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The Weimar Republic - doomed to failure?

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The Weimar Republic - doomed to failure? There exists the thesis that the Weimar Republic, seen as "a result of [...] an unfinished revolution" 1, was doomed to failure right from its beginning after the German November revolution in 1918. How accurate is this statement? Indeed, the republic faced enormous problems of political, social and economic origin. The constitution itself was a main reason for disorder in the Weimar Republic. Elements of presidial, representative and plebiscite democracy were combined. Its concept of proportional representation enabled splinter parties to gain access to the Reichstag and thus favoured the formation of radicalised groups which finally led to a general radicalisation of parts of society to the extreme left or right - the political extremism emerged especially after 1929. In addition, the work of the parliament itself was hindered because of the parties' disability to agree to compromises. Coalitions were very difficult to be formed. So there were quarrels in the Reichstag whose most important task originally was to stabilise the German Reich after the lost World War instead of questioning its own sense. ...read more.


Critics called the President "Ersatzkaiser" because of the enormous power the constitution had equipped him with. Article 48 states: "In the case of the State not fulfilling the duties imposed on it by the Federal Constitution or the Federal laws, the President of the Federation may enforce their fulfilment with the help of armed forces. Where public security and or order are seriously disturbed or endangered within the Federation, the President of the Federation may take the measures necessary for their restoration, intervening in the case of need with the help of the armed forces. For this purpose he is permitted, for the time being, to abrogate, either wholly or partially, the fundamental laws laid down in articles 114, 115, 117, 118,123,124 and 153." It comes out that article 48 was idealistically intended as a temporary emergency measure in order to restore stability. But with President Hindenburg's presidency the article was in an authoritarian manner perverted into a justification for an almost permanent state of emergency. Presidial cabinets were formed by President Hindenburg and could not rely on a majority in the Reichstag. ...read more.


The interesting question is of course if an alternative solution would have brought better results than the parliamentary Weimar Republic. Many problems would have been the same - would it have also failed? But it is obvious that the constitution relied on idealism and could be easily abused to gain authoritarian power which was the major weakness of the republic. Furthermore, the difficulties in the Reichstag among the parties and the radicalisation of society showed that Germany was to some extent not yet prepared for a democracy. In so far the parliamentary system of the Weimar Republic was doomed to fail. Adolf Hitler was the evidence for this theory but also showed that his "alternative" was not better. He made use of almost all the weak points of the constitution and the social situation the Weimar Republic offered him. 1 Niess, Wolfgang (1982), Machtergreifung 33 - Beginn einer Katastrophe, Poller Verlag, Stuttgart 2 Bracher, Karl Dietrich / Sauer, Wolfgang / Schulz, Gerhard (1960), Die Nationalsozialistische Machtergreifung, Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen (page 34) ...read more.

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