This document was transcribed onto the King David High School, Manchester Website at www.kdhs.org.uk/history/as/as_unit2/constitution_a.htm

This site went down in October 2004, so I have copied it here.

 

The text and ideas were written by and are therefore copyright Gideon Leventhall-Airley

 

The Weimar Constitution

 

The Weimar Republic faced two immediate challenges in 1919:

  • The signing of the Peace of Versailles

  • The Writing and the accepting of the constitution

The second began as the results for the first German Constituent Assembly arrived. The moderate Socialists, the SPD, hoped to a gain a majority in the new assembly but gained just 38% of the vote. 78% of all voters chose pro-democracy parties and so forming a coalition was not the ordeal it could have been. The first elections had also revealed how weak the extreme right and radical left were in Germany.

Issues to Consider

  • Was Ebert right to worry so much about challenges from the left and the fear of Bolshevism in Germany? 

  • What reasons are there for why there was such a reaction for far-left and far-right parties?

 

Writing the Constitution

A committee was soon set up around the liberal lawyer, Hugo Preuss, who drew up a constitution which was accepted in August 1919 by 262 to 75 votes. The constitution has been described, ironically, as both the most democratic in the world and as a major reason why democracy failed in Germany.It was no surprise that hostility between the Left (SPD, Communist, KPD) and the Right (Nationalist, DVP) could only have been detrimental to the cause and course of democracy in Weimar Germany.

Issues

The January 1919 elections brought the same six parties into power who had dominated the Imperial Wilhemine Reichstag. These six main political parties dominated until the entry of the NSADP (Nazi) party in 1929. 

Left

 

 

 

 

Right

KPD

USPD

SPD

Z

DVP

DNVP

(Communist)

 

(Soc Democ)

Cental (Cath)

(Nationalists)

(Future Nazi)

 

 

 

DDP

 

 

 

 

 

(Germ Democ)

 

 

 

Constitution Notes

 

  1. PR secured the place of the 6 major Wilhemine political groups in the new Republic.

  2. PR gave power to all parties and was inherently unstable.

  3. The new constitution attempted to give an voice to all and was no barrier to the rise, fall and regeneration of political parties.

  4. Article 48, the emergency laws, were there to support the state through hardship and a potentially dangerous method for abusing power (see Hitler Jan, 1933).

  5. The W.Constitution was a true blue-print for the advancement of German society with a real social conscience and programme. Unfortunately there were too many difficult expectations for a war ravaged economy to tackle.

  6. For Weimar social and economic politics to achieve its vision, coalitions, political bargaining and concessions had to be made. A further instability in the system that can be used to explain how Weimar was unstable from its roots.

  7. The coalitions and governments that were formed were too short and (at times) ill-conceived. Parties were more concerned with ideology than forging a strong basis for the Weimar Republic. Some even wanted to move back to the old imperial system.

  8. In 1919 the SPD alliance with mainly middle-class parties (Z,DDP,BVP,DVP) ensured that questions were left to question its socialist roots. Such political partition from USPD and KPD made sure that future division and lack of support was inevitable. By 1930, as the stinging attacks of the right-wing increased upon the left, there was no unified and united left to fight back.

  9. The weakness of the WR was all too often overstated, exaggerated and inflated by opponents of change, democracy and the ill-fated Republic.

 

 

 

 

2001-2004 Leventhall-Airley