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Enemies Within


The Workers’ Movement in Germany (1848-1918)


Feb. 1848 - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish Communist Manifesto with dialectical materialist theory of class struggle
Mar. - Revolutions in France, Germany, Austria, Hungary (more a middle-class than working-class affair)
Aug/Sept. - German workers’ congress meets in Berlin - small Brotherhood of Workers formed under Born
Early workers’ associations usually have liberal patrons, stressing education and self-help
July 1854 - German Confederation passes law dissolving all workers’ associations
1861 - Ban on associations is lifted in Saxony (then the most industrialised area of Germany)
May 1863 - Ferdinand Lassalle founds General German Workers’ Association (ADAV) in Leipzig with primary objective of ‘universal, equal, direct suffrage’ - Lassalleans believe in a strong state
Sept. 1864 - International Workingmen’s Association (IWA), or First International, founded (dissolved 1876)
The International becomes the basis of many anti-Socialist international conspiracy theories
Dec. 1865 - General German Cigar-Makers’ Association founded, followed in 1866 by Book-Printers’ Union (note artisanal origins)
Aug. - August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht found Saxon People’s Party
1867 - Marx publishes first volume of Das Kapital
Feb. - Bebel and Liebknecht elected to North German Confederation (as yet not formally Marxists)
Aug. 1869 - Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SDAP) founded in Eisenach as branch of First International
Mar. 1871 - Revolt of the Paris Commune, ending in mass shootings of Communards by government troops
1873(-1896) - Great Depression, affecting all Europe, begins (historical debate about how bad it really was in Germany)
May. 1875 - Lassallean ADAV and Eisenacher SDAP unite to form Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (precursor of SPD)
July 1878 - Socialist Workers’ Party wins 437,158 votes and 9 seats in Reichstag, despite massive obstruction
19 Oct. - Bismarck’s Law against the Criminal Endeavours of Social Democracy passed by 221 votes to 149
Party goes underground or abroad (Britain, Switzerland) but can still stand in Reichstag elections
Mar. 1883 - Marx dies in London
1883 - Sickness Insurance Law (state welfare schemes, whereby Bismarck tries but fails to wean workers off socialism)
1884 - Accident Insurance Law
1889 - Old Age and Invalidity Insurance Law
Spring 1889 - A number of strikes break out at Ruhr mines
Jan. 1890 - Reichstag refuses to renew Socialist Law (Bismarck’s obsessive anti-Socialism hastens his downfall in face of the new 'People's Kaiser')
Feb. - Socialists numerically largest party on votes cast (1,427,000), but win only 35 seats in Reichstag
Oct. 1891 - Newly-renamed SPD’s Erfurt Programme accepted, with a mixture of Marxism and reformism
Jan. 1899 - Bernstein criticises SPD in The Requirements of Socialism and the Tasks of Social Democracy
Bernstein leads the so-called ‘revisionist’ wing against Marxist orthodoxy and for pragmatism (Bernstein had observed pragmatic British labourism while in exile)
Oct. - Clashes over revisionism at Hannover party conference
Sept. 1903 - Revisionism condemned at Dresden party conference by so-called Marxist Centre around Kautsky
Jan. 1905 - Miners’ strikes break out in Ruhr (police are called in amid general atmosphere of crisis)
May - Unions discuss general strike but refuse to back political general strikes
Sept. - SPD conference in Jena only approves general strike as defensive measure
1910 - Social Democrats protest at the Prussian three-class franchise which penalises their voters
Jan. 1912 - In Reichstag election SPD wins 34.8% of vote/110 seats to become largest parliamentary party
4 Aug. 1914 - SPD faction votes unanimously for War Loans Bill, invoking defence of Fatherland (despite Socialist International's plan for general strike
if war declared)
Dec. - Karl Liebknecht first breakaway Social Democrat to vote against next war loans bill
During war unions de facto recognised by employers and government in return for no-strike policy - beginnings of leadership/grass roots split
Jan. 1916 - International Group forms around Rosa Luxemburg & Karl Liebknecht; soon known as Spartacists (named after the leader of slave revolt against ancient Rome)
Mar. 1916 - SPD parliamentary faction splits over continuation of war; Social Democratic Fellowship founded
Apr. 1917 - Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) founded in Gotha
Jan. 1918 - Strike movement in arms industry and rioting in Berlin (food shortages and no end of war in sight)
Luxemburg criticises Lenin’s Bolshevik dictatorship, calling instead for democratic mass action
Oct. - SPD invited to participate in government of Prince Max of Baden (attempt at reform from above)
4 Nov. - Workers’ and Soldiers’ council assumes political and military control in naval base at Kiel
7-8 Nov. - Revolutionary movement spreads throughout Germany, even culminating in a brief socialist republic in Munich
9 Nov. - Prince Max of Baden moves Kaiser to abdicate and hands over power to Social Democrat Ebert (who later becomes Weimar's first President)
30 Dec. - Communist Party of Germany (KPD) founded under Luxemburg and Liebknecht