Federal Republic of Germany’s Political System


The German armed forces surrendered to the British and United States armies on May eighth, 1945 at Rheims in France and o the Red Army outside Berlin. This capitulation was unconditional and the consequences of this surrender to the German politics in the Western part of the country is the subject of this paper. An obvious thing is that the political history of Germany including its unity in the nineteen ninety must encompass its political, economic, and social success. From the moral and material destruction of Germany after the second world war came its reinvention which was partially based on the former German nation. Gradually but with sure steps, it acquired a striking position not only in modern Europe but also in the world. A deeply democratic West Germany, 40 years after its inauguration, had emerged to be so strong politically, economically, and internationally that it could quite literally overtake the communist and undemocratic East German State. Since its unity, Germany has exhibited remarkable confidence and purpose which has grown with each passing year. To see the kind of changes that Germany has experienced, a comparison of its current position with the rubble in nineteen forty-five of what was the Third Reich is necessary. Through this, how the Germans practiced their politics and the extent to which it has realized major advances will be brought to the fore.

German politics after nineteen forty-five had a past characterized by Nazism even though the context in which it was expressed is difficult to express within the realm of German politics. One reinvention of Germany was based on the ‘people’s community, a core concept of Nazism which was seen as extending beyond social class and even political boundaries of the Reich in nineteen thirty-seven. The Nazi governance, characterized by the chaotic order of an institutionalized arrangement, depending entirely upon the personal orders of Hitler, failed to survive its design. One apparent fact is that even though the institutions may have become obsolete, the Nazi legacy still dominates the political life of Germany, even though there is no common consensus on its true nature or magnitude concerning what became of German politics after its defeat in 1945. There is still no consensus about the position of the reinvention of the Nazis within the context of German politics and whether Nazism is merely an inevitable entity that would have befallen any nation.

To most observers, Nazism was not accidental, that is, it never came out of the blue. They generally agree that it was a culmination of failures that marred the German political system in the years before nineteen thirty-three. About the impact of the Nazi policies on the holistic life of the Germans in the period succeeding nineteen thirty-three, there is a general agreement that it was so wide that the world has come to understand its complete effect just recently. What has escaped the comprehension of many people is the inherent racism of the Third Reich. What is clear is that the Germans loathed the Jews with remarkable strength which is something that any liberal-minded individual would consider backward and irrational. The degree to which this hatred toward the Jews was made formal and institutionalized to establish a German state which was thoroughly racist was most of the time glossed over mainly because the racism exhibited by the Nazis was murderously irrational (Pulzer, 2003).

The Bonn Republic

Of the five processes which led to the establishment of the Bonn Republic, the second and probably the most important one was the policies pursued from nineteen forty-five to nineteen forty-nine by the German victors. The occupation of Germany by the Western Allies went on in various forms until it became united in the nineteen ninety. The security of West Germany was basically in the hands of the Western Allies which included West Berlin. The Bonn’s Republic’s uniqueness came as a result of the occupation by the allied forces even though there was an attempt at cooperation instead of occupation. With this regard, the most distinct changes in the political development of Germany were those that were realized during the years when it was occupied by the allied forces. As such, it was made not by the Germans but by those who had engaged Hitler’s Germany.

The Federal Republic in the West was shaped mainly by the Americans while in the East; the Russians were responsible for the construction of a model German state. With this regard, both internal and external German interests and affairs were framed and defined by the occupiers. This was concluded after a decade with various exceptions theoretically. Practically and in reality, whatever was created took at least two generations. The first stage of occupation was characterized by a punishment paradigm. The fragments of Hitler’s racist supporters together with the state which they had established was countered by the creation of a punitive and colonial system that used a new legal system to criminalize this population. As such, the system established by Hitler was utterly criminalized. Once this was achieved in the best way that it could, the second stage was begun. In the eyes of that west of Germany, the second stage was characterized occupation which was to be constructively resulting in cooperation and finally partnership. A democratic political structure began to be imposed by the western allies on the Germans. This included the establishment of political parties and structures which exhibited the ideals of democracy. The complete impact of these actions cannot however be estimated as whatever was done did not come as a result of any new invention. As compared with other German states, West Germany was different even though it was neither British, American nor French.

The German political life was experiencing a massive political change. This was being furthered by the allied forces which happened to be the German conquerors, the Americans, British, Russians, and the French. Within the German domestic affairs, there was a wide and active foreign interference dominated by the French, British, American, and Russians, a phenomenon that was unique in Europe especially for the states (Mecklenburg, 1990). The process however went through a substantial redefinition by nineteen forty-nine in the western section of Germany. What had begun as a punishment and revengeful instrumentalism evolved into something synonymous with cooperation between partners. The western section began to be considered as a viable component of a western liberal collection of states. This had both political and economic motives. Behind this, the Soviet Union was seen as a threat by the West as they saw it as likely to change the status quo in Europe, and as a precaution against such a dangerous development, it was necessary to create the state of West Germany. Even if the British, French and the Americans still had hopes of establishing a single German state whose purpose paralleled their particular interest, they all decided that the only way of achieving this was to seek the consent of the Germans instead of coercing them. As much as the allied forces had wished for entire Germany to act as a barrier against the Russians after nineteen forty-five but before nineteen forty-seven, they came to accept that the barrier would go across Germany instead. The implication was that the Western German state was to be integrated as part of the West. The German political leaders needed to root for a German side in the whole process following the system which was now being constructed by the allies in western Germany. With the punitive stage of occupation now concluded, the Western Allies were sincere in their hope of seeing a trusted Germany exercising democratic power (Crosby, 2008).

One of the most outstanding political figures in Germany was Adenauer. His central goal was to attach meaning to the idea which dogged the Germans of a reinvented Germany which was to be integrated into the West. Domestic liberalism was one of the key components of his reinvention. This domestic liberalism was to be based upon economic and political liberalism. A clear policy of military and economic cooperation with the allied powers was to complement this component of domestic liberalism. The course of German political development was radically changed by this move. The foundation had been established by the occupation. The plot had been staked out, so to speak. The basic materials and part of the building had been supplied by the occupation. However, the complete work was left for the Germans and thus, it was the work of the Germans to effect and let it stick. Inherently, the government of West Germany pushed aside the German solution to the German problem and instead adopted a Western approach.

By nineteen fifty-three, the majority of Germans had accepted this kind of political management thereby altering the course of German political development. The turning point had turned. Soon, whatever was created appeared so well built and developed that the majority seemed to have forgotten the difficulties which were involved in the construction. Reinventing German democracy and upholding the rule of law was one thing and establishing an independent West German nation while at the same time tying it to the West was another. Adenauer managed this in both economic senses through the Monnet Plan and political sense by rearmament and treaties. Konrad Adenauer as the Chancellor in nineteen forty-five developed a straightforward design. He aimed to break the formal barriers which made the Federal Republic unequal partner by persuading the Allied Powers to allow them the status of an equal partnership as soon as it could be done. The making of a complete German state was based upon this precondition.

What was to be known as West Germany was established. This came in the period between nineteen fifty-five and nineteen sixty-three. Domestically, the values of affluence and respectability among the bourgeois dominated and all West Germans could share in the same provided that they were ready to work hard. A strong currency supported this and hence was worth sweating for. However, West Germany’s wealth did not surface overnight even though it was concrete by nineteen sixty. The ruling class quickly adopted Rhenish capital values. The economy began to do well as consumerism began to take off. Ordinary people could now afford few luxuries even as they started to consume serious quantities of food.

The reinvention of Germany can be attributed to Adenauer. The task of his predecessors was to guarantee the political stability and economic prosperity of the nation. With the departure of Adenauer, the state did not collapse. The reinvention of Germany by Adenauer after the defeat and the subsequent occupation proved the strength of West Germany both economically and politically. This is evidenced by the fact that it managed to absorb the German Democratic Republic in the nineteen ninety. The only modification was the relationship between the Soviet Union, East Germany, and the Federal Republic of Germany. As much as this represented a remarkable change, the move was meant to stabilize the state of Bonn hence making the final touches to the newly found Rhenish pseudo-state.

The system of government that was created by Adenauer, the occupying allies, and CDU/CSU was a heavily resilient construct mainly because of their success. A secure and democratically desirable environment around the public life of Germans was created by the federal structure coupled with a consensus politics which was highly popular. The rising standard of living together with an admirable economic strength also added to this security and acceptable democracy. However, this system could not promote change. Achieving political change through what was being looked at as conventional democratic means or through the results of elections was difficult. Achieving the same through undemocratic means was utterly impossible. With this regard, the Bonn system was very different from the Weimar system. Various observers have seen the increasing demand for consensus politics as indicating the move towards convergence. That is, the West German parties are moving one another. In a very limited sense, this holds some truth. In the actual sense, the electorate rewarded the Social Democratic Party for being more like the Christian Democracy and not the convergence per se. From the Social Democratic Party to have an upper hand in influencing national policies both at home and abroad, they rightly saw that they had to embrace some of the basic tenets of Christian Democracy.

By the time Adenauer was retiring from office, the process of the reinvention of Germany as a nation in the West had been complete. This was achieved through integrating the Federal Republic with the Western system of politics. By not being open to the possibility of squaring and politically settling with East Germany and the Soviet Union, the possibility of revising the borders of Europe was however open. As much as Adenauer hoped for one German state that exuded every feature of the Federal Republic, he was opposed to the idea of one state that was likely to be un-Western and neutral (Borr, 2007). In his perception, this was the only conceivable and realistic alternative politically to two Germanys. He was portrayed as a revisionist by his refusal to come to terms with the impact of the Second World War on the eastern side of Europe. The war also resulted in Europe being a more dangerous place as there was a possibility that someday that the Germans will attempt to change the status quo of the two German nations through the employment of armed force.

This was the main reason why Americans had agreed to seek more consensus with the Soviet Union, as opposed to the position of Adenauer during the period of the Cold War. Americans aimed to avoid as much as possible the chances of a nuclear confrontation to erupt and hence sought to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union. The stewardship of the affairs of West Germany affairs by Brandt can only be weighed against the backdrop of the needs of the Soviet Union and America. Such a settlement was exactly what Willy Brandt provided for West Germany. He sought a policy that would build a strong relationship between West Germany and the Communist States especially the German Democratic

Republic and the Soviet Union. The aim of this policy about the subsequent unity of the German states is however not clear.

When Helmut Schmidt assumed the Chancellorship of the Republic of Bonn, a nation was born. As such, the nation of West Germany was created. His Federal Republic won much reputation and as such, Schmidt can be likened to a managing director of a good business enterprise here referred to as West Germany. Schmidt was more of a manager than a politician when he was in office. This brought many advantages to the Republic. First and foremost, the politics in West Germany became more concerned with the management of the issues which arose rationally, investing more energy on the issues which had to do with economic growth. Again, successful management was given more credence than political maneuvering or imaginative theorizing. What was increasingly becoming important for the Germans was the economic prosperity that their pseudo-nation?

When Kohl took the Chancellorship, he could best be rated as a second-rate Chancellor despite being a first-rate party individual. The middle phase exhibited and produced a remarkable verdict for the West Germans. The third phase that included his success in the unity elections in 1990 and the subsequent victory in the 1994 elections produced a different judgment. With the elections, Kohl came to be considered the modern-day Bismarck. Kohl might have been abandoned by the Christian Democratic Union had Germany not reunited. Kohl viewed himself as Adenauer’s heir. What he meant was that he was committed to furthering the values of the reinvented Germany with all its Western liberal values. He followed in the footsteps of Adenauer by reinventing Germany along the paths of unity in his way.

As much as he wished that the new Republic of Berlin would retain the characteristics of the old Republic, only larger, this was to remain just a wish. The model Germany as perceived by Adenauer did not run from its course. As such, it maintained what had been laid by him forty years after the foundation was laid. Kohl’s contribution was his determination to pursue the course which had been set earlier considering that it was on offer. Some of his critics argued that his achievements were reactive. That is, he only delegated on what had been historically founded and established and thus gained their momentum based on the historical developments.

Politics in East Germany after the War

The primary concern of the allied forces was the reintroduction of democracy in Germany during the final stages of the war. As such, their purpose was to reintroduce political parties that exhibited the values of democracy. However, the first to reestablish political parties within their zones was the Soviet authorities. On June tenth, nineteen forty-five before any directive could be issued on the Western zone, they had ordered the formation of political parties. Besides rooting for control in their zone, they also wanted to influence the western zones through mobilizing a leftist movement within the emerging clusters of parties that could be strong. The Communist Party of Germany was established on the eleventh of June in east Germany under German leadership.

The leadership of this party for the most part had lived in Moscow for several years. Its Chairman was Wilhelm Pieck. Before long, the Social Democratic Party of Germany under Otto Grotewohl was reconstituted. It was imminent that the Social Democratic Party would be the dominant leftist movement in east Germany making the Soviet authorities impose a merger between the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party in the April of nineteen forty-six thereby leading to the establishment of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. The control of this party was basically in the hands of the Communists. Resistance to this merger surprisingly came from the Western zone specifically led by a long-standing Social Democratic politician by the name of Kurt Schumacher who was also imprisoned during the Third Reich. During the Weimar Republic, Schumacher had been a member of the Reichstag. The rebuilding of the Social Democratic Party in the western zone, as a result of the opposition to this control by the Communists, took an entirely different turn.

The goal of SED was to maintain the look of a political force that the masses could identify with, the mode of its governance being the member’s active participation. It could also compete when regional elections were being held with other political parties. To capture the electorates especially after it failed to acquire the majority in the October nineteen forty-six elections, the SED adopted a different mode of playing politics. As indicated, the party wanted to gain popularity and hence had to find ways of attracting the electorates so that it may be in a position to influence policies. An Anti-Fascist bloc comprising of all political parties was created by the leaders of SED to introduce democratic order in the east. Any proposal, regardless of the party it emerged, could be vetoed by the SED from the very onset.

This did not take into consideration whether the proposal agreed with the ideals of the party as they conceived of the socialist society. The effect was that two other political parties allowed to operate within the Soviet zone got purged of their leadership, hence realigning their party programs in support of the goals of SED. The two parties were the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany and the Christian Democratic Union. These parties represented different factions of the society as the interest of the middle class was represented by the Christian Democratic Union while the liberal political tradition of Germany which can be traced back to the late eighteen forties was represented by the Liberal Democratic Party.

In 1948, groups that did not have any specific political parties to represent their interests came to identify themselves with two additional bloc parties that got established in East Germany. These two parties were the Democratic Peasants Party of Germany and the National Democratic Party of Germany. The purpose of the Democratic Peasants Party was to set the farmers ready for land reforms that had been planned and hence required extensive nationalization. The National Democratic Party of Germany on the other hand was to reintegrate the right-wingers into a socialist society. This was the group that included the former members of Hitler’s party and the veterans.

The western Social Democratic Party contrasted so much with their eastern counterparts since they resented the principles of communism. The bitter hostility by the western Social Democratic Party towards communism especially during the time of the Weimar Republic was reflected in this attitude. The reestablished party under Schumacher reflected on the remarkable history of establishing better conditions of work for the middle class within a framework of parliamentary democracy. Even though the SPD resented communism, the leadership saw the party as Marxist and hence was committed to furthering the ideals of a socialist economy. As such, the SPD wanted to create a neutral socialist Germany placed between the Russian dictatorship of the east and the capitalist and democratic societies of the west. It managed to build on its expanded membership comprised of the working class which predated the Third Reich.

The political standings after nineteen forty-five seemed to be hard for the conservatives owing to the past disintegrations along the lines of denomination and region. The ills that the conservative Catholics and protestants suffered during the reign of Hitler led to the unifying of their parties under the banner of the Christian conservative party. This party was to represent those individuals who were opposed to communism and socialism but held the values of traditional middle-class Christians. Initially, numerous regional political organizations formed in various towns but on the sixteenth of December, they united under the name of the Christian Democratic Union. The programs of the conservative movement were largely influenced by the members of the Christian labor unions at their initial stages of development. They supported and rooted for the control by the state of various principle industries even though they were not opposed to the concept of private ownership. During the period of the nineteen fifties, the party came to be dominated by market-oriented policies integrated with a strong social component (Ploppon, 2005).

The Christian Social Union founded in October 1946 by the Bavarian Christian conservative organization maintained its name after the establishment of the FRG. As compared to the CDU, this party followed a party-line marked with conservative ideologies. As much as the political unification of Christian conservatives was marked with difficulties, consolidating the liberal movement after the war was more difficult. The liberals had been fragmented traditionally into conservative national liberal faction and a more western-oriented liberal movement. Some die-hard liberals could not embrace other ideologies. Aversion to a planned economy was the common factor that tied all the party groupings.


The political development of Germany after the war took a different turn especially after it was divided among the allies and the Soviet Union. The course which its political development took was shaped by the occupying forces. The western powers aimed to build a west Germany which reflected on the ideals of democracy as they had perceived it while the Russians also wanted to build a model Germany based on communism. As such, the political development in the two Germanys entirely took divergent paths. However, with remarkable effort, the two Germanys finally united.

As was indicated in the introduction, Germany’s reinvention as the Bonn state came to be largely viewed as an ordinary German state even though it can be considered as far from ordinary and very special when set against the previous German states. The question which one is bound to ask is whether the German state as established within the western framework will stand the test of time now that Germany is today a nation. Germany, as it is today occupies a unique political position in Europe especially with the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has a massive population and is very wide. Within Europe, Germany has more borders than any European nation and its neighbors are increasingly being dependent on it economically.

Owing to these reasons, Germany is increasingly being forced to engage deeply with both eastern and western Europe. The basis of unity was the political values of the west manifested in the Bonn Republic. As such, the new Germany is affiliated or belonging to the West. The way that Germany is being governed currently exhibits a discrepancy in any formal systemic change. But if the nature of Germany is being altered, there is a need to structure its politics to adapt to these changes accordingly. As had been indicated, the west fashioned the old Federal Republic to integrate into their system and this became successful owing to the geographical position of the state about the west. Today, it is very difficult that the reinvented Germany has the same identity as had been established by the western powers as the world has changed remarkably, and hence there is a need for it to devise ways of accommodating such changes which call for the development of an independent identity. With this regard, difficult questions about the nature of the new German’s national interest must be asked: its foreign policy and the position of its political life. All these are interconnected.

Work Cited

  1. Borr, (2007) Adenauer’s Vision for Germany. A Nation Reestablished. Springer Publishers.
  2. Crosby, (2008) The Making of a German Constitution. A Slow Revolution. Homeland Press
  3. Maclenberg, (1990) German Essays on Socialism in the Nineteenth Century: Theory, History and Politics. Blackwell Publishers.
  4. Plopped, 2005) Politics in the East: Communism in Germany. Brent Publishers.
  5. Pulzer, (2003) Jews and the German State: The Political History of a Minority. Oxford University Press.