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

By Sean Dobson | Go to book overview

chapter 6
ELITE AUTHORITY ERODES:
WARTIME LEIPZIG, 1915–1917

AS SEEN IN part 1, elites, lacking the legitimacy of democratic elections, could justify their ascendancy only through continual economic, diplomatic, and military success. A setback in any of these areas would have damaged their legitimacy and thus raised the specter of revolution. It was therefore crucial that they intervene in the war economy to support living standards (economic success) and win the war (military success). This chapter reviews their record until 1917, the response of Social Democracy to state policy, and finally the reactions of ordinary workers. The final two war years, falling after passage of the landmark Patriotic Auxiliary Service Law (das vaterländische Hilfsdienstpflichtgesetz) of December 1916, receive separate treatment in the next chapter.


THE CHALLENGE OF TOTAL WAR

History's first total war required almost every young man in Leipzig to serve under the colors. Thus nearly every Leipziger on the home front had a close relative or friend at the front. Such a situation of course bred anxiety. But anxiety turned to dread as the 1915 casualty rate of Leipzigers at the front doubled over that of 1914. 1 And now that the conflict had become a war of attrition, the slaughter might continue indefinitely.

The Great War also upended Leipzig's economy, leading to a catastrophic drop in the production of consumer goods. One of the most important factors behind this decrease in production was the shrinkage of the city's popu

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