Otto Rühle 1925

The Psyche of the Proletarian Child

First published: as Die Seele des proletarischen Kindes (Dresden: Verlag am anderen Ufer, 1925), 203-205. Published in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, Kaes et al.

Proletarian youth challenged the principle of authority for the first time in June 1919 when a number of young workers abandoned Free Socialist Youth in order not to oppose from within an authoritarian organization (which was an appendage of the parties) but to adopt a new position of their own. “Where are the leaders of the young,” ran a manifesto of these young people on this occasion, “who have not run their heads up against ‘fatherly benevolence’ and the ‘well-intentioned advice’ of older men? It is high time that an end be put to the fairy tale of disinterested and selfless friendship of age to youth.”

This youth – anarchistic youth, as they called themselves – refused utterly, decisively, and consistently all membership in any sort of party or union and all tutelage of whatever form by any organization of adults. Indeed when the syndicalists – an organization with a federal basis – mistakenly passed a resolution that obligated “all organizations and executive committees to initiate syndicalist youth groups everywhere,” the young proletarian anarchists made a great commotion rebelling against it. “Just as you struggle against the thought that socialism can be initiated centrally from the top down by decree,” they called out to the syndicalists in their publication, “we reject the idea that a youth movement be initiated by a congress resolution and by older people.” This led to conflicts in which the old struggle between fathers and sons was identically repeated – conflicts in which the profound leaning toward a mentality anchored in authoritarianism of even the best a d purest among the syndicalist champions was betrayed. Their threat that the rebellion of the young would force them to apply “the whole of their authority as fathers” was the most embarrassing unmasking, for behind the masks of the nicest socialist language there peered out for an instant the face of an extreme bourgeois despotism. The syndicalists still enjoyed the success of having an anarcho-syndicalist youth organization come into being, a fatal success for this appendage of the syndicalist union is the weakest, most powerless, final offshoot of the authoritarian youth movement born of the instinct for power and the drive for domination, which, in its deepest foundations, has nothing to do with socialism.

Socialism is precisely community, and community is the antipode to domination, authority, and violence. To hold authority as distant as possible means to be closest to socialism. That is why the anarchist youth groups – isolated, not very strong, but unshakable in their fundamentally nonauthoritarian attitude – which have joined together in a revolutionary community as “free youth,” as well as the youth groups of the General Workers’ Union, are today the vanguard and apex of the proletarian march toward the socialist goal. By virtue of their mental disposition, it is they who are most clearly called to the new work, they who are the chosen ones.