GHDI logo

The Character of Leisure Time in Capitalism and Socialism (1961)

page 2 of 2    print version    return to list previous document      next document

Third, under Socialism there exists for the first time a generous network of cultural and scientific institutions that can be used by all workers without restrictions. There is a law for the qualification of workers and for the Socialist development of job training. “It used to be that people rushed to the nearest bar at the end of the work day,” reported Dieter Locha, Youth Brigadeer at the VEB Machine Building Görlitz, “and then it would always get to be one or two o’clock in the morning. That doesn’t work anymore. One person is going to a master’s training course; the others are attending night classes to learn a second profession as welders. And then we also meet quite often to talk something through.”

Fourth, leisure time in Socialism, because it increases naturally as labor productivity rises and because Socialist work leaves sufficient reserves of energy, offers the possibility not only of relaxation and entertainment, but also of personal self-realization through diverse cultural and scientific contacts. “No educational fanaticism, please,” recommends, by contrast, the semiofficial West German Welt der Arbeit [World of Work]. “Leisure time means freedom to do what one likes. [ . . . ] And if someone stands on a bridge for hours and spits into a barge to see whether the spit can travel by barge – he should be allowed to do so.” What is unmistakably recommended here is individualistic leisure time entertainment aimed at political abstemiousness. It is in line with the defamatory remark by Ministerial Director Osterloh from the Federal Ministry for Nutrition [Bundesernährungsministerium]: “In the Russian sphere of power, leisure time is destroyed through planning and the state-guided organization of leisure time.” Realistic art and literature, partisan science, all-around training and ongoing training of workers as the greatest humanistic task of a society is indeed a “destruction of leisure time,” of a leisure time of fearful stupor, of jealous gossip, of a crude beer-table atmosphere, in which, under the influence of alcohol, first the arguments and then the beer mugs are tossed about. Under capitalism, the worker is supposed to amuse himself in order to work well; but he is not supposed to think, to learn to act in a class-conscious way. Cultural relaxation is therefore desired only with political indifference. Under Socialism, by contrast, leisure time serves, in addition to physically and psychologically necessary relaxation, above all the speedy victory of the cultural revolution, the development of a highly educated, cultured person. For the first time, culture is serving the people without restriction, and for the first time the people are creating their own culture, the Socialist national people’s culture.

Source: Herbert Zerle: “Freundschaft und Geselligkeit im Sozialismus” [“Friendship and Conviviality in Socialism”], Pädagogik 16 (1961), p. 581 ff; reprinted in Christoph Kleßmann and Georg Wagner, eds. Das gespaltene Land. Leben in Deutschland 1945-1990. Texte und Dokumente zur Sozialgeschichte [The Divided Land. Life in Germany 19945-1990. Texts and Documents on Social History]. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1993, pp. 510-12.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

first page < previous   |   next > last page