Until 1866, we pursued abstract politics in both Prussia and Germany as a whole. The catchphrases were “unity” and “liberty,” and everyone understood something different by them. At festivals and congresses, in associations and parliaments alike, people declaimed phrases and regaled themselves with them. In tradesmen’s associations, district clubs, and other groups, “education” and “enlightenment” were offered, the common people were drilled in preparation for political elections; in the parliaments, doctrinaire speeches were held, unfeasible resolutions passed. Among the masses, the same vagueness, the same confusion prevailed that was found in the heads of the leaders and people’s representatives.
After the War of 1866 and the reshaping of Germany, each and every one of the previous parties disintegrated, and two new ones developed from them. By and large, these two parties may be called the pro-Bismarckians and the anti-Bismarckians, and they were soon designated as “pro-Reich” [reichsfreundlich] and “anti-Reich” [reichsfeindlich] by a certain side. The long-awaited “unity” had arrived so suddenly – only it had come about in a different way and had assumed a different character than one had dreamed of or planned for. With respect to the outside world, this unity resulted in power and glory; at home, it changed the desire and striving for “liberty” in essential ways.
From that moment onward, the great “liberal” party, which jubilantly and reverently crowded around the statesman against whom it had fought so bitterly until then, struggled less for political than economic or – to be precise – Manchester-school “liberty”: the type that frees the trades, industry, and speculation from any legal barriers, replacing state supervision with “free competition,” and permits capital to do what it will. Instead of one “liberty,” we now received a whole range of freedoms: among them, freedom of theater, freedom of movement, freedom of usury, and above all – freedom of stocks and the stock market. These Manchester-school liberties poured down on us like a cloudburst – they did not allow us to come to our senses and have led us up the creek.
Freedom of taverns pushed the number of beer pubs and Schnapps joints to incredible levels. Freedom of theater blessed us with a plethora of suburban theaters and so-called burlesques, where nonsense reigns supreme and dirty jokes flourish; it threw the German theater, which was already declining rapidly, completely to the dogs. Freedom of movement depopulated rural areas, stole the workers away from agriculture, and flooded the large cities, where brutality and insecurity, indecency and crime, poverty and misery, diseases and mortality have spiked dramatically since then. Freedom of trade harmed the trades and crushed the whole tradesmen class by giving favor to botching and bungling, by granting independence to the immature journeyman or apprentice. It allowed the masters, on the other hand, to sink to the level of paid laborers or factory workers. Freedom of usury granted privileges to the “sharks,” pawnbrokers, and resale traders, those vampires and leeches who stuff themselves silly with concern for neither prudence nor poverty, and who claim many victims from among all social classes. Finally, freedom of stocks – the worst of all – inaugurated the notorious founding and swindling era, set in motion the great stock market orgy, during whose course the entire population was plundered in the most impudent manner; and what inevitably ensued was the serious crisis that has been paralyzing gainful employment and commerce for years, and whose end is in no way foreseeable.