‘Charles Proteus Steinmetz’ from The Yong Worker, Vol. 2 No. 12. December, 1923.

‘Charles Proteus Steinmetz’ from The Yong Worker, Vol. 2 No. 12. December, 1923.

THE death of Charles Steinmetz a few weeks ago robbed the world not only of the greatest electrical genius of his time but also of a true and tried member of the revolutionary working class movement.

From his very youth in Breslau, Germany, he was a revolutionist. He had gone thru the university and acquired as passion for mathematics and astronomy. There was every possibility that this brilliant young man would receive a professorial chair in the university, but he gave it up and entered the Social Democratic Party of Germany in times of real stress. Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist laws soon confronted him. The 23-yearold student was forced to flee to Zurich, Switzerland, when the socialist paper for which he had written many articles was confiscated, its editors arrested and further publication forbidden.

Steinmetz (centre), with Albert Einstein and General Electric engineers, 1921.

A year later he sailed for America. At Ellis Island he was detained as an “undesirable alien.” The imbeciles who were in charge of immigration could see no advantage to America in permitting the entry of this stunted, humpbacked, near-sighted individual. But fortunately for the prestige of his country, a student who had studied with him at Zurich heard of his detention and secured his entry. He immediately began work with an electrical firm in Yonkers, N.Y., which was later taken over by the powerful General Electric Co. He worked at Linn., Mass., and was finally transferred to the main plant at Schenectady, N.Y., where he remained until his death, October 26, 1923.

Steinmetz made many discoveries in the electrical world. Only a year ago he startled the world by his demonstration of artificial lightning and thunder. He was a writer of many scientific books and an experimenter of note. His genius was world-wide and acknowledged by all.

He was a member of the Socialist Party of America to the day of his death, but he should not be regarded in the same light as Hillquit, Lee, O’Neal, Berger and the rest of the lesser lights of the degenerated S.P. He ran on the socialist ticket for state engineer of New York and received a far greater number of votes than any of the other running on his party ticket. In 1915 he was elected president of the Common Council of the city of Schenectady.

Writing and canoeing on the Mohawk River.

He remained true to his revolutionary ideals until the last moment. While the officials of his party continued to sling dirt and slander at the Russian revolution he stood up boldly and defended it. He offered his services to the Soviet republic to help them in their plan for the electrification and reconstruction of the capitalist-harrassed land, and Lenin, in a letter to the great genius, expressed his thanks for the offer.

Shortly before his death, Steinmetz said that the work of the world could be done in a four-hour day. He himself never worked anywhere near four hours. He worked continually, either at his experiments or in his private garden. He was a significant example of the possibilities of a man who does not rack his body and mind in order to maintain himself, and who can thus give his entire energy to the increasing of the knowledge and power of the world. The many Steinmetzes who are now forced to slave away to keep body and soul together will only realize themselves and 1heir possibilities for the people when the ideals of Steinmetz will have been achieved. And the beginning of the achievement of those ideals was noted by the deceased genius himself when he placed the hope of the world in the order of society on the road of which Soviet Russia had taken the first step.

The Young Worker was produced by the Young Workers League of America beginning in 1922. The name of the Workers Party youth league followed the name of the adult party, changing to the Young Workers (Communist) League when the Workers Party became the Workers (Communist) Party in 1926. The journal was published monthly in Chicago and continued until 1927. Editors included Oliver Carlson, Martin Abern, Max Schachtman, Nat Kaplan, and Harry Gannes.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/youngworker/v2n12-dec-1923-yw-G-LB.pdf

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