August Bebel

The Situation in Germany

Source/Published: Justice, 3 May 1902
Online Version: August Bebel Internet Archive, February 2004
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Mike B.
Proofread by: Nik McDonald (September 2005)

The May-Day festival, for which Social-Democrats and trade unionists make the necessary preparations, may be made the occasion for making propaganda on a large scale for the next General Election to the Reichstag. In the natural course of events this election would take place in the month of June of next year. But this is not certain. The internal affairs gradually come to a point in such a manner that a dissolution of the Reichstag in the course of this year is not improbable. Then an election struggle will take place, such as the German Empire has probably never witnessed before.

The struggle will, under any circumstances — no matter at what time the elections may take place — centre round the Tariff Bill, which the Reichstag has now under consideration. The fact that at the end of 1903 the commercial treaties with Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Romania, Switzerland, etc., terminate, gave rise to a new basis for the fresh negotiations. Owing to the powerful influence of our large landowners — the “Junker” — and their agrarian followers, supported by the Protectionist section of the well-to-do bourgeoisie, the Government brought in a Tariff Bill, which, if it became law, would considerably raise the price of the necessaries of life, and would immensely increase the difficulties for the exportation of manufactured articles, and in some cases make it altogether impossible. The German working-classes without distinction of political parties look upon this Tariff Bill as being greatly detrimental to their class interests, and they are determined to do everything in their power to prevent this Bill from becoming law.

The petition against the Bill drawn up by the Social-Democratic Party received within a few months three and a half million signatures, and in Parliament the 58 representatives of the party are leading the fight against the Bill, the deliberations on which in the Parliamentary Committee are making only slow progress. On the other hand the fanatical agrarian and industrial Protectionists are conducting a campaign against the Government Bill, as the rates to be fixed by some do not satisfy their greediness. And as they are in a majority, they have raised a number of the most important rates, principally on wheat and other necessaries of life, to such an extent that the Government have repeatedly declared them to be unacceptable. But an open conflict, followed by a dissolution of the Reichstag, is not to be expected until the House itself has endorsed the decision of the majority of the Parliamentary Committee, which will hardly take place before the autumn. But an arrangement between the majority of Parliament and the Government is by no means impossible. But in that case, the Social-Democratic Party is resolved to use all Parliamentary means at their disposal to prevent the Bill becoming law. The party demand that the electors shall be consulted on the question, and this object they will doubtlessly attain.

The chances of the party in that case are the very best, for the masses are enraged about the planned usury in breadstuffs, and will give expression to their feelings at the ballot-box. It as not impossible that in this case the 2,100,000 votes obtained by the candidates of the party at the first ballot in the year 1898 may be increased to 3,000,000 votes, and a corresponding increase in the number of Social-Democratic members of the Reichstag will follow.

Besides the question of the increase in the duties on bread and food stuffs, there are other political demands of the Government, which will influence the elections, such as the new Military and Naval Bill, and the introduction of new indirect taxation, in consequence of the Imperialism and world-power policy of the Government.

In opposition to these demands of the Government, the party will bring forward the demands mentioned in their programme for reforms in the various spheres. The existing economic crisis, the end of which can, at present, not be foreseen, will demonstrate to the masses the necessity for some, and will make them still stronger supporters of our party than ever. In this way the First of May will be the day when our regiments will prepare themselves for the great battle, which we shall have to fight, and which, without doubt, we shall fight in honour.