15 september, 2008

The International Fraternity Which Never Was – Dutch Christian Anarchism Between Optimism and Near-Defeat 1893-1906

The text of a speech, delivered at the Anarchist Studies Network, 4th September 2008, Loughborough, will be expanded and edited for publication in book form next year. For this reason it had to be removed from this place. Only the Power Point Presentation of Names and Places remains. You shall hear about the forthcoming publication and if you are able to find the text placed earlier on here in cache - that is a stroke of luck which will get more improbable over time.

Names And Places Dutch Ca1
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In the final decades of the nineteenth century Dutch theologians got acquainted with what was generally called the social question – the situation of the proletariat. It was being discussed at a very high level in latitudianarian circles in the Dutch Reformed Church and other protestant denominations with their paper De Hervorming [Reformation]. The latitudinarian theologians are henceforth to be called modernists [Modernen]. Most dominees were politically attached to the leftwing-liberals also called vrijzinnigen [latitudinarians]. Some however chose for a more radical approach, in the spirit of Leo Tolstoy. In 1893 the idea of christian anarchism was introduced by not-yet rev. Louis Bähler. In 1897 the christian anarchist tendency attached to the modernist organisation broke away, starting its own paper Vrede [Peace] and an organisation of their own, the Internationale Broederschap [International Fraternity] in 1899. At least the paper was started before Domela Nieuwenhuis decided to choose for the anarchist tendency in the workers’ movement (1898), so christian anarchism in the Netherlands can rightly be called a tendency in its own right, at least as old as secular anarchism.

The spirit in which these initiatives were taken may be called optimistic if not a bit exalted. High hope was given to the colony in Blaricum which should be an example of living the real christian life. It was a saddening failure from the start. And the International Fraternity, besides being not very fraternal, never became international either. Christian anarchism itself however wielded an influence which went far beyond disappointing membership numbers and the violent ending of the colony of Blaricum. In 1906 the actual organisation was discarded. Taking stock of the general influence of the movement which hardly was a movement the optimistic mood actually was justified but the main protagonists never reached this conclusion.

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