The German Monarchy Under Threat 1914


Social problems Increased and Germans wanted Refor

Social and economic changes were good for industry, but bad for German politics. The growth of the working classes and the rise of socialism made ruling Germany increasingly difficult for Kaiser Wilhelm II.

  • The growing population of cities and towns created new social problems. Working classes wanted better working and living conditions, and new and growing industries needed more regulation
  • Initially, the government didn't want to pass reforms because it was afraid of encouraging socialist ideas. This meant that groups promising change became more popular.
  • In 1887, the SPD had 11 seats in the Reichstag, but by 1903, 81 seats. Trade unions (organisations set up by emplyees to defend their rights) became more popular too - by 1914 membership stood at around 3.3 million.
  • Even though the SPD and trade unions promised to work with the government to introduce reforms, the Kaiser saw them as a threat. He was afraid of a socialist revolution as he didn't want to give more power to the German people
  • The SPD had very different political views to the Kaiser. They wanted to improve conditions for the working classes and disagreed with the privileges held by elites like military and monarchy.

Reform - Improvements on things that are considered wrong.

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German Politics became more Unstable

  • German politics had become more radical. Upper classes feared growth of the working classes and thought rapid industrialisation threatened their wealth and social status. As the SPD's popularity increased, extreme nationalist groups also grew.
  • Made it harder for Kaiser to govern Germany. He was under pressure to introduce socialist reforms, but knew by doing so he risked angering his supporters.
  • To make matters worse, the popularity of the SPD made it more difficult for the government to get legislation passed in the Reichstag

Chancellors found it hard to get support in the Reichstag, so they struggled to pass new laws. The Reichstag had more influence over German politics than it ever had before.

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Wilhelm tried to Divert Attention away from Social

1. The Kaiser tried to reduce discontent among the working classes by introducing some limited social reforms, e.g. in 1891 the Workers' Protection Act was introduced to improve safety in the workplace.

2. In 1897, he adopted a foreign policy called 'Weltpolitik' - this focused on expanding Germany's territory and boosting the size of Germany's army and navy.

3. The Kaiser hoped this would distract attention from socialism and increase support for the monarchy and the military. It would also help to make Germany a world power.

The Navy Laws made people feel patriotic

  • In 1898 the first Navy Law was passed. Its eventual aim was to build up Germany's navy to rival Great Britain's. It increased Germany's fleet to include 19 battleships.
  • In 1900, the Reichstag passed another Navy Law, which put a 17 year navy expansion programme into place.

The government used propaganda to promote the Navy Laws and inspire patriotism among the German people. The laws were popular and socialist opposition towards them was seen as unpatriotic. In the elections of 1907, the SPD lost 36 seats in the Reichstag.

Despite the Kaiser's best efforts, by 1912 the SPD was ther largest party in the Reichstag. The Kaiser had managed to keep his power, but the growth of the SPD showed an inceasing desire for democracy.

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