Karl Radek

The Capitulation of the German Bourgeoisie

(28 September 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 67 [43], 18 October 1923, pp. 749–750.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2023). 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.

Stresemann’s government, in renouncing passive resistance in the Ruhr area, capitulates to French imperialism. It hopes, now that resistance has been abandoned, to settle by means of negotiations the questions in dispute which led to the Ruhr occupation. But if the Stresemann government is incapable of any resistance against Poincaré, on what does it base its hopes that Poincaré is more likely to give way now than before the occupation of the Ruhr area? The Ruhr struggle has ended with his complete victory. Resistance having been abandoned, the industrial and railway workers will be obliged, in order to live, to work for undertakings supplying coal to the French.

M. Poincaré is in a position to made far-reaching demands. The international relationships of power permit or his doing so. Will he encounter resistance on the part of England? No; it is only a few days ago that Mr. Baldwin, Prime Minister of England, paid a visit to Poincaré, after having first pointed out, in a note sent by the English government a few weeks ago, that the occupation of the Ruhr area is a breach of the Versailles treaty and nothing more or less than a piratical raid. After having pointed this out, Mr. Baldwin became the guest of the leader of this piratical raid, and all excellent breakfast was followed by the issue of an official communiqué announcing to the world that it was long since Poincaré has been in such a cheerful mood as after this excellent breakfast at the English embassy. And has he not good reason to be in a cheerful mood? Mr. Baldwin’s visit signified: “To be sure you are robbers, but since you have got the best of it, an honest man like me cannot stand aside any longer. Let us divide the spoil. Poincaré does not know at present how much commission he will have to pay Mr. Baldwin, but he knows that it is not only Germany that has capitulated, but England as well.

M. Poincaré is fully aware of the limits of his own powers: He has not the strength to occupy Germany. And what would be the use of his doing so? He can remain quietly in the Ruhr area, and even reduce the number of his troops. Therefore Poincaré declines every proposal of Stresemann’s which implies abandoning the Ruhr valley and in place thereof, accepting the right of exploitation of the whole of Germany. The Ruhr area lies conveniently to hand; it is much easier to keep his finger on it than to participate in the exploitation of the whole of Germany. M. Poincaré is not prepared to make the least real concession to the Stresemann government.

Germany has lost the second war. The Versailles peace exists no longer. There is, however, another peace which is even worse than the peace of Versailles – the peace which leaves the Ruhr valley, the main foundation of German industry, at the hands of France.

This is the course events have followed in the four years after the signing of the Versailles peace by Germany. During these four years, Germany’s situation has worsened to an extraordinary degree. And this itself is a proof that the Versailles peace was not a manoeuvre on the part of the German bourgeoisie, but a capitulation. During these four years the German bourgeoisie has taken no steps to better its position in relation to the victorious allies; it has been unable to better this position, although the relations between the allies themselves have meanwhile become so much worse. The attempts made by the Cuno government, though supported by Ihe whole of bourgeois and socialist Germany, were a complete failure. They were a failure because the German bourgeoisie refused to make adequate material sacrifices; it was unable to finance the Ruhr struggle, apart from the fact that it was anxious to make a profit on the struggle itself.

The Ruhr struggle could have become a turning point in the post-war history of Germany; in fact it did become a turning point, but not in favor of Germany’s international position on the contrary, to its disadvantage. But the fact that this worsening of her position will cost the German people a great deal is not the worst aspect of the case. The worst point is that the ruling class of Germany has now given in and not for ihe purpose of preparing for fresh struggles, but has capitulated without having the faintest idea of what is to come next. Herr Stresemann’s policy is not only logical, but it arises at the same time from an historical ambition. Herr Stresemann is a German patriot, and has beat anxious to find a way of escape. He capitulated solely because he could see no such way. He took over the financial bankruptcy of the state from the hands of the Cuno government, and once faced with this fait accompli, he could only have fought it by seizing by the throat the very class

to which he himself belonged. And this means that even after the capitulation Herr Stresemann will be incapable of accomplishing anything towards defending Germany. The whole of the German industrial and commercial bourgeoisie has gone bankrupt in the person of Stresemann.

And what is the position of Stresemann’s opponents of the Right, who are carrying on the wildest agitation against him? The representatives of the landowning class in Germany, though they flourish their sabres, and shriek at the capitulation, are mere empty talkers. Stresemann is attacking the working class in order to defend the bourgeoisie, and is attacking it none the less that he does it under the cover of Social Democracy. If the Generals Ludendorff, Mackensen, Gallwitz, or any other of the numerous candidates for the German dictatorship, were to seize power, the first result of this White dictatorship would be the alliance of the German working class against these representatives of the old regime. The civil war now threatening would break out and the lords of the White Dictatorship would be compelled first of all to call a truce with the external enemy in order to be able to cope with the enemy at home. And even assuming that they could vanquish the inner enemy, what then? How could they arm against the external enemy and hold down the working class at the same time? A White government might pose as being a government of revenge against France, but in reality it would be as much a government of capitulation as the Stresemann Government

And this is the point of profoundest importance underlying events in Germany. The former ruling classes of Germany have ceased to fulfil the leading functions of a ruling class! They can no longer give any security to the masses of the people over whom they rule, and this incapacity does not merely relate to their conditions of human life; they are not only powerless to stop the increasing economic collapse, they not only have no plan for the structure of the state, but they have ceased to be a factor guaranteeing the independence ot the country and securing the conditions of its national development. This signifies that they are condemned to extinction. So long as private property is the foundation of the existence of the bourgeois regime, the chief factor in the maintenance of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie is the consciousness present among the majority of the people that the ruling class is competent to defend the independence and preserve the fundamental national pillars of the country, it is solely this feeling which enables the bourgeoisie to find among the population its tools for the suppression of the dissatisfied exploited elements in the country. The German bourgeoisie is forced Io render worse not only the position of the working masses, but of the petty bourgeoisie as well. In delivering over the country to pillage and oppression of foreign capital, it at the same time destroys the ties which enabled it to organize sufficient powers for the maintenance of its power.

A people of seventy millions, educated, and trained to industrial pursuits, cannot become the colonial slave of Entente capital. There is no means in the world capable of holding these millions in slavery for any length of time. The German bourgeoisie and the German landlords are incapable of organizing a national struggle for emancipation; they may cling to their power with the aid of hirelings, but it will not be for long, as the moral bases of their power have disappeared.

This is the great lesson to be learnt from the capitulation of the German bourgeoisie. It will speak of a Brest-Litovsk, but it will not be able to afford that pause for breath which the Brest treaty afforded Soviet Russia; it has simply capitulated. Five months after Brest-Litovsk, Soviet Russia was in a position to resume the struggle tor existence. Four years after the Versailles peace, the ruling class of Germany capitulates finally.

But the German people cannot capitulate. M. Clemenceau once remarked that there are about twenty million Germans too many. But before these twenty millions of German proletarians and small bourgeoisie are exterminated, they will shake the foundations of the world, and even then it is a question as to who is going to be exterminated. Germany’s development from the peasant people of the 18th Century to the leading industrial nation of the 20th Century has evoked forces which ensure the salvation and renaissance of Germany. These are forces which enable the working class, even at this moment of capitulation on the part of the German bourgeoisie, to raise the flag of defence for its own interests, for the interests of its people. For months the German bourgeoisie has maligned the vanguard of the German proletariat, the Communist Party, by the assertion that it has accepted bribes from the French occupation troops. Today, the German bourgeoisie prostrates itself before the foreign conqueror, but the German communists, in the midst of the bayonets and machine guns of the French, are proclaiming a protest strike against the capitulation.

This protest strike will not drive the French out of the country, nor will it annul the capitulation, but it will proclaim to the whole world: “We proletarians, whom bourgeois society deems to be mere cannon fodder, take the defence of the country our own lands.” No greater security for the final victory of the German working class is possible than this deed lhe working class will take over lhe dictatorship of the country, for it does not represent any special interests of the whole country. We do not know what periods of struggle and what suffering the German workers have still to undergo before they attain their final victory, but to the same extent as we are convinced that the great German people wlil not disappear, that it will not become the slaves of foreign capitalists, we are equally convinced that the German working class, the organizer of the struggle for national emancipation which is part and parcel of its class war, will be victorious.

In Germany the process of replacement of the ruling class by another is going forward. Nobody knows how long this process will last, but its course is already laid down by history. The bourgeoisie has ceased to be a class defending the independence of the nation. The proletariat takes into its hands the leadership of die struggle for independence. It absorbs the whole of the creative forces of the people, and becomes the leader of the country.

Moscow, September 28, 1923.

Last updated on 30 April 2023