A History of the Great War, 1914-1918

By C. R. M. F. Cruttwell | Go to book overview

XXXVI THE GERMAN REVOLUTION AND THE ARMISTICE

I

GERMANY, was by now ripe for revolution, which meant the violent transfer of power by the masses to a republican government directed by the middle class on parliamentary lines. The Bismarckian system had kept the people in a tutelage which was popular only as long as it was successful. Even before the war the Socialist vote, most of which represented what would be called in England moderate radicalism, had risen to four and a quarter millions. The glitter of the Kaiser's flamboyant and self-advertising personality had long since been utterly dimmed. Already in May 1917 an official meeting had been held in the Ministry of War to whip up monarchical sentiment. The programme suggested was singularly German in its thoroughness and its complete lack of humour. Lectures were to be frequently delivered by teachers or 'other suitable persons such as wounded officers'. Articles, pictures, and films were to illustrate the devotion to duty, the simplicity of life,1 the sacrifices of the Imperial Family. The Emperor was to be kept in the public eye by visiting factories, distributing decorations, and so forth. The historian of the republic truly remarks: 'Attempts to save a monarchy by such means prove that the monarchy is already dead.'2 The whole régime was lost as soon as the

____________________
1
Scheidemann quotes this passage about the stores found in the Palace after the Revolution. 'One could not imagine that after four years of war such colossal piles of food could still be found in store. Meat and poultry on ice, soups and sauces in big bottles, pure white flour in sacks piled up to the ceiling. Thousands of eggs, huge tins of lard, coffee, chocolate, jellies and preserves of every kind. Hundreds of blue sugar-loaves, stone-fruit, biscuits, &c. One was speechless. The value of the provisions amounted to several hundred thousand marks. We were told on good authority that these piles of stores were for the Kaiser's private household, and not for the Court.' ( Berliner Tageblatt, November 20, 918.)
2
A. Rosenberg, Birth of the German Republic 1871-1918 ( 1931), pp. 260-1. The full account of this meeting is well worth reading.

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