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Conservatives and socialists splitted society and failed to create a functioning coalition. After years of authoritarian monarchic control, proportional system of election led society to political chaos, as nearly 20 parties with different political programs from communist to right radicals were represented in Reichstag. None of country's politicians was successful either in diplomacy or in the art of achieving compromise. The experience of political pluralism led to political and economical disorientation in society, as in a period of 1919-1933 Germany witnessed several temporary coalitions in parliament and twelve governments, which were unable to stabilize country's economy.
Haffner describes that political crisis was a common attribute of Weimar republic's pluralism: "From 1914 to 1923 all governments had been weak" German parliamentarians of Weimar republic faced a common problem of all young political parties. Being one of the most popular parties in the country with wide support in society and even being the official party for several years, SDPG appeared to be ineffective state manager. Nearly all parties of socialist orientation lacked professionals in the sphere of economy, state administration and foreign politics. Their programs were mainly based on the critics of Kaiser Germany and on critics of conservatives, but they didn't want to accept that society lived according to those traditions and all spheres of life were based on centuries of such traditions.
A number of SDPG member betrayed ideals of their political program, which were directed on promoting social reforms and establishment of prototype of welfare state, as they too the side of big business. Often, national corporations used political influence of Social Democrats for lobbying their interests, which had nothing common with interests of German nation. Political disorientation of parliament and government led to the growth of working movement in 1919-1923, which culminated in a general strike and Hamburg revolt of workers on October 23, 1923. Social Democrats refused from office but the new counselor was neither successful:
the Bruning regime was the first essay and model of a form of government that has since been copied in many European countries: the semi-dictatorship in the name, and in defense, of democracy against fully fledged dictatorship... Anyone who takes the trouble to study Bruning's rule in depth will find all those factors that make this sort of government the inevitable forerunner of the very thing it is supposed to prevent: its discouragement of its own supporters; its lack of ideological weapons against enemy propaganda; the way it surrenders the initiative; and its collapse at the end... Bruning had nothing to offer the country but poverty, the curtailment of liberty, and the assurance that there was no alternative." number of government officials in judicial power were uncontrolled. Judicial power was the only branch of power, which avoided considerable reformation, a number of judges from Kaiser times saved their positions during Weimar republic. No wonder they were supporters of conservative ideas and right radical ideologies. In their actions they didn't promote the order of Weimar republic, but wanted restoration of "old iron order" instead. It's enough to tell that uncontrolled and unsupervised activity of judicial power led to the spread of Nazism in Germany as it did not take any measures to prevent the spread of nationalist and chauvinist ideologies. For example only one person went to prison out of 700 accused in Kapp Putsch, Hitler spent in prison only 9 months. (Under conditions of objective legislature Hitler would have spent some 10-15 years in prison).
Uneasy political and social climate did not fulfill the interests of national corporations and aristocracy who lost their traditional privileges, for they sought stability, economic freedom and stable taxation policies. The new government of Weimar republic didn't meet the demands of former soldiers and officers who lost their jobs and considered themselves to have been "betrayed' by the motherland. The working class, whose situation was becoming more and more untenable with each passing year, could not see their needs being met in any way, shape, manner or form. The spirit of militarism, nationalism, dignity and Junkerism (philosophy of Keiser Germany ruling classes) lived in the minds of millions. Those who saw hope for better in ideology of Social Democrats or in other liberal ideas of democrats still had deep sympathy and nostalgia for the "good old times" of "iron order," as" those committed to maintaining democracy and good relations with other countries were continually divided over reparation and rearmamentr issues" (Eyck, 1963 chs 5,6)
No wonder that, in such period of social and political crisis, favorable conditions were created for the spread of radical political ideology of extreme nationalism, which would defend national interests and revive nationalist ideas. This party appeared to be NSDAP or the National Socialist German Workers Party, led by Adolph Hitler. It had radical ideology based on militarism, authoritarianism, anti-Semitism and suppression of Communism. Moreover, the Weimar republic didn't have any immunity from fascism, as it was a very democratic state that guaranteed a set of political liberties for different ideologies and had fascism supporters in judicial branch of power. Weimar republic had no political power to resist the spread of radical nationalism and its government didn't have any support in society.
Political revolution and "restoration" was apparent from the first days of the Weimar Republic. Early years of republic were remembered by strikes, workers movements, crisis and depression, which evidenced that people, were not satisfied with the conditions of life and demanded changes. As a result "post-depression period enabled Hitler to exploit opportunities never given to Republican politicians." By the end of 1920's there were two ways out of coming catastrophe: communism and fascism. Ideals of universal equality, abolishment of private property and total control of state on the hand with repressions were not close to Germans, to people of high national and self-consciousness. The German people, who had lived in a state with order, stability and firm government, chose nationalism and militarism of Hitler's ideology. Liberal Weimar constitution allowed such changes in political structure of state, due to its imperfection. Article 48 of constitution, called emergency decree (or Notverordnung provision) gave the president of Reich certain rights to cut civil liberties and suspend activities of any branch of power (executive, legislative or judicial). Such situation was too common for Weimar republic, as president often dismissed government without approval of parliament and often appointed counselor without approval from the side of parliament. Creators of Weimar constitution wanted to make a state similar in its administration to the successful model of the U.S.A.: "Weimar Convention had sought to achieve the kind of stability the United States had experienced with its strong presidential system"(Eyck, 1962, p.72) but they failed. The position of president combined some functions of "Kaiser" making Weimar republic system of government full of flaws and making it vulnerable to establishment of authoritarian regime.
Making a conclusion I would like to say that Weimar constitution and Weimar republic were doomed since 1919. The fall of Weimar republic was an issue of time only, as no one in the country was optimistic about its future. The country was depressed, hyperinflation led to unseen poverty and what is more important, government was passive in these processes. Weimar constitution was composed by idealists or those who viewed Germany as an ideal state, but not by realists who understood nuances of post-Keiser ruined empire. Infantile German political elite, which was very ambitious but irresponsible in issues of national security and national prosperity, led to the decline not only of German economy but Germany as a nation. Depression of 1920's had a very deep impact on society, so that it found cure only in fascist ideology which looked as lifesaver for the humiliated nation. Hitler took power legally and established fascist dictatorship using article 48 of Weimar constitution, which allowed Reich president to veto any decision. Hitler's program saved Germany from economical destruction in early 1930's and led it to bloody horrors of WW2.
Gay, Peter Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider W.W. Norton & Company 2001
Haffner, Sebastian Defying Hitler: A Memoir Picador 2003
Eyck, Erich History of the Weimar Republic Macmillan Pub Co 1970
History of the Weimar Republic, Volume I Harvard University Press, 1963
Nocholls, Anthony Weimar and the Rise of Hitler Palgrave Macmillan 2000
Dorpalen, Andreas Hindenburg and the Weimar Republic Princeton University Press 1964
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Sheridan, Allen, The Nazi seizure of Power: the experience of a single German town, 1922-1945 F. Watts, 1984
Berghahn V.R. Modern Germany, Cambridge University Press, 1982
Gay, Peter Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider W.W. Norton & Company 2001, p.14
Haffner, Sebastian Defying Hitler: A Memoir Picador 2003, p.53
Eyck, Erich History of the Weimar Republic Macmillan Pub Co 1970
Haffner, Sebastian Defying Hitler: A Memoir Picador 2003, p.58
Gay, Peter Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider W.W. Norton & Company 2001 p.129
Haffner, Sebastian Defying Hitler: A…[continue]
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