Liebknecht, Wilhelm vĭl´hĕlm lēp´kənĕkht [key], 1826–1900, German socialist leader and journalist. His participation in the revolution in Germany in 1848–49 forced him into exile, and he lived in England until 1862. While there he became associated with Karl Marx. Although greatly influenced by Marx, he disagreed with him on many fundamental principles of socialism. Upon his return to Germany, Liebknecht initially joined the socialist group founded by Ferdinand Lassalle. Shortly afterward he broke with the Lassalleans because of doctrinal differences, and in 1869 with his disciple August Bebel, he formed the Social Democratic Labor party. For several years the two groups conflicted, but in 1875 they merged as the Socialist Labor party. As a member of the North German Reichstag, Liebknecht, a confirmed pacifist, voted against extending war credits for the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). He incurred the enmity of Otto von Bismarck, was convicted of treason, and with Bebel spent two years in prison (1872–74). Elected to the Reichstag in 1874, he was a member at his death. He wrote many books on historical and social topics and edited several socialist newspapers.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: German History: Biographies