Aaron Liberman was the first to try to create a socialist movement among the Jews in the seventies of the 19th century. In the history of the social movements he is rightly considered to be the founder of Jewish Socialism. Liberman's views and methods were strongly influenced by Russian Socialism, particularly through Peter Lavrov and his followers, who grouped themselves round the Vperiod (Forewords), the organ edited by Lavrov. Drawing on the archives of the former secretary, later on editor of the Vperiod, Valerian Smirnov, which archives are in the possession of the International Institute for Social History, the author investigates into the main period of Liberman's life, from the beginning of his emigration until his death.
The article comprises the following chapters: I. In Russia; II. First Stay in London (1. Growing sympathy with the Vperiod; 2. The Vperiod and Jewish Socialism; 3. The Jewish Socialist Society in London); III. The tiaemes and the Jewish socialist section in Berlin; IV. Tragic End.
The author endeavours to determine Liberman's contribution to the Vperiod and other European socialist organs, and deals with the role he played in the working-out of the rules and constitution of the Social Revolutionist Union of the Jews in Russia, and in the foundation of the Jewish Socialist Society in London, 1876. He comes to the conclusion that Lavrov played as prominent a part in the working-out of the rules and constitution as Liberman, and that the London Jewish Socialist Society is greatly indebted to Smirnov. The author further deals with Liberman's stay in Vienna, where he edited his organ Haemes, and with the so-called Nihilist-trial in Berlin, 1879. Finally he sketches Liberman's return to London in the beginning of 1880 and discusses the circumstances which ultimately led to Liberman's suicide.
An appendix contains eight letters from Liberman to Smirnov and five from Smirnov and others, bearing upon Liberman. The three most important letters from Liberman to Smirnov are cited in a French translation as well as in their Russian original.