The “Heumarkt” was a “city/land” project in Kassel, central Germany which existed between 1976 and 1978. It was an attempt to create a project combining alternative economy (the left-wing ABC bookshop in Kassel) with communal living (the rural Hardtmühle community in Elbenberg, 25 kms from Kassel).
The name Heumarkt (Haymarket) was consciously chosen for its association with the events at Haymarket, Chicago, after which 5 anarchists were executed (3 of them originally came from around Kassel) and to show the combination of land (Hay) with city (Market).
The ABC bookshop:
The ABC bookshop was started in 1975, and took its name (August-Bebel-Cooperative) from its original site in the August-Bebel-Platz in Kassel. It was started by a group of socialist students who had previously had a left-wing book stall in the polytechnic in Kassel. The founders were a group of 15 people who managed to get 20,000 DM together as start capital for the limited company. They were all in some way connected to the “Sozialistische Büro” (SB), an undogmatic left group which came out of the SDS, but this connection slowly became less important, and the cooperative was undogmatic and alternative, offering a wide range of books on different themes and about 90 different papers, magazines and periodicals. There were a number of co-workers in the shop, many of whom came to be co-op members too. They held meetings twice a week; one meeting for administrative and organisational matters, one for political discussion.
Some of the members of the ABC were involved in a wider group of students, former students and academics who were dissatisfied with academic life and interested in creating something new.
On the way to the haymarket:
The situation in summer 1976 was a mixture of wishes, hopes and dreams. Some of the members of the ABC were dissatisfied that their cooperation and contact with each other was only at the workplace. Many lived in Wohngemeinschaften (WGs), the small living groups which had become more and more widespread in West Germany in the late 60s and early 70s. They felt the need to combine these two aspects of life. In addition, many felt the need for a “healthy” life in the country, but saw the danger of being isolated from events in the city. At the same time, there was contact to a discussion group which was preparing an examination text on the theme of alternative life in the Kassel area. A couple of people decided that it was time to do more than just talk, and that a concrete goal should be set to start a project combining cooperative work in the city with communal life on the land.
In autumn 1976, they started a weekly meeting to discuss the steps necessary to make their ideas reality. The attendance at the weekly meeting was between ten and thirty, and they called the new group the “Heumarkt“. This was more than just a name, but less than a programme, combining the anarchist potential of the group with the idea of a relationship between urban and rural life. The members of the ABC bookshop were central to the new Heumarkt group, but there was also the intention to include other existing enterprises such as a printers workshop and a newly started lawyers’ collective as part of the project, and, of course, to start an agricultural collective.
The Heumarkt group were quickly united behind the idea of looking for a suitable house with land in the vicinity of Kassel. On the other hand, the group did not work on a concept for a project which everyone could follow. This meant that often personal feelings and wishes played a more important role in the development of the project than a common vision. Some wanted to live and work on the land, others just to live there and work in the city. Some people had the opinion that there should be a land group and a city group, others favoured the idea of rotation, with six months here and six months there in order to experience both realities. The people who wanted to live on the land said that it was necessary to live there longer than six months in order to make contact with neighbours and the inhabitants and farmers in the region. One person only kept proposing that a concept paper was necessary, and there was a strong faction which held the opinion that the group should simply jump in and start, that there had already been enough discussion and enough waiting.
They began looking for a place in the country without any discussion about how a purchase could be financed, and this discussion only began when they found a farm which would have costed 120,000 DM. After meetings and discussion, they came to the conclusion that the group could get about 20,000 DM together. However, the financial situation was improved by the arrival in the group of two new members.
In January, 1977, a farm house with a large barn and some land was found at Elbenberg, 25 kms from Kassel. The asking price was 98,000 DM. The Heumarkt members went and looked at it, and everyone found it good, despite the distance from the city, and the fact that it was next to a football field. The group, at this stage 20 members, decided to buy, and in March 1977 the Hardtmühle was purchased, in the end for 70,000 DM.
The Hardtmühle: the pioneer phase:
Seven members of the Heumarkt group wanted to move in to the Hardtmühle immediately. Some money for the purchase came from people who did not want to move in at that time – people who still held the idea of rotation between city and land. A small sum of money came through the sale of a small piece of the land to the borough of Elbenburg. Unfortunately, the group did not find time to discuss the form of ownership of the Hardtmühle, perhaps they felt that discussing finances was not necessary or even was “bourgeois”.
The group moved into the Hardtmühle in April 1977. As they began to live together and started to discuss their aims and relationships, it became clear that there was some personal tension between various members of the group. This partly concerned partnerships with non-members, and at least one “girlfriend” became the 7+1/2 member of the community. Other members with partners outside spent less time in the community.
A further problem was the question of how the members wanted to live on the land and how they intended to earn money. Two members began to work in the village, one for a local farmer, one in the village carpentry workshop. Others continued to work outside (2 in the ABC bookshop) or continue their studies. When they moved in, there was still an old couple living in the house. They remained there until the autumn before moving to a house in the village.
There was a lot to do in this first pioneer phase. The garden was more or less a wasteland, with only one broken fence partly round it. The house was in urgent need of renovation and decoration work. The roof of the barn was broken. They all slept in one room while work on the other rooms was done. And, of course, the people had to get to know each other better and practise living together as a commune with a new social structure.
In the first year, other members of the Heumarkt group came out to the country to help with the work. There was still the intention that some Heumarkt members would eventually move into the Hardtmühle. However, the very different living situations of those in the city and those on the land, meant that the two spheres drifted apart quite quickly. The members at the Hardtmühle could see all the work which urgently needed doing, and this work took lots of time and energy, mostly more than an eight hour work day. Relationships with the Heumarkt members in the city remained loose and undeveloped, the priorities of the two factions were different.
The Hardtmühle: internal problems:
One problem within the Hardmühle was the keeping of livestock. One person was a farmer’s son, and had experience of keeping animals. The others had no experience. The first animals were brought there in early summer; sheep, hens, ducks, a dog, cats and two horses. The flock of sheep started with 3 ewes and 6 lambs. Even such a small flock caused problems, as the people without experience could not look after them properly, on occasions either forgeting to feed them or feeding them twice.
One result of this and other problems was the clear definition of responsibilities. One person was to look after the hens and ducks, another the rabbits. Two people were responsible for the garden, and two for the sheep. One person had the house as main responsibility. This gave all members a clear orientation within the group. The division of labour was largely successful, and indeed, the two people responsible for the garden were able to extend their work to the creation of a pottery workshop. On the other hand, the division of labour sometimes meant that one person alone was at work while the others had fun – not a good situation when there is hay to be harvested, as happened on one occasion.
Splits within the Hardtmühle group slowly came into being, one faction being those who still worked or studied in Kassel, the other being those who were concertating on the agricultural and horticultural work, and who often felt left alone when projects needing a group of workers were necessary. Extra stress came in December 1977 when the community was raided by the police as part of a national search after the kidnap of Schleyer by the RAF, but this tended rather to help the “group feeling” for a while.
In early 1978, the personal conflicts within the group continued to grow. The two people responsible for the flock of sheep argued and stopped working together. One increased the size of the flock to 150 ewes. The other did a training course specializing in goats and cheese making. One person left the community in May 1978, another person moved in. For this person, the Hardtmühle was still part of a common Heumarkt project, combining land and city.
The end of the Heumarkt:
However, for nearly everyone else, it was clear that the Heumarkt project was no longer realistic. After the start of the Hardmühle community, many of the Heumarkt members had withdrawn and stopped attending meetings. After a number of months the meetings were discontinued. Contact continued on a personal level, with two members of the Hardtmühle continuing to work at the ABC bookshop, but there was no longer a common structure.
“Heumarkt – Versuche anderen Lebens zwischen Stadt und Land“, Klaas Jarchow & Norbert Klugmann, Rotbuch Verlag, Berlin, 1980.
By the start of 1980, when the source book was published, only 3 people remained at the Hardtmühle.
The ABC bookshop in Kassel still exists in 2008, but with a much reduced left-wing character.