Anticlericalism and Early Social Democracy in Sweden in the 1880s

In: Church History and Religious Culture

This article examines early socialist anticlericalism directed against the clergy of the Church of Sweden in the late nineteenth century. Research on socialist critiques and the Church of Sweden is generally lacking, and no attempt has been made to interpret the critique using the concept of anticlericalism. This study analyses the Social Democrats’ official newspaper Socialdemokraten and demonstrates that socialist anticlericalism was focused on clerical lifestyles, the church as a class institution, and often religion itself. A critical analysis of the arguments reveals that the satire and exaggeration already familiar to many were commonly used in anticlerical rhetoric when describing the clergy. The ultimate aim of the critique was the abolition of the Established Church because it was considered to provide a conservative religious ideology for the state.

  • 2

    See, for example, Maria Thomas, “The Faith and the Fury: The Construction of Anticlerical Collective Identities in Spain, 1874–1931,” European History Quarterly 43:1 (2013), 73–95. Graham Johnson, “British Social Democracy and Religion, 1891–1911,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 51:1 (2000), 94–115. Réné Rémond, L’ anticlericalisme en France: De 1815 à nos jours (Paris, 1999). Robert Stuart, “Marxism and Anticlericalism: The Parti Ouvrier Français and the War against Religion, 1882–1905,” Journal of Religious History 22:3 (1998), 287–303. Hugh McLeod, “Varieties of Anticlericalism in later Victorian and Edwardian England,” in Anticlericalism in Britain c. 1500–1914, ed. Nigel Aston and Martin Cragoe (Sutton, 2000), 198–220.

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  • 4

    Birgit Petersson, “Tidningar som industri och parti (1880–1897),” in Den svenska pressens historia, ii: Åren då allting hände (1830–1897), ed. Dag Nordmark, Kurt Johannesson and Birgit Petersson (Stockholm, 2001), 236–342, there 277.

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  • 17

    Ibid., 25 December 1885.

  • 29

    Per Erik Wahlund, “Åttitalet och prästen,” Edda: Nordisk tidskrift för litteraturforskning (1947), 300–336, there 315.

  • 41

    Åström Elmersjö, “Establishing an Ideologically Coherent History” (see above, n. 11), 200; see, for example, the article “Människosonen” (“Son of Man”) in Socialdemokraten, 15 January 1885.

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  • 57

    Marie Hedström and Olle Josephson, “Agitationsbroschyrerna 1881–1909,” in Agitatorerna, ed. Kurt Johannesson (Stockholm, 1996), 91–132, there 102.

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  • 58

    Sven G. Hartman, “Hur religionsämnet formades,” in Livstolkning och värdegrund: att undervisa om religion, livsfrågor och etik, ed. Edgar Almén (Linköping, 2000), 216.

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  • 74

    Ibid., 18 June 1890.

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