Why was the 3 5 compromise created

Basic Law and Parliamentary Council

The military defeat in World War I brought Germany the revolution and the first parliamentary government in its history. The new democratic system is based on the Weimar Constitution.

Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the republic on November 9, 1918 from the window of the Reichstag building. (& copy DHM, Berlin)
On July 31, 1919, the National Assembly adopted the Weimar Constitution with an overwhelming majority - against the votes of the USPD, DVP and DNVP - which came into force on August 14 after it was signed by the Reich President. It was largely based on the design by Hugo Preuss. A compromise was reached with the national symbols (Article 3): black, red and gold, the colors of the bourgeois-democratic national movement of the 19th century, became the imperial colors of the republic. The black, white and red colors of the empire were retained in the trade flag - with a small black, red and gold jack in the upper inner corner.

Central constitutional principles were popular sovereignty (Article 1), the separation of powers and fundamental rights, including, for the first time, civil and family law equality for women (Articles 109, 119 - see also page 37). In addition, the constitution brought together various structural elements from German and international democratic traditions: representative democracy with a government responsible for parliament, plebiscitary democracy with referendums (Switzerland) and presidential democracy with a strong, directly elected president (USA, France). German federalism was retained in a weakened form: the powers of the empire were expanded; the overpowering state of Prussia remained, but the office of the Prussian Prime Minister was decoupled from the chairmanship of the state representatives and from the office of the Reich Chancellor. Bismarck's social legislation was expanded considerably. However, the various constitutional elements, plebiscitary and authoritarian, did not result in a harmonious whole.

Plebiscitary and authoritarian elements

The fundamental rights were not a direct right, the powers (legislature, executive, jurisdiction) binding right (as in the Basic Law of 1949). Instead of being a guideline for legislation, they themselves only applied in accordance with the provisions of the law. An institution comparable to today's Federal Constitutional Court was also missing as the guardian of the constitution. Popular sovereignty found no equivalent in clear parliamentary sovereignty. Legislation was indeed a matter for the Reichstag, elected by the people for four years; and unlike in the empire, objections of the representatives of the state governments (the Reichsrat) could be overruled with a two-thirds vote of the parliament; but a referendum by ten percent of the electorate could force the Reichstag to pass a bill that had been submitted to it unchanged or to leave it to a referendum (Article 73). Five percent of those eligible to vote were able to force a referendum on a law that had already been passed by parliament if a third of the deputies demanded that the promulgation of the law be postponed by two months (Article 72). These additional possibilities of direct democracy called into question the competence of parliament, that is, representative democracy.

The Reich President, directly elected by the people for seven years, was endowed with such power at the instigation of the bourgeois parties that he was rightly called a "substitute emperor". He could dissolve the Reichstag almost at will ("only once for the same occasion") (Article 25) - a right that is unthinkable in the USA. Every law passed by parliament, with which he did not agree, he was allowed to submit to a referendum (Article 73) - a regulation never practiced, which nonetheless constantly threatened parliamentarism.

The Reich President appointed and dismissed the Reich Chancellor and, at his suggestion, the Reich Ministers (Article 53). All cabinet members needed the confidence of the Reichstag. This was a prerequisite as long as Parliament did not cast a vote of no confidence with which it could overthrow the Chancellor or a minister (Article 54). An election for Chancellor by the Reichstag, which would have strengthened Parliament vis-à-vis the government and both together vis-à-vis the Reich President, was not envisaged.

The Reich President represented the Reich under international law (Article 45) and had supreme command over the armed forces (Article 47). According to Article 48, Paragraph 1, he alone took measures (if necessary also military) against a country that violated the constitution or Reich laws (so-called Reich execution). Above all, he decided on the "state of emergency": if he found that "public security and order were severely disrupted or endangered", he was allowed to take the "necessary measures" in accordance with Article 48, Paragraph 2, that is, the military inside and even "temporarily" suspend the most important fundamental rights, namely freedom of the person (Article 114), inviolability of the home (Article 115), postal secrecy (Article 117), freedom of expression (Article 118), freedom of assembly (Article 123), freedom of association (Article 124) and Right of Property (Article 153). The Reichstag could demand the repeal of these measures with a simple majority (Article 48, Paragraph 3). An implementing law under Article 48, Paragraph 5, which would have eliminated the risk of abuse of the dictatorial powers of the Reich President, never came into existence. It is true that all orders and orders of the Reich President required the countersignature by the Reich Chancellor or the responsible Reich Minister (Article 50); but since the president was able to exert considerable influence on the formation of a government, a failure of this control instrument could not be ruled out.

Sociopolitical provisions



The council movement of the revolution found a certain echo in the constitution. Works councils, district workers 'councils structured according to economic areas and a Reich workers' council should be formed and meet with appropriate employer representatives to form district economic councils and a Reich economic council (Article 165). With the exception of the Reich Economic Council, they were not given political, but purely economic tasks. The supra-company councils should primarily participate in the implementation of socialization: Article 153, Paragraph 2, permitted expropriations "for the common good" on a legal basis, namely "against appropriate compensation, unless a Reich law stipulates otherwise". Since there were no longer any political majorities for socialization, these councils - insofar as they were formed at all - never achieved anything.

Compared to the empire, the welfare state made considerable progress. Article 159 guaranteed freedom of association (that is, freedom of social and economic association) and thus gave trade unions and employers' associations a constitutional right to exist and operate. Article 161 enshrined the social security system established by Bismarck in the constitution. In addition, Article 163 derived from the "moral" duty of the individual to work the obligation of the state to provide for the "necessary maintenance" of those to whom an "adequate work opportunity cannot be proven". This meant a constitutional mandate to set up a state employment agency and unemployment insurance. Last but not least, Article 146 laid down for the first time the "elementary school common to all", which still exists today, as the basis of the structured school system based on it - an educational policy construction whose unification tendency went too far for conservative critics and left not far enough for the left.

Despite its structural weaknesses, the Weimar Constitution formed a solid foundation for building a federal, democratic and social constitutional state. Which stress tests she would be exposed to and whether she could withstand them, of course, had yet to be proven.

Extract from "Information on Political Education", Issue 261: Weimar Republic.