August Bebel

Reminiscences


My First Sentence

The mismanagement and favoritism that had taken root in Spain, under the rule of Queen Isabel, united all opposition in a violent uprising, which resulted, at the end of September, 1868, in the flight of Isabel. The indecision with which the provisional government, composed of the leaders of the opposition parties, treated the question of the new form of the state, induced the democracy of the various countries to recommend to the Spanish people in resolutions and addresses the foundation of a republic. Of course, we thought we had to go still farther by advising the Spaniards to found a Socialist republic, for which every prerequisite was in reality missing. Of a membership of more than sixty thousand that had joined the International, according to newspaper reports, not even fifty thousand existed on paper; they were a product of imagination. It was a period of exaggerations that benefited especially the International. If you believed the bourgeois press, the International had millions of members in Europe, and its funds were correspondingly enormous. The good citizen was horrified, when he read in his paper that the treasurer of the International had merely to open his strong box in order to find millions at his disposal for strikes. I was myself a witness one evening that Prince Smith, who sat opposite me in a social meeting at the Berlin Press Club, related confidentially to his neighbor: “He had received a letter from Brussels to the effect that the General Council of the International had placed two million francs at the disposal of the striking coal miners in the Borinage (Belgium)." I refrained, with difficulty, from laughing. The General Council would have been glad if it had had two millions of cents in its treasury, or about twenty thousand francs. The General Council had a great moral influence, but money was always its weakest side.

These exaggerations concerning the power of the International misled even Bismarck a few years later, after the revolt of the Commune. He wanted to hold an international conference for the purpose of combatting the International. The Austrian Prime Minister, Mr. von Beust, willingly lent a hand in this, altho he confessed that the International was not a matter of concern in Austria. The English government prevented the realization of this beautiful plan. Not only Bismarck, but even an able diplomat and political agent like Colonel von Bernhardi permitted himself to believe the greatest nonsense about the International. For instance, in his work, “Glimpses of the Life of Theodore von Bernhardi,” he published the report of one of his trusted men, in which we find the following passages

“Above all, the Socialist intrigues were zealously continued by way of London and Geneva, in order to revolutionize the whole of Europe, and this revolution was to be not merely political, but social. These intrigues were directed by the two international committees in London and Geneva. The chairman of the London committee is Louis Blanc, of the Geneva committee, Philipp Becker. The revolution is to break out, first in Paris, and when it is victorious there, it shall be extended to Italy and then to southern Germany, where there is plenty of fuel; thereafter it shall also reach to northern Germany, where they likewise have many connections, and in general all Europe is to be revolutionized. Their first efforts aim at a military organization of the city proletariat by means of the right of coalition.”

According to Bernhardi, all capital cities of Germany were already primed for a revolt. The leaders of the movement were especially Schweitzer and Bebel. Such nonsense was spread by very serious men.

The “Address to the Spanish People,” which Liebknecht justified in a public meeting, and which I, in my capacity as chairman, had read to the audience, brought us into court. In the end each of us was sentenced to three weeks of prison for disseminating doctrines dangerous to the state. We served our time in the Leipsic county jail at the end of 1869, the line of red tape having dragged on so long.

That the Spanish revolution in its further course would give cause indirectly for a war between France and Germany was not suspected by anybody at that time.


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