The German conservative Party "Deutschkonservative" voted in 1890 against the annual renewal of the "Sozialistengesetze" ("Laws against the revolutionary machinations of social democracy"). This effectively lifted the ban on the Social Democratic Party.

The German Conservative party ("Deutschkonservative") was deeply aristocratic and in later years hatefully anti-socialist, so this is a strange act. Furthermore the votes of the German Conservatives were pivotal. Had they voted for upholding the ban on the social democratic party, the motion would have passed the Reichstag. (The conservative German Reichspartei and the center-right National Liberals were in favor of keeping the ban, the catholic Center and the center-left Free Liberals and some minority representatives were against prolonging the ban.)

Does anybody know why the "Deutschkonservative" did this?

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    I cannot read German, but is this helpful to you? If it answers your question, please write a full answer. books.google.com/…
    – Avery
    Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 17:57
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    @Avery That is a fantastic source, although quite biased in its narrative. The main points could go well int a full answer, but I doubt it is sufficient alone, without a significant effort to contextualise and interpret it. Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 18:19
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    Possibly it was the influence of Wilhelm II who favored the repeal of the anti socialist laws. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


Here is a possible explanation; you can find supporting details here: Most of the materials are in the form of translated memoirs of Bismarck and Wilhelm II. While, obviously, biased, the two agree on principal facts.

From the editorial comments:

… Clearly, the Anti-Socialist Laws of 1878 had failed to curb the growth of militant labor organizations. Bismarck aimed at confrontation, hoping that if the laws were allowed to lapse and workers went too far, he would be able to revise the Constitution of 1867-71 in an undemocratic fashion. Wilhelm, at least early in his reign, wanted to win the love of the workers, wooing them away from Marxist socialism with concessions...

The upshot of the story is that Wilhelm II was in favor of repealing the Anti-Socialist laws. (Here he went against the opinion of Bismarck and his cabinet.) As for Deutschkonservative (the voice of the semi-authoritarian kaiser), they were staunchly monarchist (more so than, say, the Freikonservative Partei) and, hence, (I am guessing here), would not go against the clear wishes of the Kaiser.

As for the Nationalliberale Partei (NLP), they actively contributed to the repeal of the Sozialistengesetze.

Here is what Bismarck writes on the NLP role in the matter:

… The imminent close of the Reichstag session raised the question of a renewal of the [Anti-Socialist Laws], which would otherwise expire in the autumn. In the commission, in which the National Liberals struck the first blow, the authority to banish was expunged from the proposal of the Bundesrat; [7] consequently the question was raised whether the confederate governments would comply in this particular or whether they would wish to retain the power of banishment because of the danger that the bill might not be passed. To my surprise, and in contravention of my strict instructions to him, Herr von Bötticher proposed to introduce on the following day, when the last sitting of the Reichstag would take place, an imperial proclamation by which the projected bill would be revised in the sense desired by the National Liberals –– that is, the power of banishment would be voluntarily renounced –– which could not be accomplished in a constitutional manner without previous consent of the Bundesrat …

  • Willy wasn't unimportant in this but I think this A gives too much credit to him. Eg wooing workers was also Bismarck's course (eg pensions). The dynamics of party politics among 'themselves' and emperor and government/administration *and public needs more illumination. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 8:00
  • @LangLangC: W-II was the single most important person in German politics between 1890 and 1914, calling him "not unimportant" is like referring to, say, NE Patriots circa 2019 "not a bad football team". True, both O.B. and W-II courted workers, the differences between them were tactical rather than strategic. The question, as asked is about the repeal of the Anti-Socialist laws in 1890 (on this item, W-II moved to the left of O.B.- one can ask why, but that's a separate question): This was a famous power straggle between the two which O.B. decisively lost. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 16:04
  • That's essentially true, but a historistic narrative of "big men" fighting it out. And in the case of these two: the Q is not just about one law, but especially about the one party changing (apparently) its mind. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 16:30

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