Saturday, March 26, 2016

The 1919 Threefolding Movement: Excerpt 2

Lesser Ury, 1919, Berlin Night Lights
Max Pechstein, 1919, Fishermen's Houses
during Thunderstorm in Nidden

THE last post presented a translation of some passages from Albert Schmelzer's book about Steiner's threefolding activities in 1919.  Those passages highlighted the corrupting effects of the mingling of Germany's economic and political realms prior to the 1919 revolution.  When we left off, Schmelzer was about to describe the ill effects of the mixing of the cultural and political realms (footnotes omitted):
Besides this entangling of State and economy on the one hand, there arose a strong intertwining between State and culture on the other hand. One thinks for example of the monumental neoclassical buildings of the Wilhelmine era, which were created in order to represent the greatness of the German Empire; or of the 1909 memorandum presented by the evangelical theologian Adolf von Harnack, in which state support for research with regard to the national character of science is called for: “Military power and science are the two strong pillars of the greatness of Germany, and the Prussian State in accordance with its glorious traditions has the duty to care for the preservation of both.”

Also, the school system supported the state’s authoritarian orientation....Which tasks Wilhelm II assigned the schools, he had announced in a decree of 1889: “For a long time the thought has occupied me,” the decree said, “to make the schools at each grade level useful in working against the spread of socialistic and communistic ideas. Of the first importance is that the school, through cultivation of the fear of God and love of the fatherland, lays a foundation for a healthy view of state and social conditions.” The universities in no way deviated from the fundamentally conservative lines of the grade school system. Among the students as among the professoriate, anti-liberal attitudes dominated. Thus socio-politically they remained “bulwarks of the status quo”; if sons of workers strayed to become university students, that remained statistically exceptional, as workers’ sons were not usually among the students attending the nine-year secondary schools that prepped students for university.

In the title of his 1918 novel concerned with imperial Germany and critical of the times, the writer Heinrich Mann caricatured the human type formed by this education system: The Subject. And what characterized the work's “hero,” Diederich He├čling, better than the care with which he garlanded not only lectern and chalkboard but even the cane of Ordinarius on the latter’s birthday?

As thoroughly closed as Wilhelmine German society appears in the foregoing outline, in reality it was not. Particularly among artists strong oppositional currents were present. For example, one need only recall the performance of Gerhart Hauptmann’s work of social criticism, The Weaver, which caused a scandal in Berlin and prompted the Kaiser to cancel his box in the Deutschen Theater. Nevertheless, a few days after the outbreak of the war even Gerhart Hauptmann, together with 92 other scholars and artists, signed the so-called “Manifesto of the Intellectuals,” and backed up the politics of Wilhelm II. The outsider position of Gerhart Hauptmann in the Wilhelmine era mirrors the situation of numerous creative artists, who prepared a cultural transition, but who only became visible in full measure after World War I, and later would be represented: “…the Weimar culture runs at least a decade ahead of the Weimar Republic.”

To summarize: In 1918, along with the empire, a system collapsed that, if one compares it with the stronger federated structures of the preceding German State, was characterized by an increasing entanglement of government, economy, and culture as well as a widespread “subject-mentality.”[pp.25-27]
 Stay tuned.

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