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"The Cultural League at Ten" – Lead Article in Neues Deutschland (July 2, 1955)

On the tenth anniversary of the Cultural League for the Democratic Renewal of Germany, the SED’s central organ Neues Deutschland celebrated the unity of the working class and the intelligentsia in the GDR. The political and social preeminence of the workers, in alliance with artists and scientists, had supposedly laid the foundations for the rebuilding of a democratic-humanistic, pan-German culture. That culture, however, was not autonomous; rather, it followed the strict directives of state cultural policy.

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Ten years ago, on July 4, 1945, to be exact, the founding meeting of the Cultural League for the Democratic Renewal of Germany [Kulturbund zur demokratischen Erneuerung Deutschlands] was held in the large broadcast hall in the radio broadcasting house on Berlin’s Masurenallee. About 1,500 culture-creators from all over Berlin had come, and they enthusiastically approved the founding manifesto, which began with these words:

“The Cultural Association for the Democratic Renewal of Germany seeks to revive the great German culture, the pride of our fatherland, and to establish a new life of the German mind.

Nazism either buried the true German cultural values, those connected with the names of Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, and countless philosophers, artists, and scientists, or falsified them most disgracefully through its anti-human, utilitarian, and purpose-oriented doctrines. German culture became a tool of Hitler’s criminal wars of conquest. [ . . . ]”

Since its founding, the Cultural League for the Democratic Renewal of Germany has been a movement of intellectual renewal geared toward developing a progressive mindset in order to overcome the ideology of the old, imperialist Germany. Gathered around the founding manifesto were German artists and scientists who had survived the Fascist torture hells, who had returned home from emigration, who had, in inner emigration, remained decent people in the midst of a poisoned atmosphere of Fascist crimes, corruption, and swaggering. They belonged to the democratic parties that had just been authorized back then or had no party affiliation – representatives of various world views. They all agreed on one thing, however: a new democratic life had to be built; a new humanism had to be achieved.

A difficult, complicated, and protracted task had to be solved to turn Germany into a democratic country and to once again present our culture in a worthy manner within the culture of the world. The noblest values of German culture had to be returned to honor; the classics of poetry, music, the fine arts, and philosophy had to be brought back to life among the people. Progressive and liberal traditions of our German culture had to be revived; new values had to be brought into our progressive cultural legacy. Cultural ties with other nations, especially with the Soviet Union and our neighboring states, were reestablished, and the hearts and minds of our people were opened up to the beauty and grandeur of the national culture of others.

The education in democracy, truth, liberty, and peace was indissolubly linked with the work of reconstruction, which led us out of misery and rubble and into the successes of our Five-Year Plan. In the process, the members of our intelligentsia became increasingly aware that all forces willing to engage in reconstruction had to begin the new life united and organized, and that the teachers also had to be learners more than ever before.

The fundamental precondition for the development of the Cultural League was the realization of the unity of the working class in the Eastern part of our fatherland, and the leading role of the party of the working class, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, in the democratic reconstruction and in the workers’ and peasants’ power. The strength of the working class, in alliance with the peasants, dispossessed the capitalists and large landowners, destroyed their economic power and with it their previously dominant ideological influence. The ideology of the working class became the prevailing ideology and allowed for the quick reorientation of the old intelligentsia as well.

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