[Marxism] George Weerth and Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 16 12:34:36 MST 2004

(Another reader of Marxmail asked last week about
George Weerth. I'd never heard the name myself but
found a section on him in one of the books about
Germany and Cuba which were published here telling
of the historical links between Germany and Cuba.

(From the book Germans in Cuba, 17th-19th Centuries,
by Rolando Alvarez Estevez and Marta Guzman Pascual
Ciences Sociales, 2004, translated from Spanish by
Damian Donestevez.)

XIV. Georg Weerth and Cuba

One of the most outstanding figures in XIX century German
literary and political thinking was, without a doubt, Georg
Weerth, considered by Federico Engels "the first and most
important poet of the German working class," who died in
Havana on July 30, 1856.

In 1974, outstanding Cuban intellectual Juan Marinello
Vidaurreta, who was a true expert in the life of Weerth,
wrote: "it is time for our people to know the revolutionary
poems of Marx's and Engels' great friend, his criticism of
the bourgeoisie of his time, filled with burlesque grace,
and, mainly, his image of Latin America and Cuba."

The antecedents of this appeal by Marinello can be found in
the rallies held in July of 1963, on the occasion of the
one hundred seventh anniversary of Weerth's death. At that
time and as an initiative by the University of Havana, a
plaque in homage to such an outstanding personality was
unveiled in the remains of what used to be Espada Cemetery.

Weerth, born in Detmold, on February 17, 1822, released his
first poems when he was 12 years old. He shared his
literary concerns with Ferdinand Freiligrath and with
Herrman Puttman. He eagerly read Balzac and George Sand
and, with the passage of time, became Karl Marx's close
collaborator. He would be the one who propitiated the
friendship between Heine and Weerth.

Weerth stood out as the cultivator of a progressive
literature that showed social problems, and on June 1,
1848, when the New Rhineland Gazette started circulating,
he was already among its main collaborators, given his vast

He was put in jail for three months and lost his civil
rights for five years due to his work about gentleman
Schnapphahnski, published by Heine as his editor in 1849.
Later, he decided not to continue his literary life and
began working as a merchant.

Weerth was in Cuba on two occasions, the first one being in
1853. He was so impressed by Havana that he wrote:

It is as large as Berlin, Brussels and Lyon and partially
resembles Paris; the more I know Havana and the Island of
Cuba, the more I like them. Rio de Janeiro, Lima and Havana
are the most beautiful cities I have seen in the Americas,
but Havana is the queen of the three.

When his stay in the colony's capital finished, he went to
Argentina, where he wrote to Heine: "I believe that Havana
-impressively predicting what would happen later- will be
the ground where the great conflicts of the New World will
be solved" , meaning Cuba's three wars of independence
against Spanish rule between 1868 and 1898, and the
imperialist intervention of the United States in the
Cuban-Spanish War.

Outstanding forseer of the future of the Americas, as Juan
Marinello called him, on October 2, 1855, when he was in
Detmold, his city of birth, he wrote to his fiance, Betty

I will give up my frantic wandering around the Americas
and concentrate all my efforts in Havana. There I am
earning a minimum that is as much as a Prussian general's
or minister's income , and I believe that it will be
possible for me to make a fortune in ten years and then go
back to Europe.

Before, Marx and Weerth coincided for the last time at the
home of Engels in Germany on June 16, 1855.

Weerth's return to Cuba took place at the beginning of 1856
and although his immediate interest was to become a
prosperous merchant, he didn't stop denouncing, by means of
friends such as Wilhelm Wolf, the injustices of slavery.

With the interest of enjoying Easter, he traveled from
Havana to Santiago de Cuba, where he attended the concerts
of the Philharmonic Orchestra, and took advantage of his
long stay to do business in the sugar industry.

On the eve of his return to Havana, he wrote to his mother
on July 18, 1856:

Tomorrow I will be on my way back to Havana as four months
ago, where I hope to arrive the twenty-third. I will likely
not have to take any trip and stay in Havana until November
or December.

Due to the above mentioned, we assume that Weerth had
established attractive and important relations in the sugar
trade. His friendships grew, so we perceive that he wanted
to select Havana as a certain base of operations for his
trips and businesses in the Caribbean. He was consistent
with his desires: never more he would return to Europe.

The journey by sea between Santiago de Cuba and Havana
would be his last trip, since he died of yellow fever.

The first Marxist poet was 34 years old at that time,
leaving for history, German culture and the world, his
enormous literary work and exemplary life, dedicated to the
cause of the international working class movement, as one
of the most beautiful and pure legacies.

When commenting Weerth's death in Havana, Karl Marx said to
Engels on September 22, 1856: "The news of Weerth's death
terribly affected me and I found it difficult to believe

The mortal remains of the man who loved Cuba so much and in
such a short time rested, as of that moment, in the
cemetery founded by Juan José Díaz de Espada, Bishop-elect
of Havana on January 1º, 1800.

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