weimar years.