V. I.   Lenin


Written: Written after January 3 (16), 1913
Published: First published in 1954 in the journal Kommunist No. 6. Printed from the original. Signed: T..
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 225-226.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: S. Ryan
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   (2002). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

The workers’ choral societies of Germany recently celebrated a kind of jubilee: the number of worker-singers reached 100,000, with a total membership of 165,000 in these societies. The number of women workers in them is 11,000.

The workers’ choirs have their own periodical, Arbeiter-Sänger Zeitung, which began to appear regularly only in 1907.

The beginnings of the workers’ choral societies date back to the 1860s. A choral section was founded in the Leipzig Artisans’ Educational Society, and one of its members was August Bebel.

Ferdinand Lassalle attached great importance to the organising of workers’ choirs. At his insistence, members of the General Association of German Workers[2] founded, at Frankfurt am Main in 1863, a workers’ society called the Choral Union. This Union held its meetings in the dark and smoky back room of a Frankfurt tavern. The room was lit with tallow candles.

There were 12 members of the Union. Once, when Lassalle, on one of his speaking tours, stayed overnight at Frankfurt, these 12 worker-singers sang him a song by the well-known poet Herwegh, whom Lassalle had long been urging to write the words for a workers’ chorus.

In 1892, after the repeal of the Anti-Socialist Law,[3] there were 180 workers’ choral societies in Germany with 4,300 members. In 1901, the membership reached 39,717, in 1907, 93,000, and by 1912, 165,000. Berlin is said to have 5,352 members of workers’ choral societies; Hamburg, 1,628; Leipzig, 4,051; Dresden, 4,700, etc.

We recently reported how the workers of France and other Romance countries had marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Eugene Pettier (1816–1887), the author of the famous Internationale.[1] In Germany, the propaganda of socialism by workers’ songs is much more recent, and the “Junker” (landowners’, Black-Hundred) government of Germany has been throwing up many more foul police obstacles to such propaganda.

But no amount of police harassment can prevent the singing of the hearty proletarian song about mankind’s coming emancipation from wage-slavery in all the great cities of the world, in all the factory neighbourhoods, and more and more frequently in the huts of village labourers.


[1] See pp. 223–24 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] General Association of German Workers—a political organisation of the German workers set up at a congress of workers’ societies in Leipzig in 1863, with the active participation of Ferdinand Lassalle. The fact that, it was set up was of positive significance for the working-class movement, but Lassalle, who was elected President, took it along an opportunist path. It confined its aims to working for a general franchise and nonviolent parliamentary activity. Engels said that “‘universal, equal and direct suffrage’ was propounded by Lassalle as the only and infallible means of winning political power by the working class” = (Marx/Engels, Werke, Band 16, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1962, S.  327). Its leadership demanded the establishment of workers’ producer associations subsidised by the state which would allegedly transform the Prussian state into a “free state of the people ”; they regarded the peasantry as a reactionary mass. The Lassalleans approved of the counter-revolutionary way of unifying Germany “from the top”, through dynastic wars waged by Prussia. It broke up in 1875.

[3] The Anti-Socialist Law was introduced in Germany in 1878. It banned all organisations of the Social-Democratic Party and mass working-class organisations, closed down all working-class publications and prohibited all socialist writings. Social– Democrats were deported. The Law was revoked in 1890 under the pressure of the mass working-class movement.

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