No. 398 NAI DFA EA 231/4/B

Confidential Report from Daniel A. Binchy to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(E.A. 231-4)

Berlin, 15 August 1930

Germany is at the moment engaged in one of the most bitter electoral contests in her history. The late Government, drawn from the Middle-Parties, is being assailed from both sides. The Left accuse it of having violated the constitution by advising the President to use the powers given him under Article 48, though it is difficult to see how one can violate a Constitution by merely putting one of its articles into practice. The Right denounce it for its policy of 'Fulfilment', which they declare to be responsible for the present economic crisis. The latter and the tremendous unemployment following upon it will undoubtedly lead to a big increase of strength for the Extreme Radicals on both sides, the Communists and National-Socialists.

2. Whether the elections will result in a majority for the Moderate Parties is very doubtful. A coalition either with the Conservatives or with the Socialists will almost certainly be necessary in order to secure a working majority. The difficulty is that the Middle Parties are divided sharply on this point. The Deutsche Volkspartei, or at least the majority of its members, rejects co-operation with the Socialists; the Democratic Party, on the other hand, will have no truck with the Conservatives. The Centre Party, true to its traditions, is willing to ally either with the Socialists or the Moderate Conservatives, but will insist on certain guarantees as regards education, marriage and religion as a condition precedent to any alliance.

3. There have been recently interesting attempts to secure a fusion between certain of the Middle Parties, which represent the old Liberal tradition, and thus to secure a diminution of the bewildering number of parties with which the electorate is faced. An attempt was made to fuse the Democratic Party, the Volkspartei, and some smaller groups into a single Staatspartei, which was recently founded and which was to play the part of Aaron's rod. But up to the present it has succeeded only in swallowing the Democratic Party and one other small group; the Volkspartei (Stresemann's former party) has decided to stand aloof, and is even flirting with the idea of an alliance with the Moderate Conservatives. As a result, the electorate will be faced with no less than eleven different parties, not counting smaller groups of three or four members each. It is little wonder that the average German citizen is disgusted with parliamentary institutions, and that many are driven to listen to the crazy counsels of Hitler and his followers, who are clamouring for a dictator.

4. The chief difficulty in the way of a satisfactory solution of Germany's political troubles lies in the electoral system at present in force. As you know, this is the so-called 'list system' of proportional representation. I only know of one other system which is more unsatisfactory and more conducive to the creation of small groups than it, and that is our own system. You may remember how surprised Herr Dieckhoft was to hear, in the course of our conversation at Herr von Dehn's dinner party recently, that despite the fact that Ireland had a still more complicated and troublesome system of representation, the Irish people had somehow contrived to defeat the end of proportional representation and, in effect, to continue the two-party system. I notice the same surprise and interest shared by everyone here to whom I tell this. At the moment electoral reform, amounting to the practical abolition of proportional representation, is being strenuously advocated by some parties. A few days ago I was sitting beside the former Socialist Chancellor, Hermann Müller, at lunch. Inevitably we began to discuss proportional representation, of which the Socialists are still in favour. When I told him about Ireland he was greatly interested, and begged me most earnestly to contribute an article on this question to any one of a number of political reviews which he named. Naturally his idea was to make propaganda in favour of proportional representation by holding up Ireland as an example of a country where it had not led to the creation of any undue number of parties. Needless to say I politely but firmly declined to intervene in a question on which German political opinion is just now so acutely divided.

[signed] D.A. Binchy

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO