Agit-prop in Germany

Issue section: 

David Gilchrist’s article (Building a theatre of action, May SR) revealed similarities with the workers’ theatre in Germany.

In Germany from the late 1920s hundreds of agit-prop groups played before working class audiences across Germany, in community halls, courtyards and left wing meetings.

There was even an agit-prop play put on before a Sports Revue, attended by 4,000 people, in 1932. It was part of the election campaign to get Ernst Thälmann, the Communist Party (KPD) candidate, elected as chancellor. (The play was broken up by the police.)

But the groups were far from being ciphers of the KPD. Debate about the character of plays was intense, with one position being to avoid too much irony; the play had to relate to the consciousness of the worker, not just be a parody of the boss or the priest — and not offer happy endings!