Karl Theodor Ferdinand Grün (German: [ˈkaʁl ˈɡʁyːn]; 30 September 1817 – 18 February 1887), also known by his alias Ernst von der Haide, was a German journalist, philosopher, political theorist and socialist politician. He played a prominent role in radical political movements leading up to the Revolution of 1848 and participated in the revolution. He was an associate of Heinrich Heine, Ludwig Feuerbach, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin and other radical political figures of the era.[1]

Although less widely known today, Grün was an important figure in the German Vormärz, Young Hegelian philosophy and the democratic and socialist movements in nineteenth-century Germany. As a target of Marx's criticism, Grün played a role in the development of early Marxism. Through his philosophical influence on Proudhon, he had a certain influence on the development of French socialist theory.

Young Hegelianism, 'True Socialism' and early activism

Karl Theodor Ferdinand Grün was born in Lüdenscheid, a Westphalian town then under Prussian control. His father was a schoolmaster. His younger brother, Albert Grün [de], was a poet who later gained some notoriety for his role in the Revolution of 1848–49. While a secondary student at Wetzlar, Grün became involved in radical political activism, helping produce and distribute illegal democratic pamphlets. From 1835 to 1838 he studied philology and theology at the University of Bonn and philology and philosophy at the University of Berlin, where he completed a doctorate. One of Grün's fellow students was Karl Marx. Grün and Marx frequented the radical philosophical circles of the Young Hegelians and were strongly influenced by the 'humanistic materialism' of Ludwig Feuerbach. Marx's rivalry with Grün subsequently led to a personal breach between them. Grün was also strongly influenced by contemporary French socialist theories, combining them with Young Hegelian and Feuerbachian philosophy and democratic politics. He was associated with the group of 'True Socialists' around Moses Hess, a Young Hegelian philosopher and forerunner of labour Zionism. (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels sharply criticized the 'True Socialists' as utopian crypto-idealists.[2]) Grün was also acquainted with several figures of the Vormärz period—the period of radical political ferment leading up to the abortive March Revolution of 1848—such as Arnold Ruge, Bruno Bauer, Heinrich Heine, Georg Herwegh and others.

Grün argued that humans are material beings who are by nature social and need the community of others to survive. From Feuerbach he adopted the thesis that the idea of God is merely an alienated representation of human sociality or 'species being', reflecting the alienating and unjust character of actual human social conditions. Unlike Feuerbach, whose socialism was largely passive, Grün called for a 'philosophy of action', because the spiritual alienation of humanity in religion can only be overcome if the political-economic alienation of human beings from each other in society is overcome by means of revolutionary action. Like many Young Hegelians, Grün saw as parallel and complementary the development of socialist theory in France and the revolution of critical philosophy in Germany. Grün followed Hess and the 'True Socialists' in claiming that the struggle for human emancipation could not be successful unless critical philosophy became socialist and socialism were infused with philosophical criticism. (Marx came to reject this view as giving undue priority to ideology over material substructure.)[3]

Grün returned to Germany in 1842. His radical journalism, advocating democracy and professing republican and socialist sympathies, and his known association with radical political circles, made an academic career impossible. The University of Marburg even refused to have Grün as a post-doctoral student, and the Prussian authorities placed him on a list of 'political criminals'. He was expelled from several German states and lived in a number of cities over the next few years (most extensively in Cologne), supporting himself by means of journalism, giving lectures on literary topics and working as a school teacher. In democratic circles he enjoyed a certain celebrity. He contributed to, and edited, a number of radical publications, including the newspaper Der Sprecher ('The Speaker') and the monthly journal Bielefelder Monatsschrift. Many of these publications were eventually outlawed by the authorities. In 1843, Grün (along with Marx, Hess and others) participated in the controversy over Bruno Bauer's essay 'The Jewish Question', which opposed civil rights for Jews. Grün rejected Bauer's position.

Exile, revolution, exile

Karl Grün's younger brother Albert Grün also played

Karl Grün's younger brother Albert Grün also played a role in the democratic and socialist circles of the 1830s and 1840s.

Albert Grün was born in Lüdenscheid on May 31, 1822. He became politically active as early as 1836, at the age of 14. Under the influence of his brother Karl, Albert Grün became involved in illegal democratic circles, associated with the Young Hegelians and absorbed the philosophy of Feuerbach and the doctrines of the French socialists, Fourier, Proudhon, etc. He cont

Albert Grün was born in Lüdenscheid on May 31, 1822. He became politically active as early as 1836, at the age of 14. Under the influence of his brother Karl, Albert Grün became involved in illegal democratic circles, associated with the Young Hegelians and absorbed the philosophy of Feuerbach and the doctrines of the French socialists, Fourier, Proudhon, etc. He contributed to several radical publications and in 1846 was condemned for lèse majesté. He escaped to Brussels, where he gave lectures on modern drama.

During the 1848 revolution he returned to Germany. In Berlin he organized one of the earliest German labour unions, the 'Machine Builders' Association'. In 1849 Albert Grün played a role in the revolutionary Provisional Government of Saxony and in the armed uprisings in the Palatinate and in Baden. He was sentenced to death for his role in the Badensian revolution but escaped to the Alsatian capital of Strasbourg, France. There he gave lectures on literature and worked as a school teacher. Although Grün received an amnesty in the 1860s, he remained in Strasbourg. In 1871, as a result of the Franco-Prussian War, Germany annexed Alsace, but Grün was not molested.

Grün continued to work as a teacher and tutor in various capacities. He was a member of the General Association for the German Language and worked for a reconciliation of the French and German nations. He also supported the German Social-Democratic party. Albert Grün published a variety of books on historical, political and literary topics. He died in Strasbourg on April 22, 1904.

Karl Grün's major works have so far not been translated into English, although some of his articles have been included in various anthologies of Young Hegelian writings. His publications in German include:

  • 1843: Die Judenfrage. Gegen Bruno Bauer. [The Jewish Question. Against Bruno Bauer.]
  • 1844: Friedrich Schiller als Mensch, Geschichtschreiber, Denker und Dichter. [Friedrich Schiller as Man, Historian, Philosopher and Poet.]
  • 1845: Die soziale Bewegung in Frankreich und Belgi

    A selection of his writings in German has been published, with a philosophical introduction, by Manuela Köppe:

    • Grün, K., Ausgewählte Schriften in zwei Bänden. Ed. M. Köppe. Berlin, 2005.

    Works of Albert Grün

    Albert Grün's writings are generally not available in English either. His writings in German include:

    • 1846: Offener Brief an die Bonner Studenten. [Open Letter to the Students of Bonn.]
    • 1849: Das Frankfurter Vorparlament und seine Wurzeln in Frankreich und Deutschland. [The Pre-Parliament of Frankfurt and its Roots in France and Germany.]
    • 1851: Deutsche Flüchtlinge. Zeitbild. [German Refugees. An Image of the Times.]
    • 1856: Goethe's Faust.
    • 1856: Das ABC der Ästhetik. Fünf Vorlesungen. [The ABC of Aesthetics. Five Lectures.]
    • 1859: Aus der Verbannung. Gedichte. [From Exile. Poems.]


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