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Disgusted by the unconditional obedience demanded by the Catholic orphanage and drawn by the prospect of adventure, Rocker ran away from the orphanage twice. The first time he just wandered around in the woods around Mainz with occasional visits to the city to forage for food and was retrieved after three nights. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. Carl also had a substantial library consisting of socialist literature of all colors. Under the influence of his uncle, he joined the SPD and became active in the typographers’ labor union in Mainz. In 1890, there was a major debate in the SPD about the tactics it would choose after the lifting of the Anti-Socialist Laws. While the party leaders viewed the parliament as a means of social change, Die Jungen thought it could at best be used to spread the socialist message.
Rocker became convinced that the source of political institutions is an irrational belief in a higher authority, as Bakunin claimed in God and the State. However, Rocker rejected the Russian’s rejection of theoretical propaganda and his claim that only revolutions can bring about change. In 1891, all Die Jungen were either expelled from the SPD or left voluntarily. Rocker became a member and founded a local section in Mainz, mostly active in distributing anarchist literature smuggled in from Belgium or the Netherlands in the city. In Paris, he first came into contact with Jewish anarchism. In Spring 1893, he was invited to meeting of Jewish anarchists, which he attended and was impressed by.