August Bebel


Preface [A]

The wish of many of my party comrades that I should write my memoirs agrees with my own. When a man has attained a prominent position, through the favor of circumstances, the public has a right to know the conditions that brought about this result. On the other hand, the multitude of false charges and misconceptions, of which I have been so frequently a victim, induces me to show to the public how much truth there is in them.

To this end, frankness and truth are the first requirements. Without them, the publication of biographical data is useless. The reader of these memoirs, no matter what side he may be on, or to what party he may belong, will not be able to charge me with having concealed or retouched anything. I have spoken the truth, even in places where some may think that I might have done better by saying nothing. I am not of the same opinion. No man is without faults, and at times it is precisely the confession of a certain fault that interests the reader most, and enables him to arrive at a correct estimate.

Wishing to write the truth to the best of my knowledge, I could not rely on my memory. After the lapse of a certain number of years, the memory is not reliable. Even such events as made a deep impression at the time, assume a different form in the course of years, under the pressure of varied suggestions. I have experienced this frequently, not alone in myself, but also in others. Quite often, when chatting with acquaintances and friends, I have related in good faith certain incidents, which later on, when tested, for instance, by letters written under the immediate impression of those events, turned out to have been far different than related. This has led me to the conclusion that no judge should accept the oath of any witness, concerning any incident, after the lapse of several years. The danger of perjury is too great.

In order to verify my statements and my views at a certain period, I have made use, as much as possible, of letters, notes, articles, etc.

But there were periods in my life, during which it was dangerous to preserve any letters, because they might have betrayed others, or myself. This applies particularly to the time of the anti-socialist laws, when I was in danger every hour of having my house or my body searched, in order that the government might find evidence against myself or others. For a long time the police and the public prosecutors credited me with being a dangerous character, who must not be trusted. The same reasons also forbade the keeping of a diary.

The present volume contains some material, especially that referring to the anti-socialist labor associations of the sixties of the nineteenth century, which has not been wholly known so far. Since L. Soenemann died in Frankfort-on-Main, in the latter part of October last year, there is no one left except myself, who is so familiar with the history of that time by actual contact with it, and who has command of the material referring to it. I had hoped to make better headway with this work, but sickness forbade all mental exertion for nearly two years. If my health holds out, this first volume shall be followed by a second, perhaps even by a third.

Schoenberg, Berlin, New Year’s Day, 1910.

[A] The following book, dedicated “To my Dear Wife” by the author, was published in 1911 by the Socialistic Co-operative Publishing Association and printed by the Co-operative Press at 15 Spruce Street, New York. It has American spellings, sometimes eccentric ones, throughout. As far as possible, where there were not obvious typographical errors, they have been left as in the original. The translation is generally poor. It has been transcribed by Ted Crawford.

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