Elements of Socialism: A Text-Book

By John Spargo; George Louis Arner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
THE NATIONAL SOCIALIST MOVEMENIS

(1) GERMANY

Origins: Through priority of origin as well as present strength, the German Social Democracy claims our first consideration. The most prominent figure in the early history of the German movement is Ferdinand Lassalle. While Marx and Engels were both Germans, they were in a very special sense cosmopolitans, and each of them spent his life outside of Germany. Lassalle was born in 1825. Like Marx, he was of Jewish descent. At the age of twenty- three he joined the Socialist wing of the revolutionary movement of 1848, his activities leading to his imprisonment for six months and exclusion from Berlin for ten years. His first real opportunity came during the bitter struggle of 1862 in which Bismarck became master of Prussia. He entered political life with a vigorous propaganda by lectures and pamphlets in which he differed from the other political parties and subordinated the political aspects of the struggle to its social aspects. He had at first contemplated joining the Liberals, but found them half-hearted in their advocacy of democracy. It was then that he proposed the formation of an independent Socialist party. The proposal met with a ready response, and in May, 1863, the General Workingmen's Association was founded with Lassalle as its president. The Association adopted a program, written by Lassalle, which aimed chiefly at the abolition of the three-class system of voting, which still obtains in Prussia. During the remainder of his short life Lassalle worked for the cause with feverish activity, writing, lecturing and organizing with almost superhuman energy. In August, 1864, just fifteen months after the formation of the new party, Lassalle was mortally wounded in a duel, and his brief but remarkable career was thus brought to an ignoble end.

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