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2 - Antisocialism and Electoral Politics in Regional Perspectivey

The Kingdom of Saxon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2013

Larry Eugene Jones
Affiliation:
Canisius College, New York
James Retallack
Affiliation:
University of Toronto
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Summary

ANTISOCIALISM AND REGIONAL HISTORY

In this essay I explore the degree to which an alleged antisocialist consensus among Imperial Germany's elites was evident in the arena of electoral politics. This is the first of three items on my agenda. I am interested only tangentially in rehearsing the strengths and weaknesses of a general perspective - dominant in the mid-1970s - that emphasized the coherence and durability of right-wing attempts to contain the threat of Social Democracy. As this perspective came to dominate the field, it became de rigueur to argue that agrarian Junkers, heavy industrialists, and other elements of the educated or propertied Büürgerturn enjoyed fundamental, long-lasting agreement about the dangers of revolution. In part because the authors who supported this view produced such a mountain of scholarship, most readers still believe that Imperial German elites practiced “unanimous discrimination” against socialists, both at the polls and when defending unfair franchise laws. However, a survey of electoral politics conducted with instruments of a finer calibration reveals quite another landscape. Here rhetorical flourishes about the “red specter” all too often evaporate under the impact of momentary crisis, cynical calculation, and personal ambition. Local elites choose to engage the enemy on one front and refuse on another. They pursue ill-defined goals with limited resources, and they break off the battle before they achieve their ultimate goal. All this can be seen only when the antisocialist intentions of Imperial elites are considered together with the actual implementation of their plans, particularly at the local and regional levels.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1992

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