Who was the first anarchist
by Ulrich Linse
Political world view (from the Greek anarchia = without a leader), which has developed since the 19th century and which strives for a coexistence free of domination, class and violence without a state order. In Bavaria, the anarchists have separated themselves from social democracy since the 1870s. Regional centers were the industrial regions in the Palatinate, in Middle Franconia and in the Munich / Augsburg area. The best-known representatives of the extremely heterogeneous movement were Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) and Erich Mühsam (1878-1934), who also took part in the first Munich Soviet Republic.
The history of anarchism in Bavaria is often reduced to the so-called "anarchist" Soviet republic in Munich in 1919, while "foreigners", i.e. Jewish intellectuals and artists, are considered to be the social supporters. This perpetuation of political battle slogans from the interwar period does not do justice to historical facts. There have been anarchists in Bavaria since the Bismarckian Empire. They belonged to the local workforce and were therefore preferred in the industrial regions, especially in Ludwigshafen in the Bavarian Palatinate, in the Nuremberg / Fürth area and in the Munich / Augsburg area. This Bavarian worker anarchism emerged and expressed itself as a radical alternative to the social democratic party line. It was therefore not only characterized by anti-capitalism, but also by anti-parliamentarism and anti-statehood (which was also directed against the social democratic "people's state").
First contacts through Switzerland
Already at the Gotha Congress of Social Democracy in 1875, the differences in the party between moderates and radicals had intensified. German craftsmen found their first contact with anarchism on their wanderings or in exile in Switzerland via the anarchist Jura Federation of the "International Workers' Association". In the Berner "Arbeiter-Zeitung" in 1876/77, the ideas of anarchism were made available to Germans for the first time. Since 1877, German anarchists from Switzerland came to Germany as secret emissaries and criticized the social democratic programs and tactics as non-socialist and non-revolutionary.
Socialist Law: Social Revolutionaries and Anarchists
With the persecution of anarchists and social democrats associated with the Bismarck Socialist Law (1878-1890), the discussion about the right course for the Social Democratic Workers' Party in Germany entered its hot phase. The Augsburg bookbinder and later editor Johann Most (1846-1906), 1874-1878 member of the German Reichstag, was expelled from Berlin on the basis of the Socialist Act of 1878 and emigrated to London as the spokesman for the radical left. There he edited the radical newspaper "Die Freiheit", published by the local "Communist Workers' Association" since 1848, whose trademarks were violent fantasies, calls for assassinations and revolutionary slogans, but also the fight against the "God's plague". In 1880 Most was expelled from social democracy as an anarchist. Until he moved to the USA in 1882, he smuggled "Freiheit" into Germany and built a social revolutionary, then anarchist secret organization consisting of small groups of four to five men each.
Wilhelmine era: New anarchist currents and organizations
With the repeal of the Socialist Law, the image of German anarchism changed. Its center shifted from abroad to the imperial capital Berlin. There the Social Democrats started to differentiate again: a left wing emerged. Some of these so-called "independents" or "boys" finally committed to anarchism under the leadership of Gustav Landauer (1870-1919).
Soon, however, Berlin anarchism split up into fighting groups, each with its own magazines. German anarchism around 1900 also opened up to new influences: Max Stirner (1806-1856), Eugen Dühring (1833-1921), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) were received; individualist currents came alongside collectivist ones; the settlement utopia - among other things. popularized by Theodor Hertzkas (1845-1924) "Freiland. A social picture of the future" (1st edition Vienna 1889) - grabbed the hearts as well as the cooperative idea. Landauer's spiritually revolutionary "noble anarchism" and the proletarian, economically-oriented anarchism of the "calloused hand" soon went their separate ways. Most's understanding of "propaganda of the deed" as terrorist attacks now turned into an economic and military "general strike" including "direct action" in the sense of acts of sabotage, boycott, obstruction and passive resistance. These syndicalist weapons were also welcomed by the "localist" "Free Association of German Trade Unions", which in some cases saw itself as "anarcho-socialist".
A Bavarian anarchist: Ferdinand Huber
Landauer's obituary in the "Sozialist" of December 15, 1911 on Ferdinand Huber (1865-1911), who was described by the police as a "rabid man" and by Landauer as a "comrade, we will never find a more loyal, reliable and self-sacrificing man" the type of the Bavarian worker-anarchist at the time: Huber was born in Ast (Lkr. Freising) in 1865 and worked in agriculture, as a bricklayer and plasterer. He joined the social democratic party at a young age and also became a militant trade unionist.
Around 1900 we find him in Munich as an anarchist. At first he confessed to individual anarchism: "(...) Stirner's theory corresponded to his solitary popular attitude, his harshness and his proud, powerful need to stand alone, to go his own way and to make friends only those who corresponded to him and his nature "(Landauer). Landauer then talked him out of his "brow egoism" in 1908 and won him over to the idea of the socialist "common spirit", the longing for "real community, a community of life and work" according to Landauer's utopia for settlement. Huber was utterly disappointed that the real settlement did not materialize. Worn down by illness and rushed by the police, from whom he had evaded to the Rhineland in vain, he committed suicide there at the age of 46.
Pre-war anarchism: membership numbers, regional diversity
Since state persecution continued during the Wilhelmine era, the anarchists in Germany continued to organize themselves in secret groups. According to police estimates, around 1910 of the roughly 2,000 German anarchists, over half lived in Prussia, 400 of them in Berlin and the surrounding area, around ten to 60 in Ludwigshafen in Bavaria, 30 to 90 in Munich, and another ten to 15 in Fürth ("Free Education and Discussion Association Fürth" from 1905 to 1911), a little less in Nuremberg, Hof and Schweinfurt. According to the assessment of the police, however, they could not develop any external effect. In Munich, the strongest grouping was the localist "Free Association" of woodworkers, carpenters, tilers and locksmiths, "Ortskartell München und Umgebung der Free Vereinigung Deutscher Unions", with up to 90 members. A second block was formed by a group that sympathized with anarchism within the Munich Freethinker Association, headed by the chairman of the association, Josef Sontheimer (born 1867), a businessman.
Erich Mühsam's activities
Most of the public attention, however, attracted the attention of the writers Erich Mühsam (1878-1934) and Johannes Nohl (1882-1963) in Munich as part of Landauer's "Socialist League", which were mainly linked to their Swiss contact addresses: to Ascona to "Monte Verità" with the psychiatrist Otto Gross (1877-1920), to Zurich to the anarchist magazine "Der Weckruf" and to Fritz Brupbacher (1874-1945), to Berne to Margarethe (Faas-) Hardegger alias "Mark Harda" ( 1882-1963). Sacharin was also smuggled from Switzerland to Bavaria via this network, and men who had been called up deserted to Switzerland. Due to his agitation against art censorship and church sexual morality and for artistic freedom and free love, Mühsam met with a certain response in the Munich bohemian and artist scene. The police became particularly aware of him when, from 1909 onwards, he tried to raise the Munich lumpen proletariat of vagabonds, prostitutes and criminals, who were attracted by free beer, from anti-sociality to collective solidarity in a "group act". The "secret society trial" ("Soller trial") before the Munich district court in 1910 documented the dubious results of his idealistic efforts to achieve the "fifth estate" as well as linguistic misunderstandings. Laborious comment: "You can understand how difficult it is to make yourself understandable to these Upper Bavarian dialect speakers in educated North German" (quoted from the files of the so-called Soller / or secret society process). From 1911 to the First World War and then again during the revolutionary months of 1918/19, Mühsam published his "Kain. Zeitschrift für Menschlichkeit" in Munich.
Revolutionary period 1918/19
Before the outbreak of the First World War, German anarchism was already down and the events of the war did not bring it mass influx. So it was more the coincidence of the power vacuum after the assassination of the Bavarian Prime Minister Kurt Eisner (1867-1919) in February 1919, which brought Landauer and Mühsam to the political levers at very short notice during the first Munich Soviet Republic (7-13 April 1919) without being able to put a specifically anarchist stamp on this Soviet republic. In addition, the two had very different ideas about the councils themselves. Landauer, who had been dealing with forms of possible political self-determination for the people for years, was close to Eisner's concept of council democracy. On the other hand, it was difficult to favor the communist variant of a dictatorship of the "Soviets". The later clear criticism of Mühsam by the historian of anarchism, Max Nettlau (1865-1944), is therefore understandable: "The cult of their [= the mass] dictatorship led him away from freedom". And further: Laboriously in 1920 in Ansbach prison for Vladimir Jljitsch Lenin (1870-1924) written report "From Eisner to Leviné. The emergence of the Bavarian Soviet Republic" (published in Berlin 1929) and his later theoretical explanations "let this being carried away by popular authoritarian belief and revolutionary -proletarian will to carry out and old anarchist sympathies appear side by side in irreconcilable contradiction. Laboriously tried to find a link in the "council system", a chimera that he chased to the last "(Nettlau, History of Anarchy, Volume 5, Part 1, Note 283). Landauers worked as Bavarian minister of education for barely more than a week and was brutally murdered by the counter-revolutionaries in the Stadelheim prison on May 2, 1919.
The writer "B. Traven" (1882-1969), who soon became highly esteemed in libertarian circles, published the magazine "Der Ziegelbrenner" (1917-1921) in Munich as "Ret Marut". Like the creator of the free economics theory, which was partially classified as anarchist, Silvio Gesell (1862-1930) and his helper Theophil Christen (1873-1920) were active in the Munich Soviet Republic. The local anarchist Fritz Oerter (1869-1935), a lithographer born in Straubing, was involved in the soviet republic of Fürth.
The previous split into "ideally" oriented communist anarchists ("Federation of Communist Anarchists in Germany") and trade union syndicalists ("Free Workers' Union of Germany") continued after the First World War. The first half of the 1920s in particular saw anarcho-syndicalism strengthening in many places in Bavaria. Their district labor exchange in Northern Bavaria, with Oerter as the main activist, had up to 2,000 members, the number of which fell to 800 to 900 in 1928 (local groups in Nuremberg-Fürth, Röthenbach an der Pegnitz, Amberg, Weiden, Donauwörth, Schweinfurt and Regensburg). The district workers' exchange in Southern Bavaria with local groups in Munich, Augsburg, Trostberg and Dachau still had around 400 members in 1928, including the Munich "Federation of Construction Workers" 264 and the Munich "Federation of All Professions", in which the shrunken federations of metal workers and tilers had also merged , 72. The Danube boatmen were organized in an all-German inland navigation association. The Bavarian local groups worked closely with the "Associations for Sexual Hygiene and Life Reform" - the procurement of contraceptives was elevated to an anti-militarist "birthing strike".
Youth and children's groups
In worker anarchism after the First World War, the effects of the bourgeois youth movement of the empire became apparent in the demand for youth autonomy and the resulting tensions against "authoritarian" adults up to and including statements made by anarchist "inflationary saints" such as Theodor Plivier (also Plievier, 1892-1955). While the "Syndicalist-Anarchist Youth" retained a certain closeness to the "Free Workers Union" - one of their theorists was the former Wandervogel Helmut Rüdiger (1903-1966), student in Munich from 1925-1928 - Ernst Friedrichs ( 1894-1967) "Free Youth" the youth-moving self-employment. At least in Nuremberg / Fürth and Munich there were at times anarcho-syndicalist youth and children's organizations as well as efforts to promote libertarian education. From the youth of the Bund, however, a uniformed style inexorably penetrated into the anarchist youth.
While Mühsam became a hero among the anarchist youth, Landauer remained the universally revered martyr for whom the Munich group of the "Free Workers Union" rented a grave in the forest cemetery there in 1923 and inaugurated a memorial there on May 1, 1925. By order of the NS City Council, the grave site was declared extinct in June 1933 and the tomb was demolished.
Federal Republic of Germany
After the Second World War, the few remaining loyal syndicalists reassembled, encouraged by their exiled former leaders Rudolf Rocker (1873-1958) and Helmut Rüdiger. The Munich group of the "Federation of Freedom Socialists" was founded in 1947. As before 1933, it was run by the Munich-born waiter Hans Weigl (1892-1969). This group had 27 members in 1947 and 6 members in 1970. Finally, a new perspective emerged for the rest of the group through contact with young "68" people, whose Marxism they sought to correct through the tradition of anti-authoritarian anarchism and "liberal socialism". In particular, the former anti-Francist Spain fighter Augustin Souchy (1892-1984), who moved his retirement home to Munich in 1966, became a port of call for the new generation interested in historical experience. However, Souchy saw no future for the aging anarchists in Munich and, without the knowledge of the group, gave away their valuable library, which had been saved during the Nazi era, to Switzerland in 1974. That was the more than symbolic end of the one hundred year old Bavarian anarchism. At the same time the dawn of a youth-driven neo-anarchism rooted in the APO had already begun.
- Hans Manfred Bock, Syndicalism and Left Communism from 1918-1923. A contribution to the social and intellectual history of the early Weimar Republic, Meisenheim am Glan 1969.
- Hans Manfred Bock, History of 'Left Radicalism' in Germany. An attempt, Frankfurt am Main 1976.
- Hans Jürgen Degen, Anarchism in Germany 1945-1960. The Federation of Freedom Socialists, Ulm 2002.
- Helge Döhring, So that spring will come in Bavaria! The syndicalist labor movement in southern Bavaria from 1914 to 1933, Lich 2007.
- Christoph Knüppel, "We have different opinions and different natures." Erich Mühsam and Gustav Landauer as actors of the Munich revolution, in: Jürgen-Wolfgang Goette (ed.), Die Rote Republik. Anarchy and activism concept of the writers 1918/19 and the afterlife of the councils. Erich Mühsam, Ernst Toller, Oskar Maria Graf and others (Writings of the Erich-Mühsam-Gesellschaft 25), Lübeck 2004, 41-55.
- Ulrich Linse, Organized Anarchism in the German Empire from 1871, Berlin 1969.
- Ulrich Linse, The Anarchists and the Munich November Revolution, in: Karl Bosl (ed.), Bayern im Umbruch. The revolution of 1918, its prerequisites, its course and its consequences, Munich / Vienna 1969, 37-73.
- Ulrich Linse, The anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist youth movement 1918-1933, Frankfurt am Main 1976.
- Ulrich Linse, On the "Community Spirit". Gustav Landauer's council utopia, in: Richard Faber / Christine Holste (eds.), Der Potsdamer Forte-Kreis.A utopian intellectual association for European peacekeeping, Würzburg 2001, 123-144.
- Max Nettlau, History of Anarchy. 5 volumes, Vaduz 1872-1984.
- Rudolf Rocker, Johann Most. The life of a rebel, Berlin 1924.
- Dieter Fricke / Rudolf Knaack (eds.), Documents from secret archives. 1st volume Weimar 1983 - 3rd volume Berlin 2004.
- Ulrich Linse (ed.), Gustav Landauer and the revolutionary period 1918/19. Landauer's political speeches, writings, decrees and letters from the November Revolution 1918/19, Berlin 1974.
Anarchists, Association of Revolutionary Internationalists of Bavaria (VRI)
Recommended citation style
Ulrich Linse, Anarchism, published May 11, 2006; in: Historical Lexicon of Bavaria, URL: http://www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de/Lexikon/Anarchismus (05/24/2021)
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