What are some examples of social democracy

The German Empire

Wolfgang Kruse

Apl. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kruse, born in 1957, is an academic senior counselor and adjunct professor in the field of Modern German and European History at the Historical Institute of the Distance University in Hagen. His main research interests include the history of the First World War, the history of the French Revolution, the history of the German and international labor movement and the history of the political cult of the dead. Von Kruse has published: Wolfgang Kruse: The First World War, Darmstadt 2009 (history compact of the WBG).

With the Socialist Law of 1878 all social democratic organizations were banned. The labor movement could not be crushed by this. On the contrary: In illegality, she continued her struggle and gained strength and charisma.

Leaders of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) around 1900. In the back row 3rd from left Wilhelm Liebknecht, in the front row 3rd from left August Bebel. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

Most of the leading personalities of the young social-democratic labor movement, which was educated particularly early in Germany, experienced the founding of the German Empire in prison. It is true that the representatives of the "General German Workers 'Association" (ADAV) founded by Ferdinand Lassalle in 1863, unlike August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht of the competing "Social Democratic Workers' Party" (SDAP, 1869), approved the war credits in the Reichstag of the North German Confederation. But the rejection of the offensive continuation of the war after the military victory at Sedan led both workers 'parties into the opposition, and the common experiences of oppression during the founding of the empire finally resulted in their unification to form the "Socialist Workers' Party of Germany" (SAPD) in 1875. Although the new party programmatically advocated a lawful path to socialism and democracy, all social democratic organizations were banned as early as 1878 by the so-called Socialist Law. The movement could not be crushed by this, however, it continued its struggle with growing success in the illegality and thereby gained strength and charisma.

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Law against the endangering efforts of the social democracy of 19./21. October 1878

§ 1 Associations which aim to overthrow the existing state or social order through social democratic, socialist or communist endeavors are to be forbidden.

The same applies to associations in which social democratic, socialist or communist efforts aimed at overthrowing the existing state or social order emerge in a manner that endangers public peace, in particular the unity of the population classes. Associations of all kinds are equal to the associations. (...)

Section 9 Assemblies in which social democratic, socialist or communist efforts aimed at overthrowing the existing state or social order come to light are to be dissolved. Assemblies which facts justify the assumption that they are intended to promote the endeavors described in the first paragraph are to be prohibited. Public festivities and lifts are treated the same as the meetings. (...)

Section 11 pamphlets in which social democratic, socialist or communist efforts aimed at overthrowing the existing state or social order appear in a manner that endangers public peace, in particular the unity of the population classes, are to be forbidden. In the case of periodical publications, the prohibition can also extend to subsequent publication as soon as a single number is prohibited on the basis of this law. (...)

§ 17 Anyone who participates in a prohibited association (§ 6) as a member or carries out an activity in the interest of such an association is punished with a fine of up to five hundred marks or with imprisonment for up to three months. Anyone who takes part in a prohibited meeting (Section 9) or who does not leave immediately after the police have disbanded a meeting (Section 9) will be punished equally. Anyone who takes part in the association or the meeting as a chairman, leader, steward, agent, speaker or cashier, or who calls for the meeting, is imprisoned for one month to one year. (...)

Section 22 In the event of a conviction for violations of Sections 17 to 20, in addition to the imprisonment, the admissibility of the restriction of their stay can be recognized against persons who make the agitation for the efforts referred to in Section 1 (2) into business On the basis of this knowledge, the convicted person can be denied residence in certain districts or localities by the state police, but only in his place of residence if he has not been there for six months. Foreigners can be expelled from the federal territory by the state police authority. The complaint is only made to the supervisory authorities. Violators are punished with imprisonment from one month to one year. (...)

Section 28 For districts or localities which are threatened with a risk to public safety as a result of the efforts referred to in Section 1 (2), the central authorities of the federal states may, with the approval of the Federal Council for the duration of a maximum of one year is stipulated: 1. that meetings may only take place with the prior approval of the police authority; This restriction does not apply to meetings for the purpose of an advertised election for the Reichstag or for state representation; 2. that the dissemination of printed matter on public paths, streets, squares or other public places must not take place; 3. that persons who are likely to endanger public security or order may be refused entry to the districts or localities; 4. That the possession, carrying, importation and sale of weapons is prohibited, restricted or made subject to certain conditions ...

From: Helga Grebing, labor movement. Social protest and collective advocacy until 1914, Munich 1985, pp. 149f. (Extracts)



Social insurance and socialist laws

The Socialist Law ("Law against the common-dangerous endeavors of the Social Democrats") was in force from October 22, 1878 to September 30, 1890 (by extension).
Bismarck's concept envisaged re-tying workers to the monarchical state by banning social democracy and carrying out social reforms at the same time. To do this, he initiated the social security systems associated with his name, which, with their proportionate financing through contributions from employers and employees, did indeed show trendsetting structures: in 1883 statutory health insurance, 1884 accident insurance, and 1889 pension insurance. However, the real benefits from these insurances were initially very low and were only able to achieve effects very slowly despite the constant expansion of the recipients. At the same time, the persecution measures under the Socialist Law made it all the more clear that the state by no means primarily represented the interests of the workers, but far more those of the employers. As a result, support for social democracy in the working class did not decrease, but, on the contrary, increased. The number of votes for social democratic candidates in the Reichstag elections - the only legal option under the Socialist Act - make this clear: In 1878 they received a good 400,000 votes (7.8%), in 1890 it was almost 1½ million (19.7%) . Bismarck's anti-social-democratic policies had failed, and the Reichstag's failure to extend the Socialist Law became a factor in his overthrow.

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Emperor's message read out by Bismarck on the occasion of the opening of the Reichstag to announce the introduction of social insurance systems on November 17, 1881

We, Wilhelm, by the grace of God, German Emperors, King of Prussia, etc., make it known and hereby add to know: (...)
As early as February of this year we expressed our conviction that the healing of social damage would not be sought exclusively through the repression of social-democratic excesses, but equally through the positive promotion of the welfare of the workers.

We consider it our imperial duty to recommend this task again to the Reichstag, and we would look back with all the greater satisfaction on all the successes with which God has visibly blessed our government, if we succeeded, one day the consciousness to take with them, to leave the fatherland new and lasting guarantees of its inner peace and to leave those in need of greater security and productivity of the assistance to which they are entitled. In our efforts aimed at this, we are certain of the approval of all allied governments and trust in the support of the Reichstag regardless of party positions.

With this in mind, the draft law submitted by the allied governments in the previous session on the insurance of workers against industrial accidents, taking into account the negotiations on the same in the Reichstag, is being revised in order to prepare for its renewed deliberation. In addition, he will be supported by a template which aims to organize the commercial health insurance system as a task. But even those who become unable to work due to old age or disability have a justified claim to a higher degree of state welfare than they have hitherto been able to receive.

Finding the right ways and means for this care is a difficult but also one of the highest tasks of any community, which is based on the moral foundations of Christian popular life. Closer connection to the real forces of this popular life and the bringing together of the latter in the form of corporate cooperatives under state protection and support will, as We hope, make possible the solution of tasks that state authority alone would not be able to cope with to the same extent . Nevertheless, even in this way the goal cannot be achieved without investing considerable resources.

From: Ritter, Das Deutsche Kaiserreich, p. 245f.



The Erfurt Program 1891

The Austro-German socialist and publicist Karl Kautsky was the leading theorist of the SPD and the Second International. After the death of Friedrich Engels (1895) he was a recognized interpreter of Marxism. Karl Kautsky died in Amsterdam on October 17, 1938. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)
When the political labor movement was reconstituted in 1890 as the "Social Democratic Party of Germany" (SPD), it committed itself to Marxism in its Erfurt program. Capitalism and the bourgeois-monarchical "class state" would accordingly be overcome in a proletarian revolution and replaced by the socialist "people's state". The understanding of the revolution of the social democracy, theoretically shaped by Karl Kautsky, was, however, of a deterministic-passive character. The revolution was expected as a consequence of the crises nature of capitalist economic development, which would lead to a collapse, the "great Kladderadatsch" (Bebel). In the words of Kautsky, the Social Democrats saw themselves as a "revolutionary, but not a revolutionary party." Its aim is not to actively bring about a revolution; rather, it must prepare itself to take power and organize socialism after the inevitable collapse of the ruling order. The main task of social democracy therefore became the establishment of strong organizations and participation in parliamentary elections.

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Karl Kautsky, A Social Democratic Catechism

We are revolutionaries, and not just in the sense in which the steam engine is a revolutionary. The social upheaval that we strive for can only be achieved by means of a political revolution, by means of the conquest of political power by the fighting proletariat.

And the specific form of government in which only socialism can be realized is the republic, in the most common sense of the word, namely the democratic republic (...)

Social democracy is a revolutionary, but not a revolutionary party. We know that our goals can only be achieved through a revolution, but we also know that it is as little in our power to make this revolution as it is in our opponents' power to prevent it. It therefore doesn't even occur to us to want to instigate or prepare a revolution. And since the revolution cannot be made arbitrarily by us, we cannot say the least about when, under what conditions and in what forms it will occur. We know that the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat will not end until the latter has come into full possession of the political power which it will use to establish socialist society. We know that this class struggle must become more and more extensive and intense; that the proletariat is growing more and more in number and in moral and economic strength, that therefore its victory and defeat of capitalism is inevitable, but we can only have very vague conjectures as to when and how the last decisive battles in this social war will be fought ( ...)

Since we know nothing about the decisive battles of social war, we can of course just as little say whether they will be bloody, whether physical violence will play a role in them, or whether they will be fought out exclusively by means of economic, legislative and moral pressure.

But it can be said that there is every probability that in the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat the means of the latter kind will outweigh those of physical, that is, military, force than was the case in the revolutionary struggles of the bourgeoisie. (...)

Democracy cannot eliminate the class antagonisms of capitalist society and cannot stop its necessary end result, the overthrow of this society. But it can do one thing: it cannot revolutionize, but it can prevent some premature, hopeless attempts at revolution and make some revolutionary uprisings superfluous. It provides clarity about the balance of power between the various parties and classes; it does not eliminate their contradictions and does not shift their ultimate goals, but it works to prevent the emerging classes from solving tasks they are not yet up to, and it also works to prevent the ruling classes from doing so to prevent them from refusing concessions which they no longer have the strength to refuse. The direction of development is not changed by it, but its course becomes steadier, calmer. The advance of the proletariat in states with somewhat democratic institutions is not characterized by such striking victories as that of the bourgeoisie in its revolutionary period, nor by such great defeats. Since the awakening of the modern social democratic labor movement in the 1960s, the European proletariat has only experienced one major defeat, in the Paris Commune in 1871. At that time France was still suffering from the consequences of the empire, which had deprived the people of truly democratic institutions, the French proletariat he was only marginally self-conscious, and the insurrection had been forced upon him.

The democratic-proletarian method of struggle may seem more boring than that of the revolutionary period of the bourgeoisie; it is certainly less dramatic and effective, but it also requires far less sacrifice. This may be very indifferent to a scholarly literacy that does socialism in order to find an interesting sport and interesting subjects, but not to those who really have to fight.

The so-called peaceful method of class struggle, which is restricted to unmilitary means, parliamentarism, strikes, demonstrations, the press and similar means of pressure, has the better chance of being retained in every country, the more effective the democratic institutions there are, the larger the political ones and economic insight and the self-control of the population. (...)

However, the current situation brings with it the danger that we look slightly more “moderate” than we are. The stronger we become, the more practical tasks come to the fore, the more we have to extend our agitation beyond the circle of the industrial wage proletariat, the more we have to guard against useless provocations or even empty threats.It is very difficult to keep the right balance, to let the present become its full justice without losing sight of the future, to go into the train of thought of the peasants and petty bourgeoisie without giving up the proletarian standpoint of avoiding any challenge as much as possible and yet to make it generally conscious that we are a party of struggle, of irreconcilable struggle against the whole existing social order.

From: Die Neue Zeit, 12th year 1893/94, vol. 1, pp. 361-69 and 402-10.



Swing and differentiation

The SPD MP August Bebel speaks during a budget debate in the Reichstag (undated). (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)
In these areas the social democracy was indeed extremely successful: The membership of the SPD exceeded the million mark on the eve of the First World War. H. Social democratic oriented trade unions, which had developed from small, partly local professional associations to nationally organized industrial associations, were organized at that time as much as 2½ million people - and thus far more than in the Christian and liberal competing organizations, which together could not have 500,000 members. In addition, there was the establishment of various so-called preliminary organizations such as consumer cooperatives, workers 'sports clubs, workers' choirs, etc., which all in all established a broad, social democratic subculture. And finally the election results of the SPD rose steadily: in 1912 it won over a third of the votes in the Reichstag elections with more than 4 million voters and with over 100 members it was the strongest faction in parliament. This development not only gave the SPD the leading role in the Second Socialist International, it also created the impression that "Comrade Trend" would ultimately lead to a peaceful takeover of power. But it was undoubtedly an illusion in the constitutional system of government of the imperial state. Rather, social democracy remained a stigmatized, marginalized and in some respects disenfranchised movement, whose direct scope for shaping the political system of the empire was limited. Efforts therefore developed on both the right and the left wing of social democracy to bring the political potential of the labor movement to bear more actively.

There were different currents in social democracy from the beginning. Not only the persistent differences between Lassalleans on the one hand, and more Marxist-oriented followers of Bebel and Liebknecht on the other should be mentioned here. In the 1890s, the so-called localists, who voted for a continuation of the close connection between political and trade union work practiced under the Socialist Law, came into opposition to the party leadership, and the activist movement of the "boys" also took a critical stance on the wait-and-see course of the SPD apart. In the early 20th century, however, the wing battles acquired a new sharpness and quality when not only revisionism and left-wing radicalism drafted new theories and political concepts, but also the trade unions, which had previously been largely determined by the SPD, but which have since grown into a far larger mass movement, their equal rights the party were able to enforce.

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Eduard Bernstein, The Struggle of Social Democracy and the Revolution of Society

If by the realization of socialism one understands the establishment of a society strictly communistically regulated in all points, then I have no hesitation in explaining that this still seems to me to be quite a long way off.

On the other hand, it is my firm conviction that the present generation will still see the realization of a great deal of socialism, if not in the patented form, then at least in substance. The constant expansion of the scope of social duties, i. H. the duties and the corresponding rights of the individual against society, and the duty of society against the individual, the extension of the supervisory right of the society organized in the nation or in the state over the economic life, the formation of the democratic self-administration in the municipality, district and province and the expansion of the tasks of these associations - all that means for me the development towards socialism or, if you will, the partial realization of socialism. The takeover of commercial enterprises from private to public management will of course accompany this development, but it will only be able to take place gradually. In fact, there are good reasons of expediency that require moderation here. To train and ensure good democratic management (...) above all, time is needed.

Something like that cannot be extemporized. However, as soon as the community makes proper use of its right to control economic conditions, the factual transfer of economic enterprises to public operations is not of the fundamental importance, as is usually believed. There can be more socialism in a good factory law than in nationalizing a whole group of factories.

I frankly admit that I have extremely little interest or sense in what is commonly understood as the “ultimate goal of socialism”. This goal, whatever it is, is nothing to me, movement is everything. And by movement I understand both the general movement of society, i. H. social progress, as well as political and economic agitation and organization to effect this progress. According to this, social democracy can neither expect nor wish for the imminent collapse of the existing economic system, if it is intended as the product of a great, devastating business crisis. What it has to do, and still have to do for a long time to come, is to organize the working class politically and train it for democracy, and to fight for all reforms in the state which are suitable to elevate the working class and the state in the sense of the Reshaping democracy.

From: Die Neue Zeit, 16th year 1897/98, vol. 1, pp. 548-57.



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Jean Jaurès, On the political impotence of the German social democracy

At the international socialist congress in 1904, the French socialist leader criticized the SPD's attempt to push through the rejection of revisionism and government participation in the International:

What weighs on Europe and the world at the moment, on the guarantee of peace, the safeguarding of political freedoms, the progress of socialism and the working class, what presses on the political and social progress of Europe and the world, these are not the alleged compromises , the daring attempts of the French socialists, who have allied themselves with democracy, to save freedom, progress and peace in the world, but that is the political impotence of German social democracy. (Great movement.)

Certainly you are a great, admirable party which, although not all thinkers to international socialism, as it sometimes seems to be said, has given some of the most powerful and astute thinkers who have given international socialism the model of consistent, systematic action well-structured and powerful organization that does not shrink from any victim and does not allow itself to be shaken by any onslaught. You are a big party, you are the future of Germany, one of the noblest and most glorious parties of civilizing and thinking humanity. But between your apparent political power, as it expresses itself from year to year in the growing number of your votes and madates, between this apparent power and the real power of influence and action, there is a contradiction which seems to increase the greater the greater your electoral power increases. Oh yes, on the day after those July elections (1903), which brought you the three million votes, it became clear to everyone that you had an admirable power of propaganda, advertising and ranking, but that neither the traditions of your proletariat nor the the mechanism of your constitution allows you to translate this seemingly colossal power of three million votes into action of harnessing and realization, into political action. Why? Because you still lack the two essential conditions, the two essential means of proletarian action - you have neither revolutionary nor parliamentary action (...) First, you lack the revolutionary tradition of the proletariat. There have been examples of admirable devotion in the German proletariat, but there has been no revolutionary tradition in its history. It did not win universal suffrage on the barricades. It got it from above. And if one cannot think of snatching it from those who have conquered it for themselves because they can easily recapture it, one can, on the other hand, think of taking from above what one has given from above. And you cannot give any security against you who have seen your red kingdom, your socialist kingdom of Saxony, endure the removal of universal suffrage without resistance ... (Loud applause.) (...)

Well, because you do not have this revolutionary tradition, you see it with displeasure among peoples who fall back on it, and you have only attacked, your theorists have only had disdain for our Belgian comrades who endangered to gain universal suffrage have taken to the streets of their lives. (Loud applause.) And you know just as little as you have the means of revolutionary action, just as you have the strength that a revolutionary tradition of the proletariat would give you, the parliamentary strength. Even if you were the majority in the Reichstag, your country would be the only place where you, where socialism would not be the master, even if it had the majority. Because your parliament is not a parliament if it does not have the executive power, the government power in hand, if its resolutions are only wishes that the Reich authorities can arbitrarily cash in. And so you stand, you know it, you feel good, before a difficult situation. And you are looking for a solution. I am sure you will find it. One cannot block the way of fate, you, proletarians of Germany, are the destiny, you are the salvation of Germany! Your way will not be blocked. But you do not yet know which path you will take in practice, whether you will proceed in a revolutionary or parliamentary manner, how you will establish democracy in your country. (...)

So you do not know which way to choose. On the morning after that great victory, you were expected to come up with a battle slogan, a program of action, a tactic. You have checked the facts, felt them, watched them - but the spirits were not yet ripe. And there you concealed your impotence to act in front of your own proletariat, in front of the international proletariat, behind the intransigence of theoretical formulas which your excellent comrade Kautsky will supply you for the rest of his life. (Applause and great amusement.) Accordingly, the acceptance of the Dresden resolution at this international congress would mean that international socialism in all countries, in all its elements, in the shape of all its forces, would join the temporary but terrible inaction of German social democracy .

So your application in its compelling, despotic form has met with the greatest resistance from whom and in which country? In France, or at least in a part of France, in Holland, in Belgium, in Switzerland, in Denmark, in Sweden, I think also in England. That is to say, the more democracy, the more freedom a country has, the more the proletariat is able to carry out effective political action in its parliament, the more it will be violated by your motion, which is an obstacle to the development of general political freedom and thus of international freedom Will be socialism. (Long applause, repeated cheers.)

From: Ritter, Das Deutsche Kaiserreich, p. 157f.



The revisionism dispute and the intensification of the struggle for direction

The so-called revisionism dispute began in 1898 with a series of articles by Eduard Bernstein, who at that time was still expelled from Germany and was living in exile in England. Under the Socialist Act in Switzerland, Bernstein had brought the illegal party organ "The Social Democrat" on a radical course and, after being expelled from London by Bismarck, had become a close collaborator of Friedrich Engels. He saw himself as a Marxist, but at the same time he was of the opinion that the socialist theory was not immutable, but had to be reflected upon and, if necessary, revised in the light of real social developments. Several of Marx's principles appeared to him so questionable and in need of revision: industrial capitalism obviously did not lead to the destruction and proletarianization of the middle classes; rather, a new middle class of employees was added to the old middle class of the self-employed. A general impoverishment of the workers could not be ascertained either, social reforms and collective bargaining agreements could even lead to a better position. After all, there was no imminent collapse of the system in sight; rather, the growing concentration of capital is forcing a gradual socialization of production. From this, Bernstein concluded that a gradual introduction of socialism was possible and that the SPD had to understand itself as what it has long been in practice: a "democratic-socialist reform party".

The strike. Painting by Robert Koehler, 1886.
Bernstein's revisionism was rejected by a large majority by the SPD, not only because the party wanted to adhere to the ultimate goal of socialism, but also because the socio-political framework conditions of the empire with its authoritarian, anti-social democratic conditions imposed narrow limits on fundamental reform projects. Reformism, however, offered reformist endeavors, such as those practiced in the more liberal states of southwest Germany, a theoretical basis and, in return, it also led to a sharper expression of left-wing extremist positions. Above all, Rosa Luxemburg rejected the possibility of socialist reforms in the imperialist class state and developed an activist revolutionary concept, which she radicalized further under the impression of the first Russian revolution in 1905. The political mass strike it propagated did not only appear to be an adequate weapon for the radical left, representatives of the right wing of the party such as Bernstein and Ludwig Frank also advocated mass strikes to implement electoral reforms, as they were also practiced in other Western European countries.

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Rosa Luxemburg, speech on the mass strike (1905)

If you have heard the previous speeches in the debate on the question of the political mass strike here, you really have to hold your head and ask: Are we really living in the year of the glorious Russian Revolution or are we ten years ahead of it?

(Very correct!) You read the reports of the revolution in the newspapers every day, you read the dispatches, but it seems that you have no eyes to see and no ears to hear. They ask us to say how we are going to hold the general strike, by what means, at what hour is the general strike declared, do you already have the stores for the food? The masses will starve. Can you take it on your conscience for blood to flow? Yes, all those who ask such questions have not the slightest touch with the masses, otherwise they would not worry so much about the blood of the masses, because the responsibility does not rest with the comrades who ask these questions. Schmidt (representative of the General Commission of the Free Trade Unions, d. V.) says, why should we suddenly give up our old tried and tested tactics for the sake of the general strike, why should we suddenly commit this political suicide? Yes, doesn't Robert Schmidt see that the time has come, which our grandmasters Marx and Engels foresaw, when evolution sleeps around revolution?

We're seeing the Russian Revolution and we'd be donkeys if we didn't learn from it. Then Heine stands up and asks Bebel, have you also considered that in the event of a general strike, not only our well-organized forces but also the unorganized masses have to appear on the scene, and do you have these masses under control too? From this one word comes the whole bourgeois conception of Heine, that is a disgrace for a social democrat (unrest.) The previous revolutions, especially those of 1848, have shown that in revolutionary situations one does not have to keep the masses in check, but rather the parliamentary lawyers so that they do not betray the masses and the revolution.

Schmidt referred to the Belgian experiment and Vandervelde's saying; I believe that if anything has shown that a great spontaneous revolutionary mass movement can be ruined by small-mindedness, it was this strike, and Vandervelde could not add a single fact to my criticism, but tried to use general idioms to talk his way out of it when I told him proved that this great mass strike movement had perished through parliamentary quarreling with the liberals. (Bernstein: Untrue!) Oh, what do you understand about that? (Great restlessness).) Heine conjured up the red, bloody ghost and said that the blood of the German people was more dear to him than - that was the meaning of his words - the reckless youth Bebel. I want to put aside the personal question of who was more called and qualified to bear the responsibility, Bebel or the cautious statesmanlike Heine, but we can see from history that all revolutions are bought with the blood of the people.

The whole difference is that until now the people's blood has been spattered for the ruling classes, and now that there is talk of the possibility of leaving their blood for their own class, cautious so-called Social Democrats come and say no, this Blood is too dear to us. It is evidently not a matter of proclaiming the revolution, it is not even a matter of proclaiming the mass strike. And when Heine, Schmidt and Frohme call out to us, organize the masses and enlighten them, we will answer them, we do that, but we do not want it in your interest! (Shout: Oh, oh!) Not in the sense of gelatinizing and covering up the opposites, as all these comrades have been doing for years and days. No, not the organization above all, but above all the revolutionary spirit of the Enlightenment! That is even more important. Do you remember the time of the Socialist Law! Mat smashed our unions and they rose like phoenixes from the ashes. It will be the same in future periods of fierce fighting.

The main thing is to educate the masses and we don't need to be as careful as the trade union leaders in Cologne were. (Rejection of the political mass strike, d. V.) The union must not become an end in itself and thus an obstacle to the freedom of movement of the workers. Learn from the Russian Revolution for once! The masses have been driven into the revolution, almost no trace of union organization, and they are now consolidating their organizations step by step through the struggle. It is a completely mechanical undialectical view that strong organizations must always precede the struggle. Conversely, the organization itself is born in struggle, along with class enlightenment. In relation to all the small-mindedness we have to say to ourselves that for us the last words of the Communist Manifesto are not just a nice phrase for popular assemblies, but that we are bloody serious when calling out to the masses; The workers have no more to lose than their chains, but a world to gain. (Applause and protest.)

From: Peter Friedemann (ed.): Materials on the political dispute over the direction of the German social democracy 1890-1917, Frankf./M. et al., Vol. 2, pp. 568-70.



Above all, however, the strong, pragmatic right-wing center of the party was generally skeptical of such experiments, because they did not want to jeopardize previous achievements through an open policy of confrontation. The union leadership rejected political strikes particularly sharply. Finally, the Social Democrats agreed not to use political mass strikes offensively, but only, if necessary, defensively to defend fundamental rights that had already been achieved (universal male suffrage in the Reichstag, right to strike). At the same time, the union leadership enforced in the Mannheim Agreement of 1906 that a mass strike could only be carried out with their consent, and was thus able to generally ensure their equality with the SPD.

National integration of social democracy?