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The Enabling Act (German: Ermächtigungsgesetz) was a 1919 law passed by the Reichstag that granted Reichskanzler Georg Michaelis (and indirectly Erich Ludendorff) the ability to pass laws without a vote, and banned all socialist parties in the German Empire. The signing of the law was an important part of the establishment of the Ludendorff dicatorship, which would last until the Osthilfeskandal of 1923.

Ludendorff Michaelis

Ludendorff and Hindenburg (left) meeting with Michaelis (right).

Text of the Act

Law for the Preservation of Order and Safety in the German Empire

  1. In addition to the procedure prescribed by the constitution, laws of the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich.
  2. Laws enacted by the Reich government shall be issued by the Chancellor. They shall take effect on the day following the announcement, unless they prescribe a different date.
  3. All political parties proclaiming their subscription to the socialist ideology, calling for collective ownership of industry, or the dissolution of the monarchy, are hereby declared illegal organizations. Membership in such an organization is a criminal act, with a penalty to be determined in the future.
  4. This law enters into force on the day of its proclamation. It expires with the end of hostilities with the British Empire, the French Republic, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Montenegro, the Kingdom of Serbia, the Kingdom of Greece, the Portuguese Republic, the Kingdom of Belgium, and the Empire of Japan.

Background

The November Insurrections severely frightened the German public. With the Russian Civil War still raging and the French army strikes in recent memory, fear of a revolution in Germany was growing. Seizing the opportunity, Ludendorff met with Michaelis on the 10th of November and "requested" that he present a bill that would ban all left-wing parties and institute rule-by-decree. The Social Democratic Party was not included in the ban due to Ludendorff knowing of its popularity and their signing of the "preservation of order" telegram to OHL and the Kaiser following the end of the November insurrections.

Aftermath

Wels

SPD member Otto Wels protesting the signing of the Enabling Act.

The law was presented to the Reichstag on the 12th of November, and a day of fierce debate followed. For a time it appeared the bill would fail, as even members who favored a ban on socialist parties objected to giving up control over legislation. Michaelis repeatedly promised that the law would be dissolved at the end of the war, and ultimately the Enabling Act, as it had become known, was passed into law on the 14th. Only the Social Democratic Party remained unswayed and voted against it.

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