Mühsam, Erich

(1878-1934)
   revolutionary, anarchist, and writer; a "communist anarchist committed to "Struggle, Revolution, Equality, Free-dom. Born in Berlin* to a pharmacist, he was attracted to socialism while in Gymnasium; indeed, "socialist activities brought his expulsion. After appren-ticing as a pharmacist, he began freelancing in 1901 and joined a bohemian group centered on the journal Neue Gemeinschaft. In the next decade he came under Frank Wedekind's influence and formed a pivotal friendship with Gustav Landauer.* Moving to Munich in 1909, he edited the periodical Kain and wrote satire and criticism for Simplizissimus and Fackel. But his socialism was in-creasingly tempered by a rebellious spirit; not only did he oppose militarism and capitalism, but his ideal world did not accommodate either the state or conventional morals.
   Confined to Bavaria's Traunstein fortress for opposing World War I, Mühsam was active in 1918-1919 in Kurt Eisner s* Bavarian Revolution. Working with Landauer and Ernst Toller,* he soon turned against Eisner and was a leader in Munich's Workers' Council.* But Mühsam was motivated more by pacifism than by revolutionary Marxism. In March 1919 he became part of the executive that provided the framework for Munich's short-lived Raterepublik. Sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment in May 1919, he was pardoned in 1924. During incarceration he wrote several revolutionary songs, an account of the Bavarian Revolution published as Von Eisner bis Levine (From Eisner to Levine, 1929), and the play Judas. Once he was amnestied, he worked on behalf of prisoners and championed what he termed Communist anarchism. He edited the periodical Fanal in which his own writings often censured the KPD. From 1926 he in-creasingly used Fanal to call for a united front* of all antifascist constituencies.
   Mühsam's politics were unconventional. Although he worked with Rosa Lux-emburg,* he was rigorously independent and expressed qualified sympathy after 1930 for Otto Strasser.* Eugen Levine,* who removed him from the central committee of Bavaria s* KPD, labeled him an anarchist; it remains the best description. On the night of the Reichstag fire (27 February 1933), he was arrested and sent to Oranienburg. After a severe beating, he died on 11 July 1934. His widow, who fled to the Soviet Union,* was deported to Siberia as a spy.
   REFERENCES:Bosl, Franz, and Hofmann, Biographisches Worterbuch;Déak, Weimar Germany's Left-Wing Intellectuals; Mitchell, Revolution in Bavaria.

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

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