General German Workers' Association

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General German
Workers' Association

Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiter-Verein
Founder Ferdinand Lassalle
Founded 23 May 1869;149 years ago (23 May 1869)
Dissolved 1875;143 years ago (1875)
Succeeded by Social Democratic Party of Germany
Headquarters Berlin
Lipsia (since 1868)
NewspaperDer Sozial-Demokrat
Der Agitator
Neuer Social-Demokrat
Membership 15,000
Ideology Social democracy
Political position Left-wing
Colors     Red

The General German Workers' Association (German : Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiter-Verein, ADAV) was a German political party founded on 23 May 1863 in Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony by Ferdinand Lassalle.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Leipzig Place in Saxony, Germany

Leipzig is the most populous city in the federal state of Saxony, Germany. With a population of 581,980 inhabitants as of 2017, it is Germany's tenth most populous city. Leipzig is located about 160 kilometres (99 mi) southwest of Berlin at the confluence of the White Elster, Pleiße and Parthe rivers at the southern end of the North German Plain.

Kingdom of Saxony former German state

The Kingdom of Saxony, lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. The kingdom was formed from the Electorate of Saxony. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War I and the abdication of King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. Its capital was the city of Dresden, and its modern successor state is the Free State of Saxony.


The organization existed by this name until 1875, when it combined with the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany (SDAP) to form the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany. This unified organization was renamed soon thereafter the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which presently remains in existence and dates its origins to the founding of the ADAV.

The Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany was a Marxist socialist political party in the North German Confederation during the period of unification. Founded in Eisenach in 1869, the SDAP endured through the early years of the German Empire. Often termed the Eisenachers, the SDAP was one of the first political organizations established among the nascent German labor unions of the 19th century. It officially existed under the name SDAP for only six years (1869–1875), but through name changes and political partnerships its lineage can be traced to the present-day Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

Social Democratic Party of Germany political party in Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany.

The ADAV was the first German Labour Party, formed in Prussia prior to the establishment of the German Empire. Its members were known colloquially throughout Germany as Lassalleans.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Organizational history


Ferdinand Lassalle, founder of the ADAV Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R66693, Ferdinand Lassalle.jpg
Ferdinand Lassalle, founder of the ADAV

The ADAV was founded in Leipzig by Ferdinand Lassalle and twelve delegates from some of the most important cities in Germany, namely Barmen, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Elberfeld, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Harburg, Cologne, Leipzig, Mainz and Solingen.

Ferdinand Lassalle German jurist, socialist

Ferdinand Lassalle, born as Ferdinand Johann Gottlieb Lassal was a Prussian-German jurist, philosopher, socialist, and political activist. Lassalle is best remembered as the initiator of national-style socialism in Germany. He coined the terms "night-watchman state" and "iron law of wages".

Barmen former city in eastern Rhineland, Germany

Barmen is a former industrial metropolis of the region of Bergisches Land, Germany, which merged with four other towns in 1929 to form the city of Wuppertal. Barmen, together with the neighbouring town of Elberfeld founded the first electric suspended monorail tramway system, the Schwebebahn floating tram. Barmen was a pioneering centre for both the early industrial revolution on the European mainland, and for the socialist movement and its theory. It was the location of one of the first concentration camps in Nazi Germany, KZ Wuppertal-Barmen, later better known as Kemna concentration camp.

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city and, after Leipzig, the second-largest city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the border with the Czech Republic.

The ADAV sought to advance the interests of the working class and to work for the establishment of socialism by the use of electoral politics. [1] Lassalle acted as president from 23 May 1863 until his death in a duel on 31 August 1864.

Working class those employed in lower tier jobs

The working class comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. Working-class occupations include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

Duel arranged engagement in combat between two individuals

A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two people, with matched weapons, in accordance with agreed-upon rules. Duels in this form were chiefly practiced in early modern Europe with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among military officers.

The unofficial organ of the ADAV was the newspaper Der Sozial-Demokrat (The Social Democrat), [1] launching publication in Berlin on 15 December 1864. [2] The publication initially won promises of editorial contributions from the radical exiles Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, but the pair soon disfavored the notion owing to the allegiance of the Sozial-Demokrat and the ADAV to the memory and ideas of their nemesis Lassalle. [3]

Karl Marx Revolutionary socialist

Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.


Lassalle had been expecting many thousands to become members of the association, but by 1864 there were only 4,600 and merging with the SDAP was the best option to gain influence. The ADAV was in part financially assisted by funds obtained by Lassalle through his personal relations.

The ADAV had its first congress, called a General Assembly, in Düsseldorf on 27 December 1864. [4] Marx and his associates had hoped that this gathering would cause the organization to join the newly established International Workingmen's Association (First International), which they helped manage, but the gathering did not discuss affiliation, further disaffecting Marx from the group. [4]

Wilhelm Liebknecht was a member until 1865, but as the ADAV tried to cooperate with Otto von Bismarck's government, for example on the question of women's suffrage, Liebknecht became disillusioned with the association. He had been writing for Der Sozial-Demokrat, but as a result of disagreement with the newspaper's Prussia-friendly rhetoric he quit the organization to establish the Saxon People's Party along with August Bebel. In 1869, Liebknecht became a co-founder of the SDAP in Eisenach as a branch of the International Workingmen's Association.

Liebknecht was to meet again with his old ADAV colleagues as the lack of support for the ADAV caused them to join forces with Liebknecht's SDAP in 1875.

Merger and legacy

Together with the SDAP, the ADAV formed the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany at the Socialist Unity Conference in Gotha. The manifesto of the new organization was the Gotha Program, which urged "universal, equal, direct suffrage".

In 1890, the party was renamed the Social Democratic Party of Germany and it still exists under this name. The SDP now dates its origins to the founding of the ADAV and celebrated its 150th anniversary in the spring of 2013. [5]


  1. 1 2 Tom Goyens (2007). Beer and Revolution: The German Anarchist Movement in New York City, 1880-1914. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 65.
  2. Vladimir Sazonov (1987). Footnotes to Marx-Engels Collected Works: Volume 42: Marx and Engels, 1864-68. New York: International Publishers. p. 599. fn. 80.
  3. Karl Marx in London to Carl Siebel in Elberfeld. Marx-Engels Collected Works: Volume 42. p. 58.
  4. 1 2 Sazonov. Footnotes to Marx-Engels Collected Works: Volume 42. p. 599, fn. 82.
  5. Peter Schwarz (23 May 2013). "The SPD Celebrates its 150th Anniversary". World Socialist Web Site.


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