Today in London’s radical history: Police spy Theodore Reuss expelled from Socialist League, 1889

Theodore Reuss was the son of an innkeeper from Augsburg, Germany. A professional singer in his youth, Reuss later became a newspaper correspondent, and travelled frequently as such to England, where he became a freemason in 1876. He also spent some time there as a journalist and as a music-hall singer under the stage name “Charles Theodore.”

Reuss also became involved in the socialist movement in England. However, this may have been with ulterior motives…

IN May 1886, Theodor Reuss was expelled from the small leftwing organisation, the Socialist League, (where he had been quite involved as a librarian and labour secretary) after he was accused of being a police spy. At this point (and, er, much of the time since), the very genuine penetration of anarchist scenes (as with many other movements) was leading to constant paranoia and accusation/counter-accusation.

The accusation against Reuss had come from socialists in Belgium. But feuding anarchist factions used the accusation to fling abuse at each other. One group around Josef Peukert, based at the Club Autonomie, backed Reuss to the hilt; Victor Dave and his allies denounced both Reuss and Peukert. In the swirl of suspicion, the truth easily got lost.

However, the rumours about Reuss proved to be true: in 1887, Peukert went with Reuss to Belgium, where Reuss passed information to the police leading to the arrest of Johann Neve, a major organiser for the smuggling of Freiheit and other anarchist propaganda into Germany. Neve was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison, where he died, or was killed.

However, Reuss is generally celebrated to this day as a major figure in occultist and masonic circles. Check out wikipedia on the subject.

In 1880, in Munich he had participated in an attempt to revive Adam Weishaupt’s Bavarian Order of Illuminati. In England he got mixed up in the Rosicrucian sects and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Basically pseudo-magickal conspiratorial mumbo-jumbo. Hung out with Aleister Crowley, founded and was ordained as Supreme Grand-Daftness of this tiny spiritualist order or that. That’s how he is generally remembered today. Not for spying for the Prussian police. Or maybe he was spying on the illoonimati too. Who knows. Read some Umberto Eco books, it’s all in there.

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An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

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