The Question of Democracy between the Two World Wars: The Case of the Constitutional and Political Crisis of the Weimar Republic and the First Republic of Austria
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The article compares the causes of the crisis in democracy in Austria and Germany between 1930 and 1934, focusing especially on the constitutional and political problems of both countries. The break with the parliamentary system led in Germany to the emergence of the Nazi regime after Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933 and in Austria to the outbreak of civil war on February 12, 1934 and the formation of the authoritarian regime (the ‘Estates state’) of Engelbert Dollfuss. Various factors caused the collapse of democracy in Weimar and the First Austrian Republic. Besides long-term processes such as economic instability and the Versailles system (which are not a part of this analysis), decisive mid-short-term factors behind the demise of democratic structures included the weakness of the constitutional system and the political culture. The article concentrates on the following factors analysed: anti-democratic parties (NSDAP) and groups that after 1918 had not completely lost their relative power (the military and industry in Germany; the high-ranking bureaucracy in Austria), and extraparliamentary groups such as the Freikorps and Heimwehr. The second part of the article analyses the role of conservative elites in the decisive transformation phase from democracy to dictatorship after 1930 in Germany (presidential regime) and in Austria during the Dollfuss period from 1932 to 1934.
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