11 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars
Doctrine versus history, 6 Dec 2009
What makes a good history book?
I would say a balanced selection of facts, good portraits of the main players on the historic stage and a good balance between facts, conjectures and judgements. And occasionally enlivened with contemporary reports.
Unfortunately this book fails on all three.
The context of Germany's defeat in WW I and the Versaille treaty is practically missing. The role of the army has been totally distorted. There is hardly any reference to the making of the Weimar Republic and it's constitution. There is no picture of what went on in Berlin - the total chaos - in the critical period of october 1918 - februari 1919 in Berlin.
There are no portraits of Gustav Noske, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg to name a few.
It's nearly impossible to get a good picture of the flow of historic events from the book, as facts are relatively sparse and are selected to support the view of the author.
So what is in this rather voluminous book?
The book seems more a treatise on marxist revolutionary theory applied to the German case and a history of the KPD (German Communist Party). Actions are judged by the question if they were "correct" from a revolutionary point of view. The correctness is measured if they correspond to the Bolsjevik doctrines.
At no point the question of how people in Germany lived through this period is questioned, there are only "the workers", "the working class". The legitimisation of the revolution and the programs for social reform are nowhere questioned (which a historian with the hindsight of the Russian history might well have done).
A further dominant feature of the book is the very exaggerated role of the KPD in the historic events (abdication of the emperor, resistance against the Kapp Putch)
The above critique is not meant to stay away from any marxist motivated history,
indeed Harman's The lost revolution is written from the same viewpoint but far better.
The best book on the German revolution imo is Richard Watt's The Kings depart. This book has the additional benefit of a very good description of the Versaille peace conference.
My advice stay away from "The german Revolution 1917-1923")