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Arnold Ruge

Arnold Ruge (1802-1880) belongs among that circle of left Hegelian political thinkers who drew political consequences from the teachings of the great philosopher. He was an active participant, since this circle concentrated on the dialectic of Hegel's teachings and proposed not only the political collapsed of the old feudal regime, but also generated ideas important for the development of socialism and democracy. In the 1830s, after serving his prison sentence for membership in a youth organization, he belonged among the leaders of the democratic movement, whose influence extended beyond Halle to Berlin, Paris, Dresden and Leipzig. Thus Ruge was among those who developed the political ideas of the Young Hegelians and thereby consistently concerned himself with the practical relevancy of theory and never lost sight of the relationship of the political movement with goal of changing actual conditions. Ruge's political aspiration was a bourgeois-democratic republic, whereby he substantially differed and ultimately broke from Karl Marx with whom he edited the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher. In the late summer of 1846 Ruge left Paris by way of Switzerland for Leipzig, where was a book store owner. Enthusiastically greeting the 1848 Parisian February revolution, he supported the unfolding of a revolution in Germany. In the beginning, before the founding of political parties, he could only espouse the literary-political circle formed around the Grenzboten until he joined the extreme left in Frankfurt (Donnersberg faction).

Ruge consistently held to democratic ideals, the principles which he avowed during the 1848 revolution, above all under the influence of the teaching of French social reformers and utopian socialists like Proudhon and Blanc. He included these in his work Die Gründung der Demokratie in Deutschland oder der Volksstaat und der sozialdemokratische Freistaat, in which he also advanced working class interests. Ruge called therein for "social democracy"- advocating the end of "work for wages" in all forms by creating associations with the help of the state, whereby all would share in ownership of property and receive the "full product of labor". During and also before the revolution Ruge actively supported this program politically.

Somewhat disappointed in Frankfurt, he later set his political hopes entirely on developments in Berlin, where he wished to make the center of the revolutionary movement. He proposed founding a radical democratic newspaper and wanted to move to Berlin. However he had to give up this plan, thus his new newspaper appeared under the name Die Reform in Ruge's publishing house in Leipzig. As member of the democratic association he developed radical democratic concepts. He prominently participated in editing the German radical democratic reform party's electoral manifest of April 16, 1848. Die Reform, which he published jointly with Heinrich Bernhard Oppenheim, ranked as the most radical publication of the bourgeois-democratic opposition. Ruge was the author of the first program of the Donnersberg faction. His political engagement for the democratic movement had great importance in the revolution.

In Die Reform he advocate a German republic, general disarmament, and a European league of peoples. His frequent absences from the Frankfurt parliament, caused by his many travels caused him to lose his mandate in November 1848. As a member of the committee for the Austrian-Slavic question he supported democratic humanism. For him this was the solution of the Polish question.

The strengthening of conservative powers brought not only the closing of his newspaper, Die Reform, but also his expulsion from Prussia. In Leipzig he took up a new role and supported the Dresden revolt of May 1849. After the suppression of the rising he escaped under the threat of arrest. Ruge's activity in the 1848-49 revolution is even today not comprehensively researched, but it was the high point of his life. The defeat of the revolution profoundly effected him. He had to leave Germany for the second time and settled in Brighton on the English southern coast. He was active during the first years following the revolution in the "European democratic committee" in London, where the leading figures in the political emigration including Ledru-Rollin and Mazzini attempted to coordinate the work of the bourgeois democratic opposition. Thereafter he was relatively inactive.
Helmut Reinalter translated by James Chastain


W. Essbach Die Junghegelianer Munich 1988.

H. Hübner "Arnold Ruge - Jünglingsbund, Junghegelianismus, 48er Demokratie," Burschenschaften und bügerliche Umwälzung Berlin, 1992, 129 ff.

R. Koch (ed.) Die Frankfurter Nationalversammlung 1848/49,Frankfurt/M. 1989.

K. Löwith (ed.) Die Hegelsche Linke Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1962.

W. Neher Arnold Ruge als Politiker und politischer Schriftsteller Heidelberg 1933.

H.and I. Pepperle (eds.), Die Hegelsche Linke Leipzig 1985.

I. Pepperle "Arnold Ruge - Junghegelianer und bü;rgerlicher Demokrat," Aufklärung-Vormärz-Revolution 48/9 (1988/89), 84 ff.

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