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Kurt Tucholsky, "We Nay-Sayers" (1919)

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We cannot yet say yes. We know only this: with brooms of iron, right now and today we must sweep away whatever in Germany is and has been rotten and born of evil. We will get nowhere hiding our heads in cloth of black, white, and red, whispering anxiously: later, my good sir, later! no fuss just now!


It is ridiculous to reproach a new movement, now four months old, with having failed to produce the same positive accomplishments of a tradition of three hundred years. We know that.

We confront a Germany full of unrivaled corruption, full of profiteers and sneaks, full of three hundred thousand devils among whom each assumes the right to secure his black self from the effects of revolution. But we mean him, precisely him, and only him.

And we have the opportunity of choice: do we fight him with love or do we fight him with hate? We want to fight with hate out of love. With hate against that fellow who has dared to drink the blood of his countrymen as one drinks wine, raising a glass to his own health and to that of his friends. With hate against the clique to which the disproportionate snatching up of property and the misery of cottage workers appears to be the will of God, which orders proofs from professors purchased for the task that it must be so, and which celebrates friendly idylls on the bent backs of others who languish. We fight in any case with hate. But we fight out of love for the oppressed, who are not always necessarily proletarians, and we love in humans the thought of humanity.

Negative? For four and a half years we have been hearing that terrible yes that called good everything that insolent arrogance ordered done. How delightful was the world! How everything worked, how all were d’accord, one heart and no soul; how the artificially adorned landscape moved with uniformed puppets to the glory of our masters! It was the theme of Anacreon. And with a thundering crash it all collapsed, what one earlier thought was iron wasn’t even cast iron; the generals get started with their self-justifications, of which they have no need at all, for no one wants to take responsibility; and the revolutionaries, who came too late and were checked too early, are accused of having caused the misery on which in truth generations had been at work. Negative? Blood and misery and wounds and trampled humanity—it should at least not have been for nothing. Let us continue to say no when necessary. It is the theme of Aeschylus.

Source of English translation: Kurt Tucholsky, “We Nay-Sayers” (1919), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 96-100. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: Kurt Tucholsky, “Wir Negativen,” Die Weltbühne 15, no. 12 (March 13, 1919), pp. 279-85.

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