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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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about nothing. Gentlemen, it was above all German liberalism as the representative of the German upper classes, the bourgeoisie, that championed this war with particular partiality, with the greatest enthusiasm; it was German liberalism that declared itself prepared to make every possible sacrifice. And, Gentlemen, what is the actual result insofar as it can be ascertained in material terms? Four months ago, you granted a loan valued at 120 million; of the 100 million subsequently issued for subscription, barely 68 million were actually covered, and more than 50,000 subscribers participated in this. – So you see, Gentlemen, the patriotism that has spread in the newspapers, in the municipal and rural councils, in the state legislatures, was in reality very minimal when it came to any actual willingness to make sacrifices, especially among those trumpeting patriotism. Gentlemen, within a few days, the French bourgeoisie subscribed for the entire loan of 750 million that Napoleon issued – you have barely raised 68 million. Of course, the governments have to admit that they provided either no favorable news from the theater of war or no news at all.

Gentlemen, would the wallets of the patriotically minded have been opened more eagerly if there had been unfavorable news? Oh no, good heavens, no, these people would have kept an even lower profile, things would have unfolded even more sadly, and what clearly emerges here is that there is a big difference between talk and action and that, in this respect, we have absolutely no cause to look down on the French people. Well, Gentlemen, this evidence should also help us avoid either plunging into new sacrifices or prolonging sacrifices indefinitely. These are sacrifices, after all, that can only be made here in such a way that those who always charge ahead in their patriotism – at least when it comes to words – first bide their time to see whether their pockets will be lined with the right percentages. (General disapproval, hissing; shout: Shame on you! Out! Get him out of here!)

Speaker of the Reichstag: Does the speaker have no sensibility at all (whatever low or high value he may attach to nationality) for the fact that he has the nerve to abuse our people in their very representative body?! (General round of Bravo. Great noise. Shouting: Get him out of here!)

Let me repeat to you, Herr Bebel, that if you have the audacity to continue in this way, I will take responsibility before this house to cut you short. (General bravo.)

Now you know where you stand, after I have exercised unprecedented consideration and leniency towards you, for the very reason that there are so few of you [socialists] here!

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