April 13, 1919 was created the Bavarian Soviet Republic. Its appearance was promoted not only by the general rise of leftist sentiments in Germany after the November Revolution of 1918, but also by Bavarian separatism, hatred of the "Prussians" who had drawn Bavaria into the Great War. However, the short term was released to the new state: after the first successes of the Bavarian Red Army, the white volunteer corps launched a decisive offensive and entered Munich on May 1. The unity of the German Reich was restored. Maria Molchanova understands the chronology of the revolutionary events and the causes of the collapse of the Bavarian Republic.
Why precisely Bavaria? Included in 1871 in the Second Reich, Bavaria retained its kingdom status and a certain autonomy, which was expressed in the absence of Prussian troops on its territory and the existence of its own parliamentary system. In the state of Ludwig III there was a significant proportion of the rural population - 51% compared to 34% in the rest of the empire. The capital, Munich, was a favorite place of artistic and literary bohemia.
It is important to emphasize that the Bavarians always retained a certain distrust of the Prussians and the central authority. In 1914, Bavaria, like the rest of Germany, entered the war. It was a “sacred union” around Emperor Wilhelm II. But little by little the country began to sink into the conflict. Impoverishment and deprivation caused discontent of the German population. After a very hard winter of 1916, unrest began to grow throughout the country, and from March to November 1917, workers ’demonstrations took place in the main cities of Germany - Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig.
Munich on a German postcard of the early 20th century
Political parties were in a very critical situation. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), the main non-conservative force, openly supported militarism. As a result, there was a split that led to the creation in April 1917 at the congress of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (NSPD) in Gota, which had a very heterogeneous composition. It was attended by the Union of Spartacus, while maintaining a certain independence. By 1918, the German political forces increasingly demanded peace, and therefore the separatist feelings of the Bavarians in such a situation intensified. They were angry with the Prussians who had drawn them into this war.
Nicholas II and his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm
The beginning of the protest movement in Bavaria is not very different from the German one. After a cycle of demonstrations, strikes broke out against food shortages and with the demands of the world. On January 28, 1918, the writer Erich Muzam, who adhered to anarcho-communist views, spoke in front of 10,000 working people and called them for a general strike. Unrest broke out all over the country. On November 7, a large demonstration for peace took place in Munich, the number of participants in which was estimated at 150–200 thousand. Initially peaceful, the demonstration turned into a riot. To the sounds of “Marseillaise”, the most decisive of the demonstrators at 17 o'clock penetrated the Guldein school, which was turned into a barracks, then - into the Turkish barracks. The soldiers carried away their comrades, and the troops joined the people. At the brewery Mateze, the protesters created a workers 'and soldiers' council. Upon learning that the guard detachments refused to open fire, the king and his family fled to the Austrian Tyrol. Bavarian monarchy fell. After 2 days, November 9, the Kaiser in Berlin also went into exile.
On the night of November 7-8, the Bavarian Republic was proclaimed in the Diet (Bavarian Parliament). In Munich, a poster was posted stating the declaration of the leader of the Social Democrats, Kurt Eisner: “The people's government is immediately formed, based on the confidence of the masses. We invite everyone who wants to participate in the construction of this new freedom. Fundamental social and political reforms will be implemented immediately. A rational distribution of vital things will be organized. The fratricidal socialist war in Bavaria is over. On the current revolutionary basis, the working masses will take the path of unity. "
Illustration to the play of one of the ideologists of the Bavarian Republic, Ernst Toller
On January 12, parliamentary elections were held, the result of which turned out to be completely unexpected for Eisner and his government: NSDPG gained 2.3% and 3 seats in parliament, and the main winners were the right-wing Bavarian people's party, which received 35% of the votes and 66 seats, and social Democrats with 33% of the vote and 61 seats. In the end, Eisner decided to retire. On February 21, 1919, going to parliament for this purpose, he was killed by an ultra-right officer, Earl Arco Valley. This caused an explosion of emotions in the people’s environment, and Eisner acquired the martyr's aura: 100 thousand people followed his coffin.
On the same day that Eisner was killed, the Central Council of the Republic was formed, which introduced a state of emergency and declared a general strike. On March 7, the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the National Social Democratic Party of Germany achieved an agreement - the “Nuremberg Compromise”. This text of 8 points, approved also by the Peasant Union, established that the Congress of Soviets would transfer power to the parliament, which would form the new government, which happened on March 17 - Johannes Hoffmann, the former minister from the SPD under Eisner, became the head of the new government. After the creation of the Hoffmann government, anarchists and communists left the Central Council and launched an agitation. The powerlessness of the government was not the only point that caused discontent of the working class. To this was added unemployment (in Munich there were 30 thousand unemployed). The proclamation of the Soviet Republic in Hungary on March 21, 1919 met with a significant response in Bavaria.
The revolutionary banner of the Bavarian Republic
On the night of April 6, the Central Council met at the Wittelsbach Palace and there, in the queen's former bedroom, took the last preparatory measures. Responsible persons were identified, a proclamation was to be pasted all over the city: “The dictatorship of the proletariat is a reality! The new government will organize new elections as soon as possible, on which the Soviet system will be based, giving the working people the power to make decisions. Following the model of the republic of the Soviets, a socialist society will develop; there will be no more unemployment or poverty. In alliance with revolutionary Russia and Hungary, the new Bavaria will establish a revolutionary International and show the world the path of revolution. ”
Red Army soldiers patrol the streets of Munich
The Council of People's Commissars was elected, which was supposed to manage public affairs. The member of the NSPD, expressionist poet Ernst Toller was elected chairman. Anarchist communist Gustav Landauer became Commissioner for Public Enlightenment and Culture. The Communists were in opposition to the new government: the party leadership sent Yevgeny Levin from Berlin, who took over the Munich group, replacing the former leaders. Officially, Levin refused to participate in the republic, because he considered it premature, but in reality he wanted to play a leading role. In addition, the new Soviet Republic did not spread to the whole of Bavaria: the volunteer corps, the paramilitary forces of the far right, kept the north of the country, and the workers of Nürnberg tried in vain to act like their Munich comrades during the bloody street battles.
Meanwhile, Hoffmann, who was removed from power, assembled some military units loyal to him, which began operations on 13 April. On this day, part of the garrison of Munich captured the city. Erich Muzam and 12 people's commissars were arrested and imprisoned in the fortress of Ansbach. The Central Council was dissolved, a state of siege declared. So the First Soviet Republic fell.
April 13, 1919 in Munich
But the workers did not want to give up the republic. Resistance was organized spontaneously, although revolutionaries had only a few rifles. As a result, however, they defeated the soldiers everywhere. Within 10 hours, the workers fought off the station and the main buildings. Resistance lasted the longest at Luitpold Lyceum, where the military barricaded themselves. Workers under the leadership of Toller surrounded him and made the soldiers surrender. Although the Soviets became masters of the city again, it seemed difficult to restore the former Central Council, decapitated by arrests.
The real power was transferred to the action committee, which consisted mostly of communists, who elected two councils - the executive and the control. Levine presented the decisions of the communist government: the expropriation of banks, vehicles, housing, the creation of various management commissions and a newsletter for communication. Of course, the party was behind all the decisions, and the Soviets lost all autonomy. New Republic is stuck in difficulties. The communists ruled no better than their predecessors. The "government" was affected by disagreements, in Munich hunger reigned because of the food blockade. There was also growing discontent among the workers. More and more voices criticized the KKE.
May 1, 1919 - the end of the Bavarian Soviet Republic
Meanwhile, Hoffmann learned from his new defeats. In the end, he agreed to accept the help of the Berlin government. The socialist leader Noske, the one who suppressed the Spartak uprising in Berlin, wanted to avoid any negotiations with the revolutionaries at the last moment. Noske recruited 100,000 men — contingents from Prussia, Württemberg, remnants of Hoffmann’s army, and, above all, volunteer corps assembled from all over Germany to take part in repression. From the end of April, the city of Munich was completely surrounded. The total of these days is from 600 to 700 killed. Levin was sentenced to death and executed on June 5, 1919. Other prisoners, including Toller and Muzam, received lengthy prison sentences.