Compare and contrast political and social instabilities in Germany, France and Spain in the inter-war period.
One of the most unstable period in history was the era between the two World Wars. After World
War I Europe faced a completely new status as devastation was a huge problem everywhere after
the war and after the loss of three empires, the Austria-Hungarian, the Ottoman and the
German empire. Contemplating the political map of Europe shortly after World War I we
discern that in 1919 there are only two countries that were no democracy, this is on the one hand the
Soviet Union and on the other hand Hungary. Comparing this to the situation of 1939 there is
a big difference, because in this year there are only a few countries with a parliamentary
government, for example the major powers Britain and France, Belgium, Switzerland and the
Scandinavian countries. Two of these countries that changed their political systems are Germany
and Spain. I want to concentrate on them in addition to another very unstable country in this time –
France and even France was not changing its political system to 1939 the development of those
countries is quiet similar.
One similarity that we can see in all three countries is the governmental instability. For instance in
Germany we had nineteen different cabinets from the foundation of the Weimar Republic until
Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor in 1933. This looks similar in France where we had thirty three
changes of Prime Ministers between 1919 and 1939 and Spain even had different forms of
government during this time.
In Germany after the first World War a new form of government was established. The old German
empire came to an end when it's important personalities agreed on “a revolution from above”,as
Secretary for the Foreign von Hintze said, to try to prevent a revolution in Russian manner.
Looking at the constitution of 1919 is important when analysing why the Weimar Republic failed
and how Hitler could become chancellor. The created position of the so-called “Reichspräsident”
had so much competences that he can be named as an alternative emperor because he could break
down the Reichstag (Article 25), he was able to suspend some basic rights in order to re-establish
the public security and order and to govern without the parliament (Art. 48). These articles show
that the Reichspräsident was a very powerful man and this might have been a result of distrust
towards political parties and the lack of domination of liberal parties in the pre-war era.
In the national assembly that decided about the constitution there was a majority for the Weimar
coalition, the Social-democratic Party (SPD), the Christian Party (Zentrum) and the
left liberals (DDP), these parties opposed the councils system and the monarchy. However, the
political instability began when these parties lost their majority and this already happened in
the first general elections.
Since then several different coalitions were formed consisting of at least three political parties in the
beginning and later of four different parties but none of these coalitions could survive much
longer than one and a half year. Most of these governments did not gain a majority after elections
and worked as minority governments, e.g. the cabinet Marx II that was in office from 27th of May
1924 to 15th of January 1925 and only received 31,5% after the general election of May 1924.
Building a coalition became more and more difficult over time because the civil parties as DDP,
DVP and Zentrum had to acquiesce continually losses of votes. Taking the Weimar
coalition as example we recognize that they could reach 48,6% of all votes in May 1928 but
only 34,9% in the general elections of July 1932. In contrast to that stands the so-called “negative
cooperation of the totalitarian parties” between the National Socialist
 Diehl, E., Faulenbach, J., Hesse, C., Klaeren, J., 2003. Weimarer Republik [Weimar Republic]. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, p.3.
 Berg-Schlosser, D., De Meur, G., 1994. Conditions of Democracy in Interwar Europe: A Boolean Test of Major Hypotheses, Comparative Politics, [e-journal], 26(3), p.263, Available through: JSTOR <http://www.jstor.org/stable/422112> [Accessed on 9 November 2012]
 Diehl, E., Faulenbach, J., Hesse, C., Klaeren, J., 2003. Weimarer Republik [Weimar Republic]. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, p.60
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- Spain; Germany; France; Inter-war; period; political; social; instabilities; Zwischenkriegszeit; Weimarer Republik;