Karl Radek

Powerless Germany

(5 April 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 31 [13], 5 April 1923, pp. 240–241.
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.

French imperialism is marching its troops deeper into Germany, the occupation of Mannheim, Darmstadt, and Karlsruhe, is not only an advance into the heart of Havana, but the occupation of the Neckar line controlling the connections between the Ruhr valley and Baden and Würtemburg, is the beginning of an advance on Bavaria, the occupation of the railway leading to Augsburg and Munich.

This advance, which aims at forcing South Germany into a revolt against the central government, is the result of the failure oi the attempt at a purely economic occupation. of the Ruhr area the French government assumed at first that it would succeed, with the all of its engineers in dominating the production and distribution of the Ruhr coal, and that this would force Germany to capitulate. The flight of the coal syndicate from Essen to Hamburg shattered this hope. The French, unable to master the central apparatus of the coal basin had the choice between two methods: either to slowly organize their own industrial administration in the Ruhr area, or to exercise such a pressure on Germany that the Cuno government would be obliged to give in. The French industrial magnates are in favor of me former method The criticism of their organ Journée Industrielle is not directed against the occupation, as the Paris correspondent of the “Rosta” is informed and as the German press imagines, but against the government bee ise it has not delivered over the Ruhr basin to the representatives of heavy industry. Two hypotheses are possible: Poincaré fears that if he places the Ruhr valley in the hands of the Comité des Forges, he will not le able to get it back again if required; so that he would be forced to make up his mind to the final conquest of the Ruhr. The other possibility is: Poincaré is of the opinion that the economic seizure of the Ruhr may take a long time; therefore he made his calculations with the aid of political terror, the removal of all high German officials in the Ruhr area, the further military advance, the separation of South from North Germany, the execution of Foch’s Rhine country plan for the dismemberment of Germany.

What was the reply of the German government? It issued the formula: So long as Poincaré is in the Ruhr, the German government enters into no negotiations. At the same time England was given to understand that, should the allies make a joint proposal for negotiations, Germany would not be averse to negotiating. But the debates in the English Parliament showed plainly that English imperialism has no intention of interfering in favor of Germany against France. France, for her part, will not talk to Germany until the latter offers an official program satisfying France’s demands. But even if Germany agrees to do this, France would only accept the program with the reservation that the Ruhr occupation is to be continued as a guarantee for the actual execution of the program. Should England decide to intervene, this would signify the dissolution of the Entente. But even the dissolution of the Entente would not necessarily imply the evacuation of French troops from the Ruhr, but simply that the occupation would be continued in spite of England’s open protest. Therefore the English government prefers to wait until France declares herself bankrupt. Poincaré tumbles ignominiously from his height, French imperialism capitulates. If this does not happen. England will try to compensate herself by securing a share of the booty. The London correspondent of the Frankfort Journal has already published reports on provisional negotiations between English and French industrial and financial circles with regard to a joint exploitation of the Ruhr valley. And the intentions of one section of the English bourgeoisie have been let out by some of the members of the English Labor Party (the clever ones keep their own counsel, the foolish ones let everything out). The lesser flunkeys of the English bourgeoisie in the Labor Party spoke of the internationalization of the Ruhr, for it is a well known fact that internationalism is an excellent thing, and the German will not fed it so acutely when it is not the Frenchman alone who probes about in his wounds, but when the operation is assisted by the gentleman from the City, with a chloroform mask in his hand. And what further? The German capitalist press makes the test of it. It maintains that the purchase of coal in England has no detrimental effect whatever, on German economics. If all this talk had any sense in it whatever, it would be an argument for facilitating the Ruhr occupation by the French. But it is all nonsense. The German government’ is throwing several milliards gold marks onto the market for the purpose of raising the rate of exchange of tlie mark, in order that coal may be more easily bought by the industrial undertakings, and the industrial crisis thus retarded. But how tong will it be in a position to keep this up?

It is impossible for anyone to predict the issue of the conflict. We cannot know how long Poincaré will be able to continue his pressure, or how long the German bourgeoisie can offer – resistance But the Terror instituted by the French, and directed immediately against the masses of the population, is calling forth a trend of feeling which may lead to unexpected events, That the French occupation powers are well aware of this is shown by the fact the French officers do not sleep in hotels any longer, but remain overnight in the barracks for fear of possible attacks. But the question of what the next few weeks may bring is not the most important, but rather the question of what the German bourgeoisie is really calculating upon. The Vossische Zeitung publishes an article by General Dauming, in which he declares most decisively that at the present time Germany cannot think of armed resistance. But General Dauming is a penitent militarist who has gone over to the democrats and pacifists. It is oi greater interest to learn that the Kreuz-Zeitung, the leading organ of the national party of the Junkers, the revenge party, published on the 21 February an article by General Seeckt, in which he declares the thought of direct military resistance to be pure fiction, and that any outbreak of feeling would only lead to bloodshed and to the fufilment of Poincaré’s hones. If this is the case, what conclusion is to be drawn? Germany cannot reckon on the support of the allies. If these interfere at all, it will only be after the struggle has exhausted the powers of France and Germany alike. And then the conflict will be settled in such a manner that Germany will be completely subjugated, that is, the question of further preparation for war arises again.

A short time ago there were some very heated debates in the German parliament, occasioned by the disclosures made by the Communist Party, accusing the German commander in chief, General von Seeckt, of preparing for civil war and the seizure of power, and of attempting to establish the illegal military organizations for this purpose, with the connivance of the Prussian government. This was the statement made by our German comrades. The seizure of power by the whites would not weaken France’s position, on the contrary, it would strengthen it. Such a change of power would reveal to the masses of the French people the face of an enemy filled with hate, the face of those who devastated France. The petty bourgeois peasant masses would gather around Poincaré. It can scarcely be assumed that General von Seeckt has omitted to take this into consideration. But it does not mean that the alarm raised by the German communists was groundless. The German bourgeoisie, with the aid of the German social democracy, has disarmed the proletariat. The illegal military organizations existing in the country took part in this, and raged against the unarmed workers. These organizations constitute the greatest danger for the proletariat. Even if they are strengthened under the pretext of preparing for a struggle against French imperialism, there is no doubt whatever that moment an agreement is reached between Stinnes and Loucheur, between French and German heavy industry, these armed troops would serve to aid heavy industry to drive its bargain at the expense of the working class, at the cost of longer working hours and reduced wages. This would happen quite independently of the will of many of the men heading these organizations, who are dominated by the idea of a struggle against French imperialism; the illegal national organizations are maintained with the money of heavy industry, and it is heavy industry which has the final command over them. The German bourgeoisie is afraid of arming the workers, and this fear proves it to be incapable of leading national defence. Just as in Russia it was impossible to organize national defence without satisfying the peasantry and obtaining their support, so in Germany it is equally impossible, even in the future, to think of defending the country so long as the iron heel presses on the neck of the unarmed workers. The German bourgeoisie, in arming itself and its sons and refusing arms to the workers, proves that it fears the German workers more than it does French imperialism.

Anyone who doubts this should read the article published by the Cologne Journal, the leading organ of Rhenish industry, on 25 February. In this article the paper attempts to disillusion those who hope for Russia’s helm in the future. It points out the difficulties of an action by the Red Army outside of Russia, and declares: “But even if it were possible to obtain help from Russia, we should pray on our knees to heaven to save us from such friends: to let Bolshevist troops into Germany would be equivalent to driving out the devil with the aid of Beelzebub.” What is the control over German industry by France in comparison with a workers’ control? What is the tribute to be paid to the French in comparison to the fact that the workers would put an end to all speculation and ill-gotten luxury? The national war would require the utilization of the economic forces of Germany, not in the interests of the bourgeoisie, but for the people.

In the past it was possible for the bourgeoisie to grasp the weapon of national defence, for it knew that the masses would follow. But to-day the awakening masses of workers have no faith in the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie has to defend itself against the working masses, hence it cannot venture into a national war. It cries out for the salvation of the nation, but subordinates this salvation in favor of its money-bags. And the working class has not yet found the courage to set itself at the head of the nation, to take upon itself the burden and the honor of the hegemony, to unite its class war with the war of national emancipation. There is one section of the working class which still runs after the bourgeoisie, despite having lost faith in it, but this part is very small. Neither revolution nor counter-revolution can rely on social democracy. It is a passive mass; its leaders would like to deceive history. The communists are backed up by the active fighting elements of the working class, but these elements are still in the minority. And this minority is not yet aware that tomorrow it may be a majority, and that it should act today as a majority would act tomorrow. The attitude adopted by the communist fraction in parliament was characteristic in this regard. It was only powerful so long as it disclosed the white organizations, but its voice became weak and theoretical as soon as it was a question of declaring that the working class which seizes power will defend Germany against the capitalist world.

A feeling of powerlessness prevails in Germany. It makes Germany a victim of international imperialism. The proletarian revolution of the year 1918 proved weak in the fight for socialism, and capitulated to the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie contrived to convert the German workers into its slaves. Hence the German bourgeoisie is forced to capitulate before the stronger international bourgeoisie, the proletariat fights against its slave holders, it does not trust them, and it is also anxious to fight against a future slavery under international capital. But it is still fighting in the name of wages only: it has not yet learnt to fight on behalf of its whole future and on behalf of its whole people. Thus it drives into the arms of the nationalist fantasts even those strata of the population which would win much more than lose by the rule of the proletariat.

Thus the present occurrences in Germany are merely a trial of future events, not the decisive events themselves. It seems to us that events may develop, for the unfruitfulness and impotence of the bourgeoisie may create such a situation that all social classes come to one decision. But al the present time the great German people, the people of great workers and organizers, is struggling in a net like a captured giant, is so overpowered by its own impotence that it has become the plaything of the international kings of capital, a despicable object of foreign bayonets.

Last updated on 14 September 2021