Socialist poet and editor Abraham Liessin (Walt) died at 68 on this date in 1938. He was a well-known socialist writer in Minsk, Belorussia, and came in 1896 to New York, where he worked as writer and editor for the newly-founded Jewish Daily Forward. Liessin was active in the Social Labor Party as a fierce opponent of Daniel De Leon, and was also active in the Jewish Labor Bund from its inception in 1897, but split with the Party in the 1920s, criticizing his fellow Bundists’ lack of Jewish nationalist passion. In 1913, he became editor of the monthly Yiddish literary journal, Di Tsukunft (The Future), in 1913, which he edited for twenty-five years. Liessin was a romantic socialist and a lyrical poet who turned to Jewish traditions and religious and national heroes for political and spiritual inspiration. His work, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, “can be read as a bridge between the idealist political poetry of the Sweatshop Poets of the late 19th century (such as Morris Rosenfeld and Dovid Edelstadt) and the aestheticizing poetry of Di Yunge at the beginning of the 20th century. Dominating his work are the idealist thematics of heroism, martyrdom, morality, and suffering… all of which served his Jewish socialist aspirations.” Liessin’s complete works were published in three volumes, with illustrations by Marc Chagall, in the year of his death, and a posthumously published collection of his prose came out in 1954.
“Zionism gave the people an intelligentsia while the Bund gave the intelligentsia a people.” —Abraham Liessin