How World War and in the ensuing period
How fair is it to describe the events of 1918-1919 as “a frozen revolution, limited in its scope and ambitions”? The oxford dictionary states that the definition of a 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 went 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, the demobilisation was slow and unorganised, the country was full of arms and 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.
The revolution that occurred in Germany in 1918-1919 was not really a revolution-at least not in the traditional sense of the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, or even the German Revolution of 1848.Perhaps, by calling it the “German Revolution,” we imply that things are conceived and done differently in Germany. Perhaps, that is true. Her political traditions were somewhat different from those of France and Russia. The conditions, which gave birth to revolution in November 1918, were unlike those of 1789 in France, and although somewhat similar to those in Russia in 1917, they were still not quite the same. Neither in France nor Russia did revolution come as a complete surprise even to purported revolutionaries.But it did in Germany.
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There was no sustained revolutionary agitation and strategy preceding it and when it came even the Social Democrats were completely overwhelmed by events. Therefore the German Revolution of 1918-1919 could be described as “a frozen revolution, limited in its scope and ambition. ” The German Revolution began on 29th October 1918, when sailors at Kiel refused to obey orders and engage in battle with the British Navy.
The sailors in the German Navy mutinied and set up councils based on the soviets n Russia. By 6th November the revolution had spread to the Western Front and all major cities and ports in Germany. Ebert, leader of SPD joins the government, saying, “It is the birth of democracy.
” The new ruling group prepares for a harsh but not totally punitive peace with the allies. At the beginning of November, Conan Fischer reviews the situation: “At this critical point, matters began to run out of control” The Naval mutinies erupt; a movement of soldiers, sailors and workers councils emerges.Their enemies the councils appear as attempt to transfer Russian soviets into the Fatherland. Prince Max, Chancellor, became so worried by the revolutionary situation in Berlin that on 9 November he announced that the Kaiser would renounce the throne and that Ebert would form a coalition left wing government. The Kaiser abdicated on the 9th of November and a republic is declared in Germany. On the 10th of November, the day after the declaration of the Republic, General Wilhelm Groener, Ludendorff’s successor, telephoned Chancellor Ebert.
Their conversation was very significant. The Supreme Army Command agreed to support the new government and to use troops to maintain the stability and security of the new republic. In return Ebert promised to oppose the spread of revolutionary socialism and to preserve the authority of the army officers.
The deal has become known simply as the Ebert-Groener agreement. A few days later, on 15th November Karl Legien, leader of the trade unions, and Hugo Stinnes, leader of the industrial employers, held another significant discussion.The Stinnes-Legien agreement was, in effect, a deal where the trade unions made a commitment not to interfere with private ownership and the free market, in return for workers’ committees, an eight-hour working day and full legal recognition.
In January 1919 the Spartacists decided that the time was ripe to launch an armed rising in Berlin with the aim of overthrowing the provisional government and creating a soviet republic.In the spring of 1919 in Bavaria, the revolutionary government led by the independent socialist Kurt Eisner proclaimed socialist goals but stuck to a gradualist programme. With Eisner having been murdered in February 1919, by an extreme nationalist assassin, forces to the left of him proclaimed Soviet power in Bavaria. In May they followed him to the grave, butchered by Freikorps para-militaries. In conclusion, by May 1919, a degree of stability had returned to Germany. The revolution had run its course and the Weimar Republic had been established. However, serious doubts