For example, there can be in this country no such subversion,
or even temporary eclipse of the socialist movement as was effected
by Bismarck during the last century: an eclipse the futility of
which he himself lived to grudgingly acknowledge. General education
in America will prevent the politicians from leading the people
on any far cry against a stalking-horse. The attempts to saddle
the crime of Czolgosz on the socialist movement, and the tiresomely
old and resourceless efforts to confuse socialism with anarchism
have been laughed out of court during the past three weeks by the
American people. It is foolish to play hide and seek under an electric
light. Germany has furnished us too striking a spectacle of official
idiocy for  our persons sitting
in darkness to follow her.
Emperor William I. of Germany suffered
two attacks upon his life in the spring of 1878. A vagrant named
Hoedel fired at him in May, and in June Dr. Nobiling succeeded in
wounding his majesty with buckshot. Bismarck immediately grasped
the opportunity to throw odium upon the social democratic movement.
He charged the social democrats with responsibility for the attacks
upon the Kaiser, arguing that their teachings and criticisms of
the government had inspired Hoedel and Nobiling to attempt assassination.
Aided by the immense popular resentment aroused by the crimes, Bismarck
succeeded in having passed by the Reichstag the severely repressive
socialist laws, by which he hoped to stamp out socialism entirely.
The German government was thus empowered
arbitrarily to dissolve societies, break up public meetings, confiscate
and forbid publications of a revolutionary tendency, to declare
places in a state of siege, to expel all persons held to be obnoxious
under the law, to prevent, in short, the self-assertion of social
democracy in any form. This law was enforced with relentless severity,
and it was re-enacted two or three times. As one biographer of Bismarck
says: “Never did the inquisition exercise its power with greater
vigilance, or greater effect. Opposition was utterly out of the
question, as, indeed, it had been pronounced by the social democrats
themselves to be impolitic; and it was not long before the channels
of their public agitation had all been effectually stopped up, and
this agitation itself rendered as invisible as the fish torpedo
which only reveals its destructive course by a faint ripple on the
surface of the sea.”
More than one American journal of
those which still have mild leanings toward democracy have referred
to Bismarck’s course as a course to be carefully avoided. If Germany’s
experience with Bismarck’s laws did nothing else, it taught the
need of at least attempting to trace the responsibility for deeds
of assassination to the right source.
The socialist laws of repression were
an absolute failure; indeed, they defeated their own purpose and
object. From an open propaganda social democracy became a secret
one, and its political strength steadily grew under the Bismarckian
persecution. The social democrats gradually secured a large representation
in the Reichstag, and finally they became the most numerous political
party in all Germany. The laws against them at last were repealed
as futile and disturbing to the country’s domestic peace.
The fact is the German people;—even
the capitalist class thereof, recognized tardily what the American
people have recognized at once, that there is nothing whatever in
the socialist propaganda that can incite anyone to deeds of violence.
Much as certain imperialistic politicians would like to follow Bismarck’s
illustrious example, they do not dare to—yet.
Bismarck, in his hatred of any opposition
to monarchical absolutism and his bitter jealousy of the rise of
social democracy, unscrupulously took advantage of a moment of public
excitement to fasten responsibility for crime upon political opponents.
In thus transfixing innocent people with an odium and an oppression
they did not deserve, he did Germany irreparable injury in the end.
For nothing could have been further from the political teachings
of the party founded by Lassalle than assassination, murder or attempts
to overthrow and abolish all government. The recognition of the
state was fundamental in Lassalle’s philosophy—“that primeval vestal
fire of all civilization,” as he wrote, “which I will defend with
you against those modern barbarians who hate the state.”