The impact of the First World War merely heightened existing social and political tensions which had divided Germany before 1914. How far do you agree with this judgement?
‘The impact of the First World War merely heightened existing social and political tensions which had divided Germany before 1914.’ How far do you agree with this judgement?
Germany’s certain tensions politically and socially before 1914 can be seen in forms of the strikes that were taking place to deter the government and the military leaders away from the war, essentially the opposition to go to war. So, this would almost keep the tensions consistent as it was already relatively high. Other political tensions prior to the 1914 mark included the Zabern Affair in 1913 which increased tensions of the Reich as it was a political crisis. However, the tensions could have seen to differ after the war especially with growing opposition. As the Second Reich had a lot of issues already so the ‘tensions’ themselves were already in full effect and could be seen to only get worse with events such as starting a war that was preventable.
Social tensions were as the statement suggests were present before WW1 in Germany. Pressure groups highlighted the divisions and tensions in Germany despite them usually focusing on single issues yet after the economic and social changes they emerged due to these changes. Although, it is seen to be that some social effects just didn’t affect the tension in Germany.
The ‘silent dictatorship’ also stemmed tensions as in 1916 Bethmann called off submarine warfare he then wanted to support by means of Hindenburg and Ludendorff which was a major turning point as they proved more popular than the Kaiser and Chancellor, in which they started to take control and that led to the idea of political powers that were in theory sidelined. The tensions then stemmed from this and so is clear further that Germany had certain tensions in Germany and so to help compare to the tensions they had after the war.
This is a preview of the whole essay
The political tensions that were present before WWI included the divisions of the political parties, which saw increasing tensions due to the differences in opinions in how the country should be run. This in turn changes the social tensions as they have the choice it shows that it is a democracy- as opposed to something that the Kaiser wanted as an autocracy. The tensions increased with further political events as the constitution wasn’t clear in terms of their political structure, which was dominated by the conservative elites.
Another political tension that occurred before the war includes the Zabern affair which was seen as a political crisis. This event simply highlighted the limits to the Reichstag and its influence. This is important as a democracy they should have a say but the Chancellor simply ignored the vote of no confidence. The consequences of this also led further tensions within the government as the parties displayed that they were far too timid as it took a week for a politician to demand a resignation from the Chancellor, which could be shown as another way in which WWI didn’t just “merely increase” the tensions in Germany. However you could also argue to what extent was this on the same level as a crippling war that destroyed the moral and much more within Germany.
Furthermore, Flottenpolitik was another aspect of the tensions that escalated in Germany pre-war. This was due to von Tirpitz pushing a Naval Law to expand the German’s navy and a way of bringing ideas together from government policy and popular pressure. This navy push expanded tensions within Germany and tensions between Britain due to the race for a better navy. These hopes, prompted mass production to keep up with the demands of the Navy Laws. This pre-war political movement created certain tensions and shows that it wasn’t just WWI that would have merely increased tensions as it shows it would have just about stayed the same.
Not only this but other political factors that increased tensions were as certain classes were impacted on like the peasantries were seen to be alienated by the government regulations post food rationings. The urban working classes resented state controls and the middle classes were in an unfamiliar surrounding with for instance no savings that were decreasing in value. The opposition to the war increased tensions throughout the war as well as after shown by the social reforms as soon as the war had ended, with this also came the end to the war loans.
However, with the tensions increasing there were also factors that contributed to tensions decreasing and staying the same. This was the confidence in Germany as they fought to be seen as though they could win the war and despite opposition, some thought this to be true. For instance, the rapid growth of industrial production this contributed to the economic growth which was seen even before the war. However, this isn’t seen throughout the duration of the war as they were almost certain to deplete any confidence after ‘losing’ the war and the loss of so many soldiers and a percentage of the population of men.
Another factor took the form of an Enabling Act passed by the Reichstag known as Burgfrieden which was the sharing of suffering through national unity. This was to reinforce pre-war institutional structures rather than challenge them- this essentially was to help during suffering. In theory then, it was a truce within the parties and voted to help fund the war. However, some claimed that they supported it just as a “defensive war” which suggests the fear of encirclement and the fact that by doing so would be supporting the Kaiser. But, for two years this enabling act led to little political and public opposition.
Although, there were also events that increased the tensions further before and throughout WWI other than the war itself. The tensions increased dramatically for many reasons one being the shortages throughout 1916-18, of men, of food and of raw materials as the war effort was to put most of these into fighting the war. This increased tensions mainly socially as they were suffering. The suffering was also seen when the majority of the population were starving due to the navy of Britain. This mainly caused economic problems as it crippled banks so there was a decrease in Germany’s production towards the war.
Despite relevant differences in tensions before and throughout war it is shown that some factors were more important to show that the judgement must be an increase in tensions. However, certain aspects disagree with the judgement like the burgfrieden. These aspects though, do not compare those to what the war created and the ones the Reichstag created and so the judgement is seen to be true. The judgement that it merely heightened certain tensions is to some extent true even though factors suggest it didn’t, and they suggest it lessened or stayed the same. Though, this would be an understatement as a war can only increase devastation and an exhaustion in terms of social and political aspects. Including the fact it would have worn out the moral of the public, given them little hope in those that hoped and predicted a victory, depleted population, a loss to the economy and of course the effect it had on other countries, which would lead to the conclusion that it did heighten the social and political tensions in Germany.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This response focuses well on the question and the author gives careful consideration to pre-war tensions but the counter-argument (ie. the effects of the war) is less well developed. Some grammatical problems. 4 out of 5 stars.