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Ultra-Liberals still held off. The case was much the
same with the Navj^ Bills. Hot fights were the rule,
and consent was usually the result of long discussions
and explanations between the Government and the
parties. In the year 1897 not even two cruisers were
granted, and yet in the following year it was possible
to get a majority in the same Reichstag for the first
great Navy Bill.

In the interval, comprehensive and enlightening
work had been done. The Emperor William II. had
advocated the national cause with all his heart and
soul. Learned men hke Adolph Wagner, Schmoller,
Sering, Lamprecht, Erich Marks and many others
made successful propaganda for the fleet at that time
and in subsequent years, especially among the edu-
cated classes. The Bill of 1898 was passed by a ma-

198 Imperial Germany

jority of 212 against 139 votes. Twenty members of
the Centre, all the Ultra-Liberals and, of course, the
Social Democrats voted against it. The important
Navy Bill of 1900 again fomid the Ultra-Liberals
solidly on the side of the Opposition. The Centre
this time voted as one man for the BiU after the num-
ber of cruisers demanded had been reduced from
sixty- four to fifty-one. In the year 1906 these addi-
tional ships, which had been refused before, were
granted by the majority which passed the Tariff BiU.
In the same way the increase in the dimensions of the
battleships, necessitated by the example of England,
was granted.

In the end we certainly succeeded in obtaining ma-
jorities of the middle classes for all these Armament
Bills. But their acceptance was nearly always the
result of difficult negotiations, and often of inconven-
ient compromises. We were very far from being
able to count on sure and substantial national majori-
ties for our legitimate and reasonable Armament
Bills. More than once the decision hung in the bal-
ance. And had it not been, as was the case in the
Army Bill of 1893, for the unexpected assistance of
the Poles, success and failure would each time have
been dependent on the presence or absence of the

History of German Policy of Armaments 199

good will of the Centre. This was bound to give that
party not only a very strong sense of power, but a
great deal of actual power. The expression, "the all-
powerful Centre," so often heard before 1907, was
fully justified. In point of fact, a party, on whose
good will the Empire was dependent in all questions
of national existence, was virtually in possession of
political leadership, at least in those matters which,
in accordance with the Constitution, are open to the
influence of parties and the representatives of the
people. And when the Colonial debates of the win-
ter of 1906 showed that it was by no means safe to
count on the Centre in all national questions, it be-
came clear that some solution yet remained to be
found for the problem of how to safeguard these ques-
tions in the party warfare. The change of front of
the party of progress, and the victory at the poll of
the new majority of the Block, put an end to this rule
of the Centre which we have just described. The
Centre learnt that the fate of national questions no
longer depended on it alone, and it learnt further that
the negative attitude might well prove fatal to its
powerful position in Parliament. Even though the
Block could only be kept together for a few years, yet
the possibiHty remains that it might be formed again

200 Imperial Germany

if the Centre should fail to come up to the mark in a
national question, or should, by siding with the Social
Democrats, defeat a Bill for the furtherance of na-
tional aims. The Centre will not be so ready, as it
often was in past years, to allow its attitude with re-
gard to national questions to be influenced by ill-feel-
ing occasioned by matters of home politics. The
Ultra-Liberals proved, in the spring of 1912 and in
the summer of 1913, that they consider the change of
front carried out in 1906 a permanent one.

That there has been such a development of the na-
tional idea, and that such a change has come over
the attitude of the parties towards Imperial questions
of protection and armament, must fill every patriot
with joy and confidence. Fifty years ago, King Wil-
liam found himself alone with his Ministry and a
small Conservative minority, in the struggle to re-
organise the Prussian Army. After the founding of
the Empire, Bismarck had to fight obdurately with
the parties for every Army requisition, however small.
The year 1893 witnessed once more a bitter struggle
in home politics for an Army Bill. In October, 1899,
the Emperor William II. lamented that, "in spite of
urgent requests and warnings" during the first eight
years of his reign, the increase in the Navy had been

History of German Policy of Armaments 201

steadily refused. When at last the idea of a navy
had taken root in the minds of the people, even then
the individual Navy Bills were only passed after hard
fights in Parliament.

The Armament Bills of 1912 were passed by the
whole of the German middle-class parties in the Reich-
stag. The Army Bill of the j^ear 1913 met with such
a willing reception from all parties as had never be-
fore been accorded to any requisition for armaments
on land or at sea. For the Army Bill itself no serious
exposition was really required. If the parties fought
over the question of expense, it was for reasons due
to the general situation in party politics, and consid-
erations of very serious questions of finance. Not
one of the middle-class parties, from the extreme
Right to the Ultra-Liberals, even thought of making
their consent to the Armament Bill dependent on the
difficulties and differences of opinion in the question
of meeting expenses. The national idea has taken
firm root among all the middle-class parties. As far
as man can teU, every necessary and justifiable Army
and Navy Bill will always be able to count on a safe
parliamentary majority. The period of the Block
played a very essential part in the attainment of this

202 Imperial Germany


If the strengthening of the national front rank may
be regarded as a permanent result of the parliamen-
tary struggles of the winter of 1906 and of the com-
bination of 1906-1909, then the great electoral vic-
tory over the Social Democrats, won in the year 1907,
has unfortunately not borne such lasting fruit as it
could and should have done. In spite of this the re-
sult of those elections was of very great importance.
The fact that the Social Democratic constituencies
were reduced from eighty-one and could be reduced to
forty-three, has a significance which is not confined
to the individual electoral campaign. The talk about
a chance victory is either due to the untruthfulness
of party politicians or to regrettable thoughtlessness.
Such chance occurrences have no more existence in
politics than in life. In politics, too, every important
effect has a corresponding cause. Such a well or-
ganised party as that of the Social Democrats does
not lose forty-four constituencies, nor is the number
of its seats reduced by thirty-six, without sufficient
cause. Against their forty- four losses in 1907 there
were only eight gains. This success could not be

Campaign Against the Social Democrats 203

attributed to the national watchword alone. The
General Election after the dissolution in 1893 took
place under the auspices of a similar watchword, and
it resulted in a considerable increase of votes for the
extreme Left, and, what is of more practical impor-
tance in the course of legislative work, a considerable
increase of seats. The cause of the loss of Social
Democratic seats in 1907 is to be found in the pre-
liminary work done before that date in Parliament
and the Press, by speeches and explanations; in the
fact that the right moment was seized to dissolve the
Reichstag; in the correct treatment and estimate of
imponderables; and in the direction of the electoral

It is a mistake to under-estimate the value of an
electoral triumph over the Social Democrats, because
the loss of seats is not accompanied by a correspond-
ing loss of votes. Of course, it would be better not
only to gain ground in the Reichstag against the So-
cial Democrats, but also to win over to the national
camp a part of their adherents and followers. But
this twofold success is difficult to achieve in the mean-
time, and would only be possible under political cir-
cumstances which have not hitherto arisen. Since the

204. Imperial Germany

year 1884, the number of votes recorded in favoui uf
the Social Democrats has steadily increased. In
round numbers the votes recorded are:


1887 ..

. . . . . . uo\j,\j\jyi


1890 ..



.. 1,787,000

1898 ..


1903 ..


1907 ..

.. 3,539,000

1912 ...

.. 4,250,000

These figures are doubly instructive. They show the
dangerous increase in the number of the supporters of
the Social Democrats, and the waning disinclination
of the middle-classes to afford them direct support at
the elections. But the figures also demonstrate that
it is possible to weaken the party of the Social Demo-
crats in the Reichstag in spite of the power of their
propaganda. This is clearly shown by the number of
'he seats they have obtained since 1884:

1884 ..


1887 ..


1890 ..


1893 ..


1898 ..


1903 ..


1907 ..


1912 ..

. 110

Campaign Against the Social Democrats 205

These two tables show that a decrease in the votes
for the Social Democrats has hitherto not been at-
tainable, but that under suitable guidance it is pos-
sible to reduce the number of their seats in the Reich-
stag. Sound practical policy attends to the achieve-
ment of such good as is possible, if for the time being
better things are unattainable.

The rise in the number of votes for the Social Demo-
crats is a very serious matter. But as the voting
papers have no other immediate object than to gain
seats, as the total mass of the supporters and fol-
lowers of the Social Democrats, huge as it is, can
only influence the course of practical legislation if
the strength of the Social Democrats in the Reichstag
is proportionately increased, the first duty of the
Government is to neutralise the effect which the heavy
Social Democrat poll has upon the election result. If
such a success under the guidance of the Government
IS secured, not once but repeatedly, then it cannot
fail, in the long run, to react on the canvassing and
agitation of the Social Democrats. For what is true
for all human activity is particularly true in the sphere
of politics ; nothing has a more paralysing effect than
the knowledge that continuous and strenuous effort
remains permanently unsuccessful. The prestige of

2o6 Imperial Germany

the Social Democi'ats is t'ounded largely on a belief
in the irresistible growth of their power. From this
point of view also, the result of the elections of 1907
teaches us a lesson of great and lasting value.

The fact that the Conservatives and Liberals were
on the same side in the principal ballots and the sec-
ond ballots in 1907, resulted in a very considerable
reduction in Social Democratic seats in spite of the
increase in the Social Democratic vote.

In this respect the Block elections were even more
successful than the Cartel elections in 1887. The
Cartel reduced the Social Democratic seats from
twenty-four to eleven, while the number of Social
Democratic votes increased by nearly a third. At
the Block elections the number of Social Democratic
seats fell from eighty-one to forty-three, while the
votes increased by about a sixth. At the same time,
in the one case the Cartel, and in the other the Block,
obtained a majority in the Reichstag. The loss of
the Social Democrats was the gain of the Conserva-
tives and Liberals. The cause of this is that in
nearly all the constituencies which can be successfully
contested in opposition to the Social Democrats, Lib-
eralism and Conservatism are so strongly repre-
sented that their united strength can beat the Social

Campaign Against the Social Democrats 207

Democrats, but the latter win the day if Conserva-
tives and Liberals split votes. The point, of course,
is to arrange and direct the electoral campaign in
such a way that the Conservatives and Liberals can
unite. Of the sixty-nine constituencies which the So-
cial Democrats gained in the January elections of
1912, no fewer than sixty-six had returned Conserva-
tives or Liberals in 1907; twenty-nine had fallen to
the share of the Conservatives and their neighbours,
and thirty-seven to the Liberal parties. The elec-
tions of 1907 inflicted the severest loss that the So-
cial Democrats had experienced since the founding
of the Reichstag; the elections of 1912 brought them
the greatest gain. The parties of the Right fell from
the hundred and thirteen seats that they had won in
1907 to sixty-nine in 1912. That is the smallest
number of members of the Right since the year 1874.
The number of Liberals in the Reichstag after the
elections of 1912 was lower than ever before. At
the elections of 1907, for the first time, Conserva-
tives and Liberals of all shades of opinion were
united for one cause. The elections of 1912 saw a
close coalition of all the parties of the Left. In 1907
the Right emerged from the elections as the strong-
est group, numbering a hundred and thirteen mem-

2o8 Imperial Germany

bers as against a hundred and six Liberals, a hun-
dred and five representatives of the Centre, and forty-
three Socialists. In the year 1912 the Social Demo-
crats were the strongest party in the Reichstag, with
a hundred and ten members, while there were ninety
representatives of the Centre, eighty-five Liberals,
and sixty-nine Conservatives of all shades of opinion.
The comparison between 1907 and 1912 tempts
one to ask where the blame lies. I will leave this
question unanswered. But the comparison teaches
an interesting lesson. It shows that Conservatism
cannot find in the assistance of the Centre compensa-
tion for the loss occasioned by being completely out
of touch with the Left. It shows that the Social
Democrats have least chance at elections if the Lib-
erals have been successfully separated from them, and
that they achieve their greatest successes when mid-
dle-class Liberalism assists them, either voluntarily
or because it is driven to do so.


From first to last during my term of office I rec-
ognised that the Social Democratic movement con-
stituted a great and serious danger. It is the duty
of every German Ministry to combat this movement

Combating the Social Democrats 209

until it is defeated or materially changed. There
can be no doubt as to the task itself, but there may
be hesitation as to the choice of means.

Since the law against the Socialists lajjsed, sup-
pression by force is no longer feasible. The last time
proceedings of this kind were possible was when
Prince Bismarck, a man who had won such unpar-
alleled successes, a man of such immense reputation,
was at the head of the Government. He could have
undertaken and carried out extraordinary measures
in home politics, as he was able to do in for-
eign politics, thanks to his international reputa-
tion. Under the political rule of Bismarck much
was possible and feasible that must nowadays silently
bq set down as impracticable. He was a political
premise in himself. It is foolish to desire means and
enterprises for which this premise is wanting. We
must often pursue other courses, and summon up
strength and will to reach our goal by their means,
without having Bismarck to lead us. This api)lies
also to the fight against the Social Democrats.

Of course every disturbance of public order must
be suppressed energetically. That is the first duty
of every Government in every civilised State, be it
Republican or Monarchical, whether the Govern-

210 Imperial Germany

ment be guided by Conservative, Liberal or Demo-
cratic opinions. The resolute way in which in France
Ministers belonging to the Radical party with praise-
worthy energy suppressed attempts to disturb public
order, may well serve as a model for every INIinister
in other countries. Ill-advised consideration in this
respect is a lack of consideration for the great ma-
jority of the nation, that has a right to expect to work
under the protection of an orderly state of affairs.
In accordance wdth this view, Goethe, who was not so
indiiFerent to political matters as is often supposed,
characterised the maintenance of public order as the
first duty of every Government. In sympathy with
this idea, Schopenhauer, who most certainly was an
independent thinker, bequeathed all his fortune to a
fund started in Berlin, "for the support of Prussian
soldiers disabled in maintaining and restoring public
order in Germany during the revolts and disturb-
ances of the years 1848 and 1849." But it is one
thing for the Government to proceed by force against
disturbances of the peace, and quite another, in order
to prevent possible civil disturbances, for it to inter-
fere with the peaceful development of a Radical move-
ment among the people. In the latter case, by em-
plojang force, it runs the risk of rousing active re-

Combating the Social Democrats 211

sentment which might possihly never have broken out
otherwise. Every blow j)rovokes a return blow of
corresponding strength. A strong, well-organised
poHtical movement in the nation, based on wide and
rehable sympathies, will gain in striking power the
moment it sees that it is exposed to the danger of be-
ing suppressed by force. The recruiting power of a
cause is greatly increased if it has the luck, thanks to
excess of zeal on the part of its opponents, to be
able to point to martyrs to the cause. With regard
to this, we need only call to memory the notorious
persecutions of demagogues during the second, third
and fourth decades of the nineteenth century. By
outlawing a number of more or less harmless advo-
cates of democracy the Government gave the demo-
cratic movement of those times claims on many classes
of the people, which they would certainly not have
won over by the power of their ideas alone. The re-
sult was the outbreak of 1848.

Of course, it is not possible to say how things
would work out in detail nowadays if the Govern-
ment were to resort to force. The whole situation
is very different from that during the first third of
the nineteenth century. On the one hand, the mod-
ern Social Democratic movement is less good-na-

212 Imperial Germany

tured and less idealistic than the middle-class demo-
cratic movement before the ]\Iarch Revolution; it
lacks the warm-hearted patriotism of the old German
Democrats; but its economic socialistic aims give it
far more trenchancy and force. On the other hand,
when Prussia was despotically ruled, there was a lack
of the safety valves of parliamentary life, of the
freedom of the Press, and of the right to form As-
sociations and hold meetings — safety valves which are
useful and have become Indispensable. Exceptional
laws against the Social Democrats would choke these
outlets. They would force the Social Democratic
movement to transform itself from a strong party
movement into a powerful secret society. Like a
permanent conspiracy, with all the venom, the bit-
terness and the fanaticism, which have hitherto char-
acterised every movement that has been branded by
the Government as unlawful, the party would only
become welded together more firmly; but, as far as
the Government and the people are concerned, the
open enemy whose methods can be controlled would
become a secret foe, whose courses it would not al-
ways be possible to trace.

If the Government decides to use forcible means,
it deprives itself of all possibility of perhaps effecting

Combating the Social Democrats 213

more by peaceful methods. Force can only be used
as the very last resource. It only comes into ques-
tion when all peaceful methods obviously have failed.
So far this is not the case. If once the Government
embarks on a course of violence there can be no turn-
ing back, for that would mean a confession of de-
feat. If the means which law and justice place at
our disposal fail, the last resource still remains. No
good general calls up his reserves at the beginning of
an engagement, he keeps them back so that if the
battle takes a critical turn he may not be defence-
less. These excellent military tactics are of equal
value in political struggles. Those are the best po-
litical successes that are won with least sacrifice. In
case of need the strongest measures are the best.
But they should not be used without urgent necessity,
and, above all, without the certainty that they will be
successful. Bismarck could break all rules, and could
expect success from an extreme and bold action. We
cannot do so to-day, and are obliged to depend on un-
tiring and steady endeavour. Of course it is within
the province of such endeavour fearlessly to apply
the laws which serve to maintain order, safety and
liberty, and if they should prove insufficient in in-
dividual points, to supplement them.

214 Imperial Germany

Forcible proceedings against the Social Democrats
would immediately come into question if they were
provoked by any violent outburst of the Social Demo-
cratic movement. That, however, is hardly to be ex-
pected and is improbable, if the Goverment attacks
the problem of dealing with the Social Democrats
skilfully and performs its task energetically. There
are politicians who think it would be no misfortune if
a violent outburst took place, because then there would
be a possibility of cutting the Gordian knot of the
Socialist question with the sword and thus attain-*
ing a final solution.

If the Social Democrats should be stupid and crim-
inal enough to resort to open rebellion, then, of
course, all considerations and all doubts would have
to be discarded, in the face of the necessity of defend-
ing the foundations of our State and our civilisation.
But to desire such a development of aif airs is short-
sighted. I once expressed in the Reichstag what con-
sideration a policy deserves that wishes for a violent
outburst in the country, or even goes the length of
provoking it in the hope of arriving at better condi-
tions by suppressing it forcibly. In France forty
years ago it was called "politique de la mer Rouge/*
The Red Sea was to be crossed in order to reach the

Combating the Social Democrats 215

Promised Land. Only, unfortunately, there is great
danger of drowning in the Red Sea and never reach-
ing the Promised Land. A large proportion of the
French JNIonarchists acted in pursuance of this
recipe, when the preliminary signs of the great Rev-
olution increased in number. Instead of coming to
an agreement with the moderate men, they perse-
cuted them with bitter animosity, and preferred to
favour the extremists indirectly, in the hope thereby
of bringing about the deluge, after which they would
be in clover. The deluge came, but they were not in
clover. The attempt to set a thief to catch a tliief
has rarely succeeded in politics.

Germany is not the country for a coup d'etat. No
people in the world has such a strong sense of law as
the Germans. Nowhere does the infringement of a
law, whether of common law or of public equity, pro-
duce such passionate resentment as in Germany, nor
is there any nation which finds it so hard to forget
such a breach as we do. The objection of most Ger-
man parties to exceptional laws and exceptional ex-
pedients is also due to their innate dislike of break-
ing the law. The French are less sensitive on this
point. The supporters of the Great Revolution still
glory in its terrorism. Thiers, in the seventh volume

2i6 Imperial Germany

of his "History of the French Revolution," in con-
sidering the Reign of Terror of the National Con-
vention, concludes with the words: "Le souvenir de
la Convention. Rationale est demeure terrible; mais
pour eUe il n'y a qu'un fait a alleguer, un seul, et
tons les reproches tombent devant ce fait immense:
elle nous a sauves de I'invasion etrangere." * M.
Clemenceau was of opinion that the Revolution, with
all its excesses and infringement of the law, must be
taken en bloc and be considered as a whole. The

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Online LibraryBernhard BülowImperial Germany → online text (page 11 of 18)