Was there really a revolution in Germany in 1918? Discuss
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A revolution is a complete overthrow of an established government or political system, which means that the events occurring in Germany in 1918 didn’t constitute a revolution. Groups changed in and out of power, but in the end it was always one group ruling over the people, just as the Kaiser had. The Social Democrats, a right-wing political group, eventually took his place, using the Freikorps to control people. The Spartacists wanted a revolution exactly like that in Russia in the previous year, but they were never allowed the chance to come into great power. And so the governmental and social system remained fairly similar to that of the Kaiser’s rule.
The general public of Germany had never had any say in political matters; they allowed the Kaiser to make all the decisions regarding themselves and their once-prosperous country. The groups controlling Germany began to change during October and November 1918. More power began to fall into the hands of the people as they realised the blame for their involvement in the war was the Kaiser’s. People such as the armed soldiers, sailors and workers started protesting and going on strike. This was a far cry from before the war, when Germany was wealthy, proud and ambitious. So for a brief period, it seemed that a revolution would take place, with the people of Germany wanting a social and political revolution.
The Social Democrats were the leading party during and after the fight to remove the Kaiser from his powerful position. They were greatly influenced by the Elite, the rich Germans they thought essential to the prosperity of Germany. They recruited armed forces, the Freikorps, to aid them in controlling those opposing their ideas and policies. The Social Democrats often associated themselves with the Bolsheviks, one half of the Social Democrats that leaded the Russian Revolution the year before. But when it came down to it, the Social Democrats weren’t in favour of a change in government, and they believed “getting rid of the Kaiser was the end of the revolution” (Lacey and Shephard, 2002, p.13). The fact that there was a revolution wasn’t true, because no groups had actually wielded great power over the rest of Germany, and they hadn’t established any kind of government system. The Kaiser’s abdication, initiated by the Social Democrats, should have started a change, but instead it just made way for their party to gain control.
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Germany Revolution Democrats Social System Armed Forces Political System Fight Wing Ruling
The Spartacus League, led by Rosa Luxemburg, internationally reputed “Red Rosa” (Lacey and Shephard, 2002, p.13), was the only opposing threat to the control of Germany. The Spartacists were left-wing revolutionaries, and were dedicated to bringing about the kind of change the Russia had undergone. Tried as they did, the power they held over their followers didn’t succeed that of the Social Democrats, and so their ideas of a socialist government didn’t eventuate. Had they been given the chance, there could have been a proper revolution in Germany. To the Spartacus League and other left-wing revolutionaries the end to the war was a stepping-stone, allowing them to institute their own form of government and finish the revolution created by the Kaiser’s abdication. Nothing was able to come from their efforts, as the Social Democrats were too strong, and their system of government remained.
Germany underwent some political and social changes in 1918. The people temporarily gained power, the Kaiser was removed from his dominant position, which lead the way for groups such as the Spartacists and the Social Democrats to battle for control of Germany. Once all the commotion had settled, it remained clear that Germany was stuck in a rut, as there was still one powerful group running the country.
Lacey and Shephard (2002) , Germany 1918-1945, John Murray Publishers, London
German Revolution Essay
The revolution that occurred in Germany in 1918-1919 was not really a revolution-at least not in the traditional sense of the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, or even the German Revolution of 1848. Perhaps, by calling it the "German Revolution," we imply that things are conceived and done differently in Germany. Perhaps, that is true. Her political traditions were somewhat different from those of France and Russia.
The conditions which gave birth to revolution in November 1918 were unlike those of 1789 in France, and although somewhat similar to those in Russia in 1917, they were still not quite the same. Neither in France nor Russia did revolution come as a complete surprise even to purported revolutionaries. But it did in Germany. There was no sustained revolutionary agitation and strategy preceding it and when it came even the Social Democrats were completely overwhelmed by events.
The war was lost, the emperor fled: a war-weary and hungry country became rebellious. So, the government turned to the Social Democrats in desperation. They were asked, nat to make a revolution-they were reformist by nature anyway-but to liquidate the crumbling edifice of the empire. The Socialists wound up doing things they did nat really want to do-they crushed their Spartacist cousins by force, preserved bourgeois society and re-created the army in the process. There were no stirring revolutionary manifestoes, no radical breaks in policy, no marching songs like the "Marseillaise" or the "Internationale."
It was the first songless revolution in history. Very few socialists, except the leftwing Independents like Emil Barth, Richard Müller and Georg Ledebour, claimed credit for making the revolution. The Majority Socialists had always believed that revolutions were not made in any case, but just happened in the course of socio-economic evolution.
The German Revolution certainly did not follow the pattern of the Leninist revolution just a year before. In fact, it could more meaningfully be compared to the French situation in 1871. In both instances there was a military defeat, complete political and moral bankruptcy of the dynasty, absence of any popular enthusiasm for the republic, a conservative majority confronting a radical minority and, finally, the emergence of republican institutions by default. In both cases middle-class leaders and Socialists agreed on the republic as the only road to survival for both of them. But the Third Republic in France lasted much longer because there was a long revolutionary tradition in France, but none at all in Germany. Germany's problem was not the absence of a Lenin or Trotsky, but rather the absence of a Gambetta, Clemenceau, Zola or Jaures, who could have instilled the...
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