by Eberhard Arnold
Originally printed as “Familienverband und Siedlungsleben” in Das neue Werk, 1920.
That Gustav Landauer’s influence is on the increase in socialist youth circle – among the educated as well as among the proletarians – should be received with deepest joy. He was execrably murdered by brutalized soldiers for being an accursed agitator – he, this profound friend of German mysticism, this fighter for the spirit of a true national community. It is impossible to kill the truth, however. At no time while Gustav Landauer was alive did he assemble around himself such a large circle of friends – friends gripped by his ideas – as is now gathered around the core of what was his life’s task. This spiritual current which is so strong among the young people of today has been described as anarchist communism, but anarchy must here be understood solely in the sense of an order that is organic in its structure, an order based on free-willing associations.
As this movement sees it, the longed-for communist culture does not rest on some form of technology or on a certain method of satisfying men’s needs, but rather on the spirit of justice. The communal settlements which are aimed at and in part have already been begun in this country, are to be built up into models of justice and of joyous work. Everywhere one finds clearly expressed the longing that the spirit ruling over men should be that of community. The spirit yearned for by these circles, so stirred by what Gustav Landauer represents, is the uniting spirit of common work, the active, creative spirit of a love that welds men together. There is no other movement with–at first glance–a non-Christian appearance, where there is so much talk about the spirit; no other movement where there is such a strong affirmation of life as constructive work for the coming time, as is the case with this group of communist anarchists. It is not at all a question here of mere talk–on the contrary, this movement sees the spirit as a uniting awareness of inward fellowship, as an inner drive towards justice and integrated wholeness, an urge to, and joy in, comradeship. The spirit thus experienced as the very quintessence of life can therefore signify nothing else but practical reality and effective activity. It represents freewillingness and joy in creative work, strength and serenity, enthusiasm and bravery, will and deed, a power that frees and binds at the same time. These revolutionaries bent on building up a new order recognize quite correctly that in the past there is nothing we have lacked more than such a spirit of community – a spirit guaranteeing social unity just as much as spiritual independence.
Gustav Landauer expects to find the salvation in work – true work that is filled, guided, and organized by a brotherly spirit free from greed; work as the deed of honest hands and as a witness to the rulership of a pure and truthful spirit. What he envisions as the fundamental character of the future is work as an expression of the spirit, as provision for men’s needs, as cooperative action. Side by side with the joy one feels in comradeship and in showing consideration to one another, man’s joy in his work is to bring it about that he experiences his work as the actual fulfillment of his life and thus finds joy in living. “Man needs to have joy in what he does; his soul must take an active part in the functioning of his body.”
This, however, truly demands the presence of that Spirit who “links all life to Eternity, who makes our senses holy and our physical existence heavenly; who imparts joy, verve and revolutionary exuberance to all our ways and all we do.” It should be clear to everybody that one cannot assure the presence of this Spirit by simply moving out into the country and in a rural setting seeking to combine mental and physical work. This much is true: man’s future is bound to lie on the land. It is and remains man’s task to cultivate the soil and to preserve the purity of the spirit. That the new rural culture wants to carry spiritual vitality out into the countryside is a healthy idea.
A life really in accord with human dignity will be achieved only if, side by side with our work on the land, we can build up a genuine inner culture which concerns itself with the true interests of the spirit. It is clear even now to every reasonable person that the best recreation, the best education, and the best training consists in a right alternation of mental and physical work. Everything, of course, depends on what will be the content of the new cultivation of the mind which is to pervade rural life.
That the earth and its products should be common property is no doubt a prophetic demand of justice. The anarchist communists’ watchword that land and work must be newly experienced as something all men share in common corresponds to the original destiny of mankind just as much as their emphasis on the spirit. That the land should be the common property and that work be the common task of all men is more than a lofty ideal aiming at a renewal of man’s condition. Land and spirit–the new demand of this revolutionary movement–is but the age-old prophetic proclamation of the truth which alone can assure a healthy future for mankind. The divine Spirit voiced by the prophets pointed out ways by which to reach these goals that are indispensable for a life worthy of human beings; it showed how man’s egoism can be transformed into a spirit of fellowship, into love and devoted creative work. Only by being infused with the Holy Spirit of the living God can the yearned-for spirit of community be saved from degenerating into a spirit of vile commonness. The Holy Spirit alone proves to be the uniting power that engenders true community. God alone, as the personification of creative life, brings about the longed-for, ultimate unity of freewillingness and creative joy, of inner independence and social justice, of free self-determination and complete love. God’s Spirit is that power which, as truth, separates what is bad and half-hearted from that which is good and genuine, and which, as love, calls forth the will and the deed of loving kindness. The fruits of this Spirit can only be goodness and justice, peace and joy, self-control, and the gift to produce and to achieve, for He can show forth nothing else but God’s own nature. God’s Spirit is the life-begetting Spirit of life, He is the uniting Spirit of unity, for He is the Spirit of divine life–the Spirit of that life which pulses in Jesus.
We rejoice in the spiritual deepening which the anarchist-communist elements bring to socialism. By their very nature they had to see through and unmask the unspiritual ingredients in Marxism and materialism so that Gustav Landauer was able to write:
Jesus was a truly inexhaustible figure – so rich, so bountiful and generous, that quite apart from the significance He has for men’s spirit and life He was also a tremendous socialist. But take a Philistine and place him on the one hand before the living Jesus on the Cross, and on the other hand before some new machine designed to transport persons or goods: if he is honest and free of any cultural pretensions he will regard this crucified human being as totally useless and superfluous and will run after that machine. And yet, how immeasurably more have men been really moved by Jesus’ calm, tranquil, suffering greatness of heart and mind than by all the machines we have for the purpose of moving people! And yet,where would our whole transport machinery be without this calm, tranquil, suffering great One on the Cross of mankind! (Call to Socialism, pp. 47-48)