Assassins & Conspirators: Anarchism, Socialism, and Political Culture in Imperial Germany

By Duarte, Diogo | Anarchist Studies, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Assassins & Conspirators: Anarchism, Socialism, and Political Culture in Imperial Germany


Duarte, Diogo, Anarchist Studies


Elun T. Gabriel, Assassins & Conspirators: Anarchism, Socialism, and Political Culture in Imperial Germany DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2014; 302pp; ISBN 978-0-87580-481-1.

Assassins & Conspirators isn't exactly a work about anarchism. The spectre of anarchism appears through the whole narrative, but it rarely takes on an active role. In recent years, the growth of studies about anarchism has contributed to a clearer knowledge of the importance and influence of this political culture in its first decades. What's most interesting is that this knowledge no longer originates exclusively from studies specifically dedicated to anarchism. Anarchism is now present in works in which it doesn't constitute the primary object, without implying a reduction to political and social irrelevance or to the condition of a poor relative of other political ideologies (in particular, socialist ideologies). In other words, anarchism has started to be seen as a relevant agent and interlocutor. Its impact on other political cultures, in society, and even in the institutionalisation processes of modern European states is recognised even in countries in which its presence was residual, such as in Germany. This work is an original and well accomplished example of this perspective.

The focus of the author, Elun T. Gabriel, is on a part of the course of the Social Democratic Party in the German Empire, in particular about the involuntary importance that anarchism had in the definition of its ideas and the consolidation of its position in German institutional politics. The book analyses the narrative and ideological resources mobilised by the Social Democrats, in order to set themselves apart from anarchists and to thwart the accusations by conservative forces. To the conservatives, there were no significant differences between the ideologies that formed the socialist field, and thus they should all be fought with equal vehemence. These accusations were an important part of the argument that sustained the 'anti-socialist' laws approved by Otto von Bismarck. The distinction from anarchism was made, in great measure, through questioning and clarifying what ideas of revolution, or tactics such as the general strike, meant for the Social Democrats, as well as through the progressive removal of the party's more radical militants. …

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