16/4/1917 Unrest grips Germany

Germany is feeling the strain in this third year of the war. People have struggled through the recent Turnip Winter, in which potatoes were replaced by the unappetising and less nutritious turnip. Inflationary pressures are making it hard for people to make ends meet even when food is available. Within the expanded war industries meanwhile there has been an upsurge in radicalism. In Berlin Richard Müller plays a key role in organising a loose coalition of leftist union activists whose lack of caution is beyond anything seen previously in those affiliated to the mainstream Social Democrats. Many are now looking to events in Russia as an inspiration.

The authorities hope that the U-boat war can end before radicalism and discontent boil over into serious unrest. They are also using targeted repression, arresting Müller and sending him to join other socialists like Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in jail.

However the authorities are unable to completely contain the situation. Strikes erupt today in Berlin and Leipzig, triggered by a reduction in the bread ration. In Berlin the strikers also demand Müller’s release. In Leipzig the strikers have even more radical demands, seeking political reforms (universal and equal suffrage), the release of political prisoners, freedom of the press, and a declaration by the government that it was seeking a peace without annexations. Leaflets hail the example of the revolution in Russia and a central council is established to coordinate the Leipzig strikers.

image source:

German demonstrators (World Socialist Web Site)

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