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Reviewed by:
  • The Red Vienna Sourcebook ed. by Rob McFarland, Georg Spitaler, and Ingo Zechner
  • Laura A. Detre
Rob McFarland, Georg Spitaler, and Ingo Zechner, eds., The Red Vienna Sourcebook. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2020. 773 pp.

From shortly after the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the present day, excepting the years of fascism, Vienna has been a socialist city. Even when the rest of the country has supported conservative governments, the capital city has been dominated by the Social Democratic Party and its predecessors. Of particular interest to historians is the period from 1919 to 1934, known as Red [End Page 152] Vienna, when the city's socialist government rebuilt the city, both literally and figuratively, creating infrastructure and a public ethos that exist to this day. This distinctive political movement, defined by the Austro-Marxism of figures like Otto Bauer, Victor Adler, and Karl Renner, called for the development of policies that benefited the working class but, unlike Bolshevism, rejected the need for top-down reform and retained a place for nationalist sentiment. Because of this fundamentally different form of socialism, Red Vienna was able to attract the support of many bourgeois intellectuals and get the mandate necessary to build a modern, post-imperial capital. Illustrating how this took place is the goal of The Red Vienna Sourcebook, as the editors, Rob McFarland, Georg Spitaler, and Ingo Zechner, note in the introduction.

The collapse of the Habsburg Empire meant more than just a need to rebuild physically. It opened the door to a complete reexamination of the intellectual underpinnings of Viennese society and, in that respect, was a kind of second Wiener Moderne (5). This idea that Red Vienna represented a sea change rather than just a physical transformation underlies the text and allows the contributors to look at this significant period in the history of the Austrian capital in a more holistic way.

This text is a collection of primary documents sorted by topic; each section is introduced by an essay explaining the significance of the topic to the period in question. It would be impossible to include every relevant document in a single book, but those chosen for this work represent the period well. Additionally, as the editors note, the categorization of these documents can seem somewhat arbitrary; in many cases, they could have been organized in entirely different categories, but such is the nature of complex texts produced by multifaceted people (9).

One section of particular interest is Chapter 10, "Jewish Life and Culture." As the editors explain, Vienna's Social Democrats have always had a complicated relationship with the city's Jewish residents. Many Jewish Viennese identified with the goals of the Social Democrats, and there were quite a few Jewish Socialist organizations. Some of the most noteworthy figures in the early years of the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei, such as Victor Adler, Otto Bauer, and Julius Deutsch, had Jewish origins, and the early years of the First Republic were arguably more tumultuous for the country's Jews than for any other group, underlining both the divisions within Viennese Jewish culture and the serious threats that Jews faced from their fellow citizens. Jewish life in Vienna between the world wars was varied and [End Page 153] dynamic. There were assimilated secular Jews, some of whom were workingclass and others part of the bourgeoisie. There were Zionists and Austrian nationalists. There were "Ostjuden," recent migrants from eastern parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, many of whom were displaced by the First World War; for these immigrants the Austrian capital remained a somewhat alien place. These varied populations shared much, but they also had deeply different experiences and worldviews. The editors of this work have carefully chosen texts to show the complexity of Jewish life in the interwar period. They included writing from Zionists, Yiddish advocates, women, as well as texts by and about prominent authors such as Arthur Schnitzler and Felix Salten, among others. Despite living in the same place and time and sharing a broadly defined identity, these authors disagreed as much as they agreed. Their texts show the multiplicities of Jewish life, but the one thing they share is a sense that the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2327-1809
Print ISSN
2165-669X
Pages
pp. 152-155
Launched on MUSE
2021-10-21
Open Access
No
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