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Winter, Lev

(1876–1935), Czech Social Democratic politician, economist, theorist of socialism and social policy, commentator, and the author of numerous studies on economics and social law. After completing gymnasium, Lev Winter studied law and economics at Prague University. He was briefly active in Spolek Českých Akademiků Židů (Association of Czech Academic Jews) and then was a leading representative to the Kruhu Mladých Socialistických Intelektuálů (Circle of Young Socialist Intellectuals), where he worked with Alfred Meissner. Together the two also founded the socialist review Akademie.

Beginning in the 1890s, Winter was active in the Social Democratic Party. In 1907, he opened a legal practice in Prague and was elected to the Reichsrat, becoming its youngest member; he retained his seat until 1918. Winter demonstrated particular expertise in legislation dealing with disability and workers’ insurance. Beginning in 1917, he chaired the social policy committee of the Reichsrat and also, given his expertise, the subcommittee on social insurance. During World War I he also worked as a lawyer at the Austro-Hungarian military courts. In 1918, when Czech deputies left the body, he delivered a speech before the Reichsrat in which he bade farewell, on behalf of the Czech Social Democrats, to Austria-Hungary.

In 1918, Winter first became a member of Národní Výbor (National Committee), and was subsequently elected deputy of the National Assembly, where he served for two years. From 1918 to 1920 and again from 1925 to 1926 he was minister of social affairs; in the latter period he simultaneously served as minister for the unification of laws and administrative regulations. At this time he also chaired the working committee of the Commission for the Preparation and Establishment of Social Insurance. He set up the Social Institute of the Czechoslovak Republic and headed it from 1925. He also served as a member of the board of the International Labor Office, chair of the International Committee of State Insurance Schemes, a member of the Executive of the Socialist Workers International, and chair of the Czechoslovak group of the Interparliamentary Union. Beginning in 1932 he was the country’s delegate to the League of Nations.

Winter was responsible for enacting a social insurance system in the Czechoslovak Republic and for introducing the Ghent system of unemployment benefits. He put in place measures for the unemployed and war invalids and tackled the postwar housing crisis. In an attempt to make working conditions more humane, he pushed through two important political reforms: a law establishing an eight-hour workday and an amendment to the law concerning disability, old age, and inheritance.

Suggested Reading

Antonín Dolenský, ed., “Winter Lev,” in Kulturní adresář ČSR, p. 506 (Prague, 1934); Jan Dvořáček, Rudolf Polz, Emanuel Rádi, et al., eds., Masarykův slovník naučný, vol. 7, pp. 862–863 (Prague, 1933); Helena Krejčová, “Výbory spolku českých akademiků židů a akademického spolku Kapper,” Paginae historiae (1999): 46–84; Evžen Štern, “In memoriam Dr. Lva Wintera, budovatele československého sociálního zákonodárství,” Kalendář českožidovský 56 (1936): 9–12; Josef Tomeš et al., “Winter Lev,” in Český biografický slovník XX. století, vol. 3, p. 530 (Prague, 1999).



Translated from Czech by Martin Ward