GHDI logo

The Socialists: Ferdinand Lassalle: Excerpt from "Open Letter" (1863)

In his famous "Open Letter in Response to the Central Committee for the Calling of a General German Workers' Congress in Leipzig" (1863), the influential socialist leader Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864) in effect publicized a new party program, calling for the founding of a socialist labor party to support not only workers' demands but also the causes of parliamentary government and democratic suffrage not honored by the liberals.

print version     return to document list previous document      first document in next chapter

page 1 of 5


In your letter you urge me to express to you, in any form that seems appropriate to me, my views on the labor movement and the means that it must employ in order to achieve an improvement in the situation of the working class* in a political, material, and intellectual respect, and also, in particular, [to give you my views] on the value of associations for the completely impecunious popular class.

I have no qualms about complying with your wish and shall choose the simplest, most obvious form (considering the nature of the matter), the form of a public missive and reply to your letter.

I shall simply remark that, as a result of my time being greatly absorbed at this moment by my important work, this letter must endeavor to obtain the greatest possible brevity, which incidentally corresponds to its actual purpose.

When, in October of last year, at which time I was absent from here, you held the first preparations in Berlin for the German Workers' Congress, which I followed with interest in publications in the newspapers, two opposing views were advanced in the assembly.

The one effectively said that you need not bother with the political movement at all, and that this was of no interest to you.

The other effectively said, by contrast, that you should view yourselves as an appendage of the Prussian Progressive Party, and serve as a selfless choir and soundboard for them.

If I had been present in the assembly at the time, I would have spoken out against both in equal measure.

first page < previous   |   next > last page