What are not available forwards

Unclear journalistic assignment

The powerful had to take note of it, had to react to it, because the "Vorwärts" is becoming a place of investigative journalism that uncovered small and large scandals of the empire.

This is also linked to growing economic success, which is expressed in the construction of the representative "Vorwärts" building on Berlin's Lindenstrasse. The pictures of the ruin destroyed in the war give an impression of the size of the publishing and printing house in which the SPD party executive had its offices like a guest.

With the help of the Berlin base market, the daily newspaper achieved a daily circulation of more than 300,000 copies and, with the few liberal media, became an important republican voice in the Weimar Republic. Whoever wants to read all of this has to read Hermann Schueler's "Despite alledem", which tells the entire political history of "Vorwärts" without neglecting the economic variables.

Difficult start after 1945

Jens Scholten briefly goes into this prehistory, but his presentation falls short. Anyone who judges the success and failure of the SPD companies after 1945 must not overlook the extraordinary loss that National Socialism inflicted on the SPD companies. Not only had they been expropriated, but the expropriation continued for years after the end of the Nazi era.

They did get the means of production back - sometimes very slowly - but reparations for the expropriated financial assets were a long time coming. It was not until 1968 and 1972 that the Federal Republic made the last payments. This point alone distinguishes the start of the SPD press from the start of the old publisher press.

Although all of them were banned from practicing their profession until the end of 1949 because of their National Socialist orientation - only the few Catholic and Liberal publishers did not, but none of this group was expropriated. As far as their companies - mostly through straw men - were able to produce again, the income flowed to them; from 1948 in the good D-Mark.

The second obstacle that the SPD had to overcome was that the occupying powers required a license for the media. In the American and French zones of occupation she was not allowed to found a newspaper, and in the British zone it was only allowed with difficulty.

Here they were hampered by the lack of capital, but even more so by the lack of qualified journalists. In 1945 there was no excess of democratically minded journalists in Germany. Quite a few of the Social Democratic journalists had killed the Nazis, many had emigrated and had to wait years for permission to return. The US administration was not exactly generous in issuing visas for its zone of occupation.

The compulsory unification of the KPD and SPD to form the SED in the Soviet occupation zone also hindered the resurgence of the SPD press, because these economically very strong, well-anchored companies had to be dispensed with.

Comrade communications director

Whether the SPD press, including the "Vorwärts", would have been able to build on the Weimar period more successfully if the framework conditions of the post-war period had been more favorable remains an unanswerable controversial question, for which Jens Scholten presents a wealth of facts. Since his book was written as a scientific dissertation, it had to be like that. For the interested, but not pre-informed reader, the abundance of facts is disorienting, but a lot can be crystallized out of it.

- The "Vorwärts" lacked a clear journalistic mandate that went beyond commitments to quality journalism. In the first decades after 1948 there was never any attempt to recruit an editor-in-chief and an editorial team that could compete with previous editors-in-chief, e.g. B. with Friedrich Stampfer.

It is unimaginable that even one of the editors-in-chief of the post-war "Vorwärts" could have been elected to the SPD party executive.

- The entrepreneurial management of "Vorwärts" has always been the responsibility of shareholders who, with one exception, must be described as clearly unrelated to the media. Alfred Nau and Fritz Heine are always criticized here, undoubtedly rightly, but the board always had overall responsibility for its weekly newspaper.

When the SPD reorganized its political structure in 1958 after severe defeats and thus created the prerequisites for Godesberg's reform course, the "forward" played no role in the reform considerations, even the responsibilities for it were hardly changed. Only Helmut Schmidt contradicts this solution.

- The unclear communication strategy - what do we want to achieve with "Vorwärts" and what prerequisites we have to create for it - is also expressed in the unclear business model: in terms of corporate law and product orientation. In terms of company law, the "forward" is pushed back and forth, and the knowledgeable reader can get the impression that those responsible had a strong tendency towards unfavorable tax solutions. The selection of management also does not exhaust the possibilities of the labor market.

It is interesting that the connection of the "Vorwärts" to a profitable SPD newspaper until the 1970s was not wanted. If this had happened, the development of the "forward" could have been more favorable.

Economic boycott during the Adenauer period

The sole proprietorship "Vorwärts" thus renounced the synergy effects that had to be sought after in 1951 in the difficult Bonn location and which always required considerable capital investment. In this context, Scholten hardly describes the economic restrictions that SPD companies were exposed to during the Adenauer period. There was a lack of subscribers, because the subscription to SPD newspapers was negatively sanctioned in the CDU / CSU environment, there was a lack of advertisements, because there was a strict boycott from numerous advertisers and there was a lack of capital, because for risk-laden loans only came BfG in question.

It was only in the 1960s, especially after the SPD joined the grand coalition, that the course of the economy softened compared to the SPD newspapers. For some, this correction came too late.

Unfortunately, the economic problems of this time were exacerbated by excessive withdrawals of the SPD party executive from the factories, including from the "Vorwärts". Jens Scholten cites many examples, the sense of which makes us doubt the economic rationality of those responsible today. This behavior can also be seen as an expression of the fact that those responsible considered the printing of a leaflet to be more sensible than the solid financial endowment of their main medium.

The almost desperate attempts to provide it with further economic support belong to the ill-conceived business model of the "Vorwärts" publishing house. The Bonn location is due to the failure of a few attempts, but the core mostly lies in the poorly developed idea, which is followed by the inadequate implementation! The SPD division has been proving for a number of years that there is another way.

The lack of a communication idea on the part of the SPD party executive, which should have been implemented in terms of personnel by a communications director, ultimately led to the end of the weekly newspaper "Vorwärts" in 1985/89. Almost tragically, excessive ideas of a mandatory subscription for all members (Glotz / Clement) interlock with a faulty format change, an increasing need for subsidies and a wrong structure of society. Benefiting from a triple change of treasurer in 30 months and the resignation of Willy Brandt in 1987, a disoriented SPD party executive decided in 1989 to discontinue the weekly newspaper and transfer the title to the SPD member magazine.

The backward-looking analysis shows: economically, a few corrections could have saved the "Vorwärts" with low, possibly even falling subsidies, but once done, there has been no way back until today, at least not for the print medium of the weekly newspaper "Vorwärts".

So it remains to be noted that anyone who wants to find out more about a 130-year history of "Vorwärts" has to read two books. With Hermann Schueler he describes the combative, democratic contribution of "Vorwärts" to German history and with Jens Scholten the inadequacies and mistakes in corporate management, which ultimately led to its journalistic end as a weekly newspaper through no fault of its own.

If one wanted to derive advice to those actively involved in the SPD leadership, then this could only be not to discuss communication strategy for the party media, but also to highlight it personally, because the "Forward" story also shows that it is him the changing editors from the political leadership did not help.

Jens Scholten: Between the market and party arguments. The company history of "Vorwärts" 1948-1989. Publications of the Institute for Social Movements, Series A, Representations, Volume 40. Available, published on October 15, 2008, 410 pages, illustrations, EUR 39.90, ISBN 978-3-89861-863-2