[ 1 ]
Mühsam wrote in his tract titled The Liberation of Society
from the State. What is Communist Anarchism? (Berlin-Britz,
November 1932, Translated by CR Edmonston, 13 Sept 2008), "It is
certainly clear that wherever society exits there is no room for
the state, but that wherever the state is it is like a thorn in
society’s flesh, it does not permit it to form a people who can
socially inhale and exhale, and instead divides them into
classes and thereby prevents them from being a society. A
centralized construct cannot at the same time be a federalist
construct. A system of management organized along authoritarian
lines is a government, a bureaucracy, a commanding power, and
this is the mark of the state; a community built upon equal
rights and mutuality is, when considered within the bounds of
their physical proximity, a people, when considered as a general
form of human living, a society. State and society are opposing
concepts; the one excludes the other."
Let us compare this anarchistic stance -- even though Mühsam
identified it as communism per the early 20th century
understanding of what that meant -- with the early 21st century
politics of growing government, as represented by the Bush and
Obama administrations, in which Mühsam correctly identified as
"a system of management organized along authoritarian lines."
are supposed to trust one party, one politician, one view as if
a "savior," and indeed the rhetoric of the last several election
cycles in the US has been about demonizing one party's stance
while idealizing the other's.
In truth, the size and
invasiveness of government has grown under both, as it has in
the EU in recent years, and in both cases "is the mark of the
Modern academics like Howard Zinn offer a rational for
the state, rather than for freedom, as one sees in his odd view
of history as "unneutral." He wrote, "Objectivity is impossible
and it is also undesirable. That is, if it were possible it
would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of a social
aim, if you think history should serve society in some way;
should serve the progress of the human race; should serve
justice in some way, then it requires that you make your
selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of
humanity." Such political relativism is not what Mühsam and
Goodman and other anarchists of the early 20th century
advocated, for they distrusted "the state."
like Zinn overtly trust a correct "state," as determined by
one's political stance.
But this idealized central authority which the academic
apologists for socialism is an empty lie.
Solzhenitsyn clearly stated, "For us in Russia, communism
is a dead dog, while, for many people in the West, it is still a
living lion." BBC Radio broadcast, Russian service, as quoted in
The Listener (15 February 1979).
Western academia believed
in the living lion, while a self-proclaimed Communist anarchist, Mühsam, knew it to be a "dead dog" from the first decades of the
20th century. Solzhenitsyn went further, "I have spent all my
life under a Communist regime, and I will tell you that a
society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one
indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is
not quite worthy of man either." (Harvard University address,
One need then be very clear about what Mühsam and others in the
early utopian anarchists' movement stood against; they stood
against centralized authority, power and the state
itself. His view that he was a Communist was of its time, and
his writing informs that he was generally swept up in the era's
rhetoric, but his own words tell of his confusion with what we
have seen state socialism become.
Mühsam writes, "Wo Staat ist,
kann keine Freiheit sein und keine werden." ("Where there is
government, there is no freedom and can be no freedom.") in
Fanal, Anarchistische Monatszeitschrift, Jg. 1, Nr. 1,
For such a single statement, Mühsam would have
been an enemy of the state in the Soviet Union, Mao's China, and
any number of totalitarian Marxist nations whose enforcement of
state power is absolute. It places Mühsam as a "communist" of that
time in clear opposition "Communism" as it has been seen over the course of
the 20th century ruling over millions of people.
about modern day social welfare governments from North America
to Europe, viewed from the historical position of Mühsam's own
assertion that central authority of any flavor is essentially
As to the murderous history of government throughout the
twentieth century, it has been documented well by University of
Hawaii professor emeritus Rudolph Rummel, in his site, titled
Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, and War --
Professor Rummel's historical and statistical findings generally and
hugely agree with the assertion by Mühsam, "Where there is
government, there is no freedom and can be no freedom." One only
need consider the histories of the Nazi Genocide State and its
20,946,000 victims, the Soviet "Gulag State" and its 61,911,000
victims, and the Communist Chinese under Mao being responsible
for the deaths of 35,236,000. Such astounding numbers have been
too easily been ignored in favor of today's fashionably chic
academic Marxists, whose enthusiasm to avoid the numerical facts
of the history of socialism enforced by the postmodern hammer of
political correctness rank them as either foolish, deluded or
As Mühsam's contemporary in America, even the
radical and violence prone anarchist Emma Goldman noted, "The
most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought."
Mühsam expressed his independence of thought, and for this he
Mühsam was a visionary, for in his Liberation of Society
in 1932 he correctly foresaw "The attempt to arrive at socialism
from capitalism by means of a transition state is condemned to failure by the nature of the state as a
central ordering power." Moreover, he added, "All revolutions
are undertaken because the lack of freedom has become
unbearable, and its animating battle cry is always dedicated to
freedom. And yet all revolutions thus far have been lost or at
least have strayed from the path that the revolutionaries wished
to tread, because the desire for freedom has remained
unfulfilled." I would herein editorialize that all socialist
revolutions "thus far" still evidence this.
Mühsam further informs us that "Wherever individuality is at
work, there is a free spirit, which is incompatible with any
centralism. The authoritarian leaders never raise themselves up
above the masses through superior character or intellectual
value, but always only through their qualities as commanders,
which can grow only in underdeveloped personalities."
"leaders" have pretended to superior character or intellect,
only to be caught out in compromised character or enormous
failings in intellect, when tested? Too many.
Against such as
them, a naive Mühsam of any nation or culture will always be
identified as enemy of the state and persecuted. This is the how
and why over one hundred million deaths may be attributed to the
central authority of the social state in all its twentieth
We have the
observation-based opinion of Solzhenitsyn to
bolster this truth, as he stated in his Nobel lecture from 1970,
"Our Twentieth Century has proved to be more cruel than
preceding centuries, and the first fifty years have not erased
all its horrors." The astonishing number of dead from three
socialist regimes alone -- Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and
Mao's China -- amplify Solzhenitsyn's truth, which was foreseen
[ 2 ]
Fanal means Torch, and his periodical was
emblazoned with this logo.
Mühsam was without question and in
spite of the confusion over terms a passionate advocate of
freedom and equally passionate opponent of centralized power in
the hands of government.
One section of
speaks clearly of "Die Freiheit als gesellschaftliches Prinzip."
("Freedom as a social principle")
The emphasis on freedom and
opposition to central authority makes Mühsam more the anarchist
and less the Communist, based on the hindsight of eighty years
since his brutal murder at the hands of the state. It is
understandable that any centralized power would have clearly
understood the threat of such a brazen expression of freedom,
for freedom can really only be thought of in the prepositional
phrase, "freedom from," wherein any centralized authority
becomes de facto the oppressor. Several generations of
academic enthusiasts for socialism have assiduously avoided the
cold, hard fact that many of the early "Communist anarchists"
would have been enemies of any Communist or socialist state.
Such is the confusion over the entire political jargon
surrounding socialism in all its forms.
What seems clear is that
the communist anarchism of Mühsam would stand against any
central authority, while too many Communists stand for some
central authority. It is no wonder that the National Socialist
thugs targeted such a poet and tract writer as their enemy; he
[ 3 ]
The first decades of the 20th century were in part swept up in
the utopian notions of what "intellectuals" believed Communism
under the new Soviet regime was. In fact it was only shortly
after the Bolshevik revolution that this belief was dashed by
the reality of murderous state socialism.
America's quixotic and
inconsistent anarchist Emma Goldman had once stated, "The
ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish
the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of
every human being to liberty and well-being."
And yet she
published My Two Years in Russia, a work was published as
Disillusionment with Russia (1923), and My Further
Disillusionment with Russia (1924) and finally as a complete
one-volume edition (1925). This young American communist
anarchist came soon to realize, "In its mad passion for power,
the Communist State even sought to strengthen and deepen the
very ideas and conceptions which the Revolution had come to
In like manner and in the same era, Mühsam carried the utopian
flame of what Communism would never become, and was
essentially snuffed out by the same "mad passion for power" of
which Goldman so clearly wrote which overcame Germany as it did
the Soviet Union. Socialism became the theoretical ground for
governments which could do such horrors as the Soviet massacres
of Babi Yar, Katyn Forest and so many more, the greatest being
the Holodomor, or murder by starvation of between 3 and
10 million Ukrainians. Maoist China's Great leap forward alone
was responsible for an estimated 20 million dead from
starvation. Pol Pot's killing fields were the arena for state
murder of approximately 2 million Cambodians, dead at the hands
of the Khmer Rouge.
The examples are too numerous and too huge to ignore, and yet
the fashionable academic position of many today is that somehow
"socialism has never been really tried."
Compared to well over
100 million dead at its feet, socialism has been tried too
often, one argues from simple numbers of its victims. And yet
the modern apologists err is holding to their socialist
idealism; one such is Zinn who said in a democracynow.org
interview, "Whoa! I’m happy to hear that. Finally, socialism is
getting a good name."
That is not redefining history; it is a
chic, relativist Marxist revisionism ignoring history and
offering succor to a potential central authority of his
choosing, which is the antithesis of what Mühsam through
non-violence and Goodman through occasional violence sought and
Mühsam answered such a morally teetering and wholly relativist
stance as Zinn's seventy years before such fashionable Western
academia made its apologia for Marxism, in correctly and
prophetically observing, "The attempt to arrive at socialism
from capitalism by means of a transition state is condemned to failure by the nature of the state as a
central ordering power."
How does one then arrive at the kind of idealized socialism of
which the early 20th century radicals dreamed? By
rejecting the state itself. By turning away from the
belief that giving over too great an authority to any central
authority answers issues of social justice. By taking freedom
seriously and individually.
Mahatma Gandhi saw this truth as well, in observing in 1947, "I
look upon an increase of the power of the state with the
greatest fear, because although while apparently doing good by
minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by
destroying individuality, which lies at the root of all
progress. We know of so many cases where men have adopted
trusteeship [given charity], but none where the State has really
lived for the poor."
The notion of "rejecting the state itself" is, of course, an
anathema to political parties. But it is not a recent notion.
French philosopher and poet Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1563)
came to a similar notion centuries earlier, stating "Resolve
to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not
ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but
simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him,
like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall
of his own weight and break in pieces."
Anarchism in the type this poem of Mühsam expressed as the
expression of individuality and freedom stands tall over such
modern apologia for an idealized central authority as was Zinn's
and others of the later time and outlook. Anarchism means
freedom (and Mühsam specifically means freedom from
government and for all) and the apologia for some
idealized form of government means constraining freedom in favor
of a sort of central authority which has consistently proven
massively corruption prone and ultimately murderous.