The Weimar republic from 1919 to 1929 had many successes and failures, starting in chaos and ending in relative stability. However, due to individual perspective these successes and failures were often viewed as both successes and failures- not either. Class, political leanings and other moralistic beliefs, primarily influenced the individual’s perspectives. Overall, due to the relative stability, (the aim of any government) primarily achieved by Streseman’s influence, the successes outweighed the failures by 1929.
November 1918 saw the result of WW1 though Germany’s eyes. A crumbled economy, revolution and counter-revolution, the flailing of a government, and an angered mass population- searching for scapegoat in which to blame their discontent. Elections were held, and on the 9th of November 1918, the old order of a monarchist government was replaced with a democracy- the Weimar republic. The nature of right wing groups being more conservative and traditional, resented this democracy right from the start, as it was new and different to the ‘old order’. The left wing group’s nature, being more radical, generally supported the democracy. The extreme left, however, also resented the republic as it was seen to be weak in their policies. Therefore the more extreme the political view of the individual, the more of a failure the Weimar republic seemed to the individual overall. Also classes in society generally fell into different political beliefs. In this statement lies that the creation of the Weimar republic itself was cause for success and failure, depending on individual perspective.
Specific examples of successes and failures can be obtained from the creation of the republic and constitution. The introduction of basic freedoms (which were guaranteed to all), enabled a political and societal freedom, thus benefit to each class, party, and individual. This was viewed as a success by lower classes (mainly left wing), as it benefited them more equality, which is a socialist principle in which most stood for. The dispute, however, was that it was established by the republic, or ‘doing of the republic’, and the bourgeoisie, (comprised mainly of right wing perspective) thought it an unfair advantage against them (as they gained little, they already had most of these basic freedoms granted to them). So to these people the establishment of the constitution was a failure. Again individual perspective changes whether this event was a success or failure of the republic.
Another discussion point here was the political parties themselves. There were many parties, and each represented only supported or appealed to a small amount of German population or ideological belief. The result of this was that there was rarely a government strong enough to gain power on its own. Coalitions were formed in order to gain power in government. These were unsuccessful, (and so a failure of the Weimar republic) as these weak coalitions were constantly breaking over issue disputes. This added to instability in the early years, but was dramatically improved by the work of Streseman in latter years, and lasted right up until 1929. This can be viewed as a failure of the republic, as it shows the inability for stabile government, but also a success because of the turn around it made in the Streseman era. So ultimately it was a success due to the relative stability obtained by 1929.
If the outset of political instability wasn’t enough in 1919, the treaty of Versailles and similar foreign affairs added to instability, and other struggles for the Weimar republic. The outcomes of The Treaty of Versailles reinforced the shock the Germans felt by losing WW1. A tern known as ‘the guilt clause’ enraged and affected the German people so deeply, that the chancellor at the time Schneidman, resigned instead of signing the treaty. This was a failure of the republic as it threw Germany into more political instability, and high lighted the destitute foreign affairs with other European powers. When the treaty of Versailles was eventually signed, many things were apparent. Mainly right wing parties, and classes generally blamed the outcomes of the treaty on the republic, and the extreme left viewed it as a way to subside socialist revolution.
An economic failure in the result to the treaty was hyperinflation. It occurred due to the given amount of reparation payments, which were up in the multiple millions. The war had left the German economy disastrous already, and inflation was rising quickly. The banks started to print more bank notes to solve the problem. The harsh effect, however, was that the money became worthless, as less goods were there to be sold, and so heavy inflation followed. Germany could only pay its first reparation with its industrial products (a prime source for employment, and exports, thus the stability of the economy.) so when Germany declared they couldn’t pay the second instalment, the French invaded the Ruhr, the main source of industrial activity for Germany.
The government’s response was to encourage strikes; this only led two to things; less German produce, with workers still needing to be paid. In attempt to correct this, government printed even more bank notes. Heavy inflation soared to hyperinflation. The middle class saw their savings being brought to no value, right through to the workers not being able to buy a loaf of bread. This shows a chain of failures from the republic- it contributed to the commencement of hyperinflation, and therefore the invasion of the Ruhr- loss of industrial economy. Generally, due to the poor government response, hyperinflation occurred- it crippled all. It was a cyclic economic slump, a definite failure of the republic.
Political outcomes of the treaty were directly shown in response to the 100000 soldier limit. Rapid establishment of paramilitary, and in particular Frei corps, were becoming apparent everywhere. Brawls were common, and instability grew. This was effectively a failure of the republic, even if these were seen as a success by right wing and extreme left wing groups.
Foreign affairs were very weak as a result of the treaty, as Germany was given little rights or chance to show their respectability as a country. As an example, Germany was not allowed to join the League of Nations, and the harsh foreign relations with France eventuated with the loss of the Ruhr. This shows that outside factors also contributed to the effectiveness of the republic.
In response to all this discontent (especially from the extreme political parties), certain groups, or parties would try and overthrow government. Why? Because they saw the government as the source of all their troubles, their scapegoat. Again the group attempting to overthrow the government viewed these as successes, but over all were failures, as they created more instability and tension on the Weimar republic to keep the majority of the German people happy. As early as 1920 an extreme left Kapp-Putch revolt occurred, where KPD or Spartikists took over Berlin. It only failed because of a general strike there. The right paramilitary, mainly Frei corps, also revolted, and supported parties such as the DAP. This highlights the fact that any party, anywhere on the political spectrum could have easily seized power.
This conveys they political instability, and confusion of not only the German people, but also their ideological choices. The last major revolt between 1919-1929, and last major failure of the Weimar republic was the beer hall Putsch of 1923. Led by Hitler, the right wing group attempted to take over Berlin, and government. He misjudged his growing support for his party, and sent to trial for treason- 9 months. This enraged his followers, but brings up a more important discussion point. 9 months is a very short time for this offence. Due to the judges ideological preferences, Hitler was benefited. This conveys an unfair justice system, which is a failure of the Weimar republic.
The Streseman era, which started at this time, 1923- 1929 was one of great improvement of the stability of the Weimar republic. Streseman was a Vernunftrepublikaner, which referred to someone who supported the Weimar republic because it seemed the best course of action, not the individual’s ideological choice. He headed the ‘great coalition’ of the SPD, DDP, and DVP. This didn’t end the failure of weak coalitions, but improved it. Resulting in a steadier political outlook for German people. The individual perspective of people stopped blaming their discontent on Weimar or taking more extremist morals.
Instead they supported this coalition, and less for parties opposed to the republic. This created less uprisings etc, and more political stability. A definite success of the republic. Streseman also enabled better cooperation between the middle class and the social democrats, which lowered the amount of brawls and disputes between classes. He allowed this through the stronger coalitions. This caused a great relief on the republic, and was a success as it was the first step to societal peace since the war had ended.
The political failures of Streseman’s time were the election of Hindenburg as president. He influenced Germany with very right wing views, and thus did not support the democracy he was supposed to be upholding. This degraded the republic, and the exposure of this to the German people either influenced them to favour his views (as from the individual perspectives of right wing people, or those undecided), or oppose him, and create discontent, (many from left wing perspective).
Streseman Also corrected the great economic failure of the republic- hyperinflation. In correcting this he helped to improve the failures of the chain reaction that followed. His solution was the Retenmark- a new form of currency, designed to be inert to hyperinflation. This helped the broken German economy back to its feet. He also stopped the strikes in the Ruhr, which enabled a less constricted flow of industrial production. This stabilised the economy overall, improving the German population socially, therefore the discontent eased. This in conjunction with the stabilised coalitions, gave a sense of relative stability overall. This was one of the most major successes of Weimar.
The major success of the Weimar republic, however, was in foreign relations. Streseman’s diplomatic skill, which was compared to that of even Bismarck, allowed Germany to sign the Lacarno pact in 1925, allowing better territorial rights, through arbitration. This pact gained respect for Germany, especially from European powers.
This pact sparked the start of many successes of the republic. Germany joined the League of Nations, as a consequence and become a council member in 1926. (Time also had a role to play here as time heals wounds, and the grudges were starting to fade between countries.) The Dawes plan was introduced which allowed reparations to be paid a lot easier. With out the improved foreign relations, there was no way this plan would have been introduced. This was revised in the young plan of 1929, which reduced amount of reparations to be paid, as well as time considerations. The Dawes plan also allowed 800 marks to invest in building back industry. This controlled the outside factors in which mentioned above, allowing Germany to get back on her feet. This was an immanent success of the Weimar republic, and one that kept the ball rolling.
This time also coincided with the rising of expressionism. Due to the rising stability, this expressionism replaced the violent revolts, with artworks, books etc. This allowed the republic to keep on its feet, and develop its culture. Views were heard more adequately, as instead of an illegal revolt, you could write a novel and reach more people with more acceptances. This is a success from majority of perspectives, as the legal freedoms rose and less criticism of each class and ideological view were present in unstable forms, (such as revolts or assassinations.)
Problems still existed, such as unemployment, taxes, and extremes of wealth and poverty, but these were results of past failures of the republic, which most had been improved. Weimar overall had dramatically improved, from every individual perspective somewhat- even if each event had different ideological views. 1923-1929 were know as the golden years, and implies relative stability out of terrible chaos as in 1919. It cannot be doubtful that Streseman had a great influence on these changes, and without him Weimar would have been a complete failure. So despite the individual perspectives of the Weimar republic, the level of stability achieved by 1929, accounts for the successes of the republic. Therefore the successes overcame and outweighed the failures by 1929.
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