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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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Deputy Bebel: Gentlemen, I would think that at least the Reichstag is not in a state of war, and I simply wish to say to the Speaker that he has completely misunderstood me if he thinks that I intended to characterize the entire nation with what I said about the loan. I realize that the overwhelming majority of the people are not in a position to subscribe to a war loan, which requires 100 thalers as the minimum sum. Therefore, you may infer that my remarks can only apply to the higher, propertied classes in Germany, and that these classes have offered a poor testimonial to their patriotism through their conduct in the loan issue. My remarks did not refer to the common people – let me be clear – but to the propertied class, the bourgeoisie, on whose shoulders rests the primary duty.

As for the rest, Gentlemen, I’ll abstain from any further remarks – (Quite right!). Yes, Gentlemen, I can well imagine that this pleases you; the motion that the member of the Reichstag [Wilhelm] Liebknecht and I have introduced contains in its statement of reasons – in even greater detail – the position we feel obliged to adopt in this matter. We are demanding nothing more and nothing less than a rejection of the financial allocations needed to continue the war. We are not expecting you to agree; to ask that of you would be foolishness on our part (Merriment.) – we are clearly stating that in our view the only correct path is to reject the war credit; we also believe that it is necessary to direct a request to the Chancellor of the North German Confederation to work as quickly as possible towards concluding a peace with the French nation that stipulates a renunciation of all annexation plans.

Source: Helmut Hirsch, August Bebel. Sein Leben in Dokumenten, Reden und Schriften [August Bebel: His Life in Documents, Speeches, and Written Works], Cologne and Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1968, pp. 158-62.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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