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TO WHAT EXTENT WAS BISMARCK IN CONTROL OF GERMAN DOMESTIC POLICY FROM 1871-90?

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Introduction

Fliss Newman 12MS European History To what extent was Bismarck in control of German domestic Policy between 1871-90? Between 1871-90, Otto von Bismarck struggled to control his own unified Germany that he had fought so hard to create. Bismarck was constantly dependent on the Reichstag majority in order to pass legislation, therefore needing allies, which sometimes required drastic changes. His dependence on the Reichstag and change in policy resulted in his 'Great Turn' of 1878. Bismarck switched from working with the National Liberals in the Reichstag, to cooperating with the Conservatives. Although Bismarck claimed that his ultimate aim as Chancellor was 'the creation and consolidation of Germany', his domestic policies included a number of attacks on Reichsfeinde (what he saw as enemies of the state), which included minority groups such as Poles, Jews and socialists, not to mention the biggest group being the Catholic Church. His failure to weaken the Catholics and Socialist groups emphasise his lack of control over German domestic Policy, as does his fall from power in 1890 due to a new Kaiser's very different ideas for Germany. Bismarck's lack of control over Germany is perfectly illustrated in two different campaigns against social groups, the failure of Kulturkampf and the failure of Dual Policy. ...read more.

Middle

However, some National Liberals continued to support Bismarck, although he no longer depended on their backing due to his new Conservative support. In addition, Bismarck also attempted to reduce the Reichstag's power in 1881. The Reichstag's authority over the military was reduced, but otherwise Bismarck was unsuccessful, again demonstrating even more lack of control over domestic policy. Bismarck's Dual Policy was another attack, this time on socialists, of whom he regarded as 'anarchic, revolutionary and little better than criminals'. Bismarck again feared the international appeal of socialist ideology, which would overthrow capitalism and replace it with a socialist system, where borders between nation states would be broken down, destroying Bismarck's work for a unified Germany. There are elements of both control and lack of it with his Dual Policy, due to the completely different approaches he used. The two assassination attempts on the Kaiser provided Bismarck with the ability to dissolve the Reichstag and pass the Anti-Socialist Law. This law banned all socialist meetings and publications and SPD leaders were arrested. However, the SPD was still allowed to stand in Reichstag elections. This Anti-Socialist Law simply motivated the party to move underground, and operated exactly as normal but from outside Germany. ...read more.

Conclusion

Wilhelm II already had another Chancellor in mind, and waited until March 1890 when Bismarck was even denied support from the Conservatives in the Reichstag. This major downfall motivated Wilhelm to give Bismarck an ultimatum, which was to either resign or be sacked. Bismarck therefore resigned, due to the fact that he had lost complete control of German domestic Policy by 1890. Overall, it seems as though Bismarck had a limited amount of control over German domestic policy between 1871-90, as his actions show more lack of control. His constant dependence on the Reichstag was perhaps his main cause of lack of control, as he entailed to gain the largest party's support in order to pass any kind of legislation. In this sense, the largest party in the Reichstag probably had more control over German domestic Policy than Bismarck himself. His lack of control is also probably due to his aggressive policies in order to manage obstacles, which is perhaps because of his overly hostile approach towards different groups in Germany, by viewing them as Reichsfeinde (enemies of the state). In addition, his downfall could have been avoided if he had given up the Anti-Socialist Law and pursued the extension of the welfare system as Kaiser Wilhelm II was determined to follow up. ...read more.

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