Gustav Landauer, 1895

Anarchistic ideas first received expression in Germany during the 18th century among members of the Illuminati, a secret society for free thought that spread throughout German speaking areas in Europe. One of the founders of the Illuminati, Adam Wieshaupt (1 748- 1830), presented an address to the society in which he spoke of national states disappearing ”from the face of the earth without violence,” with reason becoming “the only law for humanity” . During the 1840’s, a variety of writers adopted an anarchist position of one sort or another, not only Max Stirner, but also some of the other Young Hegelians, such as Arnold Ruge and Edgar Bauer, Karl Grun and the journalist Wilhelm Marr. Marx, Engels and their supporters in Germany engaged in lengthy polemics against anarchist ideas and actions, misrepresenting and even vilifying them. By the 1890’s the German socialist movement was dominated by the orthodox Marxist Social Democratic Party. It was within the Social Democratic Party that Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) first became active in the socialist movement in the early 1890’s, quickly associating himself with a dissident group of young libertarian socialists, the Berliner jungen. He later wrote a critique of the Social Democratic Party, one of his few publications translated into English, Social Democracy in Germany. He was murdered in 1919 by troops sent by the then Social Democratic government to suppress tile revolution in Bavaria, in which Landauer had played a prominent role.

Anarchists do not even claim, however, that the majority of oppressed people today even consider themselves victims. It may also be the case that among our own ranks, compassion and love are not necessarily the right words to describe our deepest motives. As for my animating force, it lies in the repugnance at the humanity that encircles us, a rage at the indolence of the rich who blithely build their happiness on the ruins of the joyless existence of the dehumanized multitude. My rage dissipates not one iota when I consider the extent of the squalor to which the oppressed are subjected. As they emerged from the mother’s womb, the haves and the have-nots are as indistinguishable as one egg is from another. And then, at the end of their miserable lives, spent as it is among the outcasts of society: slogging, these skeletons-the shadow remaining from an exhausting struggle for life-have scarcely enough money to bury their kin with dignity …

For, it is a great mistake … that anarchism means individualism and therefore stands, when so misunderstood, in opposition to socialism. Certainly, socialism for us means something quite different from the “abolition of the private ownership of the means of production.” Our socialism doesn’t speak even of collective property, since behind it hides nothing other than the domination of a bureaucratic cabal . No, we speak rather of, to use Benedikt Friedlander’s [Iibertarian socialist (1866- 1 908)], delightful expression, the “ownerlessness of nature’s bounty.”
Insight alone tells him that the improvement of his economic lot, as present circumstances dictate, remains intimately linked with the success of vigorous mass actions by workers. As long as the owners and the powerful have at their disposal all of the means they allow themselves to uphold the wretched conditions of today, so too will organized people fight back with all allowable methods for the comprehensive improvement of their lot. We don’t preach class war but we acknowledge that it is often forced on the persons who desire an improvement in their condition. It isn’t a matter of the destruction of modern culture, it’s rather a matter of a vast army of those previously locked out, and who have by now acquired an appetite to also sit at the table and feast.


Anarchists do not comprise a political party, since our scorn for the state forecloses our treading on the same ground with it and especially since we despise bargaining and haggling. We Anarchists want to be preachers: a revolution of spirit is, for us, the first order. What end can come from the obstinacy of today’s elite when they repress the aspirations and desires of the masses of our people? We shall not abdicate responsibility, rather, we will quietly take it on, safe in the knowledge that future generations will thank us for helping them respect themselves once again . The consciousness that we will not only not see the culmination of our victory, but rather will suffer fresh disappointments and setbacks-to say nothing of persecution-will not hold us back. In spite of this, we will devote ourselves to our life’s work and to the expansion of enlightenment to all layers of society. We think, along with Schopenhauer: “Life is short and even though truth appears remote, the truth lives long: so tell the truth!” Of course, most anyone, after a bit of honest and courageous study, can name his own truth. Whoever believes it is in order to demand the imposition of “his Truth” along with the violent suppression of those with a divergent belief, may wish to wander down that road. The anarchists will walk down theirs.

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