Eisner wants to use the party’s leading newspaper to reach out to an enlightened left-leaning bourgeois readership and this proves rather controversial. He wants to break free from the straitjacket imposed by the SPD leadership, turn the party into a constructive parliamentary opposition and show it how it can actively redraw the political landscape.
Eisner’s approach is firmly based on the Erfurt Program of 1891, with an “entirely coherent system of action” that does not “shy away from immediate work, nor does it spurn any means, whether compromise or revolution”. However, as a neo-Kantian and non-Marxist, he is now completely out on his own.
On his own against the main political strands of thought within the SPD at the time:
– Standing alone against historical materialism as espoused by orthodox Marxists, who view revolutionary transformation into a socialist society as the inevitable and logical consequence of capitalism;
– Standing alone against revisionists who reject Marxism and are prepared to abandon the idea of revolution in the belief that socialism can gradually and peacefully replace current social and political structures.
Kurt Eisner’s political ideas, his brand of ethical socialism exasperates his fellow party members. He is shunned and decried as a “man of letters”, a “dreamer” and an “arts-loving idealist” – labels that all too easily stick. His social background is devoid of any authentic proletarian “pedigree”, whatever that might have meant within the SPD at the turn of the 20th century.
Eisner’s “politics of action” attracts little ideological support. He calls for supporters to keep up constant pressure by publicly pushing their arguments to the very limits of what the system allows. Yet this approach is rejected in the “Debatten über Wenn und Aber” (Debates on Ifs and Buts) series. Ad hominem hostility also stands in the way of his attempts to make a change.
However, Eisner’s belief in his own views and his commitment to what he sees as the SPD’s historic mission leave him no choice other than to take the party in his favored direction.