Weimar Constitution of 1919

Weimar Constitution of 1919

 

the constitution of Germany drawn up by the Weimar Constituent Assembly of 1919. The constitution was adopted on July 31, 1919, and became effective on Aug. 11, 1919.

The Weimar Constitution formalized the replacement, which had taken place as a result of the November bourgeois democratic revolution, of the semiabsolutist monarchy by a bourgeois democratic parliamentary republic. The Weimar Constitution reaffirmed the inviolability of the basis of the bourgeois-Junker system, guaranteeing private capitalist ownership of the means of production. The Weimar Constitution introduced general elections and proportional representation in the elections to the Reichstag. The president, elected by popular vote, was invested with broad powers as chief executive. Article 48 guaranteed him the right to proclaim martial law, to suspend the actions of democratic institutions, and to issue emergency decrees. The government, headed by the chancellor, was appointed by the president.

While strengthening the central power considerably, the Weimar Constitution retained the federal structure of the country. Germany was composed of 15 republics (Länder) and three “free cities,” which enjoyed considerable autonomy. The constitution instituted a Reichsrat, which was composed of representatives of the Länder governments; reactionary Prussia predominated in the Reichsrat. The Weimar Constitution opened certain opportunities for the activity of workers’ organizations and proclaimed a number of democratic rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression, of the press, of assembly, and of association; all this was a step forward in comparison with the semiabsolutist kaiser Germany. It reflected the gains of the working masses as a result of the November Revolution. But these rights were of a formal character and were hedged in by various reservations; they could be abrogated by presidential decree. The clauses of the Weimar Constitution on “presidential dictatorship” were widely used in the republic for the suppression of the revolutionary movement and subsequently facilitated the coming to power of the fascists.

With the establishment of the fascist dictatorship in Germany in 1933, the Weimar constitution was not formally abolished, but in actuality it became ineffective.

REFERENCES

“Konstitutsiia Germanskoi imperii (11 avgusta 1919 g.).” In Konstitutsii burzhuaznykh stran, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.
Ocherk istorii nemetskogo rabochego dvizheniia. Moscow, 1964. Chapter 7. (Translated from German.)

D. S. DAVIDOVICH

References in periodicals archive ?
He strongly criticizes the Weimar constitution of 1919 as well, since in his opinion it is unable to provide the united Germany with an acceptable constitutional framework.