Red Banners, Books and Beer Mugs: The Mental World of German Social Democrats, 1863–1914


The German Social Democratic Party was the world’s first million-strong political party and was the main force pushing for the democratisation of Imperial Germany before the First World War. This book examines the themes around which the party organized its mainly working-class membership, and analyses the experiences and outlook of rank-and-file party members as well as the party’s press and publications. Key themes include: the Lassalle cult and leadership, nationalism and internationalism, attitudes to work, the politics of subsistence, the effects of military service, reading and the diffusion of Marx’s ideas, cultural organisations, and socialism and republicanism under the Imperial German state. Before 1914, the party successfully simultaneously addressed workers’ everyday concerns while offering the prospect of a better future.

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Andrew G. Bonnell, Ph.D. (1994, University of Sydney) is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Queensland. His publications include The People’s Stage in Imperial Germany (I.B.Tauris, 2005), Shylock in Germany (I.B.Tauris, 2008), and numerous articles on German history.
"... we should thank Bonnell for bringing to light such important and relevant lessons from the history of socialism in Germany, which should be carefully studied by all those interested in applying Marxist theory to actual revolutionary political practice."
-- Daniel Gaido, in: Marx & Philosophy Review of Books (2021) [Full review]

“In an era of fracturing societies and elite skepticism of ordinary people, Bonnell’s history points to the possibility of solidarity, intelligence, and strength among ordinary workers. When the scholarly winds change and labor history again becomes popular, Bonnell’s expert study will be waiting for a future graduate student to pick up as they embark on their own path-breaking study of Europe’s working class and its past.”
-- James McSpadden, University of Nevada, Reno, in: EuropeNow (2021) [Full review]


1 Ideology, Leadership, and Party Culture: The Lassalle Cult in German Social Democracy

2 Between Internationalism, Nationalism and Particularism: From the War of 1870–71 to the July Crisis, 1914

3 Attitudes to Labour in the German Social Democratic Party in the Kaiserreich

4 Social Democracy and the Price of Bread: The Politics of Subsistence in Imperial Germany

5 Reds in the Ranks: Social Democrats in the Kaiser’s Army

6 Reading Marx

7 Workers and Cultural Activities: Culture, Sociability, Organisation

8 Socialism and Republicanism in Imperial Germany


Students and researchers in Imperial German history, but also of interest to a wider readership interested in labour history and the history of workers’ movements.
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