Sunday, August 14, 2016

Threefolding Movement of 1917-1922: Part 8

Vase with Tulips, Jan Toorop, 1917

The Threefolding Movement of 1917-1922 and Its Present Significance


By Christoph Strawe*
(translated by Edward Udell)

Part 8 (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7)

Escalation of Crisis in the External Situation – Foundation of the Union for Threefolding


Germany at this time is increasingly shaken by revolutionary movements. On 1 April [1919] the so-called Ruhr Strike breaks out; in mid-April 300,000 miners join in a walkout. On 7 April the Munich Council Republic is proclaimed; on 16 April a red army is founded. In Württemberg the movement is less radical, but there too, from 31 March to 6 April a general strike takes place, and the government temporarily fortifies itself in the railway station tower.

On 20 April 1919 Steiner arrives in Stuttgart. At a meeting with activists, when he is asked whether one should rather address oneself to the proletariat or the middle class, he answers that if one really gets the middle class interested, the proletariat will participate. Ultimately, however, that does not hinder him from working as a speaker particularly among the working class.

On 22 April, in the city garden room, a lecture for the signatories of the Appeal takes place, and a “Union for the Threefolding of the Social Organism” is founded, to whose work committee belong von Blume, Kühn, Emil Leinhas, Molt, Unger, Max Benzinger, and Theodor Binder.

23 April: Waldorf-Astoria Lecture – Beginning of the Popular Movement


On 23 April, before the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria factory, Rudolf Steiner gives an inspiring lecture,6 in which among other things he calls for a free education for all and the overcoming of class privileges in education questions. In connection with this lecture the decision is made to found the “Waldorf school” as a unitary lower- and secondary school. Emil Molt invites R. Steiner to take over the establishment and leadership of this school, which to begin with is intended for the workers’ children. The now developing movement encompasses broad layers of the population, as can be seen from the daily press of that time. The movement indeed is concentrated in the Southwest German region, but spreads beyond to other areas. A list from September 1919 shows 74 local groups in the threefolding union. R. Steiner speaks in great worker assemblies in Stuttgart’s large companies, thus at Daimler, in Cannstatt, Feuerbach, Untertürkheim, Ludwigsburg, and Waiblingen; later in Reutlingen, Tübingen, Ulm Heidenheim, Maulbronn, Mannheim, and Schwenningen. His brilliant rhetoric sweeps the listeners along. Collaborators like Hans Kühn help to carry the impulse to the workers, with whom Kühn finds a great response particularly among the followers of the Independent Social Democratic Party.

Works Councils Movement


The question of the establishment of works councils played a large role among the working class at the time. The “threefolders” actively took part in the attempt to create such works councils. However, whereas the majority social democrats saw works councils as organs of equalization between “capital” and “work,” whose hostile opposition to each other was thus taken for granted, and others saw the councils as revolutionary organs of the “the struggle against the bourgeoisie," the threefolders saw in the councils organs of company and inter-company self-management and common work, in which workers and management – on the basis of equal rights, with preservation of domains of competence and responsibility – were to work together. It was with this view that Rudolf Steiner entered into meetings with the Stuttgart worker committees (which first took place on 8 May). On 16 May the worker Siegfried Dorfner (USPD) expresses to an assembly the thought that on the basis of threefolding an understanding between proletariat and bourgeoisie was possible, and declares, “As free and equal let us be brothers!” A flyer is self-consciously formulated: “Elect works councils in the sense of threefolding, and make history.”

[Part 9 is here.]

6 See excerpt in the appendix to the present article.

* Dr. Christoph Strawe has kindly given me permission to post my translation of his article. I have divided it into Parts 1, 2, etc. Words in brackets [ ] are my insertions. Apart from this note, the footnotes are from Dr. Strawe's article. The original German version can be read here. Dr. Strawe manages the Initiative Network Threefolding (Initiative Netzwerk Dreigliederung). The Initiative Network's English-language website is here.  The German-language website is here.  The Initiative Network Threefolding is part of the Institute for Present-Day Social Questions in Stuttgart (Institut für soziale Gegenwartsfragen e.V. Stuttgart). A biographical paragraph (in German) about Dr. Strawe can be found by scrolling near the end of this webpage. - transl.

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