“ Here I am (Democrat) , dare (Democrat) to be ”

Riefstahl, Wilhelm Ludwig Friedrich (Neu-Strelitz, Mecklenburg, 1827 – Munich 1888). Landsgemeinde (Cantonal Assembly) in East Switzerland. Inauguration and swearing-in of the Landsgemeinde on open field by the Landammann (chief magistrate) standing behind the elevated chair with the two swords. By his side two clerks/summoners with the books, standing on a lower platform to his right the office bearers, behind him the flags and banners of the communities belonging to. On both sides and in the background the citizens, mostly with side-arms (sword) as symbol of their right to vote. On the right also two bandsmen with drums, before the chair two clerks with pikes. In the background mountain ridges. Toned wood engraving by F. Bauer for A. Cloß, Stuttgart. (1875-77.) Inscribed: W. Riefstahl (18)75. / F. Bauer, otherwise typographically as above. 6⅝ × 10 in (16.9 × 25.5 cm).

On cantonal level today exercised in two cantons only anymore – Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus – the Landsgemeinde is one of the oldest forms of direct democracy in which every citizen entitled to vote can seize the word and bring forward a motion without first having to obtain further legitimization by membership in parties and party committees or the collection of signatures:

Wilhelm Riefstahl, Cantonal Assembly in East Switzerland

“ It is no accident that the only uncompromising democracy on earth, Switzerland, floats as tiny island in the immense sea of Euroland. Switzerland and the EU are not compatible … ”

(Dirk Schümer, Europe in the Crisis – Back to the Nation, in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, June 6, 2011).

It cannot surprise that to party systems and bureaucracies, which have made the state their prey since long (Richard von Weizsäcker), such a sovereignty of the sovereign naturally is a perpetual thorn in the thinking and in such a manner seems to be compatible with for instance the European Convention on Human Rights with proviso clauses only. Although abolished in most cantons for various reasons since about the mid of the 19th century – in recent times especially with regard to the anonymity going with a larger population as for the difficulty to find proper meeting places – the citizen in the Landsgemeinde not just exercises a granted right to vote under the protection of a cabin, but presents himself in the open as part of the state. This to some degree comparable with American primaries with their caucuses and the registration for one or another party stating certain preferences of political or personal kind. That this publicity might indeed also result in group pressure should not be criticized hypocritically by the very same who routinely subjugate their representatives – according to lofty constitution & basic law responsible only to their conscience – to the three-line whip of party and coalition. Just as then the Landsgemeinde also results in an open discourse not or at least considerably less ruled and filtered by party and power interests as the ultimately decisive keystone of democracy. And

“ The EU proves

that democracy can never succeed without a common discourse … ”

(Dirk Schümer, op. cit.).

Riefstahl, pupil of Wilhelm Schirmer, travelled repeatedly in the Bavarian, Tyrolese, and Swiss Alps in the 60s and applied himself “with devotion … to the landscape, especially the depiction of the high mountain region” (Boetticher). Present sujet, however, created on his return from his second stay in Rome 1873-75. Afterwards director of the school of arts at Karlsruhe, he settled in Munich 1878 after another journey to Italy, becoming honorary member of the academy there.

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Der hiesige Weihnachts-/Neujahrsgruß 2005 endete mit „In diesem Sinne recht schöne Weihnachtstage voll Harmonie und sammlungszugewandter Muße … “ , letzterer Wunsch in einer Grußerwiederung aufgegriffen wurde mit den Worten

„ das Gutwort des Jahres – sammlungszugewandte Muße – wunderbar, hab einigen LBA/Goethefreunden dieses Gutwort genannt. Sie haben in einer verwahrlosten Zeit ein ‚linguistisches Gespür’! “

(Herr R. K., 5. Januar 2006)