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(en) UK, AF, Organise #60 - Revolutionary Portraits: Senna Hoy

From ManchesterOldham AF <anarchist_federation@yahoo.co.uk>
Date Fri, 30 May 2003 08:36:46 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

> Full pdf or html version at www.af-north.org/organise.htm
Senna Hoy was born Johannes Holzmann in 1882 into a
well-off Jewish family. He is mentioned as a member of
Helen Blavatsky's Theosophical circle in Berlin in
1903, when he would have been eighteen. The following
year he definitively broke with the compromise
politics of the Social Democrats and their
accommodation to the Germany of the Kaiser. He took
the name Senna Hoy (his first name more or less spelt
backwards) and started bringing out a weekly anarchist
magazine Kampf (Struggle). Kampf reached the
circulation figure of 10,000 in 1905 which was no mean
feat for a political weekly of that period.

Kampf was an amazing publication. Alongside the
agitational articles were pleas for sexual freedom,
above all gay liberation. Whilst not homosexual
himself, Senna Hoy was a pioneer in advocating
tolerance of the homosexual way of life. In 1903, in
conjunction with Adolf Brand, he brought out a
pamphlet The Third Sex on the subject. Alongside this
were articles from artists, writers and poets. Erich
Muhsam, who was to become a notable anarchist and
ended up being brutally done to death in Hitler's
concentration camps, began to contribute and was a
close associate of Hoy. Gustav Landauer, another
notable anarchist who was to be murdered in the
repression of the Munich workers councils in 1919,
also contributed. Trailblazing artists and poets
began to contribute, like Paul Scheerbart, who
invented "sound poems" and the gifted poet and writer
Else Lasker-Schuler (she had thought up his new name).
Hoy had a profound influence on Franz Pfemfert who was
to bring out the magazine Aktion, which united
revolutionary ideas in politics and art. Pfemfert
paid tribute to Hoy when he called him:" A twenty
year-old political conscience in Berlin. He did not go
in vain into the fight for freedom".
Kampf prophesied a coming war with the British
Empire, and also that the Social Democrats would
support such a war. It also predicted that such a war
would be disastrous for the German masses. Senna Hoy
argued for workers' self-organisation and against the
trade unions controlled by the Social Democrats.
Anarchists from Kampf went to the industrial region of
the Ruhr to spread this message in 1905, and their
efforts laid the basis for a strong working class
anarchist tradition there. A national network around
the magazine began to be created, which spread
throughout Germany.

The Berlin police began to take note, and repression
against Kampf forced Hoy to leave Germany for
Switzerland where he edited the anarchist magazine Der
Weckruf (The Dawn). A great revolutionary ferment was
taking place within the Russian Empire between
1905-1907 and Hoy gravitated to this. In Poland and
Lithuania, part of the Tsar's Empire, the anarchist
movement was young and vibrant. A secret conference of
anarchist-communist groups from these two countries
took place in June 1907 and a Federation of Anarchist
Communist Groups was set up. In the repression which
followed, 24 anarchists were arrested, among them
Senna Hoy, apprehended in Moscow. They were
imprisoned for a long time in dreadful conditions. Hoy
was tortured and then sentenced to prison with hard
labour. Some of the comrades became mad as a result of
the appalling treatment they received. In 1911 Senna
Hoy was moved to the notorious Citadel prison in
Warsaw, and from there to the criminal lunatic
division (which has echoes of the treatment of
dissidents under the Soviet regime).
Suffering from TB brought on by starvation, he
was in a terrible condition. Else Lasker-Schuler, who
was in love with him, came to Russia in 1913 to plead
for his release. But it was already too late, because
a few months later Senna Hoy was to die on April 28th
1914 at the age of 29. His body was brought back to
Berlin. Else Lasker-Schuler wrote a moving poem in
tribute to her fallen lover. But let Senna Hoy have
the last word in a poem smuggled out of prison in the
last year of his life.

What does it mean to have lived, felt, known, wanted,
sown, reaped?
Soon I will be no more and the world - who knows?-
will last for eons.
Deeds there are, which I haven't done, thoughts
burn-which haven't ripened yet.
Pain, whips, which haven't tortured, laughter
resounds, which I haven't laughed.
There go my gravediggers to their work with pipes,
The last thought ices over in the brain, last desires
shriek in the heart.
I regret every crime in my life that I haven't yet
Every wish which I haven't realised In my life.

Senna Hoy had an important part to play in his action
and his influence on others in the growth of the
German anarchist movement, and his obscurity is

A drawing of Senna Hoy to illustrate this article can
be found at

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