W. Liebknecht

Social-Democracy in Germany


Written: July 9, 1898
Published: German Elections, Justice, 16th July 1898, p.5.
Transcribed by: Ted Crawford.
Markup: H. Antonn.



In today’s Justice you say in a note on the German Elections – “After the Catholics of the Centre, the Social-Democratic Party is the strongest in Germany”. You do not give us our due. We are not the strongest party after the Centre, but we are by far stronger than the Centre, as far as the electoral body is concerned. The chief election of June 16 this year gave us 2,125,000 votes, while the Centre had only 1,333,000. So we have nearly 800,000 voters more, or nearly two-fifths. And the difference appears still greater, if we consider that since June 14, 1893, the day of the last preceding General Election, the Centre has lost 135,000 votes, while we have gained 340,000. So we are an advancing and growing party, and the Centre is a retreating and decaying party. The error has doubtlessly been caused by the fact, that the Centre has nearly twice as many deputies in the Reichstag, and more than any other party. But this is the effect of our miserable electoral system, which has not provided for equality of the electoral districts. Originally, by the “Constitution”, we were to have one deputy or member for every 100,000 inhabitants. The districts were formed in the year 1867; – that is thirty-one years ago, and then, on the basis of a census nearly ten years old. And now think of the immense change in the population and its distribution and of the mass-migration from the country into the towns. At that time Berlin had 600,000 inhabitants, and it got six members. Now Berlin has 1,800,000 inhabitants, and ought to have eighteen members. The district (VI. Berlin) which sends rue to the Reichstag has for itself alone 145,000 electors, and sufficient population for six districts. On the other hand, the number of population in the broad country remained stationary, or even decreased and just in those parts where Democratic and Socialist ideas do not find such nourishment and cannot spread as quickly as in the towns the Centre and the Conservatives have their chief support of strength, If we had as many members as the Social-Democratic vote gives us a right to, we should have 116 members instead of fifty-six, and the Catholic Centre about seventy instead of 103.

The Government and the reactionary parties have not yet recovered from the stunning blow our victory gave them. They entertain the wildest schemes of saving their tottering power – correcting universal suffrage, a new gagging law that sends all agitators to prison or out of the country – a coup d’etat, the most desperate and stupid plans are put forward and discussed, Well, we let them think, talk, write, and do what they like. We can only feel joy at all these involuntary confessions of their inability to fight us in fair fight. And our joy is not marred by any fear. We know our strength and resources, and we know the strength and resources of our enemies. We are prepared for fair play and for foul play, and we are a match for them, whether they use fair play or foul play.

July 9, 1898.


Yours fraternally,

Map of constituencies


Last updated on 9.2.2005