X Close

The sordid lessons of Kinderläden Pornography and simulated sex were on the curriculum

A scene from a German Kinderläden in 1974. (Rudolf Dietrich/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

A scene from a German Kinderläden in 1974. (Rudolf Dietrich/ullstein bild via Getty Images)


November 22, 2023   6 mins

Every Leftist project that has bettered people’s lives was born from the radical imagination: the eight-hour work day, the now-disappeared family wage, the end of the transatlantic slave trade. The Left is always the first to point out that states described as natural, or inevitable, can in fact be changed. But the radical imagination can backfire.

This is particularly the case when Leftists try to either remake the psyche or recalibrate the most intimate of our social relationships. Recently, projects to reconstruct (or abolish) family relations have come back into fashion. Sophie Lewis, for instance, asserts that the family is part of a “traditional practice of grooming kids into cis-genderism and heterosexuality”, which demands to “inseminate the minds of kids” with sex-based pronouns. M.E. O’Brien, meanwhile, has argued that the family is a primary enemy of “gender and sexual freedom” that ought to be replaced with “communes”. Both are supporters of “youth liberation”.

What our current family abolitionists don’t acknowledge, however, is that the Left does not have a good record when it comes to changing society through children. In fact, some radical projects centred on them have gone very, very wrong. The late Sixties offers an illustrative, if extreme, case: that of the West German Kinderläden, or “children shops”.

Taking their name from the empty shops in which they were typically established, the Kinderläden were childcare centres, organised and collectively run by radical parents and activists. In a documentary aired on German national television not long after the first Kinderläden was founded in Frankfurt, the movement revealed its mission. Titled Educating for Disobedience, the film contrasted the most severe form of institutional education with the more permissive scenarios of these “children shops”, portraying the Kinderläden as a healthier and more egalitarian way of caring for young children.

Many radical parents were immediately convinced: within two years of their founding, there were Kinderläden in at least 30 cities. Few alternatives were available for parents who needed childcare during the working day, besides church or government-run centres, where discipline was strict and complete obedience was expected. The Kinderläden fulfilled a clear material need. Unfortunately, some of the radical Leftists behind the project believed it could do more than simply provide affordable childcare; they believed it could actually eliminate the psychological causes of fascism.

According to historian Dagmar Herzog, “the Kinderläden movement represented a nationwide experiment to put into concrete practice theories about human nature gleaned from young radicals’ rediscovery of … the Frankfurt School”, a school of sociology influenced by Marxism and Freud that was popular in interwar Germany. One of these theories was that the family was the “most important place of reproduction” for the authoritarian state — an idea which persists to this day in Leftist calls for family abolition; the family, in this framework, is seen as a place of “privatised care”, where children are taught the norms of capitalist society, and how to obey authority.

Herzog describes how the Kinderläden attempted to disrupt familial relations: because they judged “the nuclear family to be ‘rotten to the core’, many Kinderladen activists … actively worked to rupture what they called parent-child “fixations”. Children as young as two were actively encouraged to be self-directed; adults were discouraged from intervening in their interactions. The aim was to make children independent, and less reliant on external authorities such as bosses, the government or the church.

Even more controversial, however, was the focus on freeing children from sexual inhibitions. Many of the Kinderläden were influenced by the work of Wilhem Reich, who believed that childhood sexual repression led to authoritarian and even fascist tendencies. Thus, in the Kinderläden, children were not corrected when they touched their own genitals or those of others; in fact, such behaviour was actively encouraged. Disturbingly, some of the educational tracts produced by this movement explicitly supported sex between children and adults. One, quoted in a Spiegel article, proclaimed: “Children can learn to appreciate eroticism and sexual intercourse … It is valuable for children to cuddle with adults. It is no less valuable for sexual intercourse to occur during cuddling.” The notes published by a Berlin collective, the Rote Freiheit, described in detail how pornographic material and simulated sex were daily parts of the children’s education.

Not all parents whose children participated in the Kinderläden were convinced that sexual interactions between children and adults were beneficial, but some worried that their own sexual inhibitions might be the problem. One mother in a Stuttgart Kinderläden remembered how, when children reached for her genitals, she hesitated to stop them for fear of appearing to be repressed, even though it made her deeply uncomfortable. Finally, she said to the children: “That hurts. I don’t like that.” Alexander Schuller, one of the co-founders of a Kinderläden in Berlin, himself a sociologist, explained his own misgivings this way: “I found it incredibly difficult to take a stance. I felt that what we were trying to do was fundamentally correct, but when it came to this issue, I thought: This is crazy, it just isn’t right. But then I felt ashamed of thinking that way. I think many were in the same position.”

The concerns of adults, rather than being taken seriously, were seen as damaging. Monika Seifert, a co-founder of the first Kinderläden and a sociologist who had studied directly under Theodor Adorno, worried that the children in her Kinderläden were suppressing their sexual desires because of the “unconscious reaction of the adults”. In other words, children couldn’t be fully liberated in their sexuality because their parents weren’t.

Whether or not the children were interested in liberating their sexuality was not a question many activists seemed interested in asking — although Schuller did note that, though his own children enjoyed going to the Kinderläden, “they thought the constant chatter of sex was horrible”. The writer Sophie Dannenberg, reflecting on her own experience as a 3-year-old in a Kinderläden, never understood the adults’ obsession with childhood sexuality. “It was too complicated,” Dannenberg writes; the children just “wanted to carve and to climb”.

Few adults with childhood experience of the Kinderläden movement have spoken openly about their experience. Nissim — who was four years old when he was photographed naked in sexually explicit scenes with a three-year-old girl — refuses to talk to journalists about these days, but told another former Kinderläden member that he looks back at them in “horror”. Sophie Dannenberg’s account of her time points to something else, however: a need, in some victims, to understand the motives of the adults — and even forgive them. “They had to rape themselves, in a way, to do all that,” she writes. “Everything was also wildly confused together: lust, ideology and narcissism. They said they had to do these things in the service of progress. And it later became embarrassing for them.”

Alexander Schuller is less forgiving. Despite seeing the material benefits of the Kinderläden as good, he condemns the “pedosexuality” of some of the activists, describing “the ideological compulsion of the Left” to remove sexual taboos as a kind of “friendly totalitarianism”.

Though we could learn much from paying attention to the role of Leftist ideology in justifying abuse, the case study of the Kinderläden is not well known on the English-speaking Left. The Right, however, has learned to wield it. Their criticisms too often form a part of antisemitic conspiracy theories about “Cultural Marxism” and the Frankfurt School (which was associated with several high-profile Jews). This makes it quite easy for Leftists to dismiss the lesson of this moment in history: that our radical imagination can stray dangerously far from reality.

The Frankfurt School in many ways embodies this danger, and the Left should not be afraid to say so. Its belief that authoritarianism was caused by sexual inhibitions — and reproduced by the nuclear family — strayed quite far from traditional Marxist understandings of material struggle and physical reality. The School might more usefully have imagined the best way to organise the working classes to lobby for higher wages — rather than trying to re-engineer the sexual expressions of the masses, in the belief that revolutionary change would necessarily follow. Instead, what followed was a major shift in Leftist analysis, which has resulted not in revolutionary change but in identitarian strife.

Today, rather than doing the very difficult work of changing the material conditions of people — which requires convincing them to organise with each other towards a common goal — some Leftist radicals channel their energy into shaping the way people think. At such times, Right-aligned criticism has come uncomfortably close to the truth, and our responses to those criticisms have too often been contradictory and hastily dismissive.

Understanding the radical imagination’s role in the Kinderläden movement — and its mistakes — is crucial, especially as ideas such as family abolition and youth liberation have been recently revived in socialist and anarchist discourse. M.E. O’Brien has advocated for “crèches replacing a child’s individual play room” and believes “sex and sexual pleasure could become collective concerns”; Sophie Lewis bemoans how little the “problems of ‘adultism’ and ‘adult supremacy’ are taken seriously”, let alone the matters of “child sovereignty”. Those who believe it possible — or even a good idea — to transform society by reconfiguring intimate relationships rarely account for how previous attempts to do so have caused harm. And the Left ought to lead the way, rather than waiting for our political opponents to force us to hold ourselves to account.

The Kinderläden movement eventually jettisoned its more radical elements — a process accelerated by various criticism from former students and educators. Indeed, by re-orienting the radical imagination to address practical concerns, rather than dangerous attempts to remake social relations, the Kinderläden actually flourished. Today, there are around 7,500 collective childcare centres in Germany, no longer seeking to eradicate the psychosexual precursors of fascism, but simply doing exactly what people always wanted them to do: support working parents.

This is what a good Leftist project should do: better the material conditions of families, meet a crucial need, and provide a practical model for collective organisation. This can only happen, though, when we ground the radical imagination in reality.


Rhyd Wildermuth is the author of Here Be Monsters: How To Fight Capitalism Instead of Each Other (Repeater) and writes at rhyd.substack.com.

RhydWildermuth

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

78 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
7 months ago

A good rule of thumb is that adults who want to talk to young children about sex are the very last people who should be doing so

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
7 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

The only way to really describe Seb Dakin’s comment is default, lockstep, and really rather craven. For what is the immediate corollary of his assertion?.It is of course that the very first people who should be talking to young children about sex are those who do NOT want to. A recipe for splendid success and flourishing on every front if ever i heard one! (Please don’t try to tell me there are “disinterested” parties in education)

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Lightband

I run a school, including a kindergarten. I have worked with children my whole life. I’ve had children of my own for what it’s worth.
Childhood is the part of life before the burdens of adulthood become apparent, something that however long we may live, will never come again. A time of innocence, when even the most perceptive of children can believe that dreams come true.
Seeking to recruit the very young as child soldiers in the culture wars of adults is disgraceful behaviour, and a tacit admission that your nostrums are unconvincing to adults.
To involve them in questions of sexuality, before they have had a chance to develop their own, or even an inkling of being a sexual being, is, and I shan’t mince my words, perverted.
I choose the word perverted deliberately. What kind of adult would seek affirmation of their choices through interaction with children? That is literally a perversion of the natural order of things.
It is an even greater perversion when the subject matter is sexuality, about which even the most ignorant of adults have instincts, rooted in biology. And even the most intelligent of children don’t. Because they are children. Because they are innocent of the ‘invisible worm’ .
I am not disinterested. I care very much what children, and indeed people, are taught, and how they are taught and raised. It would behoove us all to care, regardless of occupation.

David Yetter
David Yetter
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Lightband

Seb Dakin’s comment is pointing to a paradox. It is akin to the observation that the best bishops have often been those who had to be dragged unwilling to their own consecrations. Those who are too enthusiastic about talking about sex with young children or exercising spiritual authority are, by dint of their enthusiasm, unsuitable for tasks which require discernment and delicacy to do correctly.

Benjamin Perez
Benjamin Perez
7 months ago

“Every Leftist project that has bettered people’s lives was born from the radical imagination: [e.g.] … the end of the transatlantic slave trade.” Ahistorical—even anti-historical—claptrap: ending the transatlantic slave trade wasn’t a “Leftist project.” Broadly speaking, liberals—heck, even conservatives—brought about the end of the transatlantic slave trade, not Leftists. (Why doesn’t this writer know this?) (Why didn’t UnHerd editors—fact checkers?—catch/correct this?)

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
7 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

Indeed. One of the most prominent figures in the earliest moves to abolish slavery was Josiah Wedgwood, also one of the founders of modern industrial capitalism. He had anti-slavery “coins” produced (pottery versions, naturally) which he used to encourage the burgeoning middle classes to wear as both decoration and statement.

Frank Leahy
Frank Leahy
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Wedgwood certainly campaigned against the transatlantic slave trade, but slavery in England had been ended hundreds of years before. St Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, preached regularly against slavery in Bristol (then in his diocese) and eventually closed the slave market there. He was helped by Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, who persuaded King William to ban the sale of slaves in England. Lanfranc’s successor St Anselm subsequently condemned the ownership of slaves. Strange that all this is neglected/forgotten. And it raises the issue of why slavery, or at least European participation in slavery, was “reinvented” in the sixteenth century.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago
Reply to  Frank Leahy

Extremely important points. Date about 1008AD I believe.
In the Domesday Book only about 10% were slaves which was a low number for the time.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago
Reply to  Frank Leahy

It was kept out of sight from the working classes in Europe who feared that the slave who worked unpaid in the kitchen of a nabob would take their paid job. They saw how the nabob enjoyed his power over his slave and saw that it could happen to me. The laws were passed to stop slavery at home because the lower class feared coemption. Slavery in the colonies however, brought great riches to the ruling class. Since America was a colony, it became hooked on this social drug. There is nothing like the pleasure of having sovereign power over a slave.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago
Reply to  Frank Leahy

It started with Spain and Portugal. Moors were the enemy. Moors were African. Therefore, it was acceptable to enslave prisoners of war. Both sides in the wars between Spain and the Moslems enslaved prisoners of war. The Spanish conquers enslaved Indians who died due to European disease. When Spain and Portugal established colonial empires, workers were needed. Black Africans survived slavery better than American Indians. Soon the word slave and African became the same. It became proper to own a slave in the Americas. Black slavery was acceptable because the slave did not look like a person. Other European countries soon allowed colonial slavery while keeping it out of site from the working class at home.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
7 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

The essay is compromised by his ideological beliefs, but at least he’s willing to expose these creepy people.

Matt M
Matt M
7 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

I would argue that the driving forces were politically Tory and religiously evangelical Anglican and Quaker.

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

What about the Whigs (proto-liberals)?

Matt M
Matt M
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Barrow

It is an interesting question Jon.
In 1787 William Pitt (the Younger) and William Grenville had persuaded William Wilberforce to champion an act in parliament to abolish slavery (as they all sat in the shade on an oak tree on Pitt’s estate).
Grenville would finally pass the Slave Trade Act through both houses in 1807.
The group around Pitt would have described themselves as Whigs but are seen by most political historians as Tory or “New Tory”. Grenville is usually classed as a “Pittite Tory”.

Last edited 7 months ago by Matt M
Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
7 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

Capitalism brought an end to slavery because it was capitalists who made the Industrial Revolution. It was only because machine began to replace man in the factories and in the fields that the very worst tasks, tasks which needed to be performed by a slave or near slave class of people in order that everyone else could have a barely tolerable existence, were taken out of human hands and put into the hands of engines.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Scott

This analysis doesn’t work. We didn’t have slavery in Britain, but slaves were working in partly industrialised sugar plantations in the colonies. They certainly weren’t freed by the plantation owners, who actually were a type of capitalist.

People earning low wages in the mother country in the field, or in industry, were free theoretically, and often able in practice, to sell their labour to the highest bidder. They were not owned by anyone. Slaves are.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

We had slaves in the Caribbean undertaking a task which, due to the type of crop being produced, required a slave or slave like workforce. If we had been growing sugar cane in the U.K we would certainly have had slaves harvesting it.
The northern United States produced agricultural crops that did not need slave labour. The southern United States produces crops that did. It didn’t start as a moral issue, it was entirely practical.
The production of cotton after the Civil War shifted to Egypt and India where slave or near slave labour was available to pick the stuff. Technology, eventually, dealt with that problem.

David Morley
David Morley
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Scott

Machines did not replace human labour – they leveraged it, making it more efficient. It also meant that cheap child labour could be more fully exploited – because dexterity became more important for many tasks than physical strength and stamina.

The great disadvantage to capitalists of a slave class was the necessity to take care of them during lean times. Slaves are valuable and expensive assets. Workers could simply be pushed out to starve when times were bad, and new ones taken on at no great cost when things improved.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

When building dangerous projects in the old south slaves were too expensive to risk. Free Irish were employed because if they died it, was no loss.

Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
7 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

There was no “necessity” to take care of slaves during lean times and during lean times slaves were not valuable assets. If there was no demand for the product there would be no demand for the slaves. Like any other asset, slaves were usually heavily borrowed against and if your product was no longer saleable the lenders to whom your slaves were pledged would “foreclose” on your slaves.
We can state categorically that, had the Civil War not been fought, slavery would have ended in the U.S. in 1872. This is when the Long Depression started and the price of cotton plummeted. At that point plantation owners would have lacked the income for the upkeep of slaves and would have allowed them to walk off the plantation or the banks would have taken ownership. A new urban class of unemployed ex slaves would have populated the cities of the South and, as they eventually did, northern Industrial cities such as Baltimore.

George Locke
George Locke
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Scott

This is a very loaded statement, and it is one that there is evidence against. There are many cases where industrialisation actually entrenched slavery even more.
A good example is the cotton gin (invented by Eli Witney in 1793 and developed further by Fones McCarthy in 1840) and its usage in the antebellum South, which allowed cotton fibre to be separated from the seeds quicker and more efficiently. As more plantations switched to the cotton gin during the early 19th century instead of manual separation, cotton production expanded from 750,000 bales in 1830 to 2.86 million bales in 1850. The cotton gin led to demands for more slave labour in the South and, as a result, the number of slaves rose from 700,000 in 1790 to 3.2 million in 1850. Simply put, more cotton to sell with the help of the cotton gin meant more money for plantation owners, thus more cotton gins to be bought and then more slaves to be bought to do the labour, and so on and so forth (a self-fulfilling prophecy).

Last edited 7 months ago by George Locke
Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
7 months ago
Reply to  George Locke

The Cotton Gin created a bottleneck in the production process because no one invented a machine that could pick cotton as quickly as the Cotton Gin could process it. But increasing supply was only feasible because demand increased. So it was increased demand for cotton, not an increase in the ability to process it, which, ultimately, caused there to be increased use of slaves, all of which were the result of increased family sizes among slaves given that Africa, the source of supply of new slaves, was closed off by about 1820.
But we don’t have slaves picking cotton today because the issue of using human hands to pick cotton was dealt with comparatively late with the first machine being demonstrated in 1935 but two capitalists, the Rust brothers. It was not a Marxist, Lesbian collective that come up with that one.
Capitalism triumphs again.
The simple fact of the matter is that prior to the Industrial Revolution slavery was a widespread practice, today it is not.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Scott

In England, due to Anglo Saxon, Jutish and Viking traditions, slavery and then serfdom had always been far less common. At the time of the Conquest serfdom was far less common in Jutish Kent, areas of the Danelaw and the West of the country but far more common in in the areas of the clay Midlands.
Wilberforce was an MP for Yorkshire which was formerly Danelaw and the Potteries were on the border of Danelaw. I think there may be a correlation between a lack of serfdom and a dislike for slavery.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

The very word slave was taken by Vikings from the Russian language. Slavic people used that word for themselves. It meant glory. Vikings enslaved Russians and sold them the word Slavic became slave.

Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

It is more to do with the types of crops being produced. In the U.K as with the northern United States, the crops being produced lent themselves to fairly small holdings where an individual with a beast of burden could productively work his crop. If our climate had been conducive to producing large amounts of sugar cane we would have had slavery or something like it going on to produce that crop. There is a reason slavery was more common in “hot” parts of the world, the crops produced there.

Ian Cooper
Ian Cooper
7 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

WILBERFORCE, CLARKSON, PITT ETC All from the right

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 months ago
Reply to  Ian Cooper

The Left and Right division didn’t really exist then in its modern form. But to say these characters were from the “Right” is stretching it. Of course in a sense all of the “ruling class” might be said to be of the Right compared with say, those advocating for universal suffrage, but it would be more true to the terminology to argue that reformers were more to the Left than those arguing for the status quo.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

You and a number of others have highlighted the ahistorical nature of the author’s claim that the abolition of slavery was a “Leftist” project but the idea that the eight hour day was a “Leftist” project is itself only part of the story.

In 1889 Short Bros, a shipbuilding firm in Pallion in Sunderland established the 8 hour day and the results of this were reported in the Times in September 1896 to have seen an increase in productivity over the longer working day that prevailed previously. It was as much the result of such experiments that persuaded thoughtful employers that the 8 hour day represented no threat to productivity that resulted in its establishment as any “Leftist” agitation.

The improvement in life has been the result of capitalist production rather than leftist agitation.

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes, it’s often the way. ‘Leftists’ would have it that activists drove through changes as an act of imagination and will. In fact greater technological ability caused awareness of new possibilities, which led to a demand (some of it from ‘Leftists’) for legislation. The various Factory Acts (eg related to water, sewage, light) worked like this. As you mention, three 8-hour shifts could keep the mill, mine or factory going 24 hrs with greater productivity.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

An 8-hour day means 3 shifts in a lighted factory with no overtime pay. When the gas light appeared, it became cheaper to run 3 equal sized shifts than one long 10 to 12 hour one. Well rested workers make fewer expensive errors. A 12-hour day in an unlight factory meant expensive errors by workers.

Ted Miller
Ted Miller
7 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

In societies with no labour market, slavery was a necessary socio-economic class. It was actually capitalism and the emergence of a free market for labour that provided the conditions for the abolition of slavery, in the West. Of course, that guy who never worked a day in his life, Marx, saw this as a bad thing and his Leftist followers, Lenin and the rest, reinstituted slavery (collectivised agriculture, etc) on a scale unprecedented in all previous world history. So, lets not have the “Leftist project” nonsense about “we ended slavery.” Its actually, pretty much the exact opposite,

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 months ago
Reply to  Ted Miller

This is just wrong. We didn’t have slavery in Britain. We did have it in the colonies, but capitalists certainly did not free the slaves there. Social reformers did.

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

Yes, ‘Leftists’ didn’t exist then (Whigs, kind of proto-liberals, did).

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
7 months ago

There’s a long history of the political Left trying to claim Causes and Heroes as their own – but in what sense does the author imagine Abolitionists – either in Britain or the US – were politically of the Left?

Or is this just part of the rather silly tendency of some people to claim that because the Left is virtuous, that everything virtuous is therefore Left? Because that is arrant nonsense. As history has proved many times over.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
7 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

I gave up after the first sentence and went straight to the comments,

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Yes it’s worth looking up the ‘Virtue/Morality Delusion’ (ie average person thinks they are more moral than average, ppl who self-report as very high in morality are not actually much different to the average but far more condemnatory than average).

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The term Left does tend to mean promoting reform and distributing wealth and power, and improving the conditions of the weak.

The term Right tends to imply advocating the virtues of the status quo, the ancient constitution, stability, church, hierarchy etc

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The Non Conformist Labour Party of Keir Hardie, E Bevin and J Callaghan yes but the middle class Fabians and Trotskyists of Livingstone and Corbyn promote a dictatorship run by a apparatchik class.
The Labour Party has run education since 1945 but has not produced one capable of moving un and semi skilled people into skilled high value advanced manufacturing such as in Switzerland and Singapore. The great divide is between those who have access to the scientific and technical education able to enter training for advanced manufacturing and those who do not. What percentage of comprehensives, especially inner city ones can educate people in Further Maths A Level and STEP 2 and 3 maths and languages needed for top 5 universities to read engineering, maths, economics, physics , languages etc ?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
7 months ago

Very disturbing story. The author is clearly an anti-capitalist, so the whole essay is tinged with ideological bias, but I’ll give him credit for shedding light on a truly creepy group of people whom he shares much in common with.

N Satori
N Satori
7 months ago

Every Leftist project that has bettered people’s lives was born from the radical imagination

So says Rhyd Wildermuth. The same of course can be said about all those Leftist projects that have utterly ruined people’s lives. This radical imagination has given birth to some real monsters.

The Left is always the first to point out that states described as natural, or inevitable, can in fact be changed

…boasts Wildermuth in a line that reads like the mission statement of social engineers the world over.
Which brings us to Kinderläden: a machine created to produce little socialists. Based on the assumption that bad political tendencies are a natural state which need to be programmed out from an early age by wise and humane teachers. Quite a sly tactic: unless your kids are put under sound socialist supervision from an early age they may grow up to be right wing monsters.
But fear not! Wildermuth keeps his eye firmly on the real socialist ball:

Today, rather than doing the very difficult work of changing the material conditions of people…[ ]…some Leftist radicals channel their energy into shaping the way people think.

Only ‘some Leftist radicals’ – really? The radical Left has never ceased in its drive to undermine the family and “re-engineer the sexual expressions of the masses” – as the current intersectionist efforts (ie. Woke) clearly show.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I had not heard of Kinderlaben and assumed it was something like the radical leftist Lebensborn program of the German National Socialist Workers Party another weird anti-family social engineering program that didn’t end well and involved plenty of sex.

Pat Davers
Pat Davers
7 months ago

The author is almost there. He knows the “right” are essentially correct on this matter, but some vestigial tribal loyalty means he has to tries to hand-wave it away with stuff like this:
“Leftist ideology in justifying abuse, the case study of the Kinderläden is not well known on the English-speaking Left. The Right, however, has learned to wield it. Their criticisms too often form a part of antisemitic conspiracy theories about “Cultural Marxism” and the Frankfurt School (which was associated with several high-profile Jews). ”
Yep, criticism of “Cultural Marxism” and the Frankfurt School must be because we hate Jews (rolls eyes)
“Right-aligned criticism has come uncomfortably close to the truth”
Too damned right, it has…. 

Last edited 7 months ago by Pat Davers
David Yetter
David Yetter
7 months ago
Reply to  Pat Davers

That sentence was particularly absurd in light of the fact that the mass-movement version of Cultural Marxism, “wokeness”, with which the world is now plagued, seems to be the main source of antisemitism among people of European ancestry this past month and a half. (Though, I think globally it’s running a distant second to Islam as a source of Jew-hatred.)

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
7 months ago

All this article really does is expose the writer’s tribal mentality: the two tribes being The Left (mostly good or self) and The Right (bad or other). Labour helped the working class in the past because it genuinely represented the working class. Now it subscribes to and prioritises bonkers ideologies: men can be women and the destruction of the family. My mother grew up in a Barnardo’s orphanage; she lived in one of the cottages. The same group of children were raised by the same three women who were called Mother, Auntie **** and Auntie ****. The belief was that the consistency, constancy and continuity of the family type environment was emotionally and psychologically beneficial for the children. My mother was two years old when she was handed over to Dr Barnardo’s accompanied by her sister, two brothers and a large donation. Both my mother, her sister and one of her brothers had successful marriages which was considered unusual for children raised in orphanages and attributed to them having been fortunate enough to have been raised in the family type environment of the cottages. There was a surplus of unmarried women after the war, many of whose husbands or fiancés had died during the war and there was no such thing as test tube babies so it was not hard to find women willing to dedicate their lives to the children. The women were all from upper middle class backgrounds. I suspect those ideologues intent on the destruction of the family are the product of dysfunctional families. Families can be the most beneficial environment for children but for exactly the same reason they can be the most beneficial, they can be the most damaging.

Last edited 7 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Stevie K
Stevie K
7 months ago

Thanks for contributing such an enlightening and relevant defence of the stable family unit, or as close it as we can create when circumstances are less than ideal. Cudos to your family for discussing this history openly and taking good lessons from the experience of your mother and her brothers and sisters.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
7 months ago

Not all parents whose children participated in the Kinderläden were convinced that sexual interactions between children and adults were beneficial, but some worried that their own sexual inhibitions might be the problem

Well, quite. Two reflections here.
The first is that given the responses of the adults who had been subjected to this particular form of abuse, someone ought to follow up these victims to find out what damage has been done. Not with an open mind, looking at whether this might conceivably be a viable and justified experiment in lifestyles; but so that they can be offered help, compensation, and possibly have their cards marked for future monitoring.
Secondly, what is it about German culture which neglects to build in a bullshit-detector in its ordinary citizens? They seem to be either manically conformist and authoritarian (see the bit about “church or government-run centres, where discipline was strict and complete obedience was expected.”) or lurch into the wildest untethered speculative reactions. The rest of their culture is wonderful, it seems – arts, industry, hard work – and as someone who was married to a German woman I have the greatest respect for them. But thank goodness for English common sense, scepticism, and good-natured sarcasm. Such industrial scale abuse of children in England had to await the rise of mass immigration.

R Wright
R Wright
7 months ago

I had to immediately stop reading at the assertion that ending the Atlantic slave trade was a leftist project. Wilberforce was one of the most conservative and religious men in Parliament. The prime movers of the movement to abolish slavery across ghe globe were Christians.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
7 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I took a very deep breath at that but did manage to read beyond what was an utterly ahistorical comment.

Helen Hughes
Helen Hughes
7 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Wilberforce was an independent MP.

Christians can be very left wing, in my experience. I think Jesus was more inclined to support the workers rather than the capitalists. He got quite angry with people trading in the temple, and definitely differentiated between his Father and money. So I’m not quite clear on what point you wish to make about abolitionists being Christians at the same time as saying abolition was a right wing project? I see it as Christian and humane, yes, but beyond that not something either the right or left wing can claim to have owned.

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Helen Hughes

If the Bible is the source, Jesus wasn’t much interested in wordly affairs (true, didn’t like trading in the temple), but in salvation of souls. ‘Render to Caesar what is ‘Caesar’s’.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago
Reply to  Helen Hughes

“Give unto Caesar” I think he supported them both.

Mrs R
Mrs R
7 months ago

Unfortunately the Frankfurt School and its influence did not wither and die with the II world war.

Last edited 7 months ago by Mrs R
Mike Downing
Mike Downing
7 months ago

Such a mess and so many things to pull apart.

Part of the Leftist cum revolutionary project has been targeting the family for hundreds of years, along with the Church and the State as they who must be destroyed to free us all from chains.

Michael Haneke’s film ‘The White Ribbon’ suggests an atmosphere of repression and discipline leads to fascism. Rousseau has his idea of the noble savage who must be allowed to roam free and even the poet Shelley had the family firmly in his sights.

And the loony fringe always has some radical idea to remake society; Peter Tatchell gave a talk in Leeds a few years back that ended by calling upon a somewhat bemused theatre audience to revolt and run off to live in gay communes.

But of course historically, all sorts of institutions famous for their discipline have likewise spawned bastardised sexual behaviour of various sorts (think prisons, public schools, armed forces, religious communities and every church in existence). In fact, most sexual abuse still takes place in families according to all the statistics from the relevant charities.

So, regardless of your political bent (!), we should all be on our guard against the siren voices from either side and ensure that maximum light is shone into those dark corners to keep children safe. We’re all human and fallible at the end of the day.

Steven Targett
Steven Targett
7 months ago

The Leftist ideology of trying (and in many cases succeeding) to undermine the nuclear family is the direct cause of many of the ills assailing society today.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
7 months ago

In what they would probably consider a clear expression of my repressed authoritarian upbringing in a nuclear family my response to the article was not one of concern and compassion for a bunch of deluded but well intentioned radicals but a firm belief that every last one of the movement’s leaders (past and present) should be tied to large concrete blocks and dropped in the mid Atlantic.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

I completely agree with you with one amendment: we have always made mistakes when doing this surgical operation «after», or at best «during». I believe that, based on bitter experience, it should be done «before»

David Yetter
David Yetter
7 months ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

So you want to update the millstone recommended in Holy Scripture to the more economical alternative of a concrete block, eh?

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago
Reply to  David Yetter

Progress is like that.

William Amos
William Amos
7 months ago

Every Leftist project that has bettered people’s lives was born from the radical imagination: the eight-hour work day, the now-disappeared family wage, the end of the transatlantic slave trade.

The record is actually more interesting than that.
It was Lord Ashley, later Earl of Shaftesbury, Conservative peer, philanthropist, Christian and patriot was the driving force behind the Ten Hours Act, the Mines and Collieries Act (forbidding child labour in mines) the Chimney Sweepers Act (forbidding child labour in that trade) and pioneered free education for poor children. All for for decent Christian and patriotic motives.
Karl Marx called the Ten Hours Act the first victory of the working classes over the middle classes.

Last edited 7 months ago by William Amos
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
7 months ago

A weird, pervy scheme launched by weird lefty perverts. Unfortunately the writer seems to be scouting around for dodgy right wing ideas to counterbalance the picture – without much success.

Last edited 7 months ago by Malcolm Knott
Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
7 months ago

The reference to Reich makes me think of the Freudo-Marxism which the French also took up as the 60s pushed on. It culminated in Deleuze & Guattari’s “Anti-Oedipus” book which was actually more of fusion of Freud and Nietzsche attacking psychoanalysis as well as the ‘bourgeois family structure’.
Nonetheless, it tied in with the libertarian vision of mai 68 and the squat Leninist movement who took it into the 70s. Many of these people became Greens in Germany but it looks there that there was a radical minority who started the extreme revisions of the concept of the family and sexuality which resulted in the Queer Theory of the 1980s and beyond.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned “Queer”, please visit this site
abeautifulresistance.org/rhyd-wildermuth

Last edited 7 months ago by El Uro
carl taylor
carl taylor
7 months ago

Equating Right-wing criticism of the Frankfurt School with anti-Semitism is simply deranged identity politics. Are Left-wing critics of the School anti-Semites, too, I wonder?

Ali Maegraith
Ali Maegraith
7 months ago

The author believes that Kunderladens in Germany are now happily and safely helping working parents. Not quite. A childcare centre in Hannover was opened this year 2023 with a room dedicated for ‘sexual play’ for children. https://amp.focus.de/familie/eltern/koerpererkundungsraum-kita-plante-ruheraum-fuer-sexuelle-spiele-das-sagen-experten-dazu_id_198101066.html Thankfully after an outcry (from parents I assume..) the center was closed down. That childcare professionals with university degrees would for a moment entertain the idea that children, I repeat the word, children can handle an adult world then there is a very very big problem. I feel the same way as those poor parents in the article. Deeply disturbed.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 months ago

The concept of “Cultural Marxism”, which may perhaps be open to criticism, is not “anti-Semitic”. It may possibly be true that some anti-semites attach themselves to this concept, although the author provides no evidence at all, but this is not at all the same thing.

Left wingers just lack the imagination to believe anybody on the right believe or do anything for any other than dubious motives.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
7 months ago

There are many fine articles to be found on UnHerd, but this is a load of nonce-sense.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago

After reading this article, I solemnly declare:
There is no such thing as a Good leftist project!
What’s amazing about these idiots is that they always keep treading on the same rake. Please read about the Munster uprising and its hero John of Leiden (best of the best).5 centuries have passed, but we have the same sh.t and its creators.

Last edited 7 months ago by El Uro
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
7 months ago

A scene from a German Kinderläden in 1974.
And that boy grew up to be…Gene Simmons.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
7 months ago

Clearly many children were victims of abuse but I wonder how many grew up to be abusers?

John Riordan
John Riordan
7 months ago

“…the end of the transatlantic slave trade…”

William Wilberforce was a Tory, and the roots of the anti-slavery movement were religious in origin, not political – the Quakers, specifically. The global eradication of slavery as a legal institution, for which Britain alone can claim credit, was an Empire project that relied upon overwhelming military force and the development of free market capitalism in Britain itself.

I admit that I’m not an expert historian but even if there is some element of Leftist action in this context, it is untenable for the the Left to claim any sort of historic attachment to the achievement.

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
7 months ago

Sordid lessons, indeed. But this author is not only naive, as the Comments section almost unanimously chronicles, but is in error in so many ways, not least concerning the Frankfurt School ( not just an interwar school of sociology, as he asserts ). Their baleful influence persists to this day. I’ll let Georg Lukács sum them up: “these representatives of the chattering classes had holed themselves up in a beautiful hotel equipped with every comfort on the edge of the abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity.”

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
7 months ago

good article but I don’t think Adorno ever advocated sex between adults and children and am not sure that Reich did either.
A strong example of pederastically inclined people hijacking a radical project.
It is worth pointing that a large proportion of child sexual abuse occurs within the family, not outside it – family values are no protection against it. This is a problem for the right as they tend to be in denial about it and have blocked attempts to help such children. See Julie Bindel’s article about the Cleveland case.
Andrew Vachss called this ‘grow your own victims.’ Much of it is intergenerational. Eg Fred and Rose West were brought up by people who normalised abuse on all levels. Dominic West who played Fred commented that ultimately the story was about child abuse.

N Satori
N Satori
7 months ago

.

Last edited 7 months ago by N Satori
David Morley
David Morley
7 months ago

Great piece.

Part of the issue was no doubt the impact on the German psyche of the Second World War. Many young Germans felt themselves to be living under the Auschwitz generation. The need to break radically with the past must have seemed overwhelming.

The nostalgia some seem to still feel for the ideas of that time is both less understandable, and less forgivable.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago

In the past leftist nuts were not able to change human nature to fit some silly theory. Stalin and Mao killed millions trying. Today however, genetic engineering makes it possible. Avoid the leftist who starts looking at behavioral genes of social insects such as ants and bees. The result will be similar to the ant. Multiple genetically programmed clones emerging from clone tanks. Ants have various casts with bodies designed for their function in life. Expect the same thing in some leftist dystopia. These ants cannot be called human but will likely make real the socialist dystopia favored by the left. Let us avoid the anthill future dreamed of by the left.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
7 months ago

ts belief that authoritarianism was caused by sexual inhibitions — and reproduced by the nuclear family — strayed quite far from traditional Marxist understandings of material struggle and physical reality. 

I suppose Marx didn’t consider sexual repression as such, since the idea hadn’t been developed. But he certainly saw the family as a structure that supported capitalism and which people needed to be freed from. Abolition of the family was something he thought should happen.

David Morley
David Morley
7 months ago

“Leftist” is perhaps not the best term for the author to use, but I’m not sure we have a better one.

Perhaps what he means is the deliberate and conscious attempt to change things for the better through direct political action with that specific aim. This can be contrasted with more laissez faire approaches which tend to take the view that if we let capitalism run free the good life will follow.

These are simplifications in terms of ideal types. History involves bits of both. But it’s a useful distinction for this type of analysis. And credit to the author in recognising it can go wrong, through a kind of radical overreach – or just bad ideas – and seeing lessons to be learned from that.

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
7 months ago

The only way to really describe Seb Dakin’s comment is default, lockstep, and really rather craven. For what is the immediate corollary of his assertion?.It is of course that the very first people who should be talking to young children about sex are those who do NOT want to. A recipe for splendid success and flourishing on every front if ever i heard one! (Please don’t try to tell me there are “disinterested” parties in education)

Last edited 7 months ago by Don Lightband