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Wilhelm Weitling.

Wilhelm Weitling (October 5, 1808 – January 24, 1871)[1] was an important early German anarchist, communist or socialist. Part of the utopian socialism movement, he was viewed with contempt by Marx[2] and Engels[3] (although the latter, at a very early period, called him the founder of German communism[4]).



He was born in Magdeburg, Prussia.[1] As a travelling sartorial journeyman/apprentice he came to Paris in 1838, during the July Monarchy, and later to Switzerland. Working twelve-hour days as a tailor, he still found time to read Strauss and Lamennais. After joining the League of the Just in 1837, Weitling joined Parisian workers in protests and street battles in 1839. Tristram Hunt called his doctrine "a highly emotional mix of Babouvist communism, chiliastic Christianity, and millenarian populism":

Following the work of the Christian radical Felicité de Lamennais, Weitling urged installing communism by physical force with the help of a 40,000-strong army of ex-convicts. A prelapsarian community of goods, fellowship, and societal harmony would then ensue, ushered in by the Christlike figure of Weitling himself. While Marx and Engels struggled with the intricacies of industrial capitalism and modern modes of production, Weitling revived the apocalyptic politics of the sixteenth-century Münster Anabaptists and their gory attempts to usher in the Second Coming... Much to Marx and Engels's fury, Weitling's giddy blend of evangelism and protocommunism attracted thousands of dedicated followers across the Continent.[5]

In the book Gospel of Poor Sinners he traced communism back to early Christianity.[6] [7] His book Guarantees of Harmony and Freedom was praised by Bruno Bauer, Ludwig Feuerbach and Mikhail Bakunin, the latter of whom Weitling was to meet in Zürich in 1843.[8] Karl Marx, in an 1844 review, referred to the "unbounded brilliance of the literary debut of the German worker,"[9] but "what won from Marx this high-sounding praise was simply the fact that Weitling's appeals were addressed to the workers as a class."[10]

During his stay in Zürich, he was arrested for revolutionary agitation, and extradited to the Kingdom of Prussia. From there he got the chance in 1849[11] to emigrate to the United States (as one of the Forty-Eighters).


He published several revolutionary works:

  • Die Menschheit. Wie Sie ist und wie sie sein sollte, (1838/39) German text online
  • The Poor Sinner's Gospel, (Das Evangelium eines armen Sünders. 1845)
  • Ein Nothruf an die Männer der Arbeit und der Sorge, Brief an die Landsleute, (1847)
  • Guarantees of Harmony and Freedom, (Garantien der Harmonie und Freiheit), (1849) German text online


  1. ^ a b Obituary in New York Times, January 27, 1871, Wednesday
  2. ^ Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx: His Life and Environment, 4th ed. (Oxford University Press US, 1996: ISBN 0195103262), p. 81.
  3. ^ Tristram Hunt, Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels (Henry Holt and Co., 2009: ISBN 0805080252), p. 132.
  4. ^ Frederick Engels: Progress of Social Reform On the Continent, II Germany and Switzerland, The New Moral World No. 21, November 18, 1843
  5. ^ Hunt, Marx's General, pp. 131-32.
  6. ^ Frederick Engels: On The History of the Communist League, Nov 12-26, 1885 in Sozialdemokrat
  7. ^ Antonio Labriola, Socialism and Philosophy, VII, Rome, June 16, 1897.
  8. ^ Leier, 106.
  9. ^ Marx, cited in Nicolaievsky and Maenchen-Helfer, 83.
  10. ^ John Spargo, Karl Marx: His Life and Work (B. W. Huebsch, 1910), p. 89.
  11. ^ Morris Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States (Funk & Wagnalls, 1906) p. 163


Mark Leier. Bakunin: The Creative Passion. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2006.

Boris Nicolaievsky and Otto Maenchen-Helfer. Karl Marx: Man and Fighter. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1983.

Wolf Schäfer. Die unvertraute Moderne. Historische Umrisse einer anderen Natur und Sozialgeschichte, Frankfurt, 1985, ISBN 3-596-27356-0

See also

External links



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