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August Bebel Criticizes the Franco-Prussian War and the Annexation of Alsace-Lorraine in a Speech before the North German Reichstag (November 26, 1870)

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just proclaimed this from the Reichstag rostrum –, even though, as I have just mentioned, in his speech to parliament the king grants the French nation the fullest recognition and calls it an honorable nation. Gentlemen, I have not the least doubt that this tactic, which recently echoed again in the king's last address to parliament, is quite certainly a calculated one; those responsible tell themselves now, just as they told themselves in 1866 when they set out to Bohemia, that it is extremely important to sow dissatisfaction and discord among this conglomerate of nationalities accommodated by Austria. In those days, the Prussian king issued a proclamation to the “great and brave nation of Bohemia”: the idea was to incite the Bohemian people against the imperial state of Austria; and as for Hungary, the Hungarian Legion under the well-known Klapka* was mustered in order to turn the Hungarian people against the imperial state of Austria as well.

In my view, the remark made by the king of Prussia in his speech to parliament on July 17 was also calculated to interfere with any potential cohesion and agreement between the French people and the French government by attempting to separate the people and their government in the most un-monarchical way; and at this moment, the same principle is being applied to stir up discord and create tension between the people and the republican government holding power. Therefore, the king's latest speech to parliament makes an artificial distinction between the people and the government by stating: You, the people, are indeed innocent, and so far only a small circle of people at the helm of national affairs is to blame for all of the misery that has befallen you. Yet surely this will be futile. There is no denying that the sacrifices France is making are enormous, that for years and years the most beautiful parts of the country have been ruined, that millions of people have been materially ruined for life. And yet, since it was thought necessary to emphasize the French misfortune arising from this war, I would have regarded it as appropriate for the royal address to parliament to have also mentioned the misfortune already inflicted – and still to be inflicted – on the German people by this war. For, Gentlemen, who could deny that the sacrifices that the German people also made in this war – and have to make on a daily basis – are quite equal to those imposed on the French people; that the German people, too, have had to make huge sacrifices; that hundreds of thousands have been robbed of their livelihood; that hundreds of thousands were crippled; that thousands upon thousands lost their lives; and that therefore, in light of the tremendous sacrifices the German people have made, they are entitled to demand that peace is finally made and that a situation that will end this mass slaughter is created at last? On the other hand, Gentlemen, when I hear and see that 4,000 or more newspapers have been trying incessantly for months to incite the German people’s patriotism and willingness to make sacrifices, and then when I consider what the allied German governments have deemed appropriate to set down in the demand for war credits that stands before us, I really have to confess that the truth of it is: much ado

* General György Klapka (1820-1892) – ed.

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