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The Existence Of A German Revolution

1702 words - 7 pages

The Existence of A German Revolution

The oxford dictionary states that the definition of 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 did go 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 demobilisation was slow
and disorganised, the country was full of arms and with the
Hohenzollerns out of the way 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. In order to establish whether or not these
conditions materialised into a revolution the events of 1918 and the
subsequent period after the war must be looked at in more detail.

The first of these events is the so-called "revolution from above".
This was first established in September 1918 when Ludendorff and the
Army High Command advised the Kaiser to give power to Prince Max of
Baden, thus making the government more acceptable to the allies and
especially to President Wilson. This change meant that for the first
time ever the Chancellor was accountable to the Reichstag and members
within the Reichstag could now become ministers. As Stephen. J. Lee
rightly points out this now meant that "the constitutional base of the
Second Reich was therefore completely changed" However Stephen Lee
also provides the argument that the "revolution from above" was not in
fact a revolution at all. Not only does he claim that these changes
are "predictable" but that "there had been persistent pressure for
such changes throughout the history of the Second Reich by the
Progressives, Social Democrats, National liberals and even the Centre
Party" In his opinion this means that these events were more a case of
"evolution accelerated by necessity". However it could be strongly
argued that as these changes had been denied up until this critical
point, despite persistent pressure, that it was more of a case of
simple necessity rather than evolutionary.

The second was the "revolution from below". The military crisis
(Germany suffered the loss of her main allies and the powerful force
of America was entering the war on behalf of the opposition) meant
that Prince Max was forced to give up after only six weeks and outside
influences, especially America, were demanding unconditional
surrender. As this news began to spread around the country people
began to demand the abdication...

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