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The Great Debate: «Bolshevism» and the Literary Left in Germany, 1917-1930


John A. Zammito

This study interprets debates within the Weimar literary Left over the relation of literature to politics. The historical key to these debates was the German revolution of 1918-1919 and the idea of «Bolshevism», i.e. a symbolic allegiance to the only successful revolutionary movement of 1917-1920. In covering the arguments of figures like G. Grosz, W. Herzfelde, E. Piscator, J. Becher, A. Döblin, B. Brecht and W. Benjamin, it demonstrates the great ambivalence and historical specificity of the stances writers adopted in the Twenties over the issue of political allegiance to Marxism. Thus the work contributes to a historical appreciation of the mentality of the Weimar Republic and especially of «Weimar Culture». But its concerns extend beyond Weimar to the larger question of the relation of intellectuals to politics in the twentieth century.
Contents: German Revolution 1918-1919 and literary «Bolshevism» - Pro- letkult - «Rote Gruppe»: Grosz and Herzfelde - «Political Theater»: Piscator - «Gruppe 1925»: Döblin and Becher - Bund prol.-rev. Schriftsteller vs. Döblin - Brecht's politics in the Twenties.