Threats to the Weimar Republic 1919-1923

Republic is born:

  • New state born against defeat and national humiliation at Versailles.
  • Article 231 = Germany accepted full responsibility for the war.
  • Threats came from revolutionary activity and economic crisis.
  • Legitimacy of the state's existance and constitution was questionsed by elite (judiciary and army).
  • Also challenged by political extremists, most noticeably communists, monarchists and ex-soliders (Freikorps).

Threats from Left and Right

  • Chancellor Ebert's most important task was to ensure political stability.
  • 25th Nov 1918 - conference of representatives of the new state of governments from across Germany agreed to elections for a National Constituent Assembly.
  • However the parties were divided on the best ways ahead:
    • USPD (independent socialists) were more revolutionary, they challenged the decision to hold democratic elections, hoping for a workers' seizure of power.
    • SPD (social democratic party) wanted a democracy. They did not want a revolution. For example, Dec 1918 - First Congress of Workers' and Soldiers' Councils in Berline refused to allow Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebkencht (know revolutionaries) to address them.

The Spartacists

  • Dec 1918 - group of revolutionaries known as the Spartacists (led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg) broke away from the USPD.
    • They hoped to provoke a revolution (similar to that in Russia 1917) followed by an alliance with the new Russian state led by Lenin.
    • Wished to see the cancellation of the election for National Assembly and all power transferred to workers' and soldiers' councils.
    • Promised to nationalise and seize all large-scale industries and large/medium sized farms, which would become property of the state.
    • Police and army would be disarmed and the workers' militias would be created.

Ebert-Groener agreement

  • Threat to the Republic from pre-1918 military, judiciary and civil service.
  • They resumed their influence as a result of the actions by leaders of SPD in late 1918.
  • Nov 1918 - Ebert (Chancellor) made an agreement with General Groener.
  • Threat of revolution from Spartacists was clear and Ebert could not rely on support of the army so a deal was made:
    • Ebert promised the army suppiles and protection of its status against the armed militias of the workers' and soldiers' councils.
    • In return, the army promised to put down revolutionary activity with force.

Spartacist revolt

  • 1st Jan 1919 - members of the Spartacist Union held their first congress in Berlin.
  • Formed The German Communist Party (KPD) with support from other left wing groups.
  • 5th Jan 1919 - revoultionary uprising began in Berlin:
    • Newspaper offices seized and revolutionary committees formed.
    • However, the uprising was poorly planned and easily crushed by the army and Freikorps (led by General Walther and Luttwitz).
    • 15th Jan 1919 - members of House Guards Division of the army mudered Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.
  • The alliance of Ebert and the 'majority socialists' with the army, saved Germany from a widespread communist uprising.
  • However, now the governments of the new Republic were tied to using anti-democratic forces (the army and the Freikorps) to restore order.
  • One of the greatest problems for the state was that to end violence, it…


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