Coffee Anarchists Ruled Germany For A Week, And Declared War On Switzerland
Germany was kind of nuts after World War I ended. It went through a bunch of revolutions, and the weirdest of these happened in April 1919, when socialists seized control of Munich. They ruled only six days before getting overthrown, and really, it’s surprising they lasted even that long.
They formed a government they called the Münchner Räterepublik, and some people dubbed them the Coffee Anarchists. The leaders were playwrights and poets, who didn’t know a whole lot about running a government. For their foreign affairs delegate, they picked Franz Lipp, a journalist, since as writers go, journalists might be slightly more qualified than poets. Lipp had been previously hospitalized for paranoia and other psychiatric issues, and he did not provide very stable leadership.
First thing he did was ask Switzerland to lend the new republic 60 locomotives. Switzerland refused. So Lipp declared war on them. Literally declared war, and he believed the Pope would bless his side in the upcoming conflict, as he and the Pope were friends. He sent an official telegram to the Pope, saying that the president of the last revolutionary government had fled, taking the key to the ministry bathroom with him. Maybe this was some joke that defies translation, but historians take it as evidence that Lipp was just crazy.
The minister of finance, Silvio Gesell, came up with a new kind of money, Freigold. You’d needed to get your Freigold stamped regularly, or it would expire worthless—and to stamp it, you had to pay a fee. it cost you money to keep your money, so he figured you’d be better off spending it than saving it. Gesell had created negative interest rates on all money. This idea made zero sense; Gesell disagreed with capitalism and all established monetary theory and instead taught himself economics.
The minister of housing declared that all houses must contain three rooms or fewer, with the living room upstairs and the bedroom downstairs. The chief of police was a convicted burglar. The minister of education banned all exams and tuition and also banned the teaching of history of any kind.
Six days into the rule of the Coffee Anarchists, the Communists overthrew them. Then a couple weeks later, the Communists were overthrown in turn, by military forces of the Weimar Republic.
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Top image: Julius Söhn