The Berlin Abendpost A Stirnerite and Individualist Anarchist Newspaper from 1850.

Author:Huber, Elias

In 1850, German free traders published the Abendpost (Evening post), whose political philosophy was individualist anarchism. Little is known about this Berlin newspaper. It existed for only five and a half months before it was suppressed by the Prussian state. It had a small readership of approximately one thousand and was frequently confiscated by the police. Its journalists later remained silent or obscured their involvement with it when they became respected public figures because the paper took a radical anarchist and nihilist position. Even more, most issues of it--except for three--have been lost, and sources on it are not easily accessible. The American historian Ralph Raico is one of the few researchers who investigated the Abendpost (1999, 62-67), but he did not look at its extant issues or at other Berlin newspapers from 1850. This essay attempts to close the gap. Its results are relevant for researchers of the history of political ideas because the Abendpost advanced a completely new political philosophy. Moreover, the findings can be interesting for researchers on Max Stirner who want to know how his contemporaries received Der Einzige und sein Eigentum ([1844] 1893, translated as The Ego and Its Own in 1913). (1) I begin by presenting the history of the Abendpost, then give a short overview of Stirner's philosophy. Next I examine five main ideas of the newspaper--egoism, atheism, free association, economic liberalism, and individualist anarchism--and close by situating the Abendpostin relation to individualist anarchist thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

The Abendpost's History

The origins of the Abendpost are closely tied to an important figure of the German free-trade movement: Julius Faucher. A journalist and politician, Faucher was probably the first to synthesize free-trade, anarchist, and Stirnerite ideas. He was born on June 13, 1820, in Berlin and died one day before his fifty-eighth birthday in Rome. (2) He studied philosophy at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-University in Berlin and was a member of the first German free trade association in Berlin founded in 1847, together with the leader of the German free traders, John Prince-Smith, and others. Around this time, he became a journalist for the Stettin liberal newspaper Borsennachrichten der Ostsee and met Richard Cobden at a banquet of the Stettin free-trade association. In January 1850, Faucher was cofounder of the Abendpost. He immigrated to London afterward and worked as both Cobden's secretary and a journalist at Cobden's paper, the Morning Star, in London. After living for ten years in England, he returned to Germany in 1861 and entered the Prussian House of Representatives, the second chamber of the Prussian Parliament. Faucher regularly attended the annual meetings of the Economic Congress, which debated economic policy and was founded in 1858, "where he immediately impressed the listeners by the plentifulness of his practical knowledge and urbane experiences and by a unique fiery eloquence" (Bohmert 1878,60). (3) He was one of the most laissez-faire at the congress.

Faucher advocated a gold standard for Germany, was against unbacked banknotes, and agitated for the Franco-Prussian trade treaty of 1862. In 1863, together with Otto Michaelis, he cofounded the Vierteljahrschrift fur Volkswirthschaftslehre, Politik und Kulturgeschichte (Quarterly journal of economics, politics, and cultural history). He favored a Lesser German solution and supported die Indemnity Bill of 1866, which granted impunity to Bismarck and his government. The bill led to a division of the liberals in the German Progress Party, and Faucher joined the newly founded National Liberal Party in 1867. He continued to work as a journalist in die 1870s, but, due to his deteriorating health, he eventually traveled to southern European countries and wrote travelogues. He stood out due to "a certain genius dilettantism" (Hentschel 1975, 67). His friend Max Wirth believed that Faucher could have been a great poet or reached any other position if he had had enough discipline and energy to work (see Wirth 1878). Otto Hubner, another free-trade companion and friend, said, "Julius Faucher finds a diamond and throws it away, another man picks it up and a third one polishes it" (qtd. in Wirth 1878, 7). Faucher's writings cover topics of cultural history and economics and were usually stimulated by some event in daily politics. He was an excellent rhetorician who often spoke in front of workers, about whose social situation he was especially concerned.

Faucher attended meetings of Young Hegelians from the early 1840s on, the so-called group of the Free--or, in German, die Freien--which discussed politics, philosophy, and other topics in informal gatherings at various Berlin restaurants. Another participant of the Free was Max Stirner, the philosopher whose magnum opus The Ego and Its Chvn was published in 1844. Stirner's biographer, John Henry Mackay, writes that Faucher and Stirner were a part of the inner core of the group, together with the subsequent editor of the Abendpost, Eduard Meyen (1898, 70-76). Other German free traders occasionally visited the Free gatherings, in particular John Prince-Smith, Heinrich Beta, Otto Wolff, Eduard Wiss, and Otto Michaelis (Mackay 1898, 80-81). Five members of the group wrote for the Abendpost: the editors Faucher and Meyen and the free traders Michaelis, Wolff, and Prince-Smith. (4) Faucher and Meyen probably met for the first time in the Free.

At that time, Meyen was the editor of the Demokratische Zeitung (Democratic newspaper), the predecessor of the Abendpost. This newspaper was the successor of the Wachter an der Ostsee (Guardian at the Baltic Sea), released in Stettin from 1847 on and founded by the democratic and free-trade journalist Wilhelm Luders (Wolff 1880,313). According to Otto Wolff, due to the small circulation of the Demokratische Zeitung, Meyen accepted the offer from Faucher to enter the editorial team with other free traders (1880, 313-14). The Abendpost was then launched at the end of January 1850, probably on January 28 or 29. (5) The circulation of the Berlin paper was small. The unknown author A. M. speaks of seven hundred to eight hundred issues in his article about the Berlin press of 1850. (6) This small circulation was "because it was written in a way that was too reflective for the workmen, and it was not sufficient for the sophisticated newspaper reader in terms of the manifoldness of its political content" (A. M. 1850, 414). Nevertheless, the Abendpost managed to attract many new readers during its short existence, so when it was finally shut down, the number of subscribers was likely greater than one thousand. (7) This was still a small readership compared to the readership of other Berlin newspapers, though.

The adjective radical was often used to describe the paper. In explaining why it often cited the Abendpost, the Deutsche Reform (German reform) wrote that "this radical newspaper has a certain vividness in its reporting; it is characterized by a great sincerity of confession." (8) The Austrian paper Die Presse (The press) praised the "soundness of its economic knowledge and views" and added that the Abendpost was not afraid to criticize "the favorite ideas of the German democratic movement." (9) Indeed, the Abendpost was not afraid to speak its mind in defending anarchist and nihilist ideas, which most contemporaries certainly considered to be extreme. As a consequence, it often had problems with the authorities. Karl Braun, a leading German free trader, claimed that almost every third issue was seized (1893, 132). In 1850, Prussian newspapers had to deliver a specimen copy of each issue to the police as soon as distribution began. If the police considered the issue to be a danger to public order, it could be confiscated (Kohnen 1995, 100-102).

The three surviving issues of the Abendpost arc from April 3, May 11, and May 16, 1850. (10) The lead articles in these issues contain, respectively, a critique of democracy, a comment on the Tories in England, and a critique of the Prussian election system. Then on May 22 an incident occurred that marked the downfall of the Abendpost. Max Sefeloge, a former soldier, shot at Frederick William IV, who was entering a train at a Berlin railroad station. The Prussian king was only slightly injured because he shielded his body with his forearm. (11) The monarchist paper Kreuzzeitung (Cross newspaper) and Deutsche Reform wrote after the attack that the democratic press--the Urwahlerzeitunjj (Primary voter newspaper), the Nationalzeitung (National newspaper), and the Abendpost--was indirectly responsible for the assassination attempt in that Sefeloge was motivated by democratic propaganda and had shouted "long live freedom." (12) The democratic papers argued in response that Sefeloge was mentally ill, which later turned out to be true (Damerow 1853, 42). Despite this defense, the Abendpost was confiscated on May 23, and the police searched Meyen's house, arrested Meyen, and set him free a day later. (13) The Abendpost reacted by relating Sefeloge to the political establishment: "It becomes more and more apparent that the initiator of the murder attempt on the Prussian king suffers from mental illness and that he was formerly connected to the royal party." (14) It pointed out that the establishment was the only party that benefitted from the attack: "If the death of the king would have been a consequence of the insane crime, the prince of Prussia, who did not swear on the constitution, would have taken over government and would have hardly resisted the pressure by the reaction for its entire elimination. If you have the nerve to put blame on the democratic movement, it should harmonize with its interests. There is only harmony with the opposite interests. Understood?" (15) Shortly thereafter, on June 5, the Prussian government passed a new press...

To continue reading