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Sport, urbanity and communal socialism: The case of »Red Zurich« (1928–1949)


Koller, Christian (2012). Sport, urbanity and communal socialism: The case of »Red Zurich« (1928–1949). International Journal of the History of Sport, 29(14):2013-2029.

Abstract

This article analyses opportunities, limitations and impact of communal sport policies in the second quarter of the 20th century by the example of Zurich, the largest city of Switzerland. The period of ‘Red Zurich’ from 1928 to 1949, when a Social Democratic majority committed to the strategy of ‘communal socialism’ dominated the city's executive council, was at the same time the take-off period of both mass and commercialised elite sport. Yet, unlike in ‘Red Vienna’, a specifically socialist approach of ‘Red Zurich’ towards sport is hardly identifiable, with the city administration not privileging worker sports organisations ideologically close to them nor applying any theories of class specific physical education. Rather their policies were in line with contemporary mainstream discourses on health, hygiene and problems posed by modern urbanity. The same can be said regarding the development of sport infrastructure, which despite economic crisis and wartime austerity witnessed a rapid expansion and was closely intertwined with policy fields such as city planning (including the development of green spaces) and job creation. The Social Democratic government considerably improved the position of citizens’ sport activities, but also looked favourably upon private initiatives to build large stadiums, reflecting the increasing importance of mass spectator sport. On balance, ‘Red Zurich's’ sport policies epitomised their overall agenda not to be a hotbed of revolutionary experiments, but an example of solid progressive communal administration.

This article analyses opportunities, limitations and impact of communal sport policies in the second quarter of the 20th century by the example of Zurich, the largest city of Switzerland. The period of ‘Red Zurich’ from 1928 to 1949, when a Social Democratic majority committed to the strategy of ‘communal socialism’ dominated the city's executive council, was at the same time the take-off period of both mass and commercialised elite sport. Yet, unlike in ‘Red Vienna’, a specifically socialist approach of ‘Red Zurich’ towards sport is hardly identifiable, with the city administration not privileging worker sports organisations ideologically close to them nor applying any theories of class specific physical education. Rather their policies were in line with contemporary mainstream discourses on health, hygiene and problems posed by modern urbanity. The same can be said regarding the development of sport infrastructure, which despite economic crisis and wartime austerity witnessed a rapid expansion and was closely intertwined with policy fields such as city planning (including the development of green spaces) and job creation. The Social Democratic government considerably improved the position of citizens’ sport activities, but also looked favourably upon private initiatives to build large stadiums, reflecting the increasing importance of mass spectator sport. On balance, ‘Red Zurich's’ sport policies epitomised their overall agenda not to be a hotbed of revolutionary experiments, but an example of solid progressive communal administration.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of History
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:23 Jan 2013 12:15
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:19
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0952-3367
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/09523367.2012.666970
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-70427

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