Justice 1919

Obituary for Kurt Eisner

Source: unsigned, Justice, 27th February 1919, p.6;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Kurt Eisner was born at Berlin on May 14 1857, of Jewish parents, his parental name being Kamonowsky. Eisner was the name he took when he began to write, and that name he adopted in his work for Social-Democracy.

Kurt Eisner was always an open Republican as well as a Social-Democrat, whereas for tactical reasons German Social-Democracy, particularly in its later stages, rather cold-shouldered anything in the shape of Republican propaganda as being unnecessary and included in general Social-Democratic aims. Consequently he fought actively for political democracy as well as Social-Democracy. He became editor of “Vorwärts” after the death of Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1900, but was subsequently called upon to resign from that position. After his withdrawal from “Vorwärts,” his activities were confined in the main to Bavaria, though he toured other parts of Germany.

He was at Munich when the war broke out. At first he leaned to the view of the Majority on the war. But not for long. He soon took the side of the Minority, and has since been a leading figure among the Independents. His attitude on the war shows how wrong are those who assume that it is the “Revisionists” who supported the German Government and the Radical Marxists who opposed it. Eisner, if anything, favoured the Revisionists rather than the rigid Marxists, yet he increasingly opposed the war policy of the Majority as the war went on, while Marxists like Lensch and Heinrich Cunow have supported the war more vigorously, presumably on the ground that an economic “Deutschland über Alles” was the best possible thing for the world, if the world had only the commonsense to realise it.

Once convinced that the German Government bore the main responsibility for the outbreak of war, Kurt Eisner declared so by speech and by pen, in spite of the censorship, the state of siege, and police supervision. He was condemned and suffered imprisonment in a fortress, from which he was released on November 7 last. He was heart and soul in the Revolution, and his vigour forced the immediate abdication of the Wittelsbach dynasty from the throne of Bavaria. This was after the great meeting that he addressed in the Theresienstrasse on November 10. Premier of Bavaria after the Revolution, the last few months have been for him one incessant struggle against the reactionaries on the one hand, and Majority Social-Democratic leaders, whom he thoroughly distrusted, on the other. Whilst not going so far Sovietwards as the Spartacists, nevertheless he wanted a Revolutionary Government composed of Socialists who knew their own minds, and who would pursue a thoroughgoing Socialist policy so as to remove the old regime as quickly as possible. The results of the election, both for the National Assembly and the Bavarian Constituent Assembly, must have been a bitter disappointment for him, for they revealed the political weakness of the Independents.

His speech at the International Socialist Conference at Berne must have exasperated the reactionaries all over Germany, and must have caused the Majority Social-Democrats to feel non too cordially disposed towards him. He said it was essential that they should meet in the spirit of the new League of Nations — the spirit of clearness and truth. There must be confidence on both sides. Germany had a heavy guilt, which all in a manner had to bear, and which they must expiate in order that they might go forward on the way to Socialism. He attacked Wel’s “Majority” speech, showed how cleverly the German Government had exploited the fear of “Czarismus,” and declared that it was impossible to shake hands until responsibility for the war had been established. He had been much blamed for demanding the publication of documents, and Dr. Solf had said that it would add a hundred milliards to Germany’s burden, but he had replied that they must have the truth at all costs.

Count Arco-Valley’s bullet has laid him low.