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Gustav Landauer
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Gustav Landauer (1870-1919)

Revolutionist, theorist, editor, martyr, Commissioner of Enlightenment & Education in the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic.

Daily Bleed Saint, May 2.

Gustav Landauer lives, April 7, 1870, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Anarchist theorist, introduced to the ideas of Proudhon & Kropotkin by Benedikt Friedlander, & pacifist influenced by Leo Tolstoy's anarchist-pacifism.

Landauer, along with Ret Marut (aka B. Traven, a fellow anarchist & novelist) & Erich Muhsam were part of the Workers' Councils which, on April 7, 1919, declared a Workers' Republic in Bavaria — in spite of the opposition of the Communists. Landauer was Minister of Education, & sought to introduce the ideas of Francisco Ferrer.

On May 2, 1919, he was shot down in the street by soldiers, sent by the Socialist Gustav Noske, to subdue the Bavarian insurrection.

Landauer wrote The Revolution (1908) & Call to Socialism (1911), etc.

"The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently."

       — Gustav Landauer

  • Landauer was influenced by Etienne de La Boetie, a French advisor at the Parliament of Bordeaux in the 1500s & friend of Montaigne who later glorifies their friendship ("Because of him, there is me."). His principal work, Discours sur la servitude volontaire (The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude), was posthumously published by Montaigne, & is considered an early precursor of anarchism. Around 1833 Emerson wrote his poem, "Étienne de la Boèce". Tolstoy used extracts from the Discourse in three of his books. In 1907 Gustav Landauer made the Discourse central to his anarchist book, Die Revolution.

    "That which controls you has only two eyes, has only two hands, has only one body & but one thing which the least of men in all the cities has, but more than you all, it is the advantage which you give him to destroy you... "

  • Peter Kropotkin's 'L'Ordre' was first published in Le Révolté on October 1, 1881. It was reprinted as the ninth chapter of Paroles d'un Révolté in 1885 &, as Nicolas Walter notes,

    ... It also foreshadows the parallel conceptions of topia & utopia in Gustav Landauer's The Revolution (1907) & of entropy & revolution in novelist Yevgeni Zamyatin's On Literature, Revolution & Entropy (1924).

  • Nov 17, 1918. "Red Bavaria" Revolution. Workers revolt in Germany. The Bavarian monarchy is overthrown & a Republic is declared by the Socialist Kurt Eisner, who becomes its president. Eisner proposes a ministry position to the anarchist Erich Muhsam. Muhsam refused, preferring to fight, along with Gustav Landauer, Ernst Toller, Ret Marut (B. Traven), & others, for the development of Workers' Councils & self-managed co-operatives.

    The anarchists are the principal actors, but the troops sent in by the socialists will crush the revolutionaries between April 30 & May 2, 1919, killing over 700 victims.

    B. Traven (The Death Ship; The Treasure of the Sierra Madres, etc):

    Erich Muhsam:


Gustav Landauer
Denn in der Poesie sind
Worte und Begriffe das
Instrument, das uns zur
Musik führt, -zum
Rhythmus, zum
Unsagbaren, das in uns
einschwingt und uns
mitschwingen läßt.

"Gustav Landauer" by Eberhard Arnold"

Ernst Toller, playwright, became chairman of the Central Council of the farmer & soldier, & leader of a Red Army:

The Munich Soviet (or "Council Republic") of 1919 exhibited certain features of the TAZ, even though — like most revolutions — its stated goals were not exactly "temporary." Gustav Landauer's participation as Minister of Culture along with Silvio Gesell as Minister of Economics & other anti-authoritarian & extreme libertarian socialists such as the poet/playwrights Erich Muhsam & Ernst Toller, & Ret Marut (the novelist B. Traven), gave the Soviet a distinct anarchist flavor. Landauer, who had spent years of isolation working on his grand synthesis of Nietzsche, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Stirner, Meister Eckhardt, the radical mystics, & the Romantic volk-philosophers, knew from the start that the Soviet was doomed; he hoped only that it would last long enough to be understood.

— Peter Lamborn Wilson

  • In 1896, Landauer began publishing the newspaper " Der Sozialist " & is condemned for its activity several times. Influenced by Tolstoï's pacifism, in 1908, he formed the "sozialistiche bund," an organization made up of about 15 federated groups which will try to prevent the coming first world war by advocating the general strike.

  • Gustav Landauer was a signatory to the Ernst Joël Petition (1915), among other leading cultural figures of the day, including Walter Benjamin, Martin Buber, Kurt Eisner, S. Fischer, Alfred Kerr, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Fritz Mauthner & Frank Wedekind. Landauer, photo collage

  • Cited at CIRA:
    YASSOUR, Avraham. Gustav Landauer's anarchist theory. [In Hebrew] Haifa, 1985. 18 p. – Broch 7633 hb
    YASSOUR, Avraham. Gustav Landauer, Communal settlement & its industrialization (an exchange of letters between Landauer & Nachum Goldman). Haifa University, s.d. 27 p. ms. – Doc
    YASSOUR, Avraham. Gustav Landauer: a man, a jew, an anarchist [in hebrew]. Ya'ad 2/1989, p. 85-96. – Br 8904 hb

    "Gustav Landauer fought in the revolution against the revolution for the sake of the revolution. The revolution will not thank him for it. But those will thank him for it who have fought as he fought & perhaps some day those will thank him for whose sake he fought."

    Martin Buber

    Aufruf Sozialismus, book cover

    Jesse Cohn notes,

    . Works by landauer i'd most like to see translated (from ruth link-salinger hyman's Gustav Landauer: Philosopher of Utopia — i've put a (*) next to essays available in a recently-published collection of landauer's works, *Dichter, Ketzer, Außenseiter: Essays und Reden zu Literatur, Philosophie, Judentum*):

    — "Über epische und dramatische Dichtung," *Deutschland*, 4 und 11. März.

    — "Sprache und Schrift," *Das Magazin für Litteratur, 5. Marz, 155-156.
    — "Sprache und Schrift," *Das Magazin für Litteratur, 19, Marz, 189-191.
    — "Die Zukunft und die Kunst," *Die Neue Zeit*, X, 532-535.
    — "Gerhard Hauptmann," *Die Neue Zeit, X, 612-621.

    — "Die blaue Blume," *Die Nation*, 17. Jahrg. Nr. 28, 395-397 (1899-1900).
    — "Dostojewski," *Das Neue Jahrhundert*, 2. Halbjahrband.
    — "Fritz Mauthner," *Die Zukunft*, 29, Bd., 296-305.
    — "Goethe" (in *Der Sozialist*, August 1899)

    "Mauthners Sprachkritik," *Die Zukunft*, 35. Bd., 134-40.
    "Mauthners Sprachwissenschaft," *Die Zukunft*, 37. Bd., 312-323.

    "Mauthners Werk," *Die Zukunft*, 42. Bd., 455-464.

    "Musik der Welt," *Die Zukunft*, 52. Bd., 174-176.

    "Drei Dramen und ihre Richter," *Die Schaubühne*, 2. Jahrg. Nr. 6, 8. Febr.

    "Hofmannsthals 'Odipus'," *Das Blaubuch*, 1. Juli.
    "Lernt nicht Esparanto," *Die freie Generation*, Bd. 1 Heft 8, Februar, 147-150.
    "Streit um Whitman," *Das literarische Echo*, 1528.
    "Algernon Charles Swinburne. Zu einem 70. Geburtstag (5. April)," *Der Zeitgeist*, Nr. 13, *Berliner Tageblatt*, 1. April (manuscript).

    "Zur Kritik der Sprachkunst," *Kritik der Kritik*, Bd. 2 Heft 12, 283-336.

    Book review: "Felix Paul Greve, ed., *Jonathan Swifts Prosaschriften*," *Das literarische Echo*, 11. Jahrg. Heft 11, 1. Marz, 817-818.

    (*)"Lew Nikolajewitsch Tolstoi" (December 15, in *Der Sozialist*)

    (*)"Leo Tostoi: Für alle Tage" (January 1, in *Der Sozialist*)

    "Fritz Mauthners Buddha-Dichtung," *Berliner Tageblatt*, 13. Dezember.

    (*)"Zur Poesie der Juden," *Freistatt*, 22. August.
    "Philister über dir, Hauptmann!" (July 1, in *Der Sozialist*)
    (*)"Walt Whitman" (Weihnachten, in *Der Sozialist*)

    (*)"Strindberg," *Neue Jugend*, I, 135-136.
    (*)"Friedrich Hölderlin in seinen Gedichten," *Die weissen Blätter*, 3. Jahrg., April-Juni, 183-213 (Neuauflage, Potsdam, 1922).

    (*)"Strindbergs historische Miniaturen," *Der Jude*, 2. Jahrg. Heft 1-2, April/Mai, 97-109.

    (*)"Enleitung in Strindbergs Gespenstersonate," *Das Forum*, 3, 415-427.
    (*)"Goethes Politik," *Masken*, 14. Jahrg. Heft 9, 14. Januar.
    (*)"Strindbergs Traumspiel," *Masken*, Oktober, 49-64.
    (*)"Zur Uraufführung von Georg Kaisers 'Gas'," *Masken*.
    (*)"Zu Tolstois Tagebuch," *Die Weltbühne*, 9. Mai, 333-337.

    "Troilus und Cressida," *Deutsche Bühne*, 1, 177-217.
    (*)"Eine Ansprache an die Dichter," *Die Erhebung, Jahrbuch für Neue Dichtung und Wertung*, 296-304.
    (*)"Enleitung in Strindbergs Gespenstersonate," *Das Forum*, 3, Jahrg. Heft 6, Marz, 415-427.

    1920 (posthumous)
    "Thesen zur Wirklichkeit und Verwirklichung," (1915) Ein Fragment aus dem Nachlass Gustav Landauers, mit einem Nachwort von Alfred Wolfenstein, *Die Erhebung, Jahrbuch für neue Dichtung und Wertung*, 318-322.
    "Kulturprogramm," *Fidelis*, Forum 4 Heft 8, Mai, 582-599.

    longer works:
    — *Shakespeare*; dargestellt in Vorträgen. Hrsg. M. Buber. 2 Bänden. Frankfurt a.M.: Verlag Rütten und Loening, 1920. 2. Aufl. 1923. Potsdam, 1948. Hamburg, 1962.
    — *Skepsis und Mystik: Versuche im Anschluss on Mauthners Sprachkritik.* Berlin, 1903. 2. Aufl. Köln, 1923.

    — Jesse Cohn

    Gustav Landauer

    page created July 2003; minor edits & links updated/verified November 2005

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