A Revolutionary Idealist
Jew, by the name of Solomon Kuznovski. So many words, so many errors. Eisner was born in Berlin in 1867; his father was a Government contractor supplying the Prussian Army with uniforms. He attended the Askanische Gymnasium (public school), and matriculated in 1886 at the Berlin Univer sity, where he studied for four years philosophy and German philology. He then worked as assistant editor on the Frank furter Zeitung and on a Liberal paper at Marburg, where he again entered the University and studied under Professor Herman Cohen, the well-known founder of the Marburg Neo-Kantian School, and became a Neo-Kantian. Among us writers of the Vorwarts and Neue Zeit he was one of the very few who adhered to Kant and not to Hegel. The ethics of Kant, essentially English Nonconformist ethics, were his guide, and he remained faithful to stern duty, to the “ cate gorical imperative” to his last breath. In my discussion with him on revolution he told me, with all the firmness of his character, that at such critical moments it would be the Kantians, and not the Prussian Hegelians, who would act,
and if necessary, die, for social justice. In the years 1900-6 he was editor of the Vorwarts, and from 1907-10 editor of the Frankische Tagespost in Niirnberg, for which I wrote signed articles on foreign affairs. During the years of the war he endangered his life by engaging in anti-war propaganda, which was based first on the ethical teaching of Kant, secondly on the conviction that German diplomacy, owing to its PanGerman ambitions, acted criminally in abetting the Austrian Government. On my arrival in Berlin from London at the end of May,
1915, my friends arranged a reception at the Cafe Josty, Potsdamer Platz; among them was Eisner, who had specially come from Munich. On this occasion he explained to me his attitude towards the war, and added that his knowledge of foreign affairs he owed to my articles written from London to his paper in Niirnberg in the years 1907-10. After his return to Munich he was arrested, and finally taken into protective custody, from which he was released only in October, 1918. He at once organized the revolutionary forces and led them to victory. His revolutionary leadership resulted in the abdication of the Wittelsbach dynasty and the estab lishment of the Bavarian republic. On the formation of the new Government, Eisner was elected Prime Minister. He strenuously opposed the Bolshevik propaganda; he likewise opposed all attempts at restricting freedom of speech, Press, and association. He caused the publication of the famous despatch sent in July, 1914, by Count Lerchenfeld, the Bavarian Minister in Berlin. And it was Eisner who, as Bavarian representative, came to the first post-war International Socialist Conference at Berne, and made a confession of the war guilt of the German nation. For this “ anti-patriotic” activity, carried on under the impulsion of his Kantian “ categorical imperative,” he paid with his life. The young Count Areo-Valley, whose mother was said to be of Jewish descent, shot him dead in the street on February 19, 1919,
while Eisner, surrounded by his adherents, was on the way to the Parliament House. The assassin was attacked by the working people, and was in imminent danger of being lynched. It was Ernst Toller, one of Eisner’s co-workers, whose inter vention prevented the act of lynching being consummated.