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Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 11, Slice 8 "Germany" to "Gibson, William"

But at the International Socialist Congress


though on a greater scale and

at a much accelerated pace. A country mainly agricultural, and in parts purely feudal, was changed into one of vast industries and of great concentrations of population; and for the ferment created by this change there was no such safety-valve in the representative system as had existed in England since the Reform Bill. In spite of the election of the Reichstag by manhood suffrage, there existed, as Count Bulow pointed out in 1904, no real parliamentary system in Germany, and "owing to the economic, political, social and religious structure of the nation" there could never be one. Of the numerous groups composing the German parliament no one ever secured a majority, and in the absence of such a majority the imperial government, practically independent of parliament, knew how to secure its assent to its measures by a process of bargaining with each group in turn. This system had curious and very far-reaching results. The only group which stood outside it, in avowed hostility to the whole principle on which the constitution was based, was that of the Social Democrats, "the only great party in Germany which," so the veteran Mommsen declared in 1901, "has any claim to political respect." The consequence was the rapid extension and widening of the chasm that divided the German people. The mass of the working-class population in the Protestant parts of Germany belonged to the Social Democracy, an inclusive term covering variations of opinion from the doctrinaire system of Marx to a
degree of Radicalism which in England would not be considered a bar to a peerage. To make head against this, openly denounced by the emperor himself as a treasonable movement, the government was from time to time forced to make concessions to the various groups which placed their sectional interests in the forefront of their programmes. To conciliate the Catholic Centre party, numerically the strongest of all, various concessions were from time to time made to the Roman Catholic Church, e.g. the repeal in 1904 of the clause of the Anti-Jesuit Law forbidding the settlement of individual members of the order in Germany. The Conservative Agrarians were conciliated by a series of tariff acts placing heavy duties on the importation of agricultural produce and exempting from duty agricultural implements.

Social Democracy.

The first of these tariffs, which in order to overcome Socialist obstruction was passed _en bloc_ on December 13-14, 1902, led to an alarming alteration in the balance of parties in the new Reichstag of 1903, the Socialists--who had previously numbered 58--winning 81 seats, a gain of 23. Of the other groups only one, and that hostile to the government--the Poles--had gained a seat. This startling victory of the Social Democracy, though to a certain extent discounted by the dissensions between the two wings of the party which were revealed at the congress at Dresden in the same year, was in the highest degree disconcerting to the government; but in the actual manipulation of the Reichstag it facilitated the work of the chancellor by enabling him to unite the other groups more readily against the common enemy. The most striking effect of the development of this antagonism was the gradual disappearance as a factor in politics of the Liberals, the chief builders of the Empire. Their part henceforth was to vote blindly with the Conservative groups, in a common fear of the Social Democracy, or to indulge in protests, futile because backed by no power inside or outside the parliament; their impotence was equally revealed when in December 1902 they voted with the Agrarians for the tariff, and in May 1909 when they withdrew in dudgeon from the new tariff committee, and allowed the reactionary elements a free hand. The political struggle of the future lay between the Conservative and Clerical elements in the state, alike powerful forces, and the organized power of the Social Democracy. In the elections of 1907, indeed, the Social Democratic party, owing to the unparalleled exertion of the government, had a set-back, its representation in parliament sinking to 43; but at the International Socialist Congress, which met at Stuttgart on the 18th of August, Herr Bebel was able to point out that, in spite of its defeat at the polls, the Socialist cause had actually gained strength in the country, their total poll having increased from 3,010,771 in 1903 to 3,250,000.


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