Konrad Haenisch (13 March 1876 - 28 April 1925) was a German Social Democratic Party politician and part of "the radical Marxist Left" of German politics. Friend and follower (Parvulus in his own words) of Alexander Parvus.
Haenisch became a socialist while at High School. His conservative family (his mother was a member of the House of Mecklenburg) took him out of school because of this and put him in a psychiatric institution. He escaped and fled to Leipzig where he started a career as a journalist and later editor for social democratic and socialist papers. During that time he became friends with Marxist celebrities like Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Karl Kautsky, and especially Parvus, whom he regarded as mentor and friend during his whole life and also during later changes of his political direction.
During World War One
Haenisch initially opposed World War I in 1914, but subsequently supported it. In a speech given to the 1916 SDP conference, he remembered the 'August enthusiasm':
- The conflict of two souls in one breast was probably easy for none of us. [It lasted] until suddenly—I shall never forget the day and hour—the terrible tension was resolved; until one dared to be what one was; until—despite all principles and wooden theories—one could, for the first time in almost a quarter century, join with a full heart, a clean conscience and without a sense of treason in the sweeping, stormy song: "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles".
He became famous, during World War I, as a member of the Lensch-Cunow-Haenisch group, a nationalist tendency within SPD which based the support of the SPD for the "war credits" in Reichstag on a Marxist theory suggesting that a German victory in World War I could be used by SPD, which was still a dominant force in European socialism, to transform Germany into a socialist state and to trigger socialist revolutions in the defeated countries. His associates in this movement were Heinrich Cunow and Paul Lensch, both former left-wing social democrats and Marxists close to Rosa Luxemburg.
Career in the Weimar Republic, death in 1925
When it became evident Germany would lose the war, Haenisch became part of the reformist stream led by later President Friedrich Ebert. In 1919 he became Prussian Minister of education (until 1921) and in 1922 Regional President of the Prussian region of Wiesbaden. Since Wiesbaden was under French occupation he was not allowed to reside there and continued to live in Berlin where he also served as a member of Landtag. Haenisch realized the increasing threat to German Parliamentary Democracy emerging from totalitarian communism and fascism, and became one of the founders of "Reichsbanner", a paramilitary organisation founded to protect the Weimar Republic and rallies of democratic parties like SPD, German Democratic Party and Zentrum.
Haenisch died, aged 49, in Wiesbaden.
Family and children
Haenisch was married to a worker's daughter from Dortmund, and had four sons and a daughter, Elsa, who emigrated with her Jewish spouse to the United States in 1938 and died in Florida in 1988. One of his sons was communist theoretician Walter Haenisch, a victim of Stalin's great purge.
- Nicholas Stargardt, The German Idea of Militarism. Radical and Socialist Critics 1866-1914 (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 138.
- Carl Schorske, German Social Democracy 1905-1917. The Development of the Great Schism (Cambridge University Press, 1955), p. 290.