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"For the Committee Debating the Socialist Law" (1884)

Liberals’ scruples about the Socialist Law led them to insist that the law be renewed periodically. Each time it was, Bismarck had to ensure that any qualms about the fairness and efficacy of the original legislation were stifled. To do so, he allowed liberals to consider their prospects if the house were to be dissolved and a general election called on the issue. Entitled “For the Committee Debating the Socialist Law," this 1884 cartoon illustrates Bismarck’s tactic on the occasion of one such extension. From baskets marked “Either” and “Or?” [Entweder and Oder?], the chancellor has selected two eggs that he shows to the Center Party leader Ludwig Windthorst (1812-1891) and leaders of the left-liberal and National Liberal caucuses: one egg is labeled “dissolution” [Auflösung] and the other “Socialist Law” [Socialisten Gesetz]. The caption reads: “Here, Gentlemen, this time the selection is not large! You must opt for one of the two!” From Kladderadatsch (1884).

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© Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz