Friday, March 25, 2016

The 1919 Threefolding Movement: Excerpt 1

Johannes Molzahn, 1919, Happening (Geschehen), Oil and aluminum leaf on canvas, Yale University Art Gallery.


















THE above image is not the topic here today, but seemed apropos.  It no doubt reflects the disorder of the German Revolution of 1919.  The current post however concerns Albert Schmelzer's doctoral thesis about Rudolf Steiner's threefolding efforts during the 1919 upheaval.  Schmelzer's thesis was published as a book in Germany in 1991 (see image-link to right).  I thought it might be interesting to translate a few excerpts below.  Footnotes omitted.

At a point near the beginning of the book Schmelzer explains its purpose.
...up to the present there has been no scholarly account of a social initiative that Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, crucially helped to shape. It unfolded in the year 1919 in W├╝rttemberg: the movement for the “threefolding of the social organism.” [p.13]
A bit further on in the book, Schmelzer writes of how economic, political, and cultural life had mingled with one another in a variety of unholy alliances prior to the collapse of Germany's old order near the end of 1918. 
Closely bound up with the state was the economic life.  In imperialism, the interests of politicians and economic elites met in the striving for areas of power and influence overseas. On the one hand, the economy needed the State apparatus. For even in the phase of world economic boom from 1896 to 1913, crises and depressions recalled painfully to mind that there was no such thing as a permanent upswing. State power was called upon furthermore to open up areas of investment and markets in underdeveloped regions. On the other hand, the State came willingly into alliance with business, since the government for the sake of its own legitimacy needed economic prosperity. Perhaps also a successful global imperial policy could distract from domestic political conflicts with the social democratic “fellows with no fatherland.” [Smelzer here refers to something more familiar in a German context. Kaiser Wilhelm II in an often quoted speech called the Social Democrats “vaterlandlose Gesellen” – fellows with no fatherland -- and thus deprecatingly alluded to a tendency among them to reject patriotism to the nation and to emphasize instead allegiance to the international cause of socialism. The Kaiser's phrase may also have had anti-Semitic connotations. -- Edward] The talk of “safety valves” for the “overheated steam kettle’ of German domestic developments became a kind of popular phrase in pro-imperialistic arguments.

The frictionless mingling of economic bodies with the State apparatus is shown in the classic example of the strengthened development of navy ship building beginning in 1898. Circles in Rhenish-Westphalian industry were the source of financing for the founding of the “German Navy League” (1898), which eventually grew to 800,000 individual and corporate members, and thanks to a budget of millions for propaganda, agitated exceedingly successfully for the buildup of the high seas fleet.

Thus ship building fulfilled various functions. Not only did it stabilize the economy through continual government demand, but the fleet served also as mighty symbol of Germany’s international standing and was intended to make it easier to identify with the nation. Fleet politics was consequently also social policy.

The German Navy League was not the only association that can be considered a center of agitation within heavy industry.  No less successfully the German Defense Association (1912-1935), the German Colonial Society (1887-1936) and the radical right All German Union (1891-1939) chimed in to the arms debate. The association of the Central Union of German Industrialists with the Union for Farmers signified a strong concentration of economic interests, which from 1913 worked together in the "Syndicate [Kartell] of the Manufacturing Estates," which was fittingly characterized by critics as the "Syndicate of the Grabbing Hands."

Opposite the “brutal, naked group egoism” of the economic elites, stood the continually growing trade union organizations – in 1913 the free trade unions counted 2.5 million members – yet the workers’ unions did not fundamentally call the system into question, but rather with their “Bread and Butter Policy” concentrated on winning a growing part of the gross national product for organized workers. Furthermore, it took a long time till the unions and Social Democratic Party, joined with a part of consumer-friendly opinion, had become genuine power factors. Until then, the cartel of the owners of the means of production, entangled with the political auxiliary troops [politischen Hilfstruppen] and the ruling system’s agitation groups, held a bastion that was difficult to shake.

Besides this entangling of State and economy on the one hand, arose a strong intertwining between State and Culture on the other hand...[pp.24-25.]
 Part 2 of this series is here

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