Lassalle (Lassal), Ferdinand

(1825–64)
   German socialist leader. Lassalle acquired a belief in democracy and socialism while still in his twenties, and played a small part in the uprising of 1848 for which he was imprisoned for six months. For a while he was associated with Karl MARX, but the attraction that the nationalist movements in Italy and the Balkans held for him, and of which Marx disapproved, drew them apart.
   His main period of political activity was in the last years of his life when he agitated for universal suffrage and a kind of state socialism. Lassalle hoped that if the workers had the vote they would elect a government that would set up producers’ co-operatives. In May 1863 he set up the General German Workers’ Association, the nucleus of the future German Social Democratic Party. He is remembered as the founder of social democracy, because his activity inspired the setting-up of socialist parties in other West European countries. Lassalle was a brilliant lawyer and agitator, and something of a roué and a dandy. He was killed at the height of his political successes in a duel fought over a woman whom he hoped to marry.
   In his teens, Lassalle confided to his diary his dream of leading the Jews to vengeance for the Damascus Affair (see Moses MONTEFIORE) of 1840. He was for a while an adherent of the Reform movement, to which his father belonged. But he became estranged from Jewish matters and wrote in 1860 that he hated Jews in general and had hardly one Jewish friend. He was often attacked in anti-Semitic terms, especially by Engels, friend and collaborator of Karl Marx, who detested Lassalle.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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