Arthur Rosenberg


The London Conference and the World Proletariat

(18 August 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 70, 18 August 1922, pp. 524–525.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). 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 London Conference is the most interesting meeting of the Entente since Versailles. While at all former meetings of French and English diplomats the leaders of Entente capital avoided all essential questions, they have now taken a definite stand on the question before them. Poincaré has developed in toto the Napoleonic program of the post-war French imperialism. With the help of the Continental Blockade, Napoleon I, attempted to form Europe into a unified economic territory and thereby defeat English capitalism. The English succeeded in drawing the Russian and the German Feudalism to their side, and to defeat France’s plan. Poincaré’s task today is much lighter than Napoleon’s then. The German Feudal state is no longer a European power, and Soviet Russia maintains a purely neutral attitude. It can find no enthusiasm for either the English or the French bankers.

Victory has made of France an industrial power of the first order France has obtained both the Lotharingian iron mines, and the coal mines of the Saar Valley. The requirements of Luxembourg’s and Belgium’s steel and iron industries have made these two countries into colonies of France. On the other border of Germany, France controls the mines of Polish Upper Silesia, and the Czecho-Slovakian industries. To fill the gap between Saarbrücken and Kattowitz, to appropriate the rest of Germany’s means of production, is the goal of French foreign policy since 1918, Poincaré’s London program demands the control of 60% of the stock of the Chemical industry of the Rhine. Poincaré demands further that Germany surrender the former Prussian fiscal coal mines of the Ruhr region. Furthermore, special custom duties should be set up for the Ruhr We can now picture to ourselves how the occupation of the Ruhr region will take place. They will not send against us Foch’s cavalry, his tanks and his aeroplane squadrons, but just a sufficient number of French custom officials, who will peacefully occupy their offices. The German Government is incapable of offering any serious resistance to French militarism. A costly and undiplomatic military occupation is therefore unnecessary. The conquest of Germany will be accomplished by French finance and custom controllers. If France controls the customs of the Ruhr, it can regulate the import and export taxes to its own advantage. Revolver in hand, it can force the Ruhr factory owners to agree to French participation in their industries.

France is using two methods for the conquest of the German chemical industry and the coal mines: either by tyrannical demands upon the German Government, which England naturally opposes, or by direct negotiations with the German capitalists. While Poincaré in London demands a 60% control of the Rhine Chemical Works, negotiations are going on directly between the French and (he German chemical industrials. We hear that an agreement may even have been reached. Besides the electrical industry, it was the chemical industry which before the war, represented the strength of German. imperialism. The German aniline kings have done splendidly during the revolution. Last year, they were able to rebuild Oppau at a cost of 400 million marks, and still showed a profit of a half-a-billion. A union of the German chemical industry with the French would demand great sacrifices from the former, but it would secure thereby the political and economic protection which the Wirth Government can no longer furnish it. The same is true of the German steel and iron industry. Stinnes has been trying for a long time io reach an agreement with the French foundries. Already, he is receiving 8 francs for every ton of German reparation coal. France pays him that amount to “purify” the Ruhr coal which it gets. The seizure of a part of German industries by the French need not bring a catastrophe upon German capital. Walther Rathenau contemplated such a union of French and German interests when he signed the Wiesbaden Treaty.

It is natural that the English capitalists should do all in their power to prevent this conquest of Germany. They are now fighting a Franco-German industrial union as they fought Napoleon’s Continental Blockade a century ago. But England is weak today; it will have to concede to Poincaré at least a part of his program to prevent the disruption of the Entente.

But besides its industrial imperialism, France has another purpose to accomplish in London. France needs ready cash to prevent the bankruptcy of its finances. That is why Poincaré demands 26% of Germany’s export duty. Besides this, he demands the custom receipts. It is characteristic that Lloyd George has agreed to this part of the program, which means the financial plundering of Germany. How the balance can be maintained in the German state budget if this is put through, is another question. Even the moratorium which may be granted, cannot help Germany in its desperate situation. What is the value of the moratorium when the Allies deprive Germany of its greatest source of income anyway? Neither can a loan, to be covered by the productive mortgages set up by Poincaré, help the German economic household? The loan, would go to pay reparations, and the interest would have to be paid by the German workers.

But the London Conference is a turning-point not only because for the first time, the official purpose of French imperialism has been stated clearly and officially. The London Conference is a milestone in the political orientation of the proletariat. London proves that an understanding between French and German capitalists is possible. But only at the price of a total destruction of the German economic life, and an unexampled enslavement of the German proletariat. This is no solution of the world’s economic crisis, because this use of force will totally destroy the buying capacity of the German people. It is the political ideology of the reform Socialists that a peaceful understanding between the capitalists of the world is necessary to the reconstruction of Europe, and therefore, in the interests of the proletariat. London has given the death blow to these illusions.

Last updated on 31 August 2020