GERMANY HAD been the cradle of Marxism. Both Marx and Engels spent a great amount of time educating and developing the German labour movement. The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) ever since its foundation had given its allegiance to Marxism and was seen as the embodiment of the German revolutionary tradition. It was the most powerful party of the Second International (the body which grouped together the main socialist parties before the First World War) and was the strongest workers' party on a world scale. By 1912, the SPD had one million members, over 15,000 full time party workers, assets worth more than 21 million gold marks, 90 daily newspapers and 62 printing offices. It had numerous periodicals together with its own socialist news agency, and a massive Central Socialist School.

IN MOST REVOLUTIONS, where events are drawn out, particularly after the initial flush of victory, the masses can feel the gains of the revolution slipping from their hands. The advanced sections of the proletariat, realising the dangerous situation, begin to become impatient and attempt to recapture the initiative. Such was the situation in late December 1918 and early January 1919 in Germany.

THE OLD REGIME felt the ground moving from under its feet. The growing revolutionary ferment at the front combined with the strike waves in the cities engendered a panic stricken mood in the ruling class. In the words of the Secretary of State, Hintze, 'It is necessary to prevent an upheaval from below by a revolution from above.' As a result 'parliamentary' government was quickly established with the Kaiser's cousin, Prince Max von Baden, at its head. Included in its ranks, as a measure to appease the masses, was the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann. In October an amnesty was announced for political prisoners, resulting in the release of Karl Liebknecht, who was greeted by 20,000 Berlin workers. But the amnesty did not apply to Rosa Luxemburg who continued to be held in 'protective custody.'

ONCE THE THREAT of revolution bad subsided, and the workers' councils began to dissolve, the bourgeois looked for the removal of the Noske-Scheidemann-Ebert government. On 13 March 1920, 12,000 troops from the Ehrhardt Brigade and the Baltikum Brigade under General Luettwitz, entered Berlin in order to establish a military dictatorship, and declare Wolfgang Kapp, a founder of the old Fatherland Party, as the new Chancellor.

 

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