The euphoria and fear of a Soviet-style revolution in Germany prompted leaders and experts to create a political system that could prevent such a radical left wing uprising. Heinrich Mann pleaded in The Meaning and Idea of the Revolution to find compromise with the Socialist factions in order to create the semblance of a unified and stable government. He thought that completely alienating the Socialists and their working-class following would create a Bolshevik revolution that would face Germany with the same fate as Russia in 1917. The early leaders of the Weimar Republic did not know at the time that the greatest threat to Germany did not lie with the Communists, but actually with the authoritarian far right.


The greatest fear in Europe during that time period was Communism. The Russian Revolution struck fear into the hearts of the German people because it made the possibility of a Bolshevik uprising a realistic scenario. That is why the Weimar Constitution imposed checks and balances and guaranteed right to civil liberties. Article 48 is written with the assumption that it is the last safeguard against a Bolshevik takeover that will destroy democracy while the framers of the constitution never considered the authoritarian right a threat to democracy.


However as Weitz explains in his book Weimar Germany, much of the old German elite were remained in political power and many despised the new republic and the Socialists that were in power. The courts were unabashedly conservative and many in the military, WWI veterans and Kaiser loyalists, were reluctant supporters of the new republic. They did little to control or prevent the criminal activities conducted by far right paramilitary units such as the Freikorps. With right wing groups seemingly free from repercussions by the federal legal system, they attacked Socialist leaders and utilized mass campaigning strategies to force the Reichstag to pass legislation in favor of conservative policies.


Paul von Hindenburg’s ascension to the presidency should have been a warning to those that the radical right was starting to gain a stronger grip on the government. Touting more nationalist policies and rhetoric, the government secretly began to disregard parts of the Versailles treaty, specifically on military restrictions. When the Great Depression hit Germany, people started to join more radical political parties who promised sweeping reforms to save the German people. The radical right, specifically the Nazi Party, triumphs in the end because the German political institutions were already heavily controlled by conservatives and the German populace always tended to lean more to the right than left.


The fear of Communism so consumed the public that everyone failed to realize the authoritarian right was the greatest threat to the Weimar Republic. They were far more organized and controlled many of German’s existing political institutions. Article 48 never considered the far right to be a threat yet they were ultimately the ones who abused the power to strip the German people of their universal rights, much like the early Weimar leaders feared the radical Socialists would do.