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Marxism and the Union Bureaucracy: Karl Kautsky on Samuel Gompers and the German Free Trade Unions

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This work is a companion piece to ‘The American Worker’, Karl Kautsky's reply to Werner Sombart's Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? (1906), first published in English in the November 2003 edition of this journal. In August 1909 Kautsky wrote an article on Samuel Gompers, the president of the American Federation of Labor, on the occasion of the latter's first European tour. The article was not only a criticism of Gompers's anti-socialist ‘pure-and-simple’ unionism but also part of an ongoing battle between the revolutionary wing of German Social Democracy and the German trade-union officials. In this critical English edition we provide the historical background to the document as well as an overview of the issues raised by Gompers' visit to Germany, such as the bureaucratisation and increasing conservatism of the union leadership in both Germany and the United States, the role of the General Commission of Free Trade Unions in the abandonment of Marxism by the German Social-Democratic Party and the socialists' attitude toward institutions promoting class collaboration like the National Civic Federation.

Affiliations: 1: National Research Council (CONICET), Argentina;, Email:


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