Thursday, January 19, 2012
The Election...Eighty Years Ago
I stumbled across this photo on the internet a little while back. It's election graffiti from the 1932 German elections: it reads "Wählt Thälmann," or "Vote for Ernst Thaelmann," the candidate of the KPD, the German Communist Party, that in the years following was ruthlessly crushed. Here's the amazing thing about this photo: it was taken in Marburg, Germany, in 2008. Which means not only did it survive the 1932 elections (the KPD did not win a majority, as we know), it survived the rise of the Nazis, the brutality of WWII, and all the attempts since the war to control the narratives of history.
I've written before about those 1932 elections and about Ernst Thaelmann. The last time in fact, I pondered whether this era of elections, marked by a rise of the extreme right, would be the undoing of today's civil society. Interestingly, I failed to see the possibility of the return of a mass leftwing, popular movement. I saw the main hope, inadequate as it is, as defensive voting for Democrats. I find it worthy of note that while the mainstream of the Republican party has indeed drifted right, that the people out in the streets are no longer the teabaggers of the right but the Occupy movement of the left.
Which changes everything.
Big things are being planned for May Day, even. And frankly, despite the horrible words spouted by those horrible people on the daises of the Republican debates, and despite the transparent posturing of President Obama, they all seem a little bit irrelevant to the possibilities for the future. Not that one of them won't probably win come November, but that no longer engenders such a sense of foreboding hopelessness.
This election graffiti has survived eighty years, telling all sorts of stories about the way things were. While some of those stories are sad, with tragic endings, it occurs to me that the current story is still being told.