German Revolution. Essay

2991 words - 12 pages

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. There was no sustained revolutionary agitation and strategy preceding it and when it came even the Social Democrats were completely overwhelmed by events.I. BackgroundThe war was lost, the emperor fled: a war-weary and hungry country became rebellious. So, the government turned to the Social Democrats in desperation. They were asked, nat to make a revolution-they were reformist by nature anyway-but to liquidate the crumbling edifice of the empire. The Socialists wound up doing things they did nat really want to do-they crushed their Spartacist cousins by force, preserved bourgeois society and re-created the army in the process. There were no stirring revolutionary manifestoes, no radical breaks in policy, no marching songs like the "Marseillaise" or the "Internationale."It was the first songless revolution in history. Very few socialists, except the leftwing Independents like Emil Barth, Richard Müller and Georg Ledebour, claimed credit for making the revolution. The Majority Socialists had always believed that revolutions were not made in any case, but just happened in the course of socio-economic evolution.The German Revolution certainly did not follow the pattern of the Leninist revolution just a year before. In fact, it could more meaningfully be compared to the French situation in 1871. In both instances there was a military defeat, complete political and moral bankruptcy of the dynasty, absence of any popular enthusiasm for the republic, a conservative majority confronting a radical minority and, finally, the emergence of republican institutions by default. In both cases middle-class leaders and Socialists agreed on the republic as the only road to survival for both of them. But the Third Republic in France lasted much longer because there was a long revolutionary tradition in France, but none at all in Germany. Germany's problem was not the absence of a Lenin or Trotsky, but rather the absence of a Gambetta, Clemenceau, Zola or Jaures, who could have instilled the nation with faith in republican democratic institutions.There were three centers of revolutionary action in November, 1918: Kiel, Munich and Berlin. In each one the underlying cause was the desire for peace, much more...

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