Written: November 1944
Source: Socialist Appeal, vol. 6 no. 7 (November 1944)
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008
The Trade Union Congress (1944) has lined up with the Vansittartists in the most cowardly way imaginable. The kept capitalist press, from the Daily Mail to the renegade Daily Worker, has hailed with glee the attitude adopted by the T.U.C. against the German people.
One headline, taken at random, reads: “All Germans Guilty Says T.U.C.” (Daily Sketch). On a card vote of 5,056,000 to 1,350,000, the position of the T.U.C. bureaucrats was carried. Anyone who has the slightest contact with the miners, railwaymen and other workers knows that this resolution is a travesty of the feelings of the organised working class, and even of the more backward sections who are unorganised. But the T.U.C. claims to speak in their name although the workers in the unions were not consulted on this matter.
In the van of the pack, in full cry against German workers, was Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the T.U.C. He said:
“There is no dispute about the punishment of war criminals. The point of controversy arises over the responsibility of the German people as a whole…
“It was utterly impossible,” Sir Walter argued, “on the one hand to affirm the principle of restoration unless side by side with affirmation they realised that restoration must be done in the main by the German people.
“Assuming they accepted that reasoning, how in the name of heaven could they affirm that the German people were innocent? They would be punishing the innocent by compelling them—the people who they thought ought to be absolved from the blame—to make good the devastation and make some form of reparation.
“If the principle is laid down that it is just and equitable that Germany should make good the devastation,” Sir Walter declared, “It follows that the restoration must be done by the German people. What other doctrines can you evolve? I affirm that you will not know for years after the war precisely what measure of responsibility will devolve on any particular section of Germany.
“When the allies march into Berlin we shall find so many anti-Nazis that it will be very difficult to know who was carrying on the war in Germany. That is a contingency we shall have to prepare for… there is far too much mushy sentimentality about this question.
“Nobody has wanted to see signs of revolt in Germany more than I have. The T.U.C. has appealed to the German Labour Movement. While I would be the last to deny the bravery of individual German trade unionists, I cannot escape the conclusion that there has been no large scale organised resistance in Germany since the advent of Hitlerism. It is not pleasant for me to have to say that.”
The hypocrisy and humbug of this is positively repulsive. But it is likely that without the assistance of The Russian Trade Union bureaucrats, who were ‘fraternal’ delegates from the Kremlin, the T.U.C. bureaucrats would not have got away with it so easily. They used the prestige of the heroic Red Army and of the Russian Revolution for the filthy purpose of the imperialists.
The speech of Kuznetsov set the tone of the whole proceedings. It was the most vicious and chauvinistic of all. Betraying all the teachings of Lenin, he gave the most racialist speech of the whole conference. Deliberately and consciously, he identified the German workers and the German masses with their Nazi overlords; the crimes of Hitler’s S.S.—he claims—were the crimes of the ordinary German workers and soldiers. It was in this manner that he attempted to confuse the issue. From these racists there were no traces of the elementary ideas of internationalism, socialism, or even common human solidarity:
“The German fascist invaders must answer for all these fiendish atrocities,” Mr. Kuznetsov declared. “The Soviet Union stressed the fact that in the reconstruction of the districts destroyed, Russia would need very considerable help. It would be a good thing,” he said, “if all those infected with a feeling of leniency towards the fascists [let us remember he does not distinguish between the German people and the fascists] were sent for a short time to the territory where the German invaders ruled. If these people are honest, their soft hearts would, without doubt, become as hard as stone.”
All this deluge of anti-German propaganda is merely following in the wake of a campaign of race hatred and calumny that Goebbels would find it hard to beat. As he once waged a campaign against all Jews, so now the capitalist press here wages a campaign against all Germans. And this is not done unconsciously. Like Goebbels racial myth, this Vansittartism has a purpose. It is preparation for the bleeding of Germany. As the Daily Worker cheerfully headlines: “Germany must pay—say Soviet and British Trade Unions”.
One cannot read the pages of the Labour press, in particular the Daily Worker, without a feeling of shame that these traitors speak in the name of the working class and of socialism. They have violated every elementary idea developed by the great teachers of socialism. You can search the pages of Marx, Engels, and Lenin; even if one reads the old labour pioneers in this country, such as Kier Hardy, nowhere can you find anything that could be used to give even a shadow of justification to this criminal policy. How often have the teachers of socialism proclaimed that the working class of all countries have nothing to gain by war except misery and grief, hardship and death? The German workers have had their full share of misfortune in the present war. The ones who gain out of the war, as in every country, are the big monopolies and trusts, the Nazi hierarchy. German workers have gained no more out of this war than the British workers.
Instead of attacking the people really responsible, the criminals of finance capital, in Britain as well as in Germany, in Wall Street as well as in Rome, they attempt to cover up the real cause of war. And there is a sinister reason behind the support of the T.U.C. leaders and of the Stalinists for a “hard peace” for Germany. The ruling classes, as always, are not prepared to destroy private ownership of the means of production, neither in Britain nor anywhere else. They wish to protect private property in Germany—and thus the criminals responsible (together with themselves), for this war—and unload all the burdens of the war onto the shoulders of the German workers. Apart from the top leaders of the Nazi movement, not many of the real culprits in Germany will get their deserts at the hands of the allies. But it is to prevent them getting their deserts at the hands of the workers, soldiers and peasants of Germany that the capitalists are devoting their efforts. In this they are receiving the full support of Stalin and the labour leaders.
When Citrine, the new apostle of the barricades, demands of the German workers (from the safety of London) that they take action at the barricades; when the Stalinists, the new found lovers of constitutionalism and legality in all the countries of Europe, sneer at the Germans for accepting the rule of Hitler, that is a sight to make the gods laugh. The German workers will yet be on the barricades, as their French brothers have already been, not because of the appeals of these Pharisees and hypocrites—but in spite of them.
If the German nation has tolerated Hitler’s rule during the last five years, the responsibility for this rests directly on the shoulders of the Citrines, the Lawthers, the Stalins and the Pollitts. It was the German people’s fear of a new and worse Versailles Treaty of enslavement that led them to see no way out. Today, what holds the Germans workers back, when Hitler has lost what little support he did possess, is the “hard peace” which Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin promises them and which the T.U.C. bureaucrats confirmed at the T.U.C. conference. Goebbels has seized with delight the assistance rendered him by Messrs Citrine, Kuznetsov and Co. The T.U.C. resolution was broadcast throughout Germany to convince the German people that the fate of the Nazis and the fate of the masses are bound together. “Enjoy the war, the peace will be terrible!” is his latest slogan.
While the new fiery warrior, ‘Horatio Nelson’ Citrine, has put the telescope to his blind eye and proclaimed that he sees nothing, revolts and mutinies, strikes and uprisings, have been reported in various parts of Germany.
If we had to publish a list of even half of these events, the pages of the Socialist Appeal would be filled—and this from the carefully edited reports of the capitalist press.
To take a couple, the Vansittart Daily Mail, which can hardly be accused of sympathy for the Germans, reported in its issue of 12th October 1944:
“Industrial disturbances in the Ruhr and Rhineland were the main cause of the long telephone silence between Berlin and Stockholm according to travellers arriving here by plane from Germany. Affected centres mentioned are Dusseldorf, Cologne and Saarbrucken, but the trouble is believed to have spread further afield.”
On the 15th October, W.E. Mundy of the Telegraph reported under the headline “Peace riots stamped out in Ruhr. S.S. armed with tanks and gas”:
“The anti-Nazi demonstration in the Ruhr and Western Germany which I reported recently, and which flared up again last week prior to the five days Berlin-Sweden telephone silence, have caused Himmler to issue a savage warning.
“He has threatened to send tanks, machine-guns and tear gas to be used by fanatical S.S. youth against German underground factory workers, foreign workers and Wehrmacht officers inside the Reich who are trying to undermine the regime. ‘…Any new mutiny in the streets will be ruthlessly suppressed’.”
The same newspaper, on the same day, also reports:
“An unconfirmed report, broadcast by F.F.I. Radio Lyons said: ‘Riots have taken place in Berlin. S.S. troops were called and fired into a crowd demonstrating for peace. One small group of rebels routed an S.S. formation’.”
Citrine says: “We appeal to the German workers”. But what does he offer them? Churchill instead of Hitler? Churchill has always been the enemy of the workers everywhere. But, what is even more important, why should the German workers trust Citrine? He acknowledges the crimes of the German imperialists (so does even the Daily Mail), and the capitalists from the City of London, who financed and helped Hitler to power because it was profitable for them to do so. It is in serving these very same capitalists that Citrine does his dirty work. How easy it is for Citrine and Co. to point the finger of scorn at the German workers, yet he remains silent about the vile crimes of the British capitalists—every bit as bad as those of the Nazis!
In India 5 million died of starvation on the direct responsibility of Churchill and his class, and now yet another famine is imminent. There was not a word about this at the T.U.C. conference! Unlike the German workers, Citrine does not face the firing squads and torture chambers of the Gestapo, but yet not a word. Brave Citrine!
So what can the Indian workers think? And the German workers? Is it to this hypocrite they must hearken? The very idea is laughable. “Look not to the mote in the other man’s eye before you look at the beam in your own.” When your own hands are clean, Messrs Labour Leaders, you can accuse others. The Indian workers might just as well say that the British workers are responsible for the 5 million Indian dead, and for the thousands upon thousands murdered and imprisoned by British imperialists. But we know that the British workers are not responsible for these crimes committed in their name; no more are the German workers responsible for the crimes of Hitler. But Citrine and Stalin bear their share of responsibility for both. The gallant Kuznetzov and his companion had not a word to say about the atrocities committed under the British flag. They looked with equanimity upon the crimes that took place in India.
These people hope that the working class has a short memory. It is not so long ago that Molotov stated that fascism was a matter of “taste”, and that the Allies should cease fighting against the peace-lover Hitler. It was not so long ago that Pollitt and Co. were proclaiming:
“Hitler repeated once again that the war was thrust upon him by Britain. Against this historical fact there is no reply. Britain declared war, not Germany. Attempts were made to end the war, but the Soviet-German peace overtures were rejected by Britain. All through these months the British and French governments have had the power to end the war, they have chosen to extend it… war should never have been declared on September 3rd, there should have been negotiations and peace talks.” (Daily Worker, Editorial, February 1st, 1940).
Citrine is a good barricade fighter. The Daily Herald editorial on the T.U.C. remarked that the German people must be sternly dealt with, because “they quailed at the barricades.” But Citrine, too, must hope that the masses have short memories. Do you remember, Citrine, the T.U.C. Conference of 1935? Did you think you were speaking in the name of the British workers when, at Brighton in 1933, you said:
“All I can say is that a general strike was definitely planned and projected, but the German leaders had to give consideration to the fact that a general strike after the atmosphere created by the Reichstag fire, and with six and a half million unemployed, was an act fraught with the gravest consequences which might be described as nothing less than civil war.”
Thus Citrine justified the cowardice and treachery of his brother Social Democrat leaders in Germany for refusing to lead the German workers who were willing and eager to struggle against the Nazis. And this even after Hitler was in power. Faced with the same position in Britain we cannot doubt that he and his colleagues would behave in the same treacherous and cowardly fashion. Yet he and others of his ilk slander the German workers.
This is the real Citrine. Together with the Stalinists, you, Citrine, are responsible for the victory of Hitler; you betrayed the German workers then, as you are betraying the British and German workers now.
Citrine and Stalin do not want to punish the German workers because those workers do not revolt, but because they are going to revolt. They fear that the German workers will gain the support of the British workers. Despite the Gestapo and the S.S., the ordinary Germans fraternised with the peoples of Europe. Special orders had to be issued to the German soldiers threatening them if they fraternised with the population in Russia and other countries. In Russia the German soldiers gave their rations to starving women and children. They know that the British soldiers will behave in the same way in Germany. That is why new military orders have been issued threatening the Germans with punishment if they dare to get on friendly terms with Allied soldiers. But this campaign will be in vain.
A journalist writes in the Express fatalistically:
“How are you going to stop the British soldier from being friendly to the German civilians once he gets into Germany? I suppose it can be done, but it is difficult to see how. If nature takes its course, he will hand out his chocolate to the babies, and his rations and cigarettes to the hungry parents.
“I am only going by what has happened in Italy, and around a thousand prisoners’ cages all the way from here to Africa.”
The terrible thing is that the class conscious workers whose normal reactions would be those of international class solidarity are precisely the ones whose leaders—or rather ‘misleaders’—are leading them down reactionary paths. Instead of agitating among their more backward fellow workers on international lines of class solidarity, those workers influenced by Citrine, and especially by the “Communist” Party, propagate Vansittart doctrines. Therein lies the danger to socialism in Europe. Under these conditions the first duty and the first task of all genuine class conscious workers is to ceaselessly counter these vile activities.
British workers! Don’t be fooled! They are playing with your lives and your future. If you allow yourselves to help in the crushing of German workers, you are preparing the same medicine for yourselves.
Socialist workers! Do not listen to Citrine!
Communist workers! Do not be fooled by Pollitt!
Remember the teachings of the great socialist leaders. In the last war the German Junkers and Generals—like the British capitalists and Generals—plundered, burned, and murdered in Russia, just as the Nazis have done in this war. Yet Lenin always distinguished between two Germanys—the Germany of the workers and the Germany of the capitalists, and two Britains—the Britain of the workers and the Britain of the capitalists.
But the question will be asked: how is the ruin and damage to be paid for, and the reconstruction of Europe to be achieved? To socialist workers the answer is simple: Lenin’s way. Expropriate all the criminals responsible for the war, who sit not only in Berlin, but in London, Paris, and New York.
A socialist Europe, with the voluntary and enthusiastic co-operation of the German people, with the skill of German labour and German technique, would mean a new life for Europe, a new standard of living for the whole of Europe, and a new and higher culture for all of humanity. The German workers would gladly give their all in sacrificing and building for the benefit of all Europe. But a capitalist Germany, capitalist reparations, and a capitalist “hard peace” will bring nothing but hunger to the German workers. It will also bring hunger to the British, French, and other workers too. A perpetuation of hatred will mean new wars. The defeat of Germany does not end war; on the contrary, it prepares the way for new wars between the victors. If you do not destroy the cause of war and fascism—its parent, capitalism—these calamities will be inflicted with tenfold severity on the peoples of the world.
[Editor’s Note: This article was published also as a pamphlet (no date) under the title, “T.U.C. helps Hitler—Labour and Stalinist Leaders Betray the German Workers.”]