Ted Grant

The Ruhr Statute

Source: Socialist Appeal, February 1949
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008

The new “Occupation Statute” which is to be applied to Germany gives control of the Ruhr, the powerhouse of Europe, to the British, French and American imperialists. In its provisions, it is far more drastic than the Treaty of Versailles.

It reserves to the Allies the right to control the Ruhr industries, the manner in which the products are to be distributed, the level of production and exports. The Military Security Board on which British, French and American representatives will sit, will exercise control and inspection of Western German industry in order to prevent rearmament of any sort. The international control of the Ruhr extends to cover management and production as well as distribution of coal, coke and steel. Steel production is to be limited to 10,800,000 tons as compared to pre-war production of 22,500,000 tons. It is intended that the Military Security Board and control of the Ruhr will remain after the occupation is terminated.

The Ruhr Statute is a compromise between Anglo-American imperialism and France. The French wish for a rigid national oppression of Germany as a guarantee against her revival. The Anglo-American bloc is divided between the need to limit Germany as a competitor and the desire to use the Ruhr as a base for the future struggle against Russia.

Bitterness in Germany

The masses in the Western Zone have reacted vigorously. The German political parties have pointed out that only this one area is to be singled out for international control. Carlo Smidt, Social Democrat, protested that “there could be no German democracy if the country’s economic life was not one of self determination. The German worker, he said, had three times been robbed of Socialism since 1918.” (Times, January 9th).

The disillusionment in the policy of the Allies has resulted in a wave of nationalist sentiment. In the Ruhr, bitterness has reached its height over the dismantling of the Bochumer Verein steel works. The military Government succeeded in prevailing on a few to undertake the work of dismantling this great factory. But the mass opposition of 11,000 engineering workers at the plant resulted in even some of the few labourers who could be prevailed upon to undertake this work, refusing to do so. These workers have now been sentenced to short terms of imprisonment.

Stalinists try to recover lost ground

The Stalinists are endeavouring to make capital out of the situation. As a result of their policy in Berlin, the treatment of German prisoners of war, the brutal expulsion of the Germans from Poland, the annexation of East Prussia and part of German Silesia by Poland and Russia, the behaviour of the Red Army in Germany, and the policy of reparations in Eastern Germany—all these led to a loss for the Stalinists in the West of Germany. In the municipal elections last year they lost nearly half their comparatively small vote. In the recent election they lost every seat they held on the Executive of the Miners’ Union.

To recover some of the ground lost, the Stalinists have denounced the Ruhr Statute as an imperialistic attempt to annexe the Ruhr, and have commenced an agitation demanding the immediate conclusion of a Peace Treaty and the withdrawal of all troops from Germany. They have denounced all who accept the Statute as quislings.

Max Reimann was arrested for a speech inciting action against the occupation powers. He has been sentenced to three months imprisonment.

“He branded the occupation Statute as a new colonial law imposed on Germany. We shall fight until our beloved German people have been liberated from foreign imperialists and those in Germany who work with them.

“When he declared that the Americans have annexed the Ruhr through the Ruhr Statutes, there were excited shouts from the audience in the hall, punctuated by such remarks as ‘They have no business to be here,’ and ‘String them up!’ ” (Times, January 3rd, 1949).

This does not, of course, deter the French Communist Party from whipping up French nationalist feelings and demanding the most stringent measures for control of the Ruhr.

In an endeavour to escape some of the odium surrounding the Russians in Germany, the German C.P. in the Western Zone has been formally separated from the Socialist Unity Party.

Such is the mood in Eastern Germany, that 10,000 illegal immigrants are moving from the Russian into the British Zone each month.

“According to their own statements, the refugees have left the Russian Zone for political reasons or for personal safety. In the younger age groups hundreds are taking this course rather than find themselves conscripted for labour and directed to work in the uranium mines in Saxony. This influx of refugees to the British Zone is going on continuously and according to official sources no end to it can be foreseen for the present.” (Times, January 5th, 1949).

Concentration camps have been established in the Eastern Zone for malcontents and a purge has been instituted in the Socialist Unity Party against so-called “agents of the Social Democratic Party, spies and saboteurs in foreign pay.”

“Severe measures” to “overcome the passive attitude of a section of the members” were announced towards the end of last year by the Socialist Unity Party.

Having established a totalitarian regime which violates the elementary precepts of workers’ democracy, the Socialist Unity Party has issued a statement over the names of Pieck and Grotewohl, accusing the British Military Government of having “trampled every democratic principle underfoot.” The Times ironically reports:

“The emphasis on German national sovereignty and territorial integrity has caused some questioning, even in Communist ranks, about the Oder-Neisse line. One Party spokesman argues in reply that Germany is actually better off for the loss of its Eastern Provinces and that the most productive countries are the most densely populated, Holland and Belgium being named in particular. Today’s Berliner Zeitung asked Germans to accept the Oder-Neisse line as ‘a frontier of peace’. ‘The imperialist powers,’ on the other hand, ‘are tearing Germany limb from limb’ and are interested not in frontiers, but in fronts—in fact, in raising a front in Western Germany against ‘the democratic peace’.”

In the struggle between west and east, it is not excluded that a temporary compromise may be reached between America and Russia, in which the Russians may even get the concession of a seat on the Board to control the Ruhr. In this case, the present opposition of the C.P. would change instantly as the policies of the Stalinists have zigzagged in the past.

British fear competition

The British are seriously concerned about the danger of cheap German goods once again flooding the world market.

Mr. Harold Wilson, President of the Board of Trade, arranged a meeting with shipbuilding and engineering employers and union leaders for February 2nd to consider the question of competition from Germany and Japan. “If German firms dumped goods in this country action could at once be taken with the controlling authorities,” said Wilson. The Germans are beginning to prepare for a drive for the markets of the world which is bound to clash with the intensified British export drive.

The Daily Mail editorial on January 24th says:

“Some German goods are selling at 40 percent less than comparable British goods in foreign markets. The average wage in Germany is £3 3s. a week, as against the average of £6 14s. in Britain. This gives the advantage of cheap labour to the German industrialists. In preparation for this drive, lavish catalogues have been sent to the West free of charge by German industrialists. The articles mentioned in the catalogues include jewellery, cosmetics, electric clocks, wrist watches and precision instruments, cameras, lamp shades, leather goods, furniture and objects of art.”

Dr. Ollrath von Maltzahn, Chief of the Anglo-U.S. Zone Foreign Trade Department at Frankfurt, has pointed out that West Germany’s exports in 1948 were nearly treble the 1947 figures. “Britain will have to recognise us as a competitor for world trade,” he said.

Failure of Labour Government’s Policy

In a sane Socialist society, far from limiting production, it would be increased to the utmost capacity. But the great powers fear above all, commercial competition based upon Germany’s superb industry, and the revival of her military might, Germany’s industrial potential offers the perspective of the greatest danger to rival capitalist countries; it offers also the greatest possibilities for the working class of Europe if harnessed to a democratic Socialist plan, integrated in a Socialist United States of Europe. Here is where the Labour Government is failing in its foreign policy. A reduction of the standards of the German masses constitutes the gravest menace to the British working class. In their own interests the British Labour movement must reject the scheme to chain Germany, of dismantling the German factories and the paying of reparations. The demand for the rights of self-determination for all peoples applies to Germany as to all other countries in any Socialist policy.