William F. Warde

The Big Three at Potsdam

(September 1945)

Source: Fourth International, Vol. 6 No. 9, September 1945, pp. 273–276.
(William F. Warde was a pseudonym of George Novack.)
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2006 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: George Novack Internet Archive 2006; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Like robber chieftains discussing the division of their plunder, the representatives of the Big Three huddled in complete secrecy at a 17-day conference at Potsdam from July 17 to August 3. Out of this meeting came the most ferocious treaty inflicted by the victors in a modern war upon a crushed and conquered nation.

In his report delivered at the Second Congress of the Communist International, July 19, 1920, Lenin thus castigated the Versailles Treaty which the Allied Powers imposed on Germany. Austro-Hungary and Bulgaria after their defeat in the first World War:

“By means of the Versailles Treaty, it (the war) imposed upon these countries such terms, that advanced peoples find themselves in a position of colonial dependence, poverty, starvation, ruin, and without rights; for they have been bound by this treaty for many generations, and have been put into conditions that no civilised nation has ever lived in ... The Versailles Treaty has put Germany and a number of other vanquished countries in conditions in which economic existence is materially impossible, in conditions of utter lack of rights and degradation.”

Lenin would have been hard-pressed to find phrases adequate to express his indignation at the super-Versailles now imposed upon Germany by the Anglo-American imperialists and their confederate Stalin. In the Potsdam declaration hypocrisy vies with infamy and impudence. The preamble to the section setting forth their policies toward Germany blandly states:

“It is not the intention of the Allies to destroy or enslave the German people. It is the intention of the Allies that the German people be given the opportunity to prepare for the eventual reconstruction of their life on a democratic and peaceful basis.”

What colossal deceit! As both the terms of the declaration and the actions of the Allies conclusively demonstrate, the conquerors are bent upon exterminating and enslaving the German people, pillaging and ruining their economy, depriving them of all rights, and clamping the most brutal despotism upon their mutilated country. They aim – and they are now carrying out their aim – to out-Hitler Hitler in their treatment of defeated nationalities. If they are permitted to fulfill their plans without resistance or hindrance, the Allies will convert Europe into a prison-house and a wasteland.

“The political and economic principles” by which the Allies are “to govern the treatment of Germany in the initial control period” call for the dismemberment of the country, the despoliation of its resources and the strangulation of its economy, together with the indefinite occupation and control of Germany. In place of Poland it is now Germany’s turn to be partitioned. Part of East Prussia, including the port city of Koenigsberg, has been incorporated into the USSR. A sizeable slice of Eastern Germany, including the rich farm and industrial areas of Silesia, the Baltic port of Stettin and the former free city of Danzig, go to Kremlin-dominated Poland. Austria has already been cut off. Nor does this end the dismemberment of bleeding Germany. France is seeking choice morsels of the Rhineland and Ruhr. And the Big Three have set up a Council of Five Foreign Ministers “to continue the necessary preparatory work for the peace settlements” when the boundaries of Germany are to be definitively set.

In accord with these redrawn boundaries millions of Germans settled in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary are to be forcibly uprooted, dispossessed and deported. These 12 to 14 million Germans are to be thrown into a country the size of Montana incapable of supporting the 58 million people now living there. With the characteristic cynicism of diplomatic documents the Potsdam declaration assures us that this process is to be carried out “in an orderly and humane manner.” The executioner will place a bandage over the victims’ eyes before strangling them to death!

The Allied Supreme Command is made absolutely master of Germany. The country is to continue indefinitely under the occupation of four Allied armies. The commanders-in-chief are to exercise supreme authority in Germany, “each in his own zone of occupation, and also jointly as a whole. For the time being no central German government shall be established.” No democratic rights, no independent political activity even of the most rudimentary type is to be permitted. In Bavaria, the largest zone occupied by the Americans, all parties have been banned except the Bavarian People’s Party, the spokesman of blackest Catholic reaction. Thousands of Nazis remain in the administrative posts, many of them appointed by the AMG itself. According to an AP dispatch of June 25, the military governor of Bavaria, Col. Charles Keegan, ordered the stamping out of an anti-fascist party which demanded “the right of the anti-fascist working class to hold meetings, to freedom of speech, press and religion, and the formation of anti-fascist committees in all towns and communities.” This Gauleiter of Wall Street declared: “The Germans are conquered people and have no right to demand anything.” Similar reports have come from Berlin, Duesseldorf, Munich and other cities. Such is the state of the “four freedoms” in Germany today.

Allied Economic Provisions

The oppressive and predatory character of Allied rule stands out most sharply in the economic provisions of the Potsdam communique. Industrial Germany, the principal producer of heavy goods for Europe during the past half century, is to be wiped out. Its assets are to be divided among the victors. The vultures propose to strip the country bare and pick its bones clean. All important plants are to be dismantled, destroyed or delivered to the conquerors as reparations payments. No aircraft or ships may be owned by Germans. The German Navy and merchant marine will be parcelled out to the Allies. The Western powers will keep the gold their troops captured. The external assets belonging to Germany will be taken over by the Allied Control Council, which will regulate all foreign trade transactions.

Moreover, the Germans are to be saddled with the costs of maintaining the Allied armies of occupation. They will also be made to pay for the damages done other nations by Hitler’s armies. The total amount of reparations has still to be determined but in the meantime the Allied marauders have the right to seize whatever machinery and equipment they want ... and destroy the rest. Here is the warrant for Germany’s despoliation:

“Productive capacity not needed for permitted production shall be removed in accordance with the reparations plan recommended by the Allied Commission on Reparations and approved by the governments concerned, or if not removed, shall be destroyed.”

The reparations plan provides that Russia take whatever machinery and goods it wants from Eastern Germany, settling Poland’s claims from her share. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and other countries will satisfy their claims with 75 per cent of the “surplus” machinery and equipment in Western Germany. In addition, Russia and Poland will seize German property in the Balkan states and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The German property in Western Europe will go to the Western Allies. But twenty-five percent of this will also be handed over to Russia.

Ferocious Regime

The ferocity with which these piratical measures are being enforced may be seen from the following dispatch in the Sept. 6 NY Times:

“The four-power Kommandatura, which supervises Berlin, recently issued an order to the people to turn in all precious metal and specie. A few days ago the council received a pleading letter from the Oberbuergermeister asking if he could not exempt an old collection of 600 gold and 3,500 silver coins in the mint. The Kommandatura told him no.

“A similar sort of plea came from the city asking for a guarantee that the factories the Germans were rehabilitating would not be seized by the occupation forces once they had been fixed up. The Kommandatura replied that it would extend no such guarantee. One officer remarked – to loud cheers from his auditors – that the Allies would not guarantee not to pick up the Berlin City Hall and ship it to Moscow if they felt like it.”

In the NY Times magazine, Sept. 9, Curt Reiss wired from Berlin the following description of the system and sweeping way in which Stalin is pillaging Germany.

“It is well known, that wherever the Red Army came it proceeded to take apart speedily what was left of Germany’s industrial plants and ship everything to Russia. This has been going on, and still is, on a genuinely ‘total’ basis. I visited a number of such plants which were in relatively good working order when the fighting ended. Now the machines are gone. So are the freight cars and even the rails. So are the typewriters, fountain pens and all office equipment. Only the empty buildings remain.”

The Germans are being handled like colonial slaves, subjected to the vilest oppression and the deepest degradation by their new masters who have replaced the Nazis. Their living conditions too are to be depressed and deliberately held down to Asiatic levels. It is openly admitted by the Allied authorities that Germany faces mass starvation and epidemics this winter. The majority of the population now has to live on 900 to 1000 calories. This is little more than half the number of calories required simply to sustain life without violent exercise or labor. The Eastern provinces which ordinarily produce about 45 percent of Germany’s major foodstuffs are in Russian hands. The Kremlin does not intend to ship food into Western Germany where the largest part of the population is concentrated.

Nor do the other Allies propose to send much food. AMG officials have estimated that “an acute food shortage of near-starvation proportions faces the 7 million residents of the Rhineland.” Lt. Gen. Lucius Clay stated that “the food supply is going to be a very tight squeeze and we will be lucky if the current stocks last until harvest time,” but, adds the NY Times correspondent: “No food is going to be shipped from the US merely on the assumption that some Germans are going to starve.” The Germans can expect no more mercy than the people of India where during this war millions perished from famine under the eyes of the imperialist ghouls.

Fearful Prospects

The Potsdam plan holds out the most fearful prospects for Germany. The costs and consequences of the war combined with the calculated destruction of Germany’s industrial life prevent economic recovery. How can amputated Germany pay for the importation of the foodstuffs and raw materials it needs without the products of industry? How can the people rebuild its rubble-filled cities? How will they provide food and work for the millions of expelled Germans dumped into the narrowed boundaries? How will they pay for the maintenance of the occupying forces when they themselves lack the means of life? The wrecker’s crew at Potsdam were not in the least concerned about the fate of the German masses. For their monstrous measures are deliberately designed to demolish Germany’s industrial capacity; to smash Germany once and for all as a world competitor. Allied plans were debated and discussed at length in official circles during the war. In England Lord Vansittart demanded the total dismemberment of Germany. In the United States Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau envisaged the transformation of Germany into a purely agricultural land. And in the USSR Stalin’s economist, Varga, proposed dismemberment, deindustrialization, the payment of billions in reparations plus the use of 10 million German workers as slave labor in the East.

In a memorandum to government officials the millionaire Wall Street operator and senior statesman, Bernard Baruch, bluntly set forth the material motives behind the U.S. plans for Germany. Here is what he said as reported in the NY World-Telegram, May 31:

“We must keep Germany – and this applies equally to Japan – from re-establishing herself as a great industrial nation ready to make war. We must keep Germany and Japan from re-establishing themselves in the exports of the world. By eliminating the subsidized, sweated competition of 170 to 200 million Germans and Japs – among the lowest cost producers in the world – we not only deny the enemy the wherewithal to make future war, but we expand the industrial opportunities for the rest of the world ... The United Nations will have more trade with one another, instead of with Germany.

“By keeping our standards high and exerting our influence to swell the purchasing power of the rest of the world, we can keep to a minimum the disruptive effects of the inflation already loose in the world, and can pay off debts and reduce taxes ...”

Mr. Baruch said the reparations policy he suggested would be accompanied by increased business and jobs in the United Nations, thus strengthening the determination to occupy Germany as long as is necessary.

“It may be argued,” he said, “that the program envisaged must mean a great transformation of the German economy. That is true. But such a transformation is unavoidable even should a ‘be nice to Germany’ policy be adopted.”

Here the economic calculations of the Anglo-American imperialists are laid bare. By destroying and appropriating Germany’s productive forces, they aim to monopolize the world’s markets and sources of raw materials. At the expense of the conquered and colonial peoples they hope to save themselves from looming financial bankruptcy and postpone the next industrial crisis. The handful of billionaires, bankers and industrialists who have drawn up and dictated this plan know very well that the destruction of German industry inevitably dooms all Europe to impoverishment, starvation, and ruin. German industry has been the mainstay of European economy. The German steel industry, machine tool and electrical plants, locomotive shops and shipbuilding yards have been the largest on the continent. Out of Germany has come 60 per cent of Europe’s coal, 50 percent of its pig iron and steel and even greater proportions of aluminum, electrical machinery and machine tools. With the destruction of this great industrial apparatus the other sections of the continent’s economy are bound to collapse. On top of the devastation of the war will be piled the impoverishment and decay of the imperialist “peace.” The continent that formerly marched at the head of civilization will be hurled back into semi-colonial servitude.

The justification for this brutal enslavement of Germany and the Allied dictatorship over Europe is the war-guilt of the German people. The Big Three write:

“They cannot escape responsibility for what they have brought upon themselves, since their own ruthless warfare and the fanatical Nazi resistance have destroyed German economy and made chaos and suffering inevitable ... The German people have begun to atone for the terrible crimes committed under the leadership of those whom in the hour of their success, they openly approved and blindly obeyed.”

Not a word about the heroic struggles of the German workers to prevent Nazism from coming to power. About the mass resistance of the underground movements to Hitler’s regime. About the German workers who were Hitler’s first and principal victims. About the tens of thousands of fighters against the Nazis who filled the jails and concentration camps, who gave their lives for a free and independent workers republic in Germany.

Not a word about the help these very imperialists gave to Hitler, their avowed admiration for his deeds in the early 1930’s, their hopes that, after crushing the labor movement in Germany, he would get rid of the “Bolshevik menace” in the East. Not a word about Stalin’s shameful pact with Hitler in 1939 that cleared the way for the Second World War.

Inevitable Questions

Even a person unfamiliar with these facts might ask: why must all of Europe pay for the crimes of the Germap ruling class? Why are Germans to be condemned and punished for following the orders of the Nazi war-lords when today not only the Japanese people but the Koreans as well are ordered by the Allied conquerors to obey the commands of the Mikado’s military men? Why aren’t anti-fascists allowed to clean out the Nazis? Why aren’t workers permitted to organize free trade unions, hold public meetings, participate in politics?

Here we penetrate to the innermost core of the conspiracy hatched by the Big Three at Potsdam: their unholy alliance against the European and the German revolution. References to this question were carefully excluded from the communiques and even from the capitalist press reports emanating from the Tripartite Conference. Nevertheless, the counter-revolutionary program is the main unifying factor in the unholy combination of the Big Three. The end of the imperialist war has witnessed the beginnings of the proletarian revolution in Europe. In Greece the resistance of the masses reached the point of civil war. Thanks to Anglo-American and Red Army occupation, the treacherous policies of the Stalinist and Social-Democratic parties, and the unpreparedness and illusions of the working masses, the first wave of the revolutionary offensive was pushed back. But the political situation throughout Europe remains extremely unstable. Only the first encounters between the contending class forces have taken place. The great and decisive battles between the forces of the socialist revolution and the camp of the capitalist counter-revolution are still ahead. As Europe plunges deeper into starvation and ruin, as the true nature of the Anglo-American “liberators” and the role of their Stalinist accomplices dawns upon the people, as the hopelessness of their future under capitalism strikes them even more forcibly, then a mighty tide of revulsion against the new masters of the continent will rise in one country after another. If Germany will not be the first country in which this revolt erupts, it will in any event be the place where the struggle must be fought to a finish and decided. It may take some time for the German workers to recover from the shocks of the war and the betrayals of their leaders, to reorganize their ranks, to reform, their political parties. But in time they can be expected to resume their rightful place in the vanguard of the European revolutionary movement.

Plans of Counter-Revolution

That is precisely what the Allies are determined to forestall. The Anglo-American bandits fear the revival of German industry; but they fear far more the resurrection of the revolutionary German proletariat. Stalin fears the German imperialists – but he dreads even more the prospect of the resurgence of an independent socialist-inspired German working class on the march to power. For the victory of such a working class, or even large-scale successes in struggle against the present rulers, would imperil Stalin’s power, would stimulate the Soviet masses to recover their own capacities for organized class action against his totalitarian regime.

The Allies are seeking in every way to keep the German workers divided, demoralized, pinned down so that they will not become the mighty power they were after the last war. That is the main reason why they refrain from extending the most elementary rights to the German people. After winning the war against their capitalist rivals, the Anglo-American imperialists are pitilessly prosecuting class war against the German workers. That is the political essence of their Potsdam policy.

The nature of Allied political rule over the German people is made fully clear by the recent press dispatches. After the behavior of the Allied generals had become a scandal, General Eisenhower on Aug. 6 told the Germans that they would be permitted to form local unions and engage in local political activities and hold meetings “subject to approval of the local military government.” But local unions are not permitted to carry on any political activities or to strike. They are forbidden to federate or even to establish contacts with each other on a regional or national scale. AMG earlier dissolved the Central Office for Trade Unions in Hamburg on the grounds that its officers had tried to turn it into an active political organization and had also “made a premature attempt to establish a trade union administration for the entire country.” No national political parties are permitted to organize.

Such is the “democracy” which the Allies are bringing to Germany on the tips of their bayonets.

While the workers are being kept in a state of forced dispersion and disorganization, many Nazis retain key positions in the few factories which have been restored to operation as well as in the state and municipal administration. “The Saar coal and iron mines have reopened with 5000 of the former workmen back on the job,” reported the NY Times correspondent Raymond Daniell late in May. “The management consists pretty much of the same people who ran them as feeders for the Nazi war industry and who, to the knowledge of Military Government officials, were supporters of the Hitler regime.” When a delegation from the population in Rosenheim, Bavaria, called at the military government office to protest the AMG .appointment of a Nazi mayor, “they were informed that ‘the military governor is too busy’ and the Nazi will have to remain in office until he has more time to look into the case.”

Who but a madman expects peace, democracy or well-being to flow from policies which have already brought two world wars, rampant reaction, fascist dictatorship, and ruin to the entire continent? Who can expect the peoples of Europe and above all the workers of Germany to submit unprotestingly to the Big Three’s projected regime of starvation and terror? They will be compelled to fight against the new overlords, the capitalist rulers and their Stalinist and reformist agents simply in order to exist. And their struggles must inescapably acquire a sharper class edge, a more and more pronounced revolutionary character. At the same time the illusions of the European masses about Stalinism – above all in Germany – will become dissipated through direct experience with the agencies of the Soviet oligarchy. This has already occurred to some extent. Here is what Reiss reports from Berlin:

“What the Russians did has made an enormous, one might say staggering, impression on the German working population. I talked to quite a few workers in the northern and eastern Berlin districts. They are horrified, to say the least.

“While most Germans were terribly afraid of the advancing Russians, mainly on account of what Goebbel’s propaganda taught them, this cannot be said of the workers. Though most of them were not Communists, they nevertheless believed the Red Army to be the protector of the working class. In many Berlin districts the Russians were greeted as liberators, in some instances there were even flowers. Now there is only resentment.

“German workers told me that, while they are grateful to the Russians for having liberated them from Hitler, they reproach them for having deprived them of their livelihood, at best, degraded them, for a skilled worker without machines becomes an unskilled worker.”

The Coming Struggles

The coming struggles of the agonized European masses against the Big Three enslavers and their super-Versailles and against the Stalinist and Social-Democratic misleaders can find the correct program and necessary leadership only in the parties of the Fourth International. The Trotskyists proclaim that without a socialist revolution the European peoples cannot escape from the prevailing chaos, gain their freedom, rebuild their economic life. Only through joint struggle for the Socialist United States of Europe can they liberate the continent and move forward again.

In the United States we Trotskyists are exerting every effort to inform the American workers of the crimes being plotted and perpetrated against Europe. Appealing to their class sentiments of international solidarity we call upon the labor movement to support morally and materially the struggles for life and liberty conducted against their oppressors by the workers across the Atlantic. The slogan of our party: “Withdraw the Allied Occupation Troops from Europe” will become the rallying cry of all advanced workers who recognize that the masses on both continents have one common enemy to fight in the criminals of the Potsdam Conference.


Last updated on: 19 September 2018