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Appendix 5. On the Social-Democratic Leaders’ August 1914 ‘Betrayal’

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Chapter Summary

Essentially 'ideological' analyses of the history of Marxism have led to countless ambiguities. One of these, perhaps the most damaging to the Third International's whole reading of pre-war socialism, was that of considering the behaviour of the majority of Europe's social-democratic leaders in 1914 simply as the 'betrayal' of the proletariat. Haupt demonstrated that 'only starting from a specific understanding of the development of working-class structure and its relationship to the socialist milieu' is it possible to shed light on the real meaning, the social content of the main tendencies at play and the ideological and political debates that animated and divided the International. He highlighted that both those who maintain that the masses were disoriented by their leaders' 'betrayal' and those who explain the leaders' behaviour in terms of the attitude of the masses themselves, wildly excited by nationalist fervour, leave aside certain factors decisive to explaining these events.

Keywords: betrayal of proletariat; Europe's social-democratic leaders; Marxism; socialist movement

10.1163/9789004256354_014
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