Germany 1918-21: Lessons from the Lost Revolution

Socialism 2018

July 05, 2018

The German Revolution, often eclipsed by the Russian October Revolution of 1917 or the French Revolution of 1789-1799, was one of the most pivotal developments in 20th-century history.Starting with the disintegration of Imperial Germany at the end WWI, the German Revolution lasted from 1918 to 1923.Alternatively referred to as a "Lost," "Betrayed," "Still-Born," or "Forgotten" Revolution, it was one major chapter in a sequence of revolutions that broke out in Europe during and after the First World War.Its potential was not only to relieve the beleaguered Bolsheviks in Russia but to move the center of world revolution to a developed industrial society -- and thus access the material preconditions for sustainable socialist development. The ultimate defeat of the German Revolution closed off those possibilities and instead helped set into motion counter-revolutionary dynamics that ultimately led to the horrendous tyrannies of Hitler and Stalin.----------Revolutions that are defeated are soon forgotten. Yet of all the upheavals after the First World war, it was the events in Germany that prompted British Prime Minister Lloyd George to write, “The whole existing order…is questioned by the masses from one end of Europe to the other.” Here was a great revolutionary upheaval in an industrialized capitalist country—one that involved mass strikes, protests, and insurrections by hundreds of thousands of workers. Fascism in Germany had its origins in the counterrevolutionary troops that put down this almost revolution. The lessons of this lost revolution remain crucial for socialists and radicals today.

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