Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Threefolding Movement of 1917-1922: Part 3

Study for Improvisation 8, Kandinsky, 1909


The Threefolding Movement of 1917-1922 and Its Present Significance

By Christoph Strawe*
(translated by Edward Udell)

Part 3 (Parts 1 and 2)

Landmark Year 1917

1917 is a landmark year in world history. Starting from this year there took shape that bipolar world situation characterized by the superpower role of the USA and the Soviet Union and supplanted only in 1989. In 1917 the USA entered the world war; 1917 is the year of the Russian October Revolution – in whose coming to pass the German General Staff was not uninvolved. The ideas of socialism, and American President Wilson’s democracy slogans (“make the world safe for democracy” -- speech of 2 April 1917 to Congress) both achieved a considerable propaganda effect, while the Central Powers weakened themselves through a deficit of spiritual goals and a limited focus on annexation claims.

The Ball Gets Rolling

In this situation a student of R. Steiner, Count Otto Lerchenfeld (1868-1938), who like all sensible persons distrusts4 the talk of “peace through victory,” comes to Steiner at the end of May 1917 with the question of how to save Central Europe from the catastrophe threatening it. Then in three weeks of protracted face-to-face discussions, which begin in June, Steiner unfolds to him the concept of a Central European peace program. Particular details of these conversations were not preserved. It is safe to say, however, that they did not turn on theoretical deliberations, but on the attempt to win a hearing from the leading statesmen of Central Europe and to dispose them toward a sensible peace initiative. On 13 July, the day of the resignation of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg in connection with escalating controversy in Germany over the question of peace and annexations, Count Ludwig Polzer-Hoditz (1869-1945), also a student of R. Steiner, learns of Lerchenfeld’s initiative. Polzer-Hoditz’ brother is cabinet chief for the Austrian Kaiser Karl (who was pressing for a speedy peace agreement) and has some prospect of becoming foreign minister, while Lerchenfeld’s uncle is the Bavarian royal diplomat in Berlin. Both thus have indirect access to power. The attempt is made, though essentially without result, to establish personal contact with a number of individuals, including the former German ambassador in London, Prince Lichnowski; the journalist Maximilian Harden; Walter Rathenau; the former ambassador to Washington Count Berstoff; and the director of the Hamburg-America-Line Albert Ballin.

[Part 4 is here.]

4 In the middle of 1917 he records that it was no longer bearable to watch the order, counter-order, disorder. Everyone sought in his little department for the All. “For thoughts – no time! Of ideas – no trace! With the war, they count on victory as if reckoning with numbers. To gain courage, they look to the military. They dream only: Victory – Victory – Victory!” (From Rudolf Steiner During the World War, published by R. Boos, Dornach, 1933, p. 57 ff.)

* 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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