Anarchy Man!

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The Anarchist Encyclopedia:
A Gallery of Saints & Sinners ...

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// -- Muehsam photo; source http://www.muehsam

Erich Mühsam

Anarchist militant & author.

German anarchist poet, murdered by the Nazis at the Orianenburg concentration camp.

alt; Erich Muhsam; Eric Muehsam

    An anarchist who despised dogma & close-mindedness in reform movements, particularly as manifested in Marxism. He believed adamantly in the power of the individual & the power of the lowest classes of society.

Muehsam graphic; source ra_forum

Member of the Bavarian Workers' Councils, which also included Gustav Landauer, Ret Marut (aka, the novelist B. Traven), Ernst Toller, etc.

A Muehsam timeline from the Daily Bleed & elsewhere:

  • 1878 - April 6, born in Berlin, the son of a pharmicist.

  • 1896 - Kicked out of the Gymnasium at age 18 "because of socialist activities".

  • 1900 - He moves back to Berlin & works as a pharmacists assistant; became a part of Die Neue Gemeishaft (The New Community), a socialist-religious group where Muhsam met Gustav Landauer.

  • 1901 - Publishes "Der wahre Jacob" (The True Jacob).

  • 1902 - His writings for "Der arme Teufel" (1902-1903) bring him under police surveillance.

  • 1904 - Left die Neue Gemeischaft to travel & settled for awhile the Swiss artists' colony Ascona. Here he ompleted his first play, Die Hochstapler (The Con Men).

  • 1908 - Leaves Ascona with sharpened political views, to Munich. Once Involved in the cabaret scene, & heavily influenced by Frank Wedekind. In response to the unproductive 1906 SPD convention, Muhsam wrote Der Revoluzzer, his most famous song, & perhaps his most famous work.

  • 1910 - He is arrested & tried for the first time, for subversive behavior because of his involvement with Gustav Landauer's "Geheimbuendelei". Muhsam was acquitted. But protests against censorship, which included Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann & Frank Wedekind remained unsuccessful.

  • 1911 - He begins publishing the newspaper Kain, as a forum for communist-anarchist ideologies.

  • 1914-1918 - He suspends publication to avoid government censorship & became active in the anti-war movement. He is under constant police surveillance. He was arrested & jailed for his opposition in 1918...

  • 1916 - Participation in the hunger demonstration on Marienplatz in Munic.h

  • 1918 - January 28. Germany: General Strike in the large cities. In Munich,

  • 1918 - April 24. Muhsam, at a meeting of 10,000 workers, calls for the continuation of the strike movement & is subsequently stopped by police & put under house arrest until October.

  • 1918 - April 7. Workers' Councils declare a Republic in Bavaria, in spite of the opposition of the Communists. Principal actors include Erich Muhsam, Gustav Landauer, Ret Marut (B. Traven), Ernst Toller, etc.

  • 1918 - November 7. "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 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.

  • 1919 - Jan 10. Germany: Arrest of Muhsam & 11 other prominent radicals. Released after protest demonstrations of the revolutionary workers

  • 1919- February 22. In Munich, the socialist Kurt Eisner, principal in the Bavarian revolution & president of the Republic of Councils, is assassinated by extremists. The Central Council of the Republic, composed of 11 members, including the anarchist Erich Muhsam, declare a general strike & state of siege.

  • 1919 - April 7 Erich Muhsam, along with Gustav Landauer, Ret Marut (aka B. Traven, the novelist), was part of the Workers' Councils which, on this day, declared a Workers' Republic in Bavaria -- in spite of the opposition of the Communists. Arrested on April 13

  • 1919 - May 2, Landauer is shot down & killed in the street by soldiers sent by the Socialist Gustav Noske to subdue the Bavarian insurrection. The troops sent in by the socialists crush the revolutionaries on April 30 kill over 700.

  • 1919 - July 7-12. Tried for High Treason process, Muhsam is sentenced to 15 years in prison.

    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.

    —Peter Lamborn Wilson

  • 1924 - December 21.After five years of prison for his participation in the Republic of the Workers Councils, Muhsam is amnestied, along with others. Thousands of workers turn out for his release. He begins to use his art for political purposes. Muhsam restarted Kain

  • 1926 - founded the Fanal (The Torch) a paper where he openly & dangerously criticized both the communist party & the far right wing.

  • 1928 - Completed his third major play, Straatsraso (For Reasons of State), based upon the unjust conviction, & subsequent execution, of Sacco & Vanzetti (based almost solely on the fact that they were anarchists & Italian immigrants). Produced by Piscato, the play was well received.

    ? ?

  • 1929 - May 1. Liberal Book Friends (GfB) begins publishing the free monthly illustrated review "Meditation & Departure". Nice mix of anarchist & contemporary & critical art-related materials. Included Max Baginski, Karl Roche, Erich Muhsam, Fritz Linow, Arthur Lehning, Rudolf Rocker among many others. Each issue included a booklet by some anarchist or sympathetic author (Emma Goldman & Theodor Plievier, for example).


  • 1930 - Completes his final play, Alle Wetter (Hang it all!). The tone was extremely revolutionary, rejecting the idea of a centrally controlled movement & pleading for a spontaneous revolution by the masses. The play was never produced.

  • 1933- February 27/28. He is arrested by SA the night of the Reichstag Fire. He is transfered to various prisons for the next year, subject to the agonies of being abused. He had been arrested one day before intending to flee Germany for Switzerland.

  • 1934 - February2. Transfer to the KZ Oranienburg; international efforts toward his release remain unsuccessful.

  • 1934 - On the night of July 9 Muhsam is tortured & killed by the Nazis at the Orianenburg concentration camp. Waldfriedhof Dahlem, Berlin.

    For a detailed timeline, in German, see

    A short list of some major works:

    Plays: Rote Hilfe, Judas, Staatrason, Alle Wetter

    Journals: Kain, Fanal

  • Muhsam See David Shepard, From Bohemia to the Barricades: Erich Muhsam & the Development of Revolutionary Drama. (New York: P. Lang, 1993).