The Political Development of Kurt Tucholsky, 1890-1935

King, William John (1977) The Political Development of Kurt Tucholsky, 1890-1935. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study examines the works of Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935). Tucholsky was well-known in Germany during the nineteen-twenties and early nineteen-thirties as a poet, reviewer, essayist and satirist. However, his most significant work was in the field of political journalism, and it is this aspect of his writings which is analysed in this thesis. The first six chapters of this study examine the development of Tucholsky's political opinions. His short articles in the Social Democratic newspaper Vorwarts indicated an early scepticism about the moral standards and political institutions of Wilhelminian society. From 1914 the existence of censorship temporarily restrained his social criticism, but his experience of military service on Germany's Eastern Front transformed him into a pacifist and a bitter opponent of German militarism. Tucholsky greeted the Revolution of November 1918 with enthusiasm, since it premised to sweep away the Wilhelminian system. Along with other left-wing writers, he supported the ideal of intellectual engagement and Die Weltbuhne, the weekly journal to which he contributed, was to become the leading organ of independent, progressive writers throughout the Weimar Republic. Tucholsky believed that his country required a period of peaceful consolidation. He opposed the violence of the revolutionary left almost as fiercely as he attacked the conservatives who had formerly ruled Germany; and in Ulk he gave cautious support to the Democratic Party. However, he soon began to recognise that the new government, led by the Social Democrats, was compromising with the officers, judges and civil servants of the old regime. Tucholsky pointed out rightly that such tactics would endanger the Republic. In March 1920 he emphasised his concern for the future of Germany by joining the USPD and contributing to its newspaper, Die Freiheit. Until 1922 he regularly warned his country's politicians against the threat from the right, but he became frustrated as his prophecies were ignored and his advice was rejected. During the crisis of 1923 he lapsed into a despairing silence, but his appointment as the Paris correspondent of the Weltbuhne restored his enthusiasm for literary work. By the mid-1920's Tucholsky's political views had undergone a gradual change. He no longer believed that the Republic might provide a framework for democratic reform. On the contrary, Weimar democracy now seemed to be a mere facade, concealing the fact that power remained with the bourgeoisie and the army. Tucholsky's opinion was reinforced when Fieldmarshal Hindenburg was elected as the second President of the Republic in 1925. Tucholsky rightly feared the anti-Republican plans of Hindenburg' s advisers, and he recognised the danger that Germany might prepare for war in order to avenge the defeat of 1918. In order to resist this development, and also to put into practice the Marxist principles which he now held, Tucholsky sought an alliance of left-wing forces and advocated a second revolution, more radical than that of 1918. During the late 1920's Tucholsky adopted a radically left-wing position. He accepted the revolutionary tenets of Marxism, sympathised with the KPD and wrote regularly for Communist newspapers. However, the KPD leaders did not respond to his offers of encouragement and his constructive criticism; they were not interested in discussing with the intellectual left, but only in compelling the latter to join the party and obey its unquestioning discipline. Tucholsky refused to do so, partly because he wished to preserve his artistic integrity and partly because he was beginning to suspect that the KPD was being exploited by Stalin as an instrument of Soviet foreign policy. Tucholsky had lost much of his interest in political polemic by the time of the National Socialist electoral victories in the early 1930's. He opposed the advance of Fascism in Germany in a number of satirical poems and prose articles ; but he regarded Fascism merely as a new variant of Wilhelminian Conservatism, and underestimated the persuasive powers of its leader. Recognising that the progressive cause was facing inevitable defeat, Tucholsky wrote his last political articles in the spring of 1932 and committed suicide in his Swedish exile three years later. In the latter part of this study Tucholsky's significance as a political writer is assessed through a detailed analysis of the important themes in his work. The relationship of the intellectual and polemicist with the leading Realpolitiker of the Weimar era, Ebert, Noske and Stresemann, is studied in Chapter 7. This is followed by an examination of his attitude to the German officers and the Prussian militarism which they represented. His comments on the judiciary, the educational system, the press and the middle classes are considered in Chapter 9.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: German literature
Date of Award: 1977
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1977-78750
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 14:56
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 14:56

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