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Frankel, Leó

(1844–1896), labor activist and a leader of the Paris Commune. Leó Frankel was born into a large, wealthy German-oriented family in Óbuda, Hungary, where his father, Albert, was the official doctor of the city’s shipyard. The family sent Frankel to Germany in 1861 to learn to be a goldsmith. There he became involved with the labor movement, especially with the ideology of Ferdinand Lasalle.

Frankel moved to Paris at the end of 1867 to be a correspondent for the Viennese Volksstimme. As the leader of the German Section of the First International, he met Karl Marx in London; their ensuing lively correspondence is a revealing document of the era. The French police arrested Frankel, and he was freed only during the revolution in September 1870. He helped to reorganize the French Section of the First International and was chosen to take a leadership position in the victorious Paris Commune of March 1871; on 29 March, he was elected to the labor and commerce committee, and on 20 April, he became the minister of labor and commerce.

After the fall of the Paris Commune, Frankel fled to Switzerland, where he was condemned to death in France in absentia; later, however, the proceedings were stayed. In August 1871, he moved to London and joined the Council of the First International as the secretary responsible for correspondence with the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. He moved to Vienna in 1875, where he was arrested and handed to Hungarian authorities in February 1876, but was released on bail the next month. From then until 1883, Frankel was an organizer of the labor movement in Hungary. He edited the Arbeiter-Wochen-Chronik between 1876 and 1880 and founded and led the Nemválasztók Pártja (Party of Nonvoters) in April 1878. This party and the Magyarországi Munkáspárt (Hungarian Workers Party) merged to form the Magyarországi Általános Munkáspárt (Hungarian General Workers Party) in January 1880. Frankel served on its presidium.

Because of his revolutionary activities, Frankel was arrested again in June 1881. Upon his release in 1883, he went to Vienna and then to Paris in 1889. There he rejoined the front ranks of the international labor movement, working with Friedrich Engels and presiding over the inaugural conference of the Second International on 18 July 1889. He edited L’Ère nouvelle. After meeting Theodor Herzl, he grew interested in Zionism.

Frankel died in 1896. Thousands of Parisian workers escorted his coffin to the Père-Lachaise cemetery. His remains were moved to Hungary in 1968.

Suggested Reading

Magda Aranyossi, Frankel Leó (Budapest, 1952); Rezső Krejcsi, Frankel Leó a párisi Commune magyar vezére (Budapest, 1919).