Why Did The Communist Revolution Fail In Germany

The German revolution was a period of upheaval and political change beginning with the end of the First World War, ending with the enactment of the Weimar Constitution. Some key events in the German Revolution included the Kiel Mutiny, Kaiser Wilhelm IIs abdication, the formation of the Weimar Peoples Council and the State Council, the Spartacist Uprising in Berlin, and the creation of several short-lived socialist republics throughout Germany. In 1918-19, imperial Germany experienced a socialist-heavy revolution which, although it had several unexpected events, even produced a small socialist republic, was to lead to a democratic government. In Germany, attempts at rebellion failed; the Left was split between Communists and Social Democrats; and worst of all, as Jonathan Haslams expose revealed, Russia was engaged in secret negotiations with Weimar over Russias trade and rearmament.

Picking up the pieces from the Bolshevik insurrections was going to have catastrophic consequences over the long run, deepening the rift between communists and social democrats, significantly undermining the resistance to Hitlers rise, culminating in the decimation of Germanys workers’ movement, one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. One immediate effect of the total control Hitler exercised was to destroy the communist movement and countless German Communists. By all accounts, the Bolshevik leadership saw the German Revolution as their saving grace after years of a retributive civil war and geopolitical frustration. Even many Germans living through this thought that these events were just half a revolting, since, although the Kaiser was gone, so was the socialist state that they had wanted, and leading socialist parties were holding sway in the center.

Both the Communist International, led by Zinoviev, and the SPD) had for a long time shown a passive, generally centrist, attitude toward events unfolding in Germany. The SPD leadership, which was more moderate, noted that a determined, well-directed Bolshevik-type organization could very well attempt to take over power in the German Reich, and quite possibly with the help of Bolsheviks, they moved their behavior towards the Left with the approaching German revolution.

In early to mid-1918, many in both Russia and Germany expected Russia would now return the favor, helping facilitate a Communist revolution on German soil. The success of the Russian proletariat and peasantry in overthrowing their ruling classes had raised fears among the German bourgeoisie that such a revolution might also occur within the German empire. Gelfand, with his journalism experience in Germany and his commercial successes in Constantinople, wrote the revolutionary scenario for the Berlin Foreign Ministry.

On 21 August — exactly two months before the Brandler-instigated rebellion — the political bureau of the Communist Party of Russia decided to prepare a revolution in Germany. The drive to a revolution, led enthusiastically by Carl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, came on January 6, 1919, encouraged by Soviet Russia and further spurred by fears that Friedrich Eberts planned elections for the Constituent Assembly, scheduled for January 19, could stabilize Germanys situation. Opponents of the German Revolution moved for delegates to the resolution, who themselves agonized over it and delayed it until the Soviet parties, frustrated and unlikely to gain a majority, scrapped their plans.

Weimar eventually failed, and whether the seeds of this defeat began with a socialist-heavy revolution has never been answered conclusively. Ultimately, one could argue that the German Revolution was a missed opportunity for the Left, a revolution that missed the mark, and that socialism missed the opportunity for realignment before imperial Germany and the conservative right became more able to rule.