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August Bebel, Reichstag Speech (November 8, 1871)

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They are just not putting forth the demands they made in 1866. They have provided the Reich Chancellor with a constitution – the German Reich Constitution – that could not be any more reactionary. [Laughter.] Gentlemen, any minister can govern with such a constitution: this is not a constitution for the people; this is nothing more than pseudo-constitutionalism of the crudest kind; it’s sheer Caesarism. It’s a type of Caesarism that uses a parliamentary framework because public opinion deems the latter to be necessary, one that can seemingly govern constitutionally on the basis of such a constitution.

At this point and again during the course of his remarks the speaker is interrupted by the Speaker of the House and reminded that in this assembly he is not permitted to talk about the German Constitution in this way. Since the speaker insists upon his comments, his address is eventually cut short.

Source: Stenographische Berichte über die Verhandlungen des Deutschen Reichstags [Stenographic Reports on the Proceedings of the German Reichstag], 1st legislative period, 2nd session, vol. 1, pp. 183-85. (vol. 22 of the whole series), 17th meeting, November 8, 1871.

Original German text reprinted in Hans Fenske, ed., Im Bismarckschen Reich 1871-1890 [In the Bismarckian Reich1871-1890]. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1978, pp. 60-64 (with Fenske’s summaries of deleted portions of Bebel’s speech).

Translation: Erwin Fink

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