Forward

In July 1931 the Berlin chief of police, the Social Democrat Grzesinski, prohibited the anarchist journal Fanal for a period of four months. That was the month of the bank failures; financial capital was at its wit’s end, the federal government suspended the circulation of currency; the entire industrial economy was so devastated that the heretofore customary political methods of ensuring capitalist hegemony were no longer sufficient; the path toward fascist dictatorship was spread out, smoothed over and commenced upon. The suffering of the masses increased, and with it the helplessness of the public authorities, while the demands of the industrialists and great landholders were simultaneously growing greater; the crisis was fought through heightened pressure on workers and the unemployed, its victims pacified with elections, elections, and elections. In the harm done to their adherents the parties sought their leaders’ benefit. A new government pulled together from the inheritance of bankrupt feudal times brought forth constitutional disputes; a threatening air of civil war descended upon Germany. All attempts to dispel stress and despair, all remedies imploringly suggested by fascists and democrats, ecclesiastics and right-wing as well as left-wing socialists, derived from authority’s apothecary. Each one praised his state, his claim to power, his authoritarian system.

But the fight of the anarchist monthly Fanal against centralism and authority, for freedom and renovation was interrupted. Only occasional circulars could inform the paper’s friends that the blow struck against it after nearly five years of regular publication, though not yet overcome, was nonetheless not fatal. In all of these circular bulletins the general state of affairs could only be mentioned in passing. Otherwise, they were begging letters to raise the necessary funds to keep the dormant from dying. As proof, however, that we never have and never wish to surrender Fanal, the letters announced the appearance of the pamphlet which should in part compensate for the cancellation of the newspaper and which is hereby presented to the public.

This publication appears as a special edition of Fanal in order to declare the continuing existence of our paper; at the same time, it has the style of an independent pamphlet in order to achieve distribution beyond the circle of readers and friends of Fanal. A work which, as a substitute for a newspaper oriented towards daily events and prevented from publication, wishes to outlive the moment, can only concern itself with the philosophy of life and the world which has determined, and will continue to determine, the spirit of the newspaper. The anarchist was thus given the task of outlining the fundamental features of his anarchist doctrine. This I have attempted.

We repeatedly hear the question from those who are unacquainted with the world of anarchist thinking: What do you actually want? How do you imagine a society without state and authority? Does there not lie an internal contradiction in the term “Communist Anarchism”? To these questions I wanted to give a brief, somewhat comprehensive answer in a manner that would be easy to understand. To my own comrades I wanted to simultaneously sketch a picture of the world of anarchist thinking which each may expand or qualify according to his disposition and by the lines of which each can check and strengthen his views.

I have dispensed with historical argumentation and scientific foundation of the thoughts here presented and also refrained from adducing older anarchist writings for support of and comparison with my opinion. No thought is made more correct by someone else having already stated it earlier. I also believe that it is most beneficial to the liveliness of my line of reasoning if I express it entirely in my own words. There will not be found, therefore, a single quote in the present work, except for the Wieland passage placed at the beginning which, written 150 years ago, is to demonstrate how natural anarchist thinking is to the best minds of all periods.

Whoever has already occupied himself with the doctrines of anarchism will hardly find new insights in this pamphlet. At most, I might allow myself claim to an independent contribution to the world of ideas of libertarian socialism for the thus far nowhere else attempted depiction of the nature of councils as the fulfillment of anarchist principles of management. Otherwise, I was concerned with the lucid summary and clarification of the logical unity of the whole anarchist intellectual construct. The extraordinarily rich literature of anarchism has so far lacked such a comprehensive work. It does, however, treat the special questions of history, philosophy, economics, natural rights and militancy in the most diverse manner from the standpoint of anti-authoritarian thinking. The readers who wish to further inform themselves are therefore emphatically referred to the overview of the literature assembled in the appendix at the end of this booklet.

Berlin-Britz, November 1932

Erich Mühsam

“To know nothing of sultans, viziers, governors,
cadis, treasurers, tax farmers, fakirs and bigwigs,
is a blessing of which the greatest portion of
humanity has no concept.”

C. M. Wieland
(The Story of the Wise Danischmend)