Sixty Years in the Social-Democratic Movement
After having made up my mind to go to London, Martens recommended me to the London “Arbeiter Bildungsverein,” where I was fraternally received.
The London “Arbeiter Bildungsverein” was founded on February 7th, 1840. Its founders were Karl Schapper, Heinrich Bauer, and Josef Moll. These men came to London at the end of 1839, after having been expelled from France because of the part they took in the Blanquist conspiracy.
Schapper, afterwards the reader of the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” was born about the year 1812 at Weilburg (Nassau). When still a student of forestry he took part in the Hambach National Celebration which took place on May 27th, 1832, also in the attack on the constables at Frankfort in the spring of 1833. He was arrested, but succeeded in escaping and taking refuge in Italy, where he participated in the raid of Mazzini against Savoy in 1834. Abroad, probably in France, he got to know Communism, and joined the “Union of the Just,” founded in 1836.
Schapper, with whom I had much intercourse during the end of the forties and the commencement of the fifties, was a regular giant in frame, yet throughout a person of deep feeling. He was a Communist rather by feeling than by reasoning. He would always have been ready to sacrifice all if Communism could have been realised at once. His impatience became more acute after the wreck of the Revolution, resulting in misunderstandings between him and Marx. Schapper afterwards retired from the movement, and lived as a teacher of languages in London, where he died in the beginning of 1870.
Heinrich Bauer came from Frankow, and was a shoemaker by trade. He was small, as far as stature was concerned, but great in sagacity, cleverness, and resolution.
Josef Moll was a native of Cologne and a watchmaker by trade. Of middle height, strongly built, he excelled in intellect, heroism and intrepidity. He did not know fear when he could serve the interests of the proletarians. At the outbreak of the revolution in Baden, in 1849, he hastened to the theatre of war, from which he unfortunately never returned. A fatal bullet put an end to his heroic life. In the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” (politico-economical review, edited by Karl Marx, 3rd part, 1850, London), Frederick Engels gave him honourable mention. Engels wrote: “To the more or less educated victims of the revolution in Baden memorials have been raised from all sides in the press, in the democratic societies, in verse and in prose. Of the hundreds and thousands of workmen that have fought the battles, that have been killed in the battlefields, that have rotted alive in the casemates of Rastatt—nobody speaks of these. The exploitation of the workmen is too legalised an institution for our official ‘Democrats’ to consider workingmen any better than mere food for powder. That is why they hate those truly proletarian characters who, too proud to flatter them, too intelligent to be used by them, still take the sword when a ruling power is to be fought, and who represent the party of the proletarians in every revolutionary movement. But, if it is not in the interest of the would-be Democrats, it is the duty of the proletarian party to honour them. And to the better class of these workmen belonged Josef Moll, of Cologne. Moll had left Germany many years before, and had taken part in many revolutionary public and secret societies in France, Belgium and England. . . . After the February Revolution he went back to Germany, and took charge of the management of the Cologne Workmen’s Society. A fugitive since the Cologne September disorders of 1848, he went back under a false name, agitated in different districts, and undertook missions, the risk of which frightened anybody else. At Kaiserslautern I met him again. Here, too, he undertook missions that would have made him immediately a victim of martial law if he had been discovered. Returning from his second mission, he luckily got through all the hostile armies to Rastatt, where he immediately entered the Bresançon workmen’s company of our corps. Three days after he was killed. I lost in him an old friend, the party one of their most indefatigable, fearless, and reliable champions.”
Besides these men, Karl Pfänder and George Eccarius took a lively part in the debates of the “Arbeiter Bildungsverein.” Pfänder, a native of Swabia, and a painter by trade, belongs to those unknown heroes of our movement, who never push themselves to the front, but are always ready to give their lives and fortune for the sake of the proletariat. He was one of the noblest and most unselfish of men that ever lived. Sincere, true, faithful, and austere—such was his life. He died in London in 1876. Eccarius was a tailor and native of Thuringia. Richly gifted by nature, he was among the first who understood the trend of economic development, which he proved by his articles, while working as a tailor in London, in the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” and his polemics against John Stuart Mill. Eccarius spoke and wrote excellent English, and it would have been easy for him to have earned his livelihood by journalism. The English press readily accepted his contributions. Among English workmen, too, he was very popular. He devoted the last years of his life to trade unionism. Eccarius died in 1889.
I was recommended to these men by Martens in Hamburg. After some days I succeeded in getting work, and regularly frequented this club, of which I became a member. I was also admitted to the “Union of the Just,” which about this time changed itself into the “Union of the Communists.” The influence of Weitling, as time went on, decreased more and more in London, the influence of Marx and Engels overshadowing the sentimental teaching of this great agitator. Up to this time I did not know either Marx or Engels. I only knew that they had been living at Brussels, where they had edited the “Deutsche Brusseler Zeitung.” That the appearance of these men meant a new epoch in the history of Socialism I did not divine at that time.
The club had also evenings devoted to elocution. Everybody who was trained in reciting would recite poems of a serious or gay turn. My first recital consisted in the reading of a poem humorously describing an adventure that happened in Berlin in 1846.
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