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Keßler, Mario


Moses Hess and Ferdinand Lassalle: Pioneers of Social Emancipation


2013, [= BzG - Kleine Reihe Biographien, Bd. 28], 131 S., ISBN 978-3-86464-044-5, 14,80 EUR



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The essay The „Romantic Revolutionary": Ferdinand Lassalle and the German Labor Movement was based on a lecture that I delivered on 1 March 2011 at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies at the international conference "Jews and Revolutions: From Vormärz to the Weimar Republic." The conference was organized by the Israel office of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem, the Martin Buber Chair for Jewish Thought and Culture of the University of Frankfurt-Main, and the Centre for German-Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex.

The same institutions organized on 19 and 20 March 2012 at the same place the international conference "Moses Hess between Socialism and Zionism." There I spoke on Moses Hess and the Marxist Discourse since 1945. The text of my contribution is printed here in an updated version with additional remarks on Hess’s biography and scholarly debates in the West.

I am greatly indebted to the organizers of both symposiums as well as to the extraordinarily attentive audiences that demonstrated an enduring interest in the fate and legacy of "double outsiders", such as Moses Hess and Ferdinand Lassalle who were marginalized both by origin and by conviction: as Jews and revolutionaries. Both fought for authentic equal rights of the working people and, consequently, belonged to the founding fathers of the German labor movement. Both were companions of Marx and Engels and, likewise, independent-minded thinkers. Their political and intellectual heritage was, therefore, often belittled or neglected in the countries that claimed to be socialist, and it is the aim of this little book to introduce readers into the rich legacy that Hess and Lassalle left for future generations of activists and students of the democratic-socialist movements.

I am greatly indebted to Mr. Terence Renaud (Berkeley and Berlin) for his helpful suggestions for stylistic improvements.



Preface 7

Moses Hess, Western Scholarship, and the Communist Discourse 9

Hess’s Political and Literary Activity 14

Hess’s Early Marxist Advocates – and Georg Lukács’s Criticism 27

Different Judgments from the 1930s to the 1980s 34

Hess in the Eyes of Reform-minded Communists: Ernst Bloch and Bruno Frei 42

Appendix 1: Moses Hess: Excerpts from "Philosophy of the Act" (1843) 50

Appendix 2: Moses Hess: "First Speech on Communism" (1845) 58


The "Romantic Revolutionary": Ferdinand Lassalle and the German Labor Movement 71

On the Road to Revolutionary Activism 73

The Foundation of the General German Workers’ Association 77

Lassalle’s Positions on Jews and Judaism 95

Appendix 3: Ferdinand Lassalle: Excerpts from "The Workingmen’s Program" (1862) 105

Appendix 4: Ferdinand Lassalle: Excerpts from "Science and the Workingmen" (1863) 109

Bibliographical References 121

The Author 131