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Spartacist Uprising as a Challenge to the Government of the Weimar Republic (GCSE Example Answer)


Last updated 11 Apr 2020

Here is an example answer to a 12-mark question on why the Spartacist uprising was important in challenging the Government of the Weimar Republic.

Explain why the Spartacist uprising was important in challenging the Government of the Weimar Republic

Marks: 12 marks

Stimulus 1 Influence of the Soviet Union

Stimulus 2: Role of the Freikorps

[Examiner commentary following each paragraph and at the end is provided in italics]


There were many reasons why the Spartacist uprising was important in challenging the government. Firstly, the very fact that the uprising was in January 1919 shows how immediately unpopular the Weimar Republic was and how for many it was seen as a temporary ‘filler’ of the political vacuum following the Kaiser’s abdication. Linked accordingly, it also showed how quickly the communists were to organise and mobilise. The Communist Party in Germany was only founded in December 1918 and within a month they were part of a widespread uprising spearheaded by the Spartacists. This clearly reveals that there was a popular Communist movement, and many Germans wanted to bring a revolution to Germany in the same vein that Communism was brought to Russia in 1917. This is especially true when you consider it had 33 newspapers and 400,000 members almost instantly, in large part due to funding from the Soviet Union.

[Conceptually, this is a difficult question. Students will often fall into the trap of describing the events of the uprising, something that a 12 marker will never demand. By asking why the event was important in challenging the government it is essentially asking what did the event reveal about Germany at that time? Statistics help quantify the extent of challenge and ensure wide-ranging knowledge is demonstrated.]

The importance of the challenge also stemmed from the fact that the uprising was on a large scale and relatively successful within a short space of time. 100,000 workers took to the streets on January 6th 1919, seizing control of government newspaper and telegraph offices in Berlin. It was not until January 13th that the rioters were removed. This showed the inherent weakness and fragility of the government, who had to become reliant on brute force to win control of the capital back. This links to how the uprising was also important because of the manner in which it was crushed.

[Nice link at the end of this short point and signpost into the subsequent paragraph]

The government reliance on the right-wing Freikorps to end the uprising was extremely important, revealing how the Spartacist challenge could only be dealt with effectively in a violent way. The Freikorps (which numbered around 250,000 by March 1919) were demobilised soldiers who still possessed their weapons and who were managed by the Army. The unarmed protesting workers were no match for the Freikorps. Such harsh violence was revealed in how the uprising eventually came to an end. Leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were both arrested and killed by Freikorps officers. Liebknecht was shot and Luxemburg was shot in the head and her body dumped in a canal. The government’s decision to use them in ending the uprising showed how little authority the government had and showed that the moderate Weimar government was to a large extent dependent on people that they would not ordinarily agree with. Indeed, the role of the Freikorps emboldened them to the extent that they were involved in their own rebellion in 1920, known as the Kapp Putsch.

[Wider knowledge and links to other events reinforce conceptual focus as student is able to understand the wider chronology, as well as the relationship between cause and consequence.]

In conclusion, the Spartacist uprising was important in challenging the government because it revealed the strength of support for left wing politics in Germany; the fundamental weakness of the Weimar government from the outset, shown by the ease in which the capital was seized by ordinary people; the infiltration of German politics by outside forces; and the nature of violence necessary to eventually bring the uprising to an end, even if it meant Weimar undermining its own political/ideological principles in the process.

Overall Examiner Comments:

Level 4, 10-12

An answer that clearly moves beyond the stimulus points and establishes a lot of persuasive arguments with very perceptive levels of wide-ranging detail. This allows for a precise line of reasoning within the answer that is further reinforced by a coherent and logical structure.

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