Crispien was born in Königsberg (modern Kaliningrad, Russia) to August and Franziska Crispien. He worked as a house and stage painter in Königsberg and joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1894. He worked for a Health insurance fund and became the editor of the Königsberger Volkszeitung (1904–1906), the Danzig Volkswacht (1906–1912) and the Schwäbische Tagwacht in Stuttgart (1912–1914). In 1906 to 1912 Crispien was the regional Chairman of the SPD in West Prussia.
At the outbreak of World War I he opposed the Burgfriedenpolicy of the SPD concerning the German War credits and was dismissed from the Schwäbische Tagwacht. He illegally published the newspaper Der Sozialdemokrat (The Social Democrat) and was imprisoned for 6 months. Forced to serve in the German Army under conscription in 1916, in 1917 he joined the Independent Social Democrats (USPD) and became its co-chairman and member of the Executive Committee. The Weimar era saw him elected a Member of the Reichstag in 1920. He subsequently rejoined the SPD in 1922 and became its co-Chairman.
From 1921 Crispien was a member of the executive board of the International Working Union of Socialist Parties and since 1923 a delegate to the Labour and Socialist International. In 1920 he led a delegation of the USPD to negotiate the participation in the 3rd World Congress of the Communist International but refused to accept Lenin's conditions.
Following the Reichstag fire in 1933 Crispien went into exile to Austria and later Switzerland, representing the Social Democratic Party in Exile. Crispien supported political and Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and became a member of the Swiss Socialist Party. He was a delegate at the refugee conference of 1945 at Montreux.
Crispien died in Bern.
- Lane, A. Thomas (1995). Biographical dictionary of European labor leaders. Greenwood Press. p. 228. ISBN 0-313-29899-8. http://books.google.de/books?id=HmNpl0wNa8AC&pg=PA228&dq=K%C3%B6nigsberg+Arthur+Crispien&lr=&as_brr=3&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false.
- Biography at Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (German)
- Reichstag database (German)
- 94.12344&modus=&t_long Biography at Friedrich Ebert Foundation (German)
|40x40px||Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Arthur Crispien|