HISTORY 322 Chapter 0: War from below

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7 Feb 2017

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The War From Below
1. While battles raged in the war zones, The German interior was placed under a state of
siege, and every shade of opposition was subject to the threat of repression.
2. Home front and fighting front were in constant touch with each other.
a. Soldiers were mostly civilians in uniform; women were present on the front line
as nurses and they were fighters in the daily battle for food, fuel, and medicines.
3. The food question
a. Food shortages were an essential part of the German war experience, especially
for those living in the major cities.
b. The Allies would form blockades, which disrupted the food being imported into
Germany, the rationing and price controls failed to ensure a constant and
equitable flow of supplies while creating the ideal conditions for a flourishing
black market, and the increasing food shortages were also illustrated by the
growing dependence of the urban food on public soup kitchens.
i. The blockades prevented sea-borne imports from reaching Germany when
they were needed to replace falling food production at home, and also had
an indirect impact on domestic output by denying German farmers access
to fertilizers.
1. However, the problem was the war, not the blockade, in that it took
away soldiers and horses from the countryside, impeded normal
transport and distribution networks, forced the government to
invest in heavy industry rather than agriculture, and consumed
large amounts of food for the army.
c. By October of 1915, there was a wave of urban food riots in Germany, which
were often led by ‘women of lesser means.’
i. This gave new ideas about citizenship and democracy, including the
importance of female as well as male participation in the public sphere,
and the role of relations of consumption as well as production within the
economic system, came to the fore.
d. The Reich government responded in two ways:
i. It created a range of new agencies which actively intervened in the
production, distribution and pricing of food, lending legitimacy to some of
the protestors’ demands without actually solving the food crisis itself.
ii. Secondly, it sought to shift the blame for the shortages onto Britain and its
‘perfidious’ attempts to encircle Germany and strangle its economy.
e. Ordinary people began to shift the focus of their anger towards the state
authorities who were responsible for the continued mishandling of food
distribution and pricing, and by extension, for the mismanagement of the war
i. The resulting tension was to turn urban consumers against rural producers,
and ‘women of lesser means’ against government bureaucrats, helping to
forge new and volatile alliances which cut across traditional class and
political allegiances and ultimately led to a catastrophic breakdown of
trust between government and people.
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