Post First World War Revolutions In Germany And The Former Habsburg Empire

2132 words - 9 pages

The causes for revolutions in both Germany and the former Habsburg lands bear similarities at the core, yet an array of differences set them apart. In both cases revolutions would not have taken place during the years of 1918-1923, if not for the First World War. Mass discontent on the home front served as an overarching instigator; nevertheless, the similarities stop at the First World War being the primary catalyst for home front discontent and the differences begin with the specific reasons for discontent. In Germany, food and resource shortages ravaged the home front causing major loss of support for the war by the winter of 1916-1917, leading to the formulation of the “stab in the back” myth once Germany was defeated; in addition, mutineers, Bolshevized soldiers, and those soldiers that found it impossible to make the transition back into civilian life comprised the core of revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries. In the former Habsburg lands, the Empire’s formation of a police state in order to suppress ethnic groups, which were perceived to be traitorous elements, led to discontent on the home front, and this discontent only grew later in the war as mass unrest encompassed the working class as well as the peasantry; hard ethnic and political lines formed out of this discontent and were strengthened by a multitude of conflicts over newly formed national borders. However, Germany was able to avoid widespread revolution due to the parliamentary political system, which by the end of the First World War had become ingrained in German society; whereas, no such system had existed in the Habsburg Empire, and along with the dissipation of the Empire, after the war, inhibited the ability to finding a political solution, even if such a solution could somehow transcend widespread ethnic and political discontent.
The German home front took a turn for the worst in the winter of 1916-1917 as the Western Front had stalemated and the war in the East was still underway. Resources were stretched well beyond their maximums causing the German civilians to suffer, as Roger Chickering explains, “Home heating, like industrial production, was dependent on coal, for most Germans heated their homes with coal-burning stoves. Even accounting for shipments from Belgium, coal production was 10 percent less in 1917 than it had been before the war.” In addition to not being able to sufficiently heat their homes, Chickering also makes clear that, “Owing to the blockade, the demands of the army, and the mounting exhaustion of German agriculture, supplies of cotton, wool, and other raw materials of textiles also dwindled.” Thus, further inhibiting the German civilians’ ability to stay warm. In addition, a potato famine that nearly destroyed the 1916 harvest of the staple crop caused the caloric value of daily rations for Germans to drop below 1000 calories per day by February of 1917, recovering to just more than 1500 calories per day by war’s end, well short of...

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