Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lucy Parsons was engaged to marry Eduard Bernstein, leading German socialist, in 1888

Well this is rather interesting. Though I have never seen it mentioned in any biography of Lucy Parsons anywhere, according to this article (see image and link below) from the Chicago Daily Tribune, dated 11 December 1888, Parsons had at least temporarily been engaged to marry Eduard Bernstein, the famous German socialist.

Though Parsons only mentions her "future husband's" last name in the article (" ... a gentleman named Bernstein ... "), everything else checks out. Parsons had gone on a speaking tour in London in 1888 alongside Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist, and William Morris, the British Marxist and friend of Frederick Engels. Bernstein had coincidentally also arrived in London that year, having been exiled from Germany, by way of Zurich, Switzerland. At this time, Bernstein was indeed editor of the Social Democrat -- as indicated by Parsons in the article below -- which was the leading newspaper of the German Social Democratic Party.

It seems quite likely that Parsons would have met Bernstein through William Morris, as the two men shared a common close friendship with Frederick Engels.

Among other things, I think this historical relationship is interesting because it would appear to buttress a theory of mine regarding Lucy Parsons. Namely, that her anarchism was more or less synonymous with socialism of the revolutionary, Marxist, variety. Or rather, at the very least, that she did not see a rigid bifurcation between her vision of anarchism and that of revolutionary socialism or Marxism. (For more on this, see

In 1888, Bernstein was a leading figure within the German Social Democratic Party, a close friend of Engels, and was internationally recognized as an unambiguous advocate of orthodox Marxism. [It was not until the mid-to-late 1890s that Bernstein would advance a "revisionist" (essentially reformist) version of Marxism, which he called "evolutionary socialism."]

Of course, I in no way want to advance the idea that any individual's politics can be judged exclusively by that of their spouse, partner, lover, etc. Parsons I'm sure disagreed with Bernstein on many issues regarding the politics of working class revolution. Nonetheless, it is a significant historical fact that only one year after the execution of her former husband, Albert Parsons, the internationally famous anarchist/socialist, she became engaged to one of the then-leading lights of international Marxism.

Indeed, one can see even from the very same article in question that there is no contradiction in Parsons' mind when she speaks of the revolutionary movement in England, in one breath, as advancing the "cause of Socialism", and in the next breath, as advancing "Anarchistic questions."

To read more about the life, politics, and legacy of Lucy Parsons, see

PDF of article available at

1 comment: