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Can the events of November and December 1918 and January 1919 in Germany be described as a revolution?

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Introduction

Can the events of November and December 1918 and January 1919 in Germany be described as a revolution? During late 1918, through to early 1919 Germany went from a state controlled by an authoritarian rule to one that was largely democratic. It has been argued amongst historians that this unstable period of time can be conceived as the German revolution, however, is this really the case? Was it a revolution or merely a series of dramatic political changes? The war was lost, the Kaiser had fled: a war weary and hungry country became rebellious. The government had no option but to turn to the social democrats, in desperation. They were asked not to start a revolution, (they were reformist by nature anyway) but to liquidate the failing structure of the empire. However, they ended up doing things they didn't exactly want to-they crushed the Spartacists by force and they reorganised and re-built the army. There were three areas of revolutionary activity in November 1918, which inevitably sparked the 'revolution': Kiel, Munich and Berlin. The underlying cause of each was a desire for peace much more so than a desire for full socialist revolution. ...read more.

Middle

Small improvements were made to the lives of the mass of the people. Living standards were improved and many more were allowed to vote. The German 'revolution' certainly did not follow the pattern of the Russian and French revolutions in previous years. There were no stirring revolutionary manifestoes, no radical breaks in policy and no marching songs such as the 'Marseillaise or the 'Internationale'. What inevitably arose from the so-called revolution was the establishment of a new socio-democratic system known as the Weimar republic. The events of 1918/1919 saw two different forms of revolution- they are known as the 'Revolution from above' and the 'Revolution from below'. A new government based on the Reichstag and under control of the Kaiser and Chancellor was formed. This was the 'Revolution from above'. This type of revolution is best defined as a partial change to the system of German government by the ruling classes in order to prevent a total change in the form of a revolution from below. Due to the failure of Prince Max and the loss of World War 1 Germany erupted in a wave of unrest- the 'Revolution from below'. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is certainly what happened in Germany in 1918. After studying carefully the events of 1918 and their consequences it is my belief that Germany did in fact undergo a revolution, but one that was only partially completed. A new state, government and political system were created but little else was changed in any other area of the German nation's life. The new state introduced a new flag (horizontal stripes of black, red, and gold; identical with today's German flag) and tried to foster a sense of national identification with the Republic, but it was not very successful in this aim. Many Germans continued to identify with the pre-revolutionary state, and in reality the republican governments did little if anything to disrupt that sense of continuity. That the Kaiser's government should have been responsible for the outbreak of the First World War outraged almost all Germans, republicans and anti-republicans alike. It is by no means unusual in the history of revolutions that the new government blames the worst acts on the old one. Such a thing was unthinkable to the German politicians after the revolution of 1918-19. Yet, the fact that the German revolution was moderate and achieved change only in some areas does not reduce its significance. ...read more.

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