Main Issues in Second Reich

Focus on Second Reich , people and positions associated and the tensions in the build up to war.

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Features of Constitution

Federal State - 25 States, 4 Kingdoms + Alsace Lorraine. All had own Governments. Had fairl wide ranging powers (Domestic Affairs)

Kaiser - Had considerable powers. Always Prussian King. Had full control over foreign and Diplomatic policy. Appointed and Dismissed the Chancellor, and could dissolve the reichstag.

The Chancellor - Directly responible to Kaiser. Could ignore resolutions passed by Reichstag.

The Bindesrat - Upper house of Federal Parliament. Had 58 members, could change the constitution, created to be a barrier to radial legislation.

The Reichstag - held joint power with the Bundesrat, had control of defence budget

Army - Directly responsible to the Kaiser. Could declare martial law (Army Rule)

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Political Organisations

Included Conservatives and Free conservatives and National Liberals, Liberal Progressives, centre party and Social Democratic Party(SPD)

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German Economic Growth

Unification and WW1 hugely boosted the German economy.By 1914, Germany was the Economic Powerhouse of Europe.

New industries had developed (Steel, Engineering and Chemicals)

Most industries were booming during the industrial revolution. Due to urbanisation the agricultural industry fluctuated

Bismarcks Tariff law protected the german farmers, got higher prices for their crops.

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Socialist Movement

Anti Scoialist Laws -1878 - didnt dampen working class' enthusiasm for political action.

By 1914, 2.5 million workers, were part of trade unions, 400,00 went on strike.

SPD were larges socialist political partY(720000 members) - Predominately working class.

August Bebel : committed to revolutionary marxist programme, would work legally, rejected collaboration, believed revolution was inevitable.

Eduard Bernstein (Revisionist) : should look for gradual improvement through parliamentary reform, should collaborate with other parties. Bernstein was denounced.

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Pressure Goups

Nationalist pressure groups

German Colonial League 1882 : concerned with acquisition of German Colonies. Helped rule parts of empire

Pan German League 1890 : acquisition of colonies and German Dominance in Europe.

Navy League 1898 : promoted naval expansion.

Economic Pressure groups

Central Association of German Industrialists 1886 - protected industrialist interests. Funded candidates conservative and liberal parties. Most powerful pressure group.

Agrarian League 1893 : protected Agrarian interests, had wide support from peasantry

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Political developments

Main aim - to protect interest of ruling elite

1. Aggressive Foreign policy

2. Demand for Constitutional reform - Bismarck dealt with Liberal challenge through divide and rule. Used war and conquest to split the nationalis minded liberals. Tarriff law pleased Conservatives and the National liberals but not the liberal progressives. Demand for power remained muted whilst divided.

3. Demand for social reofrm - Socialists demanded social reform. Anti Scoialist Law banned SPD drove organisations underground

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von Bulow

Sammlungspolitik - politics of concentration, build an alliance in Reich, board against socialism

Weltpolitik - World politics, building up of armed forces. SPD stood against imperialist adventure as there was so much social reform needed at home.

Flottenpolitik - the building of a navy which rivaled britain. First naval law, larger fleet was necessary for protection of German colonies. Aim was to build fleet big enough to deter an attack from other naval powers. Second naval law, build 38 battleships over 20 years, Third naval law added six battle cruisers to the programme.

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Herero Uprising

  • January 1904, herero people rose inrevolt against their colonial repressor
  • Herero people were then executed, incarcerated in cincentration camps, and forcibly migrated.
  • Conservative elements of Centre party were cautious about challanging von Bulows government
  • Majority were scandalised by reports fed back to Germany

Affair highlighted the need for greater parliamentary financial control of colonial affairs, the affair cost the 456 million marks.

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Hottentot Election

26 may 1906, Centre party and SPD voted down againt a new railway in SW Africa.

In light of Centre party's attitude, the reichstag was dissolved.

Hottentot election was fought on the issue of nationalism.

von Bulow entered the election supported by nationalist pressure groups, he frightened the german voters into voting for him, and threatened the consequence of a Red - Black victory (Centre and SPD)

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Daily Telegraph Affair 1906

Bulow Block was being undermu=ined by ever growing financial deficit, increased military spending meant 380 million marks needed to be raised.

Half heartedly proposed taxes, broke up Bulow Bloc.

October 1908, kaiser gave interview, gave impression he wanted close alliance with Britain. Reich stag annoyed, Kaiser made foreign policy without consultation

Kaiser blamed Bulow for failing to censor interview. Reichstag dropped issue without restraining Kaisers power. Bulow was dismissed, showed the Kaiser had more power than the Reich.

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Bethmann - Holwegg

  • 1910, tried to reform the unfair Prussian voting system, dropped propsals in face of Conservative opposition.
  • To please conservatives, he started seizing estates of poles, with purpose of giving it to german peasantry
  • 1911, introduced a constitution for Alsace - Lorraine to try to intergrate the area more with Germany.

1912 Election

SPD became biggest party, partyl due to alliance with Progressive liberals, problem was that very few other parties considerd an alliance with the them.

1913, SPD voted for an Army Bill, which increased the Army by 1936 soldiers, at a cost of 1 billion marks.

SPD members voted in favour because they didnt want to seem unpatriotic, and money was being raised directly from Property tax.

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The Zabern Affair 1913

Seige hung over Zabern after derogatory remarks about locals, locals were imprisoned, the kaiser was unmoved by reports, and military reinforcements were ordered into the town.

The kaiser accepted an explanation from the local military commander in chief, which underplayed the incident, the matter was a military affair. Kaiser and War miister defended military to dissatisfaction of the Reichstag which supported a vote of no confidence against the chancellor. The SPD inspired prtests, theses were met with the use of repression.

Limit to reich satgs influence as :

  • vote of no confidence to chancellor was ignored, he was resposnible to kaiser not the reichstag
  • too timid, took a week for someone to call for the chancellors resignation after vote of no confidence
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Extent of contitutional reform

Afraid of being tarnished as unpatriotic, no party was willing to challange the monarchy. Members of SPD were bound by loyalty, so voted in favour of constitutional reform.

Parties looked after the interest groups who voted for them, made party collaboration very dfficult to achieve.

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