On the Struggle for a new Humanity – Otto Bauer (1927)

“Kleiner” Otto Bauer (1897-1986)

[From the first issue of Die Menscheitskämpfer published in 1927 by the Austrian Bund religiöser Sozialisten, founded by Otto Bauer, a Catholic metalworker–not to be confused with the Austro-Marxist of the same name.]

The capitalist mode of economy is a sign of the decay of all human culture. Far from being a beginning, it is an end. According to its direction, it destroys all healthy economic and social associations of human beings and puts on their place corporations and trusts in which personal relations to the vast army of wage-slaves are no longer possible. Here even the old connections between a slave and his master fall away. The only master, the God of the capitalist order, is money, it’s Mammon.

The law of capitalist development dictates that its greatest expansion is simultaneously its withering. It calls those forces into being that take its place.

The truth of this is shown in the world-shaking social phenomena of our time, namely, the world war and its consequences. An unprecedented development of the power of capitalism in the midst of a scene of devastation, and yet in this chaos, the struggle for new ideas for organisation, the beginnings of new forms of life. In these tremendous birthing pains, a new society is born for us, one which is composed of all of humanity, in which the borders of peoples, nations and races pose no obstacle to the global community of all human beings. The new world order is in the making and those who prepare the way for it are the proletariat of all nations.

The proletariat is already the most capable of this as a consequence of its economic situation.The new order of things is already in its own self-interest. Moreover, the proletarian is always more open-minded, receptive to new ideas. Every day he is torn to pieces again by life; he feels the impossibility of the prevailing conditions in his own body; from his youngest days the longing and will to change these conditions lives in him. It’s quite different among the conservative bourgeoisie. He is always more interested in the preservation of what exists and is even more minded to reconstruct the old, the past. He is always looking back towards what once was. The proletarian only looks ahead, in him, consciously or unconsciously, there is always revolutionary power.

So the proletariat is naturally the bearer and constructor of all ideas aiming for renewal. For us this is the deepest meaning of the proletarian movement which we affirm as it is and in which we are firmly rooted. We recognize no “if” or “but” here, we affirm it and with it we affirm class struggle.

The commitment to class struggle only integrates us into the ranks of the conscious and organised proletariat. It is not our task to search for or construct a theory in which class struggle is morally permitted or to demonstrate its moral compatibility with Christianity. We only take the facts as they are. We see that class struggle exists, that it is a condition of the current economic system’s laws. As long as there is an economic system in which profit is the center and goal and not the person, as long as ownership of the means of production and labour itself are separated, there will be a gulf between classes and therefore class struggle. Class struggle is not a discovery of the proletariat for the torment of their opponents, it has been forced on them by the brutal, murderous power of capitalism itself. However, it is not only an economic phenomenon. Whoever listens carefully will come to realize that it is the outcry of abused and violated humanity, just as atheism and materialism of the proletariat are grounded in the desecration of Christianity by its “followers”.

Is it not in contradiction to love and brotherhood?

Of course it is, to the love that we encounter every day, soft and sentimental, that surrenders itself, because that love is all feeling and not power. The proletarian too knows nothing about that love, it breaks in his rough hands. However, love, that is the inner experience of God, that is power, recognizes in this a joyous affirmation, it sees a duty here. Because the fundamental and driving forces in the class struggle of the proletariat can never be hate and negation because hate and negation could never bring about the positive work that the proletariat is already doing. It must be the omnipotence of love. How little one can get to grips with the present conditions with pious moral dictums and admonitions is illustrated only too clearly by the last pastoral letter of Roman Catholic bishops and its “practical observance” in the circles of the so-called leaders of the Christian people. We want to face the devastating effects of capitalist evil with the power of religious life by working and fighting in the proletariat, proletarians ourselves, for the coming classless society.

And brotherhood. Isn’t what happens to the proletariat in today’s society a crime against workers, as children of God, from whom we receive our brotherhood? And therefore, isn’t the class struggle of the proletariat to be valued as a step from the brotherhood of phrases to the brotherhood of deeds?

We see no contradiction in religion, Christianity on one side and class struggle on the other. Quite the contrary. By illuminating and burning through it, we believe that Christianity transforms the class struggle into what it essentially and according to its historical development –  by the progressive proletarianization of further social ranks – is, a struggle for humanity.

[Translated by R. V.]