Ebert assumed the title of People’s Commissar, which he further bestowed on several of his revolutionary friends, the Socialist leaders of Berlin, and began to govern. The energy which they all, especially Gustav Noske, displayed in the next few days in keeping down the Spartacists, grown too insolent, might have served as an example to Prince Max. But, careless of what happened in Berlin, the prince was on his way to Baden, whose dynastic interests seemed to him far more important than all the destinies of the empire. Whomever Kaiser Wilhelm II had cared to select, in that fatal October 1918—general, diplomat, civil servant, or deputy—none could have served him worse at the critical moment than this neurasthenic prince whose egotism and family interests entirely outweighed his sense of duty. Prince Max, however, had miscalculated in supposing that he could save himself or his house. He lives today as a private citizen on Lake Constance.
But our new masters were equally unfit to govern. Most characteristic of their mentality was the speech from the Reichstag steps, delivered by Scheidemann, an ex-imperial state secretary, who, in proclaiming the Republic, began his oration with the following: “The German people have won all along the line.” A stupid lie! And a very cruel piece of self-deception! No, alas, the German people had not “won”—it had been conquered, overpowered by a host of enemies, wretchedly misled politically, reduced by famine, and stabbed in the back!
To any unbiased spectator of these events, to whoever watched it all in the one hope that the German nation might not perish, these first days of our republic were days of the return to chaos. Children could scarcely have done worse. The new regime was so constituted that the Council of People’s Commissaries (Rat der Volksbeauftragten) gave an equal number of seats to the Majority and Independent Socialists—the SPD and USPD. Two mandates, therefore two executives! Such a system had never been seen, since the two quæstors, two consuls, of ancient Rome, which certainly did not resemble modern Germany! And above the Council of People’s Commissaries reigned the Executive Committee of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, in whose hands lay the real power. In modern art, as it is called, there was for a time a certain vogue for dadaism, whose aim was a complete return to the lispings and gurglings of sucklings. The beginnings of the German Republic were a kind of political dadaism. Such phenomena as [Hermann] Müller made their appearance. Müller had been nicknamed “corpse-Müller” for declaring that there should be no more Reichstag elections, unless they were held over his dead body. Herr Müller is today in the best of health, yet since he spoke his memorable words there has been more than one election to the Reichstag.
The socialist left was all for suppressing the Reichstag out of hand and replacing it by workers’ and soldiers’ councils, though even this suggestion was not original but a miserable, servile copy of Bolshevik Russia. [Theobald von] Bethmann[-Holweg] from the very start had given an antitsarist turn to our war propaganda, and every fool had applauded him. Now our own people, like apes, could only try to imitate forms of government set up in Russia by the Bolsheviks, and unworkable even there on such a passive herd as the Russians.
In Prussia there were two ministers for each department: the one majority (SPD) and the other (USPD) Independent Socialist. Konrad Hänisch and Adolf Hoffmann were the simultaneous ministers of education. The first had risen from the ranks by becoming cavaliere servente to Rosa Luxemburg, then he had sloughed off his communist skin and by degrees emerged a moderate socialist. He was moderate when I made his acquaintance. He seemed not a bad sort of fellow, jovial and very good-natured, the usual dyed-in-the-wool Bohemian, certainly without wide and delicate culture, and still less with any profundity of thought—the ordinary half-educated mind. His political Siamese twin, the Berlin publican Adolf Hoffmann, was at least what Countess Terzky in Schiller’s Wallenstein desires her stepbrother to become, that is, a truly self-integrated personality, since he never cared to bother about such trifles as bad grammar in a Reichstag speech. On the premature termination of his ministerial activities, Hoffman became the spokesman of revolution on the Municipal Council of Berlin, and for years he set the tone of that assembly. The Berlin city leaders hurled invectives; at moments they even came to blows, while from every tribune there were catcalls, stink bombs, and similar intellectual weapons of the young republic. [ . . . ]