restricted access 1. Anarchy, Socialism, and the Enemies of Order in the German Empire 1871–1878
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C h a p t e r o n e Anarchy, Socialism, and the Enemies of Order in the German Empire 1 8 7 1 – 1 8 7 8 In the first years of the German Empire, the socialist movement remained small, heterogeneous , and of relatively minor concern to the empire’s government and major political factions. The conflicts at the heart of political debate were the Kulturkampf, the Bismarck-led and liberal-supported attack on the power of the Catholic Church in the new nation, and the chancellor’s campaign against conservative “particularists,” who rejected what they saw as usurpation by the new emperor of the royal and national prerogatives of the lately sovereign German states. German socialists were most widely known for their hostility to the German wars of unification and their avowed support for the Paris Commune of 1871. On account of the former, opponents branded the socialists vaterlandslose Gesellen (companions without a fatherland), unwilling to embrace the achievement of German nationhood or its hero, Chancellor Bismarck. Socialist support for Paris’s brief revolutionary government filled most Germans with horror, as “for most Europeans, the Commune appeared as an outrageous episode of terror, destruction , and disorder.” Several socialist leaders faced punishment for their hostility to the Franco-Prussian War, tried and imprisoned for allegedly plotting high treason. These political stances, along with the vehement atheistic pronouncements of some movement leaders, left socialists an alienated minority in German society.1 But because their numbers were relatively few, their opponents at first paid them little heed. Conservatives viewed German socialists in the early 1870s through the same lens with which they had regarded revolutionaries since 1789. The French Revolution Anarchy, Socialism, and the Enemies of Order in the German Empire 23 stimulated the birth of modern conservatism across Europe. Defenders of the old order rejected not merely the political revolution but the Enlightenment philosophical premises that justified it. Against the revolutionaries’ rationalistic and egalitarian social principles, conservatives championed long-standing political, social, and cultural hierarchies , rooted, they believed, in the dictates of nature and divine will, as the bulwarks of social order. They eschewed Enlightenment attempts to redefine social relations based on “mechanistic” or “artificial,” rather than organic, principles.2 By opposing traditional sources of authority, conservatives claimed, revolutionaries threatened all social order, sowing the seeds of anarchy. Conservatives disregarded differences among supporters of Enlightenment ideas, seeing them all as undermining the legitimate bases of social order. For instance, aristocratic opponents of a new Prussian legal code in 1791 claimed that because it was inspired by the “fashionable so-called theoretical philosophy” that lay behind the French Revolution, it would surely lead to “the abominable anarchy which is now devastating France.”3 At the heart of conservative theory lay a faith in the ordering principles of the patriarchal family, reflected in the structure of class and political relations, as well as in established religion. According to this worldview, mutual obligations rather than instrumental , rational calculation properly bound members of society to each other. Late eighteenth-century German conservative Adam Müller argued that “all theories of the state . . . must begin with the theory of the family,” in which the prince “is to his people as the Hausvater [paterfamilias] is to his family.”4 An anonymous German pamphlet of 1794 proclaimed that the ideal prince “has the desire to be the father rather than the master of his people.” As long as “the prince and his councillors find their greatest satisfaction in the happiness of the people . . . then the example of France, where Revolution has led to the general disintegration of orderly society, can only strengthen the attachment of subjects to their ruler and constitution.”5 Of course, familial metaphors for government and social hierarchy had existed for centuries. Non-conservatives even deployed them, generally favoring the metaphor of “brotherhood” over the conservatives ’ use of patriarchal analogies.6 Conservatives decried revolution’s imperiling of both the state-as-family and the family itself, systems they saw as interconnected.7 In addition to the patriarchal family and state, religion formed the other central pillar of social stability in the conservative outlook. Conservatives saw revolutionary movements that promoted secularism or, worse, encouraged atheism as inherently damaging tothesocialfabric.Conservativeattackson“anarchic”movementstendedtounderscore the charge that they either deliberately encouraged atheism or at least undermined religious authority. German conservative publicist Johann August Starck bluntly stated, “no state can exist without revealed religion.” Edmund Burke, the Irishman whose name has become synonymous with eighteenth-century conservatism...


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