Johann Most

Johann Most

Johann Joseph Most (February 5, 1846ndash March 17, 1906) was a German-American anarchist and orator, who in the late 19th century began to advocate the use of violence to achieve revolutionary political and social change. He is best known for popularizing the strategy of "propaganda of the deed," which promoted direct action against individuals or institutions (including the use of violence) to force revolutionary change and inspire further action by others.


Most was born in Augsburg, Bavaria. He was apprenticed to a bookbinder, worked at this trade in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland in 1863–68, and then became a writer of Socialist pamphlets and paragraphs, and editor of Socialist sheets in Chemnitz ("Chemnitzer Freie Presse") and Vienna, both suppressed by the authorities, and of the "Freie Presse" in Berlin, being repeatedly arrested for his violent and cynical attacks on patriotism and conventional religion and ethics, and for his gospel of terrorism, preached in prose and in many songs such as those in his "Proletarier-Liederbuch" (5th ed., 1875). Some of his experiences in prison were recounted in "Die Bastille am Plotzensee: Blätter aus meinem Gefängniss-Tagebuch" (1876).

In 1874–78, he served as a Marxist social democratic deputy in the German Reichstag. [ [ Johann Most biography at Spartacus] .] He wrote a popular summary of Karl Marx's "Das Kapital". After advocating violent action, (including the use of explosive bombs) for revolutionary change, he was forced into exile, and expelled from the German Social Democratic Party. Convinced by his own experience of the futility of parliamentary action, he became an anarchist, advocating a kind of collectivist anarchism, [ [ Text of the 1883 Pittsburgh Proclamation] ] although he later embraced anarchist communism. [ [ Johann Most, "Anarchist Communism" (1889)] .] He is most accurately viewed as an insurrectionary anarchist.

He went to France but was forced to leave in 1879, and then settled in London. There he founded the "red" organ—it was printed in red—"Die Freiheit", in which he expressed his delight in June 1881 over the assassination of Alexander II of Russia and for this was imprisoned for a year and a half.

Life in the United States

Encouraged by news of labor struggles and industrial disputes in the United States, Most emigrated himself, and promptly began agitating in his adopted land among other German émigrés.He resumed the publication of "Die Freiheit" in New York. He was imprisoned in 1886, again in 1887, and in 1902, the last time for two months for publishing after the assassination of President McKinley an editorial in which he argued that it was no crime to kill a ruler.

Most was famous for stating the concept of the Attentat: "The existing system will be quickest and most radically overthrown by the annihilation of its exponents. Therefore, massacres of the enemies of the people must be set in motion." [ [ Wendy McElroy, "Liberty on Violence"] .] Most published a manual for preparing dynamite and other explosive materials, The Science of Revolutionary Warfare, earning him the moniker "Dynamost." A gifted orator, Most propagated these ideas throughout Marxist and anarchist circles in the United States and attracted many adherents, most notably Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman.

Inspired by Most's theories of Attentat, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, enraged by the deaths of workers during the Homestead strike, put words into action with Berkman's attempted assassination of Homestead factory manager Henry Clay Frick in 1892.

Berkman and Goldman were soon disillusioned by their mentor. Most became one of Berkman's most outspoken critics for the assassination attempt, despite, noted Goldman, having "proclaimed acts of violence from the housetops." Yet in "Freiheit", Most attacked both Goldman and Berkman, implying Berkman's act was designed to arouse sympathy for Frick. Historian Alice Wexler suggests that Most's criticisms may have been inspired by jealousy of Berkman, although Wexler and others also credit Most's changing attitudes towards the effectiveness of political assassination in bringing about revolutionary change. [Alice Wexler, "Emma Goldman: An Intimate Life" (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984).]

Goldman was enraged by Most's critique, and demanded he prove his insinuations. When he refused to reply, she carried a horsewhip to his next lecture. After he refused to speak to her, she lashed him across the face, then broke the whip over her knee and threw the pieces at him. [Emma Goldman, "Living My Life" (1931)] She later regretted her assault, confiding to a friend, "At the age of twenty-three, one does not reason."

Later Years

Most continued to write and give speeches on the subject of revolutionary change for the remainder of his life. In 1906, while in Cincinnati, Ohio, to give a speech, he fell ill, and was diagnosed with a chronic case of erysipelas, a bacterial skin infection. In the era prior to antibiotic treatments, little could be done for his condition, which worsened, and he died a few days later.


*"Memoiren" (New York, 1903).

External inks

* [ Johann Most Page] Anarchist Encyclopedia

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Johann Most — (Fotografie Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts) Johann Most (* 5. Februar 1846 in Augsburg; † 17. März 1906 in Cincinnati in den USA; bekannt als John Most) war ein deutscher Anarchist, Redner und Herausgeber der Zeitschrift Freiheit. Inhalts …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Johann Most — Nombre Johann Joseph Most …   Wikipedia Español

  • Johann Most — Naissance 5 février 1846 Augsbourg, Bavière …   Wikipédia en Français

  • MOST — steht für vergorenen oder unvergorenen Fruchtsaft, siehe Most (Getränk) The Most, eine kanadische Musikgruppe Most (Tschechien) (deutsch Brüx), eine Stadt in der Tschechischen Republik Most, niedersorbische Name der Gemeinde Heinersbrück im… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Most (disambiguation) — Most is a city in the Czech Republic. Most may also refer to: Contents 1 People 2 Places 2.1 Bridges …   Wikipedia

  • Most — steht für Fruchtsaft Obstwein in Süddeutschland, der Schweiz und Teilen von Österreich Apfelwein in Wien und den österreichischen Weinanbaugebieten Traubensaft (siehe auch Most (Getränk)) The Most, eine kanadische Musikgruppe Most (Tschechien)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Johann Jakob Froberger — (baptized May 19, 1616 ndash; May 7, 1667) was a German Baroque composer, keyboard virtuoso, and organist. He was among the most famous composers of the era and influenced practically every major composer in Europe by developing the genre of… …   Wikipedia

  • Johann Strauss II — (also known as Johann Strauss the Younger, Johann Strauss Jr., or Johann Sebastian Strauss) (October 25, 1825 ndash; June 3, 1899) was an Austrian composer famous for having written over 500 waltzes, polkas, marches, and galops. He was the son of …   Wikipedia

  • Johann Kaspar Kerll — (April 9, 1627 ndash; February 13, 1693) was a German baroque composer and organist. Although he was one of the most acclaimed composers of his time, known both as a gifted composer and an outstanding teacher, Kerll is virtually forgotten today… …   Wikipedia

  • Johann Erasmus Kindermann — (March 29, 1616 ndash; April 14, 1655) was a German Baroque organist and composer. He was the most important composer of the Nuremberg school in the first half of the 17th century.LifeKindermann was born in Nuremberg and studied music from an… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.