"Weimar Republic governments were remarkably successful in dealing with the economic and political problems that they faced 1919-23" Do you agree?
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"Weimar Republic governments were remarkably successful in dealing with the economic and political problems that they faced 1919-23" Do you agree? When the Republic was first 'born' in 1919 they faced a huge amount of problems - both internal and external. Not only did they have a remarkably unstable government, but also faced threats from both the left and the right. Furthermore to this their economic problems were extremely acute. Historians such as Stephen Lee believe that the government "emerged by 1924 with a stability that suggested reasonable success". Whether this is to be taken as true or not, it cannot necessarily be taken as true that the government were responsible for creating that stability. To decipher their role in stabilising events between 1919-23 it is necessary to look at each problem individually and asses the governments role and the outcome of these events. At the very heart of problems was the fact that the government was remarkably unstable. Hannah Vogt believes that 'the men who were to pick up the reins of government faced a tremendous, thankless task'. With this in mind it is obvious the need for a stable government was great, as they were not to be given much support from others they should at least obtain it from themselves! Their first stumbling block was the constitution and voting system. The constitution, though well thought out and well meaning, had one fatal flaw: article 48.
However the army were quick to act and hundreds were killed as the Reichswehr restored normality. There is little success or control in this action, merely brutality. Also extremely significant were the Right wing uprisings, including the Kapp Putsch. Both General Von Luttwitz and Wolfgang Kapp strongly disagreed to the army cuts the government had agreed to by signing the treaty of Versailles. The men of the Balitkum Brigade and also a Brigade led by Hermann Ehrhardt (who were due to be disbanded) joined with members of the Freikorps, making their numbers up to 12,000 men. They then chose to march through the Brandenburg gates and Kapp planned to become chancellor. The Reichstag members were forced to flee to Bresden and then to Stuttgart. Although the army was not in support of the Putsch, they refused to act. General Von Seeckt claimed, "Reichswehr does not fire on Reichswehr". Before leaving, Ebert and Bauer had urged the workers to strike. "No factory must work while the military dictatorship of Ludendorff and the others rule. Down your tools! Come out on strike! Fight with all means for the Republic" This proved very effective. There was no water, electric, gas, or public transport. Civil servants would not follow Kapps orders and the banks would give him no money. After only 4 days it collapsed. "in reality, the putsch had been mistimed, badly planned and failed to muster anything like to expected support.
The French tried to deport those who tried to strike, and 150 workers were killed. During and after the invasion of the Ruhr there was massive inflation. In 1914 £1 was worth 20marks, by 1919 it had risen to 250 marks. However there is great debate as to what caused this inflation. Synder claims that, "the entire problem was closely connected with the reparations demanded by the allies". Stephen Lee believes that "the dramatic collapse of the mark was the direct result of this occupation [of the Ruhr] and the passive resistance to it". There is then another argument from Kolb who believes "the governments passiveness in the matter of currency stabilisation is no doubt to be interpreted as part of its strategy over reparations". Synder rejects this view as "incorrect and unjust" He maintains that "the process of inflation was already under way when the French occupied the Ruhr". No matter which Historians version you choose to believe the governments coping methods can be judged similarly. Looking at Stephen Lee and Kolb's argument the government's actions can be seen as pitiless. Looking at the results of their action i.e. loss of German life and the huge inflation it was a merciless and selfish act. By looking at Synder's view, it should have been obvious to the government that a general strike would only further aggravate the problem of inflation. From looking at the problems faced by the Republic, and the way in which they dealt with them, it can be said that whilst they managed to get through them, this was mainly through either sheer force or luck. Mhairi B Thomson Word count: 1929
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