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This is a hastily translated and abridged version of the essay "Norwegian Anarchism and Syndicalism during 100 years" by Harald Fagerhus --- Mikael Altemark

Hans Jaeger and the Kristiania-bohemes

Hans Henrik Jaeger (1854-1910) was born in Drammen and grew up in Bergen in a "victorian" pietist and puritan home. Self-control and hard work was important, but laziness and immorality was acted against. From 1867 to 1874 he worked as a sailor. 1875 he started studying philosophy part-time. During his studies he worked as a stenographer for the norwegian parliament (stortinget). 1878 he published a philosophical study: "Kant's critique of reason."

Jaeger made himself spokesman for free love during the early 1880's. He extended full respect for the prostitutes, whose situation the society alone was responsible for. The followers of Jaeger were called "the kristiania bohemes". The bohemes wanted to elevate the importance of sexuality. They wanted full sexual freedom between the sexes in the same social class - in practice the upper classes - and abolition of the institution of marriage. Jaeger planned to start a women's school, which among other things would teach the young women to grow conscious of their lusts and follow them, so that neither them or the men would be robbed of their part of the wonders of life.

When Venstre came to power in 1884 there was not much change, despite the hopes of the bohemes. The process of liberation had not taken place. National liberalism had not proved itself to work. The new people in power had established themselves just like the old ones. They didn't have the intention to touch the old victorian morals or old conceptions of authority. Liberalism had revealed its true self. At the moment it came to power it ceased to be critical. The bohemes felt themselves to have been betrayed and were desillusionised. They had never had intention to connect themselves with the peasants, nor seek themselves back to the national past. On the contrary, they wished to tie themselves to the boom of modern thought that was brewing in Europe.

Jaeger became noted for two contributions in the Kristiania Arbeidersamfund (Workers society of Kristinia), where he had characterised marriage and the social unrighteousness as the two evil things of society. Without free love and socialism there was no chance of abolishing immorality, and the question should therefore be in what form one wished to preserve it. Marriage - which is not based on love, but economic interests - hinders people from living a rich life.

In December 1885 a book was published by the Kristiania bohemes. It would be their first attack on "the three gigantic granite colossus' that carries the old culture and old society and supports all misery - christianity, morals and the old conception of justice", as it was said in the foreword of the book. The book was an attack on the civil society, on Kristiania as small town, where everyone knows everyone, and on the bourgeois society dearest borders - the difference between the private and the public. One hour after it started being sold in Kristiania it was confiscated. The same thing happened in Sweden.

The paper Impressionisten (the Impressionist) was published between 1886-1890. It was tied to the bohem-movement in Christiania, and was started by the painter Christian Krohg. Hans Jaeger was one of the most important contributors. The newspaper was provenly anti-bourgeois.

The bohem way of life was an urban phenomena, and Kristiania became a major city during 1870-90 parallel to a explosion of students.

From a social point of view the bohemes were a group of intellectuals from the upper class. They often came from ultraconservative homes of parents working as officials. They were the "better people's children" with a relative safe starting point in society who became caught up in the new thoughts of the time, and who therefore adapted a fiercely oppositional stand against their own family and traditions.

Their "wild" life in the cafés was an expression of their breaking of the norms that had characterized the bourgois way of life, and that they refused to keep that line of difference between the public and private.

One period the bohemes were in majority position in the radical students organisation, Den frisinnede studenforening (Union of freethinking students).

It was first and foremost the individual freedom in all levels of life that the bohemes fought for. The question of levelling out the differences between classes came second, though several of them sought alliances with the dawning workers' movement. Several saw themselves as anarchists.

In the end the bohemtheory proved itself incompetent, and the movement was disbanded without Jaegers wish of social transformation that could create room for a more free living of the dreams of the individuals.

The next time we encounter Hans Jaeger is during the early days of the 20th century, as an anarchist.


The same year [1885] Hans Jaeger was prosecuted because of the book "Frân Kristania-Bohemen" (From the Kristianian Bohem).


In January 1900 a social democrat youth organisation was formed in Kristiania (Kristianialaget). Both in and outside of this organisation a strong anarchist campaign was being driven. The Libertas-group [An earlier local anarchist group] were precursors of this work, but Hans Jaeger and libertarian swedish immigrants, as well as individual russian fugitives also took part in this.


The anarchist Hans Jaeger

Hans Jaeger lived in Paris for a long period of time, where his experiences and international impulses led to an orentation towards anarchism. The Danish anarchist Jean Jacques Ipsen was the single person who affected Jaeger the most in anarchist direction. "When I gave the first anarchist papers and pamphlets to him he had hardly ever heard of writers such as Reclus, Kropotkin and Jean Grave." Jaeger was foreign correspondent for The Social Democrat. The coverage of the Japanese-Chinese war and the Dreyfuss-scandal 1897-8 was given much attention and Jaeger got a reputation as a rising star as political foreign correspondent.

Hans Jaeger was no lover of the typical social democrat though, even if he was journalist for the Arbeiderpartiets (Worker's Party) newspaper. He felt better when he could throw around his radical ideas in the socialist monthly Det Tyvende Aarhundrede (The 20th Century), which started being published in November 1901, as well as holding flaming lectures for the Ungsocialisterna (young socialists). Hans Jaeger perhaps had more influence due to his personal charisma more than by his writings given the youth of the turn of the century their strongest impulses. Ruthless courage and the will to name things by their right names, the feeling for form and logic were all qualities which were worshipped in the circle around Jaeger. 1917 the young anarchist Alf Larsen was told "the revolution must come from above, from intelligent thought" by Jaeger. The bombthrower Ravachol is said to have awakened the admiration of Jaeger.

Anarkiets Bibel (The bible of anarchy) was released by Gyldendal publishing in Copenhagen in 1906. The expropriative general strike was melted together with the "expropriative moral of sex" to a fully developed positive philosophy. Here Jaeger goes to raging attack on religion, capitalism, private property and the state. The order of the day was free love, the working population asserting itself as "the People" and the "suspension" of property rights through revolutionary process. The book was a 498-paged proof that the earlier bohemetheorist now had become an anarchist, even if he didn't give up his boheme lifestyle because of this. Despite its indistinctness the book had a visionary power that resonated with the young socialists.

In 1907 Jaeger together with Ipsen started the paper Korsaren (The Corsair), "a organ of struggle against the social democrat politics of alliance and state parlamentarism - spokesman for pure socialism". Among the persons working with the paper we find the painter Henrik Lund, the norwegian Alf Larsen, Jens Pedersen, the machine worker Julious Weimar and Sophus Rasmussen. The latter committed suicide after having shot a policeman. Jaeger wrote the program of the paper which was a violent attack on the social democrats, at the same time as he put his trust to the young socialists. Ten issues of Korsaren were made. The print run did not exceed 2500. Jaeger also published Skorpionen (The Scorpion) in 1907, which after a break was succeeded by Revolten (The Revolt, 1907-8) of which eight issues were printed. Hans Jaeger also collaborated with the danish Dr Rolf Hammer.

Jaeger had plans of a agitation-tour in Norway, but never got so far. However an anarchist club was founded in Copenhagen and Jaeger held the opening speech for the cirka 100 persons that attended the first meeting. The club disapparead fast and soundless.

Jaeger died after a failed cancer-surgery at the Ullevål hospital in Oslo 1910.

This page has been accessed by visitors outside of Pitzer College times since January 23, 2002.


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