chapter  6
8 Pages

The Challenge of Social Democracy

ByConstance L. Benson, Cornel West

By the 1877 elections, socialists polled 500 percent more than in 1871, giving them twelve seats in the Reichstag. An assassination attempt on the emperor by a plumber's apprentice gave Bismarck the opening he needed to call for a ban of the Social Democratic party, even though the party could not actually be linked to the crime. The effects of the Socialist Law were draconian. During the 1880s he developed a social insurance program initially covering sickness and accidents, and eventually including old age and disability. By the time the Socialist Ban was lifted in 1890, the Social Democrats had acquired thirty-five seats in the Reichstag. The Social Democrats occasionally found themselves cooperating with the Catholic Center Party. Karl Kautsky was the leading socialist intellectual during the period in which Troeltsch was writing The Social Teaching. From a German nationalist perspective, the fact that Social Democracy eschewed the methods of violent insurrection was not decisive.