MAX NETTLAU’S 70th BIRTHDAY

By Fritz Brupbacher (Translated by Jules Scarceriaux)

April 30th, Max Nettlau, the historian of anarchism, was seventy years old. He lives in Vienna in a tiny little room hardly big enough for himself, a stove and a few needed books. There, he toils day and night to complete his works without asking himself if they will ever be printed. Times are hard for men who have only their thoughts and knowledge to sell. We live in an epoch where love is no longer loved, when each one looks for either a master or a slave. But Dr. Max Nettlau studies the libertarian movement and writes its history. The knowledge of such a movement is not wished for by masters nor by slaves; to them, such history is enervating.

For more than thirty years Nettlau’s Bakunin, a monumental biography, waits for an editor, in any language. Still it is in existence, about fifty copies polygraphed by himself, have been spread all over the world. Every one of us who writes about the libertarian movement and upon Bakunin has taken something from Nettlau. Without him we should practically have ignored everything from the history of anarchism.

Now, a 40,000 Volume library collected by his own means is packed up in boxes somewhere. Nettlau is not “rich” enough to install his own library and make use of his own books. Day and night he is at work as the poorest worker and he is as poor as the last of them; for his work is poison to the wealthy of the world. Should Nettlau manufacture ammunitions, he would then live in abundance.

Yes, Dr. Nettlau was born in Vienna. His father was chief gardener for prince Schwarzenberg; he was a republican of the German 48; fatherhood was well understood by him, for he left his son to grow like his flowers. Nettlau had a happy childhood growing up in a wonderful garden in Robinson Crusoe and Grimm’s stories atmosphere, dreaming of some South-Sea Islands, idealistic and free. Later, this dream of a free island passed into his social conceptions. The political dream of the year 1848 remained a part of his life. Already as a youth, he wanted to organise a society of conspirators to fight the tyrants.

When a young collegian he read “Die Zukunft” (The Future), an Australian socialist publication. Very early in life he participated at socialist gatherings and meetings. Once, at the Gymnasium, he was already reprimanded for his conceptions; in a composition he had condemned Louis XIV for having made too many wars. He was then told that a prince can never be blamed.

First, Nettlau studied philology. He obtained his doctorate summacum lande for his Cimbrian Celtic grammar. From 1891 on, he published his first work upon Bakunin, and thus the latter was known in our midst.

Later he gave up philology and applied himself entirely to the study of the libertarian movement. He wrote numerous well-documented articles for newspapers and reviews. He wrote not only a biography of Bakunin, but also one of Reclus and another on Malatesta.

Furthermore, besides the above mentioned works, he published in German three volumes upon the history of anarchism; four more manuscripts on the subject are ready. But these books cannot see the daylight. Here, one could ask if the editors are under the impression that there is no more a public of revolutionary readers for such books. Or we should be inclined to enquire if the revolutionary element has lost the taste for everything dealing with freedom.

However, we believe that there must still be one editor for the history of anarchism in a single volume, a book that would consign the essential of the work to which Nettlau has concentrated his entire life. This summing up which we have asked him for, Nettlau is now writing without bothering about its publication. Deep into his heart he has confidence. He works at what he believes to be his task as must work all those who love and advocate freedom.

Again, we, the old ones, cannot conceive our intellectual workshop without Nettlau’s work. And I think that it will be the same with the young element, for those who think that freedom is as much needed as our daily bread.

Thus, all of us, friends of freedom, of truth, will say today to Dr. Nettlau, on his 70th birthday, that our hearts are thankful for him who has kept the treasures of the anarchist literature through his researches and publications. Nettlau has not worked and suffered in vain. And if he is dear and so great to us, it is as much for the reason that he is not only a scholar, but also a man who has lived only for his ideas locked up in the midst of his books that speak of them. We shake hands with him with gratitude and wish him in his work many, many more years. No doubt that finally, there will be an editor in some country in the world who will understand the importance of Nettlau’s marvellous work.

Man! Vol. 3 No 6
June 1935

(From “Man! An Anthology of Anarchist Ideas, Essays, Poetry and Commentaries”, ed. By Marcus Graham. Cienfuegos Press, London 1974.)

Leo Rothziegel, 1892-1919

Leo Rothziegel, 1892-1919
av Nick Heath

Leo Rothziegel, född 5 december 1892 – Österrike; död 29 april 1919 – Ungern.

Han föddes den 5 december 1892 i en judisk arbetarklassfamilj i Österrike och blev sättare. Polisen betecknade i en dossier de hade upprättat1910 om honom som en ”anarkokommunist”. Han var väldigt aktiv i Socialistisk Arbetarungdom 1914 och tog en ledarroll i Leopoldstadsgruppen i Arbetarungdomens Association, innan han petades från sin post för ”anarkism”. Han var en aktiv medlem i Anarkistfederationen. Han var också medlem i Poale Zion. Han bröt med den gruppen på grund av dess nationalism. Han inkallades under kriget och deserterade från Militärgeografiska Institutet den 3 november 1916.

Den 15 februari 1917 arresterades han för myteri, men lyckades rymma från fängelset. Han gick under jorden för att bedriva revolutionär verksamhet. Den 30 november 1917 blev han medlem i det första hemliga arbetarrådet som hade organiserats i Wien. Han spelade en viktig roll vid strejkerna i januari 1918. Rådet bytte namn till ”Arbetar- och Soldatrådet” efter att ett antal soldater gått med. Rådet var djupt involverat i en serie viktiga strejker (Den Stora Januaristrejken) i vilka fler än 100,000 arbetare deltog. Rådet inkluderade anarkister, syndikalister och de som nu såg sig själva som ”bolsjeviker”. Han utgav ett manifest som krävde omedelbar fred och återinförande av de individuella friheter som hade dragits in. I detta manifest uppmanade han arbetare att följa den ryska revolutionens exempel och skapa arbetarråd. Efter strejkvågen jagades han av polisen som arresterade honom i april 1918. Vid den Habsburgska monarkins fall befriades han från fängelset genom massaktion. Han utgav ett nytt manifest som krävde all makt åt arbetarnas och soldaternas råd.

Den 2 november skapade han ett väpnat förband, Röda Gardet. Dock lyckades de socialdemokratiska ledarna så splittring i dess led och det kollapsade. Han hjälpte till att grunda Revolutionära Socialisterna Internationella Federation och satt i dess verkställande råd. Denna grupp inkluderade ett stort antal arbetare och vänstersocialister som hade brutit med socialdemokratin. Den fick anslutning av journalisten Egon Erwin Kisch, som blev en nära vän till Rothziegel och en ledande medlem. Rothziegel representerade federationen på det österrikiska kommunistpartiets grundningskongress i februari 1919. Rothziegel skrev också för Revolution, organ för Wienanarkisterna, som hade blivit en veckotidning under redaktion av Karl F. Kocmata från den 22 februari 1919.

På ett massmöte framför Wiens stadshus försvarade han det internationalistiska behovet att hjälpa den ungerska revolutionen. Den 2 april marscherade han med 400 frivilliga, snart anslutna av 800 beväpnade arbetare, mot Ungern. Här blev de varmt välkomnade av den ungerska arbetarklassen. Bela Kun, ledare för Ungerns Kommunistiska Parti, inkorporerade dem i Röda Armén och sände dem till fronten mot de rumänska och franska trupperna vid Debrecen.

Istället för att sprida revolutionen i Österrike blev de 1,200 frivilliga pjäser i bolsjevikernas och den tröge Bela Kuns manövrer.

Under ett anfall av de rumänska styrkorna vid Vamospercs den 29 april 1919 blev Rothziegel dödligt sårad. Kisch skrev att ”kommunisten Rothziegel har stupat på slagfältet: han blev 27 år gammal, en kompetent tryckare, autodidakt, lysande talare och lika brinnande som sitt ideal, Bakunin”.

Nick Heath

Övers. från libcom.org