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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: August 2018

20 - The Most Beautiful Days of My Life: Leading the Opposition (1917–1918)

Summary

WEDNESDAY MORNING, 18 April 1917, Friedrich Ebert opened a meeting of the Majority expanded advisory council with the announcement that the first item of business would be the split formalized at Gotha, superseding consideration of food shortages, electoral reform, and peace initiatives. In the ensuing discussion Paul Reißhaus of Erfurt reported that most of his Thuringian comrades feared that their organization was rapidly evolving into a national-social party. Other speakers downplayed the threat posed by the Independents. Hermann Beims ventured that in Magdeburg the opposition's numbers were insignificant, perhaps 150 adherents. Erhard Auer too believed the Independents’ strength overrated. “Munich was represented at Gotha as well, by Eisner. He was not elected but rather appointed a delegate at a meeting of 22 people—11 masters and 11 misses, almost all of them Jewish elements.” The insult induced ripples of laughter. In 1982 historian Freya Eisner remarked that many Munich Jews blamed her grandfather's revolution for a surge of anti-Semitism unknown in Bavaria to his contemporaries. Auer's demeaning characterization of Kurt Eisner's cadre suggests, however, that Jew-baiting was already manifest among his professed comrades in the South.

Upon his return from the founding congress of the USPD Eisner felt reinvigorated, refocused as he resumed his critiques for the Münchener Post. In a review of Rudolf Franz's book on contemporary drama he reaffirmed the necessity of social and political engagement of both artist and critic, applauding Franz's attempt to apply Marxist historical materialism to interpretation of theater. Reprising the premise of his 1896 essay “Party Art,” Eisner stated: “In the age of the proletarian class struggle the great artist must himself be a socialist. The more profoundly and ardently his entire personality is shaped by this worldview, the clearer and bolder he examines men and matters from this perspective, the greater his artistic stature will become through socialist virtue and insight.” The next week a dance performance by Lisa Kresse, Primavera and Beatrice Mariagraete, and Lala Herdmenger evoked the observation that “even today there is still something that one may call feeling for life.” And on Monday, 30 April, Eisner hailed as a revelation the Chamber Players’ premiere of Georg Kaiser's 1912 expressionist masterpiece on the spiritual poverty of material greed, Von morgens bis mitternachts (From Morning to Midnight).

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