May 19, 2009

Holland and Germany the mystery of separate paths


Before writing this article I want to emphasize I am very far from an expert in the politics of this period (in large part due to the lack of good English language material) and would love to hear from anyone who knows more in the comments adding and / or correcting!

These cleavages in turn led to the development of mighty parties in fact of the five powerful parties in The Netherlands by the 1930's each so the Social Democratic party was both secular, anti-theocratic and based on the working class the Christian Historical Party religious, theocratic and with a mixed class identify but generally very hostile to anything that invoked socialism. But perhaps the most obvious question is why did The Netherlands Develop the way it did? In many ways for example The Netherlands was very like German. Germany had its own version of pilarization, a division between a Marxist and labor based party and those parties which were anything but, vicious anti socialist and strongly secular liberals, a powerful Catholic minority and a dominant Protestant culture itself divided by class and attitude secularization.

And yet by the 1930’s the politics could scarcely have been more different save in both social democracy was opposed by a majority. An anti socialist and anti-secularist right wing coalition accepting liberal democracy committed to the gold standard to a degree that would have made Gladstone or McKinley proud dominated interwar The Netherlands. Germany on the other hand over this period was rapidly taken over d by a secularist, extremely anti social democratic, anti-Catholic , anti-democratic rabidly nationalist party which pursed unorthodox economic policies and crushed liberal Democracy altogether. This was despite the fact a Christian Democratic party (uniting religious traditionalists both Catholic and Protestant) did very well in post war Germany.
Now the explanation is obviously complex. Size obviously made European wide domination realistic for Germany in a way it was not -and it's obviously rather hard to have an ideology of Dutch Anschluss or European domination. Certain Contingent events also matter a great deal- the appeal of the Nazis is just not understandable without world I.

However I would like to submit at least a great deal of the story should be traced to one amazing man Abraham Crupper-and his few close allies and influences. Kuyper essentially created modern Dutch Politics-and not just because he did as much as anyone to create universal suffrage. I hope to illustrate some of this way latter and the significance in comparing Germany and the Netherlands.

In the 1870's Kipper as prominent conservative minister of first the established church then haw own denomination ) burst upon the Dutch political scheme it was as the leader of the opposition to secularizing the school system in The Netherlands. The Netherlands had a political status quo that had more or less endured the previous decades- a dominant and loosely organized liberals were opposed by a marginalized conservative party. The former were for a relatively extended franchise, for growing secularism and reducing the power of the aristocracy and the monarchy. The latter were against these changes-and indeed wished to reverse much or all of what had been done. The demographics of even the partial electorate. An increasingly secularized middle class naturally supported the liberals (maybe more than the Dutch would in general). Moreover the Catholics who overwhelmingly dominated the South by default strongly supported the liberals. The Netherlands had had a rather tolerant confessional state post reformation as these states go-but even so Catholics preferred to support a secularizing party than return to the status of being outside the political community altogether.

It's worth noting that this represented one difference from what was already occurring in Germany by this point. In Germany the Kulturmfampf launched by Bismarck in the early 1870's had polarized the system against Catholics-not conservative Protestants. In this alliance moreover the liberals had been integrated-indeed were central to it with somewhat more reluctant support from conservative protestants. Thus for all the similarities between Germany and The Netherlands in Sectarian politics- the initial alliances were fatefully different.

Dutch politics were to be transformed almost out of recognition over the next few decades -and in ways that were very different from Germany's. The picture above shows Kuyper the man who more than anyone did this transformation.

3 comments:

James Hamilton said...

This is an absolutely fascinating subject to raise, in a great post - I just wish I had something to offer to take it forward. So, looking forward to further posts on the topic. It would be good to hear from e.g. leftist Germans who looked up to the Netherlands in the 1919-40 period, if any left memoirs.

Gracchi said...

Sulla is a very good historian- I equally don't feel equal to post more on this but as he has an open invitation to post on this blog (and will be doing so for the next few weeks while I am away) I'm sure you will be hearing more.

Sulla said...

To both of you many thanks for such kind if sadly inaccurate words about my work.

James I doubt very much leftist Germans would have seen the Netherlands as much of an inspiration in the interwar period ( i take it you mean social Democrats essentially). It was much less secular than Weimar Germany, much less given to state planning and I think had a much lower welfare state- indeed these differences between the states also lasted with the Nazis. Obviously democratic leftists would find it inspiring.

Having said that I think it must have been an huge inspiration to Adeneur's Christian Democrats- who were scarcely leftist but hugely historically important. I think Pilarisation also had a certain appeal in post war Germany.

Finally I'd add post war there was a big move towards a kind of leftwing Christian Democracy- this happened in Both the Netherlands and West Germany and I find it hard to believe the two are not related directly as well as representing common influences.