Marx and the Utopian Wilhelm Weitling (1948)

by cominsitu

WilhelmWeitling

by Hans Mühlestein, Science & Society, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Winter, 1948), pp. 113-129

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The most important proletarian representative of “equalitarian communism” in the earlier nineteenth century was undoubtedly the tailor Wilhelm Weitling, who was born in 1808, the illegitimate son of a French officer of the Napoleonic army of occupation and a working girl of Magdeburg. Weitling’s relative historical importance was that, along with Auguste Blanqui, he represented the most active element of the revolutionary tendency of the continental proletariat throughout the first period of his life; that is, until the first communist trial in Zurich, in 1843. At that time he was a leader in that phase of the proletarian movement which developed immediately before the first published works of Marx and Engels. If he has a place in history, it is because he was the first real proletarian (besides the weak Pierre Leroux) who proved to be a revolutionary writer, and the only proletarian who ever built a consistent and complete Utopian system of communism. Etienne Cabet, his contemporary Utopian, had been general procurator of Corsica and advocate at the royal court, and was certainly not a proletarian.