How Stable Were the Politics of Weimar Germany 1924 – 1929? Essay Sample
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How Stable Were the Politics of Weimar Germany 1924 – 1929? Essay Sample
The problems of 1919-1923 had gone with the aid of American loans. Weimar quickly found its economic feet for the first time in its history. In 1928 Germany had returned to pre-1914 industrial figures. An expanding job market, confidence restored in foreign investors and house & factory building were all indications of Germany getting its old strength back, and generally becoming more stable. Minority political parties were quiet during this time. People were content with the way Germany was being run, so why turn to extremist parties? In fact the “Golden Age,” of Weimar seemed to indicate that extremist parties only flourish in extreme circumstances. With similarities to the apparent stability of the Weimar economy at this time, the political situation seemed stable enough, but deeper probing can deeply show the illusory factors of this argument.
Weimar politics at this time can be shown to support the argument for stability. From 1924, there were no long any attempts at a coup to overthrow the Republic like the Kapp Putsch (1920,) the Munich Putsch (1923,) and the Spartacist uprising (1919.) The electoral parties on the left and right, that were hostile to the Republic, seemed to be in political decline, as shown by comparing the Reichstag election results of May 1924, to May 1928, when the right wing DNVP declined from 95 to 73 seats, the Nazi party declined from 32 to 12 seats, and the communist KPD declined from 62 seats to 54. In fact those very same elections show that the main democratic parties won the elections. The SPD were up from 100 to 153, the DVP remained unaltered on 45.
Albeit the DDP and Centre party losing 5 seats between them, overall the radical extremist parties fell from 187 seats to 149, and the moderate parties increased from 237 to 285 seats. The difference in seats between the two groups widened by 86 more seats; indicating statistically a rapid calming down of Weimar politics, proving stability. To add to the argument for political stability during this period, there were no political assassinations compared to the murders of Walther Rathenau & Mattias Erzberger under the “white terror,” regime (1921.) The lack of political assassinations combined with the fact that only 50 people died in this period in fights between Communists and Nationalists compared to the bloodshed of the clashes between the Stanlhelm and the Rotfrontkampferbund; surely confirms political stability during this time period.
On the surface Weimar politics seem as stable as ever during this period of time, however scraping beneath the surface reveals a shakier truth with regard to Weimar stability. Electoral statistics are incomplete in that they do not reveal the political tensions that were steadily boiling up, and which burst the lid off the kettle in 1929. Where the theory becomes undone is that although the democratic parties, had no difficulty gaining a majority in the Reichstag, transforming the majority into a workable, stable coalition proved slightly more complicated.
The diversity of parties and use of proportional representation meant that all governments were coalitions; no party managed to receive a clear majority, because there were simply so many. The diversity of parties, in terms of policies, meant that a large scale, yet stable coalition, was impossible, as individual parties would not compromise on the distinct views, that define them as an individual party. The SPD for example, refused to work in a coalition alongside the DNVP- they were just too far away from each other on the political spectrum. Thus the only real alternatives were a coalition from the moderate left to the moderate right consisting of SPD, DDP, Centre & DVP; or a coalition comprising the centre to the right, being the same as the previous coalition with the moderate left SPD replaced with the right wing DNVP. The moderate coalition worked together with foreign policy issues, tending to agree on a general direction going along with Stresemann’s policy of dtente. However they were divided over internal issues.
The right-wing/centre coalition worked together terribly with regard to foreign policies, since the DNVP were in essence completely against dtente in Europe, meaning that individual treaties had to be passed through with a Reichstag majority, as the majority coalition were completely disunited in this regard. Ironically this went against the DNVP’s nature of authoritarianism, and so any foreign policy passed through with a majority from the Reichstag would have been very controversial; not the key to stable politics. Detlev Peukert, the left wing German historian, puts it in terms of there being “something unnatural about these political permutations, since deep regional & ideological tensions, ahd to be glossed over for the sake of making the parliamentary arithmetic come out right.” There was no meeting of minds on political goals just, no enagement in debate between the left and right, just two brick walls pushing against each other, trying to achieve individual goals.
Differences between parties, were widening during this period, even if on the surface no high profile action resulted like political assasinations resulted. This is shown by the fact that minor issues like the colour of the flage revealed deeply entrenched divisions in German politics. The SPD were leaning more to the left, harping on about trade unions, and commitment to increasing welfare activities (something the industrial elite severely resented.) In contrast the Catholic Centre party, under the leadership of Heinrich Bruning, just one of the parties that represented sectional interests, in this case that of the Catholics, and were leaning more to the right ideal of authoritarianism. On domestic issues they sympathised with the right wing DNVP, as opposed to the SPD, – effectively splitting the already narrow centre , the SPD going to the left and the Centre to the right. Then the DDP, which could have formed the basis for middle class interests, was rapidly declining and collapsed in 1930; narrowing the political choice severely into a heavy left and heavy right; not good for political stability.
Generally people were losing faith in what parties actually meant to represent, DDP member Stolper, talked bout a coalition of ministers, as opposed to parties, the coalition was only a formal majority, yet was incredibly diverse, which made passing through of policies a slow and tedious process. Another noticable development at this time, significant to stablity of politics, was the rise of President Hindeburg, although originally upholding the republic, eventually revealed his natural hate of the democratic process, replacing it with the use of article 48. Not an ideal sort of stabilty.
The bourgeois elite, as shown by the judiciary’s minor sentence of Hitler after the Munich Putsch, generally disliked the democratic system. The party list system meant that voters did not choose their own deputies, losing the voter/deputy bond, making the people really feel out of touch with politics and the democratic service, causing general resentment and instability with regard to politics, and Weimar generally. The lack of commemorative days, is an indication of the lack of belonging and association people felt with the Weimar Republic. People did not feel they were part of a Republic, they felt like they were drifting, and they felt detached from the whole political system; which is not a set of circumstances, a state of stable democracy can be reached.
At the end of the day, although things seemed stable on the surface, during this period the scene was being set for the political horrors of the 30’s the domino effect had been started. Indication of this is the fact that over this period no chancellor could hold a government for over two years. Marx and Luther seemed to be continually interchanging as chancellor, heavilly indicating a sort of general political stalemate, with each one trying, failing, and then being replaced with the next. No party had a clear majority like the SPD, the biggest party by far, had anything near a majority, making a coalition the only option, so in this unstable period, for years there was a coalition which the biggest party was not actually in power.
There were no charismatic characters, or democratic periods, like Hitler for the Nazis, to encourage an increase in democratic activity, and political debate was non-existant. Politics was incredibly unstable, which only really had significant implications that effected the people in a major way, when the (lack of) political stability caused Hitlers rise to and consolidation of power in 1933. In conclusion whilst it seemed stable, like the economy, Weimar politics was being set up for the horrors of the 30’s.