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A Police Officer Reports on Workers in a Hamburg Tavern (1898-1909)

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II. July 11, 1903

From 9:45 to 10:30 a.m., I visited the tavern Hacht, Brückenstraße No. 28, first floor. Seven workers were present, one of whom said the following: “The ruling classes are making every effort to curtail the legal rights of the workers and to turn their strikes into illegal undertakings. Above all, they seek to quash the right of association, so that, with the help of the police, they can make picketing pointless. But let the ruling classes do whatever they want, it will always be an impossibility to force people, once they have stopped working, to start working again. For that to happen, one would have to return to slavery. But given the size that Social Democracy has reached, that is not possible, nor would bourgeois society go along with it.”

Another worker said: “The biggest enemies of the workers are not be found among the ruling classes, but among the workers themselves, and they are the strike breakers. No matter how much the ruling classes can rely on their power, meaning the military and the police, it becomes useless once the workers maintain good discipline; and under these circumstances the only threat of defeat they face is from strike-breaking. For the time being, strike-breaking is most dangerous to the workers and it needs to be fought against the most.”

Another worker said: “One has to admit that strike-breaking is now the greatest threat to the workers, but solidarity has made incredible strides, especially recently. What used to be common practice, using foreigners as strike-breakers, has now become all but impossible, and the Italians, who used to move about as flying columns of strike-breakers, have been so enlightened by the tireless work of the organizations that they are now refusing to offer strike-breaking services. If the progress of the workers against strike-breaking continues for some time to come – which is definitely to be expected –, then strike-breaking needs to be feared less as an instrument of power of the ruling classes.”

Source: Hinz, July 11, 1903. Staatsarchiv der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg (Call number: S 3930).

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