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Flashcards in German revolution 1918-1919 2 Deck (35):

Revolution from above

-September 1918 it is clear the war has been lost
-Hindenburg/Ludendorf pressure Kaiser to appoint new government of biggest parties in the reichstag
-Germany goes from dictatorship>parliamentary democracy
-Power of Kaiser is weakened, as he is now only a ceremonial head of state


The new government of late 1918

-Prince Max of Boden, Head of German Red Cross, political lightweight
-Philip Scheidenmann (SPD)
-Matthias Erzberger (Centre Party)


Why was a new government formed in late 1918

-Hindeburg/Ludendorf/Key generals/aids to Kaiser's autocracy (all power in hands of 1) beleive democratic Germany will receive fairer treatment from the victorious allies
-Hoped that blame for the war would be shifted onto Prince Max's government
--> Prince Max acknowledged this but accepted it as a patriotic duty
-Hindenburg and Ludendorf rejected democracy, so creation of a parliamentary democracy shows how desperate they were


November 1918: Prince Max's cease fire talks

-Prince Max proposes cease fire with Americans, who say they will only agree if Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates


Admiral Scheer's actions November 1918

-Scheer orders high seas fleet to launch final attack on the British as a matter of honour
-Scheer does not ask for permission for the attack from Prince Max's government as he does not hold himself accountable to civilian politics


Consequences of Scheer's actions November 1918

-Sailors condemn Scheer's orders as a suicide mission
-Sailors refuse to obey orders and return to base at Kiel on the Baltic Sea (Mutiny)
-Sailors seize port and set up a Soviet (elected of workers/soildiers) council


Repercussions of sailor's mutiny at Kiel November 1918

-No action taken by government against the mutineers, so people realise control of the imperial ruling class has been lost
-Other cities set up socialist dominated soviet councils in major cities ie Berlin
-By 9th November Germany is run at local level by socialists
-Soviets dominated by Social democrats


Abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II November 1918

-Abdicated on the 9th November 1918
-Causes: accumulation of...
(i) Pressure from above (war tired ministers)
(ii) pressure from below (loss of army support and anger of people)
-Armistice on 11th November 1918
-Kaiser Wilhelm II flees to Holland


New Socialist control

-Abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II followed by submission of Prince Max
-New 6 man government made up exclusively of Socialists, led by Freidrich Ebert
-Interim (temporary) government
-Tasked with overseeing creation of a new government


Define Marxism

-Variety of Socialism
-Associated with Karl Marx
-States that in industrial societies, working class will rise up and overthrow the ruling class by revolutionary means


Define Communism

-Karl Marx's brand of Socialism
-Parties committed to Marxist ideas are Communist parties


Define Bolsheviks

-Revolutionary Socialists who seized power in Russia in October 1917


Main aims of the moderate/extreme socialists in November 1918

-SPD moderates: wanted to establish democratic republic and see socialist principles furthered by democratic means
-Independent Socialists (Spartacists): Envisaged state controlled by working class representatives (like Soviet Russia)
*Majority of Social Democrats were moderates, presented case for national assembly to draw up new constitution. 344-98 vote for national assembly at conference of all Soviets


Social democrats December 1918

-Led by Freidrich Ebert, Philip Scheideman, Gustav Noske
-Wanted Socialism by democratic means
-Wanted parliament elected by all German people
-Disagreed with Spartacists as imposing system run by workers deprived majority of citizens of equal representation


Spartacus League (Communists) December 1918

-Led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxenburg
-Wanted to impose Socialism by revolutionary means
-Wanted political system run by local Soviet councils
-Disagreed with Social Democrats because they believed that giving the vote to all Germans would give control back to the middle/upper classes, who would ensure Germany would be a capitalist (not socialist) country


Could the Spartacists impose Socialism by force? For/Against

-Had backing fro Lenin's Russia
-Support of radical trade union officials in Berlin
-Widespread hunger and unrest in Germany from the allied naval blockade, could be exploited
-No army following November armistice

-No serious plans/unprepared
-The leaders of the Spartacists were thinkers not dooers
-Low numbers
-Powerful forces were working to undermine them (Ebert Groener pact/Stinnes/Legien agreement)


Ebert/Groener pact November 1918

-10th November 1918
-German high command in army agree to combat Bolshevism if the government will uphold discipline in the army
-Encourages hatred of revolutionary socialism and strengthens army to combat it


Stinnes/Legien agreement 1918

-German employers agree to introduction of an eight hour day, long standing trade union demands
-Stinnes was an industrial tycoon
-Legien: SPD trade unionist
-Better working conditions meant less support for socialist revolutionaries



-Formed by Gustav Noske (SPD) who recognised the weakness of the army
-Privately organised military style units to maintain order
-150 seperate frei korps units, 400 000 men, ex army/students
-Some were mercenaries and others feared/hated Markism in wake of Bolshevik uprising of October 1917 (right wing support)


Spartacist uprising

-Early January 1919
-Anti-government demonstrations in Berlin
-Seized control of government buildings and declared government overthrown
-Freikorps sent in, rebellion crushed in one week
-Leibknecht/Luxenburg both killed


Further Freikorps action 1919- Spring

-Set loose on Socialist strongholds following the success in Berlin (Spartacists uprising crushed)
-Subdued parts of Bremen, Hamburg, put down Ruhr strike, then communist outbreak in Berlin
-Bavaria: Bavaria socialist republic in 1919 following assasination of extreme socialist leader Kurt Einser by right wing extremist
--> overthrow of Communist rule by 3500 strong freikorps army, 600 killed


Attitudes towards the Freikorps

Upper class: Ruling class praised socialists for suppressing Marxism and praised them as saviors
for minimising the power of the working class

Revolutionary Socialists: Hated freikorps for their brutality. Saw socialist moderates as siding with the enemies of Socialism - a terrible crime


What was the threat posed by the extreme left and right in 1918-1919

-Spartacists had potential to rise up and strong support from Lenin's Russia/trade union officials. Army weak
-However, lacked organisation and numbers compared to Freikorps

- Brutal, very dangerous with extreme views, well organised, potential to turn on government
- However under government control, many only fought for money


National assembly elections 1919

-Late January 1919
-Parties favouring a democratic republic (moderate SD, Z, New Democratic party) got 80% of votes
-Nationalist party (junkers) got only 10%
-*Important* to note that Democratic party for the middle class may have only received support in hope that Germany would receive lenient treatment from the allies if it seemed democratic


Key features of the Weimar constitution

-Ultra democratic, as much power in the hands of the people as possible
-Federal. In federal governments power split between national and state governments. Power to people/decentralisation
-Normal circumstances, ministers responsible to reichstag ran Germany, but president could rule by decree also


The Weimar Republic (WR)

-Reichstag (law makers)
-Reichstrat - represented interests of states in law making
- State government - 17 states (lander) with own governments
- Citizens' rights guaranteed
-Referendum on laws if a petition was signed by 10% of the population
-Electorate: men/women 20+


WR: President

-Elected for seven years
-Head of the state and armed forces
-Could rule by decree in emergencies under article 48
-Could be removed/deposed by referendum


WR: Chancellor/Ministers

-Chancellor in charge of government
-Ministers answerable to the reichstag
-Ministers could be removed by a hostile reichstag vote


WR: Reichstag

-Main law making body similar to UK Parliament
-Elected every four years by proportional representation (Seats awarded to parties based on % of vote)


WR: Reichstrat

-Represents interests of 17 states (lander) in law making process
-Could veto (block) laws proposed by reichstag but reichstag could overturn veto


WR: State governments

-17 states (lander) with one parliamentary system (landtag)
-Biggest state is Prussia
-Limited power of states to dealing with local affairs but did decentralise power to some extent


WR: Citizens' rights

-Freedoms guaranteed by the constitution to travel/live/have free speech/freedom from censorship/religion/equality/education/property/protection ect...



-Referendums (Vote from electorate for or against a proposed law) on laws triggered by petition signed by 10% of electorate



-Comprised of all men/women 20+


How democratic was the new Weimar constitution?

-Electorate is fairer
-President is elected by people
-De centralised power
-Greater social freedoms
-Constitution begins, "The German People"

-Article 48: allows President to sideline reichstag and rule like dictatorship
-Proportional representation created weak coalitions which left the President with greater responsibility