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Was There A German Revolution?

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Was There A German Revolution? The oxford dictionary states that the definition of revolution is: "forcible substitution of new government or ruler for old; fundamental change" It could also be added that it results in fundamental changes not only to the political system but also to the social and economic infrastructure, and is often accelerated by war or military defeat. Indeed Germany did go through a period of much turmoil during the First World War and in the ensuing period after it. At the end of 1918 the nations morale was shattered by their humiliating defeat in war, shortages were severe to say the least and thousands of people were dying of the Spanish Influenza. Added to this demobilisation was slow and disorganised, the country was full of arms and with the Hohenzollerns out of the way it was felt by much of the population that now was the time to make a break from their imperial past and create a more just society. In order to establish whether or not these conditions materialised into a revolution the events of 1918 and the subsequent period after the war must be looked at in more detail. The first of these events is the so-called "revolution from above". This was first established in September 1918 when Ludendorff and the Army High Command advised the Kaiser to give power to Prince Max of Baden, thus making the government more acceptable to the allies and especially to President Wilson. ...read more.


Despite the fact that this seems to have been done by force and that it also made radical political changes it can still be argued that the transfer of power was evolutionary. When Prince Max handed over power to Ebert he said "I commend the German Reich to your care" However, it was never actually Ebert's policy to make any fundamental changes at all, it was simply a care-taker government until a future constitution could be decided upon. It could plausibly be said that Ebert simply went along with the Council Of Peoples Representatives in order to prevent a much worse situation (in his opinion), which would be for power to go to councils made up from soldiers and workers. As previously noted, historians such as Stephen Lee believe this version (i.e. evolutionary change) to be true. In response to this it could conversely be said that it did not matter whether fundamental changes were intended only that they occurred. Also, although Prince Max officially handed over power to Ebert this was only due to intense pressure and was not a preferred course of action. Another key event to be considered is the Spartacist Revolt. This group was lead by middle class intellectuals who included key figures such as Karl Leibknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Leibknecht had already been expelled from the Reichstag for his anti-militarist views and Luxemburg had been imprisoned for her involvement with the Russian revolution in 1905. ...read more.


The parties themselves remained much the same, with the difference being that the opposition to the Kaiser now became the administration. However it is Stephen Lees opinion that this was more "constitutional evolution rather than political revolution". There was no changes made to the judiciary or the civil service, and there was no attempts to stop the army regrouping (mainly due to the Ebert-Groener pact). Therefore it can be legitimately said that there was very little fundamental change to the political progress. On reflection of the events of 1918 and 1919 it would appear that whilst the ingredients for revolution were available they never seemed to materialise into anything substantial. As Bernard Prince von Bulow more eloquently put the matter "I witnessed the beginnings of a revolution. Alas she did not come...in the shape of a radiant goddess, her hair flowing in the wind, and shod with sandals of iron. She was like an old hag, toothless and bald, her great feet slipshod and down at the heel" However it could be said that this is not entirely accurate. In all cases power could be argued to be evolutionary and there was no fundamental changes to the political system that came as a result the uprisings. Therefore it can be said that whilst it is easy to assume that there was a German revolution on closer inspection the events cannot match to the definition of revolution. Mhairi B Thomson Word Count: 1446 ...read more.

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