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Alfred Krupp, Address to his Employees (February 11, 1877)

One of imperial Germany’s leading industrialists, the steel magnate Alfred Krupp (1812-1887) was also a pioneer in the development of private workers’ housing projects. In this excerpt from a speech to his employees, Krupp underscores and reaffirms his patriarchal claim to the title “master of the house” by emphasizing both his entrepreneurial accomplishments and his various social initiatives. Here, not only social unrest and strikes, but all forms of socialism, meet with Krupp’s unequivocal opposition. This draft version of his speech was revised for style and then printed and distributed to the firm’s workers.

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A Word to My Employees

This address is meant for the employees of my industrial operations, the cast-steel plant, the pits, and the steelworks; [it is] strictly confidential [and meant] exclusively for the association of workers, masters, and officials of the above-mentioned private property. [ . . . ]

[ . . . ] When danger arises, one should not carelessly scoff at it or withdraw from it in timidness; rather, with open eyes, one should trace its origins, nature, and course, and then actively prepare a defense. For the same purpose, I am urging you one last time to peace and goodwill, despite any differences in creed, and I believe I am not doing this in vain. [ . . . ] Now everyone is speaking about so-called Social Democracy. The representatives of Social Democracy, in its moderate form and within its most reasonable bounds, demand that everyone is entitled and obliged to work under a general law and higher administration. The aim is to abolish private ownership and the power of disposal over that property. Let’s assume for a moment that Social Democracy in its mildest form would ever take the helm here in Germany – without struggle and resistance (though this can hardly be considered a serious possibility). And let’s assume further that I, too, would resign from my property and give others free rein. Hardly anyone in [my] top administration – those who are really capable and in the know – would be willing to take on a subordinate role under the new regime. Experience – which alone is capable, through skillful management of manufacturing and trade, of securing the livelihood of the works and steering them through the dangers of uncertain circumstances – would be replaced by dubious, unreliable qualifications and forces. This would soon lead the whole great enterprise into ruin. No one really needs further explanation on this point. But assume for a moment that people could be recruited who would be capable of managing the works, who would be able to match what we have accomplished in terms of price and quality [of industrial project], who could compete with other powerful industrial enterprises; still the plant would come to ruin: it could not continue to feed anyone who is not able to digest stones and iron. For it is well known that the factory cannot survive purely on domestic demand.

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