The Utopian Communist: A Biography of Wilhelm Weitling

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HERE were many varieties of radicals, reformers, and
intellectuals among the German Forty-eighters who
migrated to the United States in the middle of the last
century. Some, like Carl Schurz, the best known of this group
of German liberals, became completely adjusted to the American
scene and rose to positions of eminence and trust in their adopted
fatherland. Others, like Karl Heinzen, represented the militant,
uncompromising radicals who remained the same irrepressible
crusaders in America which they had been in Europe, were never
completely at home in the United States, but nevertheless played
an important role in many of the reforms of their time.
Wilhelm Weitling, also a Forty-eighter, belonged to the ex­
treme left wing of the German immigration. A simple artisan,
entirely self-educated, he had won fame in the radical movement
of Europe long before he migrated to the United States. His
books and his propaganda for a communist Utopia were known
in western Europe before Karl Marx leaped into prominence
with his Communist Manifesto and became the outstanding
spokesman of proletarian revolution.
Weitling belonged to the working class. He was not a uni­
versity man and he knew the sufferings of the poor from per­
sonal experience. He served a jail sentence in Switzerland be­
cause of his convictions. He was one of the most important fig­
ures in the history of pre-Marxian socialism. His philosophy of
history and his brand of communism were very different from
Marx's doctrines of economic determinism and the inevitability
of the proletarian revolution, for Weitling, though an agnostic
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