From New International, Vol.XII No.6, August 1946, pp.168-172. [1*]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Lieutenant General Clay, the American Deputy Military Governor of occupied Germany, plans to evacuate the zone of American troops some time in 1948. By that time, he estimates, the overall policy of America toward its zone will have been fulfilled. What are these objectives? The General states them as follows: destruction of Germany’s military potential; completion of demilitarization and deindustrialization; restoration of democratic processes; creation of a provisional central German government accompanied by the abolition of the four zone system.
The military mind is fond of summing up matters in simple stages of bureaucratic formula. Behind the many reports of the American military authorities lies the story of the ruthless destruction of German industry and productive capacity, in line with the original Morgenthau-Baruch scheme. The basic objective of America is to destroy the competitive capacity and ability of a nation that threatened to be its greatest rival in the struggle for control of the world market. Everything else – “democratization,” education, propaganda, etc. is secondary and subordinate to this aim. The gradual resumption of German export trade, forecast by the head of the Military Government economic department, gives us the story in another form. Today, German export life is nil, but clearly there must be some export life in the future, if only to be applied against necessary food imports to prevent starvation. What export trade is contemplated? “Textiles, lumber, potash, certain medicines, light metal goods, cameras, carbon brushes and miscellaneous articles.” In a word, the products of light, minor industry; things not dependent upon heavy, basic industry, and clearly of such a nature as not to compete with American export trade.
In the American zone, the resumption of industrial life is on the lowest of all levels. In November, 1945, General Eisenhower boasted that such had been the success of his administration that he had reduced production to ten per cent of its prewar level! Almost one year after its victory over German imperialism, the United States has successfully prevented, in its zone, the resumption of mining; reconstruction of the ruined cities and transport systems (for which heavy industry is indispensable); resumption of manufacture of machinery, assembly work, etc. Only that industrial activity unavoidable for primitive economic life (milling, canning of food, handicraft repair shops, etc.) has been tolerated (not to mention those light, skilled industries, the products of which – cameras, cookoo clocks, pottery, leather goods, ceramics – our American occupation officers and troops are especially fond of).
Of the great IG Farben plants, 22 out of 42 in the American zone have been destroyed or dismantled for reparations. This complex monopoly of the German chemical, dye and munitions industry formed the heart of industrial life in the essentially agrarian sector occupied by American imperialism. Seizure, dismantling, distribution among the smaller powers  – such is the fate of German industry at American hands, belying the complaints from some quarters that America is “soft and friendly” to German industrialists. The ranks of the unemployed in the American zone constantly mount, facilitating the reactionary drive to force the skilled German workers back into farm life, handicraft and “luxury” industry. Hundreds of thousands of ex-Wehrmacht men wander about, idling in the countryside or the cities, gazing reflectively upon the ruins of a nation that would require several decades of unrelenting work to rebuild. But American imperialism has destroyed a rival and must keep that rival inert. The whole struggle in the American sector will unfold around the issue of the right of 22,000,000 people to live, produce and rebuild their ruins. The bitter reality of our occupation policy in Germany is summed up in the following food value table of what has been recommended by American medical authorities, and what actually is:
But have we not brought a democratic regime to our portion of Germany? Every village and hamlet is plastered with placards, announcing the right to enjoy free speech and press, to form democratic trade unions, to organize political parties, etc. Are we not gradually turning back the country, after free elections, to control by the German people through elected representatives? Have we not freed the masses from the curse of the rabid Nazis, by persistent elimination of such types from public life?
Much has been already reported on the concrete functioning of the American administration. The validity of the many criticisms – top-heavy bureaucratic machinery that does not function; arrogance, ignorance and incompetence on the part of the American officers; failure to carry out directives and proposals, etc. – is undeniable and attested to by the most conservative of reporters. The general swinishness of the American occupation heads, symbolized by the late General Patton (popularly known to the Germans as the new Mad King of Bavaria!), is only accentuated by the attitudes of the occupation troops themselves, living in their walled oases of plenty amidst the general German misery. A secret survey of AMG recently revealed the real dislike and hatred that exists in the population toward the Americans. This report also claimed that “mention of a new Freikorps or Feme had been frequent and that it was expected in many quarters that the desperation and idleness of youth would have violent consequences.” The discovery of an organized Hitlerjugend resistance network proved the validity of this report and, in itself, contains a damning indictment of the American administration because the very fact that organized resistance takes on such a reactionary, chauvinistic, ultra-nationalist form (despite the fact that the mass of Germans are utterly through with Nazism, in an ideological sense) testifies to the general feeling regarding the occupying power. If American imperialism, in its German administration, had carried through its alleged democratic aims, such a movement as the Hitlerjugend, symbolizing an effort to revive a political tendency that brought total destruction to the German nation, would not dare lift its head. Today, in the general apathy of the Germans, Nazism revives, feeding on stagnation and economic misery.
But these criticisms of our American liberals and churchmen are superficial in character, evading the real question. The Fourth International, on the contrary, states categorically the right of the German people to full independence and self-determination. The American Workers Party demands the withdrawal of our occupation troops and the return of German government to its people – that is, not reforms in the military administration, but its abolition. In the given situation of Germany, the alleged “democratic” reforms are meaningless, forms without substance.
The right to form trade unions is granted, but these unions cannot carry on the class struggle, i.e., go on strike. Furthermore, in the general poverty of the area – mass unemployment, lack of significant productive activity, lack of food and commodities in general – the traditional role of unions in fighting for improved living conditions becomes largely meaningless. Fight for higher wages? But there is nothing to buy!
The right to form political parties and vote for candidates of one’s choice is granted. But only those parties approved by AMG can be formed; that is, quisling parties that agree to accept the occupation. Furthermore, the AMG concept of political democracy belongs to the Jacksonian era of frontier townships and the New England doctrine of selectmen councils. The right of a German village to elect a group of men to deal with trivialities has nothing to do with the right to settle broad issues involving government, economic reconstruction, etc.
We could go down the list of democratic “rights” allegedly granted to the Germans and discover the same “catch” attached to each. The very existence of AMG invalidates the premises of political democracy, even from the standpoint of traditional liberal doctrine.
In summary then, America occupies its section of Germany in an imperialist fashion, destroying an economic and commercial rival, reducing 22,000,000 people to a primitive level of existence, robbing a territory of its resources and industry for the benefit of its general imperialist policy and throwing back a great area into an agrarian, pastoral stage that implies retrogression and stagnation in all fields. There is not a single feature of the American occupation that cannot but be condemned as reactionary. In this general respect, the American zone takes its place with the French, Russian and British zones.
“At the contemplated level (of rationing) they foresee a sharply accelerated death rate, widespread hunger and rickets, as well as the possibility of epidemics resulting from malnutrition. Furthermore, it will hamper even minimal industrial recovery. Production in the British zone has fallen ten per cent since the ration cut.” (UP report)
“The Ruhr is producing less than a fourth of its pre-war capacity of 2,500,000 tons (of coal) a week and German mines are not meeting essential army requirements ...”(New York Times)
Many a liberal journalist and ambitious American military governor has admired the alleged skill, experience and efficiency of the British as administrators of foreign territories. A more accurate portrayal of British imperialism is offered by Trotsky. “The English bourgeoisie has been trained to mercilessness by all the conditions of its insular position, its Calvinist moral philosophy, its colonial practice, its national arrogance.” (Whither England, p.187) The two reports quoted above are more realistic appraisals of alleged administrative ability and efficiency. British imperialism, occupying the former industrial heart of Germany, acts no differently than the other powers – that is, it seeks to fulfill the concrete objectives of its program, to fit its German sector into the imperial world struggle for commercial and economic survival.
The Labor Government wants British-Germany to produce because it conceives of the Ruhr and its industrial remnants as a factor of assistance in its commercial battle with America. Not that the coal and steel taken from Germany can offer direct competition to America, to be sure, but rather for their value in the effort to revive European economy and thus reestablish the trade of the smaller countries with England and lessen their dependency upon American “charity.” Thus, for example, the bulk of Ruhr coal production now goes to France (with whom the Labor Government is anxious to form an alliance); Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Luxembourg. This production is considered a basic force in the strategy of building up England’s desired “Western bloc” in Europe. It accounts for the differences between British policy and Russian, French and American policy, so far as the survival of German industrial activity is concerned. But this policy is no less ruthless toward the German bourgeoisie, with respect to the latter’s continued existence, than that of the other occupying powers. In fact, the elimination of the great Ruhr steel and coal monopolists has been complete, including the placing of these gentlemen in jail! In January, 1946, the British Military Government expropriated without compensation the coal and steel industries of their sector, placing itself in the position of complete owner of all properties; under British control and management. The former owners are now in jail facing trials as war criminals. To make things perfectly clear, the British Military Government followed up this action by extending it to all properties in their zone and taking control of all industries completely out of German hands. Thus, in. effect, the British zone approximates more closely a colony in the traditional sense of the word than do the other zones. The basic aim of these actions, we repeat, was to most effectively employ German coal and steel in the struggle for European influence against America and Russia. It was the unique method dictated to British imperialism in its difficulty. Simply stated, it was a necessity to produce coal to compensate for the still ominously declining English coal production.
Was the effort successful, By no means. The entire population of Europe went cold this past winter, while even France failed to register gains in return to industrial life. The Ruhr is producing 25 per cent of its capacity, while reconstruction of bombed pit-heads and steel mills has not even started. Output, of course, is much below the pre-war standards. German miners, lacking proper nourishment, proper equipment and protection, are not effectual – plus their knowledge of the fact that their country receives virtually nothing of what they dig.
The whole future of the Ruhr area is, of course, a bone of bitter contention among the imperialists. But Britain will not lightly give it up, even at the expense of its desired alliance with France. Far more important for us is the future of the 11,000,000 Germans who inhabit the Ruhr, 5½ million of them in the great cities of the inner Ruhr. (Essen, Wupperthal, etc.) What is their future under British rule?
The recent decision of the Central Control Council fixing steel production at below 6,000,000 tons yearly and preventing the regrowth of industry by constant inspection of plants constitutes a terrific blow at the workers of the Ruhr. The Ruhr employed approximately 1,000,000 workers in iron and steel, plus 2,000,000 in allied industries. Less than half of this proletarian concentration of 3,000,000 will find work under the imposed schedule! A British intelligence officer predicts that perhaps 5,000,000 will be affected. “What do you think will happen in the Ruhr next winter with perhaps 5,000,000 people deprived of jobs and security? What do you think they will turn to”? And he answers his own question by predicting a fierce resistance movement. (New York Times, January 26, 1946) A German Social-Democrat, working for the British, states matters more effectively.
“The Allies are now setting up conditions which twenty years ago fostered nazism and which, if they continue, inevitably will force German youth into some new expression in militarism and fascism ... You cannot teach a man to be a democrat by taking away his job and his future and threatening him with starvation.”
Thus we see that even British imperialism, the sole power among the four that has any interest, from its own narrow standpoint, of reviving German economic life, is incapable. of doing this within the broader arena of the general occupation and subjugation of the German nation. In the most highly industrialized and wealthiest section of Germany rules a power that desires to utilize, to its own advantage, these benefits. But so thoroughly retrogressive has imperialism become, in all its forms, that this area threatens to surpass all the others in the depths of its misery for the population. Hunger and unemployment are what the “devoted and selfless” British administrators offer to their colonial wards, backed up by the armored units at their disposal. Their rule differs in no essential aspect from that of the other powers.
“... German industrial capacity after reparation removals should be physically capable of producing a standard of living equivalent to the European average in, say, 1948. Given the difficult problems of administration and economic organization which the German peacetime economy will still face in 1948, It may be doubted that industrial equipment remaining in Germany at that time will in fact produce at full capacity, so that the standard of living realized in Germany is likely for some time to fall short of the European average.” (State Department declaration on Germany, December 11, 1945)
We have examined in summary form the administrations of the various zones carved out of the German nation. Although each imperialist occupant pursues radically different methods of exploitation within its zone, all have much in common – pillage and robbery of German wealth and resouces, denial of independence and meaningful democracy, imposition on great masses of an unwanted, oppressive regime. The differences in the working out of each powers’ plans varies strictly according to the unique, special interests of that power. At Berlin, through the medium of the central Allied Control Council, the four powers attempt to minimize these differences, and work out a coordinated plan for common exploitation of the 66,000,000 remaining Germans.
Despite their differences, despite their failure to achieve any coordination between the four zones (in terms of the trade and commerce proposed in the Potsdam agreement), the Big Four have no difficulty in devising a common attitude toward the Germans. This may be summarized as follows:
Naturally, this getting together can only be on the backs of the prostrate German nation, as the following chart of Germany’s future life indicates:
Here we have, in essence, the story of the destruction of Germany’s means of production.
The German people today constitute a subjugated nation, cast back by world imperialism into a state of division, decentralization and overt national oppression. Lenin’s characterization of the Versailles Treaty and its consequences as a “national humiliation” of the German masses is a hundred-fold truth, applied to the Potsdam Treaty. Any starting point in evolving a political program for the future of Germany must, if it is to have any realistic orientation, begin with the right of self-determination for the 66 million Germans. That is, the categoric declaration that the occupation must cease, the troops of the occupation must be withdrawn, the artificial division into four zones must be done away with, and the right of the Germans to create their own, freely-elected government must be re-established. Or, to put it differently, every principle, method, tactic or means employed by one and all of the four occupying powers must be cleaned off the slate.
The broken-up Germany of today, with its ruined economy, has often been compared with the Germany of Napoleon Bonaparte’s time, subsequent to the 1848 revolution, when the process of national unification began to move forward. Naturally, there are certain resemblances, but the differences are more basic. Despite its familiar vacillations on the issues of unifying Germany and fulfilling the democratic revolution, the German bourgeoisie of that period was an up-and-coming class, with an economic and political future ahead of it, and an expanding world economy within which to move about. Today, this bourgeoisie is largely destroyed and has no future but one of quisling-subservience to more powerful bourgeoisies of foreign nations. The preliminary problems of the German revolution therefore, – i.e., those problems posed anew to the people as a direct consequence of the war disaster (unification of Germany, winning of national independence, reconstruction of a national economy, solving of the agrarian question, building of a democratic government, etc.) – these democratic problems can only be handled and solved by the masses of German people themselves: the workers and the peasants. The remnants of the German capitalist class cannot play any part in the mobilization of the German people for resistance and national freedom. This is precisely why the growing-over, the continuation of the future popular, democratic revolution into its socialist phase, under clear-cut leadership by the German workers, may be expected to take place rapidly, but this expectation does not avoid the necessity of understanding that Germany must pass through a period of mass, popular, unformed, confused national resistance (in the style of the French resistance movement) in which an independent class movement of the proletariat can establish itself and in which the German revolutionary vanguard must wholeheartedly participate. Talk about a “coming German revolution”; ultimatistic demands for the “hegemony of the German proletariat”; slogans of soviets and the like, is abstractionist misunderstanding of the entire situation in Germany today.
The question is one of grasping the fact that (a) a gigantic resistance movement, a nationalist movement centering around the issue of a Free Germany will inevitably develop as the first phase of post-Hitler German history; (b) that a revolutionary group and a revolutionary party must openly, willingly and unashamedly take its place in such a movement, accepting its broad slogans and objectives as its own, while – it goes without saying – advancing proletarian class hegemony and the socialist program as the ultimate means of achieving these objectives, assuring them and moving ahead. This point of view was advocated by the Workers Party during the period of the occupation of France by the Nazis; it is familiar to readers of our press and we shall not repeat it here, except to state we consider it even more applicable to Germany today and tomorrow. It is the point of view of the German section of the Fourth International (IKD), those comrades to whom falls the concrete task of working out this approach in living practice.
A manifesto of International Solidarity with the German Proletariat (Fourth International, January 1946), signed by ten European sections of the Fourth International, proclaims “we are for self-determination of the German people.” But this manifesto of elementary solidarity with and support to the German workers in their struggles nowhere tells us what this means! The whole document is so written and weighted that it seems to be addressed to a proletariat engaged in a sharp class struggle with its own ruling class; certainly not the doubly nationally oppressed workers and peasants of occupied Germany. Its abstract granting of the right of self-determination is negated by everything else, summed up in the final slogan of “Long live the German proletarian revolution!” Furthermore, while continuing to support the slogan of “the right of each people to self determination”, the European Secretariat of the Fourth International at the same moment “rejects as it did during the war the idea of a ‘democratic national’ revolution through which the struggle of the revolutionary proletariat must first pass, drawing behind it the national masses, before it can develop on the basis of its own socialist program and finally wind up with the proletarian revolution.” (Internal Bulletin, SWP, Vol. VII No.3, February, 1946)
And here is exactly the point that makes this whole approach so unreal and dogmatic – what proletarian movement? We already have given some details on the status of the German worker – his defeat, his confusion and groping, his preoccupation with the struggle to survive. Even the thesis of the European Secretariat mentioned above recognizes this, in part. “On the day after the military defeat, the material and human premises for all important revolutionary activity by the masses in Germany were already lacking.” A modest understatement of reality, but more important is the further admission that “the rebuilding of the German labor movement will henceforth reflect the progress of the revival of the country’s economic life, of the integration of the proletariat into production, and the amelioration of the new repressive regime of the occupying forces.” But, as we know, the exact opposite to this has taken place – that is, the economic life of the country has sunk lower, the proletariat has become more dispersed and more unemployed, while the repressiveness of the regimes has hardly diminished! Therefore, the problem before the German workers is the same, only more so, as it was “on the day after the military defeat" – namely, “the rebuilding of the German labor movement!” That’s the point, not resounding phrases about proletarian revolution, etc. – all addressed to a working class that has yet to re-establish its elementary forms of bare economic struggle. The proposals of the Fourth International with regard to Germany are just as empty of meaning, as hopelessly sectarian as were their proposals to the French movement during the period of the Resistance.
But what about the German workers? Are they to submit themselves to the middle-class democrats, to follow along behind this amorphous national movement for a “democratic” Germany? Of course not, but we must recognize the point from which the German worker starts out today. He is not the French worker, who lived under Nazism – and then, only in an indirect form – during a short period. The first steps of the German workers – the formation of the new unions – are halting steps, in the effort to find the best form of organization for the future. It is the hesitant step of an infant movement, not the revival of German classic trade-unionism. It is in the struggle to live, the assertion of his right to live, that the German worker will find his class independence, it cannot be imposed by manifesto. Correctly, the German proletariat will fight for retention of the national industries; for operation of those factories that remain idle; for a revival, in general, of economic, industrial and commercial life. Work, food, shelter, reconstruction, educational possibilities, recreation, etc. – it is through the concrete working out of these problems that revolutionists will aid in the reformation of the German labor movement and, by that fact alone, gain its independence as the spearhead and clearest section of the national resistance movement. The Communist Party, recognized by most workers as an instrument of Stalinist imperialism, has less appeal in Germany than anywhere else in Europe. The way is clear for a genuine workers’ party, providing it understands the tasks of this period. “If the Allies create a situation in western Germany in which there is no hope for a decent economic future, they will in the long run create a situation where any party with dynamic leadership and a program which promises economic betterment can gain great strength among the industrial workers who are most affected.” The situation has been created, not only in western Germany but in all of Germany. Drew Middleton, the shrewd New York Times reporter, understood this; now the Fourth Internationalists of Germany must prepare for its fulfillment.
1. The United States has not yet begun the delivery of the 15 per cent surplus plant equipment promised to Russia under the Potsdam accord – a convenient excuse used by the Russians for their continued seizures of plants in their zone!
2. Seventy billions Marks in circulation (December 1945), as compared with six billion Marks in circulation (1933).
1. Henry Judd was a pseudonym of Stanley Plastrik.
Last updated: 13.1.2009