Alfred Sohn-Rethel on the Weimar Hyperinflation

George Grosz - Widmung an Oskar Panzetti (The Funeral), ca. 1918
George Grosz – Widmung an Oskar Panzetti (The Funeral), ca. 1918

It was a fantastic time, I mean, the things you experienced… a very highly developed society with a precise division of labour – which existed without money! After all, the money that was in circulation back then wasn’t really money anymore. When you got paid, you actually had to walk to the butchery or the bakery or the vegetable vendor in a light run, so the money would still be worth anything there. And such companies like e.g. Osram in Berlin, they wouldn’t pay their workers in Marks at all. They gave them coupons for Osram lightbulbs, paid their wages that way. Then the Osram workers would go the bakers and offer them their Osram lightbulbs, what were the bakers supposed to do with all those lightbulbs? When the common denominator, that through which the society was kept together as a cohesive whole, just didn’t function anymore? The whole world fell apart, the ground opened beneath your feet. All the expressionist art of that time, that was a proper eschatology, because the world actually came to an end.

(Transcribed and translated from the radio broadcast of his recorded memoirs, available for listening here.)

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