Karl Liebknecht Described The Reichstag As A “Fig Leaf Covering The Nakedness Of Absolutism” How Far Do You Agree?

1197 words - 5 pages

Karl Liebknecht described the Reichstag as a “fig leaf covering the nakedness of absolutism” how far do you agree?
I agree to a great extent that the Reichstag was indeed a jejune body with the Kaiser maintaining a dominating Diktat over all aspects of governance, from dissolving the Reichstag and vetoing legislation to personal control of the Army; the constitution, itself undemocratic, afforded Wilhelm the power he so loved and shared with the Prussian elites who made up the administration of the Reich. Therefore, the premise cannot be entirely true as the absolutism was not latent in nature and was infact enshrined in the constitution. However, a nascent democracy is to be argued ...view middle of the document...

Yet the Kaiser did not dismiss the chancellor. He undermined the Reichstag, indeed this was the case on many occasions. This highlights that to a great extent the Reichstag lacked any form of significance in the face an absolutist Monarch, who could clearly manipulate it for his own ends.
Moreover, I would argue that the constitution itself illustrates the absolutist nature of the state, in with the Reichstag had little meaningful power. It was written in no uncertain terms to consolidate Prussian hegemony through Bismarck’s pragmatic Realpolitik; Prussia having been awarded 17 representatives in the Bundesrat dominated the legislative process. Moreover, the constitution allowed only the most limited and checked powers to our “fig leaf” which could be, and was, kept in line and prevented from vetoing by the Kaiser’s ability to dissolve the Reichstag, although notably not indefinitely. Furthermore, although there was a semblance of democracy in the universal elections, voting rights weren’t equal with a three tiered enfranchisement system favouring the conservative Elites. Bethman-Hollweg tried to reform the electoral system in 1908 he was stopped by the Junkers, who, frightened by the rise of the SPD, sought to maintain their own power in the absolutist system. This constitution then, produced assure Prussian Dominance of the Second Reich to the detriment of democracy, further adds support to the premise of the question.
Layton would disagree with Rohl however, and argue that the elites were an example of a structuralist Germany, where they occupied the power vacuum between the weakness of character of the Kaiser and a Reichstag, severely crippled by the limits of the constitution in order to influence policy. But, this is for me a slightly less important factor. I would argue that, although the Prussian elites when joined with the industrial elites held great power, thereby maintaining absolutism albeit not from a monarchical stance, they were not on the same level as a Kasier who claims, “There is only one person who is master in this Empire and I am not going to tolerate any other.” However it can certainly be argued that his power, and with that the extent of the level absolutism in the country, was diminished following the ‘Eulenberg’ and ‘Daily Telegraph’ scandals, both of which caused him considerable embarrassment; possible depression; led to him withdrawing from public life and becoming more reliant on those around him. This gives credence to the suggestion that the absolutism was controlled more by the elites than the Kaiser from 1908 onwards. However, more...

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