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Post by thelivyjr » Wed Mar 31, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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Founding of the Communist Party and the January Revolt of 1919

After their experiences with the SPD and the USPD, the Spartacists concluded that their goals could be met only by forming a party of their own, thus they joined with other left-socialist groups from the whole of Germany to found the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Rosa Luxemburg drew up her founding programme and presented it on 31 December 1918.

In this programme, she pointed out that the communists could never take power without the clear will of the people in the majority.

On 1 January, she demanded that the KPD participate in the planned nationwide German elections, but was outvoted.

The majority still hoped to gain power by continued agitation in the factories and from "pressure from the streets".

After deliberations with the Spartacists, the Revolutionary Stewards decided to remain in the USPD.

This was a first defeat.

The decisive defeat of the left occurred in the first days of the new year in 1919.

As in the previous November, a second revolutionary wave developed, but in this case, it was violently suppressed.

The wave was started on 4 January, when the government dismissed the chief constable of Berlin, Emil Eichhorn.

The latter was a member of the USPD who had refused to act against the demonstrating workers in the Christmas Crisis.

This action resulted in the USPD, Revolutionary Stewards and the KPD chairmen Karl Liebknecht and Wilhelm Pieck to call for a demonstration to take place on the following day.

To the surprise of the initiators, the demonstration turned into an assembly of huge masses.

On Sunday, 5 January, as on 9 November 1918, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the centre of Berlin, many of them armed.

In the afternoon, the train stations and the newspaper district with the offices of the middle-class press and Vorwärts were occupied.

Some of the middle-class papers in the previous days had called not only for the raising of more Freikorps, but also for the murder of the Spartacists.


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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Apr 02, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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Spartacist militia in Berlin

The demonstrators were mainly the same ones who participated in the disturbances two months previously.

They now demanded the fulfillment of the hopes expressed in November.

The Spartacists by no means had a leading position.

The demands came straight from the workforce supported by various groups left of the SPD.

The so-called "Spartacist Uprising" that followed originated only partially in the KPD.

KPD members were even a minority among the insurgents.

The initiators assembled at the Police Headquarters elected a 53-member "Interim Revolutionary Committee" (Provisorischer Revolutionsausschuss) that failed to make use of its power and was unable to give any clear direction.

Liebknecht demanded the overthrow of the government and agreed with the majority of the committee that propagated the armed struggle.

Rosa Luxemburg as well as the majority of KPD leaders thought a revolt at this moment to be a catastrophe and spoke out against it.

On the following day, 6 January, the Revolutionary Committee again called for a mass demonstration.

This time, even more people heeded the call.

Again they carried placards and banners that proclaimed, "Brothers, don't shoot!" and remained waiting on an assembly square.

A part of the Revolutionary Stewards armed themselves and called for the overthrow of the Ebert government.

But the KPD activists mostly failed in their endeavour to win over the troops.

It turned out that even units such as the People's Navy Division were not willing to support the armed revolt and declared themselves neutral.

The other regiments stationed in Berlin mostly remained loyal to the government.

While more troops were moving into Berlin on Ebert's order, he accepted an offer by the USPD to mediate between him and the Revolutionary Committee.

After the advance of the troops into the city became known, an SPD leaflet appeared saying, "The hour of reckoning is nigh".

With this, the Committee broke off further negotiations on 8 January.

That was opportunity enough for Ebert to use the troops stationed in Berlin against the occupiers.

Beginning 9 January, they violently quelled an improvised revolt.

In addition to that, on 12 January, the anti-republican Freikorps, which had been raised more or less as death squads since the beginning of December, moved into Berlin.

Gustav Noske, who had been People's Representative for Army and Navy for a few days, accepted the premium command of these troops by saying, "If you like, someone has to be the bloodhound."

"I won't shy away from the responsibility."

The Freikorps brutally cleared several buildings and executed the occupiers on the spot.

Others soon surrendered, but some of them were still shot.

The January revolt claimed 156 lives in Berlin.


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Post by thelivyjr » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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Murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg

The alleged ringleaders of the January Revolt had to go into hiding.

In spite of the urgings of their allies, they refused to leave Berlin.

On the evening of 15 January 1919, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were discovered in an apartment of the Wilmersdorf district of Berlin.

They were immediately arrested and handed over to the largest Freikorps, the heavily armed Garde-Kavallerie-Schützen-Division.

Their commander, Captain Waldemar Pabst, had them questioned.

That same night both prisoners were beaten unconscious with rifle butts and shot in the head.

Rosa Luxemburg's body was thrown into the Landwehr Canal that ran through Berlin, where it was found only on 1 July.

Karl Liebknecht's body, without a name, was delivered to a morgue.

The perpetrators for the most part went unpunished.

The Nazi Party later compensated the few that had been tried or even jailed, and they merged the Gardekavallerie into the SA (Sturmabteilung).

In an interview given to "Der Spiegel" in 1962 and in his memoirs, Pabst maintained that he had talked on the phone with Noske in the Chancellery, and that Noske and Ebert had approved of his actions.

Pabst's statement was never confirmed, especially since neither the Reichstag nor the courts ever examined the case.

After the murders of 15 January, the political differences between the SPD and KPD grew even more irreconcilable.

In the following years, both parties were unable to agree on joint action against the Nazi Party, which dramatically grew in strength as of 1930.


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Post by thelivyjr » Sun Apr 04, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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Further revolts in tow of the revolution

In the first months of 1919, there were further armed revolts all over Germany.

In some states, Councils Republics were proclaimed, most prominently in Bavaria (the Munich Soviet Republic), even if only temporarily.

These revolts were triggered by Noske's decision at the end of February to take armed action against the Bremen Soviet Republic.

In spite of an offer to negotiate, he ordered his Freikorps units to invade the city.

Approximately 400 people were killed in the ensuing fights.

This caused an eruption of mass strikes in the Ruhr District, the Rhineland and in Saxony.

Members of the USPD, the KPD and even the SPD called for a general strike that started on 4 March.

Against the will of the strike leadership, the strikes escalated into street fighting in Berlin.

The Prussian state government, which in the meantime had declared a state of siege, called the imperial government for help.

Again Noske employed the Gardekavallerie-Schützendivision, commanded by Pabst, against the strikers in Berlin.

By the end of the fighting on 16 March, they had killed approximately 1,200 people, many of them unarmed and uninvolved.

Among others, 29 members of the Peoples Navy Division, who had surrendered, were summarily executed, since Noske had ordered that anybody found armed should be shot on the spot.

The situation in Hamburg and Thuringia also was very much like a civil war.

The council government to hold out the longest was the Munich Soviet Republic.

It was only on 2 May that Prussian and Freikorps units from Württemberg toppled it by using the same violent methods as in Berlin and Bremen.

According to the predominant opinion of modern historians, the establishment of a Bolshevik-style council government in Germany on 9–10 November 1918 was impossible.

Yet the Ebert government felt threatened by a coup from the left, and was certainly undermined by the Spartakus movement; thus it co-operated with the Supreme Command and the Freikorps.

The brutal actions of the Freikorps during the various revolts estranged many left democrats from the SPD.

They regarded the behavior of Ebert, Noske and the other SPD leaders during the revolution as an outright betrayal of their own followers.


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Post by thelivyjr » Mon Apr 05, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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National Assembly and New Imperial Constitution

On 19 January 1919, a Constituent National Assembly (Verfassungsgebende Nationalversammlung) was elected.

Aside from SPD and USPD, the Catholic Centre Party took part, and so did several middle-class parties that had established themselves since November: the left-liberal German Democratic Party (DDP), the national-liberal German People's Party (DVP) and the conservative, nationalist German National People's Party (DNVP).

In spite of Rosa Luxemburg's recommendation, the KPD did not participate in these elections.

With 37.4% of the vote, the SPD became the strongest party in the Reichstag and secured 165 out of 423 deputies.

The USPD received only 7.6% of the vote and sent 22 deputies into the parliament.

The popularity of the USPD temporarily rose one more time after the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch in 1920, but the party dissolved in 1922.

The Centre Party was runner-up to the SPD with 91 deputies, the DDP had 75, the DVP 19 and the DNVP 44.

As a result of the elections, the SPD formed the so-called Weimar Coalition with the Centre Party and the DDP.

To get away from the post-revolutionary confusion in Berlin, the National Assembly met on 6 February in the town of Weimar, Thuringia, some 250 km to the southwest of Berlin, where Friedrich Ebert was elected temporary Reich President on 11 February.

Philipp Scheidemann was elected as Prime Minister (Ministerpräsident) of the newly formed coalition on 13 February.

Ebert was then constitutionally sworn in as Reich President (Reichspräsident) on 21 August 1919.

On the one hand, the Weimar Constitution offered more possibilities for a direct democracy than the present Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, for example by setting up a mechanism for referenda.

On the other hand, Article 48 granted the president the authority to rule against the majority in the Reichstag, with the help of the army if need be.

In 1932–33, Article 48 was instrumental in destroying German democracy.


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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Apr 09, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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From 1920 to 1923, nationalist forces continued fighting against the Weimar Republic and left-wing political opponents.

In 1920, the German government was briefly overthrown in a coup organized by Wolfgang Kapp (the Kapp Putsch), and a nationalist government was briefly in power.

Mass public demonstrations soon forced this regime out of power.

In 1921 and 1922, Matthias Erzberger and Walter Rathenau were shot by members of the ultra-nationalist Organisation Consul.

The newly formed Nazi Party, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler and supported by former German army chief Erich Ludendorff, engaged in political violence against the government and left-wing political forces as well.

In 1923, in what is now known as the Beer Hall Putsch, the Nazis took control of parts of Munich, arrested the president of Bavaria, the chief of police, and others and forced them to sign an agreement in which they endorsed the Nazi takeover and its objective to overthrow the German government.

The putsch came to an end when the German army and police were called in to put it down, resulting in an armed confrontation in which a number of Nazis and some police were killed.

The Weimar Republic was always under great pressure from both left-wing and right-wing extremists.

The left-wing extremists accused the ruling Social Democrats of having betrayed the ideals of the workers' movement by preventing a communist revolution and unleashing the Freikorps upon the workers.

Right-wing extremists were opposed to any democratic system, preferring instead an authoritarian state similar to the Empire founded in 1871.

To further undermine the Republic's credibility, right-wing extremists (especially certain members of the former officer corps) used the Dolchstoßlegende to blame an alleged conspiracy of Socialists and Jews for Germany's defeat in World War I, largely drawing fuel from the fact that eight out of the ten leaders of the communist revolution were Jewish.

Both sides were determined to bring down the Weimar Republic.

In the end, the right-wing extremists were successful, and the Weimar Republic came to an end with the ascent of Hitler and the National Socialist Party.


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Post by thelivyjr » Sat Apr 10, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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Impact on Weimar Republic

The Revolution of 1918/19 is one of the most important events in the modern history of Germany, yet it is poorly embedded in the historical memory of Germans.

The failure of the Weimar Republic that this revolution brought into being and the Nazi era that followed it obstructed the view of these events for a long time.

To this very day, the interpretation of these events has been determined more by legends than by facts.

Both the radical right and the radical left – under different circumstances – nurtured the idea that a Communist uprising was aiming to establish a Soviet Republic following the Russian example.

The democratic centre parties, especially the SPD, were also barely interested in assessing the events which turned Germany into a Republic fairly.

At closer look, these events turned out to be a revolution supported by the Social Democrats and stopped by their party leadership.

These processes helped to weaken the Weimar Republic from its very beginning.

After the imperial government and the Supreme Command shirked their responsibilities for the war and the defeat at an early stage, the majority parties of the Reichstag were left to cope with the resulting burdens.

In his autobiography, Ludendorff's successor Groener states, "It suited me just fine, when the army and the Supreme Command remained as guiltless as possible in these wretched truce negotiations, from which nothing good could be expected".

Thus, the "Myth of the Stab in the Back" was born, according to which the revolutionaries stabbed the army, "undefeated on the field", in the back and only then turned the almost secure victory into a defeat.

It was mainly Ludendorff who contributed to the spread of this falsification of history to conceal his own role in the defeat.

In nationalistic and national minded circles, the myth fell on fertile ground.

They soon defamed the revolutionaries and even politicians like Ebert, who never wanted the revolution and had done everything to channel and contain it, as "November Criminals" (Novemberverbrecher).

In 1923, Hitler and Ludendorff deliberately chose symbolic 9 November as the date of their attempted "Beer Hall Putsch".

From its very beginning, the Weimar Republic was afflicted with the stigma of the military defeat.

A large part of the bourgeoisie and the old elites from big industry, landowners, military, judiciary and administration never accepted the democratic republic and hoped to get rid of it at the first opportunity.

On the left, the actions of the SPD Leadership during the revolution drove many of its former adherents to the Communists.

The contained revolution gave birth to a "democracy without democrats".


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Post by thelivyjr » Mon Apr 12, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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Contemporary statements

Depending on their political standpoint of view, contemporaries had greatly differing opinions about the revolution.

Ernst Troeltsch, a Protestant theologian and philosopher, rather calmly remarked how the majority of Berlin citizens perceived 10 November:

On Sunday morning after a frightful night the morning newspapers gave a clear picture: the Kaiser in Holland, the revolution victorious in most urban centres, the royals in the states abdicating.

No man dead for Kaiser and Empire!

The continuation of duties ensured and no run on the banks! (...)

Trams and subways ran as usual which is a pledge that basic needs are cared for.

On all faces it could be read: Wages will continue to be paid.

The liberal publicist Theodor Wolff wrote on the very day of 10 November in the newspaper Berliner Tageblatt, lending himself to far too optimistic illusions, which the SPD leadership also might have had:

Like a sudden storm, the biggest of all revolutions has toppled the imperial regime including everything that belonged to it.

It can be called the greatest of all revolutions because never has a more firmly built (...) fortress been taken in this manner at the first attempt.

Only one week ago, there was still a military and civil administration so deeply rooted that it seemed to have secured its dominion beyond the change of times. (...)

Only yesterday morning, at least in Berlin, all this still existed.

Yesterday afternoon it was all gone.

The extreme right had a completely opposite perception.

On 10 November, conservative journalist Paul Baecker wrote an article in Deutsche Tageszeitung which already contained essential elements of the Stab-in-the-back myth:

The work fought for by our fathers with their precious blood – dismissed by betrayal in the ranks of our own people!

Germany, yesterday still undefeated, left to the mercy of our enemies by men carrying the German name, by felony out of our own ranks broken down in guilt and shame.
The German Socialists knew that peace was at hand anyway and that it was only about holding out against the enemy for a few days or weeks in order to wrest bearable conditions from them.

In this situation they raised the white flag.
This is a sin that can never be forgiven and never will be forgiven.

This is treason not only against the monarchy and the army but also against the German people themselves who will have to bear the consequences in centuries of decline and of misery.


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Post by thelivyjr » Tue Apr 13, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, continued ...

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Contemporary statements, concluded ...

In an article on the 10th anniversary of the revolution the publicist Kurt Tucholsky remarked that neither Wolff nor Baecker were right.

Nevertheless, Tucholsky accused Ebert and Noske of betrayal, not of the monarchy but of the revolution.

Although he wanted to regard it as only a coup d'état, he analysed the actual course of events more clearly than most of his contemporaries.

In 1928 he wrote in "November Coup":

The German Revolution of 1918 took place in a hall.

The things taking place were not a revolution.

There was no spiritual preparation, no leaders ready in the dark; no revolutionary goals.

The mother of this revolution was the soldiers' longing to be home for Christmas.

And weariness, disgust and weariness.
The possibilities that nevertheless were lying in the streets were betrayed by Ebert and his like.

Fritz* Ebert, whom you cannot heighten to a personality by calling him Friedrich opposed the establishment of a republic only until he found there was a post of chairman to be had; comrade Scheidemann è tutti quanti all were would-be senior civil servants.

(* Fritz is the colloquial term for Friedrich like Willy – William)
The following possibilities were left out: shattering federal states, division of landed property, revolutionary socialization of industry, reform of administrative and judiciary personnel.

A republican constitution in which every sentence rescinds the next one, a revolution talking about well acquired rights of the old regime can be only laughed at.

The German Revolution is still to take place.

Walter Rathenau was of a similar opinion.

He called the revolution a "disappointment", a "present by chance", a "product of desperation", a "revolution by mistake".

It did not deserve the name because it did "not abolish the actual mistakes" but "degenerated into a degrading clash of interests".

Not a chain was broken by the swelling of spirit and will, but a lock merely rusted through.

The chain fell off and the freed stood amazed, helpless, embarrassed and needed to arm against their will.

The ones sensing their advantage were the quickest.

The historian and publicist Sebastian Haffner in turn came out against Tucholsky and Rathenau.

He lived through the revolution in Berlin as a child and wrote 50 years later in his book about one of the myths related to the events of November 1918 that had taken root especially in the bourgeoisie

It is often said that a true revolution in Germany in 1918 never took place.

All that really happened was a breakdown.

It was only the temporary weakness of the police and army in the moment of military defeat which let a mutiny of sailors appear as a revolution.
At first sight, one can see how wrong and blind this is comparing 1918 with 1945.

In 1945 there really was a breakdown.
Certainly a mutiny of sailors started the revolution in 1918 but it was only a start.

What made it extraordinary is that a mere sailors' mutiny triggered an earthquake which shook all of Germany; that the whole home army, the whole urban workforce and in Bavaria a part of the rural population rose up in revolt.

This revolt was not just a mutiny anymore, it was a true revolution....
As in any revolution, the old order was replaced by the beginnings of a new one.

It was not only destructive but also creative....
As a revolutionary achievement of masses the German November 1918 does not need to take second place to either the French July 1789 or the Russian March 1917.


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Post by thelivyjr » Wed Apr 14, 2021 1:40 p

German Revolution of 1918–1919, concluded ...

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Historical research

During the Nazi regime, works on the Weimar Republic and the German Revolution published abroad and by exiles in the 1930s and 1940s could not be read in Germany.

Around 1935, that affected the first published history of the Weimar Republic by Arthur Rosenberg.

In his view the political situation at the beginning of the revolution was open: the moderate socialist and democratic-oriented work force indeed had a chance to become the actual social foundation of the republic and to drive back the conservative forces.

It failed because of the wrong decisions of the SPD leadership and because of the revolutionary tactics employed by the extreme left wing of the work force.

After 1945 West German historical research on the Weimar Republic concentrated most of all on its decline.

In 1951, Theodor Eschenburg mostly ignored the revolutionary beginning of the republic.

In 1955, Karl Dietrich Bracher also dealt with the German Revolution from the perspective of the failed republic.

Erich Eyck shows how little the revolution after 1945 was regarded as part of German history.

His two-volume History of the Weimar Republic gave barely 20 pages to these events.

The same can be said for Karl Dietrich Erdmann's contribution to the 8th edition of the Gebhardt Handbook for German History (Gebhardtsches Handbuch zur Deutschen Geschichte), whose viewpoint dominated the interpretation of events related to the German Revolution after 1945.

According to Erdmann, 1918/19 was about the choice between "social revolution in line with forces demanding a proletarian dictatorship and parliamentary republic in line with the conservative elements like the German officer corps".

As most Social Democrats were forced to join up with the old elites to prevent an imminent council dictatorship, the blame for the failure of the Weimar Republic was to be put on the extreme left, and the events of 1918/19 were successful defensive actions of democracy against Bolshevism.

This interpretation at the height of the Cold War was based on the assumption that the extreme left was comparably strong and a real threat to the democratic development.

In this point, West German researchers ironically found themselves in line with Marxist historiography in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which attributed considerable revolutionary potential most of all to the Spartacists.

While in the postwar years the majority SPD (MSPD) was cleared of its Nazi odium as "November Criminals", GDR historians blamed the SPD for "betrayal of the working class" and the USPD leadership for their incompetence.

Their interpretation was mainly based on the 1958 theories of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany according to which the German Revolution was defined as a "bourgeois-democratic revolution", led in certain aspects by proletarian means and methods.

The fact that a revolution by the working class in Germany never happened could be put down to the "subjective factor", especially the absence of a "Marxist-Leninist offensive party".

Contrary to the official party line, Rudolf Lindau supported the theory that the German Revolution had a Socialist tendency.

Consistently, the founding of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) was declared to be the decisive turning point in German history, but in spite of ideological bias, historical research in the GDR expanded detailed knowledge of the German Revolution.

During the 1950s, West German historians focused their research on the final stages of the Weimar Republic.

In the 1960s, they shifted to its revolutionary beginnings, realising that the decisions and developments during the revolution were central to the failure of the first German Republic.

The workers' and soldiers' councils especially moved into focus, and their previous appearance as a far-left movement had to be revised extensively.

Authors like Ulrich Kluge, Eberhard Kolb and Reinhard Rürup argued that in the first weeks of the revolution the social base for a democratic redesign of society was much stronger than previously thought and that the potential of the extreme left was actually weaker than the MSPD's leadership, for example, assumed.

As "Bolshevism" posed no real threat, the scope of action for the Council of the People's Deputies (also supported by the more reform-oriented councils) to democratise the administration, military and society had been relatively large, but the MSPD's leadership did not take that step because it trusted in the loyalty of the old elites and mistrusted the spontaneous mass movements in the first weeks of the revolution.

The result was the resignation and radicalisation of the council movement.

The theories have been supported by the publications of the minutes of the Council of the People's Deputies.

Increasingly, the history of the German Revolution appeared as the history of its gradual reversal.

This new interpretation of the German Revolution gained acceptance in research rather quickly even though older perceptions remained alive.

Research concerning the composition of the Worker's and Soldier's Councils which today can be easily verified by sources is undisputed to a large extent, but the interpretation of the revolutionary events based on this research has been already criticised and partially modified since the end of the 1970s.

Criticism was aimed at the partially idealised description of the Workers' and Soldiers' Councils which especially was the case in the wake of the German Student Movement of the 1960s (1968).

Peter von Oertzen went particularly far in this respect describing a social democracy based on councils as a positive alternative to the bourgeois republic.

In comparison, Wolfgang J. Mommsen did not regard the councils as a homogeneous focused movement for democracy but as a heterogeneous group with a multitude of different motivations and goals.

Jesse and Köhler even talked about the "construct of a democratic council movement".

Certainly, the authors also excluded a "relapse to the positions of the 1950s: "The councils were neither communist oriented to a large extent nor can the policies of the majority SPD in every aspect be labelled fortuitous and worth praising."

Heinrich August Winkler tried to find a compromise, according to which the Social Democrats depended to a limited extent on cooperation with the old elites but went considerably too far: "With more political willpower they could have changed more and preserved less."

With all the differences concerning details, historical researchers agree that in the German Revolution, the chances to put the republic on a firm footing were considerably better than the dangers coming from the extreme left.

Instead, the alliance of the SPD with the old elites constituted a considerable structural problem for the Weimar Republic. ... %80%931919

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