FOR some months there had been signs of the thunderstorm which burst over the German parliamentary system in the middle of July and made inevitable the elections which are to be held about the time this appears in print. It is impossible to understand the full portent of the crisis by itself. What forces, social and political, have been pushing the German Parliament along its road to self-destruction? On July 16 the Reichstag empowered the cabinet to cover the deficit in its budget by an emergency measure. Two days later the same Reichstag demanded the revocation of these emergency measures. As a result, the Reichstag was dissolved, and the proposed financial policy of the government is being carried out by presidential emergency ordinances.
These events have caused widespread agitation, both in Germany and abroad. The situation which has arisen has been freely characterized as a dictatorship. Such an interpretation will challenge the closest attention of all those interested in popular government. In order to obtain a satisfactory answer to the many questions which arise, we must first analyze the antecedents of the present situation as well as the situation itself, and then consider the use of dictatorial powers in popular governments generally.
At first glance it is striking that these tendencies toward dictatorship should have appeared immediately after the evacuation of the Rhineland, for the occupation had been a serious impediment to free political action on the part of Germany. Comments in Paris have not failed to emphasize this fact and to point out the threatening radicalization of German political life. It ought to be recalled that the Young Plan has eliminated another grave liability from German politics at least for the time being. It is a curious paradox that the very groups which, under the leadership of Hugenberg, attempted to sabotage [i]