Bebel, August

Bebel, August ouˈgo͝ost bāˈbəl [key], 1840–1913, German Socialist leader. A wood turner by trade, he became a Marxian Socialist under the influence of Wilhelm Liebknecht. At a congress at Eisenach (1869) he was instrumental in founding the German Social Democratic party, which he later represented in the Reichstag and which he led for many years. His antimilitarism and his social program earned him the hatred of Bismarck. In 1872, Bebel and Liebknecht, tried on charges of treason, were sentenced to two years' imprisonment, but this only solidified Bebel's control over the Social Democrats, and he was reelected to the Reichstag. In 1875 he helped to unite the Lassalle group with the Social Democrats. A moderate Marxist, he opposed either violent retaliation against repression or the gradualist, evolutionary socialism of Eduard Bernstein, condemning all deviation (right and left) at the Dresden Congress of 1903. By 1912 the Social Democrats, embodied by Bebel, were the largest German political party. Among his writings are Women and Socialism (1883, tr. 1910), which was highly influential among German workers, and his autobiography (1910–14, abr. tr. 1912, repr. 1973).

See biography by E. Schraepler (1966).

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