Levi, Paul

(1883-1930)
   politician; his short term as KPD chairman contrasts with his intellectual import to socialism. Born to a Jewish manufacturing family in Hechingen, he studied broadly (e.g., English statesmanship and Greek and Roman culture) before taking a doctorate in law in 1905. In 1906 he opened a legal practice in Frankfurt and gained a reputation as a solid attorney. Drawn to socialism as a youth, he joined the SPD in 1909. He became closely involved with Rosa Luxemburg* while serving as her attorney in a February 1914 trial; thereafter he remained within a circle of her closest adherents.
   During the war Levi joined the radical group known as the Gruppe Interna-tionale (Spartakusgruppe from 1916). He resigned from the SPD in 1917 to enter the new USPD. Relocating to Switzerland in 1916, he contributed to the Spartakusbriefe and became friends with Lenin. When the Spartacus League* was formed in November 1918, he entered its executive and became a Rote Fahne editor. Influential during the revolutionary period, he initially endorsed Lenin's model of socialism, but when the KPD was established in late December 1918 and he was elected a member of its Zentrale, he was in a minority calling for participation in the National Assembly* elections. The murders of Luxem-burg and Karl Liebknecht* in January 1919 and of Leo Jogiches in March propelled Levi to the Party chairmanship. After convincing reasonable cohorts to embrace parliamentary rule and cooperation with the trade unions,* he was elected to the Reichstag* with Clara Zetkin* in June 1920. However, he ac-cepted his mandate against strong opposition from Moscow. Although he was formally reelected KPD chairman in December 1920, differences with the Mos-cow-directed Comintern led him to resign the next month. He publicly criticized the new leadership, especially its "March Action" (attempted putsch) of 1921, and was soon expelled from the KPD altogether; fifteen of the twenty-six Com-munists in the Reichstag (most of whom had been elected with USPD mandates) joined him in the new Kommunistische Arbeitsgemeinschaft (Communist Alli-ance), a splinter group devoted to nonviolent change. Its adherents followed Levi into the USPD in the spring of 1922 and then into the SPD in October 1922.
   Elected to the Reichstag's SPD faction in 1924, Levi was widely respected for his legal writings and for his journal Sozialistische Politik und Wirtschaft (Socialist politics and economics). Sponsoring socialist unity, but demanding a labor movement free from Moscow's dictates, he used his periodical to espouse a true democratic socialism while opposing the growing threat from militarism and the reactionary Right. In 1929, while defending the journalist Josef Born-stein in a well-publicized defamation case, he proved Bornstein's innocence while uncovering key information about the public prosecutor's coverup of the murders of Luxemburg and Liebknecht. Whether by suicide or in a state of delirium, he died on 9 February 1930 by jumping from his apartment window.
   REFERENCES:Angress, Stillborn Revolution;Deak, Weimar Germany's Left-Wing Intel-lectuals; Ettinger, Rosa Luxemburg; NDB, vol. 14; Waldman, Spartacist Uprising.

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

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