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Fourth International, October 1949


Charles Hanley

The Two Germanies


Source: Fourth International, Vol.10 No.9, October 1949, pp.270-274.
Transcription: Daniel Gaido.
Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


For many years writers and politicians have been speaking about “the other Germany” which is counterpoised to the Germany of monopolists, Junkers, policemen and the nationalist petty bourgeois. But they do not agree about the nature of that “other Germany,” some liberals strongly recommend a spiritual return to the traditions of Goethe (1749-1832). Goethe, to be sure, was one of the greatest personalities in world literature, but it is difficult to see how his “tradition” can solve the economic and social problems of our time.

Stalinists think that Soviet-occupied Eastern Germany is the other, the better Germany. But the German masses hate the Stalinist regime, its police terror against independent working-class militants and unionists, its favoritism to former Nazis who have become lackeys of Stalinism, and the shameless pillage by the Russian occupiers.

Social Democratic leaders praise education for “democracy”; but they forget that there is no abstract democracy without a class content, that the bourgeois democracy of the Weimar Republic (1918-33) was the breeding ground for Nazism, and that the bourgeoisie, ruling by democratic methods as long as it is able to do so, switches over to fascism when the situation gets out of hand economically and politically.

There are two Germanies indeed. A front line runs through the former “Reich.” But this front line is not identical with the frontier between Western and Eastern Germany. The present situation in Germany cannot be understood without analyzing the situation and aims of classes and their relations with the occupying powers.

Wall Street and the Western German Capitalists

The anti-trust laws and decrees of the American occupation authorities have never been enforced seriously and were never meant to be. Wall Street and the State Department are preoccupied with World War III and want German capitalism as a strong ally against the Soviet Union; Germany is the most important industrial country in Europe and the natural European base for an eventual imperialist offensive against the USSR and its buffer zone.

The impoverished British have not quite ceased the dismantling of German plants. Wall Street lays much more stress on the strengthening of German capitalism. The monetary reform was destined to contribute to this policy, and it certainly did. Relations between German and American monopolists were renewed by the American visit of German capitalist representatives. Their task was not too difficult because even during World War II contacts had been maintained between German and American trusts and the latter still respected certain agreements they had concluded with the German trusts before the war.

Naturally some changes occurred in the German capitalist class after the breakdown of the Nazi regime in 1945. Some (not many) of the leading capitalists, having been too active in the Nazi party itself, had to retire into private life; some trusts were camouflaged by altering their structure almost completely, especially in the British zone. New layers of capitalists, whose property derives from black market speculation, sprang up between 1945 and 1948 and are now investing capital in new business enterprises.

As a whole, the German capitalist class is intact. It is still in command; and German capitalists know that they owe this to the Western powers which protected them after the surrender in 1945, maintained capitalist management of industry and dissolved the workers’ committees. German capitalists also know that without the active support of Wall Street their present position would be much more difficult. They are not in favor of any real deterioration of relations between Western Germany and American imperialism and are therefore not likely to adhere to neo-Nazi parties for the time being. But they are prepared to blackmail the United States by threatening to favor neo-fascist groups, ultra-nationalism and hostility to the occupiers if the American imperialists do not grant them more profits and a greater degree of independence.

The German bourgeoisie would like to be the junior partner of American capitalism not a mere satellite. In exchange, it offers its wholehearted collaboration in the preparation of war against Soviet Russia. In fact, the German bourgeoisie hopes that in a third world war, the United States will need a “strong Germany” and German military aid. It believes that a new war is the way to the rebirth of German imperialism, forgetting that a new conflict might only complete the work of destruction done in Germany by World War II.

Of course, Wall Street does not want the competition of a revitalized German imperialism, but it is confident that its overwhelming strength will exclude that danger and it is therefore prepared to raise the German bourgeoisie to the rank of a Number One ally in Europe. The British government would have preferred to deal with German labor bureaucrats who are willing to give Britain the “reparations” she asks for and do not cherish any dreams of new greatness. Britain fears that an American-supported German capitalism would become dangerous to its export trade. The French bourgeoisie is anxious to prevent any rebuilding of German unity as well as the strengthening of German industry, their own industry being unable to compete with the restored industrial potential of Germany.

Borrowing an image from a recent cartoon by Low, we might say that the British and the French did not wish to let the German tiger out, while the Americans thought themselves strong enough to ride it safely. If the Americans are strong enough, the British and French certainly are not, and they know it. However, the policy of the strongest imperialism – American imperialism – prevailed. To withstand the pressure of American competition, the British bourgeoisie would like to set up some sort of (British dominated) European Union which would coordinate European economy (a utopia under chaotic capitalism).

Winston Churchill, its foremost spokesman, advocates the immediate inclusion of Western Germany in that European structure: the “tiger” now being loose anyway, British capitalism has to cajole it, hoping to come to friendly terms with it, to keep it tamed inside the European Union, and to use its savage instincts against the Soviet Union. The German “tiger”, as the watchdog of European capitalism – this is now one of Churchill’s most cherished ideas. That the Churchill of “Unconditional Surrender” has become the friend of (capitalist) Germany, is a clear reflection of the dialectics of historical evolution.

The Middle Class and the Bourgeois Parties

No real Marxist ever believed that the pauperization of the German middle class at the end of World War II would automatically transform it into a part of the proletariat and thus “proletarianize” the German people’. The impoverished petty bourgeoisie is generally full of contempt for the life of the workers and longs to recover its former economic privileges. It continues to imagine itself “bourgeois” and not proletarian, especially when the labor movement is not very dynamic and is not a pole of attraction.

There is no independent course for the middle class. Either it becomes the ally of capitalism or the ally of the working class. But capitalism needs an ideology suited to petty-bourgeois aspirations in order to attract the middle class. Nazism was defeated in 19445 but there remained another ideology to be used by capitalism: “Christian democracy.” Nazism, being still more totalitarian than Italian fascism, had often clashed with the equally totalitarian assumptions of the Catholic Church and even with the Protestant Church, a clash occurring not on fundamental political grounds, but mainly on the issue of education. Although the Catholic hierarchy was among the forces which helped Hitler seize power and the Vatican was the first foreign state to sign a treaty with the Nazi government in 1933, its clashes with the Nazis bestowed the prestige of a somewhat doubtful martyrdom upon the Church. Even in other countries of the European continent, which were free of this friction, a big fraction of the bourgeoisie shifted from defeated fascism to “Christian democracy” (France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Austria.). The Church is one of the most precious and influential supporters of capitalism (being a giant capitalist trust itself).

At present, the Christian Democrats constitute the most important party of the German bourgeoisie with 139 seats in the new federal parliament. But numerous “national liberals” and non-Catholic conservatives have rallied to the Free Democrats (52 seats); the Bavarian autonomists voted for the Bavarian Party (17 seats), and a minority of former active Nazis for the two neo-fascist parties who together received 22 seats.

For farmers and black-marketeers business was very good between 1945 and 1948 while the masses starved. Later monetary reform improved the food supply for the population. Thus capitalism still seemed to have something to offer. Moreover, the support given to German capitalism by the United States, the outspoken hostility of American imperialism to nationalizations and its campaign for “free enterprise” not only impressed the petty bourgeoisie as a capitalist show of force but also encouraged them to hope for a restoration of middle class prosperity, for a share in profits. The mixture of “free enterprise,” Christian traditionalism and the immense power of American imperialism supporting him makes the German petty bourgeois feel rather comfortable. He doesn’t like the Americans or the other occupiers but since they are strong it seems natural to him to be in their camp, extracting a maximum of political concessions, economic aid, and advantages of all kinds. Yet in spite of his illusions, he sees that things are not going too smoothly and doesn’t understand why. So he often takes refuge in confused phrases which are vestiges of past nationalist education and of the propaganda of the late Dr. Goebbels who blamed everything on foreigners and Jews.

The political leaders of the bourgeoisie took this all into account during their election campaign last August. (However, they carefully avoided compromising their collaboration with the Western powers and especially the USA by going too far in their nationalist agitation.) In view of the present state of mind and aims of the German petty bourgeoisie it is therefore not surprising that they voted for the bourgeois parties, and that these gained an absolute majority.

The Eastern German Bourgeoisie and the USSR

Fundamentally, the situation in Soviet-occupied Eastern Germany is much the same as in other territories which the Russians occupied in 1945.

The big landowners fled before the Soviet troops arrived. The peasants took the land. An “agrarian reform” was soon proclaimed, because something had to be done with the abandoned property of the Junkers and because the Stalinists wished to win the peasants’ support. Though they generally didn’t give the peasants enough agricultural machinery needed to cultivate their new farms in a rational way, the elimination of the Eastern German Junkers undoubtedly was an important progressive fact.

At first, the Soviet occupiers and the Eastern German Stalinists handled the bourgeoisie in their zone with kid gloves and confiscated or nationalized only a relatively small percentage of industry. Although the Kremlin made every effort to collaborate with the political parties of the bourgeoisie, the capitalists continued to view the USSR as a danger to their class rule. The Eastern German bourgeoisie looked westward. Naturally, it had greater sympathies for American (and German) capitalism than for Russian (and German) Stalinism. When the Russian and the German Stalinists discovered that the capitalist parties (Christian Democrats and Liberals) were agencies of Western imperialism, they began to put pressure on the bourgeoisie, nationalized more and more factories, changed the leadership of the bourgeois parties, and even created a party of former Nazis friendly to the Kremlin in order to win away members from the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. But there was practically no mobilization of the toiling masses against the bourgeoisie. Although compelled to struggle against the Eastern German bourgeoisie in self-defense, the Stalinists dared not employ revolutionary methods which could at a later date be turned against the dictatorship and corruption of the bureaucracy. Not the workers, but the Stalinist bureaucrats have taken over the economic power which was formerly held by the bourgeoisie.

In spite of their unquestioned hostility the Stalinists still hope to attract some bourgeois elements by their slogan of “German unity” and through their “German People’s Congress”; they are even trying to come to terms with some Western German capitalists through negotiations with Rudolf Nadolny, former German Ambassador to Moscow. Thus the Stalinist bureaucracy, which mortally fears any revolutionary mass movement, despite its “left” turn is still seeking alliances in the capitalist camp. But in the event of a third world war the German bourgeoisie will be on the side of imperialism, on the side of its class interests.

“Denazification” and Renazification

The Western and the Eastern occupiers deal with the problem of former Nazis in much the same way. First there was much talk about “denazification” which, however, did not seriously disturb many of the most authentic and influential Nazis. But as this kind of “denazification” provoked widespread discontent – the bourgeoisie considered it too severe while the workers denounced it as ridiculously unjust and inadequate – the occupiers dropped it more and more and began to play “their” former Nazis against one another. The present phase is one of “renazification.”

Let us recall some examples of the practice of “denazification” during the first phase: the Western allies sentenced Admiral Donitz, former commander-in-chief of the U-boat fleet to 20 years in prison but acquitted two outstanding representatives of German capitalism and sponsors of the Hitler regime, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht and Franz von Papen. The Russians retained von Witzleben, the Nazi director of the big Siemens works, in spite of the angry protests of the workers, but the famous actor Heinrich George died in a Russian concentration camp because he had been a member of the Nazi party.

The present phase of renazification is characterized by the birth of legal neo-fascist parties on both sides of the “iron curtain” (although legalization has, of course, been denied to the Titoite Independent Communist Party of Karl Heinz Scholz). There are now two authorized parties of former Nazis in Western Germany and according to the NY Times the relaxation of the censorship will see the publication of fifty to eighty Nazi newspapers (especially in reactionary Bavaria) by former Nazi editors and journalists. As acknowledged specialist of anti-communist propaganda these elements are very useful to imperialism.

In the Soviet-occupied zone there are not only many former Nazis in the Stalinist Socialist Unity Party (SED) but the Stalinists have themselves created a special party of former Nazis, allied to the SED and willing to serve the foreign policy of the Kremlin. The Stalinists now systematically favor “repentant” Nazis, while brutally persecuting non-Stalinist socialists, many of whom had previously been imprisoned and tortured under the Nazi regime.

Occupation means renazification. The only force capable of denazifying Germany is the German working class, first victim of Nazism. But its hands are fettered so long as the foreign occupation remains.

The Workers and Stalinism

The German workers have had their experience with Stalinism, and they hate it. They know Stalinism in Eastern Germany where they are oppressed by the Stalinist bureaucracy; where the purely German provinces of Pomerania and Silesia were annexed by the Polish Stalinists in 1945 and where German East Prussia was annexed by the Russian Stalinists in the same year, where the former Nazi concentration camps of Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen are full of non-Stalinist militants; where there is neither freedom nor food for the working class but all kinds of privileges for SED bureaucrats; where miners and factory workers are ruthlessly driven by the Stakhanov system (which is called the “Hennecke movement” in Eastern Germany), with no say in the administration of their mines and factories, part of which have to work for the USSR; where Stalinists have unmasked themselves as brutal strikebreakers.

The catastrophic policy of Stalinism is grist to the propaganda mill of the Western powers which appear to many as the only possible liberators of Eastern Germany, especially since the end of the Berlin blockade, that monstrous manifestation of Stalinist stupidity. Far from being an effective force in the anti-imperialist struggle, Stalinism provides imperialist propaganda with its best arguments and throws many demoralized workers into the arms of Wall Street and reaction. However, Tito’s resistance to the Kremlin and the Cominform has made a deep impression on numerous German communists, aggravating the crisis in the ranks of the SED, and has led to the formation of an independent Communist Party in Berlin.

In Western Germany, the workers know Stalinism from what they have read about Eastern Germany and especially from what Eastern German refugees have told them. They have seen the pitiful droves of frightened people from Silesia, Pomerania, and East Prussia, expelled by the Stalinist Polish and Russian conquerors’, and they won’t soon forget them. They understand that Stalinism completely ignores the international solidarity of the working class. An indication of this attitude was apparent in the heavy defeat suffered by the Stalinists in the Bundestag elections receiving only 15seats in the new Federal Parliament. Max Reimann, the leader of the Stalinist party, was not reelected. This in, a country where up to 1933 the Communists boasted of the second largest Communist Party in the world! These are the fruits of repeated Stalinist betrayals.

The German workers understand the utter hypocrisy of the Stalinist propaganda slogan of “German unity”: Stalin (as well as the imperialists) destroyed German unity by the Yalta and Potsdam agreements and by the annexation of Eastern Germany. No Stalinist “People’s Congress” will make the German masses forget these crimes.

The Social Democratic Party

With its 500,000 members in Western Germany the Social Democratic Party (SPD), is the mass party of the German workers occupying a position somewhat similar to that of the British Labour Party. Although they know that the party committed fatal errors and crimes in the past, that its leaders are often too soft, the workers stick to it, thinking that the political unification of the German working class, the overwhelming majority of which intensely dislikes Stalinism, is possible only in the SPD (131 seats in the Federal Parliament) and cannot be accomplished by any other political force.

The main enemy of the German socialist workers is the bourgeoisie, particularly its strongest party, the Christian Democratic CDU. They understand the class issue at stake and never liked the coalition between the SPD and the CDU. Two years ago in Bavaria the Socialist workers succeeded in compelling their leaders to break the coalition in Bavaria. But there is a difference between the opposition politics of the party bureaucrats and that of the workers. The reformist bureaucrats understand “opposition” as a means of getting back into the apparatus of the capitalist state when capitalist parties hate strong majorities. They don’t want to abolish the bourgeois state, but to hold offices and positions in it, to be the “loyal administrators of capitalism,” to use Leon Blum’s expression. Their opposition is purely parliamentary and very tame at that. Under pressure of the workers and in order not to lose their hold on the labor movement they are often obliged to employ rather strong language against the occupiers and against the German bourgeoisie, frequently stating fundamental principles of socialism and defending the workers’ interests up to a certain point. But this does not prevent them from collaborating with the bourgeoisie and imperialism.

Since the bourgeoisie has become strong enough to rule, the imperialists prefer to collaborate with an all-bourgeois government discarding their policy of a Socialist-catholic coalition. The more the reformist leaders show their readiness to collaborate with the bourgeoisie, the capitalists and the bourgeois politicians more arrogant become.

This situation is bound to give rise to serious reflection among the members of the SPD, many of whom have by no means forgotten the lessons of the Weimar Republic and openly express their hostility to class collaboration.

The SPD rank and file is aware of the fact that the imperialists resolutely support German capitalism, and that the struggle against German capitalism excludes collaboration with the imperialist occupiers. They also understand that the struggle against foreign occupation and war danger means in practice a struggle against the German bourgeoisie, the ally of imperialism, and requires an appeal to the international solidarity of the world proletariat for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. More and more the German workers realize that the essential problem is to find a political line independent of Washington as well as of Moscow. In the struggle for such a program they will learn that the reformist bureaucrats are no less cowardly and treacherous than their Stalinist opponents.

Under these conditions the task of the German revolutionists is to popularize the transitional program of the Fourth International in the, SPD and in the unions, and to work for a crystallization of opposition on the basis of that program. German Communists disgusted with Stalinist policies (and dissident groups of left Socialists and Communists) can be expected to welcome such a movement. Yet it must be recognized that even under favorable conditions the creation of a revolutionary force will not be an easy task and will require considerable patience and endurance. It will not come as a gift from heaven but only as a result of relentless efforts by the vanguard of the working class.

The “Other Germany”

The “other Germany” is the workers’ Germany. The bourgeois state in Western Germany remains the state of monopolists, Junkers, imperialist ambitions, petty-bourgeois nationalism, and policemen. The Stalinist bureaucracy has abolished the power of monopolists and Junkers in the Soviet zone but its government is a typical police state with the old capitalist state machine no longer operated by the bourgeoisie in the interest of capitalism but by the German Stalinist bureaucracy in the interest of the Stalinist bureaucracy of the USSR.

The only class whose interests are absolutely opposed to both regimes and to the foreign occupiers who support them – the imperialists in the West and the Stalinists in the East – is the working class. The working class is the only class to represent another-Germany because no other class of the German population is interested in the birth of a Socialist Germany in a Socialist Europe which means the elimination of the capitalist state – whether run by the bourgeoisie or by the Stalinist bureaucrats – and the end of imperialist and Stalinist influence.

The idea of a United Socialist Europe is so popular with German workers that even the reformist SPD leaders have been compelled to pay lip-service to it in their speeches, although their real aim is to become dignitaries in a German capitalist government, even one dominated by imperialism. A Socialist Germany in a Socialist Europe is the only solution of the German and of the European problem. A European economy coordinated, managed, and planned by the European workers themselves will open great vistas for the German masses whose skill and efficiency will be of invaluable service to all the peoples of Europe.

Of course, it is absurd to speak of the establishment of a Socialist Germany while Germany remains occupied by imperialist powers who are bitter enemies of a German workers’ state. It is the duty of-the workers of the United States and of every other country to call for the withdrawal of all the occupation troops not only in order to give their German fellow-workers a chance to decide their own fate but also to deprive Wall Street of one of its main bases for a third world war. This is an important step toward a workers’ world.

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Last updated on 29.5.2005