Wednesday, 11 March 2015



The returns already to hand from Germany testify to the success that has again followed that party which by a loose use of terms is called socialist. The result was not unexpected, for since 1881, when Bismarck seemed to have persuaded the German people to regard them as the enemies of society, their voting strength has increased whenever it has been tested. Studied in contrast with contemporary reform movements in England, where such men as Mr. John Burns and Mr. Burt have been active members of the Liberal party, and in France, where socialists of the type of MM. Jaur├Ęs and Millerand have become Cabinet Ministers, the development of Social democracy forms one of the most instructive chapters in the history of modern politics. Its leaders have been usually poor men with a marked talent for organisation, having a definite programme without any ingenious expedients to catch votes or nice calculations as to what would from time to time fall in most readily with the popular humour, and its basis has been that combination of intellect and feeling which animated the friends of religious equality and of freetrade in England. Founded in a revolutionary atmosphere by Marx and Engles, the band of insurgent idealists offered no compromise and received none until the eloquence and ability of Lassalle, the romantic hero of Mr. Meridith's " Tragic Comedians," compelled Bismarck to attempt to kill the movement by the kindness of a paternal Government. Since then the growth of the party has been as persistent as the persecution of the Chancellor and the Emperor. Yet the refusal of its leaders to co-operate with any other of the political sections and the impotence of the Reichstag have checked its efficiency as the agent of reform. Of late years, however, this isolation of aims and methods has given way to the more practical position advocated by Herr Bernstein, whose exile in England had impressed him with the necessity for give and take in our party system, and whose writing and speeches at the successive congresses of social democrats had given him a commanding place in their councils.

Moderated in this way the democratic programme has attracted support from the large class of professional and business men who, while anxious for reform, were disheartened by the weakness and disorganisation of the official Liberals. In the country, too, they may have had help from the peasants, for, fearing the return of the Agrarian party in undiminished strength, the Government has passed a law for increasing the strictness of the ballot which has freed them from the terrorism of their landlords. But in the elections of this year the stars in their courses seem to have fought against the Government and the Conservatives. Mr. Chamberlain at the eleventh hour has helped the Democrats, and since protectionists in England have made so much play with the ' made in Germany ' bogey, it seems but just that the proposal for preferential trade should be a weapon in the hands of those who have experienced the abuses of the system. The murder of a soldier at Essen by an officer whose exulted notions of military dignity were offended, and the Royal scandals in Saxony, have evoked an outburst of feeling throughout the country, and have necessarily strengthened the case of those whose principal protest is against military ascendency, and who claim that nothing but an entire change in the economic status of women can put an end to the appalling immorality of the large cities. The outstanding fact, however, is that though the parliamentary strength of the party has increased, they have not attained that majority which but for the peculiar distribution of seats their position in the country would have conferred on them.

 SMH 22/6/1903,

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