Consequences of the Kulturkampf

When Bismarck initiated the Kulturkampf in 1871, there were major consequences in Germany including Bismarck’s ensuing political technique of switching back and forth between multiple parties, the promoting of the socialism through helping the agricultural and industrial interests of Germany when Bismarck adopted a protective tariff after his abandonment of free trade, and ultimately Bismarck’s retirement through his behavior exhibited through his process of trying to eradicate socialism from Germany.

The Kulturkampf initiated Bismarck’s political technique of switching back and forth between multiple parties and ultimately led to his loss of trust throughout Germany and the rest of the world. Bismarck progressively came to the conclusion that Catholic legislation was unproductive. He reasoned that he had overestimated danger to the state of organized Catholicism and rather needed the support of the Center party in order to support other parts of his political program. This was the first instance of Bismarck changing horses in the middle of the race. He later exhibited the same behavior in the Revolution of 1848 where he began on the side of the Austrians, switched over to the Nationalists, and then transferred to the side of the Prussians. Another such example involved Bismarck intervening in the royal family. In the case of William II, grandson of Queen Victoria and future king of Germany, Bismarck used his son to become friends with Willem II and turn him against his mother. This manipulation of the royal family, when discovered, dealt Bismarck a heavy blow image and helped diminish any residual trust from a time before his underhanded behavior.

The Kulturkampf helped to promote socialism in Germany through advancing the industrial and agricultural interests after Bismarck adopted a protective tariff after abandoning free trade. With the support of the Center and Conservative parties in Germany, Bismarck discontinued free trade in 1879. Soon after, he initiated a protective tariff that provided revenues for the government and proved profitable to the agricultural and industrial interests. At the same time, socialism began to spread through Germany due to the rapid industrial expansion which was given a small boost by the adoption of the protective tariff. In effect, Bismarck indirectly contributed to the rise of socialism through his political decisions. In 1875, the German Social Democratic Party was founded containing Marxian Socialists and reformist followers of Ferdinand Lassalle.

Indirectly, the Kulturkampf set the stage for Bismarck’s mandatory resignation from his position, as he became obsessed with getting rid of socialism in Germany. Though the German Social Democratic Party was considered a moderate socialist program, Bismarck heavily distrusted it. He considered socialism dangerous to the order of Germany and distrusted it on the basis that it was a republican group and could potentially spawn a revolutionary movement. When two radical attempts were made on William I, Bismarck had excuse enough to set about trying to get rid of socialism. From 1878 to 1890, Bismarck constructed a series of antisocialist laws prohibiting socialist meetings and newspapers. However, Bismarck failed to eliminate socialism and was ultimately forced to retire by William II. It is ironic that William II obliged Bismarck to resign, as it was through William II that he tried to manipulate the royal family before William II had come to power in Germany.

Through Bismarck’s launching of the Kulturkampf he initiated the disintegration of the trust bonds between himself and the rest of the world through his habit of changing sides during arguments. This did not prove beneficial to his career, as he was regarded as a conniving scoundrel. When Bismarck discontinued free trade and instead adopted a protective tariff, he inadvertently helped the rise of socialism in Germany, as socialism came about with the influx of German workers which was the result of the promotion of the industrial and agricultural interests through the adopting of such a tariff. It was because of Bismarck’s infamous, scheming behavior along with his relentless pursuit of eradicating the socialists that he was ultimately removed from his position in Germany.