Friedrich Sorge

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Friedrich Sorge
Friedrich Adolph Sorge.gif
Friedrich Adolph Sorge
Born (1828-11-09)9 November 1828
Bethau, Germany
Died 26 October 1906(1906-10-26) (aged 77)
Hoboken, New Jersey
Nationality German, American
Occupation Labor leader

Friedrich Adolph Sorge (9 November 1828- 26 October 1906) was a German communist who emigrated to the United States, where he played an important role in the labor movement.

Early years[edit]

Friedrich Adolph Sorge was born on 9 November 1828 in Bethau, Saxony, Germany, son of the Reverend Georg Sorge and Hedwig Lange.[1] His father was a free-thinking parson, and often gave shelter to Polish revolutionaries travelling from France and Belgium to Poland.[2] He was 19 when the revolutions of 1848 in the German states began. He joined a group of armed revolutionaries in Saxony, but they were quickly suppressed by Pomeranian troops and Sorge was forced to take refuge in Switzerland. He returned to Germany and joined the Karlsruhe Freikorp. His unit fought the Prussians in Baden and the Palatinate, losing both times. In June 1849 Sorge again took refuge in Switzerland.[3]

Sorge was condemned to death in Germany for his role in the revolution. In 1851 he was expelled by the Swiss and moved to Belgium. In March 1852 he was expelled from Belgium and moved to London, where he caught cholera. After recovering he boarded a ship for New York, arriving in June 1852.[3] He became a music teacher, married and settled in Hoboken, New Jersey.[1] In 1857 he joined Albert Komp and Fritz Jacobi in forming the New York Communist Club, which was an educational society involved in the antislavery movement.[4][3]

Socialist leader[edit]

Sorge became an active socialist in 1865, after the end of the American Civil War, and soon became the leading proponent of Karl Marx's views in the United States.[1] In December 1869 he founded Section I of New York of the International Workingmen's Association (IWMA, often called the First International), with 46 members. In December 1870 he established the Central Committee of the North American IWMA. In September 1871 Section I of the IWMA organized a demonstration of 20,000 workers, including black workers, demanding an eight-hour day and supporting the Paris Commune.[5]

From 1872 to 1874 Sorge was general secretary of the First International's worldwide organization.[1] His appointment followed the split between Marx and the anarchists led by Mikhail Bakunin, and a decision in September 1872 by the Hague Congress to transfer the IWA General Council to New York. While he was secretary the IWMA continued to decline in both America and Europe.[6]

In 1877 Sorge led a Marxist-oriented group in Newark that founded the Socialist Labor Party of America. Joseph Patrick McDonnell, editor of the New York Labor Standard gave significant assistance to Sorge. Sorge and McDonnell organized a textile strike in Paterson, New Jersey in 1878.[7] The party, following a European Marxist line, did not succeed in gaining much support, since most workers looked to the mainstream political parties to support their goals.[7] Sorge organized the International Labor Union of Hoboken in 1883.[1]

Later years[edit]

Sorge and Marx corresponded regularly from the 1860s until Marx died in 1883.[3] Friedrich Engels visited Sorge in Hoboken in 1888, after Sorge had retired from politics. Sorge contributed articles to the German Marxist journal Die Neue Zeit from 1891 to 1895, discussing the history of socialism in the United States.[1] According to Edward Aveling, Sorge was "one who was, perhaps, of all men the closest intimate in the later years of both Marx and Engels." Susan Perlman called him the father of modern socialism in America.[8]

Sorge continued to teach music into his old age.[1] He died on 26 October 1906 in Hoboken, New Jersey.[1] The Soviet spy Richard Sorge was his grandnephew.[9]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Moreno 2004, p. 757.
  2. ^ Mehring 2003, p. 302.
  3. ^ a b c d Friedrich Sorge Biography.
  4. ^ Ernst, Robert (1994). Immigrant Life in New York City, 1825-1863. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. p. 119. 
  5. ^ Gaido 2006, p. 101.
  6. ^ Gaido 2006, p. 102.
  7. ^ a b Hogarty 2001, p. 46.
  8. ^ Marx, Engels & Lapides 1990, p. 209.
  9. ^ Whymant 2007, p. 13.