The March of Time - 20th Century History

Chapter 153: The Abdication Crisis, Part IX: Bernsteinian Heresy

Only in a State whose citizens are accustomed to discipline, who have learned in the army unconditional obedience, who feel daily and hourly the stern pressure of the apparatus of administration, could a party organization so large and coherent as German Social Democracy originate.”
- Chancellor Eulenburg in 1905

While the Progressive People’s Party was largely formed to advocate the cause of parliamentarism, the Social Democrats were divided on the matter. On the one hand promoting the cause of parliamentarization would help their agenda of a complete democratization of the state. On the other hand that would require cooperation with bourgeois parties, an anathema to many dedicated Marxists who insisted that SPD was at heart a revolutionary organization.

Their opponents inside the party quoted late Engels who had regarded direct suffrage as a revolutionary achievement that would allow the worker’s movement to wage class struggle in new and more civil forms, proclaiming an end to the era of surprise attacks, revolutions made by a small, conscious minority at the head of unconscious masses.

Such Bernsteinian revisionism was very close of the views of the German trade unionists. The German Free Trade Unions tented to ignore politicians and theoreticians of all stripes, and gradually built up their organization while the main party patronizingly stated that unions were schools of socialism, not central for achieving it. By 1906 they suddenly had nearly five times as many registered members as the SPD (1 700 000 to 385 000), and as a result the union leaders were self-confident enough to preserve their own organization, demanding equality as partners, not as pupils of the party. May 1905 congress at Cologne the SPD thus formally stated that it was: “ attempt to prescribe a particular tactic by agitating for political mass strikes. General strikes were only endorsed by people with no experience in the business of economic warfare, such as anarchists."

The internal schism continued in September 1905 at the Jena party congress. Here the final line adopted by the party that it was the duty of the entire working class to employ any means that seem appropriate for their defence in cases of an attack on the general, equal, direct and secret suffrage law. Comprehensive mass walkout was one of the most effective weapons to secure important basic rights for the liberation of the workers. But in order to be used, the greatest possible extension of the political and trade union organization of the working class is absolutely necessary, in conjunction with agitation. SPD thus de facto opted out of the general strike strategy while maintaining the possibility to change tactics if necessary, and the party leadership agreed not to call for a strike without the assent of the general commissions of the Free Trade Unions.

Bebel and Kaytsky finalized this internal shift within the SPD and infuriated the radical wing of the party by granting equal status to the unions in the Mannheim Agreement of 1906. Bernstein and his followers rejoiced, but neither they or the majority of the unionist leaders supported the syndical view that all-powerful unions should run the country. Unions were gaining power in the party, pushing intellectual debates about Marxist dogma to the background as irrelevant and boring.

Bebel led the party through this turbulent era from the centre, with fiery rhetorics combined with cautious and moderately practical actual policy. Material circumstances were improving, the party remained unified, and it gained support in elections. But this also made the party leadership unable to really solve the central debate within the party. An open call for either outright revolution or an open change of interpretation of Marx towards reformism would have split the party.

Trade unions were also a problem for Zentrum. Was the party an interconfessional political grouping as the trade union and reformist wanted and thus independent of the clergy, or a Catholic-clerical party as the integralists wanted? The status quo was enforced by a formal compromise: Zentrum was “basically a non-confessional political party”, but it was an important “fact that almost all of its voters and delegates belong to the Catholic Church...a sufficient pledge that the Zentrum will vigorously represent the just interests of German Catholics in all areas of public life.

Similar competitions and challenges of dogmatic purity locked the whole political field down, and all party coalitions remained fragile and fleeting. The core problem was that the whole system lacked integrative power. The parties defended their interest groups regardless of the public interest, out of fear that many lobbies and interest groups would otherwise opt to negotiate directly with the government authorities instead. Eulenburg had made this problem worse by cultivating complacency at home to cement the ruling political coalition he had created. This has made things seem less bad than they really were, until his downfall took the old Bloc down alongside him.

When the market liberal industrial magnates of Ruhr formed their own organization, the Hansa-Bund für Handel, Gewerbe und Industrie, to lobby and promote their cause against the conservative Agrarian BdL, the realignment of German politics was soon complete. The Conservatives were becoming increasingly isolated.
Chapter 154: The Abdication Crisis, Part X: Death and Taxes
By the end of 1908, the citizens of Germany were more prosperous than ever, but the state that governed them was strapped for cash. Three state secretaries of the Treasure had all opted to resign in order to avoid facing the ever-greater mountains of debt. Disregard of fiscal limits and economic realities had allowed Germany to continue for a while, but now the situation was becoming untenable. A common budgetary strategy was becoming a necessity.

In the face of the rapid industrialization and growing social unrest sweeping financial reforms were deemed necessary to make Germany capable of competing with the other great powers. So far attempts to implement them had been undermined by the conservative and liberal intransigence alike. The large interest groups of industry had prevented the liberals from accepting direct taxes, while the Agrarian League prevented the conservatives from accepting the inheritance taxes. Conservative opposition to all property taxes and solid support for indirect taxation and state monopolies was an established fact. So was the principled liberal opposition to them both. The federal governments were also opposed to direct Reich taxation, since that would have circumscribed their powers. They were equally opposed to the alternative of increasing their matricular contributions. And to complicate matters even more, SPD opposed further indirect taxes on goods, more or less forcing the government to opt for direct taxation as a potential new source of tax revenue.

Wilhelm II had always referred the Reichstag as "pigsty" and used the example of difficulty of tax reform as just one example of worthlessness of any type of party politics. As the matter became worse over the years, the perceived need for change already had a separate lobby group, Vereinigung zur Förderung der Reichsfinanzreform (Union for the Promotion of Imperial Finance Reform) consisting of the nationalist pressure groups, the Navy League, the Colonial Society and Pan-German League. Their unlikely spokesman, economist Gustav von Schmoller propagated his case well, distilling years of research into articles and a yearbook that collected his essays on the subject. His main thesis was that in the past great financial reforms had always been the result of “shattering state catastrophes”, as Schmoller pointed out. The obvious conclusion of his research was that the Reich had to be able to levy sizable direct inheritance and estate taxes paid by the well-to-do to thrive and meet the challenges of modernity. This fact was anathema to many organized interest groups and political parties they supported.

The “little reform” of 1906 was inadequate to meet the constantly rising expenditure, and an annual shortfall of 500 million marks was a gap that needed to be closed. Before his downfall, Chancellor Eulenburg had pursued a new reform where four-fifths of the deficit would be met by raising consumption taxes on spirits, wine, beer and tobacco, and by extending the inheritance tax introduced in 1906 to the immediate heirs, spouse and children.

On the surface the Eulenburg Bloc supported the 1908 tax reform, as long as it would be accompanied with the pledge that all imperial offices would redouble austerity efforts to cut costs. But as Eulenburg fell from office, the Conservatives abandoned the old alliance and formed a new group with Zentrum. This placed the reform to an entirely new position. The Agrarian League, the most powerful lobby group behind the Conservative Party, was adamant in the opposition of any taxes for land ownership, as well as against income and wealth taxes, or the extension of the inheritance tax to spouses and children. There were good conservative as well as Catholic reasons to claim that the estate tax was hostile to property and family.

But during his chancellorship Eulenburg had sought to maintain an alliance between the Conservatives of Prussia and the National Liberals of the West and South, excluding the South German states and especially the Catholic Zentrum. With him and his anti-Catholic policies gone, Zentrum was now effectively setting the agenda. Eager to show that they too cared for the common good of the Kaiserreich and avoid the growing dissent that voters felt towards the political impasse of Reichstag, just enough Zentrum representatives relented to allow the succession tax bill to pass by a vote of 191 to 189, with the slightest possible margin against the opposition of the Conservatives, most of the Center Party, Poles, Anti-Semites and Hanoverian Guelphs in a vote that was ultimately about Junkers interests against the consumers, workers, industry and commerce.[1]

The Tax Bill of 1909 was just a sign of how painstakingly hard reforms in the German economy were because of the political stalemate.

[1]In OTL Zentrum took revenge on Bülow . Here they have no reason to do so to Eulenburg since he is already out of office. The Conservative vote was influenced by a strong ultra-royalist faction around the West Prussian landowner Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau, that accused the chancellor of disloyalty in OTL - here von Moltke has also resigned, so the vote is not as much about the chancellor as it was about Bülow in OTL. In OTL the inheritance tax fell, the consumption taxes remained and there were stamp duties on financial transactions, cheques and bills of exchange instead.
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Wow! You've been busy! There is some heavy lifting of political see-saw chaos in the last several posts. I don't know the scientific term, but there is a great deal of friction at the molecular level of politics, but it has mostly produced only heat, without other results yet.
Wow! You've been busy!
I still have plenty of stuff at the ready, so expect new updates shortly.

There is some heavy lifting of political see-saw chaos in the last several posts. I don't know the scientific term, but there is a great deal of friction at the molecular level of politics, but it has mostly produced only heat, without other results yet.
Fear of a generational and political change immobilizes the current political structures just when there is a need for sweeping changes. It doesn't help that the system more or less requires both a compliant monarch and a good chancellor to work as (Bismarck) intented.
Chapter 155: The Abdication Crisis, Part XI: Lése-majesté

The first thing on the agenda of the new coalition of Conservatives and Zentrum was to make sure that this sort of national embarrassment would never, ever happen again. Their first answer to the crisis was revision of the lèse-majesté laws, forbidding insults against the sovereign and the royal and princely houses.

The government had for long turned down all attempts of criminal reform laws from the Reichstag with the pretext that all reforms would have to wait upon the completion of the entire Criminal Code. Thus they could not simply rush through a specifically tailored law, no matter how urgent the situation was when “the most sensitive aspects of plaintiffs’ private and family life were being exposed and offered up for public commentary.” And as the public opinion grew more outraged by each new scandalous headline, the political leaders keenly felt the pressure to deliver results and a solution to the issue.

But the proposed libel law would not have a chance to get the necessary votes without being surrounded by provisions that were too tempting for at least part of the Left to pass. The conservative Right was adamant on protecting the privacy of libel plaintiffs and limiting freedom of the press. The end result was a law draft that sought to alleviate the conservative fears about the future of the monarchy and the position of the social elites, born out of genuine moral disgust, but written with pragmatic political consideration. It was defended with a coded language of protecting honour and sanctity of family and privacy. Promoted by the Black-and-Blue Block, it met a mixed reception from the SPD and the Liberal parties.

Yes, the middle-class morality of many liberal representatives had been shocked to the core by the vulgar sensationalism of the Eulenburg affairs. At the same time the Liberals also feared the potential long-term effects of attacks against the press: “In our view, the right to free speech is at least as in need of protection as personal honour.

On the left socialists viewed the matter through the lens of class conflict and the still vivid memories of years of systematic and government persecution. To them, increased libel penalties were just a masked attempt to drive opposition newspapers to financial ruin. While the attached popular reform parts were praised as improvements of the “backwardness, injustice and inhumanity” of the current criminal legislation, the libel sections were rejected outright.

Exceptional law against the press...a new piece of class justice aimed against the right to truth - to free, public dissemination of information.” Some SPD deputies presented themselves as defenders of honour in order to make the argument that even in terms of honour the law was deeply flawed and thus unacceptable.

The true reason behind the new legislation - panic at the face of resurgent opposition forces and the abdication of the Kaiser - was simply all too apparent. The current laws were already draconian. Any insult against the Kaiser had a minimum sentence of two months of imprisonment, and loss of all public offices. All insults, no matter the motive or context of the libeler, were to be prosecuted, even if there was no intention or conscious attempt to harm the crown.

The current law also included statements from private conversations, retroactively. The end result was predictable: courts were packed full of cases where discussions between close friends or even family arguments turned into mutual denunziattum the minute discord between them occurred. Since denunciation cases sometimes led to sentences even years after the original event, “not entirely reconcilable with the general sense of justice” was a vast understatement of the current status of the law in German society.

In 1907 Wilhelm II himself had issued an edict promising clemency to offenders whose insults against the Prussian monarchy stemmed “merely from lack of understanding, indiscretion, heedlessness and other instances that do not involve malicious design”, and that only insults made with malicious intent would be prosecuted in the future. But since this edict only applied to Prussia and Alsace-Lorraine, the Reichstag had to introduce a law to extend the edict to apply to the entire nation.

Immediately dubbed “Lex Eulenburg” by the SPD, the new proposed law embodied protection of upper-class honor interests by sharpening the maximum penalties for public defamation. When a libel was spread through writing or images, the law draft declared that that the truth of the alleged libel was irrelevant to the assessments of guilt, denying the defendants their constitutional rights in the matter. The plaintiff would be granted the power to decide on whether a hearing of the evidence would be allowed. In other words - with this law in force, anything resembling the Eulenburg Affair could not happen again.

This was the heart of the law, but it was sugar-coated with popular reforms: decreased penalties for trespassing, petty theft, and several other minor crimes; increased penalties for abuse against children and animals, and more narrow and precise definitions of blackmailing.

The law still essentially sought to maintain the ability to use the lése-majesté as a tool of political repression, but this intent was wrapped to a shiny cover that was represented as a way to rid the system of abuses of apolitical prosecution and private denunciations. The Devil was in the details - what exactly did “malicious intent” (mit Vorbedacht und in böser Absicht) mean? The socialists and liberals knew a major loophole when they saw one, and were totally opposed to the law. Despite this, the law passed with a narrow margin. Too many liberal representatives were simply outraged by the latest turn of events, and sought to restore a sense of normalcy and control to the situation. The growing rift inside the Black-and-Blue was already apparent when the Cabinet sought to solve the question of the previous Chancellor himself.

As it was, the legal limbo of the disgraced Eulenburg was extremely troublesome to the whole German state. A prison sentence for sickly Eulenburg would damage the public image of German monarchy irreparably, while an acquittal would ruin the reputation of Germany as a Rechtstaat. The constitution no longer had any formal provisions for rank, but the old aristocracy had clung to the leadership by claiming that it upheld religion and morality. Many high-ranking nobles and other monarchs of the Kaiserreich had turned against Wilhelm II as a potential threat to their class and estate because the Eulenburg case made their entire look bad. Something had to be done.

Thus Harden and the government made a tacit agreement in the spring of 1909, after Albert Ballin and Walther Rathenau had acted as middlemen in their mutual correspondence. Harden received a secret written agreement stating that the things he had done "were pursued with the best interests of the Fatherland in mind"[1] and a modest monetary compensation. In return he dropped his intent to take the case to the Reichsgericht (Imperial Court of Justice). With Eulenburg himself subjected to repeated closed trials where he was almost ritually deemed too ill to stand in court time and time again, the agreement with Harden and the revised criminal code brought a formal end to the Eulenburg scandal.

1: As per OTL. Bülow managed to make such a deal quite easily, increasing the likelihood that he was most likely the original source of much of the information behind Harden and Holstein. In TTL Harden is more than pleased with the results of his press campaign (and not a little bit shaken by his own success), and is also eager to opt out before the situation escalates any further.
Chapter 156: The Abdication Crisis, Part XII: A question of life or death
A strange form of pseudoconstitutional absolutism prevailed in Germany, despite the fact that the Reichstag was elected with an universal manhood suffrage of all male citizens over the age of 25. In fact, the Reichstag possessed little real power other than the right refuse to pass the federal budget. The real power was divided between Prussia and the Bundesrat, the federal parliament. Sovereignty was vested by the constitution in the Bundesrat, presided by the Chancellor appointed by and accountable to the Kaiser.

The Eulenburg Bloc itself had been a direct result of the slowly escalating conflicts inside the Wilhelmine society and the German Empire at large. By bringing the liberals and Conservatives together to a political marriage of convenience, Eulenburg had managed to create a sense of stability. But no amount of fear of the rise of the Social Democrats could bridge the underlying political differences within the old Bloc. The fact that the Conservatives now sought support from Zentrum in a Blue-Black majority group meant that the Conservatives soon found themselves effectively isolated in German politics in their stance towards the source of their power - the notorious 3-tier suffrage of Prussia.

At the same time the Conservatives were too weak politically to accept any changes to their current political status. Instead of seeking to address this weakness, the party leaders opted to be “plus royaliste que le roi”, and made resistance against any suffrage reform as one of their core tenets. The party leader Ernst von Heydebrand und der Lasa, "the uncrowned king of Prussia” had a clear view to the matter: “Rule by the undifferentiated masses - which is the core idea of universal equal suffrage - is an attack against the basic laws of nature, according to which the capable, the best and the worthiest contribute to a country’s fate; and this contribution of the ablest and best has been the foundation of every civilization. In fact, it is impossible to conceive of a civilization that makes no such distinctions.

In principle the need for change had been accepted. Wilhelm II had made a passing reference to such direction in early 1908 in a speech where he hoped that a reform would come along eventually “in the form of an organic development, in accordance with economic evolution, the spread of knowledge and political intelligence, and the growth of the sense of responsibility to the State.” But while the matter had so far not been addressed in Prussia, rest of Germany was a different story.

The Grand Duchy of Baden had led the way in 1904, and ever since the direct, equal and secret voting had been introduced the local politics had focused on a situation where the other parties had formed a Grand Bloc to prevent the Catholic Zentrum party from dominating the local politics. Bavaria had redrawn the constituency boundaries and introduced direct voting in 1906, leading to consistent Zentrum majorities. Württemberg had instituted universal male suffrage in 1906, reforming the upper house and local councils with the guidance of the loyalist left-liberal People’s Party.

Electoral reforms in Saxony, Baden, Bavaria and Mecklenburg were increasing the pressure towards the status quo in Prussia. But the Conservatives were quick to point out that changes were not universally going towards more parliamentarism. In Saxony the conservatives and liberals had joined forces to replace universal manhood suffrage voting system with an indirect three-class suffrage in 1896, only to replace it with a system of plural voting in 1909. Generally speaking the old elites at the South were less worried about the growing power of Zentrum than the Prussian and other North German leaders were about the rise of SPD. This applied to economic elites of Hamburg as well as the hidebound-conservative Junkers nobility of East Prussia. But while the Conservatives were too weak to accept any changes, the liberal groups wanted reforms out of the fear that further support for the current order would just further radicalize the SPD instead of leading the party towards cooperation.
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Would these law changes have any impact on emigration? Perhaps not immediately, but eventually? Their impact seems Draconian from my 21st Century point-of-view, but how much so from the middle and working-class Germany of that era?
Chapter 157: The Abdication Crisis, Part XIII: A modest proposal

"Come on then, Bethmann, we challenge you!"

In 1906 the events in Scandinavia finally forced the Prussian authorities to address the suffrage issue, and a committee was set to discuss changes in the Prussian election laws. Bethmann-Hollweg, a rising start in Prussian politics who had been appointed as the new State Secretary in 1907, noted for his abilities to work with Zentrum and Conservatives, was chosen to lead the effort.[1]

The Bethmann-Hollweg committee reform proposal, drafted in the middle of the worst political crisis in the history of German Empire, emerged from the cabinets after the Abdication Crisis as a cautious compromise. Broadening the franchise plural voting based on age meant that new property and educational qualifications would have to be introduced as a check. The reform draft introduced still open, but now direct elections, without an intervening tier of electors: winner would be determined on the basis of the proportional method of representation. The draft also redrew and enlarged the size of electoral districts. The three classes of voters were to be retained, but higher civil service (Beamte) and pensioned army officers were to be moved to the top class that had previously included only landowners and financial and industrial magnates.

This modified three-tier system proposal reduced the power of about 13 000 wealthiest electors, while doubling the numbers of the first class, adding a 25% increase in the second class, and saw the third class reduced by about 7%. Bethmann-Hollweg himself referred to his proposal as a law that was designed "to help the Conservatives to regain touch with the mood of the people."

Like all political compromises, it infuriated everyone who stood to lose the most. Left-liberals and Social Democrats wanted a true general direct suffrage in Prussia. Zentrum had competing factions supporting either the federal model or a plural suffrage system that would favour the more well-off people. The Conservatives, as stated earlier, stalwartly defended the status quo, for obvious reasons: In 1908 they obtained 34% of of the seats, 143 in total, with 14% of the vote.

Following the Swedish example, the SPD ultimately opted to organize demonstrations to make their case heard. Every Sunday in February and May 1910 workers demonstrated in the streets of all the big cities of Germany. Miners and construction workers staged prolonged strikes. The Party Congress at Jena in 1911 formally sanctioned relatively easy conditions for electoral bargains with non-Socialists considering the suffrage question, namely to save face and party unity since at Bavaria the Left and SPD had already fought the Landtag elections in alliance.

In 1903 the SPD obtained 18,8% of the vote, but no seats. In 1908 the party gained 23,9% of the vote, entered the House for the first time, but received 7 seats (out of 443), whereas Conservatives secured 212 seats with 16%. In the face of the growing public unrest caused by the Eulenburg Scandal, the Prussian politicians fearing the next elections were more eager to compromise than would have otherwise been the case.

Ultimately the Black-Blue Bloc found a face-saving way forward. Their counter-proposal maintained indirect elections to the Prussian lower house, but also introduced voter secrecy. After a lot of hair-splitting and haggling about income thresholds that would be used to assign voters to different electoral classes forced the Prussian government to step in to resolve these disagreements, the two houses of parliament reached an agreement over the introduction of secret elections.[2]

On March 1910 the lower house deputies of the Prussian parliament accepted the Bethmann proposal in its altered (or "mutilated" as the Socialist press called it) form. German liberal newspapers referred to Sweden as a cautionary tale for the folly of government intransigence in the face of public protest, and urged the government and the crown to show this type of wisdom in the future as well, and enact reforms now when there was still time and room for a compromise. Curiously enough the same Nordic example was used by the Conservative press, where a completely opposite conclusion was reached: that right now it would be extremely dangerous to show weakness. As one contemporary conservative publication commented: "Despite our serious reservations, the recently accepted counter-proposal is less dangerous than the original draft that would have introduced direct elections and a highly dubious proportional representation."

1. Instead of being the new Chancellor after von Moltke, B-H remains a State Secretary for the time being.
2. in OTL such a compromise was really reached for the secret ballot, but the government was unwilling to get involved to the minor disagreements that ultimately killed the whole draft proposal.
Would these law changes have any impact on emigration? Perhaps not immediately, but eventually? Their impact seems Draconian from my 21st Century point-of-view, but how much so from the middle and working-class Germany of that era?
I should have been more clear about the fact that this is all OTL legislation-wise. There really was a "Lex Eulenburg", and decades later the Nazis used the Kaiserreich-era pretext of libel laws to push through their own laws against "malicious gossip" to suppress their political opponents.
158: The Abdication Crisis, Part XIV: Dismayed Intellectual

When a dilettante held the cords of policy in his hands, Weltpolitik was impossible. For the Hohenzollern dynasty knows nothing but the sergeant-in-arms form of power - command, obedience, standing in attention, boasting. The King of England has ambition and power; the Kaiser had vanity and was content with the appearance of power. And this was a fault of the system, not the person. Do not overestimate the importance of the quality of the person. It is the institutions...and your own lack of resolution that are guilty. This is the result of Bismarckerei and the political immaturity that it promoted."

Maximilian Carl Emil Weber had watched the parliamentary debates on the Eulenburg Affair closely and was extremely agitated by the sudden news of abdication. He had consciously avoided all active political involvement for nearly a decade after 1900. Now he felt that the issue of the monarch’s place in a parliamentary monarchy simply had to be addressed. He began a careful study of the possibilities of introducing a parliamentary system to Germany. Would it be possible to do so in a manner that would avoid upsetting the constitutional idea of a federation of princely states balanced by the unifying power of the Reichstag?

For the first time in ten years he attended a public meeting of the National Liberal party on 30th of November 1908. There Jellinek argued for making the chancellor responsible to the Reichstag and the Bundesrat. When Gothein argued against parliamentarism and partisan interest politics, Weber suprised everyone. He held a passionate improvised speech in opposition of Gothein. His main argument was that both Britain and Belgium had parliamentary systems of government, and their colonial possessions dwarfed the German overseas empire. With mere figurehead monarchs, their policies showed far more consistency and firmness than what was perceptible in Germany. Their monarchs had performed services for their countries by practicing Realpolitik that had trumped Wilhelmian “prestige.” “A statesman, holding it all together, is lacking. None exists, and no one can replace it. We need governmental leadership by a politician. Conservative bureaucrats have governed, not ruled. Bismarck has cultivated a generation of politicians who lack the will or capacity for independent political action!"

Max Weber reacted to the news of abdication with smug satisfaction: “The proud, self-confident Kaiser Wilhelm II bowed his head and conceded what the people wanted...From now on honour of the nation is of prime importance - the welfare of the Fatherland." Weber was a firm supporter of a powerful Weltpolitik, seeing no alternatives to an energetic imperialist policy aimed at the expansion of German sphere of interest and territory. Exercise of military and economic power would have to form the basis of German foreign policy. He wrote an article to the Historische Zeitschrift, analyzing authoritarian and parliamentary monarchy and arguing that the monarch was quite capable of exercising significant political influence in a parliamentary system, while his position among the people was much more secure than it could ever be in a semi-constitutional system with bureaucratic control.

With his moods improving after years of melancholic retreat from daily politics, Weber became more active in the National Liberal politics. He helped Georg Jellinek, who was working on a law draft to amplify article 17 of the Reich constitution, bringing forward his views regarding the constitutional stipulation of the chancellor’s responsibility. Weber had a clear vision.

Only by ending personal government and the uncontrolled bureaucracy would Germany move towards parliamentarism, and only thus could the leading politicians be able to oppose dynastic impulsiveness and excesses effectively. Germany needed political reform to be able to play a role in the “universal struggle of great powers for spheres of influence around the world.” Reform was a necessary step in order to take on the great international policy tasks that were the historical responsibility of Germany. The German nation had to achieve a certain measure of political freedom to become a Herrenvolk, a nation worthy of the historical right to participate in the struggle for the division of the earth.

To Weber, this was an unconditional basis for a successful Weltpolitik. He lamented the fact that ever since the fall of Bismarck, Germany had pursued mere prestige politics, resorting to aggressive statements but always avoiding actual dangers and confrontations. Weber wanted a “stronger armament coupled with a sober and ruthlessly decisive foreign policy.” Other powers had become accustomed to the way Germany always gave in when the going got rough, in spite of her portentous moves in the world stage. Therefore the current constitutional position of the German monarch were incompatible with the world interests of the nation and the means necessary to protect these interests: war and diplomacy.

Here too the German bureaucratic government struggled in comparison with Western democracies in all areas. “They have been more successful overseas than our impeccable moral bureaucracy. In the light of Realpolitik - the ultimate criterion - I ask: which system of most effective today?”

But since "true", Western-model parliamentarism was a pipe dream, Weber thought of possible short-term remedies. The Bundesrat Committee for Foreign Affairs should be reactivated and expanded by including the respective secretaries of state and elder statesmen, reconstituted as a Reich crown council. A new criminal code against the publication of royal speeches and programs combined with a re-activated Reich crown council would finally put an end to any new instance of royal speeches, telegrams, and other statements causing embarrassments to the national prestige of Germany.

The Chancellor was to be dismissed if 240 Reichstag members or 24 Bundesrat members withdrew their confidence to him. Both the Reichstag and the Bundesrat would have to gain the right of parliamentary assembly even without a special royal order. A federalist resolution to constitutional reform was possible within the framework of the existing Reich structure only if the Reichstag members were permitted to enter the Bundesrat. Only the presence of the leaders of the Reichstag parties in the Bundesrat could turn the upper house into a force that could reconcile the interests of the Reich with the interests of the individual states - and to form a counterweight to Prussian hegemony.

Bismarck himself had stressed the federal character, seeking to restrict the powers of the Reichstag. Since the Bundesrat held the real power, Weber sought to turn it into a representative body of the states instead of a multi-dynastic court. This was the only way to free the other members from the vassalization of the three-class Landtag of Prussia. As it was the Chancellor was another stooge of the Prussian hegemony, by dint of his position at the head of the Prussian government and his control of the Prussian votes in the Bundesrat.

While he had both national and international renown as an academic, in 1909 the main effect of his political re-awakening was rather limited. His ideas and viewpoints were a curious mixture of Pan-German chauvinism and Western-minded liberal reformism, and failed to attract major support from either camp. They were still a sign of the times: fear of losing the international competition and despair about the perceived weaknesses of the German political model were becoming increasingly common by 1910.

All views and quotes of Weber are from OTL. He really did reactivate politically after 1908.
Chapter 159: The Abdication Crisis, Part XV: To Keep the Middle Class and Modernity at Bay

The fatal visit: General von Hülsen-Häseler, (sixth from left, at the front row) as a part of the imperial
entourage at the 1905 Kaisermanöver together with Lord Lonsdale (second from left).

When Wilhelm II surprised his generals by announcing his abdication, the Army was already fully committed to the bitter battles of two drawn-out holding actions. They were defending their internal position within the Empire in the so-called MStGO conflict of military justice code reform, and had done so since the 1870s. The other - deemed even more important among the old guard - was an organizational resistance against the expansion of the army. Both were mortal threat to old Junkers elites, for they would have diluted the prestige of the military by infiltrating her ranks with bourgeois middle-class officers, who could not be trusted to be as conservative as their minor noble colleagues.

The chief of the Military Cabinet of Wilhelm II was a key figure in this struggle. Because he had a seremonial role as adjutant, he was present at audiences with holders of others who had Immediatstellen-level access to the Emperor. Holders of this office used this right extensively, seeking to guard the Kaiser from any influences that they deemed hostile to the best interests of the Army.

Dietrich von Hülsen-Häseler had been appointed to his post on 5th of May 1901. His predecessor, General von Hahnke, had known that the Chief of the Military Cabinet was the highest position he would ever have in the German society. He had therefore allowed Wilhelm II a lot of leeway in military matters without giving him much guidance, out of fear that the erratic Emperor would remove him from office. Hülsen-Häseler did not have this flaw, for he was not financially dependent to his position because he had married money.

He was smart, wiley, and apt to coarse Berlin humour that pleased Wilhelm II and was scandalous to nearly everyone else, and he always spoke his mind. He was tall (198cm), frank in his views, agreed with Wilhelm on most issues, had excellent contacts to Austria-Hungary, and most importantly he had staunch conservative credentials. That is, he viewed his role as a protector of the privileges of the Army, shielding it from unnecessary expansion or and political meddling. His reactionary political views had made him a firm part of the Eulenburg clique. Eulenburg had actually used his influence to get Hülsen-Häseler away from his post as the Military Plenipotentiary at the Viennese Embassy.[1]

When the Eulenburg scandal started a media spectacle surrounding the army, Hülsen-Häseler had received a fatal task from the Kaiser. Wilhelm II told him to "uproot all perverts" from the ranks of the officer corps. The following series of trials, dishonorable discharges and a string of suicides had all placed a great strain to his health. In early November 1908 he collapsed to the staple floor after arriving from a ride as a victim of a fatal heart attack, leaving the Military Cabinet paralyzed at the worst possible moment.[2]

The officer corps was anxious to see who would be picked as the Chief. For the greatest power of the Military Cabinet lay in the control of promotions and appointments. Each year, every officer of the Prussian army from the lowest second lieutenant to the corps commanders was formally evaluated. These fitness reports (Qualifikationsberichte) were sent to the Military Cabinet, and each one of them was reviewed. Every corps commander, fortress governor, high-level staff appointment had been ultimately decided by the Kaiser, but due the sheer amount of bureaucracy and lack of interest Wilhelm II had most often just rubber-stamped the recommendations of the Military Cabinet by default. Because of this, the Military Cabinet had sought to guide the structure of German officer corps to suit their vision. And now every faction within the officer corps stood ready to make their case for the future of the German army.

1. The letter Eulenburg sent in OTL to Wilhelm II from Vienna called von Hülsen-Häseler a distinguished and remarkably clever man, but also referred to his “outrageous scurrility” and called him “a show-cactus, with glittering, somewhat prickly foliage. The shrub does not do so well abroad.” In OTL Hülsen-Häseler found out about the letter and took slight, turning against von Eulenburg. TTL he remains unaware. As a result he is even more distressed about his role as a leader of an internal purge than in OTL.
2. He had a hidden heart condition, as the tragicomic nature of his OTL death shows.
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Chapter 159: The Abdication Crisis, Part XVI: A Dreadnought Without A Rudder

Politics were dirty business and beneath the value of a Prussian nobleman. Having a lively discussion about military strategy among peers was a whole another matter, though.
Especially when something as vulgar as money was involved.

The German War Minister was the War Minister of Prussia, a Prussian general oath-bound to the King of Prussia. The Bavarian, Saxon and Württembergian War ministers were legally of the same rank, and had their own mini-budgets. Wilhelm II, eager to show that he was a Supreme Warlord worth of the moniker had made their job nearly impossible. Ever since the Landesverteidigunsgkomission, the Home Defence Commission, had been abolished in 1897, no one had coordinated financial, diplomatic, military and naval policies of the Kaiserreich. Composed of admirals and generals and entrusted with the coordination of joint defence policies, the commission had enabled the soldiers and civilians of Prussia to debate and discuss matters of strategy.

Wilhelm II had not only disbanded the entire commission, but had later on placed various army factions in and out of favour seemingly on a whim, hampering the long-term development of the German Army. Surrounded by military men who had told him that the army had no need to expand in size, he had been easily lured to the call of navalism. Navalism had always been the greatest love of his life - he was an admiral of the fleet of the Royal Navy, an admiral in the Imperial Russian, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian navies, and an honorary admiral of the Royal Greek Navy, and sought out every possible occasion to dress up in each admiral outfit in turn.

During the reign of Wilhelm II the German War Ministers had been operating without any real information about the strategic planning of the General Staff, despite the fact that the War Minister was the one responsible for the armament policy. And since it was his duty to deal with the Reichstag to receive funding, long-term development of German military had been hard. Organizationally the War Ministry had thus traditionally focused on the preservation aristocratic character of the officer corps, joining forces with Chiefs of the Military Cabinet in the opposition of army expansion.

This conservative stance combined with the formidable reputation and vainglorious pride of the German General Staff had created a situation where leaders of a land power located to the middle of Europe and surrounded by powerful current or former rivals had started to dream of a powerful fleet.

Gustav von Senden-Bibran, former Chief of the Naval Cabinet, had therefore had an easy job. Eulenburg had attempted, but failed, to torpedo his career and remove him from the entourage. His failure here stemmed from the obsessive interest Wilhelm II had on all things naval, and the way Senden-Bibran had been willing to provide Wilhelm II an outlet to his navalism had cemented his position. He had also secured his legacy by lifting admiral Tirpitz to his current position.

But one easily agitated Kaiser alone would not have been able to create the German navalism. At the same time when Wilhelm II started his reign, the perceived vulnerability of German overseas and maritime interests had become a powerful rallying cry for fleet expansion. According to German nationalists, Britain viewed interests Germans considered legitimate with indifference or casual disregard. Tirpitz carefully cultivated the public image of German navalism, and with the PR funding from Krupp and major shipyard companies he and his supporters organized the Navy League, one of the first truly "all-German" lobby organizations in the Kaiserreich. Offering the growing patriotic middle class a chance to serve in a more meritocratic military force was a powerful rallying cry, and so far the Reichstag had yielded funding for one Naval Law after another.

The German generals had been happy to ignore the navy for years, but when the strategic situation in Europe was changing and the arms-race between the Triple Alliance and the Franco-Russian Dual Alliance gained pace, they begun to watch the steadily growing naval budgets with unease. A common Army criticism to the naval expansion was rather simple: “What does the navy propose to do if the army is defeated, be it in the west or in the east?” By 1905, that question had become not only fair, but also acute. Britain had just changed the calculations of the naval arms race completely with the HMS Dreadnought. Tirpitz had conducted a masterful propaganda campaign at home, but had little to show for strategy. Admirals who competed for the attention of Wilhelm II pointed out that as it was, all available naval resources were being invested to the build-up, while officer salaries and crew training were being squeezed thin.

British politicians were alarmed by this development. The previous naval arms race between Britain and her potential continental foes had failed to deter them. After increasing her fleet to 22 first-class battleships by building ten new ships between March 1889 and 1893, Britain had witnessed the French and Russian respond with their own buildup to a total of 25 battleships, even though the geographic constraints of Russia helped to even the odds. The Franco-Russian alliance that was formalized in 1892 further restricted the British diplomatic freedom of moment, and signaled a serious challenge to the splendid isolation policy in a time when the size of the British Empire had roughly doubled in a span of 40 years. During that time Russia had been humiliated in the Crimean War, while Germany and Italy had unified and completely altered the balance of power in the Continent.

The Norwegian Independence War of 1905 made painfully obvious how weak the German naval capacity still was, and how little it mattered internationally. Sea Lord Fisher had ordered the Royal Navy to show the flag along the entire German coastline both at the North and Baltic Sea alike, and the joint naval demonstrations along the North Sea coast of Sweden reminded many planners that the French had also been able to bring significant naval presence to the North Sea. Tirpitz has responded to this criticism by stating that this was still the risk phase of his plan, but already in late 1905 Admiral Friedrich von Baudissin had warned Tirpitz that the British could also opt out from their expected course of action, that is, steaming into the Blight to offer a decisive battle at the outbreak of the war. Von Baudissin and Admiral von Fischel recognized that Britain held the control of the entrances of the North Sea, and this basic fact of geography allowed them the option to either attack or defend when facing a challenge to their control of the vital German shipping lines to the rest of the world.

For Tirpitz, this was unfortunate development, since the creeping costs of the naval programme caught up with Germany in 1905. The dissident admirals were calling for a grand naval council to hammer out a reformed German naval vision. Tirpitz had done his best to silence potential criticism well in advance by keeping the Admiralty Staff powerless out of fear that it might become as independent and powerful as the General Staff. In 1903 Tirpitz had vetoed the proposed officer exchange program, where half of the Naval Academy graduates would serve with the Admiralstab. By fall of 1907 serious doubts were already being raised in public about the soundness of Tirpitz’s battleship strategy, and by late summer 1908 Eulenburg felt strongly that concessions in the speed of future naval construction needed to be negotiated in return for a political settlement with Britain to extract Germany from her increasingly isolated international position.

Tirpitz replied that Germany would be in a good position for a prolonged dreadnought race with Britain, provided that Eulenburg could carry through the planned financial reforms. But Eulenburg was increasingly critical of the strategy Tirpitz was pursuing. He especially loathed the way the Navy League publicly pressed for an increase in the pace of construction. The leader of the League, August Keim, and a large segment of German nationalists denounced Tirpitz’s draft bill for 1908 as wholly inadequate. Keim directly defied the Chancellor and the Kaiser, publicly stating that they could expect a wave of protest that would damage the Kaiser’s image were Keim forced to step aside. Furious about the way commoners sought to challenge the vision of the Kaiser Himself, Eulenburg had dragged his feet with the naval expansion, with pretext that he needed more time to secure the votes for the Naval Law of 1908. For him, the naval arms race was becoming an annoying distraction from his real foreign policy goals, and Eulenburg had been pondering his options on how to deal with Tirpitz before the scandal ruined his career.

Tirpitz was no fool. He knew what Eulenburg was up to, and when Wilhelm II surprised everyone in Germany with the news of his abdication, Tirpitz was already making plans for the future. He would do everything in his power to save his naval expansion programs from civilian meddling.
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Damn, things are not looking very good for Germany here. On the other hand, it seems like many of these problems were taking place IOTL too, and Germany survived 4 years of war even with them. I'm anxious to see how the Kaiser's abdication will steer things off course for Germany!


It appears to be a very chaotic situation in leadership circles. I'm sure some of that chaos would carry through to the "man on the street"., as well. To me, it seems more on the edge of anarchy, rather than a focused wave of popular movement.
Damn, things are not looking very good for Germany here. On the other hand, it seems like many of these problems were taking place IOTL too, and Germany survived 4 years of war even with them. I'm anxious to see how the Kaiser's abdication will steer things off course for Germany!
Wilhelm II ultimately fled from the mess he had made in OTL as well - in TTL the consequences of his actions just caught up with him sooner. The situation is dramatic, but at the same time the country is indeed at peace, and has indeed recently seen similar cases in other constituent kingdoms (Bavaria) and in the past as well.

It appears to be a very chaotic situation in leadership circles. I'm sure some of that chaos would carry through to the "man on the street"., as well. To me, it seems more on the edge of anarchy, rather than a focused wave of popular movement.
Popular demonstrations of all kind were common in prewar Germany. Both the Eulenburg Scandal and the Daily Telegraph Affair were major events in German media, and most of the reactions described in this TL is indeed based on OTL. That didin't lead to anarchy, but had major political reactions in OTL.


Popular demonstrations of all kind were common in prewar Germany. Both the Eulenburg Scandal and the Daily Telegraph Affair were major events in German media, and most of the reactions described in this TL is indeed based on OTL. That didin't lead to anarchy, but had major political reactions in OTL.
Interesting. It seems like a lot of internal conflict (much like our current situation in the US - which I find self-destructively chaotic. There is little chance of finding common ground)
Interesting. It seems like a lot of internal conflict (much like our current situation in the US - which I find self-destructively chaotic. There is little chance of finding common ground)
History merely rhymes on occasion, but a lot of the major trends of fin de siècle Europe are eerily familiar to contemporary settings as well.
Massive expansion of new information technology has just recently transformed the way people consume media, and placed few well-placed key companies as gatekeepers of global opinion. At the same time the societies themselves are going through rapid transformations as old values and power structures are increasingly failing to cope with modernity. The leaders of the day feel that old international order established after a series of major wars and revolutions to safeguard the postwar status quo is crumbling despite the fact that most of them would like things to stay as they were. At the same time the global trade is growing exponentially fast, as people and goods move across the globe on a never-before seen scale.
Chapter 160: The Abdication Crisis, Part XVII: Der Rote Graf

The man responsible for just the kind of civilian meddling Tirpitz feared was an old acquaintance of his, and no stranger to the scheming power politics of Prussia. In fact the acting Vice Chancellor who was now legally tasked to clean the mess Wilhelm II had left behind had plenty of experience of washing other people's dirty laundry.
Secretary of the State for the Interior since 1897, Count Posandowsky-Wehner had risen to prominence as a strongman who would force rigorous anti-socialist legislation through the Reichstag. But when the bill that would have allowed the government to imprison anyone who participated in strikes “harmful to public security” was twice voted down by clear numbers, he had been forced to reconsider. Here Posandowsky had experienced a rare, but all the more profound change of view. He had grudgingly accepted that repression policies of the 1890s had failed, pure and simple, and the Prussian bureaucracy would have to be able to deal with the Social Democratic challenge by other means from now on. He chose an old Bismarckian tactic, extension of social security.

Eulenburg did not move against him for years. He had circumscribed the traditional role of Posadowsky as the spokesman of the government in the Reichstag in 1900, and sought afterwards to keep Posadowsky away from the limelight as much as possible in order to avoid insulting his Conservative opponents. The truth was that Posadowsky had been as indispensable to him as the count had been to his predecessor, Hohenlohe. Eulenburg had greatly relied upon Posadowsky’s extensive knowledge of domestic affairs, for he was not the kind of man to strain himself by struggling with questions that were alien to him. Posadowsky had utilized his leverage well, and Eulenburg had sought to avoid coming into conflict with his views.

He had thus enjoyed considerable independence in the realm of social policy, his true interest, and had been content on letting Eulenburg act as the figurehead of the government. Posadowsky had stayed in Berlin at work on official business while Eulenburg was abroad or accompanied Wilhelm II on his frequent journeys. He had been a dutiful workhorse bureaucrat, whose accomplishments Eulenburg had always presented as his own, while they both had known that Posadowsky would have to take the fall in the first case of failure. Luckily for Posadowsky, his poor relations with Wilhelm II had protected him - Wilhelm II had sent him to England every year "to broaden his horizons" because he had considered Posadowsky ‘too agrarian’, and had always been cool and distant towards the count. Thus Eulenburg had had little to fear from his Vice-Chancellor, since he could always simply state to him that the Kaiser had given him a free hand in a particular affair in a case he wanted to override possible objectives from his loyal mandarin.[1]

This arrangement had been a basis of an unfair, but effective working relationship. Posandowsky had managed to push through a series of social reforms through the Reichstag because of his close ties to Zentrum. Reduction of child labour, reduction of maximum work hours in shops and offices, establishment of industrial courts of arbitration and a system of factory inspections for town with more population than 20 000 people, improved social insurances for old age, accidents, invalids and sickness, funding for worker housing - the list of his accomplishments achieved by the votes of Zentrum and left-liberals was impressive enough to little by little gain him tacit approval and ultimately even limited Reichstag support from the SPD aisle.

An able parliamentary speaker and an efficient administrator, Posandowsky stated matter-of-factly that no one else among the Prussian elites had done more or as much to reconcile the workers to the regime of Wilhem II by improving their lot than he had. While his small-scale, slow-acting social policies failed to wean the voters from SPD, they gave him support among the Zentrum and SPD, the rising political forces in the German society. They also earned him a lasting enmity from the Conservatives. His reactionary fellow peers knew him as the “Red Count”, blamed his policies as smacking of state socialism, and had wanted him gone for a long while.

Ultimately the Moor had done his duty. After Friedrich Wilhelm von Loebell became Chief of the Reich Chancellery in September 1904, Eulenburg started to consult him as his key political adviser, and rapidly lifted him to a deputy plenipotentiary to the Bundesrat, finally promoting him to Under State Secretary. The two men became close, and soon everything Eulenburg did passed through the office of von Loebell. Together with State Secretary of the Foreign Office, von Richthofen, Eulenburg ran a tight ship and kept Posandowsky and the other State Secretaries more and more in the dark.

Posadowsky was ultimately removed in June 1907, after the count had stated that he wanted to pass the 1907 budget with the help of Zentrum. He and Eulenburg had never liked one another, and the way Posadowsky steadfastly promoted cooperation with Zentrum was by now totally unacceptable to Eulenburg, who hated Catholics and needed the Conservative votes. His new political bloc at the Reichstag was more important. But Eulenburg never sought to completely destroy anyone. He convinced Wilhelm II to appoint Posadowsky to be the Vice-President of the Prussian Ministry of State - a position Posandowsky had long coveted for himself - and tasked him and Bethmann-Hollweg, the new Secretary of State, to work out several reform programs.[2]

This sidelining was actually a blessing in disguise. When Eulenburg soon hastily retreated from the forefront of Prussian politics in a desperate attempt to avoid the coming political disaster, the new Chancellor von Moltke had deemed it wise to elevate Posadowsky as his Vice-Chancellor, being that the hapless general had even less experience from day-to-day politics than Eulenburg. Soon confused Posandowsky found himself right in the middle of the worst political scandal in the history of German Empire, shocked to find out that it was his legal duty to guide the German Empire and the new Kaiser forward as the new acting Chancellor.

1. In OTL Bülow placed Posandowsky to this situation, and Eulenburg has a similar need for an expert of Prussian domestic politics.
2. In OTL Bülow roasted Posadowsky-Wehner out of office accompanied by a press smear campaign, which was most likely a dress rehearsal for the Eulenburg-Molte scandal.
In TTL Posadowsky is kept around and merely sidelined, since Eulenburg characteristically always went out of his way to avoid burning bridges with anyone who could potentially be useful later on at all costs.