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He worked for various daily and weekly newspapers and over many years wrote lead articles for the weekly magazine Neue Zeit. In 1868 he moved to Berlin to study, and worked in the editorial office of the Die Zukunft newspaper.
From 1871–1874, Mehring worked for the Correspondence Office in Oldenburg, writing reports on sessions of the Reichstag and the local parliament. He became a well-known parliamentary reporter, working for the Frankfurter Zeitung newspaper and Die Waage, a newspaper published by Leopold Sonnemann (1831–1909).
Mehring left Die Waage after an argument with Sonnemann and in 1884 became chief editor of the liberal Berlin Volks-Zeitung newspaper. He spoke out against Bismarck–s law banning Socialism although he was himself a member of the bourgeoisie.
In 1891 Mehring joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
Mehring was a Marxist. His image of Friedrich Nietzsche as a capitalist had large influences for the negative image that socialists and communists in the 20th century had of Nietzsche. Many members of the much smaller, and ideologically less predictable Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany were Nietzsche enthusiasts.
Between 1902 and 1907 Mehring was the chief editor of the Social Democratic Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper. From 1906 to 1911 he taught at the SPD–s Party school. He was a member of the Prussian parliament from 1917 to 1918.
During the First World War Mehring began to distance himself from the SPD. In 1916 the left-wing Marxist revolutionary Spartacus League was founded and Mehring was one of its main leaders alongside Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.
Franz Mehring wrote a Marxist analysis of the actions of Swedish warrior king Gustavus Adolphus, claiming the Thirty Years' War had little to do with religion (the official explanation) and everything to do with economic and social interests of various classes (the Marxist explanation). In 1918, "after long and irritating delays owing to the military censorship" (according to the English translator Edward Fitzgerald, 1935 U.S. edition), Mehring's great biography of Karl Marx was published, dedicated to fellow Spartacist Clara Zetkin.
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