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  • 1920
Stand Firmly
by the Fatherland!

By 1920, the Weimar Assembly had crafted a constitution and signed the Versailles Treaty. The Constitution was a competent enough document, but in many respects it continued the uneasy ambivalence which had characterized the revolution and the republic from the start. Although articles of the constitution permitted nationalization of banks, factories and other economic instutitons, the government, including its SPD representatives, showed very little interest in carrying out this "socialist" program. Yet the fact that the provisions were part of the Constitution, permitted a growing chorus of right-wing critics to label the republic as a socialist, if not a communist front.

And of course, although the Assembly had tried its best to negotiate a better peace, it had been forced under threat of renewed war (and inevitable military defeat and occupation) to sign the Treaty of Versailles. These two facts made the Republic despised by many Germans, and in the first election held under the new constitution, in 1920, the Weimar coalition parties -- socialists, liberal, democratic, and Catholic -- suffered severe losses.

The principal beneficiary of this turn of events was a re-envigorated conservatism. Now there appeared such posters as this, in which the old flag of the German Empire (Black, White and Red) is clutched by a military figure. All the symbols which the Republic had tried to capture for its own purposes in the first year, now get taken up by the opponents of the Republic. From this perspective, "Stand firmly by the Fatherland" is easily understood code for "Down with the Republic."

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