After the creation of the German Confederation, Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian representative in the union of German states, was determined to unite them into one single empire, with Prussia as its core. Prussia officially took over the rest of German sates by 1871, but in the meantime Bismarck implemented several internal and foreign policies to make that happen along with unification. After his speech on September 30th of 1862, which stated, “ it is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided – that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by iron and blood.” (Bismarck), Bismarck made it clear that his greatest goal was to unify the whole kingdom to make it stronger; while he supported Wilhelm I’s ambition of making Prussia rise by its military power. Two of the means of unification used by Bismarck were nationalism and Prussification of the kingdom, with which he accomplished his goal by 1871.
With the target of awakening nationalism among the members of society, Bismarck got involved in several disagreements with nations such as France and Austria-Hungary, sparking wars. These wars may have been intentional not only to spawn nationalism, but to have an excuse to raise the economical support for the Prussian army, and that way secure an easier seizing of the rest of the Confederation’s states. The Franco-Prussian war, for example, created some sort of friction and anti-French feelings inside the German population. The will of taking France down was not only to make people fonder of Germany, but also to take its spot as one of the most important countries in continental Europe. Bismarck tried to raise nationalism not only for the kingdom as a total, but also from its most important division, Prussia. The Austro-Prussian war was fought as a civil war among German states, and, with the victory of Prussia, the state became strongly supported by the people and got to be known as a protruding state of the Confederation.
The Realpolitik of Bismarck was focused on the unification of Germany under Prussian control, and the German Chancellor aimed to accomplish so not only by the unification of language, religious beliefs, race, etc.; but using the Prussian Conservative ideals as tools to move people his way. Prussia, as the biggest German state, had about 24 million inhabitants, approximately 60% of the German population. A political party and a government that supported your state and, therefore, the ideals you had been raised with, would be the one to support and stay loyal to; that is why the Conservatives and the Free Conservatives were the ones most approved by the government of Bismarck. Moreover, a significant difference between the population of Prussia and the rest of states was a good and rational enough excuse to assure more representation in the country’s Reichstag, making others almost lack a voice in the governmental system of the nation. Bismarck had greater disagreements with the socialist and liberal parties; they did not fully understand or follow his ideas of unification and nationalism; they were inclined to put the constitution reforms of the class organization before the nation.
Socialists were a strong group that challenged Bismarck’s unity plan. Socialism was born from the emergence of a large working class, due to industrialization and demand of labor. What frightened Bismarck the most of a socialist movement was its international nature; their interests apart from the nation’s welfare and political power expansion were intolerable for the chancellor. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) wished to see a socialist state in Germany, and gained a lot of support even though it was an opposing party and was not supported by the government. Bismarck’s fear of their ideals’ expansion caused him to ban 45 out of the 47 socialist newspapers. Socialists gained most of their support from the worker class, who sought for improvements of their conditions, their wages, and their social position.
To keep Socialism as an unreachable future, it was forced to work underground; what Bismarck didn’t count on was their ideas filtering through the German border with Switzerland, where the SPD maintained its non-abolished headquarters. To prevent the opposition to grow due to harsh measurements but still maintain only his ideals afloat, Bismarck proposed new policies to improve the SPD’s supporters’ lives, the worker’s lives; “ to reconcile the working classes to the authority of the state.” (Williamson). The case with the Liberal Party was not different; their policies were focused on changing the constitution in favor of the Middle Class. Not approving the proposals for the improvements in the middle and workers’ classes was a great threat for the Prussian hegemony, something Bismarck was not in the position to handle and fight.
“ Unification of Germany” can be seen and analyzed from different points of view, could it refer to a greater Germany that included all Germans and the annexation of the Austrian Empire? Or only the union of the various German states? After the dispute with Austria to obtain the control over the territory of Schleswig-Holstein, Bismarck declared the German Confederation was over; clarifying that his interest was not keeping a healthy political relationship with Prussia’s fellow German states, he wanted to absorb them all and create a great Prussian Germany who’s territorial target was Europe and the capacity to raise arms in the form of a whole country would ease up the situation without sparking a war against the country that occupied central Europe. Nationalism and unification of the states may have been only an excuse Bismarck presented to the rest of the countries as a mask to avoid detection of his real plans, imperialism in Europe.