Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bowen, Ralph Henry, 1919-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Ebert; Friedrich; 1871-1925; Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands; Socialism--Germany


The causes, events and results of the German Revolution in 1918 and 1919 have bean the objects of frequent historical investigation. The failure of the Revolution to achieve lasting reforms has frequently been attributed to the conservatism of Friedrich Ebert and the German Social. Democratic Party. It is the purpose of this thesis to explain why Ebert and his party acted as they did and to assess the degree of influence exercised by Ebert within the party during this crucial period. As a background to this revolutionary period it was necessary to study the fifty-year history of the Social Democratic Party by outlining such major aspects of the party's past as the influence of Ferdinand Lassalle, the growth of trade-unionism and the party bureaucracy and the revisionism of Eduard Bernstein. These developments had brought the party to an ideological position where it was easy to vote for war credits in 1914 and provided the basis for the split in 1917. Friedrich Ebert was in the vanguard of the conservative trends and was to use his position as party chairman to taring the Revolution into a reconciliation with the bureaucracy and army of the Old Regime. Ebert's past had been strongly linked with the attainment of a political democracy for all social groups in Germany, a position reinforced by the Bolshevik takeover in Russia. Within the Revolution Ebert and his party met the challenges with a series of half-way measures that resulted in alienating large sections of society. Ebert, the unquestioned party leader, only reluctantly accepted the Republic, allied himself with the Imperial army but was indecisive in the nee of force against social malcontents and proclaimed that the new Republic as a socialist one while promulgating laws more in keeping with a bourgeois democracy. The effect of these weak and uncertain policies was to engender open defiance of the Republic by many socialists. Thus Ebert's answer to the Revolution was a feeble attempt to establish a political democracy by allying various forces together under a broad "consensus" program. War, defeat and revolution rendered a consensus impossible, however, and Ebert eventually chose to ally with bourgeois and conservative elements. Ebert's fateful decision, in addition to creating a lasting split within German social democracy, was little appreciated by his allies on the right, leaving Ebert, his party and his republic incapable of governing Germany effectively, Ebert and Social Democrats were to find first socialism and then democracy rejected in Germany for a totalitarian regime incomparably more oppressive than the one overthrown by the Revolution.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [75]-79)


iv, 79 pages




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