Karl Radek


The Stinnes Agreement

(26 September 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 82, 26 September 1922, pp. 614–615.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The rumors of the direct negotiations of the French and German capitalists were treated in the English press as threatening a Franco-German alliance. “Only attempt to settle with one another. We should be glad if France should punish us for defending Germany by making concessions to her.”

Thus can the attitude of the English press be approximately summarized. And whilst Poincaré rattled the sabre, the Marquis de Lubersac, the authorized representative of the Union of Cooperative Reconstruction, conducted negotiations in Hamburg and there signed an agreement providing for enormous supplies for Northern France.

The agreement concluded in Hamburg has enormous importance for Franco-German relations. Who then, is the contracting party represented by the Marquis de Lubersac who is operating in collusion with Poincaré and accepts obligations in the name of France? In the 17th and 18th centuries, Kings’ treaties were concluded at their summer residences. The German Emperor, however, does not live in Hamburg, but at Amerongen in Holland where he busies himself with chopping wood and writing memoirs for good, sound dollars. Chancellor Wirth, who at the same time holds office as Minister of Foreign Affairs does not live in Hamburg, but in Berlin. Hamburg is the residence of the uncrowned German Emperor, – Hugo Stinnes. And this strong man who is not a member of the Government (on the contrary, he expresses himself very disrespectfully to it through his body-journalist, the late left wing Social Democrat, Paul Lensch) – this iron, steel and coal king is the party contracting with France in this politically most important agreement.

Mr. Hugo Stinnes has already gotten into the way of saying: “I and England. I and France.” A jester who was once the witness of such an expression asked him: “Pardon me, are you a state or even a continent?” The truth exceeds the jest. Mr. Hugo Stinnes has taken over the role of a state, the role of the Government of the German Republic

Last year, the murdered Rathenau, the electricity king, concluded with the French Minister Loucheur, the celebrated Wiesbaden Agreement, by which Germany pledged herself to pay a portion of her obligations in the form of industrial products destined for the reconstruction of Northern France. The contracting parties to this treaty were the Governments of the French and German Republics. The German Government pledged itself to deliver the necessary materials to France and to pay the industrials for the articles delivered. The chief advantage to Germany thereby was, that instead of having to purchase with foreign valuta, a part of its obligations could be covered by goods which she could obtain in her own markets by means of an increased issue of bank notes. Rathenau was of the opinion that by such a solution of the problem the German mark would fall less rapidly than by the purchase of foreign valuta. At the same time this agreement was to secure French orders for German industry.

The Wiesbaden Agreement was received with savage criticism by the kings of German industry with Stinnes at their head. This criticism was directed against two very essential points. First, the full value of the goods delivered was not to be credited in the reparations account; only a third to a half was to be credited, and the remainder France would owe Germany. In this manner, economically exhausted Germany was, in the actual words of Rathenau, to become the “Banker of France”. In the second place France had not bound herself to take over a definite quantity of materials in a definite period. Stinnes quite correctly pointed out that France could place orders with Germany if Germany would take advantage of the condition of the world market to sell her goods at an advantageous price, and that France would order nothing if the French industries found it to their advantage io supply the necessary goods themselves.

The dispute over the Wiesbaden Agreement which considerably sharpened the differences between Rathenau and Stinnes, was in fact a quarrel over the Kaiser’s beard. On the one side this agreement was sabotaged by the French industrials who were afraid of German competition, and on the other side it was sabotaged by Rathenau himself, a lover of great theoretical constructions who was incapable of realizing them in practice.

The Wiesbaden Agreement required corresponding financial measures and financial organizations. Rathenau took no step towards carrying these out and left the finances in the hands of so incapable a man as Hermes.

The Wiesbaden Agreement was later supplanted by the agreement with Bemelmans and Gillet. This agreement differed from the Wiesbaden Agreement in that it gave to the French the right to apply directly to the German industrials. The part played by the German Government was merely that of paying the German manufacturers for the supplies delivered to the French. In this way the German Government prepared the way to the agreement between the German and French industrials. Mr. Stinnes consequently occupied the place which Rathenau assigned to the German Government.

The contractor for the restoration of Northern France was now the Stinnes (Hoch und Tief) Engineering and Construction Co. It receives the orders from the French concerns and distributes them among the German industrials. Although the right of control is formally accorded to the German Government, this control is of course a fiction, as the whole apparatus of delivering and pricing is in the hands of Stinnes and his French partners. The fact that the French see in Stinnes the guarantee for the fulfillment of the agreement shows how they judge the relationships of power between Stinnes and the German Government.

It must be recognized that Stinnes has succeeded in getting better conditions than Rathenau. First, he achieved that the whole value of goods delivered is to be credited to Germain on the reparations account; secondly, that the coal to be delivered is deducted from those quantities of coal which Germany has to supply to France. This at any rate mitigates the coal crisis in German industry.

Of course, Stinnes, in addition to the general terms which strengthen his control over the German industry, reserved an enormous immediate profit. His Hoch und Tief Company receives 6% of the total price of all supplies. This tribute must be paid to him by the German Government. And as Mr. Stinnes recognizes the rule of “live and let live” he concluded at the same time an agreement with the so-called D. Banks (Dresdener Bank, Darmstädter Bank, Disconto-Gesellschaft and Deutsche Bank) which finance all undertakings and. in return receive a corresponding percentage at the expense of the German State. And the state must of course raise these sums by means of taxes and credits.

This agreement was signed by Stinnes and Lubersac on the 13th of August. There is no doubt that Mr. Stinnes was so amiable as to let the German Government know in time that he is taking upon himself the burden of those engagements. The whole outcry therefore of the Social Democratic press with regard to the unheard-of proceeding that the Government was replaced by Stinnes, cannot be regarded as anything less than an attempt to throw sand into the eyes of their readers. If the Social Democrats do not agree that Stinnes should take the responsibilities for the Republic they can refuse to confirm the agreement, since they are in the government. But there is no talk about that. After some moral indignation over the fact that Mr. Stinnes wants to draw a full profit out of his grand undertakings, the Vorwärts remarks in a tone of melancholy that the agreement is signed.

Yes, the agreement is signed, and signed not only by Mr. Stinnes with the approval of the Socialist Government, but also – if the case is considered not only from the juridical but from the political point of view also – by the trade union leaders. It has now come to light that Mr. Stinnes was anxious enough to conduct negotiations beforehand with the trade union leaders in order to make sure that the execution of the concluded agreement should, in the interests of the Fatherland, not be hindered by strikes.

The Stinnes agreement can still be sabotaged by the French Stinneses. Mr. Stinnes wants to insure himself against this and is endeavouring to conclude a special agreement with the French iron and steel industry for the supply of coke to the French metal industry. If he succeeds in this, then there is not the least doubt that the reparations question and the Franco-German relations will take a new course, and secondly, that Mr. Stinnes will then take over the actual dictatorship not only of German industry, but also of German domestic and foreign policy. The Stinnification of Germany is to be perfected. The Coalition Government of the Democrats, the Center and the Social Democrats will be degraded to a mere cloak of the actual Stinnes Government.

In the meanwhile Stinnes meets with no obstacles! Germany. But apart from the possible sabotage by the French industrials, English capital can oppose him as a powerful enemy.

England replied to the Stinnes Agreement by declaring herself in favor of taking Upper Silesia away from Germany. We have not yet heard the opinion of the English press with regard to the Stinnes agreement. But there is no doubt that Stinnes who hitherto was regarded as representing the Anglophile tendencies did not forget to effect reinsurances in London. His press is laying stress on the fact – so help us God – that the Treaty of Lubersac is in no way directed against England, that England herself will disinterestedly collaborate in improving Franco-German relations.

But all these wordy efforts, all these touching declarations of the Stinnes press show that it is well aware of the danger from England. In fact England could have nothing to say against the payment of part of the German obligations by reparations in kind to France. What England is worried over it the alliance of the French and German iron and steel industries. But without the formation of this bloc, French industry would sabotage the Stinnes Agreement. In order to avoid this danger Stinnes will be compelled to ally himself with the French heavy industry. All this is yet before us. The Stinnes agreement places the fight over the control of the foreign policy of Germany in the foreground. With regard to her domestic policy, this fight will have as a consequence the intensification of the social contradictions.

Last updated on 3 September 2020