Sixty Years in the Social-Democratic Movement


Some years ago (in the “Social-Democrat”) I expressed the hope that the autobiography of that old war-horse of the Socialist Party, Friedrich Lessner, probably the oldest living Social-Democrat, which had then just been published in German, in the “Deutsche Worte,” of Vienna, should appear in an English form. This hope has now been realised in the following excellent translation. The present little book speaks for itself. It is for all Socialists of an absorbing interest, dealing, as it does, with the first beginnings of Modern Socialism, the period of the old International, and the early days of the present British movement, and written, as it is, by one who was himself throughout an actor in the events he describes.

Speaking from personal knowledge, as a frequent guest at the old house in Regent’s Park Road, I can testify to the high opinion his old friend Friedrich Engels had of Lessner’s services to the party.

To all but the youngest members of the Socialist movement in London, Friedrich Lessner will be a familiar figure, with his long white beard, which of late years has emphasised more than ever an already existing suggestion, in appearance, of the earth-spirit or gnome (Rübezahl) of old German folk-lore. To such of those who have known him, the personal element will, of course, give an added interest to these memoirs; but, as already indicated, their interest is far more than merely personal. They are bound to constitute in the future a valuable first-hand source to the historian of the Modern Socialist movement, when he shall arise. Meanwhile, I may venture to predict that they will be welcome to many readers for their own intrinsic merits.



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