In view of this situation, the formation of a fundamental opposition party as the starting point for a thorough reform of our eccentric party structures can only be viewed as welcome from every perspective. In Germany, however, such a party has a very special mission to fulfill at the moment. Prince Bismarck's capacity for political consumption is so monstrous that everyone who collaborates with him in the business of politics ends up being put through the mill in turn. He is not one of those masters who leaves behind a school. He has only followers, no disciples. Independence of political character cannot develop under him, only against him. The opposition is therefore called upon to invest in a kind of savings fund of ideas and character for that time in the future when Prince Bismarck is gone or his political course has come to complete ruin.
Resistance to Bismarckian policies must be deepened and shaped in a more fundamental way; those ideas that one criticizes and opposes have to be set out in sharp relief to the ideas that the opposition wishes to see carried through.
The third decade now dawning will show whether the political principles of the first or the second half of the past 20 years possess greater vitality.
Source: Theodor Barth, "Zwei Jahrzehnte deutscher Politik" ["Two Decades of German Politics"], in Die Nation. Wochenschrift für Politik, Volkswirtschaft und Literatur [The Nation: Weekly Journal for Politics, Political Economy, and Literature], 3. Jg., 1885/86, June 26, 1886, p. 565.
Original German text reprinted in Wilfried Loth, Das Kaiserreich. Obrigkeitsstaat und politische Mobilisierung [The Kaiserreich. Authoritarian State and Political Mobilization]. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1997, pp. 184-86.
Translation: Erwin Fink