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How Far Were Divisions In Germany In 1917 The Same As Pre 1914?

1577 words - 7 pages

How far were divisions in Germany in 1917 the same as pre 1914?
In the years leading up to 1914, divisions between the German people were relatively minor – it was referred to as a ‘political nation’ rather than separate political parties. In fact, when war was announced, people were filled with dread and fear, which was inevitable; however there was also a sense of newly found patriotism found in the majority of Germans, which teamed them all together. On 4th August the Kaiser himself stated ‘I know no parties anymore, only Germans.’ At this time, the political divisions of the pre-war era were over. Yet at the same time, even though it seemed the entire country was united, there were ...view middle of the document...

However, a very apparent divide came about in 1917, when the SPD split into the SPD and the uSPD (the Independent Socialists.) The uSPD were formed as a result of differing views; the uSPD were the minority to be thrown out of the SPD for being anti-war efforts and for supporting the workers councils founded by the workers, whereas the SPD were pro-war efforts, and did not support the workers councils (alongside the trade union leaders.) It was believed that the uSPD were rather heavily influenced by the Russian Revolution of 1917, which acted to give inspiration to those who opposed the war. Therefore, divisions in Germany in 1917 were different to a relatively large extent in comparison to pre 1914, as a very strong party in 1914 who opposed all other parties, had then split into two smaller parties who opposed each other.
In addition to this, the left and right split also grew, causing there to be more division in comparison to pre 1914. Before the war, the left right split wasn’t too significant; as the Kaiser had stated ‘I know no parties anymore, only Germans.’ In fact by 1914, the parties all united with the aim to fight a defensive war against Slavic aggression. On the same day the Kaiser announced Germany’s cooperation, the Reichstag passed an Enabling Act called the ‘Burgfrieden’ – this was the concept of national unity based on shared suffering, meaning that all the parties were to collaborate. Inevitably there were still going to be some small divisions within the unison of parties, such as the fear of the growth of the SPD by the conservatives, but they were pre-existing and weren’t going to evaporate straight away. Yet by 1917, there was an extreme polarisation of German politics; the opinions of a so called united Germany had very much split to extreme left and right views. This was brought on to a large extent by the USA declaring war on Germany in 1917, and so German people have opposing views on how to handle the matter. This is because the USA was a democracy, and so those who believed in greater democracy in Germany did not see the USA as an enemy, which evidently divided many people back into their political parties. Ergo, divisions in Germany in 1917 were different to a very large extent compared to pre 1914, because an extreme polarisation in German politics appeared in 1917, which hadn’t previously existed before 1914.
Finally, the role of the Kaiser and peoples loyalty to him changed quite substantially as it got to 1917. The original role of the Kaiser was to lead and govern the country, a job in which he could appoint and dismiss Chancellors, and act as supreme commander of the armed forces. Kaiser Wilhelm II did have a large group of supporters who would follow his rules and decisions, and not revolt against him, but fight to protect him. In fact, he was seemingly doing well as a leader in 1914 when he brought people together when he said ‘I know no parties anymore, only Germans.’ However, he was known to be a poor...

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