By Rob Burns
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Additional resources for Protest and Democracy in West Germany: Extra-Parliamentary Opposition and the Democratic Agenda
Hans Werner Richter, its spiritus rector, looking back on its beginnings, put it like this: 'Gruppe 47 has its origin in political journalism. 15 Many of those who gathered at the first meeting in September 1947 had 24 Protest and Democracy in West Germany previously been contributors to the periodical Der Ruf, Unabhangige Blatter der jungen Generation (The Call, Independent Journal of the Young Generation), whose first number appeared on 15 April 1946. It fell prey to Allied censorship when, exactly a year later, the Americans forbad its further publication, ostensibly because Hans Werner Richter in a remarkably frank article had insulted Marcel Cachin, a Communist deputy in the French National Assembly.
Non-conformism, with its implicit opposition to the hectoring of art and literature in the GDR and elsewhere in the socialist countries, prepared the ground for a separation of aesthetic production and appreciation, on the one hand, and political commitment, on the other. In a fulminating article on the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 Alfred Andersch, the erstwhile co-editor of Der Ruf, insisted on a distinction between 'true and false communists', but his condemnation of the latter as the 'fascist communists' of Russia was as harsh as that of any of the conservative commentators.
Other writers who, in the early 1950s, raised their voice against remilitarisation were Johannes Tralow, the president of a PEN Club 'East and West', Hans Henny Jahnn and Stefan Andres. In the light of political themes developed some twenty years later in Germany by citizens' initiatives and the Greens it is interesting to note Intellectuals as Custodians of Democracy 33 that Jahnn was already warning in 195643 not only of the pollution of the earth and the atmosphere but also of the radiation hazards connected with nuclear plant and nuclear waste.