Authority and Upheaval in Leipzig, 1910-1920: The Story of a Relationship

By Sean Dobson | Go to book overview

chapter 5
ELITE AUTHORITY STRENGTHENS:
AUGUST 1914–JANUARY 1915

THE POLITICAL AND wage relationships between workers and nonworkers in Leipzig became stabler and more hierarchical as a result of the outbreak of the Great War. I have already shown how workers protested against imminent war in July 1914. After the Russian general mobilization of 31 July, however, all such overt opposition to the war ceased. 1 On 1 August many workers participated in a spontaneous prowar demonstration on Leipzig's main square, the Augustusplatz. 2 On that same day the LVZ abandoned its criticisms of the government's handling of the crisis, presenting the war as a sad but inevitable event; it even ran a progovernment account of the war's origins originally published in the conservative Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. 3 The police noted with satisfaction that the LVZ, without prodding by military censors, remained basically uncritical of the government for the remainder of the year. 4 Party leaders also fell into line, while the unions placed their organizations at the disposal of the state to help prosecute the war effort. The end of opposition by Leipzig's SPD and unions was “greeted with joy by the Bürgertum.” 5

Because the czar and his officials had been clumsy enough to order mobilization before the German government, the latter could portray the war effort as a defensive struggle against Russia. 6 This paid the imperial regime high political dividends, especially in terms of proletarian attitudes, for besides the normal patriotic reflex to be expected after a declaration of war, anti-Slav and especially anti-Russian sentiment explain the sudden end of proletarian opposition to the government. While, as I have discussed, almost none had succumbed to the nationalism and anti-Semitism rife among non-

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