In August 1916, the German military leaders became for the first time the undisputed rulers of Germany, no longer subordinated to the Emperor, still less held in check by the Chancellor. The reason for this change was simple: German policy, as represented by Emperor and Chancellor alike, had failed. Success, the key to political authority in Germany, rested with the military leaders alone. The parties of the Reichstag, unimpeded even by the Social Democrats, flung themselves under the leadership of Ludendorff, as, long before, the liberals had flung themselves under the leadership of Bismarck, regardless of the fact that by so doing they were destroying the constitutional structure to which the Reichstag belonged. In October 1916, when Bethmann was vainly trying to hold up the declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Reichstag, on the motion of the Centre, virtually declared that it would support the Chancellor only if he obeyed the orders of the Supreme Command. Thus the dictatorship was in the fullest sense a dictatorship by consent, a logical development from the original jettisoning of liberal principles during the struggles of the nineteenth century.
The Supreme Commander was Hindenburg, legendary figure of