“The earth, from which everything comes which we then process in industry, and from which all of our foodstuff comes, is part of nature, like the air that we breathe, like light and warmth, without which there is no life. Like air and light, earth and water must be free.” Gustav Landauer, in “Die Siedlung” (The Settlement) 1910.
In summer 1921, in an action reminiscent of that taken by the Diggers with their re-appropriation of the common land on St. Georges Hill in England over 270 years previously, 25 people, mostly FAUD members, squatted a piece of land in Düsseldorf-Eller. Their aim was to build a house and to start a communal settlement. With some financial and material support from other local FAUD members, the building was ready in September 1921. It was occupied by 15 people. After sometimes violent clashes with the police and with forestry officials, the commune “Freie Erde” was first tolerated by the local government, and then given a lease on the land. A co-operative was formed to take on this lease.
Their goals included having a completely communal economy with no money circulating within the commune. Furthermore, they wanted to have social planning of production based on answering needs not making profits, and they were against making interest and speculating with money. They wanted to have contact with other co-operatives and communes and federate with them.
At another level, they wanted to work together in the open air, and they found the protection of nature very important. They claimed to subscribe to no political or religious dogma, but based their community on work. One important aim of the project was to be a model for unemployed comrades to copy, and also supply them with foodstuff. The commune cultivated about 2,500 sq. metres of land.
The commune became well known in the area, and was used as a meeting place by anarcho-syndicalists from the Rhine-Bergland area. It was probably the catalyst for two other projects, the “Siedlungsfreunde und Siedler” group in Düsseldorf-Derendorf, and the “Freie Siedler” group in Duisburg-Hochfeld. Local artists and intellectuals supported the project as well.
However, there was some tension and differences of opinion within the commune, and, after some argument, the “Freie Erde” came into the possession of two families. The other communards left the project in 1923, but it continued to be regularly visited by many comrades from the area, and was further used by members of the FAUD. The house was later used as a refuge for people persecuted by the Nazi regime.
A later project:
Ten years later (1932-1934) in the same area there was also the Siedlung “Am Haidhügel”. This was set up in Düsseldorf-Stockum, where unemployed FAUD and FKAD members were involved in a 15 house settlement based on the principle of Mutual Aid.
“Frühe Kommunen in Deutschland” by Gustav Heineke, Zündhölzchen Verlag, 1978.
“Freiheit und Brot” by Hartmut Rübner, Libertad Verlag Potsdam, 1994.