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The German Naval Office and Public Opinion (September 24, 1900)

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It is difficult to come up with an entirely accurate picture of the extent to which the idea of the navy has penetrated the masses. On the whole, the masses have not yet been seized by it. We know from experience that it takes considerable time before the minor press takes a sufficient interest in this kind of new, unfamiliar material and before it exerts its influence on the population.

One may perhaps conclude that, to all appearance, opposition to the naval fleet has unfortunately strengthened through agitation in agrarian circles, whereas it has declined in commercial and industrial circles. The latter also applies to some circles of workers, with the exception, naturally, of the very determined Social Democrats.

Great success – as can be inferred from all kinds of small indications – has attended the agitation of the younger generation, which has so far been undertaken on a small scale.

In summary, it can be said that the entire naval movement, as was always predicted, has developed and displayed a very specific power to unite the people, which would not have been insignificant in possible new elections. Unfortunately, this aspect did not exert its full effect, because, simultaneous with the naval law, a series of other laws (the meat inspection law, lex Heinze) preoccupied public opinion – intentionally or unintentionally – and were, by their nature, suited to divisive effects.

[ . . . ]

The following may be predicted for the immediate future in domestic politics:

The parliamentary struggles and the popular movement that will follow or precede them will have as their focal point in the immediate future the signing of new trade treaties.

In the process, parliamentary and political life will escalate, in part, into a battle between agrarianism and imperialism. The interest in the fleet itself will then recede for a time. However, it will hardly be possible to prevent the strong emphasis on economic interests, which constituted the best argument of the fleet supporters during the time of the fleet campaign, from being further exploited during debates over trade treaties. This will throw naval interests and agrarian efforts into opposition once again, and the idea of the fleet will not gain ground in the agrarian camp.

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