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The Devil is Red: Socialist Satanism in the Nineteenth Century

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AbstractDuring the nineteenth century, socialists all over the Western world employed Satan as a symbol of the workers’ emancipation from capitalist tyranny and the toppling of the Christian Church, which they perceived as a protector of this oppressive system. Starting with the English Romantics at the end of the eighteenth century, European radicals developed a discourse of symbolic Satanism, which was put to use by major names in socialism like Godwin, Proudhon, and Bakunin. This shock tactic became especially widespread in turn-of-the-century Sweden, and accordingly the article focuses on the many examples of explicit socialist Satanism in that country. They are contextualized by showing the parallels to, among other things, use of Lucifer as a positive symbol in the realm of alternative spirituality, specifically the Theosophical Society. A number of reasons for why Satan gained such popularity among socialists are suggested, and the sometimes blurry line separating the rhetoric of symbolic Satanism from actual religious writing is scrutinized.

Affiliations: 1: Department of the History of ReligionsStockholm University10691


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