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Weimar: Experiment in Democracy

August 29, 2011

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00015, Friedrich Ebert.jpg

Chancellor Ebert in more sombre garb

If you like German history and painting please join me at the Art Gallery of NSW at 6:30 on Wednesday 31 August to hear me talk on the Weimar Republic. The lecture is part of a series on Weimar themes to coincide with the exhibition entitled The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910 – 37.

I intend to chart the political principles involved with Germany’s crisis-prone 1920s and even look at lessons for us, yes us, in Australia today. An elected president, for example? Hey, don’t create an Australian Hindenburg! And I’ll treat you to a slide show on the period featuring Chancellor Ebert – a hero of mine for putting down the German Bolsheviks – with his defence minister Gustav Noske, both in their Abbott-like Speedos.

  1. Tom Round permalink
    August 29, 2011 6:58 pm

    This sounds very interesting. Is there any chance you could upload notes or an outline for those of us camping out here in the outer regions?

    • Bob Carr permalink
      August 29, 2011 9:05 pm

      Not really . Perhaps the books I used.

      • Tom Round permalink
        August 29, 2011 9:15 pm

        Consarn it. I call Constitution Section 117 violation. Mr Carr is a public resource and not a mere private citizen.

      • Bob Carr permalink
        August 29, 2011 9:31 pm

        I am a public resource. It’s in that spirit that I do these things.

  2. wearestardust permalink
    August 29, 2011 8:21 pm

    Being several hundred kilometres away will be unable to join in, but on the subject of things German, and apropos various (quite justified) complaints about the History Channel, views on the short doco on Frederick II? I’ll be bold enough to say that while it was mostly boilerplate, I thought it was quite good by Foxtel standards. Was also reminded of the many similarities, from a Freudian perspective, of the upbringing of Frederick II and Alexander II of Macedon.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      August 29, 2011 9:11 pm

      Yes, saw it too and thought it was sound because it interviewed historians. Right about the Alexander-Frederick comparison.

  3. Kerry Wright permalink
    August 30, 2011 10:00 pm

    Hi Bob.
    As a long-time History teacher I am truly glad that you (and many others) keep the intellectual/historical/art/literature fires burning in Oz. However…
    (You have my permission not to print this, as I probably would have preferred to have written it personally and privately.)
    Today I sat at His Holiness’ (Dalai Lama’s) teachings in India for maybe four or five thousand people in India, in a sea of monks, nuns and people from all over the globe- including Romania. He spoke as always about the human condition (‘money has no ability to show us affection, only human beings’ ‘pay attention to inner values’, how Chinese Marxists and the US got it wrong, because of disparities between words and actions, etc), and offered simple ways we can all help ourselves and others. The ‘Heart Sutra’ was sung by a Chinese nun, in Chinese, a soft and deeply beautiful experience. Then we moved on to a Teaching, an ancient text of great beauty and simplicity. He left clearly a little tired, but still giving and shining, to start again tomorrow.

    It has been a deeply moving experience, as always.
    I am wondering as I write (and I am preparing a book about my many years of looking at how the world works spiritually and ethically) why someone capable of doing so much good as you said such bizarre things about His Holiness in June.
    The recent Tibetan Prime Minister election was excellence, democracy in motion, a sole uncorrupted act in sensitive South East Asia.
    Today we had news that more monks are to be imprisoned (10 years) and tortured, for assisting a young monk after he self-immolated. He was actually beaten before dying. A teacher has been imprisoned for having pictures of the Dalai Lama.

    I can’t help feeling relieved that I no longer give two figs about the Weimar Republic, and even my beloved theater, art and great literature have paled lately, but democracy in 2011 means a great deal to me, and I care a lot about the widespread barbarity that Australians rarely hear much about. Like Tibet. Like Burma.

    There are events all over the globe showing us that people DO matter, including here in India, and we who have less fear have a great responsibility to reject true corruption.

    Surely we can be intellectual, educated, AND have a generous heart?

  4. Peter Pando permalink
    August 31, 2011 11:27 am

    Dear Mr Carr,

    “Hey, don’t create an Australian Hindenburg”. Is our Head of State as tied to the military as the Kaiser was? I don’t think so, but I’m just a ordinary citizen, privy to nothing. The republic went through numerous coups because it was all constitution and little pragmatic power, just like the plan to get another referendum up. No matter what your preference for presidential styles, a republic which has to get rid of current arrangements will have to prove itself capable of managing the international arrangements too, so will need the military more than ever lest the republic be exposed as all public relations hype, smoke, mirrors and spin. Perhaps the American empire would help. Perhaps the Chinese empire would hinder. Perhaps both empires would help themselves and carve Australia up between them. Disrupting the international networks that keep Australia relatively stable for the sake of some idea that a home grown head of state is going to be an intrinsically productive step forward for the whole of the country would require the military to support it. Anyway, what’s a home grown president these days? If America has a President with a local birth but international upbringing, Australia’s home-grown could come from the land of the llama.

  5. Tracey permalink
    August 31, 2011 9:19 pm

    Hello Mr Carr – thank you for a densely packed and massively interesting presentation – it helped our understanding of the exhibition, along with expanded my understanding of tween wars Germany and appreciated you optimistic finish. Small shame about the tech hitch but thanks also to AG NSW for hosting.

  6. Peter Tuziak permalink
    August 31, 2011 10:50 pm

    A great presentation and exhbition – thanks for posting this on your blog.
    I studied European Fascism as one of my history courses at Sydney University 20 years ago and it great to look at this interesting period of German history again. The 1920s and 30s in German were my grandmother’s formative years so hold a personal interest for me.
    It is remarkable how one act allowing the President to do whatever he wanted if he saw fit could undermine a whole democracy.
    Your positive appraisal of the Weimar Republic’s legacy was reinforced when I finally went to Germany in 2006 for the World Cup. I saw a country which was welcoming to everyone and very multicultural. The sight of members of the Turkish community waving German flags is one I will always remember. I wonder what my grandmother would have made of Germany now.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      September 1, 2011 8:51 am

      You might like Isiah Berlin’s essay, Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism. I am glad you appreciate the achievements of the Federal Republic of Germany.

  7. September 1, 2011 8:59 am

    Thanks for your speech last night at The AGNSW! Enjoyed a lot how you brought events in this rather crazy period together!
    Loved your little hint in the end that there’s a world out there where it is possible that more than 2 parties form a government – and even successfully so! As a german in OZ it’s sometimes slightly frustrating to see how people think democracy ends when more than two political colors are involved in politics…

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