Wilhelm Weitling

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wilhelm Weitling
Weitlingweg in Zurich- Wollishofen

Wilhelm Christian Weitling (born October 5, 1808 in Magdeburg , † January 25, 1871 in New York City ) was a German theorist of communism . He was an early socialist with Christian convictions and is considered the first German theoretician of communism. He initiated the League of the Just , which is regarded as the forerunner and nucleus of the later socialist and communist parties in Europe and the world.


Wilhelm Weitling was the illegitimate child of the maid Christiane Weitling, whose ancestors were enfeoffed with a handicraft in Gleina in the 17th and early 18th centuries . According to later oral tradition, his father was a French occupation officer, Guillaume Terijon, who allegedly fell in Russia ; however, this paternity is very doubtful. He grew up in poor conditions.

At the age of 20, Weitling left his home country to evade military service. When the news of the July Revolution spread, this also led to some unrest in Saxony . He published some radical articles in the Leipziger Zeitung .

Weitling was a professional tailor's apprentice and joined in 1836 in the French emigration in Paris the League of Outlaws at. This union was an association mainly of German journeymen. Because of their democratic-revolutionary sentiments, they were politically persecuted in the reactionary states of the German Confederation and lived in exile in France. Ideologically, they were in the tradition of the French early communist Gracchus Babeuf and his revolutionary theories, as they had been handed down through the writings of the Italian Filippo Buonarroti . The federal government spread its views in German-speaking countries through contacts with traveling journeymen.

Under the leadership of Weitling, a large group split off from the League of Outlaws in 1836 and henceforth called themselves the League of Justice . In terms of content, this expressed a turn to social agitation and a turn away from conspiratorial tactics. The Union of the Just moved its headquarters from Paris to London in 1839 after an attempt at revolt against the French July monarchy under the citizen king Louis Philippe had failed. In London, the organization was increasingly influenced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels . In 1847 the League of the Just was renamed the League of Communists .

Between 1841 and 1844 Weitling made a trip through Switzerland from Paris and on behalf of the Union of the Just. He visited several craftsmen's associations there, which he encouraged to fight. Weitling also worked as an editor, writer and tailor. Through his acquaintance from Vaud, Louis-Henri Delarageaz , he came into indirect contact with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon . In Vevey he had his main theoretical work, Guarantees of Harmony and Freedom, printed. He was arrested in Zurich and imprisoned for ten months. However, he managed to save the manuscript of the Gospel of the poor sinner . The font was published in Bern in 1845. After his release he was expelled from Switzerland. In Schaffhausen , on the German border, he was taken into custody by German officials and sent to Magdeburg, where he was held by the police because he had previously fled to avoid military service. He was examined, declared physically unfit for military service, and released. From there he traveled on to Hamburg and London.

Weitling propagated a thesis of the communist class struggle . He turned away from the ideas of the French utopians , the humanitarian early socialists Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier , who represented the cooperative movement in France . Weitling saw in the interests of the working class and those of the bourgeoisie an irreconcilable contradiction . He demanded not only a political, but also a social revolution in which the prevailing income situation was to be overturned, for Weitling the essential prerequisite for the liberation of the working class . He campaigned for the political enlightenment of the workers in order to create the conditions in the proletariat for the workers to struggle independently for their own interests.

In 1846 Weitling met Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Weitling and Marx clashed with their leadership claims and had different views on a revolution . This led to a break with Marx and Weitling's supporters were expelled from the Communist League. Weitling then traveled to New York and only returned to Germany in the course of the 1848 revolution, where he played “but only an insignificant role” and therefore returned to the USA at the end of 1849. Here he published the magazine “ Republik der Arbeiter” between 1850 and 1855 and founded the German Workers' League New York / German Workingsmen's League . In 1851 Wilhelm Weitling went to the Communia colony in Clayton County Iowa, which had been founded in 1847 by Heinrich Koch. He invested the funds from his German Workers' Union New York / German Workingmen's League and was elected as administrator of Communia . Communia essentially consisted of former members of Andreas Dietsch's former utopian colony New Helvetia in Osage County, Missouri, which had failed in 1845 . The end of 1851, the now socialist under Wilhelm Weitling colony closed Communia in Iowa the German Labor Union - and tore it three years later to financial ruin. Weitling failed as administrator and from 1854 Communia dissolved into hatred and discord. Communia was not liquidated until 1864 with a court decision .

Weitling, who married the German Karoline Toedt in the USA in 1854, retired in 1855 and worked as a tailor again in New York.

In Weitling research - not least because of Karl Marx's pamphlets - his "historical rank is unclear and controversial". "The Weitling image is affected by the problem: Is Weitling a precursor of Marxism , whose John the Baptist , so to speak, or it represents a not to wake has come brand of pre-March communism?" Shepherd represents the thesis that Weitling "the first German workers theorists and agitator of some effect - until the sixties of the 19th century - “was.


Wilhelm Weitling: guarantees of harmony and freedom. 2nd Edition. Vivis 1845
Wilhelm Weitling: Humanity. How it is and how it should be. 2nd Edition. 1845
  • The humanity. How it is and how it should be. 1838/39 ( marxists.org ).
  • Guarantees of harmony and freedom. 1842 archive.org , 2nd edition. 1845 ( books.google.com ).
  • Dungeon poetry. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1844 ( books.google.com ).
  • The gospel of a poor sinner also The gospel of poor sinners. 1845 (4th edition. 1854 books.google.com ).
  • An emergency call to the men of work and care, a letter to the countrymen. 1847.
  • The moving primordial substance in its cosmo-electro-magnetic effects a picture of the universe. Respectfully submitted to the Academies of Science for consideration. New York 1856.
  • Justice. One course in 500 days; Pictures of reality and reflections of the prisoner (= Christianity and socialism 2) first edition by Ernst Barnikol . Mühlau, Kiel 1929.
  • Theory of the world system (= Christianity and socialism. 4). Mühlau, Kiel 1931.
  • Classification of the Universe. An early socialist worldview; with appendix: Weitling's “Address Book” and Hamburg assembly speeches 1848-49 (= Christianity and Socialism 3). Mühlau, Kiel 1931
  • The moving material. In its cosmo-electro-magnetic effects (= Christianity and socialism 5). Edited by Ernst Barnikol. Mühlau, Kiel 1931.
  • Basics of a general theory of thought and language. Edited and introduced by Lothar Knatz. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-8204-8421-3 .


“The names Republic and Constitution,
As beautiful as they are, are not enough on their own;
The poor people have nothing in their stomachs,
nothing on their bodies, and they always have to struggle;
That is why the next revolution,
if it is to improve it, must be a social one. "

- Weitling's preliminary remarks on humanity. How it is and how it should be from the year 1838/39.

Literature chronologically

  • The communists in Switzerland according to the papers found at Weitling's. Verbatim print of the commission report to the government of the Zurich stand. The rapporteur, Dr. Bluntschli . Orell, Füßli & Co., Zurich 1843 ( books.google.com ).
  • ( Sebastian Seiler ): About communism in Switzerland. An illumination of the commission report of Dr. Bluntschli on the communists in Switzerland; (allegedly!) according to the papers found at Weitling's. Jenni, son, Bern 1843 MDZ Reader
  • (Sebastian Seiler): The writer Wilhelm Weitling and the communist noise in Zurich. A defensive pamphlet that has already been set but suppressed by the Valais State Council, is now being offered to the public here. Jenny Sohn, Bern 1843. MDZ Reader (Reprint: Detlev Auvermann, Glashütten im Taunus 1973)
  • Silvius Landsberg: The blessed Schneider's Weitling doctrine of socialism and communism . German Publishing House, New York 1879
  • Emil Kaler : Wilhelm Weitling. His agitation and teaching presented in historical context. Volksbuchhandlung, Hottingen-Zürich 1887 (Social Democratic Library. XI)
  • Eduard Fuchs (preface): In: Prospectus of the collection of social science essays . Eduard Fuchs. 4th and 5th booklet: The Gospel of a poor sinner . By Wilhelm Weitling. Second reprint, Munich 1897
  • Ernst Barnikol : Weitling the prisoner and his "justice" . Mühlau, Kiel 1929
  • Carl Wittke: The Utopian Communist. A Biography of Wilhelm Weitling. Nineteen-Century Reformer. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. 1950.
  • Wolfgang Joho : Dream of justice. The life story of the journeyman, rebel and prophet Wilhelm Weitling , Verlag Neues Leben (East) Berlin 1956.
  • Wilhelm Weitling . In: Werner Blumenberg : Fighters for Freedom . To. JHW Dietz, Berlin and Hanover 1959, pp. 18-21.
  • Waltraud Seidel-Höppner: Wilhelm Weitling, the first German theorist and agitator of communism. Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1961 (Institute for Social Sciences at the ZK d. SED, dissertation of March 23, 1961).
  • Ahlrich Meyer : early socialism. Theories of Social Movement 1789–1848. Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg / Munich 1977, ISBN 3-495-47376-9 , pp. 157-222.
  • Ellen Drünert: The religious-ethical motivation of communism in Wilhelm Weitling. Attempt an analysis. Bonn 1979. Dissertation in educational science. PHR, Bonn.
  • H. Roger Grant: Utopias that failed. The Antebellum years. In: Western Illinois Regional Studies. Spring 1979, pp. 38-51.
  • Wolfram von Moritz: Wilhelm Weitling. Religious problem and literary form. Bern et al. 1981. (Dissertation Germ./Theol. Uni Wuppertal) ISBN 3-8204-7067-0 .
  • Wolf Schäfer: The unfamiliar modernity. Historical outlines of another natural and social history. Frankfurt am Main 1985, ISBN 3-596-27356-0 .
  • Jürg Haefelin: Wilhelm Weitling. Biography and theory. The Zurich Communist Trial of 1843. Lang, Bern et al. 1986, ISBN 3-261-03583-8 ; also: Zurich, University, dissertation 1985
  • Jakob Rokitjanski / Waltraud Seidel-Höppner: Wilhelm Weitling's autobiographical records 1858–1870 (first published). In: Yearbook for History. Volume 38, Berlin 1989
  • Hans-Arthur Marsiske: A republic of the workers is possible - Wilhelm Weitling's contribution to the workers' movement in the United States of America, 1846-1856. Research reports of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Volume 5. Hamburg 1990 ( virtuella.net ).
  • Waltraud Seidel-Höppner: Wilhelm Weitling. Life and Political Work. In: Rosa-Luxemburg-Verein eV Mitteilungen 12, Leipzig 1993
  • Martin Hüttner: Wilhelm Weitling as an early socialist. Essay. Haag and Herchen, Frankfurt am Main 1985; 2nd Edition. 1994, ISBN 3-86137-127-8 .
  • Karl Josef Rivinius:  Weitling, Wilhelm. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 13, Bautz, Herzberg 1998, ISBN 3-88309-072-7 , Sp. 699-705.
  • Ahlrich Meyer: Weitling's social revolutionary concepts. In: Ders., The logic of revolts. Studies on social history 1789-1848 , Verlag Schwarze Risse - Rote Straße, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-924737-42-8 , pp. 257-271.
  • Helmut Asmus: Weitling, Wilhelm. In: Guido Heinrich, Gunter Schandera (ed.): Magdeburg Biographical Lexicon 19th and 20th centuries. Biographical lexicon for the state capital Magdeburg and the districts of Bördekreis, Jerichower Land, Ohrekreis and Schönebeck. Scriptum, Magdeburg 2002, ISBN 3-933046-49-1 .
  • Selcuk Cara: Wilhelm Weitling - Caught between God and Communism. Tragic comedy in four acts, Drei Masken Verlag, Munich 2008
  • Waltraud Seidel-Höppner: The liberal self-deception [for the 200th birthday of Wilhelm Weitling], In: The time . October 9, 2008, p. 110.
  • Daniel Nagel: From Republican Germans to German-American Republicans. A contribution to the identity change of the German forty-eight in the United States 1850–1861. Röhrig Universitätsverlag, St. Ingbert 2012, ISBN 978-3-86110-504-6 .
  • Waltraud Seidel-Höppner : Under a false name. The covenant of justice and its name change. In: Yearbook for Research on the History of the Labor Movement, Issue I / 2013, NDZ Verlag, Berlin 2013, pp. 47–57.
  • Waltraud Seidel-Höppner: Wilhelm Weitling (1808–1871). A political biography. 2 parts. Peter Lang Edition, Frankfurt am Main 2014, ISBN 978-3-631-64631-1 .

Web links

Wikisource: Wilhelm Weitling  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Otto Wittelshöfer. In: The New Time . XIV. Vol. 1895/96, No. 229, p. 92.
  2. ^ Otto Wittelshöfer:  Weitling, Wilhelm . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 41, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1896, p. 624 f.
  3. On the descent of Weitling from the Weidlich family to Gleina in detail: Wolfgang Huschke, on the origin of Wilhelm Weitling. In: Genealogy. Volume 9, 17th year, 1968, pp. 1-9. On the alleged paternity of a French officer, cf. the critical remarks by Erich Bartholomäus (on the work of Huschke) In: Genealogie. Volume 9, 17th year, 1968, p. 132.
  4. a b Anarchism in Germany. Volume I: The Early Movement ( libcom.org PDF).
  5. ^ Marc Vuilleumier: Weitling, les communistes allemands et leurs adeptes en Suisse. In: Revue eruopéenne des sciences sociales. Cahiers Vilfredo Pareto XI. No. 29, 1973, pp. 37-100.
  6. Olivier Meuwly: Louis-Henri Delarageaz, 1807-1891. Homme politique vaudois, ami de Proudhon, grand propriétaire fondier. Neuchâtel 2011, p. 28 ff.
  7. ^ Otto Brugger: History of the German craft associations in Switzerland 1836-1843. The effectiveness of Weiting (1841-1843) . Bern / Leipzig 1932, passim.
  8. ^ A b Axel Kuhn: The German workers' movement. 2004.
  9. Wolf Schäfer: The unfamiliar modernity. Historical outlines of a different nature and social history. Frankfurt, 1985, p. 19.
  10. Wolf Schäfer: The unfamiliar modernity. Historical outlines of a different nature and social history. Frankfurt, 1985, p. 33.
  11. marxists.org