Monday, August 15, 2016

Threefolding Movement of 1917-1922: Part 9

Andromeda, Odilon Redon, ca. 1912

The Threefolding Movement of 1917-1922 and Its Present Significance

By Christoph Strawe*
(translated by Edward Udell)

Part 9 (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)

Cultural Council

At the same time, partly to avoid any one-sided development, the attempt was made to interpret and anchor the councils idea as concept of self-administration in cultural life also. On 31 May 1919, a call for the founding of a cultural council was published. The call was signed by numerous artists and intellectuals, including writer Thomas Mann. “Free spiritual workers” were to join together and themselves take in hand the organization of cultural relations. The free comprehensive school without state oversight was called for, as was the abolition of the state authorization system, thus also of state tests at the universities. Compared with the activities among the workers, however, the strivings for an autonomous cultural life were less successful: often engagement was exhausted after signing the call. At discussions about the matter, doubters would rise to speak; thus at a 15 June discussion, university professors in Tübingen feared that if no culture minister spoke his word of power any longer, the already great rivalries among colleagues would intensify immeasurably.

Growing Opposition

In general the political climate changes during the course of the first half of 1919 increasingly to the disadvantage of the progressively-minded forces. Already in April the Freikorps had begun to crush the Munich council republic. The reactionary forces, which had kept their heads down and waited for better political weather, sensed the chance to restore the old order. From this side, but also from the side of the majority Social Democratic Party and union functionaries, the threefolding movement was demonized as radical. Functionaries feared to lose their position and their influence with the workers. Revolutionaries by contrast suspected and struggled against threefolding because they took it to be an attempt to manufacture an illusory peace among the classes. Thus the Union for Threefolding increasingly had to resist attacks. Moreover, many coworkers in the movement were overstrained. Some relied less on their own power; they entertained illusory expectations toward the political parties and wanted merely to “carry over” threefolding to them. The proposals of R. Steiner were partly misunderstood as a recipe-like program. Large numbers of anthroposophists did not support the campaign, but observed rather skeptically and from a distance. All these factors led to a decrease in activity among many who were previously engaged. Thus as early as 14 June an assembly of worker committees took place before a nearly empty room. Nor could the weekly newspaper Threefolding of the Social Organism, whose first number appeared in July – the chief editor was Ernst Uehli -- reverse this trend.

Strivings for the education of the works councils are indeed still continued – thus on 29 July a special 50,000-copy issue of the threefolding newspaper appears on this theme – but without resounding success.

Generally by September at the latest it is clear that the hoped-for breakthrough will not take place. Conditions have consolidated, the Weimar constitution is in force, and many questions that previously seemed to allow for new formative possibilities are no longer open.

Thus it was natural to concentrate more on particular “model establishments,” which one could hope would work as examples pointing to a longer-term transformation of conditions. One could start on a path of smaller step-by-step changes. (At a study evening on 3 March 1920, Steiner speaks clearly of a “course change.”)

[Part 10 is here.]

* 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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