The Communists and Other Revolutionary Left-wing Groups' Failure to Seize Power in the Years 1919-1923

The Communists and Other Revolutionary Left-wing Groups' Failure to Seize Power in the Years 1919-1923

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The Communists and Other Revolutionary Left-wing Groups' Failure to Seize Power in the Years 1919-1923

During the years 1919-23 the German Weimar democracy was experiencing
major threats from the left. For years the left had wanted to get into
power and was waiting for the perfect chance, and now they believed
was the right time. In January of 1919 the Weimar government had used
the army to crush a Spartacist rising. This however did not end the
threat from the extreme left and for the next four years Weimar faced
a series of attacks and attempts to overthrow the government. But why
did these left wing groups fail to seize power?

The Communist Party (KPD) was a party with a desire for rapid
political, social and economic revolution. They wanted a classless
society, workers state, to abolish private property, eliminate
capitalism and abolish religion. They were the most extreme left party
in Germany and wanted to achieve these aims at any cost. During 1919
the Communists began their plans to overthrow the government. A wave
of strikes was occurring throughout Germany, in the Ruhr mines, in
central Germany and Berlin. The workers were demanding shorter hours,
the socialisation of industry and a government based on councils. Even
though this was a real threat to the Weimar Government it was not a
bad as the strike could have been. It was uncoordinated, with radical
'leaders' following the protests rather than leading them. This
therefore showed the Weimar government that the KPD was neither well
led with a clear strategy nor a tightly organised party with a
structure (unlike the well organised Communist Party in Russia). The
KPD also had another problem. It lacked members and commitment.
Already I can see that this Communist Party was going to have a very
hard time trying to overthrow the Weimar democracy, which in contrast
was much better supported and much better organised. Eventually the
government, using a mixture of promises to the workers and use of the
Freikorps, crushed this strike with a large amount of deaths in some

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places.

The Communists did eventually gain a little success however. In
Bavaria the left wing were able to proclaim a republic. However this
was short lived as the right, in May 1919, overthrew the left with 700
people killed. This again shows that the Left Wing threat was unable
to hold on to any power that they might gain, therefore implying that
if they did get into power they would not be able to hold on to it for
a long enough period to make any changes.

Also, in March 1919 another attack from the left wing took place. A
Spartacist uprising in Berlin meant that 1,200 workers were killed.
Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg led this uprising, and even though
many workers lost their lives for the cause, it failed. The army under
the orders of Freidrich Ebert crushed the uprising, but this did not
stop the determination of the left wing as they came back again in
March 1920.

March 1920 produced an uprising in reaction to the Kapp Putsch. The
Communists formed the Ruhr army, which consisted of 50,000 workers.
These workers were used to resist the pro-putsch army and Freikorps.
They managed to gain control of the Ruhr in another revolutionary
wave: the largest working class revolt of 1919-23. The government
again crushed this uprising. Ebert ordered the army and some Freikorps
to put down this uprising, 1,000 workers and 250 police and soldiers
were killed in the battle.

Another uprising occurred in March 1921. This however showed the
German government just how unorganised the KPD actually was. The KPD
and Comintern supported a rising in Merseburg that was started
prematurely in the hope of starting a general revolution, supporting
strikes in Hamburg and Ruhr. This did not go to plan as the German
police crushed this rising easily leaving 145 people dead and proving
to the government that there was no immediate threat form the left
wing due to its complete lack of organisation.

In conclusion of all these points I have decided that the reason why
the Communists and other left wing groups were unable to seize power
was because of the fact that they were never strong enough to launch
an attack on Weimar that would be able to overthrow the government.
Even though in 1919 Germany seemed ripe for a take over by the
communists this never happened, which is probably mainly down to the
fact that they were so unorganised. The summer of 1919 was the best
chance for them, but they missed this chance and for the next three
years were unable to seriously threaten the government. Also due to
the fact that they rushed into a poorly supported rising in 1921 they
showed that they could not possibly take over as a strong government
in Germany. Overall the Communists and other left wing groups failed
to seize power because of their poor leadership, poor organisation and
lack of support.
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