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The Socialists: Ferdinand Lassalle: Excerpt from "Open Letter" (1863)

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And – instead of pressing the government to [reveal its] open, unconcealed absolutism and enlighten the people through the fact of the nonexistence of a constitutional state of affairs – by agreeing to continue playing its role in this comedy of fictitious constitutionalism, it helps maintain the fiction which, like every governing system based on a fiction, has to have a confusing effect on the people's intelligence and a corrupting effect on their morals.*

Such a party has thereby shown that it is and will always remain thoroughly helpless in the face of a decisive government.

Such a party has shown thereby that it is completely incapable of bringing about even the slightest real development in the interests of freedom.

Such a party has shown that it has no claim to the sympathies of the democratic sections of the population, and that it lacks any sense and understanding for the political feelings of honor that must pervade the working class.

Such a party has, in a word, really shown that it is nothing more than a resurrected version, adorned with another name, of disreputable Gotha-dom.**

Today I can add this for you.

Both today and then I should have told you that a party which, through its dogma of the "Prussian leadership," forces itself to see in the Prussian government the Messiah appointed for Germany's rebirth, while there is not a single German government (and, indeed, this includes Hesse) that might stand behind the Prussian [government] in political terms, while there is almost no single German government (and, indeed, this includes Austria) that would not yet be well in advance of the Prussian [government] – hereby alone, already, [such a party] renounces any claim to represent the German working class: for, based only on this, such a party displays an absorption in illusion, self-importance, and an incompetence satisfied with mere verbal intoxication, which must eliminate any hope that a real development of freedom for the German people might be expected from it.

* For more on this, see my brochure “Was nun? Zweiter Vortrag über Verfassungswesen” [“What now? Second lecture on constitutional systems”], Zurich, 1863 (original footnote).
** Moderate liberals who tried to cooperate with the conservative Prussian government after the latter had suppressed the revolutionary movements of 1848/49 – ed.

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