Democracy in Imperial Germany?

Discussions on all aspects of Imperial Germany not covered in the other sections.
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Beowulf
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Post by Beowulf » 16 Jun 2003 06:59

Lord Gort wrote:Otto Von Bismarck. I think it is selfevidently provocative to insult a nations head of state. Or to put it more personally, MY head of state.



When compared to the lazy parasites that we know as the British monarchy... the Prussian seems endlessly devoted to the people... even Kaiser Wilhelm... which uninformed people usually label aloof and unaware, is very devoted...


That may be your opinion, but it is not mine. Kindly refrain from these statements.




regards,


Lord Gort, is there really such a difference between calling someone a lazy parasite and asserting that "Pychologically(sic) he was unsound," as you said, referring to William II here? Both are opinions, and opinions, like a**holes, usually stink (except for the exalted few of us whose noses are too elevated to notice.) :wink:

Furthermore, you did refer to the government of the Second Reich as a "sham democracy," which is selfevidently provocative to anyone who is not blinded in certain ways. Any historian who besmirches his work with a word like "sham" thoroughly discredits himself with bias (and I don't care who they are or how many PhDs they have or how many books they have written.) The fact is, such a person is merely proclaiming to the world that he believes his own ways and traditions to be the only true and right ones, and that those who do not follow these examples are in some way execrable. This manner is indirectly and unduly dismissive of what may well be to many people a great and noble tradition, and might naturally cause offense.

Kind Regards,

B.

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 17 Jun 2003 10:24

I'll intervene here I think.

Sham Democracy would be better worded as "Phoney Democracy" or more applicable to Imperial Germany "semi democracy" Both are valid terms, and may be found in Dr Paul Brooker's work "20th Century Dictatorships". Though having experience Dr Brooker's lectures, he often switches Sham and Phoney. They are interchangable.

And if anyone hadn't noticed, all history is biased.

Gwynn

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Balrog
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Post by Balrog » 17 Jun 2003 18:04

i remember reading that kaiser whilhelm II agreed verbally to some kind of treaty wioth czar nicholas II , then the kaiser took it to parliement were the treaty was rejected, the kaiser was humiliated, and had to explain to the russian czar that his powers were actually limited. i think that germany was much more democratic towards the end of the 2nd empire( after 1900, let's say) than it was in 1880, or 1890. i think monarchial power across the board was on the decline gently(western europe), or under attack violently,(russia). it is true, by 1914, one of the largest parties in the reichstag was the socialist SPD, and they voted to support the kaiser in ww1. so it seems even the kaisers opposition was not so dead set against his policies.

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Beowulf
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Post by Beowulf » 18 Jun 2003 01:41

Gwynn Compton wrote:I'll intervene here I think.

Sham Democracy would be better worded as "Phoney Democracy" or more applicable to Imperial Germany "semi democracy" Both are valid terms, and may be found in Dr Paul Brooker's work "20th Century Dictatorships". Though having experience Dr Brooker's lectures, he often switches Sham and Phoney. They are interchangable.

And if anyone hadn't noticed, all history is biased.

Gwynn


Thank you, Gwynn.. acknowledging that a natural bias exists is the first step toward a measure of equanimity. :) As I have said elsewhere, we are all biased in one way or another, yet we usually have valueable information to share with each other. One of the great challenges in reading history is to separate fact from the writer's bias. One of the first things one should attempt to do when reading a new book is to discover where this bias lies, and to keep this in mind while reading. Insight is not the sole prerogative of those who agree with oneself. :wink:

Kind Regards,

B.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 25 Jun 2003 14:37

Today the structures and rights that signify a democratic system are so instantly recognisable that it seems almost superfluous to define them. By these standards, Wilhelmine Germany certainly was not a democracy. But I think it is crucial to remember that this was a period of history where democracy was something that was developing and taking shape, and not just in Germany. 1870s Britain, for instance, would equally fail to meet the criteria of current democracy, due to its restricted suffrage.

Inevitably, this development reflected historical factors and national peculiarities. The German one was that executive power rested constitutionally in the hands of the emperor (as it did in Norway at the time too (the king of course, there was no emperor). In fact, according to the letter of the constitution, it still does). However, the Emperor was bound by the limitations of the constitution, and the Reichstag held important powers. In practice, the two were more or less compelled to work out their differences. This arrangement did not obstruct sweeping reforms that were revolutionary in their day, such as the early introduction of universal male suffrage and the establishment of state social benefits. The main difference may be the relative weakness of the political parties through their exclusion from executive powers, which was less to the benefit of the emperor than to his chancellors (who could use the Reichstag to pressure the Emperor just as well as the opposite). Germany was in effect ruled (executively speaking) by men without party affiliations, but who could command at least a modicum of confidence from both the Emperor and the Reichstag. And of course, German authorities couldn't ignore public opinion much more than anybody else. I would say that in practice, the way Germany functioned politically had more in common with France or Britain than with Russia.

cheers

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Otto von Bismarck
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Post by Otto von Bismarck » 14 Jul 2003 03:00

Democracy is a plague that destroys wonderfully chivalrous and conservative Empires like Germany...

Only through firm Prussian discipline can a nation, or in Germany's case, an empire, rise to greatness. As it was put most correctly by Otto von Bismarck... "The great questions of the ages will not be solved by speeches or majority votes, but by blood and iron."

"Wir Deutschen fürchten Gott un sonst nichts auf der Welt"

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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 14 Jul 2003 07:50

Democracy is a plague that destroys wonderfully chivalrous and conservative Empires like Germany...



The greatest and most powerful Empire in history, the United States, is founded on democracy.

As it was put most correctly by Otto von Bismarck



I'd be careful. Many consider your namesake the man responsible ultimatly for the Great War and so therefore of the whole cycle of events that lead to Jews being lead into the gas chambers of Dachau.



regards,

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 14 Jul 2003 08:20

In my opinion it is as absurd to see Bismarck as responsible for the Great war as it is to think that Germany was a wonderfully chivalrous and conservative empire.


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British Free Corps
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Post by British Free Corps » 14 Jul 2003 09:33

The greatest and most powerful Empire in history, the United States, is founded on democracy.


Surely that title can go to our beloved isles? And that was founded on the odd conquest and annexation! "Democracy" had yet to appear in the dictionary when the British Empire was at the height of it's power (1/4 of the Globe under the British Crown - ah the good old days...)

Back to the topic, Germany under the Kaiser had no real need for democracy. Not to say that I am opposed to an elected parliament, but at that time, progressive ideals were not suited to Germany, or the German people. The failure of the Weimar Republic can attest to that.
Germany's Empire was founded on ideals of authoritarianism - and as weird as it may seem today, the people of Germany were just fine with that.

Regards,
Matt
:)

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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 16 Jul 2003 22:08

Good points Matt, very true, and yes, good point on Britain and democracy.


As Gladstone said: "Liberty for ourselves, Empire over the rest of mankind."


regards,

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Otto von Bismarck
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Post by Otto von Bismarck » 18 Jul 2003 01:35

"The greatest and most powerful Empire in history, the United States, is founded on democracy."

The United States in no way became as strong as it is because of democracy. It became powerful because it was able to conquer all of the territory around itself virtually unopposed... with the exception of a few small indian tribes that it quickly extinguished. The United States only fought one war during its time of expansion with England... which resulted in its capital being burnt to the ground, other than that, it engaged in battles only with weak neighbors and the then elderly Kingdom of Spain. The United States would have been stronger, under a non-democratic government.

"I'd be careful. Many consider your namesake the man responsible ultimatly for the Great War and so therefore of the whole cycle of events that lead to Jews being lead into the gas chambers of Dachau."

Now anyone that truly believes that is merely an under educated and excessively liberal minded idiot that has a general fear and bias towards authoritarianism. Bismarck was in no way was responsible for the Great War, if anything, he prolonged it. The very mentioning of Bismarck being even indirectly responsible for the gas chambers is purely the stupidest thing I have ever heard... The Treaty of Versailles was perhaps an indirect cause, but certainly not Bismarck. In fact, it is most evident that England and Russia were responsible for the great war. England, jealous of, and eager to engage the German Empire, looked for any excuse to go to war with Germany. That pertained to honoring an old treaty to protect Belgium (and rest assured, if France had attacked and annexed Belgium, like the Bonaparte's loved to do, then England wouldn't have done anything). Russia only went to war because it was greedily jealous of Austria's influence in the balkans.

England went to war for these reasons...

1. Expanding its territory, at Germany's loss
2. Attempting to check the most powerful country in the world, it's self appointed nemesis (the German Empire)

The comical part about this is... England failed miserably.

World War I bankrupt England, and it had a very hard time keeping control of its colonies, and it also lost the great naval engagement of Jutland. The supposed best navy in the world... the Royal Navy, lost to the numerically inferior, but more professional Imperial German Navy. Admiral Reinhardt Sheer clearly outwitted Admiral Jelico. The English lost three of their dreadnoughts, while the Germans lost only two.

If anything... I think we have Britain, Russia, France, and the United States to blame for both of the world wars. I also add... Hitler would have NEVER come to power in an Imperial Germany. The weak democratic nature of post war Weimar Germany was an easy obstacle for Hitler... but I can tell you for a fact, that the strong authoritarian nature of Imperial Germany, would have kept Hitler where he belonged... (the lower class)

Lord Gort... you must think before you speak ;-)

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 18 Jul 2003 10:16

Sorry, but isn't this a little silly? One cartoon position against another. To Herr von Bismarck I would say that if you regard Bismarck as some sort of high-principled conservative Imperial Icon who acted on the basis of a firm notion of German character and German destiny, and whose speeches in the Reichstag can be taken seriously at face value, I'd advise you to do some re-reading and re-thinking. The Bismarck you describe is not the man, but the symbol he was made into by later propagandists eager to exploit his prestige. To the good Lord Gort I'd say that if you regard Bismarck as the sinister and peculiarly German embodiment of a hell-bent authoritarianism that ended with Auschwitz, I'd advise you to read up on the history of the period 1860-1918. I think you will find that by European standards of the day, he was very much a rational and even moderate figure. He was simply unusually gifted in advancing the interests of his country.


cheers

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Balrog
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Post by Balrog » 18 Jul 2003 16:02

someone wrote that the conservative aristocrats would have "kept hitler in his place". it must be noted that hitler was supported by many many prominent german princes, field marshalls, nobles, etc. some germans aristocrats opposed, a few, but most fell under his sway as most of the other germans. hitler reflected the feelings of a defeated nation that felt it had been grossly mistreated and punished for something it was not guilty of. the blue bloods agreed with hitler. even the kaiser's sons backed hitler.(at least most of them that i lnow of) without the treaty of versailles being so harsh, there would have been no hitler.

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British Free Corps
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Post by British Free Corps » 18 Jul 2003 16:46

Joel, aristocratic and upper class support for Hitler only increased when the only alternative was communism. Between the NSDAP and the KPD, the moneyed class threw their lot in with Hitler. What else could they have done? Ideally, the DNVP should have gained the vast majority of their votes, but Alfred Hugenberg was something of an opportunist, believing that Hitler would accept a conservative stance in his party if he received generous funding from the newspaper magnet. Naturally, Hugenberg lost out. After the Night of the Long Knives, National Socialism replaced both left-wing National Bolshevism and conservative Nationalism. Had the DNVP had a figure the same political and oratory skills as Hitler, then they may just have increased their popularity. The Nationalists represented the ideals of most of the senior army officers as well as President Hindenburg himself.

Herr Bismarck, I agree with your reasoning on the Treaty of Versailles being a platform for the NSDAP, but was Britain really a protagonist in the entire debacle that was the start of the Great War? Up until the German annexation of Belgium, Britain (under a liberal government) had taken a back seat, so to speak (IMO).

The supposed best navy in the world... the Royal Navy, lost to the numerically inferior, but more professional Imperial German Navy. Admiral Reinhardt Sheer clearly outwitted Admiral Jelico. The English lost three of their dreadnoughts, while the Germans lost only two.


Jutland cannot be called a defeat for Great Britain, simply because the Royal Navy did not lose it's hold on the European waters. On the other hand, it was given a serious wake up call as far as fleet protection was concerned. The three battlecruisers had been sunk via hits directly penetrating their poor deck armour.

Whilst Britain remained in control of the seas, it been taught a serious lesson

The German fleet, whilst sinking the three British battlecruisers, were unable to wrestle control of the seas from the Royal Navy.

If Jutland must be evaluated, then it can only really be called a tie (lame, I know - but you got anything better)?

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Post by Jon Sutton » 18 Jul 2003 18:11

I think that the Battle of Jutland was most aptly summed up by the American journalist who said: "the prisoner has assaulted his jailer and is now back in jail". As for Sheer(sic) outwitting Jellico(sic) I think that the only reason that Scheer could publicly claim a victory was that he escaped through mistakes on the British side, notably in the handling of information decoded by Room 40. A quote from Halpern's 'A Naval History of World War I': 'The senior German officers seemed to close ranks around Scheer, although his Chief of Staff Trotha privately admitted, somewhat jokingly, that if an admiral had got himself in such a situation at manoeuvers or in a war game as Scheer did at Jutland, he never would have been entrusted with another command again.' I can't lay my hands on a reference to Scheer's own statement after the battle when asked the reason for his turn back towards the Grand Fleet: "It just happened - as the virgin said when she had a baby.."
I believe that the reason that the three British Battlecruisers blew up (and H.M.S. Lion narrowly escaped the same fate) was less that their armour was pierced but more that their cordite propellant exploded rather than burned when exposed to flash, as compared to the German propellant.
(As to Britain being jealous of Germany's colonies: come on ! They were of no economic benefit to Germany and Bismarck didn't want them.)

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