Walter Gropius, Monument to the March Dead (1922)

Between 1920 and 1922 a monument in honor of the workers who lost their lives during the Kapp Putsch was erected in the Weimar central cemetery. It was commissioned by the Union Cartel of Weimar and built according to plans submitted to a competition by the architectural office of Walter Gropius. Although Gropius maintained that the Bauhaus should remain politically neutral, he ultimately agreed to participate in the competition staged among Weimar artists at the end of 1920. The monument was arranged around an inner space, in which visitors could stand, the repeatedly fractured and highly angular memorial rose up on three sides as if thrust up from or rammed into the earth.

In February 1936, the Nazis destroyed the monument due to its political overtones, and considered its design to fall under the category of degenerate art. Underneath the images posted immediately below, you can read an account of the event written by the German left communist Arthur Rosenberg.


The Kapp Putsch

Arthur Rosenberg
History of the German
Republic (1936)

On 14 June 1919, Wissell, then Reich Minister for Economy, said at the Socialist Party meeting in Weimar:

Despite the revolution, the nation feels that its hopes have been disappointed. Those things which the people expected of the government have not come to pass. We have further consolidated political democracy in a formal sense; true. But we have not yet done anything but carry on the program which had already been begun by the Imperial German government of Prince Max of Baden. The constitution has been prepared without any real and active participation on the part of the people. We have not been able to satisfy the dull resentment with which the masses are imbued because we have had no real program.

Essentially we have governed according to the old forms of our state life. We have only succeeded in breathing very little fresh life into these forms. We have not been able so to influence the revolution that Germany seemed filled with a new spirit. The inner structure of German civilization, of social life, appears little altered. And even so, not for the better. The nation believes that the achievements of the revolution are simply negative in character, that in place of one form of military and bureaucratic government by individuals another has been introduced, and that the principles of government do not differ essentially from those of the old regime… I believe that the verdict of history upon both the National Assembly and ourselves will be severe and bitter.

It must be admitted that Wissell saw very clearly the state of affairs in Germany at that time. In every way the minutes of this first party meeting held by the Majority Socialists after the revolution is a document as affecting as it is instructive. On the one side stood the opposition minority, among whom Wissell must actually be reckoned, which recognized the fatal nature of the path that the German Revolution was treading. On the other side was the majority, which was grouped about the party leaders and the government, and which strove convulsively after optimism. The motions put forward by the opposition organizations show the temper then prevailing among millions of workmen. The motions demanded over and over again that efforts should be made to restore peace with the USPD, even if discredited leaders had to be sacrificed. The Münster organization demanded: “The Reichswehr Minister Noske shall be expelled from the party.” Frankfurt-on-the-Main demanded:

The Social Democratic group in the Constituent National Assembly shall be ordered to do all in its power to ensure the rapid disbanding of the volunteer corps and the formation of a national defense upon democratic foundations.

Hamburg said:

The meeting of the delegates of the Social Democratic Party of Hamburg regards the volunteer army as constituting a serious danger to the achievements of the revolution. Its delegates to the party meeting are therefore under the obligation to demand the creation of a national army according to the provisions of the Erfurt Program.

Other motions advocated the councils, nationalization, the democratization of the administration, the abolition of the old bureaucracy. To these were added the wails of delegates from rural districts, who felt that they had been abandoned, and complained that since the lapse of the workers’ councils they had been delivered over to the old powers again. The majority at the party meeting undoubtedly felt equally strongly the grievances that were raised. But in view of the course hitherto taken by the revolution they saw no way out and voted down the opposition’s motions.

kapp-putsch-germany-march-1920-chaos-first-world-war-instablity Kapp-Putsch_Marine-Brigade_Erhardt Kapp-Putsch, Posten am Spittelmarkt, Berlin

The exodus of the workmen from the SPD to the USPD became increasingly rapid. And the embitterment of the radical masses was greatly increased by the sanguinary events that took place in Berlin on 13 January 1920. The Reichstag was at that time discussing a government measure for the establishment of industrial councils. Its purpose was to confine the activity of these councils essentially to the sphere of social welfare. The opposition among the working classes regarded the proposed law as inadequate. The USPD organized a mass demonstration in front of the Reichstag, against the government bill and in favor of wider powers for the councils. The Communists joined in the demonstration. The demonstrators were perfectly peaceful. Nobody had any idea of storming the Reichstag, or of attempting a coup. Various working-class leaders made speeches to the assembled masses in front of the Reichstag. The technical mistake was indeed made of keeping the masses assembled before the Reichstag for too long a time. Slight brushes occurred between the workmen and the police who had been called up in case of emergency. At length the police came to the conclusion that there was reason to fear an attack upon the Reichstag, and machine-guns were turned on the unarmed demonstrators. The crowd was dispersed. Forty-two workmen were killed. The political responsibility for the attitude of the police on 13 January was borne by the Prussian Minister for the Interior, Wolfgang Heine.

At the very time when the SPD was losing a large part of its adherents, the great majority of the middle classes openly turned against the republic. The urban and rural middle classes had been perfectly prepared after 9 November to accept the new order, and to cooperate in building up the republic on democratic lines. Out of consideration for the middle classes the government had believed it necessary to proceed with the utmost caution. Yet it was the hesitancy of the republican leaders that alienated the middle classes. If great and decisive action had been taken, such as, for example, the expropriation of great landowners and the nationalization of mines, and if the government had shown the people that a new era had really dawned, then the government would also have carried the middle classes along with it. Since, however, everything was obviously going to remain unchanged, enthusiasm for the revolution evaporated and the republic and democracy were blamed for all the trials of daily life.

The middle classes suffered under the hopeless economic conditions and the increasing devaluation of the currency. Above all, however, the government seemed incapable of securing law and order in the country. In this case, again, the Majority Socialist leaders achieved the exact contrary of what they were aiming at. They esteemed law and order above everything, and were continually in conflict with the radical working classes in the name of order. But it was the disappointment of the workers at the course taken by revolution and at the government’s relentless policy of orderliness that led to continual strikes, unrest and fighting. Thus the middle classes, who were anxious once more to lead a quiet if modest existence, came to the conclusion that republicanism was responsible for the confusion and that it produced impoverishment, profiteering, corruption and dissension. Longing eyes looked back to the old days of the monarchy, which, though it had its faults too, permitted a man to attend to his business quietly and under the protection of the law.

To the ill success of the republic in material matters was added its failure in national affairs. It was not the fault of the republican government that the conditions of peace were so hard or that Germany’s position as a world power was destroyed. It was the legacy of the old system which was taken over by the republic. But the republican parties, and especially the SPD, did not discover the right attitude to adopt towards the increasingly important national problems for Germany arising out of the Treaty of Versailles.


Marx, Engels, and Lassalle had always felt themselves to be responsible for the whole German nation in the sphere of the revolutionary democracy of 1848. In their determined advocacy of the interests of the German people they had never permitted themselves to be outdone by any other body of political opinion. Social Democracy after 1871, on the other hand, looked upon itself predominantly as the standard-bearer of the workers’ opposition to the ruling system. It criticized the foreign policy, the “militarism” and the nationalist demands of the ruling classes, but was not in a position to confront Imperial policy with a real national and socialist program. When war broke out in 1914 German democracy sanctioned war-credits and maintained the political truce out of sense of patriotic duty.

Thus Majority Socialism had a true nationalist tradition at its disposal if it chose to use it. By remaining true to its attitude of 1914-1918 it might have made the fight for the threatened existence of the German nation and for the revision of the Treaty of Versailles the central aim of its agitation. The party did, in fact, make a determined protest against the dictated peace. It was not, however, in a position to seize the leadership of the new national opposition to the Entente that was now in process of formation in Germany. The SPD, and the same is also to some extent true of the Democrats and the Center, wished on the one hand to maintain Germany’s national interests, but on the other hand also to promote pacification and international understanding. The antagonism between the different aims prevented the laying down of a clearly defined program for the daily agitation of the republican parties. Thus the leadership of the national opposition to the enforced peace drifted into the hands of the parties of the right — an event destined to have serious consequences.

The republicans might have combined a definitely national attitude with a revelation of the mistakes made by the old system at the outbreak and during the course of the war. As a matter of fact it is historically false to ascribe to William II and Bethmann-Hollweg, both of whom were fundamentally pacific by nature, a conscious desire to provoke the World War. The moral accusation of war guilt which the Entente made against the rulers of Germany in 1914 was unjustified. But the fact remains that the appalling mistakes made by the rulers of Germany in foreign policy very definitely contributed to Germany’s becoming involved in a war that held out no prospect of victory. The mistakes of the old regime also prevented Germany’s finding a tolerable way out of the postwar miseries.

The instinct of self-preservation alone should have obliged the republican parties continually to reiterate in their agitation not the moral but the political war-guilt of the old system. Even if the mistakes of Bethmann-Hollweg were condemned, the vital interests of the German nation could at the same time be resolutely defended against the Entente. When, however, men like Eisner, Bernstein and to some extent also Erzberger tried to broach the question of the war-guilt of the old regime publicly, they were met with indignant protests, and were almost without support even in the republican ranks.

It is unfortunately undeniable that German republican policy was guided largely by a desire not to overstep the bounds of “good form.” It “was not the thing to do in Germany” to discuss the question of the war-guilt of the Imperial government, because, so it was said, that was tantamount to playing into the hands of the Entente: for the Entente justified the severe conditions of the peace treaty by Germany’s alleged war-guilt. The indignation with which Bernstein was greeted by a majority when he dared to make some critical remarks concerning war-guilt at the party meeting of the SPD at Weimar, to which reference has several times been made, is significant. But if the majority at the SPD party meeting was so sensitive in national matters and was so indignant with the alleged anti-nationalism of Bernstein — why did not these same men go into every corner of the land and passionately summon the masses to fight against the policy of the Entente? The fact was that nothing was done consistently and wholeheartedly. People were as patriotic as decency demanded, and were quite genuinely indignant at Bernstein’s “anti-nationalism.” But they could not work themselves up to a vehement nationalist agitation. Thus the republicans left unused the immensely strong weapon which they possessed against the old system in the question of war-guilt. At the same time they abandoned the leadership of the nationalist movement to counter-revolutionary forces.

maxresdefault AHW_Kapp-Putsch_verlassene_Barrikaden_Muenzgasse28_Leipzig_1920 Kapp Putsch-Government troops

The opinion of Marx and Engels upon the part played in the life of nations by war and force was perfectly sound and matter-of-fact. The Second International, on the contrary, had displayed a vague, temperamental pacifism in its opposition to militarism and imperialism. The German Revolution in November 1918 was mainly the outcome of a longing for peace on the part of the masses. Hence republican agitation from the very beginning was inclined to peace at any price and to cultivate a horror of war. This pacifist tendency on the part of the German republicans also prevented their presenting a decided nationalist front to the Entente, because they feared that a determined struggle against the policy of the other nations would be contrary to the principle of peace and conciliation.

It was in consequence of this belief that the republican parties never came to assume a proper attitude to the tradition of the World War. It is indisputable that despite tremendous mistakes made by their rulers the German nation in arms achieved great deeds during the four years of war. The enormous and justifiable longing for peace that filled the German nation in November 1918 could not permanently extinguish the memory of the deeds of the German troops during the war. When those who had taken part in the war began to cultivate their military traditions again, the republican parties could not decide what attitude to adopt towards them. Since millions of those who had taken part in the war were to be found in their own ranks, the republicans might have made it a part of their work to preserve what was valuable and honorable in military tradition. Nevertheless, even in this sphere, which was so important morally, the leadership was left to the parties of the right.

A serious psychological mistake was made in the same sphere by the republican majority of the National Assembly in the question of the national flag. If the red flag of socialism was not to be hoisted as the Reich flag, there was no reason for not retaining the old colors — black, white and red. They were the symbols of that German unity created by Bismarck which the republic wished to preserve. The symbol of feudal reaction was to be found not in the black-white-red colors of Germany but in the black and white banner of Prussia. Curiously enough, the republic left the black and white flag in existence and abolished the black-white-and-red. The new colors, black-red-gold, which implied a return to the traditions of 1848, remained alien to the masses of the German people. The socialist working class without distinction of party preferred the red flag and the middle classes were faithful to the black-white-red. Outside official republican government circles the black-red-gold colors never achieved any real popularity. The adherents of the military tradition, even in a good sense, felt themselves deeply injured by the change of flag. The parties of the right flew the black-white-red flag with the more determination at their demonstrations.

The republican government alienated the middle classes to such an extent that on both material and moral grounds they wanted to have nothing more to do with any republic on the Weimar pattern. The mass movement of middle-class electors to the right resulted in something very near to the annihilation of the Democratic Party and in heavy losses to the Center. The middle-class and nationalist opposition saw the main support of the hated new system in the Majority Socialists who appointed the President and the Chancellor, and who were the leaders in the National Assembly. The demand, therefore, came from the middle classes that the Social Democrats should be ousted from the government in order that Germany might once more return to better conditions. The National Assembly had completed its task — the drafting of the new constitution — by the summer of 1919. But it still remained in session, and the middle classes accused the government of delaying new elections in order to remain in power themselves. The cry rose ever louder that the National Assembly should be abolished to make room for a new parliament. The middle classes were convinced that when the new elections were held the Weimar regime would collapse.

ADN-ZB/Archiv Konterrevolution‰rer Kapp-Putsch vom 13.-17.3.1920 in Berlin Mit dem Einmarsch der Marinebrigade Ehrhardt am 13. M‰rz in Berlin beginnt der Putsch. Am selben Tag wird eine Regierung unter Wolfgang Kapp und General von L¸ttwitz gebildet. Unter der  schwarz-weifl-roten Fahne, dam Stahlhelm das Hakenkreuz, verteilen Angehˆrige der Marinebrigade am 13. M‰rz Flugbl‰tter. 2905-20

As has been stated above, Erzberger had gradually come to take the leading part in the Bauer government. As Finance Minister he endeavored to increase the income of the Reich by a series of new laws. His determined antagonism to the old regime made him an object of especial hatred to the middle-class opposition. Erzberger, an impulsive and temperamental nature, was not always as careful as a leading statesman should be either in public or private life. Fundamentally he was an absolutely honest man, but even in official matters he committed errors which were exaggerated out of all proportion by his opponents. The Nationalists, especially the former Imperial minister Helfferich, began a violent agitation against Erzberger, who was pilloried as the symbol of republican corruption. Excitement ran so high that towards the end of January 1920 an ex-ensign named von Hirschfeld fired a shot at Erzberger in Berlin. The Minister was slightly wounded. Erzberger took an action for libel, which he lost. He resigned on 12 March. On the following day the troops of the counter-revolution marched into Berlin under the black-white-red colors.

The middle-class opposition of the right was not only continually growing in numbers, but under the prevailing conditions in the republic it was also in control of the armed forces. It was therefore by no means beyond the bounds of probability that if the government and the National Assembly would not disappear of their own free will, they would be swept away by force. It was believed that the working classes, disarmed and disunited, were no longer to be feared.

A plot was hatched for the downfall of the republican government. The leaders were the nationalist politician Kapp, who had even during the World War been prominent as a violent opponent of Bethmann-Hollweg, and the Reichswehr General von Luttwitz. The attempt was to be made by the Free Corps from the Baltic states. These units were then supposed to be in process of demobilization. They resisted demobilization and were prepared to do anything to maintain their existence.

On 13 March 1920, the Ehrhardt Brigade marched into Berlin. Noske proved to have no reliable troops at his command ready to undertake the defense of Berlin against the rebels. The government and the President were obliged to leave the capital. They went first to Dresden and then to Stuttgart. Kapp proclaimed himself Chancellor, and, guarded by Ehrhardt’s machine-guns, took up his quarters in the Chancellery in the Wilhelmstrasse. The counter-revolution appeared to have triumphed all along the line. But it soon became apparent that the necessary political preparation was lacking to Kapp’s enterprise. The venture might easily have succeeded if it had been proclaimed as the movement of an influential section of the German middle classes. If the leading politicians of the middle classes, or at all events of the Nationalist Party and the People’s Party, had headed the revolt, the workers would not have been able to put up any resistance worth speaking of. The army and the police, the home defense service, and the short-service volunteers, in addition to the civil service, would have put themselves at the disposal of the new rulers. It is even possible that the revolt might have received parliamentary sanction with the help of the middle-class and central parties in the National Assembly, and that a new and purely middle-class conservative government might have been formed.

d2y00216 Demonstration in Berlin against the putsch. The caption reads- "A quarter million participants"

Once again it was Bavaria that provided a clever and purposeful counter-revolution, just as it had in the earlier part of the revolution given the decisive example. Simultaneously with Kapp’s enterprise in Berlin, Hoffmann, the Social Democratic Prime Minister in Munich, was forced by a move on the part of the army officers to resign. In Munich the supporters of the new movement had assured themselves of the sympathies of all the middle-class parties in the Diet. As a sequel to the military revolt, therefore, the Diet in a perfectly legal manner elected a new and purely middle-class government. A well-known conservative civil servant named von Hahr became Premier.

Meanwhile it was soon found in Berlin that Kapp’s following consisted of none but a small group of military conspirators. The broad masses of the middle classes and also the middle-class parties regarded Kapp with distrust or, at most, were willing to wait and see. It was significant that the officials of the Berlin ministries did not recognize the Kapp government, met it with passive resistance, and thus from the very beginning paralyzed the central authority of the government. The working classes throughout Germany joined in a general strike in answer to the Kapp Putsch, and carried it through with remarkable unanimity and accord.

In Berlin sat Kapp surrounded by a few thousand soldiers from the Baltic states as though he were sitting on a powder-barrel in the midst of a hostile population of millions. The attitude of the army to the Kapp Putsch was not uniform. While a number of officers and certain regiments, especially to the east of the Elbe, openly declared themselves in favor of Kapp, others remained neutral; and others again were loyal to the constitutional government. In certain regiments in which there were still traces of democratic traditions, the non-commissioned officers and men actually arrested their pro-Kapp officers.

In the industrial district of Rhenish-Westphalia the Kapp Putsch led to a great proletarian rising. The workers rose without distinction of party, acquired weapons, attacked and drove out the pro-Kapp Free Corps. In Central Germany, too, and in Thuringia open fighting occurred between armed workmen and pro-Kapp troops. Nowhere west of the Elbe and in southern Germany did Kapp achieve any success worth mentioning. For even the new Bavarian government went its own way, took care not to be compromised by association with the Kapp faction, and protested its loyalty to the Reich constitution.

Politically, Germany was split into five sections by the Kapp Putsch. Firstly, the lands east of the Elbe, where Kapp on the whole had a majority, although the general strike greatly embarrassed the Kapp government. Secondly, the districts where the old government was popular — above all, Württemberg, Baden, Hesse and the North Sea coastal districts. Thirdly, the scene of the successful proletarian rising in the Rhineland and Westphalia. Fourthly, Bavaria with its individual development. Fifthly, and lastly, the Central German districts in which none of the warring factions held a clear majority, but pro-Kapp troops, revolutionary workmen, and adherents of the legitimate republican government strove for the mastery.

47308 1920_kapp-putsch_3-data Kapp-Putsch, Panzerfahrzeug, Berlin

The ascendancy which the army and the middle classes had gradually regained in the republic was seriously endangered by Kapp’s premature rebellion. For the middle classes and the troops were divided into two camps by their division of opinion over Kapp, and were thus to some extent paralyzed. On the other hand, a great wave of martial ardor and of the desire for unity swept over the working classes. The Majority Socialist workers now wished for the removal of Noske and Heine, and for an alliance with the USPD. Even the Christian workers were prepared to join a block for the defense of democracy and against the old military powers. Thus the forces ranged against the Kapp Putsch were for the most part not the adherents of the Weimar Republic and of the Ebert-Noske policy, but the advocates of a proletarian revolution of which the aim was to turn the ebbing tide of the revolution and to continue the work of 9 November.

It took only four days to dispatch the so-called Kapp government in Berlin. When unfavorable tidings came in from most parts of the Reich, Kapp despaired of the success of his undertaking, and on 17 March he announced his resignation. The question then arose as to who was to be his successor. The mass of the workers did not wish for a return to the discredited Weimar regime which had permitted of a coup d’état like that of Kapp being made; but they wanted a new political configuration in which the socialist working classes would have a decisive voice. Above all, it was the leaders of the trade unions with the Majority Socialist Legien at their head who, above all others, regarded such an issue to the Kapp affair as essential. Legien wished to replace the Weimar coalition by a German labor government supported by the SPD, the USPD, the free and the Christian trade unions. Noske’s following had been so weakened by what had happened in the SPD that it could not have opposed such a course. And the army was so disintegrated by the putsch, especially since the defeat of Kapp, that it would not have been capable of any united action against a labor government.

A labor government of this description, which would have been quite feasible at the time, might perhaps have introduced a truly democratic spirit into the army and administration, and thus have arrested the retrogressive course of the revolution.[1] The failure of the project for a labor government was due less to the SPD than to the doctrinaire obstinacy displayed by the left wing of the USPD, especially that of Däumig, who was the most influential man in its Berlin party organization. Since the USPD refused cooperation, nothing remained to the SPD but to form another coalition government on the old model. The Chancellor, Bauer, the Reichswehr Minister, Noske, and the Prussian Minister for the Interior, Heine, were indeed obliged to retire. Hermann Müller became Chancellor, the Democrat Gessler took over the Reichswehr Ministry. The new government made all kinds of promises to the trade unions to punish severely all who had been implicated in the Kapp Putsch, and to make serious efforts to democratize the army and the administration. The demands of the trade unions were set forth in lengthy memoranda. Since, however, the new coalition government upon the old model was backed by no new force, everything remained on the whole as it was before. The working class had once more demonstrated in these March days that it could strike in unison and bear arms for its ideals. But the socialist proletariat was not capable of rebuilding Germany politically, and thus the Kapp Putsch really ended with the defeat, not of the army, but of the working classes.

The Hermann Müller government was at once accepted almost all over Germany. The military and administrative services were quickly reorganized. Only in the Ruhr there existed a utopian minority of workers who refused to submit to the new circumstances and wanted to carry on the struggle. The government sent its volunteer troops against the rebellious minority of miners quite in the old style. The generals, who had regained their influence, sent several well-known Kapp battalions, who had “returned to the constitutional fold,” to the Ruhr. At the beginning of April the last traces of the rising were suppressed with peculiar relentlessness. That was the army’s revenge for the defeat of the Free Corps in March. This termination to the anti-Kapp revolt of the workers in the Ruhr showed very clearly the new distribution of power in Germany.

Zentralbild Sonderred.Halle  13.8.1958 III. Pioniertreffen in Halle Junge Pioniere aus dem Bezik Erfurt nutzen ihren Ruhetag  Der vierte Tag, der 13.8.58, des Friedensmarsches der Th‰lmann-Pioniere nach Halle war f¸r die jungen Festteilnehmer vieler Bezirke Ruhetag. Diesen benuzten die Pioniere des Bezirkes Erfurt, die ihre Quartiere in Frankenleben, Kreis Merseburg, bezogen hatten, das volkseigene Stahlwerk Frankleben und das Denkmal der gefallenen M‰rzk‰mpfer von Launa-Krˆllwitz zu besichtigen.  UBz: Zwei Pioniere des Kreises Weimar-Land halten Ehrenwacht am Denkmal auf dem G‰nseanger von Leuna-Krˆllwitz.

It was now impossible to postpone the Reichstag elections any longer. The polling took place on 6 June. The provinces of East Prussia, Upper Silesia and Schleswig-Holstein, in which plebiscites had still to be taken according to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, did not vote on this occasion. The election resulted in the complete defeat of the Weimar parties. Of the Socialists, the SPD had only five million six hundred thousand votes, and had lost about half its adherents in eighteen months; the USPD obtained four million nine hundred thousand votes; and the KPD four hundred thousand. Of the middle-class parties the Nationalists and the People’s Party together obtained seven million three hundred thousand votes, and the Democrats only two million two hundred thousand. The Bavarian People’s Party, in which the conservative counter-revolutionary tendency now predominated, polled one million two hundred thousand votes, and the Center three million five hundred thousand. Within the middle classes, too, the adherents of the democratic republic had forfeited half their following compared with the elections to the National Assembly.

The elections were a catastrophe for the Weimar Republic. Since no important change had resulted from the Kapp Putsch, the events of the year 1919 led to their logical conclusion. The SPD was so weakened by its defeat at the polls that it could no longer maintain the leadership in the Reich. The Majority Socialist ministers left the government. President Ebert remained in office, but adapted himself in strictly constitutional fashion to the new middle-class governments.

On 25 July, Fehrenbach, a Center deputy, formed a new and purely middle-class government. In so far as the November Revolution had tried to set up a democracy under the leadership of the socialist working class, it had by the summer of 1920 failed, and failed finally.


1. On the question of the labor government during the Kapp Putsch: Däumig at a meeting of the Berlin industrial councils on 23 March 1920 (compare the account in the Freiheit of 24 March) said: “Legien has during the last few days made an attempt to do away with the Bauer — Noske government, but, be it noted, only with the persons. The principles of middle-class democracy and of trade unionism were not attacked in any way. Legien, united with the members of the Free Trade Union Association and the German Union of Civil Servants, also got in touch with the Independent Party in order to negotiate with it about the points he had formulated. The Independent Socialist Party for its part made much more far-reaching demands and did not express any willingness to cooperate with the compromised right-wing Socialist Party. Thereupon Legien went to the coalition parties.” In the course of his speech Däumig stated that the idea of a socialist labor government had fallen to the ground. After Däumig, Pieck spoke for the KPD. He said, amongst other things: “The present situation is not ripe for a soviet republic, but for a labor government. As revolutionary workers, we should regard a purely labour government as exceedingly desirable. It could, of course, be no more than a transitory phenomenon…The USPD has rejected the labor government and thus failed to look after the interests of the proletariat at the politically favorable moment.” (The report notes at this point: “Violent dissent and applause.”) A well-informed member of the KPD under the name “Spartakus” gave a description of the Kapp Putsch in the periodical Die Kommunistische Internationale, No 10 (1920). The writer says, inter alia (p 160):Such was the situation in Berlin when after six days of a general strike the Kapp government found itself at the end of its resources, when Kapp himself resigned, and the Association of Trade Unions under the leadership of Legien was forced by the members of the trade unions to make demands of the Ebert government which led to a breach with the middle-class government. There was a possibility that the formation of a labor government to the exclusion of the middle classes might have been extorted from the Ebert — Bauer government by pertinacity and under the threat of an extension of the general strike. Legien conducted negotiations with the USPD to induce them to enter the government. The right wing of the Independents was inclined to agree to…this suggestion…The attitude of the left wing to this question depended upon the attitude that the KPD would assume in the event of Legien’s proposal being adopted. Since the left wing of the USPD has in fact a great influence within the whole party, it really depended on Däumig and others whether men like Hilferding and Crispien did or did not accept Legien’s suggestion. When our representatives among the strike-leaders (of the general strike in Berlin) came unofficially to hear of this question, they said something to the effect that naturally a labor government excluding the middle classes would be preferable to them than a return to the old middle-class — Socialist coalition, which despite the change of personnel must in effect be the same Noske regime.” Following on this, the Central Committee of the KPD passed a resolution on 21 March, assuring a future labor government composed of both Socialist parties a “fair opposition.” That is to say, that the Communists would not under a purely Socialist government make further preparations for an armed revolt, but confine themselves to peaceful propaganda for their views. At this time the SPD under Legien’s leadership, the right wing of the USPD and even the KPD were in favor of a labor government. The plan came to nothing, owing to the opposition of the left USPD led by Däumig. This is the explanation of Pieck’s attack on Däumig at the Berlin meeting of the industrial councils (see above). The official biography of Legien — Leipart, Carl Legien, ein Gedenkbuch (Berlin, 1929) — says something about Legien’s part in the Kapp Putsch (p 116 et seq), but unfortunately is silent upon the important question of the labor government.

3 thoughts on “Walter Gropius, Monument to the March Dead (1922)

  1. Pingback: precedent: MONUMENT TO THE FALLEN OF THE MARCH INSURRECTION – makeshift

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