Lockout of 20,000 Workers in the Chemical Industry of Germany

(17 October 1921)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. I No. 2, 17 October 1921, p. 16.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2018). 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 continuous fall of the German mark results in a increase of prices and in a subsequent decline of the standard of life of the German proletariat, which for a long time has been one of the poorest paid in the world. Hence the situation of the German proletariat is little by little becoming unbearable. The employers, who exploit the low rate of the mark for extensive dumping of their wares on foreign markets stubbornly refuse to pay the workers even a decent living wage.

German labour being intensively exploited, has to be satisfied with wages which are not enough for a bare sustenance of life Among them are the workers employed in the chemical industry. The workers of the dye-works in Leverkusen, in the neighbourhood of Cologne, only last spring by a long strike tried to improve their miserable situation. They have, however, been defeated by strongly concentrated capital, a defeat for which the trade- union bureaucracy was in a large degree responsible. In their attempt at supporting the employers, the trade-union burocrats even went as far as to forbid the workers of other factories to take up collections on behalf of their fellow workers out on strike, who naturally were receiving no financial assistance whatsoever from the trade-unions.

The employers made the best of this situation. The workers employed in the Leuna works in the Halle district, were last March forced to accept rules and regulations closely resembling those in vogue in the times of slavery. The owners of other factories employed every means in their efforts to increase the exploitation of labour. That in doing this no attempt was made to safeguard the workers’ lives or to secure their exist once has been conclusively proved to the world by the terrible catastrophe of Oppau.

This tragic catastrophe caused especially those workers, who do not know if some day they will not suffer a similar fate to revolt indignantly against such a state of affairs. One of the minions of the employers in Höchst a. M., a former colonel in the imperial army, cynically told the workers that proletarian lives do not count with the employers, if an increase of profits is at stake. Think of those workers – daily and hourly exposed to like dangers, negotiating for weeks with the administration for a small increase of wages and who time and again are fed with promises. Finally certain insignificant concessions are granted only in order that they may be broken. Think of this and you will readily see that it does not need communist agitation to make them declare that their patience is exhausted.

The workers of Höchst demanded that the former colonel be dismissed. This the administration granted with the intention of transferring the faithful servant to some other part of the works. The workers did not tolerate this, however, and once more requested his actual dismissal; and though this demand was finally agreed to, the indignation of the workers showed no signs of abatement. An increase of wages, which had been promised them and which was to take effect on September let had so far not been forthcoming. Accordingly the workers elected a commission to negotiate with the administration concerning the realisation of their demands. At first this proved of no avail. Then the president of the county council (Landrat) and two councillors of Höchst intervened and after much discussion an agreement was reached.

Out of a fund amounting to 12 million marks, kept in reserve by the administration for purposes such as this, every married worker was to receive 1,200 marks for himself and 150 marks for every child, while single workers were to he paid 500 marks each. The administration shortly after scattered broadcast the lie that it could not abide by the agreement, because it had been blackmailed into accepting it, which lie was to cover the fact that the promise was broken at the bidding of the Employers’ Federation. Even the press of the bourgeoisie could not but refute that pretext. The workers struck because they were not paid the increase due to them. A lockout constituted the sole answer of the employers, who were joined in this brutal step by a number of neighbouring factory administrations, where the workers had come forward with their demands. Thus 20,000 workers were locked out in and around Höchst a. M.

The bourgeois press stated that the movement is being led by Communists. The truth is that the workers are fighting their battle without the trade-union bureaucracy, a thing not greatly to be wondered at, if one recalls the attitude of those gentlemen in Leverkusen. The workers are determined to take up the struggle on a wide front and not give in unless their just demands have been unreservedly granted.

Last updated on 10 January 2019