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German Nationalism

German Nationalism had been the bulwark against the liberalism that entangled France and other western countries of Europe. Bismarck's tremendous success a few decades before, and the "imperial socialism" that followed, had shaken the liberal movement so badly it never recovered. Middle class moderates had broken away from the "progressives" before the turn of the century to form the National Liberals in which liberalism was subordinated to nationalism. The new National Liberal Party, together with the conservative parties, spoke for the great majority of people, especially outside the large cities. They shared the belief that Germany had to catch up with the "national and foreign leads" of the other world powers. They believed they had a right to dominate over central Europe and to share in the colonial, economic and political decisions of the world.

While a general illiteracy existed in most other countries, insuring strong individualism, the Germans were the most educated people in the world. "They had the fewest illiterates and the highest college attendance of any country."  They had thereby learned to work together and to yield countless personal liberties for the good of the state and the dream of a "great Germany." (The Prussian three-class system of voting (1893-1918), based on the amount of taxes one paid, was a prime example. The vote of the top 3.5% of the rich, plus the middle 12%, outweighed the strength of the remaining 84.5% of the voters by two to one.) Even the wealthy middle classes ceased to demand control of the state, and their Reichstag, unlike most congresses and parliaments, did not have the power to cut off government spending (an unheard of oversight in a "democratic" nation). In sharp contrast to Western-liberal political thinkers, the conservative political German thinkers saw the considerations of the nation taking precedence over the reforms and the constitutional ideas propounded by liberal intellectuals, historians, philosophers, lawyers, politicians, writers, poets, and other malcontents.

An ultra-patriotic and expansionist policy was vigorously supported by various powerful "leagues" which advocated the establishment of colonies around the world, a huge army and navy to further their aims, and a railroad from Berlin through Austria and the Balkans and on to Baghdad--a railroad that would give Germany economic control of the near east to the Persian Gulf. The most expansionist of these leagues, the Pan-German League, had affiliations in Austria and other parts of the world. They pursued the dream of a "Greater Germany," and lay claim not only to the Austrians, but also to the Dutch, the Scandinavians, the Flemish Belgians, and the German Swiss as members of a great German brotherhood. They also dreamed of occupying the land of many of their neighbors.

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