Karl Radek

In the heart of civilized Europe

(29 March 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 29, 27 March 1923, pp. 223–224.
From International Press Correspondence (Weekly), Vol. 3 No. 12, 29 March 1923, pp. 178–179.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). 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.

In Buer two French officers were murdered by persons unknown. The French occupation troops replied to this by shooting two German workmen, and by issuing the following decree:

  1. Any act of violence committed against a member of the French occupahtion will be punished by the shooting of the mayor at present under arrest, and by other punitive measures to be decided upon.
  2. From today on (March 12), from 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the public must use the middle of the street only. The population is forbidden to put hands in pockets: the arms must be so held that the palms of the hands are visible.
  3. From today on, only those persons are allowed in the streets, between 7.30 in the evening and 6 o’clock in tlie morning, who are provided with a special night pass.
  4. By 10 o’clock in the evening all lights must be out.
  5. Any assembly of persons in the street, and any assembly whatever, even during the day, will be dispersed by force of arms.
  6. The inhabitants are strictly prohibited from possessing weapons. Anyone found with a weapon in his possession will be brought at once before the court martial.


This declaration issued by the French troops of occupation tells more than any article about the conditions prevailing in the Ruhr area. The French, who in the beginning of their invasion attempted to play the role of friend to the German working class, have found themselves obliged by the course of events to imitate the German imperialist troops in the Ukraine under similar circumstances. They are obliged to force the population into submission with their weapons, and where they encounter the passive resistance of the population, they let themselves be provoked into the most bestial and savage, and at the same time the most idiotic, deeds of violence. It suffices to mention that when the French occupied the People’s House at Herne, a building erected from the savings of the workers for the purpose of affording a meeting place for the Herne proletariat, they set the whole furnishings of the house on fire, ruined the central heating plant, and left the house filthier than a pig-stye. And this was done by the sons of this civilized nation. All this is inevitable. If the masses of soldiers are to be kept under arms at all, if they are to be at all used for such rapacious raids the officers are obliged to instil fear against every imaginable attack, and distrust and hate against the immediate surroundings. The soldier becomes exhausted by his unceasing exertions It is not possible to keep him under military discipline; play must be given to his savage instincts; plunder and murder must be made of personal interest to him. These are the tactics of the French officers.

In order to attain his goal, M. Poincaré decided to prolong his stay in the Ruhr area, and not to quit until his demands are fulfilled. We do not know how loug M. Poincaré will have to keep his troops in the Ruhr area, but there is every sign that the time will be long enough to disintegrate the French army. We do not know if Poincaré will succeed in extracting coal from the Ruhr basin and money from the steel safes of the German bourgeoisie. But there is no doubt whatever that what he will obtain from the Ruhr area will be the disintegration of the French army. The French soldier, whether peasant or workman, is an honest human being, just as the masses of the people in every country are honest. It is true that when in a state of fear, and in an atmosphere of outlawry, he can become bestial, as is the case with every mass of soldiery whose path is not illuminated by a great idea. But the French soldier will not be able, to suppress his doubts and indignation at the crime for long; he is beginning to reflect as to why it is being committed. At the moment in which he gives himself a reply to this question, the rule of the French Bloc National begins to totter, and perhaps the rule of the French bourgeoisie with it.

But until then we are witnesses, in this fifth year of peace in democratic Europe, of the most savage dictatorskip of the bayonet, attempting to dominate one of the industrially most developed parts of the world. How much was written by the French bourgeois press on the impotence of force, so long as it was a question of predicting the collapse of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia. But the Russian proletarian dictatorship was not impotent, for the wielders of this dictatorship, the masses of workers and peasants, were fighting for their own cause, and were actuated by the profoundest faith in the justice of their cause. The dictatorship in Russia was and is supported by the working strata of the population, the object of this dictatorship was the class of exploiters. In the Ruhr area the dictatorship of the bayonet has been introduced, but these bayonets are in the hands of workers and peasants who will presently discover that they are fighting for somebody rise’s cause, for the cause of the capitalists who do not want to pay any taxes. In the end, Poincaré’s dictatorship will prove powerless for creating even a peace of piracy. But on the other and it will become the source of the profoundest revolutionary upheaval. It will not only lead to the overthrow of the French Bourgeoisie but also of the German and the world bourgeoisie.

Even though Poincaré’s occupation troops may throw factory managers into prison, as well as workers, still, the matter will be settled tomorrow, in one way or another, by a bargain struck between French and German capitalists, – and the whole burden of the dictatorship will be thrust onto the working class. The disclosure of the conspiracy in Bavaria proved that the nationalist circles of the Right, this German Vendée, were ready to come to an understanding with the French troops on the separation of Bavaria from Germany, on its union with Roman Catholic Tyrol, and on the creation of a state in which the revolutionary rebellion was to be exterminated. The official circles of the German Right naturally disown these Bavarian traitors. But this is merely external. Count Reventlow’s organ, the Reichswart, is not the petty publication of irresponsible national circles. For decades Count Reventlow has been the leading publicist of German imperialism. Even today he is one of General Ludendorff’s advisors. What attitude does he adopt in this periodical? Count Reventlow declares that under present circumstances all talk of war with France is absurd. Resistance will only be possible after all rebellion has been suppressed within Germany itself, and all Jewish and revolutionary elements have been annihilated. Count Reventlow is thus preaching the policy of a pause for breath with regard to French imperialism, with the idea of utilizing the recess for a bloody settlement with the revolutionary elements in Germany. Count Reventlow is preaching that which is being done by the Bavarian traitors. And this is again something inevitable. German counter-revolution is truly unable to fight on two fronts at the same time. It must either renounce its counter-revolutionary character in the name of nationalism, or renounce its nationalism, for the moment, in the name of its counter-revolutionary character. Propaganda by word and deed. Chaffering with French imperialism for the subjugation of the German working class, under the protection of the French bayonet. These are guide-posts on the road of even the most consistent representatives of German counter-revolution.

And it is this that is breaking up the ranks of German nationalism, splitting it up into two groups corresponding to its two fundamentals; capitalist and feudal nationalists are advancing against the working class under a foreign yoke; but sooner or later the proletarianized petty-bourgeois elements of nationalism will realize that in reality they can only defend the cause of German national independence from within the ranks of the German proletariat. And on the other hand, – the German proletariat, in face of the alliance between French bayonets and fascist black-jacks, will be forced to realize that they can defend neither themselves nor the country except by opposing force against force, by a determined and consistent struggle.

Mr. Lloyd George, who became a prophet after ceasing to be a minister, has written an article on how the French are carrying out the Versailles peace. In this article he describes the complete helplessness of trie international bourgeoisie. He points out that the Ruhr adventure has overthrown the shaky balance of Europe, that it has rendered all antagonisms more acute. He shows that, in the whole of bourgeois France there is not a single individual capable of making up his mind to liquidate the crime initiated by Poincaré. He points out that the English government was not able Io do anything to prevent this crime. We ask, what will be the inevitable result of this complete impotence of the world bourgeoisie with regard to the impending catastrophe, whose approach the bourgeoisie sees, but cannot prevent? The answer is extremely simple. Nobody can tell how long (he death agonies of capitalist Europe may last. But one thing we do know if the bourgeoisie is not able to prevent the catastrophe, it will prevented by that class which can live without the bourgeoisie, and which does not intend to be engulfed in the catastrophe. Today or tomorrow this class will take the salvation of humanity into its hands. And the wretched dictator, the dictator without brains, the dictator who is only capable of destroying the European bourgeoisie, will be compelled to abdicate in favor of the dictator who has learnt by suffering what he has to do.

Last updated on 7 August 2021