Why Did The Weimar Republic Face Political Problems In The First Few Years Of Its Existence - 1919-1923?
In 1919 the Weimar Republic was set up in Germany. From its birth it faced numerous political problems, for which the causes were many and varied. These problems included political instability, deep divisions within society and economic crisis; problems were constantly appearing for the new government and from 1919-1923, the Weimar Republic experienced a period of crisis.
In 1916, the German Social Democratic Party, which controlled the Reichstag, split in order to cater for the tensions between the reformist and revolutionary wings. They formed the majority socialists (SPD) and the Independent socialists (USPD). Another group split from the SPD to form the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). On 9 November 1918, the Kaiser abdicated and fled to the Netherlands. This meant that a new government had to be formed. The SPD, being the largest political party proclaimed Germany a democratic republic and formed a new government. The main interest of the SPD was to create a strong and stable government with which they could sign the Treaty of Versailles in order to end the war with the Allies. However, in order to return Germany back to peace and stability, the SPD had made a pact with the old order who had strongly supported the Kaiser; they compromised themselves by cooperating with the business community and the army in order to prevent a social revolution. Naturally this sparked off communist anger; the SPD had created a middle class democracy, while the communists demanded a worker's state like that in Bolshevik Russia. The communists wanted nationalisation to take place (i.e. factories, businesses and land to be owned by workers), they wanted workers to be more in control of their lives by means of locally elected councils (soviets), they wanted the army to be replaced with a Citizen's Militia, and they wanted to prevent the middle class from exploiting the working class. In other words, they required a much more radical change than that made since the Kaiser had left. In January 1919, the Spartacists (an old name for the KPD), led by Karl Liebnecht and Rosa Luxembourg, attempted to overthrow the government and establish a worker's republic by means of an armed uprising in Berlin, Germany's capital. The Spartacists, however, did not have enough support and their revolt was brutally suppressed by a group of armed volunteers called Freikorps. The significance of this uprising was that it was the SPD who had allowed the right wing Freikorps to suppress the Spartacist revolt and so the communist hatred of Weimar was deepened even further. A more successful communist revolt occurred in Bavaria, Munich in April 1919 when Bavaria was proclaimed a Soviet (Communist) Republic and a Red (Communist) Army was established to protect their revolution. However, on May 1 1919, the government sent the Freikorps to crush the revolution. Finally, in March 1920, a communist revolutionary attempt was made in the Ruhr, Germany's industrial region, and a Soviet Republic was declared. However, yet again, the government sent the Freikorps to suppress the revolution. Hence, the Weimar Republic was particularly weak and unstable facing intense and violent left wing opposition. Additionally, the government had had to use those that despised Weimar (i.e.Freikorps) to suppress these uprisings. Thus, attempts to overthrow Weimar were made from the start of its existence; this certainly did not imply a very promising future.
Right wing attempts to overthrow the government were also made. The main reasons for nationalist hostility to the r'gime were that firstly, they felt that the new Republic had betrayed Germany as they believed that whilst the German army were willing and able to continue fighting, they were "stabbed in the back" by German politicians who surrendered by signing the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles greatly weakened the German nation as it caused Germany to be severely cut back as a military power with its army and navy being dramatically reduced in size. The treaty also caused Germany to lose a large amount of territory as well as all its colonies. Finally, the treaty included the War Guilt Clause, which forced Germany to accept that they bore sole responsibility for World War One and would consequently have to provide compensation for any damage they had caused. Many Germans, however, did not believe that they were responsible for the war nor that they had been defeated. Thus, the nationalists, who believe in the idea of a strong nation, were deeply angered at what they saw as Germany's decline from the greatest power in Europe to a second-class power. In March 1920, Dr Wolfgang Kapp, with the support of the Freikorps, launched a Putsch (revolt) in Berlin in order to overthrow