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In the years before WW1, Germany was progressing towards an effective parliamentary democracy. Do you agree?

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Introduction

´╗┐In the years before WW1, Germany was progressing towards an effective parliamentary democracy. Do you agree? The constitution of the German empire was enacted on the 16th April 1871 and is often referred to as ?Bismarck?s imperial constitution?. This constitution stood as the foundation for the Second Reich. Between the years 1871 and 1914, there is often debate over whether Imperial Germany was an entrenched autocracy, or whether there was a growing parliamentary democracy. This essay will analyse key aspects of the Second Reich namely the role of the Kaiser, the Chancellor and the Reichstag, the nature of politics, the existence of reform and where power essentially lay in order to demonstrate that any steps towards democracy essentially did not go far enough, thus disputing the idea that Germany was progressing towards an effective parliamentary democracy. Firstly, it can be argued that Germany was in fact progressing towards an effective parliamentary democracy. Universal male suffrage had existed right from the outset in 1871 for all men over the age of 25, thus deputies of the Reichstag ? the lower house of parliament ? were elected. Although the Reichstag did not hold any real power, elections to it were hotly contested causing Bismarck and later chancellors to be concerned with their outcome. ...read more.

Middle

Under Caprivi?s rule, restrictions on the SPD were removed, working conditions were improved through Labour Laws (passed between 1890 and 1892) and the child labour was abolished in 1891. In addition to this, in 1902 the Tariff Law restored a higher duty on imported agricultural goods which resulted in higher food prices. This meant that in the 1903 elections, more votes went to the SPD who were fundamentally anti-authoritarian. However, although it is true that a number of social reforms were passed, the Kaiser was merely pursuing policies that seemed progressive but in reality were a means of maintaining the status quo. This rejects the idea that Germany was progressing towards an effective parliamentary democracy. On the other hand, many will argue against the idea of democratisation. To begin, the Second Reich was unified not by liberals or reformist characters, but rather by authoritarian nationalists such as Bismarck. The constitution was incredibly rigid and allowed for the dominance of Prussia which led two thirds of the Bundesrat and had the ability to veto legislation. The constitution also declared that the Kaiser would be the King of Prussia and that he would have the ability to appoint and dismiss both the Chancellor and the Reichstag. ...read more.

Conclusion

This suggests that although there were elements of change, reform and democracy growing in the Second Reich, these were all merely tokenistic changes as the main objective of the Second Reich was to maintain the status quo. This again disputes the idea of Germany progressing towards an effective parliamentary democracy. In conclusion, although there are arguments to suggest otherwise, it can be deduced from the evidence that Germany was ultimately not making a change towards an effective parliamentary democracy in the years before WW1. The democratic elements that existed such as universal suffrage, pressure groups and reform were ultimately extremely limited as they were merely a means by which the ruling class could be seen to include the other classes. The ruling class were able to quell the threats which pushed for progressive change. Politics in the Second Reich was therefore chaotic, confused and has often been described as ?petrified?. In the years before WW1, Germany was essentially a semi-autocratic state where power lay with the Kaiser and the elites. Thus any impression of an effective move towards parliamentary democracy was false; Germany did not experience the implementation of a democracy until the Weimar Republic in 1919. ...read more.

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