Socialism and German Unity
Written: Autumn 1954
Source: Original International Socialist publication, no date, presumably Autumn 1954
Transcription/Markup: Emil 1998, Harry and Francesco 2008
Proofread: Emil 1998
The gathering movement for the rearmament of West Germany has aroused a deep concern among the masses in this country. There is alarm and fear not only within the ranks of the working class but even the middle class and politically conservative elements have reacted in fear of the consequences.
Within the labour movement both those who oppose and those who support the rearmament of German imperialism all accept the same assumptions as the basis from which they draw their conclusions. The sole responsibility for the terrible slaughter and destruction of the two world wars is laid on the shoulders of German militarism. It is this propaganda and the fear of the Third World War looming ahead in the future which has disorientated the mass of the labour movement.
The workers look with dismay at the terrible sacrifice in blood and suffering by which the defeat of German imperialism was accomplished in the Second World War. Is all this to be in vain? Is there to be a new nightmare repetition of the bloody sacrifices and destruction? That is the question which is at the root of the outcry and opposition of the rank and file. Industrial workers, mothers of families, have been swayed into an outburst of anti-German feeling perhaps even more bitter than during the war itself, so far as the working-class movement is concerned.
The [Labour Party] National Executive Committee and the Parliamentary [Labour] Party have adopted a position of “statesmanship” which echoes the propaganda of the government and the capitalist class, which they try to disguise as “internationalism”. On the other hand the left wing, under the leadership of the Bevanites, hold up their hands in horror and, having started from false premises, land themselves in the position of nationalist self-righteousness and anti-German chauvinism(1).
Neither of these approaches can serve the needs and interests of the workers of Britain, Germany, or of the world. Without a class approach to the question, a fundamental understanding of the absolutely irreconcilable antagonism between the interests of the working class against the capitalist class, nationally and internationally, a false attitude on the question is inevitable. It is not a question of nation against nation but of the working class against the capitalist class in a struggle in which the interests of the workers of Britain are the same as those of Germany, of Russia, of America and of the world. If these fundamentals are kept in mind then it is not so easy to be swayed towards the support of capitalism at home or abroad.
The history of the last fifty years, of the two world wars, is a history of the crisis of capitalism. The wars were not caused by the wickedness of the Kaiser or of Hitler but the insoluble contradictions of capitalism. Not only was German imperialism responsible but the imperialism of France, Britain, and America, and the criminal policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia as well. The fairy tale that Germany or German imperialism alone was responsible for the war is a pernicious falsehood intended to cloud a real understanding of the issue of war or peace.
An armed Germany is no more and no less a menace to peace than an armed France, an armed Britain or an armed America. The policy of the capitalist class of all countries is not dictated by love of democracy, freedom or peace but purely by the needs and interests of the ruling class. Nor is the policy of the totalitarian Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia and her satellites dictated by love of socialism but by the needs and interests of the clique in control in Moscow and the other capitals.
The defeat of German imperialism in the First and Second World Wars did not usher in a period of peace and tranquillity for the peoples of the world. The period between the wars was a period of uninterrupted clashes between the great powers, even if of only a secondary nature, of which the Second World War was only the culmination. In fact, leaving the small wars in Kenya and Malaya aside, this is the first year since 1931 in which a major conflict is not taking place.
The defeat of Germany, Japan and Italy, contrary to the promises of the Allies, did not open up a new epoch of peace and prosperity to the peoples of the world but, on the contrary, long before the question of German rearmament had arisen as a practical problem, inaugurated the worst arms race in the history of the world, dwarfing into insignificance the military preparation of Hitler before the Second World War.
New submarine devices, rockets, ever-more deadly hydrogen bombs and other fiendish methods of destruction are being prepared every day. The arms programme of Russia, of Britain and America, represents a colossal expenditure of the substance of the peoples of these countries, thus exposing the hollowness of the claim that German capitalism alone was the cause of the First and Second World Wars.
The idea sedulously disseminated during and after the war that the German people, and above all the German working class, are naturally militarist, does not bear examination. No more than the workers in Britain are the workers in Germany supporters of militarism and of war. The idea that the German workers were supporters of Hitler is a travesty of actual developments in Germany.
The responsibility for the victory of Hitler and all its tragic consequences for the workers of Germany and the world was directly that of the leadership of the trade unions and Social Democratic Party, and of the so-called Communist Party in Germany. The German workers tried with all means in their power to overthrow German capitalism. The First World War ended with the revolution of 1918, which overthrew the Kaiser and could have been the starting point for a socialist development in Germany. However, the leaders of the Socialist Party conspired with the General Staff and frustrated the efforts of the masses to carry through the socialist revolution. The result was reaction which culminated in the attempt of General Kapp to seize power in 1920 and establish a military dictatorship. The reply of the masses was a General Strike which paralysed the militarists and forced them to capitulate.
At this period the forces of Nazism were impotent and did not play a significant role. In 1923 again, with the occupation of the Ruhr by the French, and the incapacity of Germany to pay her reparations, a new crisis developed in which inflation not only beggared the conditions of the working-class but wiped out the savings and ruined the middle-class in Germany as well. The working-class swung radically to the left and the possibility existed of the Communist party seizing power. The leadership of the Communist Party, under instructions from Stalin, failed to take advantage of this and the revolutionary opportunity was lost. Nevertheless reaction was so weak that Hitler’s attempted coup in Bavaria 1923 was ignominiously dispersed by the government forces.
However, the forces of capitalism, taking fright at the danger of socialist revolution in Germany, poured hundreds of millions of pounds of investment into the country in order to stabilise the situation. American, British and French capitalism all participated in the pouring of loans into Germany for this purpose. Thus between 1924 and 1928 was the heyday of democracy in the Weimar Republic. The forces of reaction were not needed by the capitalists, who were making huge profits from the economic boom. The workers and the middle-class were content after the stabilisation of the mark with the crumbs of reform which the Trade Union and Labour movements were allowed to win for them. As late as 1928 there was a coalition government in Germany of the Social Democrat Muller together with the Catholic Centre Party.
This was the period similar to the boom which the capitalist world and Britain and America are passing through at the present time. Then came the slump of 1929. Germany was harder hit than any other country in the world. In the period of the boom her industry had been re-equipped and rationalised. By 1928 her industry alone could have supplied the then entire markets of the world. With the slump German industry was brought to a standstill. Unemployment in the course of the slump rose to 7 or 8 millions, the conditions of the working-class were reduced almost to starvation level and the unemployed in particular were reduced to destitution. Meanwhile the slump ruined not only the working-class, but the middle-class as well. The working-class was split by the insane policies of the Communist Party of so-called “Social Fascism” which declared the labour movement the immediate enemy of the working-class.
In the meantime the desperate middle-class, not finding a way out of the Labour movement, turned in despair to the Hitler demagogue. Financial capital, seeking a way out of the capitalist crisis, saw the only road to salvation in the destruction of the Trade Union and Labour movement. They poured millions into the coffers of the Fascists. Even then the situation could have been saved by a united front of the workers’ organisations. But the labour and trade-union leaders on the one side, the Stalinists on the other, carried out policies of fratricidal struggle which reduced the working class to impotence in the face of the fascist threat.
However, despite the myth sedulously fostered in the movement by the Stalinists, Hitler never succeeded in gaining a majority of the German people. At the last free elections in 1932 the open capitalist parties received 4 million votes, the Social Democrats and Communists together over 13 million, the Catholic Centre Party over 4.5 million and the fascists 13.7 million votes. This was the apex of the Nazi movement. A few months later while the vote of the working-class parties remained the same the Nazi vote dropped by 2 million. It was in this situation with the threatened break-up of the Nazi movement that the capitalist class handed power to Hitler in January, 1933. Even then the victory of the Nazis was not assured.
Had the leadership of the Socialist and Communist Parties and the trade-union movement gathered together for resistance by a general strike, and had they been prepared to face the issue of civil war, Hitler would have been crushed by the working class. The workers were well armed and organised in the Republican Defence organisations, and in the fighting organisations of the Communist Party. They were better armed than the British Home Guard in the Second World War.
The Nazis had the declassed criminal element and the scattered middle class behind them. The overwhelming majority of the industrial working class was ready and willing to fight. The miners, dockers, railwaymen, engineers, chemical workers and the other sections of the industrial proletariat would have given a good account of themselves. They had as good a fighting tradition as the British or any other working class in the world.
Today leaders of the labour movement attempt to shelve the responsibility for the betrayal of the Stalinist and socialist leaders onto the shoulders of the working class. Glib phrases that the Germans are naturally militarist inclined are used in a blanket and indiscriminate indictment of the German masses. But the responsibility for the tragedy in Germany which was to bring in its train the second world war once the main obstacle in its path, the organisations of the German workers, had been destroyed, rests not only with the leadership of the German labour movement. In other countries too, including Britain, the leadership of the labour movement and Communist Parties justified the policy of their respective counterparts in Germany.
The Communist Party in this country supported the crazy policy of the German Communists in directing the struggle against the “immediate danger”, the socialists. The labour and trade-union leaders in this country, Sir Walter Citrine at the Brighton Congress of the T.U.C. in 1933, justified the betrayal of the German trade-union leaders by saying that it would have led to civil war and bloodshed had they called a general strike!
The fundamental question that is posed is: “Is an armed Germany a menace to peace?” We have endeavoured to explain already that what caused the first and second world wars was not alone the wickedness of German capitalism, but the policies of all the imperialist blocs and, in the case of the second, also the Russian bureaucracy. Long before Hitler had ever been heard of, and was but a corporal in the armies of the Kaiser, the great Marxist, Lenin had pointed out in a sober evaluation of the causes of the first world war, while the battles were still taking place, that unless the war was followed by a series of successful socialist revolutions then inevitably it would be followed by a second world war, a third world war—a tenth world war, till civilisation would be destroyed.
This analysis has been borne out by the facts. It is not Germany alone which threatens war, but American imperialism, British imperialism, and the policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Hardly had the echoes of the fighting in the Second World War died out than already the victor nations, as after the First World War, were falling out among themselves. The Russian bureaucracy, incapable of a socialist foreign policy, continued with an enormous arms programme, imposing tremendous burdens on the then weakened structure of the Russian economy.
On the other hand, after an initial period of demobilisation and the cutting down of arms by Britain and America (which was caused not by any love of peace, but by the pressure of mass opinion, sickened by six years of war and destruction) they embarked on an arms programme of staggering dimensions. The arms race has dwarfed into insignificance the preparations by the great powers for Armageddon before the war. Even the arms preparations of Hitler in so called conventional weapons were nothing in comparison with this expenditure on “ordinary” weapons of destruction, let alone the expenditure on chemical weapons, atomic guided missiles and other new methods of exterminating mankind. This exposes the hollowness of the idea that only Germany loves the piling up of weapons and preparing for war.
In the so-called Cold War we have a period of strained relations far worse than any period short of war, in modern history. Here, as the result of the Second World War, in which the real victors were Russia and America as continental powers, these two agglomerations of power face each other in Europe and Asia. Here again the cause of the conflict does not rest on the ill will or the good will of either of the two main protagonists in the Cold War.
In the world today American capitalism-imperialism finds its path to world domination blocked by the mighty force of Russia on the one hand and the uprising of the colonial peoples in Asia for liberation on the other. The aims of America are no more than they were in the Second World War guided by the defence of “democracy, freedom and peace” but by the rapacious interests of Wall Street finance capital. That this is so is shown by the allies that America has succeeded in gathering behind her banner—Rhee(2), Chiang Kai Shek and the “great democrat”, the butcher of the Spanish people, Franco.
These alliances demonstrate the falsity of the claim that American capitalism is opposed to the totalitarian dictatorship and the repressive system in Russia, China and Eastern Europe. This is the ideological cover behind which is hidden the real antagonism of American imperialism to state ownership of the means of production in Russia and the colonial movement for emancipation from capitalism and imperialism.
The basic policy of British capitalism in reality is no better. The pacific policy of Britain in the Far East is not dictated by love of peace on the part of British imperialism but by the weakness of British capitalism as the result of the two world wars. Her weakness has compelled her to lean upon America as the only counter-weight to the power of Russia. Her policy is dictated by the fact that she wants to preserve what is left of her shattered Empire, and wishes to avoid complications in Europe and Asia which, if they lead to a clash, whatever the result, could not but end in disaster for Britain, if not her total destruction.
Churchill, like the class he represents, is neither a war-monger nor a peacemonger, but stands for war or peace according to the needs and interests of the capitalist class. And in their calculations also it is naked capitalist interests which dominate and not at all love of democracy, freedom, or peace.
On the other hand the aims of the clique in control in Russia are not much better. It is true that because of the elimination of capitalist private property they have no need of expansion in the same way as capitalist powers have expanded in the past. Therefore they are opposed to war which would be a risky proposition for them. Nevertheless they are not interested in socialism but purely the national aggrandisement of the officialdom in control in Russia. They are not interested in expanding the power of the working class but purely the power, income, privilege and prestige of the bureaucracy in Russia. It is true that in defence of these they stand guard over the state ownership of the means of production, from which these bounties flow and in that sense play a relatively progressive historical role. Nevertheless, their whole policy is dictated not by socialist internationalism but by the needs and interests of the Kremlin clique.
If there were to be a resurgence of nationalism and militarism in Germany in the years which lie ahead the responsibility would be that of the Allied powers and above all of the Russian bureaucracy itself. The methods of conquest used by the victorious Red Army were hardly better than those of the Nazis in the monstrous raping, pillaging, despoiling and annexations in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine. With the agreement of British and American “democracy” East Prussia and part of German Silesia were arbitrarily annexed to Poland and Russia. A quarter of the area of Germany was forcibly cut from her living body.
Not only that but, aping the Nazis, the German inhabitants of the area were compulsorily expelled into the truncated area of Germany. And in Czechoslovakia and other parts of Eastern Europe Germans who had lived in these countries for a millennium were ruthlessly driven out and also expelled to Germany. Ten million people, about a fifth of the population of the Federal Republic, were treated in this inhuman fashion and compelled to leave all but a few personal possessions behind.
Germany today is divided into two fundamentally hostile halves. In Eastern Germany the Stalinist bureaucracy with the aid of the bayonets of the Russian army has established a puppet regime on the model of the other regimes in Eastern Europe. Taking advantage of the position the Russian bureaucracy has bled Eastern Germany white for alleged reparations for the damage caused by the German army in Russia.
In nearly ten years it is estimated that they have taken the staggering total of £10-15 billion for reparations. Nevertheless in the early stages of the occupation, by introducing elements of workers’ control in the factories and nationalising heavy industry and important parts of light industry, they succeeded in gaining a modicum of support from the working class.
This has been rapidly dissipated by the totalitarian regime no different in its repression from the former Hitler dictatorship. Despite nationalisation and planning, the lack of freedom, the arbitrary control, the mismanagement and bureaucratic despotism have repelled the East German workers and undoubtedly the regime exists at this stage only with the backing of the occupation forces of the Russian army.
After the Second World War history, to a certain extent, has repeated itself. In the first period after the war the main concern of Western imperialism was to hold down the forces of German imperialism and to make sure that the possible socialist revolution would not be successful. The emphasis was to limit German industrial power as the basis of German military power. It was in this period that the programme of dismantling, of reparations and permanent disarmament of Germany was the official policy of the West. But with the end of the honeymoon period of relations with Russia and the beginning of the Cold War, this reactionary and utopian policy was abandoned.
West Germany was included in the sphere of the Marshall Plan(3). Far from extracting reparations from the Germans, in effect reparations were paid to West Germany. In this way, in the last few years, West German industry has been largely rebuilt in an even more modernised fashion than pre-war. Without the burden of an arms economy, with super-profits extracted from the workers and a higher rate of investment, West German industry has rapidly reached and exceeded the pre-war development.
At the same time, as the Bevanites correctly point out, the forces which financed, backed, and benefited from Hitler are in power today. In steel, coal, chemicals, and big industry generally the same interests of finance and big business are in control. Behind the scenes the militarists and generals who controlled the army of the Kaiser and of Hitler are preparing to resume their accustomed role as a military caste, in a new [West] German army. Thus the question is anxiously asked by the sincere left-wing elements in the labour movement—“Isn’t this where we came in?” High ex-Nazi officials hold key positions in the government and civil service. Therefore, won’t they prepare a new fascist coup in West Germany?
The posing of the question in this way is completely wrong. Fascism and military-police dictatorship does not arise merely from the will of capitalists and the generals. Fortunately it is impossible to impose Fascism by decree. At this stage there are mighty trade-union and labour organisations in Germany. They learned a bitter lesson as a result of the experience of 1933. In the post-war period the attempt of the neo-Nazis to organise was met by strikes on the part of the working class. Before the banning of the new fascist Socialist Reich Party the trade unions, under pressure of their members had threatened Adenauer(4) that they would take matters into their own hands if he did not act.
It was this that compelled the West German government to act quickly, in addition to which capitalist forces are not sufficiently desperate to need Fascism at this stage. The middle class, too, has become disillusioned in its experience of militarism and fascism. The boom [West] Germany is undergoing at the present time is similar to that experienced after the First World War. In the economic “prosperity”, with relatively full employment, and with the middle class in a reasonably comfortable position, there is no basis for reaction at this stage.
Thus, at the elections in North Rhine Westphalia which includes the decisive Ruhr area, out of 10 million votes, the neo-fascists, or a thinly-disguised fascist front organisation, received less than 2000. This does not mean to say that as far as West Germany is concerned—a capitalist Germany—the problem of war and of fascism has been solved forever. The same causes that produced the eruption of Hitler and the attempt of German imperialism to conquer Europe are at work in West Germany today. This is not because the Germans as a people are any better or any worse than the other peoples of the world, but because of the specific problems of German capitalism.
A new slump, where the forces of the working class did not show a way out, would inevitably drive the middle class to despair, the West German capitalists seeking some form of fascist movement once again. Perhaps this time in some form of organisation like the one de Gaulle attempted to set up in France. German industry has again taken the road of attempting to conquer world markets. The productive forces of [West] Germany cannot be held within the narrow confines of Germany itself. In the long run they would endeavour to organise Europe and the world for the benefit of German capitalism.
In the early stages perhaps there might be propaganda for the recovery of the territories seized by the Russians and Poles, for the national unification of a divided Germany. Either way, before they could take to the road of war or fascism the forces of reaction in Germany would have to destroy the organisations of the working class, and the rights regained there in the last ten years. Fascists could only allow themselves the luxury of plunging into war, because temporarily the home front, the most important front, was secure, with the atomisation and powerlessness of the working class, and the psychological effects on the workers of the betrayal into Hitler’s hands, without a struggle.
Such a repetition is extremely unlikely. Even from their own experience the leaders of social democracy and the trade unions would at least take to the road of their Austrian(5) and Spanish comrades—civil war—rather than a craven submission to fascism.
On the lines of capitalism there can be no solution of the problem of Germany and Europe. Slumps, wars, and new crises are inevitable in the long run, if capitalism is allowed to continue. The Bevanites believe that German rearmament can be prevented in alliance with the forces of British, French and American capitalism together with that of the Russian bureaucracy. Let us examine this more closely.
The original Allied programme was that of Draconic punishment of the Germans, of the limitation of Germany’s industrial capacity, of a long term occupation by the four powers, and the visiting of the sins of Hitler and the S.S. on the German people. This programme was a programme of national oppression only one degree removed from the national oppression carried out by Hitler in the countries of Europe which he occupied. If it has been dropped by both East and West that is not out of tender concern for democracy or a change of heart and generosity on the part of the Americans and the Allies. It has been dropped firstly, because it was impossible to carry out for any length of time and secondly, because the Allies wish to redress the balance of forces which had arisen so disastrously for them on the continent of Europe as a consequence of the Second World War.
The idea of the Bevanites of reverting back to the old policy is a reactionary dream. The question that the N.E.C. put to the Bevanites, to which they have never given a clear answer is, “how is this policy to be carried out?” Any attempt to treat the Germans as a pariah nation would be doomed to failure. The attempt to enforce the non-fraternisation ban in the heated atmosphere engendered in the early months of the postwar period was impossible to apply.
The attempt to hold Germany down indefinitely with this policy would be precisely to fan the flames of nationalism and militarism in Germany. It would give a handle to their claims for equality and for national self-determination. British Tommies, French Poilus, and American G.I.s could not be used as S.S. for very long. Hitler could only use specially picked troops for his dirty work in occupied countries and not the ordinary German troops. Even then, the Nazis could only succeed whilst provoking a tremendous resistance movement, because of a lack of democracy at home.
How long would public opinion in Britain, France, and America stand the national oppression of the Germans which this would mean? Apart from its non-socialist character such a policy is impracticable in the extreme. It is impossible, in the modern world, to hold down any great nation for any length of time. That is the lesson of history and something that the Bevanites with their glib phrases and easy attempts at popularity have still to learn.
The N.E.C. is thus justified in their criticism of the Bevanites as being unrealistic on this question. On the other hand, what is the position put forward by the N.E.C.? Previously, lumping together the interests of the capitalists and workers of America, France and Britain, and the other countries concerned, they have argued for support of the E.D.C. (European Defence Community). Like the girl who justified her illegitimate child because it was only a small baby, so accepting the argument as to the original sin of German militarism and German militarists alone, they have argued for a “controlled” and “limited” or small German rearmament. Here the Bevanites have the laugh. For quite correctly, they point out that once German rearmament has taken place it is ludicrous to think that any paper limitations will have any effect. Once the generals and industrialists of Germany have the bit between their teeth, there will be no restraining their mad gallop except by the threat of force which, under those conditions, would mean provoking a new war.
When the Bevanites say that it is quite likely that a rearmed West Germany will do a deal with the Soviet bureaucracy in the same way as they did in the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939(6), which ushered in the Second World War, they are quite correct. That is quite likely. A rearmed Germany would be interested in the national interest of the capitalist class above all else. No more than the French, British or American capitalists have the German capitalists had a change of heart. It is the interests of German imperialism that they are concerned about. All agreements, as in all power political arrangements, will be unhesitatingly broken if they think they can derive an advantage from this. The rearmament of Germany will solve nothing, but will add a new element of instability into an already highly charged atmosphere.
The struggle on the European Defence Community has already shown what the process will be like. The positions of the different factions in France, apart from the Communist Party which, of course, is dictated by the foreign policy of the Russian bureaucracy, is devised to suit what they consider to be the interest of French capitalism. So too is the policy of British and American capitalism engendered by considerations of their interests.
If the French capitalists in their majority have apparently rejected E.D.C. it is from fear of a too close embrace of a more developed and powerful economy, of their counterparts in Germany. The German capitalists, if they had the opportunity again, without too great a risk of failure, under the pressure of the contradiction between a highly productive economy and the limited German market would take to the road of dominating Europe without hesitation. Thus German rearmament cannot solve the problems which beset Germany and Europe.
The alleged safeguards suggested by the N.E.C. would be as adequate as endeavouring to safeguard against a flood by digging a ditch in the middle of the affected ground. Like the savages who practise incantations, the N.E.C. think that incantations can exorcise German militarism. Any new “safeguard” limiting German rearmament would be about as practical a safeguard as the Treaty of Versailles. It could only be kept in being so long as it suited the interest of German capitalism. Not because Germany is different, but precisely because in the last analysis she is fundamentally the same as any other capitalist country.
The N.E.C. states that in a state of emergency “in case of a threat to their security or an attempt to subvert the constitution of the German Federal Republic, the three Western powers have the right, in consultation with the German Federal government, to declare a state of emergency.” This is a threat held in reserve against the danger of socialist revolution in Germany, and hardly a means of maintaining control of rearmament. In any event apparently the American imperialists are desperately searching for a strong and stable force on which they can rely in Europe to use against the danger of socialism and of the threat from the Russian bureaucracy. According to reports which are more likely than not to be correct, they already are secretly preparing for an army of at least 50 divisions in Germany, and not the 12 to which Germany was to be limited by the E.D.C. treaty.
That is how much the alleged safeguards of the E.D.C. or any other treaty that takes its place, are worth. It is a measure of the narrow and imperialist-saturated point of view of both the pamphlet In Defence of Europe and It Need Not Happen that both look at things from a viewpoint of German competition in world trade. And indeed on the assumption that capitalism will continue untrammelled in its present form, this is a formidable problem for the Western imperialists. It was the aggravation of this basic problem and the competition for world markets which was responsible for two world wars.
The economies of Germany and of Western Europe as a whole cannot be contained within the framework of the old national state. That explains the anxiety of the capitalist forces in all the countries of the West. Private ownership of the means of production on the one side and the national state on the other, hamper and obstruct the full and free development of productive forces. It is this that has caused the chronic crisis of the last four or five decades, with its periodic bloodletting and destruction. If it were not so tragic the arguments used in this connection would be comical coming from socialists. The N.E.C. for instance says that a neutralised Germany would be bad for Europe because it would mean a competition between West and East for the favour of Germany. “In this auction the Soviet Union would be able to hold out the bait of markets for Germany’s industrial goods to the East, and a possible return of the ‘lost territories’.”
It only remains to ask the N.E.C. the gentle question: “Once Germany is rearmed why shouldn’t this problem be posed in the same way? What is to prevent this? The good intentions of the labour leadership, or their faith in the good intentions of the German generals and capitalists?” The Bevanite position on this is even more unrealistic. They say that there should be some delay on this question, because it “can give statesmen the opportunity to think again and devise an entirely fresh policy”. Unfortunately, international politics is not a game of pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, or postman’s knock.
If for nine years the differences between West and East have got worse and worse and one conference after another has ended in failure or stalemate, it is not because Molotov(7) likes to say no, or because Mr. Dulles is irritable and impatient, but because they are spokesmen of irreconcilable interests which are reflected precisely in the outbreak of the Cold War. It is true that as the Bevanites say: “Rearmament in Western Germany forms part of the strategy of the Cold War, it would make well nigh impossible any negotiated settlement of the German problem. It would increase the likelihood of final catastrophe.”
But they do not see that in the last few years negotiations between West and East in Europe have been determined by the desire of both sides to place the responsibility for the division of Germany into two hostile states, onto the shoulder of their opponents. Both sides have used the negotiations as a means of propaganda to the German people, to place the responsibility in this way.
The reasons motivating this policy flow from the differences, which are fundamental. No more than it is possible to reconcile, except for a short period of time, the differences between the workers and the capitalists in the single countries is it possible to get more than a temporary accommodation between two mutually exclusive and hostile social systems, such as that of Russia and the West. In fact, if it is not possible to do so even in the case of countries with the same social system under capitalism, even more so is this the case where there is a class difference.
A so-called “rational” policy of appeal to argument and reason is pitiably inadequate, and a cruel delusion and trap for the working class, when it is a question of struggle between mutually exclusive social systems, or classes. It is in this light that one must view the so-called Attlee conditions:
“German democracy must make sure that armed forces will be its servants and not its masters. I agree that there is always the danger of an emergence again of the same kind of forces that made Germany a menace, but you do not get rid of that by leaving a vacuum. The answer is that there should be democratic forces democratically controlled in Germany.”
What possible guarantee can there be when the same officer caste will control the army as controlled it under the Kaiser, the Weimar Republic and Hitler? What kind of democratic control when the backbone of the civil service are the same elements again who faithfully served the Kaiser, cheerfully betrayed the Weimar Republic, obediently truckled to Hitler and, like the Vicar of Bray(8), have turned again and given lip service to democracy today? Here we might add that this problem is not peculiar to Germany.
In France there was a similar problem with the Vichy regime, with a similar result. And just to keep the record straight, in the island of Jersey the situation was nothing to boast of on the part of the British state forces there. If the conditions for the rise of fascism are repeated in Germany again, the consequences will be the same, unless the forces of the working class are organised and trained to meet it. Says the Bevanite pamphlet: “There is still time to save Europe and the world from the dangers of rebuilding the military power of Germany. It need not happen.” Words, words, words! Hitler, amongst the few correct things he ever said, sneered at socialist politicians for becoming intoxicated with phrases.
Just how this pleasant consummation is to be achieved is not really explained. If only Eisenhower(9), Malenkov, and Churchill would get together over a tea table, or a bottle of vodka, everything would be settled. Apparently the problem consists in reasoning with these gentlemen to see the horrors that would beset mankind otherwise. It is probably true that it wouldn’t do any harm to have the heads of all these gentlemen examined, but it does not affect the question either way, whether they are sane or insane, whether they are bad tempered or good tempered, whether they are humanitarians or warmongers, is beside the point. Either good or bad they are merely representatives of the policies of the capitalist class and imperialist countries, or the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia.
Germany has been disarmed and helpless for nine years, and lo and behold, the calamities, the clash of national rivalries, have continued as merrily as before the war. And it is the clashing of capitalist interests which produces the conflict, and not the good or bad intentions of this or that politician, or even this or that party. At the annual Labour Party conference the N.E.C. with their “compromise” resolution outflanked the Bevanites and thus the latter’s position on the question was rejected by a small majority. But supposing they had gained the victory, what would they have done with it?
Both the right and left wings are fond of talking “practical politics”. What would have been the practical consequences of a Bevanite victory? One way or another, with the present relationship of forces in the world, and under present conditions, Germany is going to be rearmed and in the immediate future at that. She is going to be rearmed because that is the desire of the French, British and American capitalist forces, not to speak of the forces of German capitalism itself. Thus a victory for the Bevanites would not have presaged any action at all on their part.
The Bevanites claim to “outline the constructive socialist policy”. In this regard, the Bevanites offer a prescription of agreement between all the big powers, for the benefit of the colonial peoples. This at a time when American capitalism is busy propping up every reactionary landlord capitalist feudal clique oppressing the colonial peoples in Asia. When American imperialism is still madly refusing to recognise the accomplished fact of the victory of the Chinese Revolution, maintaining Chiang Kai Shek in Formosa (Taiwan), and wistfully longing for the day when they can use Chiang Kai Shek against the mainland. This at the time when the Russian bureaucracy is oppressing the peoples of the national republics in Russia and satellite states of Eastern Europe. This at a time when British imperialism is busily holding down the peoples of Kenya and of Malaya. The facts of life are sad things. One could wish it otherwise but, like a maiden aunt wailing at the sinfulness of modern youth, the finger wagged didactically at imperialism and Stalinism to teach them their business, is about as sensible.
In a conflict of interest, there is no question of what is for the good of mankind, as the sentimentalists think. There is only one force in the world which is really opposed to war, which is through and through democratic, and whose interests are the interests of the future of man: the force of the international working class. And this, not for humanitarian or moral considerations. It is because the interests of the working class of Russia, Germany, Britain, France and America and China are actually one and the same. In fact, this is the basis of a real socialist policy. All manoeuvres and dreams, all diplomatic negotiations and shuffles can only, in the long run, be a jockeying for position in the shifting turns of foreign policy.
To a certain extent this is realised by both the N.E.C. and the Bevanites when they deal with the Germans. The German capitalists and militarists, they say, will manoeuvre between East and West for their own selfish ends. But alas, selfishness on the part of the capitalists does not stop at the borders of Germany.
There is no mysterious quality in German capitalists that makes them different from the capitalists of other countries; it is merely a question of economic, diplomatic, political and social conditions. It is a pity that the same “realism” which they show towards the forces of renascent German capitalism is not shown towards the policy of their own capitalist-class, of American capitalism, and of the Stalinist bureaucracy. In other contexts they have condemned the policy of American imperialism towards Guatemala, for example, and towards Formosa; of French capitalism towards Indo-China; of British capitalism towards British Guyana, and the totalitarianism of the Stalinist bureaucracy at home. But the sorry thing is that they do not understand that all these things do not arise by accident, because of the crudeness of this or that party—apparently neither the N.E.C. nor the Bevanites have sufficiently lectured these people on the evil of their ways and convinced them of their errors, like a schoolmistress rebuking a naughty child who persists in misbehaving himself. Lectures and exhortations are empty sounding when it is a question of fundamental economic facts. If the capitalists behave in this way it is not for lack of understanding, but because their economic interests dictate their policy. If the Stalinist bureaucracy behaves tyrannically at home it is because they need a totalitarian regime to defend there privileged position. Thus, we are back where we started.
Germany is divided into two fundamental and hostile camps, and here again it is no accident that the Russian bureaucracy in their zone, whilst they have imposed a vicious dictatorship through their puppets, have nevertheless largely eliminated the forces of capitalism and organised a regime on the Stalinist model. Nor is it an accident that in their zones in the American, French, and British sectors it is forces of capitalism and reaction that have come to the fore, though reluctantly, room has had to be made at the same time for democracy on the Western capitalist model.
A major problem for Europe and the world in the years that lie ahead, is how Germany is to be unified. It is true that if free elections were to be held in the Eastern Zone, the Stalinists would be defeated. But that is something which the Stalinist forces cannot allow, with or without agreement from the West. Concessions would have to be of a fundamental far reaching character to compensate the Russians for the military, strategic and economic advantages which the domination of the Eastern zones give them. On the other hand for the Western capitalists, unification can only be accomplished on their terms, without these fundamental concessions. Thus, on this key question, in the capitalist way and the Stalinist way, there is no road out.
The laments of the Bevanites that it is a question of “negotiation or fight” are beside the point. Negotiations can only take place for the solution of secondary questions and when both sides have concessions to make which mutually cancel out. That is the position as far as trade is concerned and in the immediate future trade between East and West will probably be increased. But the idea that one can “settle the German problem by negotiations with Russia,” as the Bevanites suggest, does not bear any serious examination.
On the other hand, the Bevanites correctly say that in the long run this problem will be solved either by “liberation” or “negotiation”. This is correct, but all that it means is that in the long term future the problems will pile up and pile up till, if the forces of Stalinism and capitalism remain intact, in the long term perspective there will be an explosion! Isn’t this a prognosis of gloom and horror, of destruction and misery? Not at all. It is true if the future of the peoples is to be decided by their present rulers, then the future of mankind is dark indeed.
Fortunately, there is another force which is being generated. The power of the working class of Germany and of the world. It is the only progressive force which really has no interests other than the advancement of mankind, because it means its own advancement. The German problem in the last resort can only be solved by the German working class, leading the German nation, in alliance and collaboration with the British and international working class.
The redevelopment of industry in Germany has strengthened its power enormously. To those with eyes to see, to those with an understanding of the fundamental ideas of socialism, this should have been proved by recent events. Despite 20 years of Hitlerite and then Stalinist tyranny in Eastern Germany, despite the war and all its consequences, despite the disorientation of the German working class, by the policies of the international labour movement and the so-called Communist Parties, we saw in Eastern Germany the mighty power of the working class, of their desire for democracy and socialism, in the inspiring June days of 1953(10).
Against all odds, within a few days, the puppet regime in the Eastern zone was overthrown. Adenauer and the West German capitalists and militarists must have shivered in their shoes. This was not the kind of “liberation” that they desired. The unification of Germany under these conditions would have meant the hegemony of the working class, and the speedy development of socialism through all Germany. Fortunately for them, the terrified Moscow bureaucracy intervened with the Russian army and restored the status quo.
But we have to look, not only to the East, but to the West to see the still developing power of the working class. In Western Germany the pressure of the workers in coal and steel has resulted in a relative measure of control by the trade unions, through the participation of their representatives on the board of management of these industries. The strikes in Bavaria have shown that the fighting spirit of the German working class has been reawakened. Theirs is the only force which, in alliance with the workers of other countries, can really ensure peace and plenty for the people.
The problem for British labour on the German question is how best to help the German workers in their struggle against German capitalism, the Allied occupation, and the forces of Stalinist totalitarianism in the East. On the road of capitalism, on the road of diplomatic horse-deals and negotiations there is no way out, except an endless protracted stalemate, ending in catastrophe. A new slump, a new reaction, a new war! But this is the road that neither the Germans nor the workers of any other country wish to travel.
The first task of the allied working class, and of the British labour movement in particular, is to demand that all forces of occupation should be withdrawn, and that the fate of the German people must be decided by the Germans themselves. Any other policy is a shameful capitulation to the policies of nationalism, imperialism, and chauvinism. It is to repeat, in a different form, the racial lie of Hitler, that the Germans are different, only where he put a plus they put a minus. On this road there is no way forward. The only force really opposed to war through and through, to militarism and reaction, is the force of the working class.
In a progressive way, the only method of uniting Germany lies in action by the German workers themselves. The overthrow of German capitalism by the workers of Western Germany would undermine and paralyse the forces of Stalinism and of American imperialism. The only progressive way to a united Germany is a united, socialist-democratic Germany. That is why the main task of British Labour is not to collaborate with the British capitalists or the Stalinist bureaucracy but to support and assist by every means possible the forces of socialism in Germany. This can only be done by a struggle against the capitalist class at home.
As far as the labour movement is concerned, a thoroughgoing socialist programme at home, a militant policy to get rid of the Tories and force the resignation of the government, preparing the way for a new Labour government with a socialist policy at home and abroad, is the only real means of fighting against German rearmament in the interests of the working class here and abroad. Home and foreign policy are inextricably bound together.
A militant socialist government at home, which would nationalise all big industry on a democratic basis, could successfully appeal to both East and West. The American capitalists would be incapable of action in face of a real democratic socialist Britain. They could not point to the scarecrow of Russian or Chinese totalitarianism as an excuse for action; on the other hand, the Russian bureaucracy could not point to the very real danger of capitalist attack and the threat this represents to state ownership and planning in the Eastern bloc. Not only that a real socialist Britain could offer the only practical alternative to the national and racial hatreds which besmirch the face of Europe.
The capitalist politicians in Europe and America themselves realise the hopeless mess to which national rivalries have reduced Europe in the last 50 years. But, whilst they recognise the problem, impotently, they can do nothing about it. They can occasionally dream of a United Europe as suggested by Churchill, Schumann(11), Adenauer, Dulles and other capitalist politicians, but that is all they can do. And, incidentally, in this one fact is revealed the ineptness of all solutions such as that suggested by the Bevanites or the N.E.C. of aid to the East in the interests of all!
From the viewpoint of capitalism as a whole, a united continental Europe would be as powerful a force, economically as well as militarily, as the United States of America. But the individual national capitalist interests clash to such an extent that a United Europe under capitalism is an idle dream!
However, British Labour occupies a strategic position in the world. If British Labour had on its banner the erection of a socialist Britain (as a preparation for a United Socialist States of Europe) in indissoluble alliance with the colonial peoples, the power of militarism and capitalism and of the Stalinist bureaucracy to which the N.E.C. and Bevanites in different ways point, would be irredeemably broken. The way would be clear for an advance of democracy, socialism and peace. The lesson of history is that there is no other practical way.
In reality, what determines war or peace is a whole series of factors including the balance of class, national, diplomatic, military and other forces, all of which vary at different periods and times. If it were not for this, the world would be in a state of perpetual war. Although nowadays, with the Cold War caused by an even more profound difference of social systems than in the clash between nationalist capitalist states, there is an uneasy period of armed truce rather than peace, broken by colonial uprisings and local wars. The checks and balances in such a period, with the incalculability of the results of a new war, are among the factors making for the uneasy continuation of a disturbed “peace”. In the long run these factors will not be sufficient to prevent war unless the causes of war are eliminated. Only the working-class, by putting paid to capitalism, can banish war from Earth.
In their endeavour to give a “constructive socialist alternative,” the Bevanites declare the prevention of German rearmament will allow “time to consider the real problem. That problem is how to shape the real future of the German people in such a way that they can make their own positive contribution to world peace. No one will deny the complexity of this problem, which has baffled statesmen for a hundred years.”
All the time in the world, another hundred years, and the “statesmen” could not solve this problem. It is not really complex; it is very simple indeed: eliminate capitalism and the problem is eliminated, it is as simple as that! But their posing of the problem reeks of a propaganda line, that it is Germany and German capitalism which is the cause of the turmoil and conflicts of the last few decades. This fiction is very comforting for the capitalist statesmen of the Western world and the Stalinist bureaucracy to foster among the peoples of the world, because it conceals their own criminal responsibility, which is as great as that of German capitalism.
Says the Bevanite pamphlet: “The Berlin Conference failed because we demanded the impossible of the Russians, and the Russians demanded the impossible of us.” By the “Russians” we presume they mean the bureaucratic rulers of Russia, by “us” we presume they mean the representatives of Western imperialism. But these diplomats are not children, nor do they make arbitrary demands for the fun of it. The diplomatic sparring and manoeuvring was conditioned in the last analysis by the mutual needs and interests of the ruling groups.
The way out, according to the Bevanites, is a plan of mutual aid for the East. They admit that:
“…private enterprise could not accomplish this on its own initiative. But following government action, it could co-operate in carrying out mutual aid schemes. We cannot go on accepting macabre situations that in order to keep ourselves in work today we must prepare to kill one another tomorrow. The best machinery for the distribution of aid would be the United Nations, using as its agent a high-powered Development Board, or some such instrument. If any individual nation insisted on controlling its own contribution the plan would be vitiated from the outset.
“We realise that such a proposal would call for considerable self-denial from all the contributing countries, particularly from the U.S.A…”
The idea that private enterprise cannot operate such a policy but the governments—the representatives of private enterprise—could unselfishly do so, is absurd. If American imperialism gave Marshall Aid after the war it was largely for fear of the collapse of capitalism in Europe and Asia. If the United Nations cannot solve such simple problems as the mandate in South West Africa, it hardly seems appropriate to suggest that this forum of clashing imperialist and Stalinist rivalries could solve anything at all! The insanity of capitalism arises from the logic of the internal development of its contradictions. On the road of capitalism there is no solution. The Bevanites then nervously say: “It may be charged that our proposals are too idealistic and that they take no account of international politics. But it is our mission to change the realities, not to submit to them.”
If they really meant this, what an inspiring point of departure for the Labour Movement; what a dazzling historical perspective could be offered to the British and international working-class. But not to submit to these realities is not to submit to their fundamental causes.
A doctor does not cure a disease by removing its symptoms. Poverty amidst plenty, armaments instead of the production of food and useful goods, are merely symptoms of the fatal disease which ails capitalism. The only cure is to destroy the cause, and that is capitalism itself. That is our mission, which in their haste, the comrades of both the N.E.C. and the Bevanite left-wing seem to have overlooked.
Day in and day out in the pages of the Daily Worker and in the speeches of its representatives and spokesmen, the Communist Party of this country, like its brother parties in France and other countries, systematically disseminates poison in the shape of anti-German propaganda. The “line” at the moment is to put all the responsibility for the crimes of capitalism and imperialism on to the German people. They have abandoned all the criterions of socialism as developed by Marx, Lenin and other socialist thinkers. Whilst during the war, at one stage, when it suited the interests of their Russian masters, they declared that Britain and France were responsible for the continuation of the war, and not Nazi Germany, today they bespatter and blacken the German masses with the responsibility for the crimes of Hitler and German capitalism. In another section we have dealt briefly with the responsibility of the Russian, German and British Communist Parties for the rise to power of the Nazis. Today one would imagine that only the threatened rearmament of Germany prevents the blossoming of peace in Europe and the world. Yet the disturbed history of the last ten years gives the lie to this fable.
More than any other tendency in the Labour Movement, the so-called Communist Party is pandering to the national prejudice and national illusions in appealing to the memory of the “heroes who died for democracy and against fascism and militarism in the First and Second World Wars.” Considering the role which the Communist Party played both before and after the outbreak of the Second World War, this propaganda is particularly disgusting and pernicious.
All socialist workers with any knowledge of the facts would reject with scorn the insincere and hypocritical protestations of the leaders of the Communist Party in their alleged zeal for the “national” interests of Britain. These kept creatures of Moscow would change the line tomorrow if Moscow did a deal with German imperialism, just as they changed the line at the time of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. These scoundrels pretend to have forgotten the ABC of socialism. In their degradation and degeneration they have forgotten the elementary principles, which demand that socialists should systematically propagate the idea of the unification of the peoples, and the breaking down of national barriers, for the benefit of all.
Instead of propagating the policy of a Socialist United States of Europe, they vie with the most reactionary elements in “our glorious dead”. This when they know very well, as their past writings have shown, that these dead gave their lives in out-shouting nationalist and jingoist slogans, for the “honour” of a cause other than their own, gave their lives in the interest of capitalism and imperialism, and not democracy and socialism. Labour workers should treat them with the contempt they deserve and reject their policy as a depraved one lacking the fundamental instinct working-class solidarity, and appealing to the basest instincts whipped up by capitalist politicians in the last few generations.
The problems of German rearmament and German unity can only be resolved, therefore, by the force of the working-class organised beyond national frontiers for a socialist programme of European and world integration.
The British Labour Movement should take the first step and extend to its German counterpart an offer of co-operation on this basis and to this end.
(1) The N.E.C. of the Labour Party, dominated by the right wing, published a statement in July 1954, entitled “In Defence of Europe”, in which it argued in favour of a German contribution within the structure of the European Defence Community. This proposal, for strengthening the armed forces of the capitalist states against the soviet “threat”, was dressed up in the language of “reconciliation”, “partnership” and so on. A month later, Tribune, then a paper of the left of the Labour Party, published a pamphlet replying to the N.E.C. It was written jointly by Aneurin Bevan, Barbara Castle, Tom Driberg, Harold Wilson, Ian Mikardo and Richard Crossman, and was called “It Need Not Happen”. It challenged the doctrine that German rearmament was inevitable and argued that within the context of N.A.T.O.-Warsaw Pact rivalry, a re-armed West Germany, backed by the United States, would be facing a hostile and armed East Germany, backed by Russia. “Once that is allowed to happen,” the Bevanites claimed, “World War Three becomes inevitable.”
(2) The President of South Korea.
(3) Economic aid provided by the U.S.A. to Europe after the war, with the aim of preventing revolutionary movements by ensuring economic growth.
(4) Konrad Adenauer, a Christian Democrat, was the first chancellor (1949-63) of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).
(5) The Austrian workers rose in February 1934 in defence of a general strike against the reactionary government of Dollfuss, and the Spanish workers in July 1936 against the insurrection of Franco.
(6) Having failed, despite the policy of popular frontism, to reach agreement with the “democratic” imperialist powers, Stalin signed a “non-agression” pact with Nazi Germany in 1939. As Trotsky predicted, it turned out to be the opposite when Germany invaded the U.S.S.R. in June 1941.
(7) Vyacheslav Molotov was Soviet Foreign Minister, John Foster Dulles was the U.S. Secretary of State who was influential in forming Cold War Policy.
(8) The Vicar of Bray is a satirical description (from an 18th century satirical song and a 1882 comic opera by Sydney Grundy and Edward Solomon) of an individual fundamentally changing his principles to remain in ecclesiastical office as external requirements change around him during the turbulent epoch of the 16th and 17th centuries in England.
(9) U.S. President, Soviet Foreign Minister and British Prime Minister respectively in 1953.
(10) On 16th June 1953 a general strike movement began in East Berlin and rapidly spread throughout East Germany. At its peak it encompassed over 300,000 workers before it was suppressed with the aid of Russian tanks.
(11) Robert Schumann, French Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister.