Bismarck successfully controlled the political opposition he faced in the years 1871-1890. To what extent do you agree with this statement?
‘Bismarck successfully controlled the political opposition he faced in the years 1871-1890.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement? (25)
Bismarck failed to control his political opposition to a significant extent during the years 1871-90. By controlling his opposition the Chancellor should have been able to pass laws he preferred in the Reichstag which expanded the power and independence of the the Federal Government and strengthened the unification of Germany, and while working with the National Liberals between 1871-79 Bismarck was able to achieve this,but the numerous times that the Reichstag obstructed him and the manner in which he left office demonstrates Bismarck’s failure to control the Centre Party, the Socialists and Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Bismarck failed to destroy political catholicism as a major force in German Politics, making his control of the Centre Party a failure. The Centre Party gained support, growing from 58 to 91 seats between 1871 and 1874, following the introduction of the May Laws in 1873 which aimed to bring the Catholic Church under state control. The May Laws included measures which meant that all priests had to attend secular universities, and needed state approval for their religious appointments. Clergy which resisted could be fined, exiled or imprisoned. However, by 1878 Bismarck accepted that he had failed and exiled clergy were allowed to return. The failure of the Kulturkampf meant that Bismarck had not only failed to control political Catholicism, but had helped politicise a Catholic minority which felt under siege. Their sizable representation in the Reichstag meant that Bismarck often needed their support to pass laws, which gave the party leverage over Bismarck. For example, although the Centre Party supported the 1879 Tariff Act, the ‘Frankenstein Clause’ introduced by a Centre Party deputy meant that revenues exceeding 130 million marks would be divided among the states and then returned to the federal government through state contributions. This frustrated Bismarck’s attempts to make the federal government financially independent, demonstrating that rather than Bismarck controlling the Centre Party, the Centre Party could control Bismarck.
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The failure of the anti-Socialist Laws and the growth of the Social Democrats in the Reichstag demonstrate Bismarck’s failure to control the socialists. Bismarck viewed socialists as dangerous revolutionaries, and the class warfare ideology that they espoused was a clear threat to Bismarck’s class based society which he wanted to maintain, making control of the Socialists a political necessity. In October 1878, the anti-socialist bill passed ,which banned Socialist Organisations, meetings and publications, which aimed to destroy Socialist opposition to Bismarck. However, between 1878 and 1890 the SPD grew from 7% to 19% of voter turnout, and held 35 seats in the Reichstag. This also demonstrates the failure of State Socialism, which introduced health insurance in 1883 and pensions in 1889 as these measures were introduced to draw people away from the Socialists. The SPD deftly declared a victory as they claimed their presence had forced conservative, fiercely anti-socialist Bismarck to agree to Socialist proposals. Overall the increase in support for the socialists demonstrates Bismarck’s failure to control them.
Bismarck was able to successfully control and manipulate the National Liberals to his advantage between 1871 and 1879. Although Bimarck detested Liberalism as an ideology, he was forced to work with the National Liberals as they were the largest party in the Reichstag, with 30% of the vote in the 1871 elections. Bismarck was able to strengthen the unification of Germany with the Liberals through creating the central bank and the Gold Mark, as well as abolishing Internal Tariffs through laws passed by the Reichstag with Liberal Support. The splintering of the Liberal Party following the Tariff Act (1879) demonstrates Bismarck’s control of the Party; he destroyed Liberalism as a political force when he had no further use of the party. Although Bismarck failed in achieving the ‘Eternal Law’ for the financing of the military in 1884 due to fierce opposition from the National Liberals, ultimately Bismarck’s skilful use of the Liberals as a vehicle for his agenda makes his control of them successful.
Bismarck failed to control Kaiser Wilhelm II, as he forced Bismarck to resign in March 1890. Kaiser Wilhelm II came to power in June 1888, following the death of his brother Frederick, who reigned for only 100 days due to cancer. Bismarck had hoped that he would exercise full control over Government decision making, as had been the case while Wilhelm I was Kaiser, but the new Kaiser was determined to rule as well as reign. While the Kaiser believed that an extension in ‘State Socialism’ could win over the proletariat who were voting for the SPD, Bismarck favoured repression and introduced a limitless anti-Socialist law in 1889. Bismarck’s proposal was rejected by the Reichstag and the election in Feb 1890 was disastrous for Bismarck’s allies, with the Conservatives losing 6% of their vote share. Bismarck clashed with the Kaiser further over the right of ministers to consult the Kaiser about state business without permission from Bismarck, leading to the Kaiser demanding Bismarck’s resignation in March 1890. Bismarck lost the Chancellorship due to his failure to control the new Kaiser, who wanted greater control of government business than Bismarck was willing to give.
In conclusion, Bismarck failed to control the Socialists, which grew in strength during 1871-90, failed to control the Centre Party, which defeated Bismarck over the Kulturkampf and the Federal Budget, and the new Kaiser Wilhelm II, who dismissed him as Bismarck grew increasingly out of touch with modern, industrialising Germany. As a result, despite his success in not only controlling but exploiting the National Liberals during 1871-79, his failure with other opposition groups made Bismarck a weaker Chancellor, therefore he didn’t control the political opposition he faced to a significant extent.
really well set up -> perhaps your first sentence could have reflected the points you make about time? i.e. yes in the 70s, no in the 80s?
clear point but could be more nuanced -> to what degree?
well-argued and supported with evidence but hat about his alliance with them in the 1880s?
again, to what degree?
were they ever in a position to pose serious opposition to him politically? what does 'control' mean?
well argued throughout the whole timeframe