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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Heraus aus der Kirche : German Social Democracy’s policies towards the churches, 1865-1918 Grossman, Raoul R.

Abstract

This thesis investigates social democratic policies towards the churches from 1865 to 1918. Chapter one examines party political considerations which led to the atheistic campaigns of the mid 1870's. It investigates simultaneous attempts by some of the party's leaders to supplant traditional Christian beliefs with a specifically socialistic Weltanschauung. The chapter ends with the passing of the Socialist Law of 1878, by which church and government hoped to break up the Social Democratic party. The Anti-Socialist Law, which remained in effect for twelve years (1878-1890), gave the Christian churches the opportunity to develop and enact their particular social programs. Chapter two outlines the churches' endeavours to come to grips with the social question and to find solutions to the pressing needs of Germany's industrial proletariat. It points out the fundamental shortcoming of all these programs, the churches' denial of the workers' right of political and social self-determination and above all the way in which the church allied with the Imperial Government. Finally, the thesis studies the effects the Socialist Law had on the party political development, from 1890 to 1918. As a result of it, the socialist movement split into two factions, the moderates and the radicals. The moderates opted for a policy of restraint to forestall further repressive legislation. To counteract these forces of moderation, the party's radicals launched in 1908 an antichurch campaign in the attempt to incite the party's rank and file to revolutionary action. However, widespread indifference towards the religious question caused the failure of this endeavour and 1918 witnessed the end of radical church policies.

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