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Carl Ferdinand von Stumm-Halberg, Address to his Employees (c. 1889)

Carl Ferdinand von Stumm-Halberg (1836-1901), a steel magnate and Free Conservative member of the Reichstag, was one of imperial Germany’s most influential industrial leaders. In the following excerpts from selected speeches to his workers (c. 1889), he adamantly opposes the formation of labor unions, insisting upon his own entrepreneurial right to exert patriarchal authority over his employees – even in private affairs – in order to maintain Christian values and civic order.

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[ . . . ] I believe all of us will show in the future, just as we have until now, that in the “Kingdom of Stumm,” as our opponents mockingly call our community, only one will rules supreme, and that is the will of His Majesty, the King of Prussia. [ . . . ] Wherever we look, authority is being upheld, as need be, through penalties against those who fail to submit to the necessary authority. I don’t even want to mention the army in this context. It is often said that there is no parallel between businesses and the army. I maintain the opposite. [ . . . ] In both cases, discipline is an unavoidable prerequisite for success. [ . . . ] If a manufacturing enterprise is to flourish, it must be organized in a military, not parliamentary, way. [ . . . ] Just as the military class is comprised of all members of the army, all the way from the field marshal down to the youngest recruit, and all take the field against a common enemy when their king calls them to arms, so the members of the Neunkirch Works stand united as one man when it comes to battling competition as well as the dark forces of revolution. If we emerge victorious, it benefits all of us; if we succumb, we will all suffer, and you will certainly bear the brunt of it. To achieve victory, the strict maintenance of discipline is just as essential for us as for the army. In our case, as in the other, that discipline is not only compatible with loyal camaraderie, it constitutes its very foundation. [ . . . ]

Ending the employers’ authority [ . . . ] appears all the more dangerous to me on account of the fact that it will, in the long run, not remain limited to those classes in question at the moment. Once the worker has toppled the employer’s authority, he will not submit to it any longer but will simply laugh if the employer wants to punish him
[ . . . ]. Afterwards, authority in other areas, in state and church, will quickly follow course. [ . . . ] If this happens, authority will be destroyed across the board, in all lines of business, [ . . . ] in which case it will only be a matter of time before authority is eroded in the place where it is most essential: the army. [ . . . ]

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