Karl Radek

French Imperialism and the Prospects in Germany

(27 October 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 68 [44], 27 October 1923, pp. 767–768.
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.

The French press preserves a suspicious silence on the prospects of German development. It reports what this or that German statesman has said, prints reports of the most important events in Germany, but abstains from any expression of opinion on the general outlook. It was only week or two ago that M. Poincaré remarked that he was not alarmed at the spectre of anarchy in Germany. France is capable of protecting law and order against German anarchy. It is a country in which life runs on steady ordered lines. The French nationalist newspaper Liberté speaks in the same tone. We are of the opinion that the idea of mental strength thus expressed by M. Poincaré is more apparent than real.

M. Poincaré is at present in an unexampled contradictory position. He sees the progression of Germany’s economic ruin. His press declares that this is all stuff and nonsense, the fact is that the German is a cunning fellow, and is destroying his own country in order to evade paying anything to France. It is not necessary to say that M. Poincaré does not believe a word of this fairy story. M. Poincaré knows perfectly well that what is going on in Germany is the complete disintegration of an economic system from which he has expected reparation payments. Economic ruin such as this leads to revolution. M. Poincaré must consider his relations towards the German revolution.

He might say to himself: I shall come to an understanding with the Stresemann government, which represents the last reserve of the German bourgeoisie. There are circles in France which are anxious to persuade him into this by pointing out that the Stresemann government is exposed to the attacks of the German nationalists, and is therefore a government which renounces the idea of revenge. But M. Poincaré is involved in doubt as to whether he shall place reliance on Herr Stresemann, who but yesterday was still a nationalist, or on General Seeckt, who is and remains General Seeckt. And in the second place M. Poincaré asks himself what sacrifices would be involved m the maintenance of this Stresemann government. It would involve the renunciation of the whole of the territorial aims of French imperialism, a considerable limitation of reparation demands, and a moratorium extending over several years. M. Poincaré himself is no great champion of the territorial aims of French imperialism. It is probable that he has grasped the fact that the modern aeroplane wipes out even the Rhine as a frontier. But M. Poincaré cannot definitely and finally cut himself off from the Foch clique, for he is not certain whether he will attain his main end or not. He is the representative of the rich farmers who do not want to pay any fresh taxes, he is the representative of masses of annuitants who bought the war loans and the 100 milliard franc loans for the restoration of the North, etc. What he needs is money, and again money. But if he cannot get money, he must at least produce pledges. What kind of pledges? Real tangible ones. Such pledges are: the Saar area, the Rhine province, and the Ruhr basin. Thus it is impossible for Poincaré to grant any concession, and thus the fate of every “fulfilment” cabinet is sealed. But, this being the case, the question arises: What next?

The bankruptcy of the Stresemann cabinet, which formed a buffer between open counter-revolution and open revolution, signifies civil war. And now M. Poincaré replies: we are not afraid of anarchy. What does this mean? Let the Whites fight with the Reds, the Reds with the Whites, and mutually weaken each other. Germany will then cease to exist as a political factor. M. Poincaré imagines the matter somewhat after the manner of that English general who, on being asked after his return from the Baltic in the year 1919 to give his opinion on the future of Russia, replied as follows: The Whites are fighting with the Reds; we should arm Greens as well, so that these too can take ixirt in the fight. M. Poincaré however, as a “sober statesman”, thinks of possibilities which would be worse for him: a victory on the part of the Whites. If Germany were beneath the rule of the Hohenzollern generals, if Ludendorff and his like were the standard bearers of Germany, then Poincaré would have a free hand. Then he could mobilize the masses of French peasantry under the slogan: France in danger! Then he would encounter no resistance from the public opinion of England and America, where the masses of the people st II feel an intense haired for imperial Germany. Then he could separate South Germany from North Germany, and – by occupying the Maine line – he could face the South with the alternative: protectorate and separation, or the occupation of the whole of Germany. Then he would march the Polish troops not only into East Prussia, but also into Berlin and Oppeln, and the Czecho-Slovakian troops into Dresden and Leipzig. The spectre of Hohenzollern rule, having a paralysing effect upon the powers of the revolutionary working masses, would leave him a free field for action. If he occupies Germany, he will destroy her centralization, create a German federation in which Catholic Bavaria holds the ascendancy, and take the control of German industry into his own hands.

But what will he do in the case of a Red victory? In this case his position is ten times worse. The fear of revolution would no doubt stimulate the international bourgeoisie to action, but a German revolution would impart fresh courage to the working masses of France, England, and America. Although M. Poincaré boasts of the firmness and stability of law and order in France, he is fully aware that it will be no easy task to convince the grandchildren of the Paris communards, who are working in the munition factories of France, and who hold the railways and technical troops in their hands, that they are performing a good work in helping M. Poincaré.

M. Poincaré, when considering this possibility, consoles himself with the idea that South Germany, agrarian, Catholic, and separatist, will split off from the Red north; that either the Prussian junkers will come to an understanding with Poland, or that the Catholic counter-revolutionary elements in Bavaria, in return for the recognition of Bavaria’s predominance, will work for the subjection of the Prussian Protestant landowning oligarchy by Poland. North Germany, cut off from the produce of German agriculture in the south and east, cannot maintain itself. Under such circumstances, it would only be necessary for Poincaré to divide the Rhine and Ruhr areas from the rest of Germany by a line of trenches, and to aid the Bavarians by the provision of arms, to enable the latter to establish themselves on the Danube or Maine line. And what then? If a revolution breaks out in the North, then the terrified bourgeoisie throughout Germany will lick the boots of the French bourgeoisie, and agree to any annexation, any re-arrangement of Germany’s inner life. Germany, broken up into weak and semi-independent states, will not be in a position to feed herself; one section of the population will starve, another section will emigrate to South America and the British colonies.

In making this calculation, there is only one point which M. Poincaré does not care to face: how will it be if the German revolution, the revolution of millions of battle-hardened proletarians, aided by millions of ruined petty bourgeois and by hundreds of thousands of nationalists, desperate, militarily-trained intellectuals, finds sufficient strength in itself not only to take possession of the country of Germany, but at the same time to protect the German nation from the invasion of the French troops? If M. Poincaré thinks of this possibility, then he must admit to himself that in this case he will have lost the game when he marches on Berlin. He will not succeed in throttling Germany. Should he be compelled to take up arms against a revolutionary Germany, he will have to mobilize a mighty army and draw his eastern vassals into the struggle. Modern armies are superior to a hastily armed population to a much greater degree than the armies of the past, and it is possible that he would succeed in occupying Germany, and to crush the German revolution for the moment. But this would be a Pyrrhic victory. Poland is a composite state, its eastern districts are populated by Ukrainians, White Russians, and Lithuanians, who hate the Polish landowners; it has a powerful labor movement; it is a young state without a strong state apparatus. Czecho-Slovakia is occupied with a number of acute national questions, has a factory proletariat of three millions out of a total population of twelve millions, and has no territorial claims on Germany. M. Poincaré’s command to march against Germany would signify for these countries that they place their existence at stake. The more so that not only Soviet Russia, but no Russia of whatever constitution could look calmly on whilst the French frontier was pushed forward to the Beresma. And the position of the French army in Germany? Germany, which might be occupied if thus taken by surprise, would begin to fight against the French occupation. The German population is well educated, the percentage of Germans speaking the French language is very considerable, and intercourse between soldiery and population would constitute the greatest dangers A modern army requires an extremely delicate communication apparatus. This apparatus would be destroyed by partisan troops. These partisan troops would comprise not merely hundreds or thousands, but hundreds of thousands. They would combine the fearlessness of the proletarian fighter with the science of war. The French army would feel the ground shaking beneath its feet. And behind it? Behind it would he a country, forced to exert itself economically to the utmost, and to give its sons, while conscious at the same time that the cause for which these efforts are made is hopeless from the beginning, that it is impossible to keep a people of several tens of millions in slavery when it refuses to bear a foreign yoke. The Communist Party of France, at present still comparatively weak, would then become the centre of the revolutionary movement. And behind the French army there is again that island the rulers of which know that every kss to France is an advantage to them: England. which is contending against France for the hegemony over Europe. We are fully convinced that M. Poincaré, despite that great source of moral strength which the juridical code of the Versailles treaty constitutes for this lawyer, must feel a cold shiver when he considers these possibilities. We are aware that M. Poincaré aspires to the rôle of saviour of capitalist civilisation in France, but we doubt if he aspires to the rôle of the knight of the Red Star.

And therefore we say: If the German people only possesses will and determination enough, it need not be fair game for anyone with a weapon in their hand. We say: The German revolution is menaced by mighty dangers, but it is unchaining nighty powers among the German people, and though much suffering may be entailed, these powers will enable it to make any hand tremble which is raised against it.

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