Levien, Max

(1885-1937)
   Communist official; guided Bavaria's* council movement in the early months of 1919. Born in Moscow to a Jewish business-man, he was arrested during Russia's 1905 revolution. He escaped to Zürich, where his university studies brought him into contact with Lenin. He relocated to Germany before World War I, became a citizen, and was drafted into the army. He was not in Bavaria when Kurt Eisner* ousted the monarchy (Novem-ber 1918), but was dispatched to Munich by the Spartacus League* and arrived on 11 December to organize a Bavarian chapter of the League. He initially supported Rosa Luxemburg's* belief that further revolution in Germany should result only from a spontaneous action of the masses, and shared her conviction that such a moment would only arrive when the workers were enlightened.
   Appointed head of Bavaria's KPD in January 1919, Levien was soon Mu-nich's most prominent radical. On 11 January he published a three-point plat-form: the unrestricted right of radical agitation, the replacement of the current German government with a leftist one, and the transformation of Bavaria's coun-cils into the state's governing authority. He thereby censured the new Landtag as a usurpation of power properly belonging to the Workers', Peasants', and Soldiers' Councils.* With Erich Mühsam,* cochairman of Bavaria's KPD, he promoted Lenin's notion of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" (Luxemburg, by then dead, would likely have disapproved); it was a position that neither Eisner nor his successors would disparage for fear of alienating worker support. His three arrests (7 January, 8 February, and 28 February, respectively), badly han-dled by the authorities, were interpreted by many as attacks on the council system and thus redounded to Levien's advantage by making it appear that he was being persecuted (the government failed to call him to account for any illegality). From the end of January until his March displacement by Eugen Levine,* Levien controlled a Munich Workers' Council forsaken by more mod-erate socialists. During Munich's short-lived Raterepublik (14-27 April) he was part of Levine's four-member Vollzugsrat (executive council). The only KPD leader to escape the White terror of May 1919, he took asylum in Moscow. According to Ruth Fischer,* he was later executed for having befriended Grigori Zinoviev.
   REFERENCES:Borkenau, European Communism; Ruth Fischer, Stalin and German Com-munism; Mitchell, Revolution in Bavaria.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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