Source: Socialist Appeal, vol. 6 no. 2 (July 1944)
Transcription: Harry 2007
Markup/Proofread:: Emil 2007
The occupation of the Cherbourg peninsula gives the Anglo-American imperialists a point of support for the decisive struggle with their German antagonists. But the most striking aspect of the invasion of Europe has been the desperate resistance of the German soldiers and even the soldiers from the countries conquered by Germany, despite the overwhelming material superiority of the Allies.
Five years of war and three years of slaughter on the Russian front have created havoc within the ranks of the German army. Even the youth who are left are old and haggard, according to the reports of the News Chronicle. Wrinkles in their faces give an indication of the worry and suffering which they have undergone and are undergoing… Despite the hopelessness of their position, as the more serious capitalist press testifies, the fear of the results of defeat keeps them fighting doggedly and determinedly.
The capitalist press, particularly that section such as the Daily Mail and the Sunday Dispatch, which enthusiastically supported Hitler before the war, are demanding severe punishment of all Germans, whom they hold responsible for the crimes of the Nazis. In this, they are receiving full support from the so-called Communist Party and the labour and trade union leaders. Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt have been proclaiming that draconic measures will be taken against the German people after Hitler has been defeated. A peace of Carthage will be imposed which will make the Treaty of Versailles look like a benevolent Sunday school treat. This will be a peace similar to the monstrous “peace” which Hitler has imposed on the peoples of Poland, France and other European countries.
In the First World War, the ruling class of the Allied countries pretended to stand for the right of self-determination and democratic freedom of all countries. This policy was summed up in Wilson’s 14 points. At the beginning of this war too, the Allies proclaimed the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms as their aims, in contrast to the slavery which the prospect of Hitler’s victory would mean to the peoples of the world. In the last war, the real plans of the Allies were kept secret until the defeat of Germany, but now, openly, Churchill has announced that the Atlantic Charter does not apply to Germany. By implication he admits that Germany is to be carved up, big slices going to other powers. Thus the aims of the imperialists are cynically expressed.
That the imperialists can speak so openly is due to the policy of Stalin and the Labour leaders. Such statements in the middle of the last war, would have aroused a veritable storm in the labour movement of the entire world. The Stalinists and the labour leaders have become so degenerate that they have betrayed not only the elementary democratic rights of the peoples, but that internationalism to which they gave lip service in the past.
The capitalists have publicly been doing penance for their "generosity" to Germany after the last war. This time we must be hard, they proclaim. An examination of the Treaty of Versailles would demonstrate the real nature of their fine philanthropy to beaten foes. Germany was stripped of Alsace-Lorraine, which was handed back to France; the Saar was handed to the virtual control of France for 15 years; Eupen-Malmedy was handed over to Belgium and Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark; a corridor of Polish territory was created in the living body of Germany which separated East Prussia from the rest of the Reich. All her colonies, in which she exploited the colonial peoples, were taken away from her and the lion’s share was seized by Britain. These territorial changes bled Germany to the limit. Alsace-Lorraine and the Saar were among the main iron and coal-producing centres of Germany. Their loss crippled her.
But not content with this, the Allies demanded even more. Germany’s merchant marine was confiscated. Her Navy, rather than surrender to the Allies, was scuttled. Reparations were demanded which even the more sober capitalists pointed out, it would be impossible for Germany to pay. It was completely beyond her economic capacity. On top of this, unilateral disarmament was enforced on Germany. The Rhineland was forcibly demilitarised. To complete the picture of the tender way in which Germany was handled by her victors, it should be pointed out that the blockade of Germany was continued long after the armistice was declared, and 1,000,000 German children died from lack of milk as a result.
Versailles meant to the German people hunger, misery, starvation and degradation. Following on their merciless exactions from Germany, Britain and France occupied the Ruhr in 1923 because Germany was unable to pay reparations. As a consequence there was a terrible inflation which ruined the workers and the middle class. The mark dropped at the height of the inflation to the figure of about 12,000,000,000,000 to the pound. This meant insecurity, hunger, want and misery for the overwhelming majority of the population in Germany.
In this war, as the result of the increasing contradictions of capitalism on a world scale, the aims of the Allies make this savage Treaty seem like the milk of human kindness. Instead of the Polish Corridor cutting off East Prussia from the rest of Germany, the problem is to be “solved” by handing over the rest of East Prussia to Poland. And so with the claims of the rest of the countries overrun by Hitler; instead of the fantastic figures of reparations demanded from the Germans last time, new figures which stagger the imagination are being worked out. Russia alone is claiming ten to twenty times the figures of Versailles. Lenin referred to the Versailles Treaty as a robbers’ dictated peace which would sow the dragons’ teeth of new wars; what would he have called this super Versailles?
Now it is these same architects of disaster who have the audacity to blame the German workers for their own crimes.
The war and the terrible destruction, coupled with the wonderful resistance of the Red Army, have created the beginnings of a new mood among the advanced German workers. Had Stalin offered an International Socialist alternative, with the brotherly hand of co-operation to the German workers and soldiers, the Red Flag would have already conquered all Europe. Nevertheless it is impossible to hold back the wheel of history. In spite of the assistance rendered to Hitler by the policy of Stalin and Churchill, the German workers are beginning to move. It is doubtful whether Hitler will survive 1944. The unbearable tension is being reached which led to the revolution of 1918. The German workers are preparing to revenge themselves for the crimes of Hitler and the Nazis.
To quote from two reports received by the International Transport Workers Federation:
“A trade unionist who speaks German fluently; returned in April from a two years’ stay in Berlin as a foreign worker, which he undertook in order to study German conditions. He reports that in a factory where he was employed, the forty German workers included two Nazis, two Communists and three Social Democrats. The other German workers were all opposed to the Nazi regime, but did not want to hear of the old parties… The report went on to say that the workers now express their opinions frankly and are inclined to sabotage and ca'canny [deliberately working slowly - Editor.], but would not yet risk a strike.
“…Reports which have come independently from four German districts tell the same tale. Clandestine Soldiers’ Councils are said to have formed in these reserve battalions. They have even begun to act. They started quietly by protesting with success against the cancelling of warm meals; this was how the revolt in the Fleet started in 1918. The reports make it clear that these Soldiers’ Councils have a political aim, as have those which were formed a good ideal earlier in Norway.”
The Allies know this mood of the German workers and that is why they are attempting to poison the minds of the peoples of Britain, America and the Soviet Union against all Germans instead of distinguishing between Nazis and their capitalist backers, and the German workers.
They will not succeed. The workers of Germany and Europe will find their way to the programme of the Fourth International. They will fight for a Socialist Germany in a Socialist United States of Europe and the world.