Thursday, 21 November 2013


"A band of traitors" was the opprobrious term applied by the Emperor of Germany to the Socialists in the German Reich stag during the course of his speech on the anniversary of the battle of Sedan. Stung by such words as these, the leaders of the party thus stigmatized have recently been growing bolder and bolder in the vehemence of their invective, and one result has been, as will be noted from recent English telegrams, that Herr Liebknecht, the recognised chief of the Social Democratic Party, has bean sent to gaol for four months for lese majeste committed in his opening speech at the Breslau Conference. It is needless to remark that the Socialists of Germany, who polled a million and three-quarter of votes at the last elections, thus making an advance of some 300,000 since 1890, are not likely to be much daunted by the short term of imprisonment inflicted upon one of their most prominent propagandists, notwithstanding that the Breslau Conference by 153 votes to 6 decided against the agrarian programme. Even among the army the spread of Socialist ideas and prejudices has in recent years been most remarkable, and, as one European journal remarks, "the ever watchful police of Berlin have frequently surprised groups of soldiers reading by the light of the street lamps the inciting pamphlets of Bebel and Liebknecht."   Bebel is the leader of the North German Social Democrats, and is as thorough going an opponent of the existing social state as the incarcerated journalist whose place he will now be called upon to fill. Sternly rejecting all such schemes as old age pensions and concessions to Labour Unions as being mere ruses intended to "dish" the genuine social Democrats, he calls for the absolute confiscation by revolutionary methods of all the means of production and distribution. When Dr. Richter, the Leader of the Liberal Party in the Reichstag, exposed the fallacies of socialism in his celebrated forecast story, compiled on the principle of "Looking Backward," he administered but a temporary check to the advance of the Socialistic idea amongst the Germans. The fact is that the modern Teutonic workman, as a rule, has but little notion of the true foundation upon which civil, political, and religious liberty rests. The British worker seldom completely loses sight of the fact that the maintenance of the constitutional liberties for which his forefathers fought is the best guarantee of his own advancement, apart from his personal industry, sobriety, and frugality. But Germany, as a result of the Thirty Years' War, had to begin the last century in the condition of a nation reduced almost to barbarism. Internal divisions rendered the progress of civil liberty extremely slow, and it is an undoubted fact that when the first colonists who settled such towns as Hahndorf and Lobethal came out to South Australia Germany was as backward in the matter of constitutional liberty as England had been 400 years before. What wonder then that, when new ideas crowd in upon the modern German elector, his mind, instead of working along well-tried, practical lines, should evolve schemes which are altogether "in the clouds?"
In Austria-Hungary the same unpractical and visionary trend of popular thought manifests itself as the consequence of very nearly the same antecedent conditions. Backward as Germany still is, there is no doubt that Austria is a good many years behind her neighbour in respect of constitutional progress. The workers of Bohemia and Hungary are among the poorest-paid in the whole of Europe, their effective earnings being really very small owing to the lack of machinery and appliances such as in advanced nations are common. Possessing, however, a good education, the rural worker is prone to live beyond his very limited means, and to get into the hands of the moneylenders, who are for the most part Jews. The strong anti-Semitic feeling thus engendered has been adroitly turned to account by some of the clerical reactionaries who are opposed to the Liberals in Vienna, and the result has been to present the peculiar spectacle of a Conservative-Socialistic alliance dominating the Municipal Council of the city, and threatening dire vengeance upon all Jews, including even their distant relatives by marriage. The two-thirds majority which the elections gave to Dr. Lueger, however, did not succeed in ensuring for him a long term of power, as the Liberal Government promptly dismissed the whole Council and appointed a Committee in its place. This is an heroic method of solving a difficulty, and it is not likely to prove permanently effective. The populace has been thoroughly roused, and the mobs are parading the streets and denouncing the Jews to their hearts' content. This state of things portends trouble to the State. The spirit of revolt against the established order of things, both in Germany and Austria, may be manifesting itself in violent and irrational ways ; but the time has gone by for hoping to suppress it by clapping popular leaders in prison and by autocratically dissolving municipal bodies because voters do not exercise their franchise in a manner approved by the executive authorities.

 South Australian Register  18 November 1895,

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