Prison template

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The prison bill (actually "Law for the Protection of Commercial Employment Relationship") was a draft law of the Reich leadership from the year 1899 and is considered a last attempt to stop the rise of social democracy and the trade union movement by legal means.

The prison bill is related to the increased demands of Wilhelm II and General von Waldersee for a fight against social democracy. This was reinforced by the reluctance of the Social Democrats on the occasion of the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the empire and a strike lasting several weeks in the Port of Hamburg in 1897. The emperor himself announced in various speeches a "fight against the overthrow by all means".

After the so-called Small Socialist Law in the Prussian House of Representatives in 1897 failed due to a majority in parliament including the National Liberals, State Secretary Arthur von Posadowsky-Wehner submitted the so-called prison bill to the Reichstag at the suggestion of Wilhelm II . This envisaged significantly harsher penalties than before if workers willing to work were forced by strikers to take part in labor disputes or to join trade unions (“coalition obligation”). In the future this should be punished with prison or even penitentiary sentences .

The bill led to violent protests within the labor movement. In Berlin alone , large protest meetings took place on June 7, 1899, with a total of around 70,000 participants. In Hamburg and Altona there were 20,000 protesters. August Bebel said that he had never experienced such resentment in his long political life. But the initiative also met with rejection from the liberal bourgeois public. Max Weber , Lujo Brentano and Friedrich Naumann, for example, spoke out against the project. The attitude in the Center Party was similar . There, too, the initiative met with rejection. Even a large part of the National Liberals had disapproved of the draft. Nevertheless, the emperor stuck to the proposal. If necessary, he was ready to dissolve the Reichstag.

This did not allow the members of the Reichstag to be dissuaded from their rejection. The proposal therefore failed in the Reichstag in 1899 because of the overwhelming majority in the house. Only the Conservatives and the right wing of the National Liberals voted for the bill. This was also a personal defeat for Wilhelm II and a reason for the replacement of Reich Chancellor Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst by Bernhard von Bülow . What was more important, however, was that the Reich government now changed its course and instead of repression policy strengthened state social policy .


  • Klaus Schönhoven: The trade unions as a mass movement in the Wilhelminian Empire 1890 to 1918. In: Klaus Tenfelde u. a .: History of the German trade unions. From the beginnings to 1945. Cologne, 1987. ISBN 3-7663-0861-0 , pp. 213-215.
  • Franz Osterroth / Dieter Schuster: Chronicle of the German Social Democracy. Vol. 1: Until the end of the First World War. Bonn, Berlin, 1975. p. 100.
  • Thomas Nipperdey: German History 1866-1918. Vol. II: Power state before democracy . Munich, 1998. ISBN 3-406-44038-X , p. 714 f.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. For the text of the prison draft and other source texts cf. Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914 , III. Department: Development and differentiation of social policy since the beginning of the New Course (1890-1904) , Volume 4, Workers' Law , edited by Wilfried Rudloff, Darmstadt 2011, pp. 272, 288–292, 303–305, 310–325, 336– 343, 346-353, 458, 546.
  2. ^ Nipperdey, German History, p. 714