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C h a p t e r F O U R “The Socialist Law Is the Father of Anarchism” 1 8 8 6 – 1 8 9 0 The public debate over the Socialist Law’s renewal in 1884 showed the easing of Social Democracy’s political marginalization. The anarchist plots in Germany from 1883 to 1885 failed to generate political enthusiasm for further anti-socialist measures or antianarchist laws other than the modest and targeted Dynamite Law, and from this point on, discussions of Socialism no longer hinged on its relationship to anarchism or to violent revolutionism more generally. Though some conservatives would continue to warn of a Socialist revolutionary peril all the way up until Kaiser Wilhelm II’s famous declaration of August 1, 1914, “I no longer recognize any parties or any confessions; today we are all German brothers,”1 this position had few adherents outside of increasingly narrow (though politically powerful) circles. During the last five years that the Socialist Law was in effect, public debate on the law focused much less on the nature of Socialism and its relationship to anarchism than on the role of illiberal state policies and police repression in producing anarchist violence. The frequent Social Democratic rallying cry, “The Socialist Law is the father of anarchism,” was taken up by a range of Bismarck’s opponents. Though the year 1890 saw the end of the Socialist Law and the Social Democratic breakthrough election in which the party for the first time garnered the largest percentage of the Reichstag vote, the groundwork for these achievements had been laid over the entire course of the Socialist Law, not only, as many scholars have emphasized, in terms of Social Democrats’ organizational and electoral acumen but also in terms of the movement’s framing of its political principles and of the government’s role in fomenting anarchist violence. 116 ASSASSINS & CONSPIRATORS Despite the battering of the left liberals and the strengthening of the conservative bloc by 31 members (even with declines in votes for both parties), the political climate after the 1884 election did not seem propitious for further vigorous anti-socialist action . By the time the law came up for renewal two years later, many National Liberals openly exhibited a heightened discomfort with the prospect of endlessly renewing the law. Rudolf Gneist, once a staunch proponent, had come out against it, and the National Liberals’ new leader, Johannes von Miquel, opposed it as well.2 Though the party’s furthest left members had long since defected to the Deutsch-Freisinnige, even for many right-wing liberals justifying the law became more difficult as the Socialists uncovered repeated flagrant abuses and manipulation in its implementation. During the last three debates on the Socialist Law, in 1886, 1888, and the brief debate of 1889–1890, the rhetorical ground had shifted noticeably from the previous debates, with the anti–Socialist Law forces even harsher in their critiques of the law, and in particular of government attempts to use anarchist activities to justify anti-Socialist persecution. Making its case for the Socialist Law’s renewal in 1886, the government emphasized in particular the alleged rise of anarchist activity in the nation. A November 1885 government report to the Reichstag on the status of anti-socialist measures pointed to Rumpf’s murder, the wide distribution of Freiheit in Germany (the government estimated that 4,500 copies of the paper entered Germany and Austria every month), and the attempts of anarchists to make incursions into the Berlin workers’ milieu as justifications for the law’s continuation.3 In presenting its argument this way, the government conceded that anarchism and Social Democracy differed and that the Socialists’ political efforts were focused on gradual, legal reform rather than violence. The proposal for a five-year extension also addressed directly the two main non-Socialist charges against it: first, that it had hindered neither the “increase in the number of Social Democratic Reichstag deputies” nor “the perpetration of anarchist attentats” such as Rumpf’s murder ; second, that exceptional laws infringed on freedom and undermined public faith in the state. In response, the government claimed that thanks to the law “the intensity and revolutionary energy of at least a portion of the Social Democratic movement had diminished,” while the Socialist deputies had begun to work for “a legislative solution to the socio-political problems of the present.” However, the law’s expiration would “open the doors again for the extraordinary power of the agitation of...


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