Imatges de pÓgina
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estimates and most reliable evidences of the strength of a ruler is the circumstance that when his country is mentioned he instantly comes into one's thoughts. For instance, one cannot now think of the British Empire without remembering King Edward; and equally so, at least, is it in the case of Germany and the Emperor William. In each case the personality of the Sovereign has become interwoven, as it were, with the very fabric of his country.

Whatever else may be said of him, or whatever political and historic events in the career of his German Imperial Majesty may be mentioned, it cannot be denied that he is a man of intensely patriotic feeling, of remarkable personal qualities, and of an exceptionally high sense of duty; and there is also no getting away from the very significant fact that from the beginning of his reign every act has been dictated, so to say, by his one single desire to do all that he possibly can for the honour and glory, for the greatness and welfare, of the Fatherland—a particularly striking feature of his character being that he does not consider that the country exists for him, but that he exists for the country. This brings us to one of the mostdiscussed traits in the Emperor William's character-namely, his propensity of interesting himself directly in a great variety of subjects. It is very doubtful indeed that he would have attempted so much and to such a degree had he been a private individual, but his conception of the duty before him is so high that he deems it incumbent upon him to encourage as much as possible, and again as often as a suitable occasion arises, all the crafts, arts, and sciences which have in them the potentialities for ennobling and beautifying life, and which are indeed calculated to make life, as such, purer and better. Hence that versatility which is the subject of so much and so frequent comment. •

Speaking generally, when we come to estimate the chief features of the Kaiser's reign-that is, so far as it has at present run its coursewe can have little doubt that quite the most essential point is social reform. Briefly stated, the social movement in Germany is now not the question of a fight between the rich and the poor, as used formerly to be the case, but between economic interests, the workers claiming a greater share of the profits of trading than they have had hitherto. This fight has of late become more widespread, for the meaning of the term 'working man' has been enlarged. A 'working man' nowadays is not merely one who does manual labour, but also one who, like the clerk, the manager, the shop-assistant, and even the journalist, receives a fixed wage and nothing more. The movement therefore becomes more and more important-a fact which German legislators themselves, as recent history clearly demonstrates, recognise to the full.

In so far as the Fatherland is concerned, it is instructive to note that, judging from certain speeches which have been within the last two or three years delivered at various meetings of the German Socialists, this state of affairs has been to a large extent brought about by the growth of the great Trusts or 'syndicates,' as these financial corporations are usually termed on the Continent. In the case of a Trust profits are kept within a certain financial circle, yet in a considerable number of hands, instead of being, as was the case a few years ago, confined to the very few. This has, no doubt, gained to a considerable extent for the movement, and given a strong and, what may be called, a permanent impetus to the popular desire for the establishment of more universal recognition of general claims--that is, as regards individual rights. Of course, the inference to be drawn from this explanatory remark becomes at once obvious. For, as the number of capitalists has increased, the working classes have gained nothing of the profits which have been obtained ; and, consequently, the political movement which has-apart from other considerations of an important social character, as will be seen later on-those profits as its objective has gathered in force.

Now, in order to arrive at a correct estimate of the leading motives of Socialism in general—that is, as it is being at present developed in all civilised countries--and of those Socialistic tendencies in particular by which the Social Democratic party in Germany, taking it as a whole, is animated, it is interesting to call attention to one essential factor in this respect; namely, that the political movement in question in the Fatherland is, after all, not confined, as it is usually described, to a conflict between Socialism and Individualism on the one hand, and again between Competition and Co-operation on the other hand, but, as a careful inquiry into these points will convince the student of economic questions of to-day, that it is, perhaps, class difference more than anything else that is responsible for the widespread tendency towards Social Democracy, a tendency of which it can be said that it so far prevails in practically every corner of the German Empire. As a matter of fact, the working classes—the term being now applied as interpreted in its widest sense are at the present time in a similar position to what the middle and even some of the upper classes were in Germany, and particularly in Prussia, between fifty and a hundred years ago; that is to say, they are labouring under the painful consciousness of an inferior position, both economic and social. The great extent class differences had attained to during that particular period of German history may be easily gathered from the nature of a certain reply which Bismarck deemed it advisable to give to one of his most intimate friends, the late Von Kleist-Retzow, who, some time in 1850, told the future Chancellor that he had proposed for the hand of the Countess von StolbergWernigerode in marriage. “My poor Hans,' said Bismarck, ‘you have made a fool of yourself. How can you imagine, continued the eminent and immortal statesman, that a member of the old Imperial Court nobility will marry a daughter to a gentleman who occupies a lower rank in the scale of our aristocracy ?' As this characteristic statement by the late Iron Chancellor illustrates in a remarkable manner what has been pointed out in the foregoing part, no further comment is necessary.

Again, properly to understand the Kaiser's attitude in regard to social questions in general we must go back to the earliest stages of this movement in Germany. To put it briefly, the fact that the working classes have come to realise not only that they have strong common interests, but also that they can, from the economic and material point of view, in the first instance, facilitate the advancement of their cause and the object they have in view by means of organisation, and thus considerably better their position ; that one and all of them are on an equality; and, what is still more important, that they are a distinct class in themselves, is due in large measure to Ferdinand Lassalle, whose work was subsequently amplified by Karl Marx and his faithful followers.

If I were asked to say what constitutes Lassalle's chief merits in this respect, I should unhesitatingly answer that he succeeded in a marked degree, such as no one ever did before him, in creating a consciousness of their real position in the minds of the workers, thus laying the foundation-stone upon which trade unionism, perhaps the greatest social bulwark in every country in which industry and commerce are being conducted on a vast scale, with all its modern aims and manifold duties, had a decade or two later developed. For why is it that trade unions are rapidly coming into existence in almost all centres of industry and commerce, and why is it again that their membership increases—one may say from day to dayby leaps and bounds ? Because of the fact that the wage-earners have imbibed the spirit of Lassalle’s teaching, and supplemented it as it were by their own experience and observation-namely, that it is only by the process of combining that they are placed in a position of dealing with their employers in a somewhat adequate manner, and of thus obtaining, under certain circumstances, what may be called fair and satisfactory terms.

In so far as some important historic data in this direction are concerned, it is interesting to note that originally the movement, as it was initiated by Ferdinand Lassalle and his school, had nothing in the way of a revolutionary tendency-a fact which cannot be strongly enough emphasised, especially in view of the present state of development of Socialism in this country—but unfortunately the political parties did not properly grasp at the right moment the problem, which in its present aims does not differ much from a striving for a complete upheaval of the established order of things. As with the parties, so also with the Government: they misunderstood. And it was resolved that the new political ideals should be exterminated by repressive measures. Had they understood the great

problem which lay behind this movement, and had they met in a reasonable spirit the then modest demands of the workers—which amounted to the State protection of their rights—there might not have been a Social Democratic party of any particular importance. It deserves, however, to be mentioned in this connexion that Bismarck, with his rare and masterly insight into the general development of internal affairs, did certainly not fail to realise the real significance of the new ideals; and as the one great feature of his general policy was the advancement of the greatness of the Empire, he strove incessantly and in every way to unify its peoples. His aim therefore was first to conciliate, and then to win over, the adherents of the new movement. And, now, the very important question arises as to what were the actual results which the Iron Chancellor has achieved in this direction ? He gave them the vote, not because he wished to create a fourth class—which, as a matter of fact, wields now such immense power—but because he thought that this would do something to keep the people from Socialism. He also introduced the State subsidy for old-age pensions and established working men's insurance. Bismarck was not altogether opposed to repressive measures, but his unerring judgment told him that preventive or conciliatory measures were by far the better of the two, or, to put it another way, that the State itself should cultivate State Socialism. He might have gone further, but he stopped at protecting the working classes and supporting their rights against the employers ; and here it was that the Chancellor and his new master, the Emperor William the Second, came into collision. Their views were in great conflict. This was, in fact, so much the case that some of the latest contributions to Bismarck literature, amongst which the recent publication of the Hohenlohe Memoirs deserves to be mentioned in the first place, point unmistakably to the fact that the fall of the 'Man of Blood and Iron' was, if not indeed wholly, at least to a great extent, brought about by this divergence of opinion. However that may be, it has been stated on credible authority that on one occasion the conflict of views became 80 sharp that the Emperor said, with some heat, 'I am quite able to manage the Social Democrats myself ; leave them to me.' Accord. ingly, basing his views, as the Emperor really does, on the considerations contained in the historic facts to which full reference has been made above, he is, as there can be little doubt, convinced that the Social Democratic tendency is but a passing one, which will die out when the root of the trouble—that is, the unsatisfactory relations between masters and men—has been removed by legislative and other measures. He also believes that, as regards education, the spread of knowledge will ultimately have the effect of convincing the masses of the people that Social Democracy is a political creed which is not calculated to promote the welfare either of themselves as individuals, or of the nation at large. Consequently, on analysing in detail the Kaiser's aims concerning this department of domestic affairs, it will be found that ever since he came to the throne his main efforts on behalf of the working classes-that is, in order to ameliorate their social and economic position as well as their general well-being-lay in those two directions.

For as far back as the 22nd of October, 1888, the Kaiser in a speech with which he opened the Reichstag expressed himself somewhat to the following effect : 'As a dear bequest of my grandfather, now resting in God, I undertake the task of continuing the social and political measures which he inaugurated.' And, speaking on another occasion not very long afterwards, he said : The welfare of the labouring classes lies close to my heart.'

As a matter of fact, he had not to wait long for an opportunity to prove in a practical manner, as it were, his sympathies with and benevolent attitude towards the working classes. For, as will be easily recalled, very soon after he ascended the throne the miners employed in the collieries of the Ruhr district went on strike for higher wages-a course of action which, needless to say, had for the time being a most injurious effect on the industry of the whole country—and the Emperor, without much delay, consented to receive a deputation of the men. He addressed them in the following way, Every subject who considers that he has a grievance naturally has the ear of the Kaiser,' thus intimating to the working classes as a body that he was accessible to them; and then, reminding them of the hardships that the strike was the direct cause of, he urged them to return to their work, promising that their interests should receive his particular attention. Two or three days later a deputation of employers laid their case before him. In his reply he told them what he had said to the men, and then went on to beg of them to comply with some of the requests which the wage-earners had formulated, pointing out that it was only natural that the workers would try to obtain as much as they could for their labour, and that, as everyone nowadays read the newspapers and were thus made aware of the huge profits which came into the pockets of the capitalists, men went on strike because they believed that they were not receiving a fair share of the monetary product of their toil. These exhortations, skilfully thrown out to both sides, were accompanied by immediate and excellent results. A settlement of the dispute was soon arrived at, the consequence being that a grave industrial crisis was thus quickly averted.

From the historic point of view, it is interesting to record that there cannot be much doubt that it was this matter which suggested in the first instance to the Kaiser the desirability of calling together the State Council which, under his presidency, met for the purpose of considering the best legislative means of ameliorating the condition of the working classes. And, further, that there was nothing

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