Forging a Revolutionary Community Through Ritual: Communist May Days in Weimar Germany, 1919-1924

Autumn 2018

This article examines German communists’ efforts to construct a revolutionary political culture during the Weimar Republic. It focuses on May Day rituals from 1919 until 1924 as a window to the nascent political culture of the German Communist Party (KPD). Employing anthropological methods, this paper demonstrates how communists attempted to appropriate the historic labour holiday and refashion it into ‘fighting day’ (Kampftag) by promoting a set of militant symbolic practices designed to forge a revolutionary community. By presenting themselves as a disciplined mass, celebrants played key roles in the militant dramaturgy, resulting in both an inward political conversion and an outward public display of revolutionary commitment.