Research Unit Politics

A Labour Man in Berlin –

Richard Löwenthal and the Social Democratic Party of West Germany (SPD)

This dissertation focuses on Richard Löwenthal, an important intellectual of the German labor movement, who has however largely been forgotten today. Born to a Jewish family in Berlin in 1908, he became a communist in 1926 but left the Communist Party as early as 1929. In the 1930s Löwenthal was forced to go into exile to London, where he entered into an intensive exchange with leading representatives of the British Labour movement. In 1947 he returned to Germany, where he made a lasting impression on the development of German social democracy regarding its orientation towards the West. The aim of the project is to examine Löwenthal's participation in the process of Westernizing the SPD through selected aspects of his political commitment. The focus is therefore on Löwenthal's political orientation in relation to the debates of the labor movement and the German public and how this reflects the influence of his years in exile and how this influence corresponds with the developments of German social democracy. The research project assumes that Löwenthal's biographical and political transformation went hand in hand with a fundamental ideological transformation. The hypothesis to be examined is that Löwenthal, in his British exile, essentially broke with some of the ideologues typical of the German labor movement. At the same time, there was a convergence with the ideas of the British Labour movement. Löwenthal's commitment to the SPD, but even more his critical interventions, can only be understood against the background of this change.

This dissertation project is part of the research group »A New History of the Labor and Union Movement« funded by the Hans Böckler Foundation.