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James M. Fenwick

Marxist Missionary

(January 1948)

From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 1, January 1948, pp. 26–27.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

Joseph Weydemeyer
by Karl Obermann
International Publishers, New York 1947

With the murder of Trotsky the last representative of the great revolutionists of the past was cut down. The passage of time serves only to bring their greatness into sharper focus. Possessors of the best in western thought as synthesized with Marxism, infused with an energy and conviction rare in Europe since the French Revolution, these personalities represented the new revolutionary vanguard. They were the first political scientists, in the literal sense of the term. They were the first to prepare the socialist transformation of society through an understanding of its laws of motion.

Capitalism in its headlong decline induces distortion in all concepts – even those held by the revolutionary vanguard. At a time when the Marxist cadre is small and subject to tremendous social and ideological pressures, it is instructive to review the lives of those individuals, great and close to great, who can be placed under the heading: The Revolutionary Man.

In 1842 Joseph Weydemeyer was a twenty-four-year-old artillery lieutenant attached to the garrison at Minden, Westphalia, when he fell under the influence of the Rheinische Zeitung. He soon became a Marxist, crowding his life with the most varied activity until his death in St. Louis in 1866.

His activity in the 1848 events in Europe led to his leaving for the United States in 1851. He plunged immediately into the life of the German émigré groups. Almost immediately he founded Die Revolution (Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire was first published in it), the first of a long series of papers with which Weydemeyer was connected.

He continually sought to effect a rapprochement between the more advanced German labor movement in the United States and the English-speaking workers.

Intervening constantly in national matters of interest to the working class, he wrote extensively on the tariff and slavery questions, participated in the opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska bill, organized workers’ militia for defense against the Know-Nothings, aided in the election of Lincoln, and during the Civil War served as the colonel of a Missouri infantry regiment.

Of particular interest in this biography (it is one of the few products of current Stalinist scholarship possessing value) is the portrayal of the efforts of Weydemeyer – as early as 1851! – to introduce Marxism into the American scene. This thorny problem is still with us.

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