Bismarck was very much involved in trying to manipulate different ideals in the unified Germany. He attempted to take control of internal affairs in Germany with a number of Domestic Policies. Some of these policies were successful but others failed in their aims. This information will help me to challenge and hopefully answer the question. Unified Germany was intended to be a democratic state in which the population was fairly represented although there are a number of arguments against this. Germany’s parliament was made up of The Reichstag and The Bundesrat, these were supposed to be democratic government.
However The Reichstag held little power and was said to be a ‘Fig leaf covering the nakedness of absolutism’. This means that The Reichstag was a puppet for Bismarck and was only in place to hide what was really an absolutist Germany. Along with this The Bundesrat, which held the real political power, was really controlled by the Emperor Wilhelm I. Taking this into account it can’t be seen to be true that Bismarck really created a democratic state rather that it was under the control of both the Emperor and Bismarck himself. In the 1870s Bismarck started a campaign aimed at attacking the Catholic Church known as the Kulturkampf.
There were a number of reasons for this, the main being the Vatican’s introduction of Papal Infallibility which meant the pope couldn’t be challenged and that the Pope had condemned every major liberal principal. Along with this the Catholics had formed the Centre Party which favoured self rule, this worried Bismarck. The Kulturkampf can be seen as a possible fight for democracy, Papal infallibility was very undemocratic and many more enlightened felt that it was a threat to mankind itself. Bismarck also supported Old Catholics who themselves were against papal infallibility.
Because of this it can be argued that Bismarck aimed to create a state of democracy and a state where Liberalism isn’t condemned. The Liberals also gained because of the Kulturkampf because Bismarck needed their support, therefore they were able to make demands such as free trade. This therefore tells us that it can be seen to be very true to say that Bismarck created a state where democracy and Liberalism flourished. One of the problems with the argument that Bismarck created a state where democracy and Liberalism flourished was Kulturkampf was not a success.
It was seen as a ‘martyrdom’ and because of this the church thrived and the Centre Party gained increased representation in the Reichstag. This hindered the Liberal party and argues against Liberals flourishing. The majority of Catholics also became more sympathetic to Papal infallibility which argues against Democracy flourishing. After the Kulturkampf Bismarck sought to combat socialism which he saw as a menace within Germany. Bismarck attempted to stop Socialism by banning the publication of socialist propaganda and prosecute the SDP.
However this failed and Bismarck tried to use an assassination attempt on William I to attack the SDP. He wanted to blame it on the SDP but the National Liberals and the Centre Party were against the bill. This tells us that Bismarck was creating a state where Liberalism could flourish by banning other ideals. It also tells us he wasn’t attempting to set up a very democratic state but in fat the powers and beliefs of the other parties meant that it was democratic. Bismarck was then to make a state where Democracy flourished even less.
He used a second assassination attempt to get socialism outlawed, this time it was a success and the bill was passed. This in turn meant Liberalism was able to flourish, however in this Bismarck shifted much of the blame onto National Liberals damaging their reputation. They lost votes when Bismarck dissolved the Reichstag and the Dissolving shows again how undemocratic Germany was at the time. Another blow to Liberalism flourishing was that the ban on Socialism which did little more than to fortify the Faithfull’s beliefs and while being able to speak in the Reichstag meant there votes in fact increased.
Along with Socialists Bismarck also saw National Minorities as enemies of the state and tried to reduce there political and state influence. He banned other languages and imposed the use of the German language, this implies Germany wasn’t very democratic. However he didn’t always use repression, he allowed French people to leave German rule and also made efforts to consolidate French-speaking provinces. This implies he was attempting to be democratic. From this it can be said that Bismarck didn’t create a state where Democracy flourished at all.
Although Bismarck did attempt to make Germany look democratic with the Reichstag and his attempts to combat papal infallibility, it can be said that these were just facades. Really combating Papal infallibility was just a cover for his own benefits from the Kulturkampf and the Reichstag was really a puppet he controlled, proven by his willingness to dissolve it. Liberalism however seems to be able to flourish in Bismarck’s Germany, other parties were repressed and they were able to gain from Bismarck’s other plans in return for their support.
However relations between Bismarck and Liberals were not perfect, both sides disagreed with a number of the others ideas and when the Liberals apposed a plan that would reduce the Reichstag’s powers, Bismarck even threatened to call new elections. Taking all of this into account, it can be said that the question should be challenged and that rather it can be said that Liberalism could flourish in Bismarck’s Germany but Democracy couldn’t. I believe that Bismarck was more of an authoritarian leader and that although it did flourish Liberalism was not Bismarck’s overall ideal.