Politisierung eines Unpolitischen? Thomas Mann and Socialism, 1918–1933
Author: Holmes, Deborah
Source: Oxford German Studies, Volume 34, Number 2, 2005 , pp. 189-196(8)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:From Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen onwards, Thomas Mann made frequent mentions of socialism in his works. Depending on their own political positions, both his detractors and supporters considered him to have undergone a political conversion after the First World War, from conservative monarchist to socialist republican. His public statements became increasingly sympathetic to the Social Democrat cause throughout the period 1918–1933, culminating in two 'Bekenntnisse zum Sozialismus' in Vienna and Berlin in 1932 and 1933 respectively. On closer examination however, his politics during the Weimar Republic throw up many contradictions, not least of which is the continuity they often display with his earlier positions. This article explores Thomas Mann's paradoxical attitude to socialism in the period with particular emphases on his experience of the Munich revolutions in 1918–1919, his reading of Gustav Landauer, his rewriting of Der Zauberberg and his visits to 'Red Vienna'. Der Zauberberg accords socialism a place in Europe's cultural heritage and presents us with the only fully rounded socialist characters in Mann's oeuvre, reflecting his political preoccupations at the time. Ultimately, however, it seems that Mann developed his own idiosyncratic understanding of socialism primarily as a pragmatic, rhetorical tool to be used against the National Socialists.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2005-09-01