Germany Until the Fall of Bismarck 1

Germany Until the Fall of Bismarck Part I

Internal politics. – According to GETZIPCODES.ORG, the Germanic Empire is presented in the form of a league among the various states that compose it, but Bismarck manages to fully safeguard the Prussian dominance in the new Confederation, which will make his work subsequent to the formation of German unity less easy. Organizing and consolidating the empire above or with the collaboration or perhaps the opposition of the various parties: this is the new task of the “Iron Chancellor”. Thus, convinced that the conservative forces must continue to be preponderant in Prussia, and, through the Bundesrat, in the Empire, it is deliberate to defend the old conservative state; however, he does not disdain the support of the liberals, on the contrary he skillfully uses it to obtain rapid and remarkable results in the development of his program, such as the unification of money and weights and measures, the organization of post offices, telegraphs and telephones, Criminal code of the Empire, the code of procedure, the preparatory work for the civil code, the organization of the courts, to fight Catholics and socialists. With all his might, however, he opposes even a small extension of the powers of the Reichstag, whose interference remains almost limited to the juridical and economic life. His influence on foreign policy was zero or almost zero, while, with the threat of resigning, Bismarck obtained that the funds requested by the General Staff for the reorganization of the army were allowed for seven years.

The ” Kulturkampf “. – In 1870 the party of the Prussian Center (Centrumspartei) was formed in order to “protect the freedom of the Church and preserve the confessional primary school”. In the same year, in the elections to the Prussian Landtag, the Center won 57 seats, of which 40 in Rhineland and Westphalia. The bishop of Mainz, who had several times had contact with Bismarck, had asked that the articles contained in the Prussian constitution, concerning the freedom of the Church in the question of mixed marriages, be included in the constitution of the Empire. And the bishop himself, in the elections for the first Reichstag, had set the task of obtaining that Catholics live freely according to the faith, “in the fullness of their rights even in the new Germany”, on the Center group, without depending on the good will of a hostile majority. Except that the Catholic movement with the ensuing struggle did not fail to have strong political reflections: thus the “Guelphs” of Hanover, who denied any validity to annexation, gathered at the Center; so too, in the Polish territories subjected to Prussia, the Catholic clergy are ostentatiously at the head of the resistance and of the struggle against German domination. On the other hand, after the Vatican Council in which the infallibility of the pontiff in solemn definitions on questions of faith and morals was proclaimed, the German bishops had submitted, but not so a certain number of professors of theological faculties and middle schools and many teachers in charge of religious teaching whose dismissal the Center had requested. But Bismarck, who for a long time had cherished the idea of ​​forming a German Catholic Church independent of Rome, wanted to see in all this a real “mobilization against the state”; with the alliance of the liberals, he then went on to a merciless offensive. In 1872, the law against the Jesuits and the dissolution of the congregations that caused the Holy See to break off relations with Germany; the following year, primary education was removed from the control of the clergy and subjected to the state, until, in 1873, the so-called “May Laws” deprived the clergy of rights and privileges, to the point of demanding that a priest could not have an ecclesiastical office if he had not attended the state high school and a German university. These prescriptions provoked a letter-protest from the pontiff to the emperor and a reply from William I, correct in form but clear and decisive in the reference to the constitution. Consequences of this offensive are a rapid increase in the Center’s representatives Prussian Landtag and the Reichstag (100 seats in the elections of 1878) and the almost total vacancy of the episcopal seats in Prussia; Hence Bismarck, worried, takes advantage of Leo XIII’s elevation to the pontificate to enter into relations with him and gradually abolish, but with some exceptions, the laws against the congregations and the clergy.

Social democracy. – Profitable for the life of the Empire and for German social progress was Bismarck’s struggle against socialism and social democracy. Germany, already many years before national unification, was the classic country of socialism. The use of steam and the consequent decrease in the demand for labor, the large-scale employment of cheaper women and children had contributed in themselves to the formation of a proletarian consciousness. In the 1960s, a current that followed its own paths broke away from bourgeois liberalism. Three years later Ferdinando Lassalle founded the General Association of German Workers (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein): there are few adherents, but the terrain is favorable for welcoming the ideas of Charles Marx. Nine years later A. Bebel and W. Liebknecht split the workers’ associations of Saxony and southern Germany from the People’s Democratic Party and formed the Social Democratic Labor Party(Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei) in Eisenach. Violent disputes arouse the formation of these workers’ organizations. In 1875 the followers of Lassalle joined the Marxists and founded the German Socialist Workers’ Party (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands), which two years later had the possibility of sending to the Reichstag twelve representatives. The preaching against capital, against the state and its supporters, the army and the Church, reaches a climax at this time. Bismarck uses legal weapons to fight socialism, but after a second attack in which the emperor is wounded, he dissolves the Reichstag and causes the new Assembly to accept laws restricting freedom – prohibition of meetings and prohibitions of socialist publications – and severe penalties against criminals, starting however, immediately afterwards, that grandiose work of social legislation – insurance against illnesses, accidents, the disability and old age, etc. – which, taken up and integrated later, can still be admired today. Except that it fails to reconcile the working class with the state, because this shows that it has given it more as a benefit than as a recognition of a right.

Germany Until the Fall of Bismarck 1

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