Associate Professor of History Elun Gabriel has a new book out, Assassins, Conspirators: Anarchism, Socialism, and Political Culture in Imperial Germany, published by Northern Illinois University Press. His teaching interests include European history, the Holocaust, modern Germany, modern Italy, World War I, and Weimar & Nazi Germany, and J.R.R. Tolkien, provides an overview of his book:
My book addresses the place of anarchism in the political culture of the German Empire (1871-1918). Tracing public debates about anarchism offers a unique vantage point on the construction of political legitimacy in the German Empire. Members of all other political camps considered anarchist violence fundamentally illegitimate, and so anti-anarchist rhetoric helped demarcate the parameters of acceptable politics. The book explores one crucial aspect of this public discussion, the question of German Social Democrats’ relationship to the threat of revolutionary violence and terrorism (this is the same German Social Democratic Party, or SPD, that is the second largest party in Germany today). In the 1870s, government mouthpieces branded Social Democracy the “party of assassins and conspirators” and sought to excite popular fury against it. Over time, Social Democrats managed to refashion their public image by emphasizing their overall commitment to peaceful change through parliamentary participation and open public debate. They condemned anarchist behavior—terrorism and other political violence specifically—and distanced themselves from the alleged anarchist personal characteristics of rashness, emotionalism, cowardice, and secrecy. Repeated public debate about the appropriate place of Socialism in German society, and its relationship to anarchist terrorism, helped Socialists and others, such as liberals, political Catholics, and national minorities, cement the principles of legal equality and a vigorous public sphere in German political culture, paving the way for the parliamentary democracy of the later Weimar Republic. My analysis of anarchism in Germany utilizes public sources such as newspapers, political pamphlets, parliamentary speeches as well as police reports and other internal government sources on the anarchist movement.