The political establishment in Germany succeeded in maintaining the status quo through a policy of moderate reform
The status quo in Germany around the time period in question was rigid, the order was expected to be maintained and very few people interchanged between the lower and the higher ranks in society. Moderate reform was shown by slight changes in the policies in both the areas of social reform and the relaxing of the laws against socialism. The government were conservative in their alterations of the system as it was not in their best intentions. This statement appears to be an exaggeration as the status quo was largely maintained by the persona and power held by the Kaiser rather than through the small new laws in the laws for workers or socialists. Although moderate reform was not the determining factor in maintaining the status quo there were some small changes in social laws. The demand for social reform was from the SPD. There were elements within the SPD that were more revolutionary but this was not true for all, it was the establishment’s perception of this which was more important. By 1914 two and a half million workers were members of trade unions and four hundred thousands of them went on strike for a period in 1913 for better working conditions. In order to quash the strikes a series of socially just laws for varying causes. The first of these laws was the increase in old age pensions which came into force in 1899 followed by the extension of accident insurance in 1900 and the sickness insurance law of 1903. Another one of these socialist laws passed through the Reichstag to reduce the amount of factory work which lowered the amount of hours that a young person could work on the factory floor. These laws were consolidated by Hollweg in 1911 with the Imperial Insurance Code which along with consolidating the laws and amending and extending their provisions. Certain groups were insured against sickness, old age and death this was a much further advanced system than in England at the time. Although these laws were influential at the time and did help maintain the status quo as poorer members of the society calmed their protests as they were satisfied with the benefits they were receiving from the state. Another fact which maintained the status quo around this time was the socialist movement, which at this point was large. Political participation was also high and most of the population were members of trade unions. Pressure groups were influential and many women participated in political movements despite not having the vote. This was revolutionary as only thirty years previous Bismarck had first passed the Anti – Socialist laws in 1878 and remained in force until 1890. However far from killing socialism, the movement was strengthened by this kind of persecution. By the time socialism was liberated in 1890 the SPD had organised itself into a nationwide mass party. At the Erfurt Congress of 1891, the party had adopted a fully Marxist programme aimed at overthrowing the Wilhelmine class system. It proved to be a popular policy manifesto and in election of 1893 the SPD had won 23.4% of the vote. This legalisation and following growth of the SPD did have an impact on the maintaining of the class system around this time as socialists now began to respect the status quo as they were able to express their opinion without persecution. However many strong factors which weren’t involved with the governmental reforms were also having an impact on the strength of the status quo. Weltpolitik was a popular policy during this decade and imperialism was rife. The agenda of the conservative elite was mainly involved in naval, militaristic and colonial expansion. Flottenpolitik, and the second navy law of 1900 sailed through the Reichstag. The second navy law proposed to build thirty – eight battleships over the next twenty years and in 1906 a third navy law was passed which added a further six cruiser style ships...
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