The “Friends of Free Books” [GfB]

The Friends of Free Books (GfB), in contrast, was founded by the FAUD in 1927 in association with the union’s own cultural organization. One year later the GfB-Leipzig constituted itself as the first “Guild Group,” and in 1929 came the national organization that comprised the wider network. Dues paying members were provided with syndicalist literature and could order books. The local chapters of the Guild organized readings, theatre productions and concerts with important figures like Erich Mühsam, Rudolf Rocker, Emma Goldman, Helene Stöcker, Bruno Vogel and Theodor Plivier. The organ of the GfB was the monthly, and later quarterly, magazine “Besinnung und Aufbruch” [Reflection and Beginning], in which Rudolf Rocker published the first excerpts of his work “The Decision of the West.”

Membership climbed rapidly after 1928 to a national total of 1,250 members in 1931. Simultaneous membership in the FAUD was not obligatory and all-in-all the GfB was the most successful attempt to slow the decline of the union. The Göppinger Guild in Württemberg, for example, reached 80 members within six months of its foundation and was the largest group of its kind. The success of this chapter can also be measured by the fact that following the war’s end it was reconstituted under the same name.