Socialism and Secularism in Berlin 1890 to 1933

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of History and Anthropology

Abstract

The proposed fellowship period will be used to substantially advance work on a monograph entitled: Socialism and Secularism in Berlin 1890 to 1933. This study investigates the relationship between secularism and the socialist movement in the period between the re-legalization of the Social Democratic Party in 1890 and the National Socialist suppression of socialism, communism and secularism in 1933.

Although referred to rather innocuously by contemporaries as the 'social question' and the 'religious question,' the conflicts over class and religion constituted two key axes along which the modern German political order was organized. While the socialist movement played an obvious role in the former, it was also decisively involved in the latter as well. During the period under investigation, socialism was publicly identified with a materialistic natural-scientific worldview and with political secularism.

When the conservative forces of the 'national revolution' coalesced in 1930, even groups as mutually hostile as the Catholic Church and the National Socialist Party concurred that godless communism was the most profound threat to the Christian order of Germany. Despite the conservative view that godlessness and revolution were two sides of the same socialist coin, this study will treat secularism and socialism as two distinct, yet interrelated movements, each with its own institutions, intellectuals and interests. In Germany as in Britain, secularism organized before the modern socialist parties. It first appeared in dissenting sects of rationalist Christians, then in Freethought, and finally in organizations such as Ethical Culture and the Monist League. After 1890, German secularism, particularly in Berlin, split over the issue of its relationship to socialism. With over 600,000 members in the late 1920s, the organizations of 'proletarian Freethought' towered over the other secularist organizations in dynamism and numbers.

The study undertakes three layers of analysis. First, it investigates the role of secularism in the cultural formation of the socialist milieu. Here the study examines the scope, quality, and transmission of secularist ideas in working class Berlin, with particular attention given to the way in which natural-scientific education shaped the biographies of socialist intellectuals and worker autodidacts.

The second level of analysis concerns the ways secularism inflected inner- and inter-party struggles. In the Wilhelmine period, secularists were prominent in both the revisionist and radical wings of the SPD, while they remained mistrusted by the party's centrist leadership. In the Weimar Republic, the proletarian Freethought organizations proved to be a key arena of struggle between radicals and moderates.

The third level of analysis treats the role of anticlericalism in the major political struggles of the era. I will examine how the church-leaving movement of 1910-14 made for unexpected alliances between socialist radicals and liberals before turning to the role of anticlericalism in the revolution of 1918 to 1920. Finally, I ask after the role of heightened socialist anticlericalism and conservative antisecularism in the demise of the Weimar Republic.

A stand-alone article will intervene in the current debate on Christian support of National Socialism. Recent studies have taken Nazi affirmations of the party's 'positive Christianity' at face value or shown the penetration of National Socialist propaganda into Protestant theology and organizations. Against this trend, the article will argue that rather than theological collusion, it was joint opposition to secularism that cemented the early cooperation of the Churches and the Nazis. The Nazis rose to power on the promise to eliminate left-wing secularism.

Planned Impact

The following communities will benefit from this research project:

1. Scholars active in the fields of modern German history, religious history, the history of science and the history of secularism. This audience will be reached through two major publications, as well as through international lectures and the continuation of an on-going series of interdisciplinary collaborations of an international research network that I initiated in 2009 with a symposium on the history of naturalistic monism. This research network has already proven to be of economic benefit for the University and local economy, as the first symposium generated over £7000 in grants.
The research will also contribute to further developing UK strength in the history of religion in Germany. As the historian Helmut Walser Smith has noted, British-based and US-based scholars have taken the lead in reframing understandings of the critical role of religion in in the formation of the modern German political system.

2. Queen's University. This AHRC fellowship will contribute to two areas that the University is attempting to strengthen, the interdisciplinary study of religion and internationalisation. This research builds on the monism symposium, which was the School of History and Anthropology's largest international event of the 2009-2010 academic year. It will help develop the study of secularism as a key research focus of the University's new Religious Studies Research Forum and the on-going research group in Religion in Modernity. It will reinforce the new MA in 'Religion and Conflict' that my co-organizers and I hope will bring students to Queen's from outside Northern Ireland. By attracting international and GB students to a cutting-edge research-led MA programme, the fellowship will provide indirect economic benefit to the University and the local economy.

3. The public in Northern Ireland and the UK more widely. Studies of the history of secularism, such as the one proposed here, can make a vtal contribution to the vigorous debates now taking place over the role of religion in national cultures by providing much needed comparative contextualization. I provided just such a perspective in Belfast by giving a keynote lecture to a gathering of evolutionary psychologists and by participating in a public debate with secularists and religious scholars. In addition to undertaking similar public events in the future, I plan to curate and design a modest exhibit on the role of anticlericalism in the demise of the general political crisis of early 1930s Europe. In conjunction with past historical exhibits that I designed, I gave interviews that were aired on television, radio and appeared in print in internet and press publications. I have cooperated with a local BBC presenter on the subject of secularism in the past and hope to interest him for this new research as well. I will also continue to use the university internet as a proven means of disseminating research findings to the general public.
 
Description This research examined the role of secularism and socialism in the 'struggle of worldviews' that characterized early twentieth-century Germany. Secularism combined opposition to the confessional order with advocacy of a materialist-monist worldview and, in the twentieth century, became increasingly identified with socialism. Antisecularism formed a central pillar of the political program of representatives of the churches and the parties of the right, who sought to reverse what they saw as the erosion of Christian civilization.

The research discovered that secularism
1. reveals the importance of the confessional matrix to socialist politics in this period
2. was a key factor in the workers' culture movement;
3. decisively shaped the practice and politics of popular science, and
4. played a key role in the religious politics at the end of the Weimar republic. The Communist Party embraced anticlericalism as a key weapon in its domestic cultural offensive, while antisecularism fostered dialog between church leaders and the political right, allowing the NSDAP in particular to appear as a champion of Christian Germany.
Exploitation Route My work opens new avenues for considering the history of socialism. More importantly, it provides new approaches to understanding the religious dimension of the crisis of the Weimar system.
Sectors Other

 
Description My findings have appeared in several publications and been presented to the public in various venues.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Annual Conference
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2017
 
Description Conference Fund
Amount € 5,000 (EUR)
Organisation Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences 
Sector Learned Society
Country Netherlands
Start 06/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Leverhulme Research Fellowship
Amount £28,000 (GBP)
Funding ID RF 2013-117 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2013 
End 10/2015
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation Duke University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU Munich)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation Newcastle University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation Ruhr University Bochum
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation Rutgers University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation Ulster University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation University of Fribourg
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation University of Milan
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Research Network: Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth-Century 
Organisation University of Münster
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In 2013 Todd Weir, History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast began to organize this research network, which now has over twenty participants from the UK, USA, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland. The inspiration for the topic stemmed directly from Dr Weir's AHRC funded research into the relationship of secularism and socialism in early twentieth-century Germany. The aim of this research network is to facilitate exchange between scholars interested in the evolving relationship of socialism and religion in the twentieth century, which travelled an arc from open and divisive confrontation in the interwar period to accommodation and modes of syncretism in the period after the Cold War detente. The network will foster collective reflection on the gestation, articulation and transformation socialist-religious conflicts in the history of ideas, politics, religion and social movements. Through symposia participants will open up transnational and comparative perspectives on particular historical junctures and reflect of what the past century has contributed to today's politics and religion.
Collaborator Contribution Partners will cosponsor and attend symposia, contribute to costs, explore joint grant applications for further projects.
Impact No outputs yet. The collaboration is primarily based in history, but is interdisciplinary with scholars based in religious studies, sociology, and political science.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Joint Panel at German History Society Conference 2013 
Organisation Oakland University
Department Department of History
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This joint panel on "Between Secularization and Confession: Religious Politics in the Weimar Republic" was organized by Todd Weir.
Collaborator Contribution The papers of this panel examined changes and continuities in the confessional structures that underpinned the religious politics of interwar Germany. Siegfried Weichlein, "Political oaths and the secularization of politics after 1918" Todd Weir, "A Christian front against godlessness: Confessional politics of the late Weimar Republic" Derek Hastings '"Radical Revivalism": Prewar Reform Catholicism and the Early Nazi Movement in Munich'
Impact The collaboration contributed to the emerging research network on religion and socialism.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Joint Panel at German History Society Conference 2013 
Organisation University of Fribourg
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This joint panel on "Between Secularization and Confession: Religious Politics in the Weimar Republic" was organized by Todd Weir.
Collaborator Contribution The papers of this panel examined changes and continuities in the confessional structures that underpinned the religious politics of interwar Germany. Siegfried Weichlein, "Political oaths and the secularization of politics after 1918" Todd Weir, "A Christian front against godlessness: Confessional politics of the late Weimar Republic" Derek Hastings '"Radical Revivalism": Prewar Reform Catholicism and the Early Nazi Movement in Munich'
Impact The collaboration contributed to the emerging research network on religion and socialism.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Joint Panel at German History Society Conference 2014 
Organisation Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU Munich)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Todd Weir organized and sponsored this panel at the German History Society Conference in Maynooth.
Collaborator Contribution Partners delivered papers to Panel 2: Encounters of Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth Century Todd Weir, 'The Interwar Period as Transnational Culture War: Catholic and Communist Encounters between Moscow, Berlin and the Vatican, 1922-33' Paul Hanebrink, 'European Protestants and the Communist Threat: The Other Interwar Kulturkampf?' Heléna Toth, '"Socialist Humanism" and the Discourse on Dignity: The Development of Secular Sepulchral Culture in East Germany, 1958-1989'
Impact Contributed to formation of the research network on religion and socialism.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Joint Panel at German History Society Conference 2014 
Organisation Rutgers University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Todd Weir organized and sponsored this panel at the German History Society Conference in Maynooth.
Collaborator Contribution Partners delivered papers to Panel 2: Encounters of Socialism and Religion in the Twentieth Century Todd Weir, 'The Interwar Period as Transnational Culture War: Catholic and Communist Encounters between Moscow, Berlin and the Vatican, 1922-33' Paul Hanebrink, 'European Protestants and the Communist Threat: The Other Interwar Kulturkampf?' Heléna Toth, '"Socialist Humanism" and the Discourse on Dignity: The Development of Secular Sepulchral Culture in East Germany, 1958-1989'
Impact Contributed to formation of the research network on religion and socialism.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Host of New Books in Intellectual History 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In 2013 I was invited to become a host for this podcast interview channel. I interview authors of works on intellectual history about their new books.

Thus far I have given nine interviews, which will have been downloaded some 15,000 and more times. It is difficult to assess the exact impact that listening to these interviews has on listeners, but it certain is a significant range of individuals spread across the world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
URL http://newbooksinintellectualhistory.com/2014/07/15/ari-joskowicz-the-modernity-of-others-jewish-ant...
 
Description Podcast interviews given on New Books Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I gave two hour-long interviews for this podcast channel about my books. These are recorded and permanently available for free download.

Each podcast is downloaded some 1,500 shortly after release and then at a rate of about 30 per week thereafter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
URL http://newbooksinintellectualhistory.com/2013/11/25/todd-h-weir-monism-science-philosophy-religion-a...
 
Description Public Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A lecture to the general public on an aspect of my work at the Historisches Kolleg.

Lecture in the annual series of public lectures presented by the Historisches Kolleg. Audience of 100-110 persons.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012