The Erfurt Program

In 1891, the SDP adopted a new charter, the Erfurt program. The Gotha program was a compromise between the overlapping ideologies of the two original parties. The Erfurt program displayed signs of a more fundamental tension between revisionism and Marxist orthodoxy that had developed within the party.

Karl Kautsky, the defender of Marxist orthodoxy, drafted the first, theoretical, section of the program. In it, he stressed the division of society into two hostile camps and painted a grim picture of a future in which a few large-scale capitalist enterprises expand their control over the economic system.

Eduard Bernstein, the leading theoretician of social democratic revisionism, drafted the second, practical, portion of the program, which consisted of a series of reforms that could be obtained only by working within the system, including that perennial favorite, universal manhood suffrage, secularized schools, compensation for elected officials, and more liberal labor laws.

The official position was that the Erfurt program was both reformist and revolutionary, combining immediate benefits for the proletariat with the long-term goal of overthrowing capitalism.

Why was it important to pay elected officials?

Getting the vote was only the first step in establishing a working-class presence in the legislature. If elected officials don't receive a salary, it is difficult for anyone who has to earn a living to hold office.

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