Ernst Toller : from Einheitsfront to Volksfront : the development of Toller's political ideology (1919-1939)
This thesis examines the development of the political outlook of the German author and revolutionary politician, Ernst Toller. It begins by looking at Toller's early years and explains how his experience as a front-line soldier during the First World war transformed his views, causing him to reject the conservative-nationalist ethos he had grown up with and to become, in his own description, a revolutionary pacifist. It then looks at his involvement in the revolutionary events which took place in Bavaria at the end of the First World War, the so-called Räterepublik, examines how they affected his understanding of social and political reality and traces their artistic reflection in the plays he wrote in the following period. A recurrent theme in Toller's political thinking throughout the years of the Weimar Republic was the idea of an Einheitsfront, a defence block of workers' organisations, which he advocated as the only means of halting the rise of National Socialism. Unfortunately, Toller's appeals to the main workers' parties to form such a block went unheard, yet they are significant all the same in that they reveal the acute political insight of a man whom many of his contemporaries dismissed as a hopeless utopian. Interestingly, and a point often missed in studies of his politics, Toller abandoned the Einheitsfront after he went into exile in 1933 and came to favour instead the creation of a Volksfront a broad, cross-party anti-fascist coalition which the Soviet Union vigorously promoted all through the 1930s until the signing of the Stalin-Hitler Pact in 1940. Toller's support for this idea, in part a corollary of his support for the Soviet Union itself, had a profound impact on his political outlook in exile, and caused him to close his eyes to the repression suffered by the opponents of the Stalin regime both inside and outside Russia, and, most significantly, led him to ignore the nascent socialist revolution which flourished in Spain after the defeat of Franco's coup d'etat in 1936. This study examines in some detail, therefore, Toller's involvement in the Volksfront, redefines his attitude towards Communist Russia and shows how his efforts to suppress his revolutionary beliefs and to become instead a mere anti-fascist affected his creative spirit during his years of exile.