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The General German Workers' Association, in German Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein, ADAV) was founded on 23 May 1863 in Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony by Ferdinand Lassalle and existed under this name until 1875, when it combined with August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht's SDAP to form the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany, which was renamed shortly thereafter the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The ADAV was the first German Labour Party, formed in Prussia prior to the establishment of the Germany had united as the German Empire. Its members were known colloquially throughout Germany as Lassalleans.

Ferdinand Lassalle

The association was founded in Leipzig by Lassalle and twelve delegates from some of the most important cities in Germany: Barmen, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Elberfeld, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Harburg, Cologne, Leipzig, Mainz and Solingen. About 600 workers were present, having travelled on the newly-opened Dresden - Leipzig railway line. Lassalle acted as president from 23 May 1863 to 31 August 1864. He had been expecting many thousands to become members of the association, but by 1864 there were only 4,600; merging with the SDAP was the best option to gain influence. The ADAV was in part financially supported by funds obtained by Lassalle through his personal relations. These same relations resulted in a duel in 1864 in which Lassalle was killed.

Opinion was divided within the ADAV between strict socialism and democracy. Wilhelm Liebknecht was a member until 1865, but as the ADAV tried to co-operate with Bismarck's government, for example on the question of women's suffrage, Liebknecht became disillusioned with the association. He had been writing for the association's newspaper Der Sozial-Demokrat ("the Social Democrat") but now, in disagreement with the paper's Prussia-friendly position, he left, first forming the Saxon People's Party along with August Bebel, and then in 1869 becoming a co-founder of the Social Democratic Workers' Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei, SDAP) in Eisenach as a branch of the International Workingmen's Association.

Liebknecht was to meet up again with his old ADAV colleagues, however, as the lack of support for the ADAV led them to join forces with Liebknecht's SDAP in 1875. Together with the SDAP the ADAV formed the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, SAPD) at the Socialist Unity Conference in Gotha: their manifesto was the Gotha programme. It called for "universal, equal, direct suffrage"; this later became part of the Weimar Republic's constitution. In 1890 the party was renamed the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) and it still exists under this name today.

Presidents

  • 23 May 1863-31 August 1864 Ferdinand Lassalle
  • 1 September 1864-2 November 1864 Otto Dammer
  • 2 November 1864-21 November 1865 Bernhard Becker
  • 21 November 1865-30 November 1865 Friedrich Wilhelm Fritzsche
  • 30 November 1865-31 December 1865 Hugo Hillmann
  • 1 January 1866-18 June 1866 Carl Wilhelm Tölcke
  • 18 June 1866-19 May 1867 August Perl
  • 20 May 1867-30 June 1871 Johann Baptist von Schweitzer
  • 24 June 1869-4 July 1869 Fritz Mende
  • 1 July 1871-25 May 1875 Wilhelm Hasenclever
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