Against Stupidity: Catholic Workers, Christian Socialism, and Identity Politics in Imperial Germany, 1869-1878
This thesis explores the intersection of religion, social class, and politics during the late nineteenth century in Imperial Germany. Specifically, the focus of this work is on the Workers' Association of Saint Paul's in Aachen and Burtscheid, a Catholic working-class organization in the 1870s located in the city of Aachen, a rapidly industrializing city in the majority Catholic Prussian Rhineland. This organization was the largest Catholic working-class association in Germany in the 1870s, reaching 5,000 members by the middle of the decade, and also espoused the politics of Christian Socialism. This thesis explores the intersection of the possibly competing social identities of these workers between being Catholics and workers. To start, the scholarly framework of studying society and politics in Imperial Germany is discussed, especially the concept of rigidly constructed social milieus into five groups, two of them being the Catholics and the working-class, and how this work may suggest a challenge to this concept. Next, the background information of how a Catholic working-class came into existence, as it was the product of simultaneous nineteenth century processes of industrialization and a religious revival among German Catholics. The Kulturkampf was the force that politicized Catholicism in Germany, as the persecution of Catholic institutions by Prussia forced Catholics into a social and political "ghetto." Then, the Association of St. Paul's itself is discussed. First, the workers espoused their Catholic identity and religious solidarity during a time of persecution, but also emphasized the Christian basis for their brand of Socialism. This lent into their identity as part of the working-class. While they steadfastly rejected the "godlessness" of Social Democracy, the Christian Socialists also shared many similar social and political goals. This intersection between identities eventually led to political conflict in Aachen throughout the 1870s with the mainstream, bourgeois Catholics of the city. To conclude, the legacy of Christian Socialism on modern Germany is discussed, as well as its contribution to the complex politics of Imperial Germany.