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Tucholsky’s Liberal Moment


. . . And when everything has passed by–; when everything has run its full course: the herd mentality, the bliss of mass rallies at which slogans are shouted and flags are waived; when this illness of our times, which transforms through its lies the baser qualities of the people into noble ones, has passed on; when the people are perhaps not smarter, but are tired; when all the engagements over fascism have been fought to their conclusion and the last liberal emigrants have left our shores–:

Then, one day it will suddenly become fashionable to be a liberal.

And then someone will arise who will make a thundering discovery: he will discover the Individual. He will say: There is an organism, called the human being, and our life revolves around him. Whether he is happy, that is the question. That he is free—that is the object. Groups are something secondary. The State is something secondary. We should not be focused on the success of the State, but rather of the Individual.

The man who speaks in this manner will produce a great effect on his audience. The people will cheer these themes and will say: “That’s something new! What courage! We’ve never heard anything quite like that before! A new era of humanity is coming! What a genius we have among us! A new way of thinking is born–!”

His books will be bestsellers, or more precisely the books of his imitators, since the first is of course always a bit of a dim bulb.

And this new theory will have its way: a hundred thousand black, brown and red shirts will be driven to the margins and onto the dust heap. And the people will once more have the courage to be themselves, without majority decrees and without fear of the State, before which they had knuckled under like whipped dogs. And that will continue, until one day. . .

Kurt Tucholsky, Blick in ferne Zukunft (1931) in: Gesammelte Werke, vol. 5, p. 212-13 (1972)(S.H. transl.)

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