Many desperately serious problems faced the new Weimar Republic and its constitution between 1918 – 1923, as explored in the previous essay. Amazingly, the Republic survived and remained intact. It survived falling due to many solutions the Treaty of Versailles, from political, economic, left wing, and right wing problems too. These different solutions kept Germany from crumbling. In this essay, I will explore these solutions to show how and why the Weimar Republic survived the crisis of 1918 – 1923. The Weimar Constitution was designed as a balanced democratic settlement to bring back stability, with which every German could identify.
It did result in an ‘ersatzkaiser’, and was potentially de-stabilising, but despite this, the constitution worked very well indeed. It gave German people the right to employment, and dole money (pleased the left wing) even though Germany was in great debt. It gave workers National Insurance, and hinted at Nationalisation, which would unify Germany, although the Right wing would fury. The Constitution brought Germany from autocracy to democracy; shown by everyone over 20 being allowed to vote, and gave people many social rights e.
g. o be able to belong to a Union, and adapted as part of the constitution.
The Constitution worked well under extreme circumstances, for example in the Kapp Putsch. Article 48 was potentially destabilising, and gave the power to be abused and become a dictator. However, Article 48 was not abused in the period 1918 – 1923 at all. It was used properly and as it should have been – sensibly, to stabilise, and bring about order. The coalition governments that rose from the constitution frequently fell over disagreements, but there were many good points about them.
They made parties feel ‘wanted’ and they could all have a say on how the country was run. The parties were forced to compromise and worked as one. The Social democrats and Catholics could now play a part in the government, who were previously seen as enemies of the Reich. The president and the Reichstag were finely balanced, and so coalition governments had many hopeful points surrounding them to keep the Weimar Republic up and running, and so surviving the many crises’ that threatened the new Republic. So the new Republic survived problems from the constitution, mainly because there were many positive sides to it.
People could work and receive money if they weren’t, they could vote, a change they had not yet encountered under the Kaiser. Article 48 was used properly and sensibly and the parties worked well together, so it wasn’t all bad, and as this was so it kept the republic from collapsing. Although the Treaty of Versailles treated Germany more harshly than was expected, the consequences were not all bad as they first appeared. The signing of the armistice brought the war to an end before Germany could be occupied by the allies.
The harshness of the treaty united Germany and every German, it became a strong – united nation state. The destruction of the Austrian-Hungary Empire and Ottoman Empire created many smaller states. Germany became a large, powerful country amongst these smaller countries, in a position to dominate Eastern/Central Europe. France failed to weaken Germany permanently, and the harsh Reparations did not completely destroy the German economy. The Allies later modified the Reparation demands by the Dawes Plan. However, the French occupation of the Ruhr was beyond Germanys control.
So, the Treaty bonded the country together in times of difficulty. The treaty was despised and hated, but every German was united in its hatred. Hatred wasn’t directed much towards the government, the countries hatred was directed more towards the Allies. Germany became a strong country, and so self-esteem was boosted by the people knowing that their country was still as powerful, if not more in its position. So the Republic survived this crisis well.. the Treaty wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The economic problems seriously undermined the regime, but the decisions made by the Government were not all bad.
For example when the French occupied the Ruhr, the people supported the Government by carrying out passive resistance, and not co-operating with the French as they took over the mines. This shows loyalty to the Weimar Republic. When hyperinflation set in, there were many losers, but on the positive side there were winners too. Inflation is good for growth! Winners were those who owed money and were able to pay off debts in devalued currency, tenant farmers could keep the family alive on their goods and buy the farm for themselves, landlords could buy more real estate from the naive and desperate, and entrepreneurs could exploit cheap credit and inflated profits to create large industrial companies, (e. g. Hugo Stinnes).
So, although the were losers: middle classes and those living on fixed income lost out, quite a few people would benefit and be exceedingly happy. When the new government was set up after Wilhelm Cuno’s fell in August 1923, a new chancellor, Stresemann, of the DVP, solved virtually all of Germanys economic problems almost instantly.
Stresemann called off Passive resistance in the Ruhr, as it didn’t seem to be working, stopped the printing of more worthless money, and introduced a new currency.. the Rentenmark. This new currency stabilised the German economy almost overnight. So, although many people lost out to the effects of hyperinflation and were annoyed with the new Government, people did benefit from hyperinflation. With the stability of the currency people were able to lead more of a natural life, and would be pleased with the government for taking them back to normality.
For this there would not be as much resentment towards the government. Germany began to prosper, and despite the losers the people who profited (those with power – Stinnes) came out better off from hyperinflation than if it had never had of taken place. So, some people would have nothing against the Government, as it brought them their fortunes, and freed people from heavy debt. The Left wing attempted to overthrow the government, but they failed. The left wing threats, for example the Spartakists, were easily put down the Army – the Ebert/Groener Pact.
This shows how the Left wing would have never have had a chance of turning Germany Communist, due to the strength of the army. So it would survive the crisis thanks to the army. The bad organisation on the part of Karl liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg also led to the left wing defeat… they were murdered by the army too. So the Republic survived the crisis from the left due to bad organisation, and extreme left wing numbers were highly overestimated. For people only attended the rallies as they were unemployed, hungry, and many people were suffering from Spanish flu.
But the people saw the KPD for what they were – as they were not suffering as much as the Russians did in the Russian revolution. There was less dislocation than in the USSR too – unemployment was not that serious, although people were suffering from hunger and flu in 1918. The Left wing did support the actions of the government, for example when Kapp seized power in Berlin, the left organised a general strike in Berlin and elsewhere. The Left was never strong enough to pose a serious threat to the Republic. They were overestimated and easily put down.
The Left wing went into disarray in 1921 and never posed a threat from then on. Although there was a talk of a German October, The Red army in the Ruhr was easily put down by the army and so, due to the incompetence of the Left and bad organisation, they were doomed from the start and never really strong enough to take control of the Government… so the Weimar Republic survived. The threat from the Right was the greatest to the new Weimar Republic, but they failed to overthrow the government, and so letting the weimar Republic survive the crises from the Right. They failed on this due to a few main reasons.
The Right Wing were badly disorganised, just like the extreme Left Wing. Kapp failed to mount a successful putsch, and so was Hitler. On both occasions the army remained neutral and did not support the extremists, and they both made bad mistakes. They both failed to seize power, they were undisciplined and so the Republic survived. Ordinary people supported the government when the right went too far. For example the assassination of Walther Rathenau. 700’000 people turned out to protest against the ‘Organisation Consul’, as they hated Right Wing extremism.
The army, and the ite’s in the government never intended to overthrow the Government, as they were dreadfully afraid of a civil war. Although the judges were biased, they still removed the extreme left wing protesters and halted their attempts to seize power by sentencing the majority of them to death. The Right was very underestimated, they were the greatest threat to the Republic, but they didn’t pose as much as a threat to the Republic in the years 1918 – 1923 as they did when Hitler was in power in the years 1932 – 1933. The Government did have the support of the general public, in the Kapp putsch and the Munich Putsch.
Kapp was defeated by a general strike. So, although the extreme right was a ‘formidable’ threat to the Weimar Republic in these early years they were not able to take control. They did have a significant amount of popular support, but the extreme right did not have majority support. It was weakened by ‘internal divisions’ between Freikorps and Reichswehr, DNVP and NSDAP, and civilian politicians and paramilitaries to name but a few. These were significant factors to explain why the Kapp and Hitler Putches failed in 1920 and 1923.
The Right were the biggest threat to the Weimar Republic, but they failed to seize power as they were not yet strong enough, they were divided, with no clear strategy. Every new government is meant to have a few teething problems, this began just before, and just after the Weimar Republic was set up in January 1919. The Spartakists were on the streets, the Freikorps sent in to put the unrest down. The Weimar Republic began on a bad note. It survived many crises’ in the years 1918 – 1923. It survived due to a strong constitution, the proper use of article 48, the hyperinflation, and the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
It survived the threats from the left wing (the Spartakists) and the threats from the right (Kapp and Hitler putsches). One question would be: why and how did Weimar survive these? My answer as to be the most important factor as to why the republic survived would be because the Right wing were not yet strong enough. However it can be argued that resentment was channelled more towards the French and the Allies than towards Weimar itself, as they had imposed the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles, and the French had occupied the Ruhr and caused the inflation.
Despite these effects of inflation, the workers did not suffer to the same extent as they did when there was long term mass employment after the end of the war. Businessmen and others did very well out of inflation, like Hugo Stinnes, and many other people did exceedingly well out of inflation. People could pay of debts in devalued currency, so these profiteers would not resent the government at all… even though the was no clear political alternative to Weimar. Germany became more united when the Treaty of Versailles was imposed, and the government was forced to work together.
Although it frequently fell, it worked together and pulled through all the problems it faced (Kapp Putsch). The Left wing didn’t pose much of a threat, it was put down easily when they did protest and the numbers were much much smaller than was predicted. The left never stood a chance to take the Government, they had not yet recovered from its divisions and suppression in the years 1918 – 1921. But the Right were the biggest threat to democracy. As argued in the previous question the right was the biggest problem to the Republic, but they could not take control so early.
The Right was strong and powerful, they had big business and the Army on their side, not to mention the civil service and judiciary. The Right was much stronger and powerful than was predicted. However, despite the right being the strongest threat to the Weimar Republic, they failed to take power. In the years 1918 – 1923 the right were not yet strong enough. This was shown in the Kapp Putsch, they seized power but fled after 4 days. They were divided and had no clear strategy and were unorganised.
There were internal divisions between Freikorps and Reichswehr, DNVP and NSDAP etc etc. They failed to seize power as they were unorganised, and they did lack majority support. It was a miracle that the Weimar Republic survived all of these crisis’, but I believe strongly that if the Right wing were more organised, and had more of a clear strategy and removed all of the internal divisions in the years 1918 – 1923, then they could have easily have seized power and removed those in the Weimar Republic.
The Right were a formidable threat to the weimar Republic, and although they did fail to take control in the years 1918 – 1923, they were the biggest threat, and the most powerful underestimated force that the Government should have dealt with before they started on the extreme left. So, the Weimar Republic survived the crisis of 1918 – 1923, due to a strong, divided right wing with no clear strategy, not yet ready to seize power.