Social Democracy is, both in theory and history, a betrayal of Marx’s scientific critique of capitalism and the greater communist movement. Throughout this essay, I’ll explore both of these, as well as the betrayal of modern social democracy to socialism as a whole. Let’s start with the theoretical failures of social democracy, in order to gain a better understanding of why it has played the historical role it has. First and foremost, social democracy calls for the “fixing” or “solving” of capitalism; that is, the negation or suppression of its internal contradictions. The social democrats claim that, through regulation of the markets and the capitalists, that capitalism can be saved from collapse, while simultaneously affording the proletariat a secure and comfortable lifestyle. However, if this were to be true, than the historical necessity for progression to socialism would be null, as would Marx’s entire analysis of capitalism’s eventual collapse. This is to say that a classless society isn’t necessary, or even probable, which we simply know to be false. Marx has already established that history is the history of class struggle, the oppression of one class over another; the proletariat is the end of this cycle, and therefore must break the wheel. In taking the side of the bourgeoisie, whom are clearly opposed to our movement, the social democrats not only fail Marx and his analysis, but the proletariat they claim to serve as well. Furthermore, these pseudo-socialist pretenders open themselves up to bourgeois influence and corruption, as they advocate utilizing existing political structures to achieve their anti-worker half-measures. They immerse themselves among the bourgeoisie as opposed to the workers, and in doing so, aid the bourgeois goal of pacifying class consciousness by proclaiming to be on the side of the proletariat. Having now established the theoretical failures of social democracy and their departure from the analysis of Marx, we shall now examine their betrayal in its historical context.
The first major betrayal of the proletariat by the social democrats throughout history was the German SPD’s unwavering support for the First World War. This war saw nations sending the proletariat to the slaughter on the front lines, all while battling over the expansion of their empires, and by extension, their markets and pool of capital. This abandonment of the working class lead directly to the creation of the KAPD and the German revolution, in which the proletariat rose up against the new Weimar Republic. In 1919, the most heinous crimes took place, which saw the SPD hire the fascist paramilitary freikorps to stomp the revolution by the very class they claimed to represent. Worse, these death squads directly targeted and murdered Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, champions of the German communist movement, and Rosa in particular being an internationally recognized voice for the movement. From here on out, the social democrats’ stuck to a purely reformist and regulated capitalist platform, seeing gains throughout some bourgeois elections as the class consciousness of the early 1900s began fading. Instead of fighting to rekindle this flame, the social democrats all but snuffed it out with their false message.
This brings us to today, where the anti-capitalist movement is once again becoming strong. However, it has found itself once again held back by the familiar false-friend of reformist revisionism in social democracy. Now, especially in the United States, social democrats have confused and deceived the proletariat by labeling themselves as “democratic socialists” and praising the “socialist” Nordic Model. However, upon closer examination the Nordic countries are no more socialist than Venezuela, and in fact are simply glorified welfare states that succumb to the same capitalist relations the US does. This hindrance to our movement, while not as significant as the rebirth of fascism, shouldn’t be praised as pro-worker, and instead called out for what it is; a betrayal of Marx, the international proletariat, and the socialist and communist cause as a whole.