Tuesday, November 25th: David Spreen

Please join the European History Workshop on Tuesday, November 25th from 4-6pm for the following paper and discussion:

“Weimar Communism, the Nation, and Stalin in the 1970s West German Left” (see abstract below) by David Spreen, Doctoral Candidate in History, University of Michigan.

The paper is available on the European History Workshop CTOOLS site. For a copy of the paper and/or access to the site, email please email the workshop coordinators.

Location: 1014 Tisch Hall.

Dinner will be provided, as usual. Please RSVP so we know how much food to order!

Abstract:
“The year 1968 marks a watershed in West German historical memory. Student activists created a space for left-wing activism beyond Cold War politics, rejecting both capitalism in the West and what they perceived to be accommodation to imperialism in the Soviet bloc. This extra- parliamentary activism has become part of the origin myth of West German liberal democracy: by pointing to the vestiges of authoritarianism in West German culture, and attempting to come to terms with the Holocaust, the student left contributed to the liberalization of German political culture. Yet, following the collapse of the student movement in the late sixties, many of its former members returned to Marxism-Leninism, and, not rarely, to an embrace of Stalin for political options. On the one hand, the Left of the 1970s continued a critique of the “liberalism” of the Social Democratic Party. On the other hand, in the 1960s this critique took anti-authoritarian forms while in the 1970s the party-building projects of Marxism-Leninism indeed embraced anti-democratic political practices as well as an anti-democratic ideology. At the same time, the Lefts of the 1960s and 1970s both understood themselves as invested in a range of geopolitical struggles. In the 1960s, anti-capitalism was largely articulated through solidarity with anti-colonial struggles. But here again, the 1970s constituted a clear break. While the anti-authoritarian Left had supported national liberation abroad while remaining deeply suspicious of nationalism in Germany, the Left of the 1970s sought to recover a national heritage in the Weimar KPD. My dissertation seeks to understand these shifts in the context of German conversations about the past, the Cold War, and the climate of possibility and transformation of anti-colonial movements around the world. In this, this dissertation will contribute to the literature on postwar protest movements and the complex processes of democratization in West Germany.”