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The Minister of the Interior on Domestic Reform (May 1915)

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As far as §17 is concerned, one can probably best do without it, especially if one keeps in mind that it was not included in the law’s original draft from the state governments and thus was not considered essential by the Prussian government either. Perhaps one could make the complete removal of this paragraph contingent upon drafting a law on preparing youth for military service.

An additional demand is that membership in trade unions, whatever their political inclination, should be available to workers in state enterprises. This demand has far-reaching significance only for railway workers. In all other enterprises, especially those in mining and the navy, membership in even a Social Democratic trade union is already tolerated, as long as the worker in question does not undertake public agitation on behalf of the Social Democratic Party. Perhaps one could solve this question by allowing railway workers to belong to organizations that abjure strikes as a tactic in conflicts over wages and working conditions.

However these questions might be answered in detail – if in fact the promises made are honored in any way – the decision will have to be made whether to grant greater freedom to the development and activities of the trade unions. A valid reason for rejecting such a demand on principle will hardly be found, considering that the war and their role in it has clearly confirmed the great economic significance of the trade unions and that all political parties, including the Social Democrats, have demonstrated during the war that they have done their job unconditionally when it comes to protecting the Fatherland.

Source: Clemens Delbrück to Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg from May 23, 1915, concerning the Necessity of Clarifying the Content of the Announced “New Orientation” of Domestic Policies, reprinted in Willibald Gutsche, Herrschaftsmethoden des deutschen Imperialismus 1897/8 bis 1917 [The Ruling Methods of German Imperialism, 1897/8 to 1917]. East Berlin, 1977, pp. 225-29.

Translation: Jeffrey Verhey and Roger Chickering

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