In the beginning of November 1918, sailors in the German harbor city of Kiel were ordered to prepare their fleet for the final sea battle against the British Royal Navy. Although the war was as good as over and the German fleet would not stand a chance against the superior naval forces of the British, the German commanders wanted to go down fighting. Demoralized by four years of fighting, a large group of German navy sailors decided to mutiny against their leaders on the fourth of November. They formed a revolutionary council of sailors, workers and soldiers. From Kiel, resistance against the war effort and Emperor Wilhelm II spread across the country. In the days following the fourth of November, revolutions struck in the entire German Empire, creating workers’ and soldiers’ councils (Arbeiter- und Soldatenräte) in all the big cities in both the south and the north. This was the beginning of what would become known as the November Revolution in Germany.
In my PhD research, I focus on the revolutionary council communist movement as it existed in Germany and the Netherlands in the interbellum. Especially interesting to me are the relationship between different groups within this movement, such as intellectual leaders, their followers, and a group of intermediaries. How did leaders debate their political ideas with the rank-and-file members? And were these members able to express their own ideas to those leaders as well? How did council communist ideology develop, in light of these relationships? These are the sort of questions that I hope to answer during the course of my project.
In order to do so, I analyse historical source material both in Germany and in the Netherlands. I study original documents such as diaries, newspaper articles, correspondence, party archives and pamphlets. By studying the political concepts that are communicated through these texts, it is possible to reconstruct the development of ideologies over time. Moreover, it gives us insight in the relationships between various groups within this revolutionary movement and the role of ideology in this relationship.
My project is supervised by Prof. Dr. Marcel Wissenburg (Political Science) and Dr. Joost Rosendaal (History). I started in February 2015, and I will document my progress regularly via this website.