GHDI logo

V. Politics
print version

Overview: Wilhelmine Germany, 1890-1914   |   I. Economic Development   |   II. Society and Culture   |   III. "Modern Life": Diagnoses, Prescriptions, Alternatives   |   IV. State and Society   |   V. Politics   |   VI. Germany in International Affairs   |   Germany at War, 1914-1918   |   I. Battle   |   II. Mobilization of the Home Front   |   III. Privation and Ferment on the Home Front   |   IV. Seeking an End to the War

Political processes also underwent dramatic change during the Wilhelmine era. The Kaiser himself quickly became the symbol of both the feverish new pace of politics and the fundamental issues that divided the country (Docs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). His brash interventions into political affairs signaled a determination to preserve or extend his autocratic powers at the expense of the democratic national parliament, even as social groups – farmers, employers, Catholics, workers, and ethnic minorities – mobilized in defense of their own sectoral interests (Docs. 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 20). The most potent symbol of this mobilization, which represented what some historians have called the birth of German mass politics, was the stunning success of the Socialist labor movement, whose political arm, the Social Democratic Party, emerged in 1912 as the largest party in the Reichstag. This was a Marxist party, which had inscribed social revolution into its program in 1891 (Docs. 12, 13). To judge from intra-party debates between "revisionists" and "radicals," its dedication to this goal was significantly less intense by 1912, but the specter of Socialism profoundly frightened the government and other political organizations (Docs. 14, 15, 16). In response, they mobilized around the putatively unifying symbols of the German nation – doing so most effectively in the popular campaign on behalf of the German battle fleet, which Alfred von Tirpitz directed from the German Naval Office in Berlin (Docs. 10, 11). His difficulties in controlling the forces that he sought to mobilize suggested, however, the dangers of appealing to the kind of nationalism that found its most radical embodiment in the Pan-German League (Docs. 21, 22, 23).

Page 6

first page < previous   |   next > last page