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coup d'etat of Napoleon I. was forgotten when the
sun of Austerlitz rose over the Empire. Napoleon
III., too, was only reminded again of December 2
when he made great blunders in foreign policy, and
only after Sedan "Rue du 2 Decembre" was changed
to "Rue du 4 Septembre."


Every page of German history, on the contrary,
tells how stubbornly the German defends his good
old law, how irreconcilable he is, when old law is dis-
carded to make way for sound and necessary progress.
Law must certainly not be considered superior to the

* "The memory of the National Convention remains a terrible one, but
there is only one fact to urge in its favour, and all reproaches fall to the
ground before this immense fact: it saved us from foreign invasion."

No Policy of Conciliation 217

needs of the State. Fiat jus et pereat mundus does
not apply to politics. But so long as the needs of
the State can be satisfied on the basis of the law this
must be done. Also in the fight against the Social
Democrats. If they openly break the law they must
be paid back in their own coin. Such a turn of af-
fairs must be reckoned with, but it must not be de-
sired or forced. Forcible remedies without healing
powers have never yet produced permanent results.
On the other hand, in view of German conditions, and
especially those in Prussia, the Social Democratic
party, with its present programme and aims, cannot
be placed on the same level as those parties which
take their stand on the existing political system. A
comparison with other countries which have suc-
ceeded, or seem gradually to be succeeding, in mak-
ing the Socialist party participate in the Govern-
ment of the country does not hold good in view of
German conditions. We have a different political
system, and, above all, different Social Democrats.
Here again the warning of Bismarck applies, that we
must not seek our models abroad, if we lack the con-
ditions and qualities necessary for the imitation of
foreign institutions.

In France the Sociahsts have become Ministers,

2. 1 8 Imperial Germany

and good INIinisters too, and have shown how right
is the French proverb which says, "qu'un Jacobin
ministre n'est pas tou jours un ministre jacobin."
Aristide Briand, once a Radical Socialist, proved
himself a determined guardian of public order; the
Social Democrat, Millerand, was an excellent IMin-
ister of War.

In Italy, too, the attempt to make the Socialists
share in the Government has succeeded. In Hol-
land and Denmark similar attempts have probably
been only temporarily abandoned. In a large num-
ber of other counties it will probably not be long be-
fore the French and Italian examples of a gradual
reconcihation with the Socialist element will be im-

We must not be deceived by the apparently favour-
able results of such experiments. Just as our past,
our political development and our peculiarities differ
from those of other countries, so does our Social
Democratic problem. We must study our own con-
ditions, the peculiarities of the German Social Demo-
crats, who attack the foundations of our State, and
the peculiarities of our State, which we must defend
against the Social Democrats.

The strong points of our national character, as well

No Policy of Conciliation 219

as its weak ones, come to light in the Social Demo-
cratic movement. The movement, as it stands at
present, would be an impossibility in any country of
the world except Germany. It is so dangerous to
us because it is so typically German. No other na-
tion has such a gift for organisation, no nation sub-
mits so willingly to discipline, or has the power to
subordinate itself to such an extent to strict discipline.
We owe our best successes to this gift, our most useful
public institutions. The Prussian State was created
by discipline, as were our Army and our Public Serv-
ices. That which other nations did in the heat of
enthusiasm we often achieved by the power of dis-
cipline. The war of 1866 was not popular; the troops
were not urged on by patriotic enthusiasm, as was the
case half a century earlier, but started on their march
to Bohemia in silent submission to the orders of the
commanding officers, and under the rule of discipline
achieved victories as glorious as were those of their
fathers under the inspiration of enthusiasm. After
the war, a Frenchman wrote in admiration: "That
the war in Bohemia had shown what could be achieved
by strength of discipline alone." It is one of the Ger-
man's greatest political virtues that discipline Is bred
in his bone. But the Social Democrats make use of

220 Imperial Germany

this virtue. Only in a State where the people are
used to discipline, where they have learnt to obey un-
questioningly in the Army, and where they feel the
rigid regulations of the administrative machinery
daily and hourly, could a party organisation of such
size and solidarity as that of the Social Democrats
come into being. The way the 4,216 local Societies
submit to the forty-eight country and district Asso-
ciations, and these again to the Central Association;
the way enormous subscriptions are paid as if they
were lawful taxes; the way the huge demonstrations
are arranged, as if they were military operations ; all
this is not the result only of enthusiasm for a political
party, it is also due to the sense of discipline which
the German has in his blood. No nation in the world
possesses or has ever possessed a like or even a similar
party organisation. The clubs of the Jacobins, which
were spread like a network over France, were only
a pale prototype of our Social Democratic organisa-
tion. The provincial Clubs obeyed the Paris Cen-
tral Association only so long as this was a power in
the State, and were closed later on, without difficulty,
at a hint from the Directoire Government. The
strong web of the German Social Democratic party
would not be so easy to tear.

No Policy of Conciliation 221

The late ambassador in St. Petersburg, General
von Schweinitz, once said to me: "There are only
two absolutely perfect organisations in the world : the
Prussian Army and the Catholic Church." As far as
organisation alone is concerned, one might be tempted
to bestow similar praise on the German Social Demo-
cratic party. In one of my Reichstag speeches — it
was in December, 1903 — I said, in this connection:
"If I had to make out a report for the Social Demo-
cratic movement, I should say: Criticism, agitation,
discipline and self-sacrifice, la; positive achievements,
lucidity of programme, Vb." * This organisation of
the Social Democrats is definitely hostile to our po-
litical system, and looks on this hostility as its bond of
union. There is no possibility of reconciling them to
the State and of dissolving them in so doing, by tying
them for a time to the Government cart, or allowing,
this member or the other to take part in the direction
of affairs. The movement is far too strong to allow
itself, so to speak, to be coupled like a truck to the
Government locomotive, and to let itself be pulled
along a definite track; it would want to be a locomo-
tive itself, and would try to pull in the opposite direc-
tion. The Social Democrats would not obey a man

* la, the best, and Vb, the worst marks in a school report.

222 Imperial Germany

from their midst who, in existing circumstances,
should take service as a Minister any more than any
other German party has ever done.

To this must be added that the dogmatic trait, so
characteristic of the German people, is also strongly
expressed in our Social Democratic part^^ The Ger-
man Social Democrat clings tenaciously to the tenets
of his party, tenaciously and uncritically, and caring
nothing for the inner contradictions of the Social
Democratic programme. And as this programme is in-
compatible with the existing State, the German Social
Democrats are irreconcilable. The German working
men, more than the same class In any other countrj^
are inclined to believe implicitly in the Socialistic prin-
ciples and the brilliant sophisms of Lassalle, and in
the system of Marx, the construction of which affords
proof of tremendous mental power and rare per-
sj^icacity, of extraordinary knowledge and still more
extraordinary dialectics, but which, in the course of
historical development, has been refuted and shaken
to its foundations. When Giolitti reproached the
Italian Socialists with having discarded the tenets of
Marx, he only evoked intelligent amusement. An
apostrophe of that kind in our country would have
been met with indignant protests. Our Social Demo-

No Policy of Conciliation 223

cratic party is of the school of Eisenach; not Lassalle
and Rodbertus, but Marx and Engels, Bebel and
Liebknecht have been its guides, and its attitude to-
wards the State is incomparably more hostile than
that of the Socialist parties in France and Italy, which
attribute a more or less academic value to Socialistic
theories, and which are founded, not only on the So-
cialistic idea, but also on national memories. French
Socialism really springs from the Great Revolution,
and the Revolution, like the Risorgimento, was in-
spired by a passionately patriotic spirit.

Our Social Democratic party lacks this national
basis. It will have nothing to do with German pa-
triotic memories which bear a monarchical and mili-
tary character. It is not, like the French and Italian
parties, a precipitate of the process of national his-
torical development, but since its existence it has been
in determined opposition to our past history as a na-
tion. It has placed itself outside our national life.
Whatever is achieved and accomplished in the State
is of no interest to it, except in so far as it can serve
to crush existing conditions, and in that manner clear
the way for the realisation of purely Socialistic ideas.
In the calendar that the Vorwdrts publishes every
year, Bismarck and Moltke, Bliicher and Scharnhorst,

224 Imperial Germany

Ziethen and Seidlitz are not mentioned, nor are Leip-
zig and Waterloo, Koniggratz and Sedan, but a series
of Russian Nihilists and Italian Anarchists and their
murderous enterprises are named.

Just as one of the greatest German virtues, the
sense of discipline, finds special and disquieting ex-
pression in the Social Democratic movement, so does
our old vice, envy. Propter invidiam, said Tacitus
about our ancestors ; the Germans destroyed their lib-
erators, the Cherusci. Envy is one of the main-
springs of our Social Democratic movement. Eco-
nomic contrasts have been intensified just as much in
other countries as with us. The violent exasperation
roused thereby in Germany is found nowhere else,
in spite of the fact that so much has been accom-
plished in social reform, and although Germany led
the way in making provision for the poor, and is still
in advance of all other countries in this respect. The
struggle of the labouring classes for better conditions
of life, which originated at the time of the inception
of the Social Democratic movement, has gro^^Ti at
times in Germany to a fanatical hatred of property
and culture, birth and position. The excellent ar-
rangements to raise the status of the workmen have
not had much effect on this envy. Daily fanned into

No Policy of Conciliation 225

fresh flame by the sight of the contrast between rich
and poor, this envy would not vanish if some leader
or other took liis seat on the Ministerial Bench. The
Social Democratic movement has become a reservoir
for this envy.

The German Social Democrats cling most lovingly,
and with tenacious obstinacy, to the ultimate goal of
Socialism, the destruction of differences in wealth by
the suppression of private property and the national-
isation of the means of production. The Social Dem-
ocrats, too, will not be won over by a pohcy of recon-
ciliation, propter invidiam. And finally, the objec-
tionable German caste-feehng which stands in the
way of natural social intercourse, and which has an
adverse influence on our whole political life, finds its
ultimate and bitterest expression in Social Demo-
cratic class-hatred. The old classes, historic in origin,
had been delimited by public and legal circumstances.
The Social Democratic proletariat, with its class-
hatred, created itself, and has thrown up a dividing
wall between itself and the rest of its fellow country-
men. It will have nothing in common with the other
classes of society. And, as with every caste, the So-
cial Democratic proletariat not only considers itself
better, more useful and more competent than other

226 Imperial Germany

classes of the nation, but it also aims at dominating
all the other classes. If the attempt were made
amongst us to bring the Social Democratic party into
line with the middle-class parties, it is very question-
able whether the Social Democrats would consent.
They feel they have a vocation for autocratic rule,
and will hardly content themselves with a propor-
tionate share in the Government.


In the German Empire, Prussia is the leading
State. The Social Democratic movement is the an-
tithesis of the Prussian State. A well-known propo-
sition of Hegel's maintains that every idea includes
its reverse counter idea. It is most significant that
the philosoj)her who called the State the present deity,
whose legal philosophy was a glorification of the Prus-
sian State, who rejoiced in the special protection of
the highest Prussian State authorities, should have
created the logical premises for the conclusions of

The peculiarity of the Prussian State, which is the
backbone of our political life, makes a solution of the
Social Democratic problem particularly difficult for
us. The practical modus Vivendi with the Social

Prussian State and Social Democrats 227

Democrats, that has been attempted here and there
in Southern Germany, does not seem possible in Prus-
sia. Prussia attained her greatness as a country of
soldiers and officials, and as such she was able to ac-
complish the work of German union; to this day she
is still in all essentials a State of soldiers and officials.
The strong control exercised by the authorities in Prus-
sia has always evoked a particularly vigorous counter
movement. The Berlin mania for grumbling and
criticism was well known throughout Germany in the
times of the absolute monarchy, when Frederick the
Great had the pamphlets hung lower. Only civil au-
thorities, who were as greatly used to guidance as the
Prussians were, could lose their heads so completely
as they did in the disastrous year of 1806, when con-
trol slipped out of the hands of the Government.
Even after the transition to constitutional forms of
Government the Democracy in Prussia remained far
more hostile than in the South, and went further in
its demands. In consequence, the reaction in Prussia
in the 'fifties was particularly severe. The Social
Democrats, who in South Germany often adopt a
conciliatory attitude and are ready to forgo some of
the demands of the Socialistic programme for the
sake of the practical politics of the day, are in Prussia

228 Imperial Germany

as extreme in their attitude as in their demands. As
a natural contrast to this, Prussia has a far stronger
Conservative element than any other German State
possesses or needs. The Prussian State may be com-
pared to a man, and, like any man worth his salt, is
full of violent contrasts and only capable of great
achievements when animated by a strong purpose.
At home and abroad this State has mostly been very
strong or very weak. Deeds of great strength and
deeds of great weakness are found here in close prox-
imity. Jena and Leipzig are only seven years apart.
The sad retreat of the troops from Berlin on JNIarch
19, 1848, and the weak-kneed policy which led back
by way of Bronzell and Olmiitz to the old Federal
Diet, were followed twenty years later by Sadowa
and Sedan. Under powerful authority, Prussia was
stronger in herself and had a more devoted and better
disciplined population than any other State. But
when the authorities became weak and disheartened,
timid and neutral in the expression of their will, Prus-
sia experienced a more complete breakdown of her
State machinery than any other country. The au-
thorities were hopelessly incompetent, when in 1806
the Minister for Home Affairs declared peacefulness
to be the first duty of the people, though the country

Prussian State and Social Democrats 229

lay at the mercy of the enemy, and the officials of
Berlin humbly welcomed the conqueror at the Bran-
denburg Gate ; so were they, too, in the year of revo-
lution, 1848, when the Lord Lieutenant of the Prov-
ince of Saxony declared proudly that he took up his
stand above all parties, while a mighty j)arty movement
was shaking the foundations of the monarchy. If
the Prussian Government wanted to come to terms
with the Social Democrats, and was willing to recog-
nise as legitimate the demands of a party which for
decades has been combating the monarchical and mili-
tary foundations of the Prussian State, the Prussian
civil servants, the middle-classes, the country popula-
tion East of the Elbe, and possibly the army itself,
would be at a loss what to make of the State and
the authorities. If the Government renounced the
fight against the Social Democrats, Prussia would
take it to mean that they had yielded to the forces
of revolution. And they would be right, if, after
half a century of fighting, the Government could find
no other solution than a shameful peace with the
enemy. The results of a weak attitude towards the
Social Democrats to-day would be more fatal in Prus-
sia than weakness towards the March Revolution was.
And it is very questionable whether another Bismarck

230 Imperial Germany

could be found to restore the authority of the Crown
which had been weakened, not by defeats, but first
by irresolution and indulgent forbearance, and then
by stupid and foolish retrograde action.

For the Prussian official, the Prussian soldier and
the Prussian civilian, whose views are rooted in Pi*us-
sian traditions, confidence in the strength of the Gov-
ernment is a necessary condition of devoted loyalty.
An agreement with the Social Democrats, which
might be interpreted as an act of political wisdom in
South Gemiany, would in Prussia be synonymous
with a triumph of the Social Democrats over the Gov-
ernment and over the Crown.

The immediate consequence would be an enormous
increase in the membership of the Social Democratic
party. In Prussia loyalty to the King, which is bred
in the bone of the Prussian and bequeathed to him
by remote ancestors, keeps many back from joining
the Social Democrats. But hundreds of thousands
would follow without scruple a Social Democratic
party which had acquired almost royal privileges.
Instead of winning over the party to the interests of
the State, in Prussia thousands of good subjects, in
a state of bewilderment as regards their political ideas,
would be driven to the side of the Social Democrats.

Prussian State and Social Democrats 231

The party would emerge from such an agreement, not
weakened but strengthened, and it would not dream
of approaching the State in earnest, or of changing
for the sake of the State, since the latter was ready
to meet it half way in any case. In Prussia the ex-
periment of coming to terms could only be possible if
the Social Democratic party had first publicly, and
in full form, made its peace with the monarchy. Un-
til that has come to pass the Prussian Government
cannot attempt a policy of conciliation as regards the
Social Democratic party without fear of destroying
the State. The Social Democrats hate the Kingdom
of the Eagle, "which dips one wing in the Niemen
and the other in the Rhine." They hate Prussia as
being a State of orderly organisation, the heart and
core of the German Empire, the State without which
the German Empire would not exist, whose kings
united Germany, with which the future of the Empire,
stands or falls.

Bebel's words, that if the Social Democrats had
won Prussia they would have won all, are perfectly
true. But it is also true that Prussia is difficult, if
not impossible, for them to win if they have to fight
against a strong Government, but that with the aid
of the Government no German State would so easily

232 Imperial Germany

be conquered by the Social Democrats as Prussia.
The iDeculiarities of Prussian conditions must, of
course, react on the Empire. It is impossible to come
to an agreement for any length of time with the So-
cial Democrats on important questions of Imperial
legislation, and yet to retain a violent antagonism to
the Social Democrats in Prussia. The Reichstag
elections cannot be carried on from an absolutely dif-
ferent standpoint from that of the Prussian Diet
elections. The Social Democrats will hardly be will-
ing to come to an arrangement in the Empire so long
as they are opposed in Prussia. On the other hand,
an attemf)t on the part of the Imperial Government
to make an agreement would have the same confusing
and disintegrating effect on Prussia as a similar at-
tempt in that State itself. If the Empire is gov-
erned without reference to Prussia, ill-will towards
the Empire will gi'ow in that country. If Prussia
is governed without reference to the Empire, then
there is the danger that mistrust and dislike of the
leading State will gain ground in non-Prussian Ger-
many. It has always been disastrous for Prussia
if necessary reforms, instead of being undertaken in
time, were stubbornly refused until at last, by force
of circumstances, they had to be granted in an ex-

Isolation of the Social Democrats 233

treme form. The art of governing in our country
will always have to be directed chiefly towards main-
taining the harmony between Germany and Prussia
in the spirit as well as in the letter.

The peculiarity of the conditions in our State, as
well as the character of our Social Democratic party,
are both equally opposed to a policy of conciliation.
Forcible suppression of the Social Democratic move-
ment is out of the question. By these two direct
methods no solution of the Social Democratic prob-
lem, no exorcism of the danger which threatens us,
is possible. The only hope is to attack the causes
and the forces which inspire the Social Democratic


The Social Democratic movement is revolutionary
in character. It is a question whether it will proceed
to revolutionary deeds. Its aims, which involve a
fundamental change of our whole public life, are revo-
lutionary sans phrase. Consequently for this move-
ment those experiences are applicable which have been
gathered in every other revolutionary movement. His-
tory shows that a radical tendency rarely grows more
moderate without some external cause. New fol-

234 Imperial Germany

lowers which a Radical party obtains rarely have a
moderating influence for any length of time; rather
they tend to enhance the striking power, and are liable
to submit with increasing docility to Radical leader-
ship. As in every partj^ the extreme section of the
Social Democratic party has taken command in de-
cisive moments because they seemed to have the clear-
est perception.

The opinion is often expressed that the Social Dem-
ocratic party will grow less dangerous and calmer
as members of the educated classes join it. Such a
belief is contrary to all experience. The educated
men in the Social Democratic movement do not form
a bridge by which the proletariat may approach the
representatives of the existing order, but a bridge by
which intellect passes over to the masses. But it is
when the educated classes join a revolutionary move-
ment that it becomes a serious danger.

History teaches us that such movements can be
victorious when the temper of the intellectuals, of
middle-class intelligence, makes them unite with the
masses in their desires. Thus it was in the Great
Revolution. So long as the superior insight, the
strong will of a Mirabeau kept the Liberal bour-
geoisie attached to the monarchy and aloof from the

Isolation of the Social Democrats 235

Jacobins, a peaceful transition of France to the forms
of a constitutional kingdom lay within the bounds of
possibility. When, after his death, the Gironde ob-
tained ascendancy and the bourgeoisie united with
the town mobs against the supporters of the old
regime and the Constitutional Monarchists, the fate of

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Online LibraryBernhard BülowImperial Germany → online text (page 12 of 18)