[ 1 ] The Horst-Wessel-Lied was essentially a
reworking of an older WWI melody to a nationalist text written in
1929 by Horst Wessel. Die Fahne hoch
("Raise the flag") was its alternative name.
The National Socialists
turned the lyrics of a commander of the SA (Sturmabteilung)
in the Friedrichshain district of Berlin into a co-equal national
anthem with the first stanza of the Deutschlandlied.
Wessel was a thug, murdered in a private altercation in 1930 and
made into a martyr for the Nazi political cause by Joseph Goebbels;
Wessel's funeral was a state affair, but after the war, his grave
was emptied and the body destroyed by the DDR government of the
In addition, because the song had been officially
recognized as a national symbol by a law on May 19, 1933, today the
song lyrics are prohibited by law in Germany. (Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch,
StGB) As promulgated on 13 November 1998 (Federal Law Gazette
p. 945, p. 3322). Title Three - Endangering The Democratic Rule of
Law, Section 86 - Dissemination of Means of Propaganda of
Unconstitutional Organizations.) Ironically, the SA which
Wessel celebrated in his banal lyrics was purged in Hitler's Night
of the Long Knives - June 29-30, 1934.
The odd confluence of Horst Wessel being made first a
martyr through propaganda, and then the organization with which he
was affiliated being purged while justified through other
propaganda, is set off against the poetry of Erich Mühsam. Today
this poetry may be spoken aloud, while the empty sloganeering of a
Wessel is still purged, if by other means and rationale.
light statement on "premonition" and my take on the same sort of
premonition taken in several generations' retrospect suggests the
truth of Edmund Burke's observation about politics and sloganeering:
"It is an advantage to all narrow wisdom and narrow morals that
their maxims have a plausible air; and, on a cursory view, appear
equal to first principles. They are light and portable. They are as
current as copper coin; and about as valuable. They serve equally
the first capacities and the lowest; and they are, at least, as
useful to the worst men as to the best. Of this stamp is the cant of
not man, but measures; a sort of charm by which many people get
loose from every honourable engagement." As found in Thoughts on
the cause of the present discontents, 1770.
Mühsam's poem is not
narrow wisdom, but in my reading a warning to us that some
premonitions turn out to be of life-preserving value, and Mühsam's
"Ahnung" was in fact the reality which he was shortly to experience
at the hands of the "worst of men." For this, his bit of nonsense
poetry is most assuredly not nonsense, but should be seen as a
[ 2 ] Mühsam's journal founded in 1926 was
titled Fanal, or "Torch." In it one finds very clearly that
Mühsam, while enamored of the Communist sloganeering of that era,
was very much against "the state."
One portion of his writing is
titled, "Staatsverneinung" meaning rejection of that government
which would infringe on personal freedom, as much of the history of
twentieth century socialism ended up proven to have done. In a
section subtitled, "Die Freiheit als gesellschaftliches Prinzip" or
"freedom as the social principle," he specifically write, "...die Sehnsucht nach individueller Freiheit in der menschlichen Natur
selber begründet ist."
That is, he agrees with even such documents
as the new nation of Germany and the founding documents of the
United States reveal, that "the urge to individual freedom in
grounded in the nature of man himself."
Against this "nature of man himself" are the generations of thugs who would
erode individual freedom.
For this, I argue with
certainty that Mühsam, the anarchist and Communist of his day (those
terms being slogans, per Burke's observation above, actually would
have become victim of not only a Nazi regime, but others like
Stalin's or Mao's, Pol Pot's or Kim Il-Jong's, Fidel Castro's or
Hugo Chavez', because to base one's political philosophy on personal
freedom and the advocate against the "state" (Staatsverneinung)
is to become a dangerous enemy to the aggrandizement of political
power and wealth in the hands of the few, each a dictator relying on
the "light and portable" charade of Marx's "dictatorship of the