Date/Source: International Socialist Journal (United States), November 1905, Vol.VI no.5, pp.257-292
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Mike B.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2010). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
As we pointed out in our last number the Congress of the German Social Democracy at Jena was by far the most important ever held in the history of the socialist movement. Affairs in Europe, and indeed all over the world, seem to be approaching a climax. The German socialists had been taunted by the workers in other countries with a caution which almost amounted to cowardice. Even their enemies had begun to mistake quiet determination for weakness and were making preparations to disarm them. All this constituted a condition which required action from the German wing of the International Socialist movement. Bebel's great speech was the answer. It is indeed in many ways an epoch making document, calm, cold reasoning through a large portion of its length, it nevertheless constitutes a warning to the encroaching capitalist class, a rallying cry to the workers of the world. As such it is one of the most important historical documents of the socialist movement. The immediate subject under discussion was the general strike, but in entering into the discussion of this new weapon and the new alignment which it presupposed and the new conditions it was intended to meet he swept over a wide ground. Following is the speech:
"Comrades: We are well nigh unanimous in agreeing that the question now under discussion is not only the most important before this congress, but one of the most important ever before the party. It is a question that has been discussed in meetings in the press and in our scientific and propaganda literature. Undoubtedly a large portion of the comrades have already taken a position for or against it. Nevertheless it is very necessary, not only that the question should be investigated from all sides, but that we should especially determine how it came about that we were compelled at the present time to give this question a place upon our programme. What has happened that has forced us to take this position? What are the political conditions, especially those hostile to the working class and the Social Democracy? First of all it is necessary to have a clear idea of what is to be investigated, of what this especial situation requires us to do, and whether our previous methods of fighting are sufficient, or whether we must evolve new methods, and if so what form these shall take.
The Reichstag election of 1903 undoubtedly brought about great changes in our political relations. The great vote of our party at this election while undoubtedly causing the greatest rejoicing among our comrades, brought forth the opposing emotions among our opponents. This one fact alone throws a significant light upon certain tendencies that have recently appeared within our party. We have said to ourselves a dozen times, when you are in doubt as to whether your actions are right or wrong, then turn to your enemies, and if they regret, fear and denounce what you are doing then you are on the right way. Accordingly there has arisen within the party all sorts of movements which, as I shall show later, in many cases had not the slightest justification. The attitude of our enemies toward the result of the election is perhaps most characteristically shown in an expression of one of the leaders of the Center, the representative Trimborn in a great meeting held at Cologne. He said: "Think of it, three million Social Democratic votes, what an enormous number! What will be the result if this goes further?" Our opponents have shown since then that this fear expressed by Trimborn concerning the result of the election has struck deep into their bodies and especially into their stomachs. Within our own ranks it was self evident that this success would have an effect. This would express itself not alone in general rejoicing, but it was very characteristic and also very natural (we would have been surprised if it had been any different) that in the most diverse wings in the party, whose existence I by no means deny, and this all the less since diverse tendencies inside the Social Democracy have existed since the very first days in which it began to be a significant force -- I say also that it is natural that within these tendencies the question. arose as to what the Social Democracy would now do.
In the Neue Zeit (and the same thing happened in other papers and in meetings, as for instance in the speech of Volmar) Kautsky raised the question as to whether this tremendous number of votes would not require us to adopt other tactics. You know that this question occupied us at the Dresden congress. It gave rise there to very violent discussions, and even today there is still a little circle in the party who think that such discussions greatly injure the party in outside circles and perhaps even in its internal management. We have indeed seen divisions in our central organ which continued even until the last month to express regret concerning such discussions. (I do not desire here to enter into any polemic I am only stating facts) and indeed even in the opposing press a cry was raised about the Dresden congress, as if these gentlemen were sorry that disagreement existed, while in truth they were rejoicing. (That's right.)
Now what has the Dresden congress actually done? In the course of discussion a whole row of divergent points had arisen and the congress has simply taken a clear position on these questions, and by means of an enormous majority once more established the tactics of the party with a clearness that left no doubt as to the position of the party, whether among its friends or among its enemies. That is the great historical work of the Dresden congress, in spite of all the mud slinging, which occurred. That was its historical significance. No historian of the party will fail to give due weight to the actions of that congress. At one blow all the host of doubts within and without the party were settled.
I well remember with what words those of our friends were criticised who voted for the Dresden resolution, who had been expected by bourgeois circles to vote against it. It showed that these circles were fundamentally mistaken if they thought that the comrades ever intended to make a fundamental question out of such minor differences of opinion, or that it could ever lead to a division within the party.
Things have now begun to clear up in this direction. To be sure we have seen some signs of disapproval concerning the action of a few of our friends who have been furnished with much advice from bourgeois scholars. Even Prince Bülow changed his tactics from this moment. He now outlines the funeral speech of the Social Democracy. (Laughter.) It appears to me as if Prince Bülow entered upon his office with certain liberal inclinations which he had brought back from his long sojourn abroad. He seemed to believe that he could do something with the Social Democracy if he only handled them with gloves, until perhaps a portion of them would come over to him, after which the party would be broken up. When his hopes and wishes were destroyed by the Dresden Congress he sent up a wail of disapproval. (That's right.)
Even our radicals in Dresden proposed a plan for a commission which should present factory legislation to the Reichstag in the hopes that that body would take it up. I warned against these hopes at Dresden and have been justified by what has happened since then in the Reichstag. What is it then that has changed the attitude of all bourgeois parties towards our party since 1903? Our votes grew from two million one hundred thousand to a round three million, and our representatives from 51 to go then 81, a very significant increase. But our votes are still only one third of the whole and our representatives make up only one-fifth of the Reichstag. We are still far from a majority. The relative strength in the Reichstag remains as before. As of old the Center is still the decisive party. It still has the power to form two majorities, either an agrarian reactionary one with the Right, or a liberal one with the Left and us.
Only yesterday Bernstein complained about the increased powerlessness of the Reichstag. That is fundamentally false, the opposite is true. I have seen the whole matter develop and I now declare that the power of the Reichstag as a whole, when it once raises its voice, obtains far more consideration, is a far more decisive force than in any earlier period. It was true to speak of the complete powerlessness of the Reichstag, under Prince Bismarck. Indeed even under the rule of Count Caprivi, and even with Prince Hohenlohe it was still true, but since then the Reichstag has gradually conquered a position in opposition to the government. In a great number of questions it leads, and after it has decided the government adjusts itself. It is only unfortunate that those who have control are not our friends, but our opponents. I need only refer to the questions of the tariff policy or of the marine or the navy. Whatever the Reichstag considers essential from the bourgeois standpoint, from the standpoint of the capitalistic economic order, that it secures. It represents its own class interest. Whoever still believes that we, the strongest party in the country, the second strongest in the Reichstag, are about to exercise a corresponding influence on the government is very much deceived, for the party so long as it is not in control cannot exercise any significant influence. If you wish to exercise any influence of this character then you must stick your platform in your pocket, forsake your fundamental positions, occupy yourself with purely practical things, and then we would be very welcome as fellow workers (loud applause) and I tell you that the best of us could then easily become secret councillers (great merriment), or indeed anything else that we wished. "Oh! Paris is worth a meal," and to win the goal of socialism is well worth a few ministerial seats. (Laughter and applause.) Do not deceive yourself on this point. I have expressed myself thus strongly in order to once for all get rid of false views on all these subjects and to show you that for us I do not see everything from so rosy a side. Furthermore, since the Dresden congress the home of a great liberal party to be composed of the right wing of the Social Democracy, and including the National Liberals has been destroyed. You need only to ask Nauman, Gerlach and Barth what they really think down in their inmost hearts about the German bourgeoisie and German liberalism. If they tell you the truth they must say, "Hopeless, even to despair." (Loud applause.) The Liberal party whether large or small is today only a creature of imagination. The class antagonisms have in a way sharpened since 1903 -- sharpened I say not grown milder (loud applause) -- and capitalism and its political representative, liberalism, whenever it is confronted with the question of whether, on even wholly unimportant things, it shall go with or against the Social Democracy, always goes against it because of the fear of socialism. (Loud applause). For proof of this we have only to turn to the statement of a capitalist from Saxony in the last campaign. He declared in a meeting, "I am a National Liberal, but I vote Conservative" (laughter). How is that possible? The man said to himself, "If I should vote liberal it might easily happen that the Social Democrats may thereby win another seat and that would be such a horrible thing that I would rather vote for the Conservatives." This is how things stand, therefore it is a fact that at the very beginning of the first session of the Reichstag a regular race for the favor of the workers begun. An enormous mass of social reform schemes were brought in simultaneously, -- as many as had been presented in several of the previous sessions put together. The Center especially went into this race because it saw that it must do everything possible to stop the ever increasing mass of workers from deserting its flag. Consequently it presented these schemes, which were wholly displeasing to the inmost souls of the greater portion of its representatives. If there had not been tactical reasons for these schemes a majority of the Center would certainly have been against them. (Loud applause). These schemes increased the attracting power of the city for the country worker and thereby the danger, that the Center would lose more and more of its backward country laborers.
Just a word here concerning the anarcho-socialists. It is necessary to consider for a moment the historical materialism which they have so much abused in order to understand this development. This standpoint enables us to comprehend what is otherwise unintelligible. The Center has been compelled to surrender a whole row of its positions. At the Strassburger Catholic celebration one of the speakers gave a speech so radical that with the exception of a few sentences it might easily have been given by any of us. Still further the Center has been firmly an enemy of science. The Catholics are very scantily represented in the ranks of German intellectuals. The Center has discovered at last that reforms are here necessary in the very head and members of its own ranks in order -- not to fight modern science -- the Center does not do that, for it well knows that victory would be impossible, -- but simply to reconcile and to explain away. So it was that another speaker appeared at this Catholic: celebration and said: "Make yourself familiar with science, conquer it, make its fruits your servants." Even Haeckel could not have given a more beautiful speech on this point. So it is that we find concessions are also made in this direction. And even if Kolb did but yesterday declare in a most indisputable manner that a situation had arrived in which we sought by means of our schemes to attract the young from the Center, this was simply because he had seen that the Center in spite of its relation to the Catholic church, which for a century has had control of the school and the church and thereby the training of the young, was not able to hold its young followers. (That's right.) This privileged position has enabled it, however, to obtain a very important position in the state.
It is this position also which causes the Center to be looked upon so sympathetically by our evangelical schools of thought, since they see in it a power, which, even if the bayonets should fail might still help the ruling classes. From this point of view also it is necessary for us to win the young to our humanity freeing ideas.
On the other hand, however, there is no doubt that especially since the protective tariff struggle in the Reichstag antagonisms have seemed to be sharpened. Those colleagues who have already been in earlier sessions know that (as is natural during long continued work together) gradually a -- I will not say exactly friendly, but still a sort of relation between the different parties arises -- and that the antagonism disappears in a certain degree. All this was changed in the great battle over the protective tariff. Up until the vote of 1902 the President of the Reichstag maintained a non-partisanship which undoubtedly raised him above the rest of us. At a single blow this whole non-partisanship and good naturedness has not only disappeared, but on the contrary, in order to make the robbery as complete and as sudden as possible, it was this very same President, who, up until this time had been the paragon of non-partisanship, who led in breaking the constitution and the destruction of social order. (That's true), Since then the growing antagonism has developed in the most acute manner within the Reichstag. I certainly in no way regret this, but on the contrary consider it very desirable. (That's right). Often enough I have said to Liebknecht, that parliament might easily be compared to a sort of court parlor; as there, so also is parliament, much is glossed over. When it is possible for ar observer to say that there are a whole mass of Social Democratic representatives who cannot be distinguished as Social Democrat: except by the fact that the word stands after their names, and who make speeches which cannot be distinguished from those of the bourgeois opposition, and yet who seem to be of the opinion that they are the lords of the world, a sort of higher being -- when people talk in this style about us I believe I would be false to myself if I did not retort that it is very desirable that you speak evil of us. If the socialists are really the defenders of principle, the defenders of the old revolutionary tactics of the party, and as such step forward against the representatives of their opponents as they should do, then they have performed good service for the party. It is indisputable that in spite of all the apparent eagerness for labor legislation, practically nothing has been done aside from the tradesman-like arbitration courts but my accursed sense of justice compels me to break a lance even for the government. Are you listening carefully Comrade Friedeberg? (laughter). They were compelled in spite of the chaos of social political schemes which they have poured out upon the Reichstag to wait until they could determine for what schemes the Reichstag would decide before they themselves could take a position. The whole political situation made it impossible to act upon this basketful of social legislation. After a short time the Center saw that it was impossible for the Reichstag to do anything with these measures and consequently they transformed their schemes into resolutions. However, much we might oppose this, there was nothing else for us to do but to follow their example in order to guard against a situation where there would be nothing before the house but the resolutions of the Center, while our measures would have been put upon the table. These resolutions are now got rid of and the Bundesrat has the whole business before them. It is now up to them to say what they think.
Consequently it still remains true that the inclination to social reform has decreased, and this just because they are seeing that it is going to help us. They say: "If we bring in reasonable laws then the Social Democrats will vote for them and we will get no credit." This has now become very evident to them. Since 1903, however, not only has the antagonism to social reform increased, -- the economic antagonisms have also become sharper. So it has come about the most reactionary representative body in the world, the Prussian Herrenhause, that was declared superfluous and useless and an institution injurious to the common good by so moderately liberal a man as Herr von Treitschke, has now become a shield of the bourgeoisie and capitalism. The last session has very plainly shown this. Even in bygone years, this upper house submitted resolutions to the Reichstag against universal suffrage. Then came a resolution against the imperial inheritance tax and then its position toward the new mining law where it sought to force the lower house into a position of antagonism to the laborers, and where Prince Bülow had the greatest trouble in compelling it to give up. Finally came its resolution demanding a new "penitentiary law,"  and for which Count Ballestrem and the Catholic members of the upper house voted. The upper house has shown its power in that it compelled Count Bülow to promise to stop making changes in the insurance law, which increased the influence of the laborers. It was at this time that a Liberal manufacturer sent out the letter which the conservative Reich published, in which he said: "Thousands of the possessing class thank the Conservative party in both houses for their firm position. It was high time that the government, and their friends the Social Democrats were given a quos ego! (Laughter). What shall we come to? Do people want to chase us out completely, etc." (Laughter). This is the way the world begins to look to the manufacturers. And he continues: "It looks as though it was intended to make the possessing class the slaves of the proletariat."
It is indisputable that the employers' organizations have constantly grown in significance and power since 1903. There are industrial alliances where not one single employer remains outside, while we unfortunately have hundreds of thousands of laborers who belong neither to the free unions nor to the Christians. The class character and class consciousness of the German bourgeoisie is most strikingly superior to that of the German working class. (Loud applause). We must recognize this if we are to know what we are to do. On the one side we have the most complete solidarity while the laborers are divided into various organizations. The Christian unions have been founded only for the purpose of breaking the power of the working class. If any one were to tell a Christian employer that he should belong to a Christian employers' organization he would laugh and say, "What's the matter with you? It is all the same to me whether a man is a Jew, a Christian. a heathen, or a Mohammedan, he is still flesh of my flesh, if he is a capitalist. We employers would be fools if we were to permit such differences to weaken us." (That is true).
It is only the laborers, who, because of the stupidity which has been artificially cultivated among them, divide their forces. although they are just the ones who have the greatest necessity of unity and solidarity. (Bravo).
As a result of this whole situation the pugnacity of the employer has increased. As a consequence we see lockouts it Berlin, in the Rhine province, in Westphalia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Thuringia. The outlook in Bavaria has pleased me, however much I may regret the fate of the laborers affected. In little bourgeois Bavaria the employers now have shouted from the watch towers the fact of the sharpest class antagonisms and class struggle. (That's right). It only helps us, however, when the antagonisms are thus forced to their highest degree, because this brings about a clear situation in which there can be no dodging nor covering up, nor compromising (loud applause) even the most stupid laborer is forced to recognize the class antagonism when he is locked out, and all those who live through it will be forever lost to the Liberal and the Center. This pugnacity is everywhere noticeable in an increasing degree among the employing classes. The end of the struggle is not in sight. Indeed it must naturally grow ever stronger and stronger because capitalistic development in Germany is moving in a most rapid manner toward its climax. Since 1895 we have lived through a colossal industrial revolution. The laboring class has also gained a new strength thereby, a strength that rests upon their numbers. The power of the bourgeoisie rests upon their money, but numbers will give the laboring class, as soon as they are conscious of their condition such an enormous power that the power of the bourgeoisie though they had ten thousands of millions in their treasury will be completely overcome. (Bravo.) But all this must be explained to the working class, it must not come to such a condition that within their own ranks their power and importance are underestimated, and as yet the agitation and educational work of the press is largely wrong (that's true). It is necessary to go to the very bottom of things and this congress must clear matters up until at last we all know what we have to do. We must know that we are facing a situation that must necessarily result in a catastrophe, if the power of the working class, because of its numbers, its culture and its strength does not become so great as to take away all desire on, the part of their opponents for catastrophes.
It is a great error to say that the socialists are producing a revolution. We have no desire for anything of the sort, and have no interest in bringing about catastrophes in which the laborers must be the first to suffer. You need only turn to Russia to see where catastrophes are necessary. It was no other than Frederick the Great of Prussia who stated in one of his works that, "Catastrophes arise, not because the masses but the rulers make them." This is the same position that von Blüntschli took during his years as a teacher of political philosophy. Even a paper like the Catholic Echo wrote in May of this year that it was a completely unhistorical position to claim that revolutions were made by a few scoundrels and demagogues. "Revolutions can only occur when the historical conditions have arisen, and be successful only when evils exist that bear heavily upon the mass of the people. Such revolutions are always successful. Whatever we may have to say against the Social Democracy we can only overcome them by reform and if we do not meet the just demands of the laborers they will finally become socialists." A very intelligent view! Thoroughly correct! Just what we have always said! But it is ever the curse of a ruling class that at the decisive moment of their own history they never have the right insight and that no one does what he should do.
We socialists find ourselves in the very favorable position that whatever our opponents do to oppose us we grow continually larger. We must grow because the capitalist society grows and constantly creates the conditions that produce socialists. Just as little as they were able to master us under the "laws of exception," just as little will they be able to master us when some day they make new force laws. Oh! I know that there are many in our ranks who would rejoice if this should happen. (That's true). Then we would show them again what sort of confounded rascals we are? (Loud applause). What did we not show the police power during those twelve years! But it is not alone the economic class antagonisms which are increasing, but the political also.
The ruling class, the bourgeoisie, because of its power has come to look upon its social position as self evident, as something ordained by God (I say that whether you believe in God or not), as representing the state and wielding the power of the state. They consider that they, as Bismarck has said, have the key of legislation in their hand in order to legislate according to their will, that is according to their interest. They say to themselves, "We represent a colossal property interest, and pay the taxes, therefore we must also represent the state." To be sure if this property was produced in the sweat of their face, then they might talk about it, but this property is produced by your sweat, it is from the monstrous surplus which you create for them that they pay the taxes. This humbug, this hocus pocus is continually repeated and the great mass of the people do not yet understand it, else they would all be socialists.
The economic power of the bourgeoisie has increased with giant strides during the last fifteen years and especially during the last decade. You can scarcely have any conception of the amount of property which the syndicates, rings and trusts have brought to the employers during the last ten years. It is necessary only to see how the bourgeoisie of today squanders and wastes the wealth because they no longer know what to do with the money. How they do this can be seen in Berlin, and the scenes there are even worse than those of the days of decay of the Roman Empire, when men fed their guests with the eyes of peacocks. I have been repeatedly told that at the great feasts of Berlin it is nothing uncommon to spend twenty or thirty and even forty thousand marks for a single meal. (Hear! Hear!). Those are sums beside which the salary of a Prime Minister is insignificant. So it comes about that the bourgeoisie simply buy the officials by paying them three or four times the salary which they once received and as a substitute for their right to a pension supply them with capital, the interest on which is greater than what they would have received as a pension.
Through these officials a great influence can be exercised upon their former colleagues in the service of the government and the ministry (That's right). So it is that they have legislation completely in their hands. The great masses do not even dream of the influence of capital, which we, however, must cry out through the country, knocking at every door until the people know how hopelessly they have been betrayed and exploited.
I tell you also that the bourgeoisie do not comprehend how such class antagonisms can continue with universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage. Shall the "best of the nation" be turned over to the rough, crude, unthinking mass to have their fate determined by a mere counting of heads? In this "best of the nation" are included not simply the nobility, but first of all, our plutocracy, the aristocracy of money. It is not in vain that a Ballin or a Krupp and a whole row of similar great ones have found a more welcome entrance to the court than many a noble old lord who can look back upon an ancestral tree six or seven hundred years old, older even than the Hohenzollern. This is but another example of the power of the bourgeoisie, the power of money, which has everything in its hands. Here again are proven the words of our great leaders, Marx and Engels, as stated in the Manifesto of 1848: "The government is only a committee to represent the interest of the ruling class." (That's right). That this is the case was shown by the fact that sixteen years ago when I made a similar declaration in the Reichstag the then secretary of the state, Herr von Boetticher supported me with a low "that's right." Naturally I did not forget to announce this quiet testimonial of sympathy of Herr von Boetticher aloud to the whole Reichstag.
An agrarian policy is necessary in Germany -- perhaps not so stupid and foolish a one as the present in regard to the raising of the cost of meat -- but the government must be agrarian in the interest of the ruling class. Where else can the young bloods of aristocracy find the resources to maintain a suitable, social position if not from the colossal agrarian tax and the other revenues of the state. Since they can no longer compete with the bourgeois and draw out the gold fishes -- especially the accursed Jewish ones, who are apt to be the most beautiful gold fish (laughter) -- out of the bourgeoisie in order to regild their old coats of armour; because they themselves no longer care any thing for agriculture, and because their sons as cavalry officers are occupied with horses, beautiful women and such pretty things -- because of this we have the hatred of universal suffrage and such statements as appeared a few weeks ago in the Kreuz-Zeitung: "Now this unfortunate Reichstag is going to meet again and as always is incapable of any action and we shall then have the long speeches of the Social Democrats; the Reichstag is now only a necessary evil." It is to be sure untrue that the Reichstag has become incapable of any activity during late years. It was much more true in 1872. The Kreuz-Zeitung is also silent concerning the fact that the Prussian "three class parliament" with its "fifteen mark legislature" is permanently incapable, and that there are Prussian representatives who are shameless enough to stay away weeks and months together; as for example, during the last session when the previous head editor of this same paper, H. Wagener never set foot during the entire session in the Land-tag until the last day when he went to the treasury to draw his salary for the entire session. (Hear, Hear). A National Liberal representative has himself complained to me about this act of his colleague.
For all these reasons the cry is raised, "Down with universal suffrage." Certainly there was a time when liberalism took it for granted that universal suffrage should be established. The National Union placed this demand at the head of its program, and when Bismarck was compelled by political considerations to overthrow universal direct and secret suffrage in his North German Bund the National Liberal party in 1868 sent forth a call containing the following: "In parliament we see the union of the living, working strength of the nation, and universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage must be made the foundation of public life. We do not fear the dangers which this brings with it, so long as freedom of the press, of assemblage and of coalition remain undisturbed." At that time then the danger to universal suffrage was simply that there were not enough other forms of freedom. The National Liberals at that time also referred to the non-payment of members, because the year before Bismarck had sought to take away salaries. It went on further: "The restricted class suffrage has outlived its usefulness. The next Landtag will show in what manner and under what conditions the transition can be made to universal suffrage." So spoke the National Liberal party officially and proudly in the year 1868 and up until the present time this party has in accordance with its well known Mameluke character continually trampled its own platform under foot, and worked in opposition to all extension of universal suffrage. In 1887 it used its majority with the Conservatives to extend the legislative period from three to five years. During late years pamphlet after pamphlet has been issued against universal suffrage. I would recall also how Count von Zedlitz forced the Bundesrat to oppose the extension of universal suffrage in the south German states and how in the north they sought to make still worse the most abominable of all electoral systems. I need only refer to the attack on the electoral system in Saxony, Hamburg, and Lubeck. I would also call attention to the fact that these attacks have been made in just those localities where the socialists are strongest, such as Hamburg and Saxony. Why the party has not taken the action in these localities that many expected from it I shall explain later. I can prove further that it has been the Liberals especially who have been engaged in these attacks upon the suffrage. In their inmost hearts nearly all Liberals are opponents of universal suffrage. The number of bourgeois who are really supporters of universal suffrage can be counted on the fingers. What then have the Liberals done in Prussia to universal suffrage? Rickert has a few times brought in schemes in this direction and as a consequence has been sharply attacked by his friends. In Nürnberg the magistrate is chosen from the majority of the Free-Thinkers party and this free thinking magistrate has misused his power in order to gerrymander the electoral district, so that 15,000 bourgeois have been able to outvote 22,000 Social Democrats. In view of all these events it is a lie to assert that liberalism is a supporter of this most important of all the popular rights.
And how is it with the Center. That Center with which our comrades of Bavaria have made a momentary alliance to secure universal suffrage? This does not in any way contradict the facts that I have set forth. If you believe that the Center has any political principles then undeceive yourself at once. It has absolutely no firm position except to strengthen the power of the church at any price. The Center stands for the "God ordained order." This divine order is always that which is useful to the Center. It is the order which supports the power of the church and the Center. Through thousands of years, as I have indisputably shown at Strassburg, this Center has been capable of adjusting itself to all forms of state and all economic stages and I can tell you now comrades that when it comes to the final decision and the Center says to itself, "We can no longer successfully oppose socialism" that I will bet a thousand to one that the preachers of Christian love, who now stand for bourgeois order as they formerly stood for feudal and ancient orders of society will begin to stand for socialism. (Applause and laughter). Then they will show to you with a keenness and a clearness beside of which all of you will be bunglers that the New Testament in such and such places clearly stands for socialism. (That's right). So will the Center act on the day when it cannot act otherwise. To be sure it will then have to settle with us. Just now the Center has certainly worked to secure universal suffrage in Baden and Bavaria. Why? In Bavaria the Center is not capable of obtaining power on the basis of the existing suffrage, It seeks a power that will give it absolute domination in the administration and the representative bodies of the state, and since our comrades in Bavaria are interested in breaking the back of the present electoral system at any price, and since further, liberalism, true to its position as the representative of capitalism, will not yield any concession and opposes every reform, therefore a coalition between the Social Democracy and the Center becomes a necessity. The very moment that the goal of this coalition is obtained, the battle between the Social Democracy and the Center will naturally break out even sharper than it has ever been between the Liberal and the Center. The Center wishes universal suffrage in Bavaria because only in this way can it utilize the votes of its peasants and little bourgeois adherents. Things are much the same in Baden, where the power of national liberalism can be broken only by universal suffrage. Because of this, and not because of any principle the Center stands for universal suffrage in Baden and Bavaria. While in Prussia, since 1875 when Windthorst lived, it has never moved a finger in order to introduce universal suffrage. Indeed the Center has done just the reverse. In the so-called electoral reform of 1892-3 it so reformed things that it even injured itself and was crushed under the abuse bestowed upon it by the advocates of universal suffrage.
And how is it in Württemberg? There the constitution is about to be amended. It has already had universal, direct suffrage for several decades, although to be sure in very unequal and badly divided electoral districts. Now it is proposed to introduce a reform which shall throw out the twenty-four privileged members but the Center would also receive these twenty-four votes through the help of universal suffrage. But the leader of the Center in Württemberg, the Reichstag member, Grober, came forward and declared that this should not happen, for it meant the giving of great additional power to the Social Democracy. That's the tune the Center plays in Württemberg. Then it was that Grober, who is a gigantic and skillful man, painted a picture on the walls of the Chamber on the danger of the introduction of universal suffrage in Württemberg, that made the shivers run over the honorable gentlemen, saying this would enable the Social Democrats to capture twenty-four seats. Oh! if that was only true! But Grober knew as well as I that it was not true -- that it could not be true, because the economic conditions in Württemberg did not yet exist.
Grober proposes to be sure, that these twenty-four representatives should be elected by universal suffrage, but in such a manner as to retain his domination in the Chamber. You see how correct I am when I say that the Center always acts in the manner that will best secure its own interest. (Loud appluse). Furthermore I would refer to what the Cologne Volkzeitung said in April of the present year concerning the attack upon the rights of suffrage in Hamburg. "It is proper," it wrote, "that every state, whenever it is threatened with a Social Democratic majority in its legislative chamber, which would bring the whole nation to a standstill, should prepare to introduce protective measures."
Now we see the program of the Center. It is for universal suffrage, so long as the present majority is sure, but when universal suffrage will create a Social Democratic majority then it is for something different. We would "bring the machinery of the state to a standstill." No, not at all. On the contrary we would speed it up to a hitherto unheard of speed, while we cleared away the old rubbish (very good). The Cologne Volkzeitung continues: "Let the social democrats cherish no illusions on this point." Make a note of that for use in your future suffrage agitations and for your whole political attitude.
There can no longer be any doubt that some day things will develop as I have pictured them here. Marxists and Revisionists have agreed that the proletariat grows ever more and more and must finally constitute the overwhelming majority of our nation. They are the foundation of our nation, they are the foundation of our wealth, the foundation of our well being, the foundation of our capacities for defense, the foundation of all and everything. This great mass forms the foundation of society, and upon its shoulders is built the social pyramid, and whoever attacks this pyramid at its base overthrows the whole. (That's right).
I am not an alarmist. The possibility of leading the development in the most peaceable possible roads depends upon us, depends upon the power that we give our organization, depends upon the political attitude which we can inspire in the German working class, who must learn to know every stage in the historical development of the country, -- where they stand, what they are to do, and to leave undone. (Loud applause). In this direction there is clearness! No deceptions, no brake. Ah, seek to brake it as much as you will, the wheels will roll on over you. We see the bourgeois parties coalescing more and more as the antagonisms between them grow less and less. The bourgeois parties say to themselves, "Could we once get this horror out of our eyes, that troubles us day and night and haunts us in our dreams, it would be well worth while to unite." Consequently we see the coalition of our enemies since the election of 1903. A classical illustration of this was the Landtag election of Esslingen, where from the south German popular party, the radical wing of the bourgeois, even to the Conservative, all were of one mind as opposed to the Social Democracy, and where our comrades through their energies were able to turn both bourgeois candidates out of doors. If there was ever a time that I was satisfied with our Würtemberg comrades it was at the time of the election in Esslingen. (That's right).
There are only the "ins" and the "outs" any more. It is no longer possible to distinguish between them, and out of this situation among the various bourgeois parties has come the imperial union for fighting the Social Democracy, which is to furnish the money to send out a Praetorian band of speakers who without regard to their political position have but the one object -- to fight the Social Democracy -- which means, to throw mud at them.
How false are the judgments of those who underestimate parliamentary activity was shown in the great miners' strike. The normal result was a victory for the miners and no defeat. (That's true). A victory that compelled the greatest power in Germany, the government, to deal with the miners and to introduce a reform in the mining law. But the government dared not go to a Reichstag elected by universal suffrage, but went instead to the "three class parliament" of Prussia. It knew that they could there carry through a reform that would really be no reform, but only a spoiled egg, (that's right) and in this they were supported by the Center because it desired at any price to prevent the introduction of this subject into the Reichstag. In this we have the most striking testimonial to the moral force which may be exercised by universal suffrage, and especially by the pressure of socialists elected upon the ground of this universal suffrage. The miners were betrayed of their birthright, since a plan would have been presented therein not far from what justice to the laborer demanded. It was there that we grappled with the resolution demanding a new penitentiary law, and there came Bülow's promise to reduce the self government of the insurance organizations. Another proof of what might happen if there were no socialists in the Reichstag! And in the face of such misuse of the miners people dare to demand of us that we renounce parliamentary activity.
Over in Russia a terrible struggle is going on whose primary purpose is the attainment of political rights in order to erect a modern political system! There our comrades with joyous eagerness for battle rush to the barricades while men and women offer up themselves and all that they value highest, their lives even, in order to finally obtain a modern state (loud applause).
Even the conservative General Liebert, a man who would be the last to grant any concessions to socialism, expressed himself as convinced that a war against the proletariat was impossible. Still they tell us that the proletariat has no power and no significance! It is said upon one side and that from which I had never thought such a thing possible that the power of the party has been reduced to a minimum. And that even, although years ago Caprivi told our Comrade Grillenberger, who is now dead, that the government never presented any proposal until it had discussed what influence it might have upon the socialists. Still they tell us that we have no influence, we play no part! They tell us we have nothing to say although the whole foreign policy is determined with reference to the influence of the Social Democracy. To be sure there is an attempt to make Bülow, as foreign minister, a sort of political Pope, in that every one who attempts to criticise the foreign policy of the government is at once silenced. That happened to Jaurés and to our friends in Constance, and even to me lately in Basle. The watchman had listened to a good deal and had begun to get nervous. (Laughter). He did not like what I was saying and when I began to speak on the Morocco question he refused to let me proceed. (Hear, Hear). I did not wish to bring about the dissolution of the meeting, and furthermore the interruption was the best possible thing that could happen, so I have submitted.
Look at the whole foreign situation! The struggle in Russia is causing our government to tremble much more than it admits, (that's right). They have a most terrible fear lest the fire might leap over. They say to themselves that as such a thing is possible in Russia, where there is no organization whatever, and where the proletariat is relatively small in numbers what might not happen in Germany where we have politically educated masses, an organized proletariat and where there are already whole regiments in the army composed of Social Democrats, and where if the reserve and the home guard were called into action they would be almost purely socialists. So they say to themselves, "What would they not do to us?" No, no they would be foolish indeed up there above us if they did not consider these things. This belongs also to the story of the power of Social Democracy.
The present failure in Colonial policy, the blundering foreign policy, all this, and those above, are all aware that this is material for the socialists, material that we alone know how to use. There is no denying the fact that, although we are not a majority, and still on the defensive in politics, we are able to criticise so effectively and so energetically that more than one of those in high places would be very happy if a law could be made preventing socialists from coming into the Reichstag. (Laughter).
This is the situation in which every thoughtful comrade must ask himself, since previously used methods have not been sufficient to make impossible certain attacks upon us: are the tactical and agitating means that we have previously utilized sufficient or must we create new ones?
This brings us to the proposition of the political general strike (Massenstreik ). It will be foolish to attempt to avoid this discussion and to act as if we did not hear it. That is ostrich politics. (That's right). Even if this question is limited on all points as many would desire, nevertheless every thinking man, and especially every leader of the party who deserves this name must ask himself if the time is not here for the party to discuss this proposition. (Loud applause). To be sure the trades union congress of Cologne thought to get rid of the matter by the adoption of Bömelburg's resolution. They rejected the general strike in the sense that the anarchists and the anarcho-socialists desire it, and declare that they did not wish any further discussion. What did that accomplish? The exact apposite. With the adoption of Bömelberg's resolution, which in form and contents was very obscure, the discussion really began to grow in volume. How great this obscurity is, is shown by the fact that even von Elm was accused of not understanding it, -- von Elm, with whom to be sure I have often had differences of opinion, and have frequently crossed swords with some violence, but whom naturally I recognize as a very able representative, especially in relation to the proceeding of trades union congresses and concerning the significance of the general strike resolution. The fact is that we must study this resolution with a microscope in order to discover that they have not really gone so far as to forbid the discussion of the general strike. The impression which is naturally gained from a reading of the resolution and from the reasons which are given for it is that the discussion of the general strike should cease. Since it can signify something else, and since we all have occasion to go into this question together with the trades unions, so we must consider the matter from a wholly objective point of view. There was still another place in Elm's article in which he spoke my thoughts. It was where he stated, that it would be far better instead of adopting so obscure and contradictory a resolution to have energetically resolved to declare to the ruling class in unmistakable terms, "If you dare to touch universal suffrage, then the economically organized workers will set their economic power in motion to prevent any such outrage." (That's right.) I believe this position of Elm's is absolutely correct.
The article goes on to say further, that the unions are even more directly interested in universal suffrage than the political party. (That's right.) For when the suffrage is threatened, the right of union, of assemblage and of organization are equally endangered. (That's right.) Elm said further, that the political leaders would be in no way embarrassed even if a law of exception was enacted, since they would simply fall back upon the tactics of 1878. (That's right.) That is absolutely true. During this time secret organizations sprang up like mushrooms out of the earth. We played with the police like cats with a mouse. (Laughter.) It was a joke, a source of amusement for countless comrades (loud applause and laughter), and whenever we met together it was our greatest sport to tell the stories of our experiences in leading the police around by the nose, and to describe how we played with them. (Laughter.) And even if a few comrades should go to prison -- well most of us have already sat there and it might easily happen that the time would come when, in order to make good we would have to show that we had been in prison. (Laughter.) That would be a pitiful party who could be destroyed by the power of the government and a few criminal laws. (Loud applause.) We are living in the midst of the Russian events and shall we not have the courage to endure a few months in prison, or even something worse in order to maintain the rights that we possess? (Loud applause.)
The Cologne resolution, not only arose out of obscurity and confusion, but the struggle has since then continued with even greater heat. The reason which Comrade Bömlberg gave at that time for placing the question on the program is at least interesting. He declared that it was done in order to avoid the danger of the unions adopting resolutions later which might be misinterpreted in some other place. This some other place is the party congress. They wish therefore to influence our decisions.
Now there is certainly no doubt that if there is any question which interests equally the party and the union it is the question of the political Massenstreik. For the union members are not simply unionists, they are also citizens and as such they have the greatest interest in the political condition of the state, and not simply in the economic conditions of society. What is then the state? Whoever wishes to thoroughly inform himself on this question can read the work of Engels on "The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State," and if he does not understand it when he reads it the first time let him read it twice or three times. He will then discover what the state is, and that the state first became necessary when private property took the place of communistic primitive families. As soon as this development appeared class antagonisms arose, and property owners became the enemies of non-owners and vice versa. The possessing class constituted itself into the ruling power, which oppressed the masses and transformed the state according to its interests. In the degree that the forms of production developed, the state necessarily changed until the feudal state gradually developed. Then came the antagonism between the feudal nobility and the cities, during which, as a smiling bystander, the absolute state developed. This released the modern bourgeoisie, who during the great revolutions that overturned Europe, overthrew its united opponents. It is ridiculous to reproach us with desiring a revolution, when we remember that all previous revolutions were made by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie granted numerous rights to the laborers, but the most decisive right, that of suffrage, it withheld as long as possible. As a result of the same logic, according to which all previous oppressed classes have in the course of history seized upon political power in order to transform all society in the interest of their class, just so the proletariat, as the last oppressed class, must conquer political power in order, with the help of this power, to create in the social sphere the institutions which will make its power indestructible. With this, however, the last hour of the state sounds, because within the new society there will be no class antagonisms and the state will have lost its reason for existence. But until things reach this stage -- when it will be I do not know, -- it may be far away -- we must, cost what it will, work for political power; and comrades, it would be contrary to all logic, it would be a spectacle of unheard of character, if as powerful a class as the modern working class has become, materially, physically, and intellectually should permit itself to be deprived of what all previous oppressed classes have demanded as a matter of course. (Loud applause.) We must obtain this; how, will be determined by the political situation, which not we but our opponents create. Then we can tell our opponents, "Take care, during the twentieth century, you shall finally learn from history whither it leads when you attempt to rule against the will of the great majority of the nations. That don't go."
The reproach has been thrown up to us that we have been compelled to accept as a last resort the general strike advocated by the anarchist. Anarchism is fundamentally a necessary outgrowth of the bourgeois liberalism and individualism. (That's right.) The classic proof of this is to be found in Stirner's book, "The Individual and his Property" that appeared in 1845 and contained within itself not only anarchy but also anarcho-socialism. (Laughter.) As a consequence we find in anarchy nearly all those ideological views which are to-day advocated by liberalism. Anarchy says: "We have nothing to do with the state: I am myself and nothing else concerns me. The state is a monster, the concentrated power which oppresses me and robs me of my individual freedom. I will not concern myself with it; just develop your individuality as a proletariat, then you will see how far you can go." But the fact is that the most valuable individual peculiarities contained in this magnificent germ of human perfection, in these countless heads, cannot develop to-day and that it is an accident if an individual is able to develop; that present society destroys individuality, and that it is the especial task of the state to care for this suppression of individuality in the masses. "This state now," says Friedeberg, "we should leave in peace and not trouble ourselves about it." (Friedeberg, "I never said it.") I will prove that to you when I deal with you in Berlin. There we can have the greatest freedom of speech and I shall hope it will be chopped up as nothing has ever been chopped up before. (Great laughter.) So now the general strike is to be the cure all. It will overthrow the bourgeois society -- just how the state is to be overthrown we need not break our heads, if the general strike is once declared the state will float in the air, -- as if it would permit itself to be floated around in the air. (Laughter and applause.) The general strike will stop war, arm the military, conquer the eight hour day; general strike here and general strike there. And so they rattle on as if they had mill wheels in their heads. The end of the song is necessarily pure and simple unionism; (that's right) not that this is the object but it is the logical consequence. For the followers of this idea gradually become so full of all sorts of beliefs concerning the political powers and the necessity of political action that they naturally come to reject them and refuse to enter into the political organizations.
The general strike question has already occupied a whole list of international congresses. It first came up in 1889 in Paris. There it was that Tressaud-Marseille thought that the demonstration of the first of May would be ineffective unless supported by a general strike; the congress must declare the general strike as the beginning of the social revolution. His motion in support of this was, however, rejected by a great majority at the International congress at Brussels, Domela-Nieuwenhuis moved that the socialists of all countries issue a sort of declaration of war with a call to the people for a universal cessation of work. This motion also was defeated. The international congress of Zurich of 1893 appointed a committee to consider the general -- in the sense of the world -- strike. This commission submitted the following resolution, which, however, only gave rise to a discussion:
"Whereas, strikes can only be successful under certain definite conditions and with certain definite objects which cannot be determined in advance, and whereas a world strike, because of the diverse economic development of different countries is impracticable and in the moment that it would become practicable would be no longer necessary, and whereas, even in one country the limited universal strike, if peacefully carried out is hopeless, since hunger of the strikers first of all would compel their capitulation, while a violent strike would be mercilessly suppressed by the ruling class.
"Therefore the congress declares that under present social and political conditions a general strike of individual industries may be successful in the most favorable cases and further that sympathetic strikes (Massenstreiks) under certain conditions may be most effective weapons, not only in the economic but also in the political battle, weapons, however, whose application presupposes an effective economic and political organization of the working class. The congress recommends therefore to the socialist parties of all countries that they further this organization with all energy and pass over the question of a world strike for the consideration of the regular order of the day."
This resolution is especially interesting (and I was myself when I studied it, convinced by its contents) in that it rejects the "world-strike" but maintains that the political Massenstreik is still worthy of consideration and especially under the conditions, that the. corresponding organizations were sufficiently extensive. I find that this portion of the resolution is clearer than that of the Amsterdam resolution. (That's right.)
Again, in London, in 1896, the general strike came before the International Congress. In the resolution concerning the economic policy of the working class, the reporter was Molkenbuhr, we find: "The Congress considers the strike and the boycott necessary means for the attainment of the purposes of the unions, but does not consider that the possibility now exists for an international general strike. The immediate necessity is the economic organization of the laboring masses, because the extension of the strike to whole industries or countries depends upon the extent of the organization."
The International Congress at Paris in 1900 had the general strike as the last matter on its order of business. The chairman, Legien, declared: "We have brought in once more the not entirely satisfactory resolution of London in order to testify that our view concerning the general strike has not changed .... So long as strong organizations do not exist the general strike is not even subject to discussion. A general strike of unorganized masses would simply be an opportunity for the bourgeoisie. In a few days they would have overthrown the strikers through force of arms and thereby destroyed the work of decades." The Congress finally accepted, by a vote of 27 to 7, the resolution of the majority of the committee which repeated the London resolution.
We see that this question has in no way been neglected. Finally we have the resolution of the Amsterdam Congress.
Between the observations which Robert Schmidt made as representative of the unions at Amsterdam and those of Legien in 1900 at Paris there is a very significant difference. Legien said, "If you Italian and French wish to have a general strike, then see to it that you build up corresponding organizations and then we will discuss the matter." Robert Schmidt declared, on the contrary, in Amsterdam: "The great German unions do not consider the general strike as debatable." Schmidt in no way refers to the Massenstreik in this connection. The position of Brians at Amsterdam in regard to the Massenstreik is also very interesting. He held it to be necessary as a defense against the attacks on the suffrage in Germany. The resolution was finally adopted in Amsterdam by a vote of 36 to 4. At our Bremen congress the question was also discussed. Many speakers like Zetkin, Liebknecht, Kautsky, and Bernstein spoke in favor of further discussion of this question at other conventions. Finally came the events in Cologne where Bömelberg took the same position as Schmidt and argued against the theoreticians who lacked any practical comprehension of such questions.
Robert Schmidt compared the Massenstreik to a string around the neck of the working class, which the bourgeoisie were told to pull. (Shout, "That's right.") Bömelberg referred to the fact that the labor movement demanded peace in order to build up its organization, while the question of the Massenstreik would bring unrest into its membership and lead to divisions.
Now the question has been discussed further, especially by Comrade Heine in the September number of the Monatshefte. He attacked in the sharpest manner the work of Comrade Mrs. Roland-Holst on the general strike. I would have liked it much better if he had not sharpened his pen quite so often. He attacked Comrade Holst in a manner that I very much regret. (That's right.) He spoke of the high-nosed way in which such men as Jaurés talked. He declared that such ideas were worthless political nonsense. If such views are held they had better be expressed only among friends. But in spite of the fact that we may object to the tone of the debate I wish very much that Heine had given a few good examples of his social attitude. I do not myself agree wholly with Comrade Holst. I have, however, read her book with the greatest interest and I can recommend its reading to our comrades. The book was written with the heart's blood of Comrade Holst. She is one of the ablest women that I have ever come to know. When the general strike broke out in Holland, with which I was not wholly in accord, she and her husband went down into their pockets far beyond their ability and have made so great sacrifices that they have very much weakened their social position. She is a tireless agitator and displays tireless energy, sacrifice, and co-operation. For these reasons it gave me double sorrow that she was so treated. (That's right.) Heine also attacks the Massenstreik in the sharpest way. I do not recall ever having seen as sharp a criticism or such a bitter fight against any thought as his. His method of attack consisted in drawing upon his knowledge as a jurist for paragraph after paragraph of the criminal law and piling these up one upon the other to the height of high treason, and the threat of declaring a state of siege, so that any comrade who was not sure of his position might well feel the shivers running up his back, frightened at the great dangers that the application of the Massenstreik tactics in Germany might bring. He also referred to the horrible sentences that the courts, especially the military courts would give; because in his opinion it would be impossible to carry out so great and violent a movement in a peaceful manner, especially in view of the provocation of our opponents. When I spoke with my comrades concerning this article one of them said, "Heine, although not so intending, has supplied some government officials with the very best sort of material for a speech." I replied, that no public official was so stupid. They are not quite the most stupid that become public officials. (Heine, "Certainly they are not so stupid as that! -- Statdhagen. "Sure, they are the most stupid of all.") (Laughter.) I am convinced. Comrade Statdhagen, that you are much smarter than all the public officials together. (Loud laughter.) No, not even the most stupid public official is as stupid as to make such use of class justice.
But the whole foundation of Heine's deduction is false. I deny emphatically that all the results which Heine foresees would follow from a Massenstreik. All the things that he considers as possible and probable in a Massenstreik can with equal reason proceed from any great strike. If anyone had asked Heine's official advice prior to the outbreak of the great miners' strike he would have had the same reason to advise against it. Now in reality the miners' strike had not the least reason for such objection. The miners conducted a magnificent Massenstreik, which was more significant than have been those of all other countries, and this in a marvellously peaceful manner. I travelled through there from Brussels in coming back from a conference and was astonished at the holiday like peace in the Ruhr region. Not a chimney was smoking, where previously we were compelled to close the car windows against the smoke. The land was like a naked waste. The villages lay is peaceful as if no one dwelt therein. When such a thing is possible among a class of laborers who are politically and culturally as backward as these, then, we must well ask ourselves, what we might not do with our far greater means and our far more developed discipline, without any of the results that Heine has foreseen. (Loud applause.)
Finally there comes a point where we dare no longer count the cost. Schiller said. "Worthless is the nation that will not joyfully give its all for its honor." Yes, worthless, pitiable, is a working class that will permit itself to be used like dogs, rather than dare turn against its oppressors. (Thunderous applause.) There is Russia, there is the June massacre, there is the commune! By the deeds of these martyrs, dare you not go hungry for a few weeks to defend your highest human rights? (Thunderous applause and clapping of hands.) Ah, you know little of the German workers if you cannot expect that of them. (Renewed applause.)
What had Heine to say in Wyden when I moved that the word "legal" should be struck from our platform? It was carried unanimously without debate. (Heine, "And rightly.") Then we shall do right to-day when we do the same on the next occasion, (That's right, and laughter.) We are not on the offensive; we only defend ourselves. The political Massenstreik is not simply a theoretical but a practical question, concerning a perod of fighting that must and shall be used on occasion. Heine certainly did not intend to furnish material for the anarcho-socialists (Heine, "No"), but it is inevitable that Friedeberg and his followers would take advantage of such material and cry, "Now you see to what the German Social Democracy has come. Here we have terror material at wholesale." (Friedeberg, "We have got better material than that.") Nowhere does Heine say that we shall not defend ourselves when we are attacked. He only says that these means are useless: but he has no other to suggest. Shall we quietly stand and let ourselves be skinned alive?
They tell us that the Massenstreik is a useless weapon, but in 1891 the Belgians used it to obtain universal suffrage, and with relatively more success than the miners' strike, which brought only a botched-up mining law, and which was also a political strike. Our Belgian comrades have captured 33 out of 140 votes in the Chamber. In 1903 they went once more on a strike in order to completely secure universal suffrage. Then to be sure they had no success. I will not here enter upon a discussion of the tactics of the Belgians, but very significant thoughts occur to me. In 1902 the Austrian miners carried through a Massenstreik. They were successful, and secured the legal nine hour day, which we do not yet have. Then came the so-called sympathetic strike in Barcelona, a purely anarchistic strike. Indeed with us in Germany neither the unions or the parties ever think of declaring a so-called sympathetic strike. This so-called strike, that in order to secure the demands of a certain portion of the laborers calls out on strike the whole laboring class in a great industrial circle is doomed to failure. Then came the Swedish demonstration strike. These also we will not have in Germany. This was the sort of strike in which they say, "We will have a Massenstreik of three days." Nevertheless this strike was not without result. Even if the Swedes did not succeed in having the Chamber pass the resolution which they demanded of the government, yet two years later a new election law was submitted. The old law, against which the strike was directed, had become impossible. Even there, where the Massenstreik took place under conditions which I would never endorse in Germany, it has had some success. Then came the Massenstreik of the Italian workers against the shooting of their comrades. That was a strike which sprang spontaneously from the masses, where 20,000 laborers laid down their work and compelled the government to declare that for the future it would prevent any such shooting of the workers. To be sure this did not prevent a similar massacre in later years, Besides this, however, this strike has caused an increase in our vote at the election which followed shortly after from 165,000 to 316,000. and must therefore have produced a by no means unfavorable impression upon the masses, as a result of this strike, although all the bourgeois parties were aroused to the highest degree and united against us.
Finally, then, came the railroad strike of last spring. I was myself a witness of this in North Italy. It miscarried, and the blame fell mainly upon our members, with I know not what justice. But no one had thought of such a strike. About seven years ago the laborers and officials of the Swiss Northeast Railroad laid down all their work at twelve o'clock in a body so that when the official in one station called to the officer at the next one. "Where is train No. 12?" The answer came, "It's staying here." (Laughter.) This decided the question. They struck for three days. The management was completely destroyed and they attained what they wished, supported, to be sure, by the bourgeoisie.
Finally I recall the Massenstreik in Russia. There where our comrades have no political rights and power, strike after strike is carried through, three or four at once in the same place, with an energy that calls forth the greatest astonishment. Meanwhile the conditions in Russia are so abnormal that these strikes can scarcely be offered as an example to us. It is certainly no accident that since the year 1893 these political strikes, these Massenstreiks have first begun to be utilized, beginning in Belgium. Then the question rested until 1902 and from then to 1905 there have been a large number of such strikes. It is also by no means true, as has been said, that Massenstreiks are all failures. I question your trades unions, how many strikes did you lose even when you had a strong organization? Countless, and even to-day many are lost. Here we are dealing with wholly insufficient means, with unorganized laborers, incensed to Massenstreiks. To be sure, comrades, I do not ask this of you. No one asks it of you. That would be foolish. If we Germans are famous for the fact that we have philosophical heads, if we love, as Heine has rightly said, to become politicians, then we have first to organize the young, as scarcely any other nation. (That's right.) The German military. power, however much we may fight it, is a masterpiece of organizing, and that is due to this German, Prussian peculiarity. Even our insurance legislation, however much we may complain of it, is a masterpiece of organization. We Germans do not so easily take a step that we have not carefully examined. The reproach is sometimes thrown to us that we are like the Austrian Landsturm, which always comes limping on behind. We are of the opinion that before we enter into a great battle we must first thoroughly organize and agitate until we have created the political and economic understanding, made the masses self conscious, and ready for resistance and inspired them for the moment when we can say to them. "You must throw everything into the scale now because a question of life and death for you, and for all mankind, as fathers and as citizens is now to be decided." We shall not, and my resolution says nothing of the kind, blindly drive the masses into a strike. It should be self evident that we would not permit the unorganized masses to go blindly into the strike. Heine questions, "Will you have them uncontrolled?" That simply shows that you (turning to Heine) have no close knowledge of the feeling of the working class in these things, and this is no reproach for you, for your work does not bring you in connection with them. I say that what is still lacking we must create. (Heine, "That's right.") 'My resolution provides for this. State that it is as yet not satisfactory, but that it can be made so. If you are all agreed to act in the sense of my resolution and go out from this congress into the country to the comrades in a solid body, acting in the sense of this resolution, and if the party press does its duty in the far higher degree, and if not only the party press, but also the trades union press explains to the masses, and proves to them that they must occupy themselves politically, and points out what is at stake for them as citizens and as trades unionists and what tremendous significance the suffrage, for example, has, then the conditions for a general strike will be created. But if, like Robert Schmidt, they state in cold blood that the anarcho-socialists will henceforth be clung to by the trades unions --when one gives himself up to this sort of fatalism, that is the end of the song. They will merely make the trades unions pure and simple unions.
So, for example, Comrade Bringman, in a reference to an expression of Kautsky's in the Neue Zeit, of which I also, when I read it, said: That is a dangerous expression, which can be easily misused; so Bringrnan said in his brochure, "The Fifth Trade Union Congress and the Class Struggle in Germany," in which he quoted Kautsky: "Still less than ever before can the proletariat expect anything from the imperial government. All significance and life have been taken from the Reichstag." From this he draws the following conclusion: "Parliamentarisrn is simply played out in Germany. The three million victory of our party in 1903 has changed nothing, but has only accelerated this process. I therefore maintain that it was absolutely correct for the fifth trade union congress to not concern itself any further with social political matters. The fact is that we cannot expect any improvement in our economic condition through legislation within any perceptible period. For the immediate future at least our attention must be given exclusively to our unions. We can improve our economic condition only through our organizations and by means of hard economic battles." (Applause.) Then, again, on page 12 of this brochure, we read as follows: "The whole political and economic situation points the German working class to the trade union movement. Under present conditions it is the only means to improve the condition of the working class. The class struggle of the future will be fought out on the economic field. The unions are the bearers of this class struggle." When he thus looks upon political activity as useless, it amounts to nothing that at the close of this speech he gives utterance to this very beautiful expression: If it should become necessary to defend political rights "then we may be sure that these laborers will be firm in their defense of political rights. When such a situation shall present itself, the economically organized laborers will know how to fight bravely, conquer manfully, and, if necessary, to die like heroes." All very pretty, to be sure, but when said in this manner by a man holding an official position in his union, and who also says: We are not in a condition to obtain anything through politics within any conceivable time, then I ask you -- we have nothing to do with Bringman's intention -- will not the unionist say, "Why should we pay our pennies to a political party?" (That's right) and the younger trade unionists will say. "Then I will not unite with the party organization!" This question will lead to a more and more one-sided activity among our trade union leaders, until at last, and wholly unintentionally it ends in anarcho-socialism. Furthermore, I would call your attention to the fact that while the congress in Cologne was considering the question of the Massenstreik, in a conference between the Social Democratic organization and the trades union committee of Hamburg as to what we should do in reference to the attacks upon the suffrage by the Hamburg council, old party comrades and trade unionists said: "You have no idea how bad the situation is with many of the younger trade union leaders in that they sneer at the party, (Hear, hear) and at socialism, (Hear, hear) and the future state: They even deny that we are leading a class struggle." Comrades, I am only quoting what was said there, and those who said it are tried comrades from the trade union committee. I was simply struck dumb when I heard it. It was further confirmed by the editors of the Echo. When after this the opinions of Bringman find sympathy in this place even from Legien, then I am forced to say: "To your posts, consider what you are doing; you are travelling along a very dangerous road, which may end in your own downfall, without your being aware of it." (Very true.)
Of course, there can be no talk, such as we often hear, of the general strike coming, instantaneously, over night, with no chance of discussion. Such a great Democratic party as ours can have no secret politics. (Loud applause.) It must fight in broad daylight. (Renewed applause.) How shall we ever be able to direct the masses, if we do not bring them morally and intellectually within our influence, until we shall arouse their enthusiasm and their confidence, until we can say to them -- now there is no other way, on to the battle, if you but do your duty victory is certain. (Bravo.)
And now to something else. We do not fight for utopias nor to demand the co-operative commonwealth. We do not believe that the general strike will transform the capitalist society into a body of angels, but we fight for very real rights, which are the essentials of life for the working class if they are to live and breathe politically. When the question of the abolition of universal suffrage comes up, it is certain that even in bourgeois circles, however corrupt they may be, there is still a large proportion of the people who will say: That must not be: a right must not be taken from the workers when they have not misused it, and we will undoubtedly receive a certain sympathy from this source. Furthermore, I have a much stronger position in defending a right that I have possessed for ten years than as if I was seeking to conquer a new one. (That's right.) When I can say, "You are simply using brute force to take away our rights: you are brutes and tyrants!" -- when I can say all this to rouse up and spur on the masses, then ten thousand devils cannot keep us from winning the masses -- including even the Christian workers. (Loud applause.) You are perfectly right, you trade unionists, in fighting the Christian unions, but when in 1899 the "penitentiary bill" was before the Reichstag, and the Christian workers saw how their head was also in the sling, they took almost as clear a position against it as we, and the Center was compelled to yield to a certain degree, as Bachem told us. Do you remember what Bachem said? He did not claim that the Center had become the defender of the right of free coalition because of a principle -- not at all -- he said, and that was his principal reason, that the Catholic workers were aroused over the attack upon them; and that if this attack was pushed the Catholic laborers, to the last man, would desert them, and they could not stand that. (Hear, hear!) Just let them try to take the suffrage from us, or to abolish the right of organization! Just as during the miners' strike, the Catholic workers have fought side by side with the free trade unions, so would they range themselves with us when their vital interests as a working, class are at stake. Finally, there is always a force of circumstances and conditions stronger than the strongest will. (That's right!)
Furthermore, is it not the greatest, most unheard of scandal that the party which polled by far the largest vote at the Landtag elections in Prussia has, because of the miserable disgraceful three-class system of elections, not a single one of the 433 representatives in the Prussian legislature? (Loud applause.) There I agree with Bernstein that we must some day ask ourselves: "Shall this continue? Shall we permanently permit aristocrats, priests and capitalists to stand with their feet upon our necks, in order to destroy the right of municipal suffrage, in order to destroy the right of assemblage and organization?" Recall to mind the coalition law of 1896! Remember the mining law, and the proposal for a new penitentiary law! I do not say that the question will actually come up to-morrow, for a public opinion is necessary, and this opinion must first be created. There will probably be first a few violent attacks to set everything in an uproar. But the question must sooner or later appear upon the program. In this connection we are far behind the bourgeoisie of the fifties: they continuously fought for their rights. But we stand like -- no. I will not use the word -- but like people, to whom everything is the same. (Very good.) As a consequence blow after blow falls upon our shoulders. That cannot always keep on. (Loud applause.)
While on the one side we have Heine as an opponent of the Massenstreik, on the other hand we have the anarcho-socialists, who have left our former position and declare we are on the wrong road. Friedeberg, who has repeatedly spoken in great detail on this question, in Berlin, has printed his first speech, and has honored me with a copy with a very flattering dedication. We can certainly say that whatever we find therein is the sentiment of Friedeberg. On page 3 we read: "The economic advantages which parliamentarianism is capable of conquering from the class state, could easily be secured by the proletariat through its own efforts within their trade unions, and by the erection of co-operatives of consumption and production. The ideal motive in parliamentarianism, the spreading of socialist thought, the increase of class consciousness, can be much more effectively accomplished through the general strike idea, and. much quicker and stronger by the application of the energy, which is to-day expended in parliamentarianism, in direct and immediate instruction and agitation by word and writing among the masses of the people. We are conducting no political battle, and consequently need no political organization. Our battle is an economic and a psychological one. Therefore our weapons must be economic and psychological."
On page 15, where he criticises the party and its activity it reads as follows: "We must never forget that the state in reality is actually nothing but an abstract word, no more; that the state has a meaning, only so long as there are oppressed, and that the moment the proletarian social order is installed there will be no more oppressed, and it will therefore cease to exist. The idea of state and political power necessarily presuppose a contradiction of rulers and ruled, consequently it is not our object to conquer political power, but to so formulate the economic order and the industrial life of the proletariat that exploitation and slavery shall cease."
A bourgeois ideologist might use almost exactly the same words in demanding that the inner life of the proletariat be raised until they be religiously freed. (That's right.) Friedeberg thinks further that the party is in a position to prevent attack and continues: "And I can tell you that, when the attacks which are to-day being made against the right of suffrage are carried through the German proletariat will be made completely helpless." That will simply give the proletariat courage to fight. (Very true, and laughter.) "We shall shed no tears over universal, equal and secret suffrage" (loud, "Hear, hear"). "On the contrary, we cannot but marvel at the stupidity and poor tactics in our opponents in that they have at last opened the eyes of the German working class to the way that the German proletarian must go;" and on page 19: "Ninety-nine per cent of all things with which parliament is occupied are of absolutely no interest to us and will disappear the moment that the proletariat overthrows class rule."
In complete contradiction with this position, however, he complains on page 10 of class justice. Certainly, class justice does exist. To denounce it, however, we must be in the Reichstag; in our meetings the public officials stop us, (That's right.)
Once universal suffrage is gone then the right of organization and assemblage is also gone, the right of coalition is gone, all rights that we need are gone. When once our enemies have taken away universal suffrage they would be the greatest fools if they left us any other political rights, however small they might be. (Very true.) A battle will be begun to rob us of all our rights, in which we are certain to be defeated! It is self evident that in our unions, in our meetings, in the press, we would continue to fight to arouse the masses and thereby make our opponents uncomfortable. Once they have taken away the principal right, then they must take away the other rights. (That's right.) One depends upon the other. Do you think that a ruling class, who had taken away all rights of the working class would permit a strike of the working class for the purpose of overthrowing the rule of the bourgeoisie? How such thoughts, such confusion, such contradictions could get together in the head of an intelligent man, and that one of the clearest and most capable men that I know, is something that is impossible for me to comprehend. In Berlin Friedeberg spoke -- it must be read in order to be believed -- of a fifth estate. (Shout, "I never said it.") That is certainly of such colossal foolishness that it is almost impossible of belief. He said that, it is questionable if the party still stood upon the base of the class struggle. Marx and Engels had through their dogmatic teachings deadened the whole movement. When I read that I asked myself whether Friedeberg had forgotten the whole literature of the socialist party, and whether he had read the "Communist Manifesto." At the head of the Communist Manifesto is the sentence: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." That was the discovery of Marx and Engels, the discovery that signified a complete transformation of all historical cosmology. In another place in the Manifesto we read: "Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie is distinguished by the fact that the class antagonisms have been simplified and that the whole society becomes divided into two great hostile camps, into two great classes, bourgeoisie and proletariat." It goes on to show how the class state arose: "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." Then comes the proof of how the bourgeois continually creates greater and greater numbers of the proletariat and compels them to organize as a separate class, but, "This organization of the proletarians into a class and consequently into a political party is continually being upset again by the competition among the workers themselves."
In short, it is only necessary to read the "Communist Manifesto!" It staggers one's intelligence to hear it said that we are not standing on the base of the class struggle. (Very true.) Even our platform, which still holds good and whose sentences in this connection have never been attacked definitely expresses our character as a class party. (The speaker then read from the Erfurter Platform, concluding with the words: "The battle of the laboring class against capitalist exploitation is necessarily a political battle. The working class cannot continue their economic battle and develop their economic organizations without political rights. They cannot bring about the transition of the means of production into the possession of society without coming into possession of the political power. To transform this battle of the working class into a conscious and united movement, and to point out its natural and necessary goal, is the task of the Social Democratic party.") How any one in view of this expression in the fundamental writing of our leaders, and in view of our platform, and in view of a whole list of statements, writings, and periodical articles, can still tell the masses that the party has ever forsaken the base of the class struggle -- that is impossible to understand. Friedeberg referred to Liebknecht; but we must know that in the later editions of his writings concerning the political conditions of the Social Democracy that Liebknecht declared in plain words that the views therein contained were applicable only to the north German union. He had changed his position since the foundation of the German Empire. The question might be raised as to whether that was proper and logical, but after Liebknecht had in this plain manner rejected his old views and published the writings only as a document from an earlier period it is in the highest degree unjust, not to say disloyal, to claim to be supported by the authority of our old comrade, and go before the workers and say: "See, Liebknecht agrees with me." (Loud applause.) This whole method of fighting is absolutely monstrous. It is still more incomprehensible to me that in the principal city of the German Empire, the city of intelligence, three thousand workers, among them old comrades, could accept with, shouts of applause such a hash of bald contradictions. (Very true.) If I were ever tempted to swear that we had lost our brains and that our political culture was disappearing it was on the day that I read that. (That's true.) But everything has its explanations. I am an old boy who has lived through forty years of party life and I know a few things. We had a similar experience under the laws of exception when a row broke out in a certain place and one or another of the comrades failed to agree. In Berlin we had the localists who were mad because we made no progress. They could naturally not overthrow the Centralists, and so they were angry at the unions, angry at the party officials who should have taken them across their knees and spanked them. So long as old Kessler lived, who in spite of all his failings was still a strong Social Democrat, he was able to hold them within bounds. But old Kessler is dead, leadership has disappeared, and now Friedeberg comes and raises an opposition against the party and the unions, and at once the cry is raised, "Friedeberg is our man!" (Great laughter.)
So much for the psychology. But to be sure there are comrades who said. "Hold on, that smells too much like anarchism; they sit down together and talk very wisely and give you resolutions with interpretations, which it is self evident that no one else in the world can read out of it, but the condition may possibly develop further." I have often stated that the subject had no great significance. We have had plenty of such instances. We had an outbreak of anarchy once in St. Gallen, then came the Volkstribune with its battle against the Reichstag members. Then the Jungen were born (laughter) and Robert Schmidt became so famous in speaking about them that now he seems to have joined them himself (great laughter). He is once more back in the sheep-fold. I mean that only in the biblical sense, since in Heaven there is more rejoicing over one repentant sinner than one hundred righteous ones. (Continued laughter).
The movement of the Jungen soon broke up, and I believe that anarcho-socialism will do the same thing.
My further reply to Friedeberg will be postponed, and I will only make a few remarks concerning the 99 per cent. of the questions discussed in the Reichstag that are of no interest to the workers! So the freedom of union and assemblage, class justice, education, punishment, condition of the prisons, taxation, navy and military questions. colonial policy, tariff and commercial policy, abuses against the workers, world politics, labor legislation, workingmen's insurance, freedom of industry, freedom of migration, right of co-operation, public health, in view of all these questions and many others comrades still comment, "Humph! 99 per cent of all the questions discussed in the Reichstag have no interest to the proletariat."
Certainly when such things can be said and be applauded by our comrades then it is time that we went to our posts and question whether we were not in some way to blame. (That's right). During the last few years we have discussed all possible things theoretically, and the final result has not been a clearing up but ever greater confusion. (Loud applause). Seeds have grown up in this ground that we must now pull out. Such a complete confusion concerning fundamental principles has never existed in the party as it exists today. If this was only true of comrades who had just come into the party, then I would not wonder. But it is partly old comrades who have taken to this way of thinking, and so contribute to the corruption which has arisen in regard to the fundamental principles of the party. It necessarily follows that it is our task from now on to work more energetically than ever before to educate the comrades. I was criticised yesterday for my position with regard to neutrality and I hope that Robert Schmidt will give different references to the places to which I refer in my pamphlet. I have never stood for a neutrality of the trades union in political questions, but only said that a union should not be considered as an appendage to the political party, because it is necessary that they should include all laborers and not make adherence depend upon political belief. The trades union papers and speakers all have the same duty to continually repeat to their members: "You are laborers and as such, citizens, and as citizens you are interested in all great questions of state and of legislation."
When such an educational work is carried on among the workers then I will guarantee to edit a trades union paper a whole year without using the word "Social Democracy," and yet the readers will become socialists. (Loud applause and laughter). That is one of the riddles and that is a form of agitation that must be carried on. When along with this the party press devotes itself much more than previously to party organizations, when most of all the work of organization is undertaken in the sense of my resolution, then it will be no great task to double the membership of our unions in the course of a year, until the union shall rise to at least 25 per cent and the readers of our organs to 50 or 100 per cent of the workers. Thereby we will obtain a mass of means for the education of the party-members, and a preparation for the magnificent battles that are to come, such as we had never dared to dream of.
In this sense I ask you to vote for the resolution in this sense we shall battle until the victory is ours fully and completely. (Stormy and long continued applause). Translated by A.M. Simons.
The resolution, in support of which Bebel made his speech, printed herewith, and which was adopted by a vote of 288 to 14, reads as follows:
"Because of the efforts of the ruling classes and powers to deprive the working class of a legitimate influence on the public order and the things of common concern, or to rob them of this in so far as it is obtained through representatives in parliamentary representative bodies and thereby to deprive the working class of all political and economic rights, the congress feels itself called upon to declare that it is the imperative duty of the whole working class to resist all attacks upon their manhood and their rights of citizenship with all the powers at their disposal and to continuously demand complete equality of rights.
"Experience has especially taught us that the ruling parties, including even the extreme bourgeoisie left, are opponents of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage and that they attack the same or seek to abolish it or to restrict even the existing backward forms whenever their domination is threatened.
"As a consequence we note their opposition to any extension of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage in the separate states (Prussia, etc.) and even a reduction of the existing outgrown electoral law from fear of even the very small influence of the working class in parliamentary representative bodies.
"Examples of this are to be found in the robbery of the suffrage by a dominating and cowardly bourgeoise and an ignorant little capitalist class in Saxony and in the so-called Republic of Hamburg and Lübeck, and the attacks upon the municipal suffrage in the various German states of Baden and Saxony, and in such places as Kiel, Dresden, Furth, Chemnitz, etc., by the representatives of the various bourgeois parties.
"In consideration of the fact that universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage is the special pre-requisite to a normal political evolution of society, just as the freedom of coalition is the essential of the economic elevation of the working class:
"And in further consideration that the working class, through their ever increasing numbers and intelligence and their labor for the economic and social life of the whole people, as well as by the material and physical sacrifice which they bear for the military defenses of the country, constitute the principal factor in modern society, they must demand not only the maintenance, but also the extension of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage for all representative bodies in the sense of the Social Democratic platform, and the guarantee of complete freedom of coalition.
"Therefore the Congress declares that it is especially the duty of the whole working class in case of any attack upon universal, equal, direct, and secret suffrage, or the right of coalition, to utilize every apparently valuable means in defense.
"As one of the effective methods of fighting in averting any such political outrage upon the working class, or in order to conquer such an essential basis for its liberation the party considers under certain conditions the comprehensive utilization of the stoppage of work by the masses.
"The application of this method of battle is only possible with a great extension of the political and economic organization of the working class, and the continuous education of the masses by the labor press and the oral and written agitations.
"This agitation must set forth the importance and necessity of the political rights of working class and especially the right of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage and the unrestricted right of coalition, with regard to the class character of the state and society and the daily misuse which the ruling classes and powers perpetrate upon the working class by means of their exclusive possession of political power.
"Every party member is in duty bound whenever an economic organization of his trade is in existence or can be formed to enter into it and to support the aims and purposes of the unions. But every class-conscious member of a union has also the duty of uniting with the political organization of his class -- the Social Democracy -- and to work for the extension of the Social Democratic Press.
"The conference urges the Central Committee of the party to prepare a pamphlet founded upon the above resolution and its demands and to arrange for its distribution throughout the whole German working class."
1. Name applied by socialists to a law making striking a penal offense.
2. The German Social Democracy use the word "Massenstreik" in distinction from the catastrophic "general strike" idea as advocated by the anarchists, and some socialists to indicate the strike of a large body of men for social and political purposes. -- Trans.
3. During the "laws of exception" the headquarters of the German Social Democrats was at Wyden, Switzerland, and since they could have no legal existence the word "legal" was stricken from the platform. -- Trans.