August Bebel

On this date in 1840, Ferdinand August Bebel, German politician and social reformer, was born in Cologne. As a young man he settled in Leipzig, the hub of German political activity, and became active with the radical Gewerblicher Bildungsverein (Industrial Educational Association). He studied Marx and Engels and other prominent figures in economic and social history. Bebel developed a reputation as a powerful speaker and was elected to the North German Constituent Reichstag in 1867, representing the Saxon People’s Party.

He believed less in revolution to effect social change and more in reforming existing political and social structures. Bebel believed women were enslaved through social institutions such as marriage, and his popular tract “Women and Socialism” (1897) advanced that idea. He co-founded the German Social Democratic Party in 1869, and by the time he died at age 73, his tract had been widely distributed and had been read at the Second International in Paris in 1889.

In his 1888 history of German socialism, British author William Harbutt Dawson wrote, “[Bebel] is without religion, and he is never tired of parading the fact, even having himself described in the Parliamentary Almanacs as ‘religionless.’ ” (D. 1913)

Freedom From Religion Foundation