Leipart, Theodor

(1867-1947)
   labor leader; chairman of the General German Trade-Union Federation (ADGB). Born to a tailor's family in Neu-brandenburg, he apprenticed as a lathe operator and joined both the trade-union* movement and the SPD early in his career. In 1890 he became editor of Fachzeitung fur Drechsler (the shop newspaper* for lathe operators) and then succeeded his friend Carl Legien* in 1891 as head of the lathe operators' union. Enlarged and reorganized in 1893, the new woodworkers' union appointed him vice chairman; he was chairman during 1908-1919. Secretary of the International League of Woodworkers Unions during 1904-1919, he combined politics with his union activity and served during 1894-1896 with the central committee of the SPD local in Stuttgart. After the November Revolution* he sat with the Mahlberg city council and from late 1919 was Wurttemberg's Labor Minister. But he was principally a labor leader. He was the chief confidant of Legien and became chairman of the ADGB in January 1921, shortly after Legien's death. The International Trade-Union Federation appointed him vice president the same year.
   During the inflation* crisis of 1922-1923 ADGB membership, swollen in the aftermath of the war, dissipated as scores of workers joined the KPD. Mean-while, the Central Working Association,* an experiment in organized capitalism fashioned during the Armistice,* began to unravel. With industrialists, especially in coal and steel, reasserting an irreconcilable position vis-a-vis the unions, Lei-part found himself attacked from the Left by Communists seeking the removal of capitalism while he was ignored on the Right by reactionary employers.
   As ADGB chairman, Leipart worked to integrate opposing groups and de-velop economic democracy (Wirtschaftsdemokratie). Unsuited to confrontation, he sought compromise in the turmoil of the 1920s. Although he was successful through 1923, he faced numerous obstacles after the inflation and failed entirely when faced with the depression* and the incendiary tactics of the NSDAP. He saw no alternative to tolerating the economic austerity of Heinrich Brüning* (a course encouraged by the SPD), but his analysis simply encouraged further loss in union membership. He finally clashed with SPD policy when, beginning in December 1931, he championed Fritz Tarnow's* call for public works projects. Surprisingly cautious when Franz von Papen* deposed the SPD government in Prussia,* he seemed beguiled by Kurt von Schleicher, a "wise and decent" fellow.
   With Hitler,* Leipart proposed political neutrality with the maxim "Organi-zation, not demonstration, is the imperative of the hour." But Hitler was not appeased: on 2 May 1933 the NSDAP dissolved the ADGB, and Leipart was briefly imprisoned. A broken man who never established contact with the resis-tance, he spent most of the Third Reich undisturbed in his Berlin home. He lived in East Berlin after World War II.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Braunthal, Socialist Labor and Politics; John Moses, Trade Unionism; NDB, vol. 14; Skrzypczak, "From Carl Legien."

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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