Alternatives to the ‘Left’

Perhaps it was inevitable that an institution storing the papers of Marx and Bakunin became known as leftist, but this reputation is not strictly accurate. The Institute has remained neutral not only by refusing to side with a specific party within the ‘left’ but also by taking a serious interest in social movements never attributed to the left. These have been quite numerous, practically since socialism originated. Catholic trade confederations, which were always presented explicitly as a separate alternative, exemplify this (58-59), but in the Netherlands the large Protestant trade union movement has entrusted its archives to the IISH as well (60).

Other, very militant alternatives to socialism have included fascism and National Socialism, which at first were strongly based on socialism (61-63). Later on, new protest movements emerged, some with a remarkably young executive, who in turn derived much from fascism and National Socialism (64-65).

In the second half of the nineteenth century the combination of growing faith in progress and the heyday of associations led to increasing numbers of organizations pursuing specific reforms intended to improve the world order. Some embraced the same ideas or even a Weltanschauung with certain socialist and anarchist circles. Partially competing and partially coinciding with them, Theosophy (66-67), Neo-Malthusianism (68), vegetarianism (69), naturism (70), temperance (71), and similar movements arose. All were dedicated to improving society, as well as the spiritual and physical constitution of people.

After the Second World War, radical intellectuals and artists, who had joined political parties in the past, became more inclined to manifest outside these settings. In their comprehensive critique of the modern lifestyle they depicted the ‘addicted consumer’ as symbolizing what was despicable (72-73). Elements of this criticism were sometimes extrapolated by other groups such as the squatters’ movement (74).