Historical materialism
From the Second to the Third International
in Reflections on the Marxist theory of history
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The Second International of socialist parties was the undoubted custodian of Marxist 'orthodoxy' from its formation in 1889 until its de facto collapse at the outbreak of the First World War. For the interpretation of historical materialism associated with the sophisticated Second International thinkers in their best works, Karl Kautsky was much more powerful that either Perry Anderson or Steve Rigby. Like Lucio Colletti, Anderson had interpreted the shift from Second to Third International Marxism as including a 'voluntaristic' break with 'fatalistim'. Colletti suggested the evolutionary interpretation of Marxism, which he likened unfavourably to the 'voluntarist' Marxism of the Third International, was born out of Friedrich Engels's crude systemisation of Marx's thought and reached its zenith in Kautsky's theory of history. Kautsky was the dominant intellectual within the Second International, while the works of Georgi Plekhanov and Antonio Labriola informed the best historiography produced by the succeeding generation of Marxists.


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