Modern History Notes

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Successes and failures of Democracy
Nature and role of nationalism
Influence of the German army
Nature and influence of racism
Changes in society

1. Weimar Republic

Emergence of the Democratic Republic and the impact of the Treaty of Versailles

• Right wing parties are more conservative/cautious in politics, while parties on the left tend to be more radical. • In Germany, the moderate right and left wing parties tended to support the new democracy, while the extreme left (communists) and right (Nazis) wing parties wanted to overthrow democracy. • The working class tended to support left wing parties. • The middle class and rural people tended to support right wing parties. • After 1918, there existed many political parties/groups, and new parties such as the Nazi party that emerged in the 1920s.

The left (SPD, USPD)
• The largest left wing party in Germany was the Social Democratic Party (SPD). It supported the cause of the German working class and the demand for increased political democracy in the state. At the end of the war the party was a very moderate one and as the largest political group of the Reichstag, it was handed power and set out to establish the new German democracy. • The SPD supported Germany’s war effort, in the third year of war, the more extreme groups of the SPD challenged the continued support for the war and on April 17 they split from the SPD to create the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) who were a more radical party of the left. • An even more extreme group associated with the USPD was the Spartacists who were situated on the far left of the political spectrum. • The Spartacists wanted to overthrow the state and set up a Soviet-style government like the one set up after the 1917 revolution in Russia. They attempted to seize power in Jan 1919 but were crushed by the right. • The German Communist Party (KPD) was then formed from what was left of the USPD and the Spartacists to be the political party on the extreme left.

The right (DNVP, DVP)
• Before the revolution of 1918 the most powerful groups in German society were the conservatives governing class. This group included the industrialists, the Junker landowning aristocracy, the conservative civil service, the Army High Command and German middle class. • They tolerated Ebert’s Socialist Government for the sake of stability and order. • German National People’s Party (DNVP) and the German People’s Party (DVP). • The DNVP was the party of real conservatives and industrialists; it supported the monarchy and disliked the new republic. • The DVP was a more moderate right wing party.

The centre (DDP, Zentrum)
• German Democratic Party (DDP) – it was committed to democratic reform. • Members were cautions of the left and right wing parties • Centre Party (Zentrum) – a moderate party with broad middle class support that supported the Republic. It defended the interests of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany; it was strongest in Southern Germany.

Weimar Government
• 1919 – Germany becomes a democracy
• The concept of true parliamentary democracy was totally new to Germans when the Ebert’s Govt. called for democratic elections for a new German parliament. • The parliament would be responsible to all the people and would draw up a new constitution that would preserve German democracy and the liberties and rights of people. • German women were given the right to vote in 1919

• Elections for a new National Assembly were held on 19 Jan 1919, all Germans over the age of 20 had the right to vote. • Of 423 seats in the National Assembly, DNVP secured 44 seats, USPD gained 22 seats, SPD won 165 seats, Centre Party won 91 seats and the DDP won 75 seats. • The first meeting of the new German National Assembly took place in Weimar on Feb 1919, 200km north of Berlin. • The National Assembly elected Ebert the first president...
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