Council of People's Representatives
- (Rat der Volksbeauf-tragten)Established on 10 November 1918, the Council of People's Represen-tatives was the Republic s interim cabinet. It initially comprised three members each from the SPD and the USPD. Wishing to work with the USPD, the SPD invited it to form a coalition cabinet (the bourgeois word Kabinett was dropped until February 1919). Although many USPD activists were either skeptical or hostile, preferring a government of Workers and Soldiers Councils,* the USPD chose to accept the SPD s offer in light of widespread worker support for re-uniting German socialism. Representing the SPD were Friedrich Ebert* (chair-man and Chancellor), Philipp Scheidemann,* and Otto Landsberg*; the USPD nominated Hugo Haase* (cochairman), Wilhelm Dittmann,* and Emil Barth.* Barth was a metalworker and a Revolutionary Shop Steward,* but the other representatives were Reichstag* deputies with considerable political experience.From the start the council was a weak alliance; the gap between the socialist parties had grown during the war. Many Independents were closer to the radical Spartacus League* than to the SPD; likewise, many in the SPD had greater affinity for wartime associates in nonsocialist parties. In the weeks that followed, the SPD focused on the election of a national constituent assembly; the USPD, lacking a distinct program, was drawn to the slogan "All power to the coun-cils." A social moderate whose pacifism had led him to found the USPD in 1917, Haase was forced to cultivate the extreme Left; Ebert, with leadership thrust upon him, was determined to retain some of the imperial structure. On 10 November Ebert s resolution led him to form a pact of mutual assistance with General Wilhelm Groener.* When during 23-24 December the three SPD deputies called upon the army, without notifying their USPD colleagues, to rescue hostages held by revolutionaries in the Royal Stables (Marstall), Haase and his colleagues resigned. Thus ended both the first council and the revolu- tion s venture at socialist cooperation.A second council, embracing only the SPD, was formed on 29 December 1918. Gustav Noske* and Rudolf Wissell* joined Ebert, Landsberg, and Scheidemann to form the cabinet. The final vacancy, initially offered to Paul Lobe,* remained unfilled. As Germany's streets became the scene of struggle between the socialist factions, Ebert and his colleagues were forced into increased dependence on the military. Noske s military expertise proved the crucial ingredient in the government s survival. The second council continued as Germany as provisional government until 11 February 1919, when it surrendered its powers to the new National Assembly. *REFERENCES:Carsten, Revolution; Morgan, Socialist Left; Ryder, German Revolution of 1918.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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