Bavarian Soviet Republic – 1919 Economy and Reconstruction I BEYOND THE GREAT WAR

Bavarian Soviet Republic - 1919 Economy and Reconstruction I BEYOND THE GREAT WAR



hi I'm Jesse Alexander and welcome to beyond the Great War the monthly episode where we answer questions from our community and viewers just like you [Applause] [Applause] our first question comes from firuzan gambit in our YouTube comments are you going to cover the Bavarian Revolution arguably was a lot more consequential politically and in terms of its long-term effects then the Spartacus uprising in January 1919 well mr. or mrs. gambit we would love to alright so here we go now in spring 1919 for a few weeks there was actually a third Soviet territory in the world besides Russia and Hungary the Bavarian Soviet republic so let's start with a little background here now of course since 1871 Bavaria had been a part of Germany and had its own local government and even had its own king that all changed in November 1918 with the Armistice and the revolution the king was kicked out and an independent social democratic government under quit Eisner took power and declared the people's state of Bavaria which remained within Germany now in early 1919 things destabilized across the entire country there was the Spartacus uprising in Berlin which were covered in a first episode there was a brief Soviet republic in the city of Bremen but things really heated up in March a general strike in Berlin led to violence and another leftist uprising there and the government cracked down extremely hard with full-on battles with artillery armored cars and fighter planes which left more than 1,000 people dead 75 of them were government troops now this all happened actually in the neighborhood around our studio and this newspaper in front of me is filled with reports about the fighting around here now on top of that once the Hungarians declared themselves a Soviet republic on March 21st it seemed to would-be revolutionaries in Munich that the time was ripe revolutionary poet a new genre called the news from Hungary hit Munich like a bomb now the Isner government was in chaos since the independent Social Democrats had just lost the January election in Bavaria and in February Eisner himself had been assassinated on his way to resign his post by a nationalist aristocrat on April 6th the soldiers and workers Council of Munich declared Bavaria a Soviet republic and the elected government fled now it seemed too many that the Bavarian Soviet republic was indeed the final phase of a fold revolution author Thomas Mann who lived in Munich at the time and did not support the Soviet confided to his diary on April 7th it may be assumed that the rest of Germany will follow and the chairman of the Comintern and a leading Russian Bolshevik legally xenovia sent a supportive message to the revolutionaries we are deeply convinced that the time is not far off when the whole of Germany will be a Soviet republic but all this was not to be Bavaria was deeply conservative in rural and most of the population had no interest in supporting a revolutionary government dominated by urban Jewish writers and poets like Eric Newsome though of course there were German working class members as well like former schoolteacher and sneaky Sh now the Soviets policies of nationalizing banks and companies abolishing capitalism and letting universities be run by the students fell on deaf ears outside the coffee houses of Munich on April 12th and 13th troops loyal to the exiled Bavarian government along with volunteer nationalists of the Tula society attempted a coup known as the Palm Sunday push now the coup attempt failed but both sides became radicalized as a result the Soviet was taken over by Russian emigre Smacks Lavigne and eigen Divini and more extreme policies were introduced though internal violence was kept in check by the more moderate socialists and the relatively effective Revolutionary courts government troops attacked again on April 18th but were defeated at Dachau by the Bavarian Red Army now this defeat prompted the exiled Bavarian prime minister Hoffmann to put out a call for volunteers Bavarians countrymen in munich rages a Russian terror unleashed by foreign elements this insult to Bavaria must not be allowed to last another day not even another hour all barbarians must immediately help regardless of party affiliation Munich calls for your aid come on step forward now the Munich disgrace must be wiped out now thousand of GEICO's men including future Nazi antherm answered the call and joined the government troops preparing to march on munich the offensive began soon after and by April 27th it became clear that the Soviet republic was doomed and the Revolutionary Government fell apart now at this point the violence began to spiral out of control a group of Soviet radicals took nine aristocratic members of the right-wing nationalist tudi Society hostage in a school plus a random art professor and on April 29th government troops massacred a group of 30 civilians as they advanced and they also executed 53 Russian prisoners of war suspected of revolutionary sympathies now further atrocities were enabled by Social Democratic Minister Gustav Norskies she's befell or shooting order which was issued the next day whomsoever resists government troops by force of arms shall be shot forthwith this gave government soldiers and Frei cordesman license to execute suspected rebels on the spot and allowed the government to demonstrate its might in spite of the relative weakness and isolation of the Soviet now things got even worse on April 30th when Red Army guards executed the hostages at the school including the lone female captive who was a relative of a government commander now the identities of the perpetrators are still unknown and it's not clear if they considered it a reprisal for the government massacres of the previous day now the hostage killings exploded in the press with rumors that Russians had been responsible local resident Joseph Hoffman I wrote in his diary they got the Russians drunk until they became complete animals and let them loose upon the unlucky hostages meanwhile the fact that the workers and soldiers council had condemned the murders was largely ignored the city was now surrounded and government artillery was brought up and resistance was completely broken by May 1st the fighting and atrocities had cost the lives of between 600 and a thousand people 58 government troops 135 rebels some of whom had been executed after their capture and hundreds of innocent bystanders and much like the November armistice didn't stop the fighting in much of Europe the killing didn't end with the stop of organized fighting on May 6th a group of cricos men acting on a false tip of sparta kissed activity burst into a church meeting attended twenty-five innocent Catholics the soldiers tortured bayonetted and then shot them all although four survived now one of the few accused to admit his role in the affair soldier named Munna testified at his trial today I am sorry about it I wanted to do good I considered it my duty it's possible that I struck with my bayonet but I can't remember the Bavarian Soviet republic was gone having lasted just three weeks it would live on and German public memory as a murderous Russian abomination but it was also another example along with the Spartacus and March uprisings of the Vimal government choosing to ally with the Frei Corps and unleash uncontrollable violence on its own people a fateful decision for the years to come now if you're curious about the Bavarian Soviet republics perception in the countryside as opposed to Munich in this month's great war supporter podcast we talked to German historian Frank Jakob who just published his research on exactly this topic among other things he explains why bavarian skepticism and fear of Bolshevism didn't mean they weren't open to the idea of governance through councils now the podcast is available to our YouTube members and patreon supporters and you can find more information about supporting the channel in the video description below all right so our second question is from Nick Bradbury Nick asks how did the Allies but mainly the French and Belgians recover the land and villages so quickly well as early as 1915 French politicians began to evaluate the damage done to the country and to estimate what it might take to repair it now by 1918 after three more years of shelling neglect and occupation large parts of northern and eastern France were completely devastated just to throw a few numbers at you there were two million five hundred thousand hectares farmland sixty-two thousand kilometres of roads two thousand kilometers of canals five thousand kilometers of railway and hundreds of thousands of houses that were destroyed now by early 1919 the last refugees forced out of their homes by the German offensive of 1914 and 1918 were returning home if indeed they had home to return to however for the first time in history many of the warring states had promised their people to make good on the losses that they had to endure during the war modern war was total war and the state had resorted to mobilizing every last citizen to do their part for victory now once victory was achieved the state was morally obliged to repair the damage and compensate its citizens for their sacrifices in France this was not just a promise made out of goodwill the French state was actually bound by a law called the shock disini stray or refugee charter the French government instructed its own war damage commission under Minister of Finance Lucia klutz to compensate every citizen affected by the war individually but this as you can imagine was extremely expensive now in terms of the region's the worst damage was done to the industrial areas of northern France especially the coal mines which were either damaged or used by the Germans during the war reintegrating the agricultural farmland was in comparison rather easy except for the areas that were former battlefields where millions of unexploded shells were still buried in the poisoned soil but repairing rebuilding or converting factories would be a costly and time-consuming affair most of the military factories that had been built or remodeled to produce grenades rifles uniforms helmets and other wartime goods now had to be converted to make civilian goods in early 1919 France could use the demobilization effects to offer veterans work in rebuilding the damaged areas which was also a way to deal with the surge in unemployment but this was only a short-term solution and in May the French Parliament had to resort to steep tax increases the war had already forced the French government to take out high interest loans to cope with the extreme costs money was no object in the fight for national survival but now the interest rate would come back to haunt them the longer the war had gone on the higher the debt had climbed and the overall sum by war's end was a staggering five billion dollars that's more than 73 billion in today's money which the French now owed to Great Britain and the US this crushing debt was of course hotly debated at the peace conference with the French doing their best to seek relief either Great Britain in the US would have to forgive some of the debt which was not a popular idea for their governments or Germany had to pay and the sooner the better no Bush para Minister Claude said when confronted with the bill at the peace conference but the Germans were not paying yet and many politicians felt that France could not fund the reconstruction alone its yen came on tell the French Minister of Commerce pleaded for us help based on Wilsonian principles the complete reconstruction of the north of France and Belgium is in essence everyone's business the primordial task of the economic League of free peoples now Belgium had also suffered terribly from the ravages of war with the front line running straight through the country many villages factories and farms close to the front were flooded destroyed by shellfire or simply abandoned now most of the country had been occupied by the Germans and they fully exploited its economic infrastructure the Germans of course prioritized the factories that helped their war effort and neglected or simply dismantled the plants that were not useful to them after their retreat they took much of the machinery with them or stripped it of valuable copper and iron unoccupied Belgium on the other hand had to keep up its armed forces and to provide for civilians and refugees crowded into the western part of the country trade came to a virtual stop during the war the British blockade affected shipping bound for all ports and the fear of u-boats left much of the Belgian merchant fleet stranded as well now after the Germans were finally driven out of the country the Belgians stood before a shattered economy the only sector that had really thrived during the war was agriculture as the Germans were keen to keep up the food supply but in comparison to France Belgium did not suffer such an oppressive weight of debts to foreign powers that meant it still had the credit to take out loans and invest in a quick recovery for their industry the Belgian society national Leucadia an industry or national industry credit cooperative was able to effectively funnel privately borrowed money to the devastated areas and it became a patriotic endeavor to make good the damages of the war but private loans alone could not hope to cover would take to restart the country's economy like France Belgium had to resort to higher taxes and stricter control of the market through government and foreign banks on the one hand this helped Belgium to recover the lost areas rather quickly and reintegrate the damaged industries back into their economy on the other hand the Belgian government became shackled to the interest rates of the banks which in turn forced higher taxes and inflation like the other allies it had to rely on Germany to pay for all of it in the end and by the end of 1918 French minister for liberated regions al baile de Berne estimated that it would take 20 years and 100,000 workers to put the damage right in the end things went more quickly than this and the work was mostly completed by 1930 though officially it continued until 1962 even today in northern France and Belgium iron harvest old shells and other war relics are still ploughed up every year now our last question today is from Nikko stavropoulos who asks I was curious to see the economic situation in Europe as well as in the United States in early 1919 thanks for the question Nick now as I outlined with France and Belgium before a lot of countries had made promises to compensate their citizens for their losses and sacrifices during the war until the reparations from Germany could be paid but more threatening was the fact that the international commercial hierarchy had changed Europe it seemed would have to make way for the new financial powerhouse that was the USA Great Britain's war damages were less obvious in many ways instead of a war-torn country side Britain had suffered high losses to their merchant fleet and had to put aside immense sums of money to pay for all the pensions of veterans and war widows but the real threat to the empire was the disruption of the global market now Britain had been the main benefactor of the pre-war economic cooperation between the nations despite and because of their rivalries London with Paris at second place had been the financial powerhouse of the world due to the principles of free trade and a healthy import-export routine in a liberal capitalist system but now with half of Europe's economy in shambles and the other half in massive from overseas Britain's future as the trading center of the world was in serious question but the massive debts and overall financial and social insecurity were having an impact on the entire world Empire from early 1919 until mid 1920 there was a strong surge of inflation that gripped the world goods were in high demand and prices were not only rising to unprecedented levels they were actively destroying the market to make matters worse they were fueling the threat of revolution now the costs of living were getting staggeringly high while wages stayed mostly the same workers were flooding to the unions and strikes were now more common than ever in fact there were more strikes in Great Britain in France than in revolutionary Germany socialist agitators were rising up questioning if the war had really been fought to a victorious conclusion and if maybe there wasn't still a revolution to be fought were they really the victors if their standards of living were getting worse now on a global scale a lot of countries were largely unaffected by the war or could even profit from Europe's weakness such as the Asian countries like China or Japan but also South America which were now buying up the market now that drove up the import prices all over the globe hitting Europe the hardest as it was in dire need of those resources to rebuild the damage done by the war of the Italian lira and the French crown were in free fall and even the steadfast British Pound was in trouble every country's currency except the US dollar had been disconnected from the gold standard and the relative values were dropping fast and all this in a time when they are expected to pay back the debts all of them were counting on Germany's reparations and this poisonous atmosphere economist John Maynard Keynes who took part in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 as an economic expert dropped his famous work the economic consequences of the peace a very liberal free-market centered book in which he strongly argued that high reparations would ultimately shackle Europe's economy and that only the unfettered distribution of goods would benefit the world in the long run reparations would only serve the politicians who sought to reverse the peace they would make nations distrust each other and turn their backs to the liberal global market and seek their lot in protectionism the economic consequences of the peace became a best-seller overnight especially in the u.s. the US economy was also hit by a post-war shock a wave of unemployment hit the country as the war economy suddenly ground to a halt and the army was demobilizing at the same time now in principle the u.s. shared the same interest as Great Britain in returning to a pre-war liberal market and restoring the international trading relations now that the war regulations were thing of the past but due to claims on reparations and municipal debts politics and trade were now in an interlocked state like never before President Wilson was keenly aware that the u.s. had to push for a leading role in restoring Europe as a trading partner like Great Britain the US did not want Germany's economy to be fully destroyed or shackled for generations to a maximum a sum of reparations it needed a balanced Europe that would be a valuable trading partner but not a dangerous competitor but which path should Europe choose reparations had to be paid but this would take years even decades and they could not even agree on a concrete sum the only solution to the inflation problem was a massive government deflation of the market especially France and Britain had to forcefully rebalance the European economy and restore domestic order by adjusting the value of their currencies but that would ultimately affect the u.s. deflation could solve that problem but if the Federal Reserve of the United States reacted the same way by deflating its own market it could drag down the whole fragile European economy that was most certainly not the future the winners of the Great War were expecting well that's all for this episode of beyond the Great War we want to thank Marcus Lincoln for helping us with the research for this episode keep your questions coming in the comments for the next episode and remember that if you really want your question to reach us you can consider supporting us on patreon or you can click the join button below and of course we'll also answer community questions on our monthly supporter podcast as always you can find the sources we used in this episode in the video description and if you want to check out our merchandise there's a gallery below this video I'm Jesse Alexander and this is the Great War a production of real time history and the only YouTube History Channel that is its own gold standard you

20 Comments on "Bavarian Soviet Republic – 1919 Economy and Reconstruction I BEYOND THE GREAT WAR"


  1. As a small production announcement: This was the last episode that in the classical format where we answer questions directly. From May onward, every video we publish every other week will have one main topic: an important event from exactly 100 years ago. This will make it much easier to follow the channel and it will be more in line with our mission statement to cover the war in real time 100 years later. Of course, you can still ask questions. We will answer some of the directly in our Patreon podcast and we will use them as inspiration for our episodes. As an example: A lot of fans asked if we will cover the American "Polar Bear Expedition" and so that will be exactly what we will cover in our episode in late May. On top of that, we will do a small "time jump" and starting with our episode in June we will have a synchronized timeline again meaning: The episodes coming out in June 2019 will cover June 1919 an so forth.

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  2. Bavaria seemed like lawless wild wild west after WW1. The communists and the facists had violent revolutions there.

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  3. The economical analysis is very interesting. It goes far beyond the usual « France & Uk were demanding enormous reparations » forgetting that they contracted a debt as enormous to the US, so the payment of those debt was deeply tied to the payment of the reparations.

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  4. The way Jesse shifts seamlessly and effortlessly across languages is a turn-on I never appreciated.

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  5. Anyone who thinks "governments rebuild industries" is a baked in socialist even if they don't describe themselves as it.
    This Collectivist mentality is dominent now whereas only the village idiots would think that way at one time. .

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  6. Good that you mentionned "The economic consequences of the Peace" of Keynes.
    Too bad you didn't mention that his conclusion are now viewed by modern historian as wrong.

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  7. This is really interesting. The postwar world economic situation is rarely explained in much detail. I was unaware of the Bavarian Socialist Revolution, and how it probably formed support for the later national socialists. Well done.

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  8. Further reading if you are able to read spanish:

    JIMENEZ, Saturnino (1919, 11 marzo), "La Revolución en Baviera", La Vanguardia, sección "De Alemania", p.10, 3 – 4 columnas, Barcelona, España

    JIMENEZ, Saturnino (1919, 13 marzo), "La República Bávara de los Soviets", La Vanguardia, sección "De Baviera", p. 10

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