He initially worked as a journalist in Marburg. He was a contributing editor of the ‘Frankfurter Zeitung’ from 1890 to 1895. While working there, he wrote an article against Kaiser Wilhelm II and was sent to 9 months in prison as punishment. He released ‘Friedrich Nietzsche and the Apostle of the Future’ (1892)
Eisner was a republican and a social democrat. He joined the ‘Social Democratic Party of Germany’ (SPD) in 1898.
He advocated for political democracy. He worked as an editor of ‘Vorwärts’ after Wilhelm Liebknecht’s death in 1900. In 1905, he was asked to resign by a majority of the editorial board, as they favored staunch Marxists.
Following this, he mostly worked in Bavaria, though he traveled to other parts of Germany occasionally. From 1907 to 1910, he served as the chief editor of the ‘Fränkische Tagespost’ in Nuremberg. He then worked as a freelance journalist in Munich.
At the beginning of the World War I, ‘SDP’ leader Friedrich Ebert ordered the members of the ‘Reichstag’ to support the war. Karl Liebknecht was the only member who believed Germany should not participate in the war. Karl believed the war would not help the German people in any way and would assist capitalists dominate the world instead.
In April 1917, the left-wing members of the ‘SDP’ formed the ‘Independent Socialist Party’ (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, or USPD). Although in the initial stages of World War I, Eisner had supported the government, he joined the ‘USPD’ at the peak of the war. Some of the other members of the party were Karl Kautsky, Ernst Thälmann, Rudolf Breitscheild, Rudolf Hilferding, and Julius Leber.
In 1918, he was convicted of treason for his alleged role in inciting workers. He spent 9 months in ‘Cell 70’ of ‘Stadelheim Prison.’ However, he was released in October, during the ‘General Amnesty.’
After being released, Eisner organized the ‘Socialist Revolution’ that eventually overthrew the Bavarian monarchy. On November 8, 1918, he led a huge crowd into the parliament and delivered a speech, declaring Bavaria a free state and republic, named the People's State of Bavaria.
Eisner also stated that their revolution was quite different from the ‘Bolshevik Revolution’ of Russia. He said that the new government would protect all private property. He further added that his government would focus on democracy, pacifism, and anti-war policies. The king of Bavaria, Ludwig III, abdicated soon.
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Many reached the city to show their solidarity with the new rule. Such personalities included Erich Mühsam, Otto Neurath, Ernst Toller, Silvio Gesell and Ret Marut.
Eisner was supported by 6,000 workers of Gustav Krupp’s munitions factory in Munich. Many of those workers were from northern Germany and were much more radical than the workers of Bavaria. It is believed that most of the 50,000 soldiers who were then withdrawing from the Western front were in favor of Eisner's revolution.
Other significant members of the revolution were poet Erich Mühsam and playwright, Ernst Toller.
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia abdicated the throne on November 9, 1918. Following this, the Chancellor, Max von Baden, handed over the power to Friedrich Ebert, who was the leader of the ‘German Social Democrat Party.’
Soon, it was decided that elections were to be held for a ‘Constituent Assembly’ to form a new constitution for Germany. However, there was a disagreement regarding the formation of the government.
It is believed that on November 10, Ebert and the ‘General Army Headquarters’ joined hands to crush the revolution. On November 23, 1918, Eisner revealed documents from the Bavarian plenipotentiary in Berlin, which he believed could prove that the war had been caused by "a small horde of mad Prussian military" and "allied" industrialists, capitalists, princes, and politicians.
During the ‘Berne Conference of Socialists’ in Berne, Switzerland, he attacked the moderate socialists of Germany for their reluctance to accept Germany's role in causing World War I. His speech and his hostility toward Prussia made him hugely unpopular among major sections of Germans.
On December 29, 1918, Ebert, through his leaflets, attacked the activities of Karl Liebknecht, Leo Jogiches, Rosa Luxemburg, and Clara Zetkin.
Eisner formed a coalition government in Bavaria, along with the ‘Social Democratic Party.’ Eisner thus became the first republican premier of Bavaria.
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Eisner’s tenure as the first prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs of the new republic saw him focusing on internal security. He also tried reconciling the socialist parties in Bavaria and bringing about changes in economic and social reforms.
However, back then, workers and soldiers in Munich faced poor living conditions. Eisner’s party lost the election held on January 12, 1919, as the government was unable to fix basic issues. His party had received only 2.5 percent of the total number of votes. Eisner decided to submit his resignation on February 21, 1919, and was killed on his way to do so.
Following his assassination, the elected government of the People's State of Bavaria fled Munich. This was followed by the formation of the Bavarian Soviet Republic.