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Fourth International, May-June 1952


World In Review

Germany: Turning Point


From Fourth International, Vol.13 No.3, May-June 1952, pp.67-69.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


On the morning of May 26 at Bonn, Germany the “cold war” entered its final phase. With the signature of the German treaty, the period of diplomatic jockeying is coming to an end, the last doors for compromise are being closed. Now begins the feverish production of weapons, the marshalling of armies. The counter-revolutionary war against the anti-imperialist bloc of nations and the revolutionary workers movement is now fast approaching the shooting stage – and that awaits only the most favorable moment.

This is not to say that the atom bombs will begin falling tomorrow. Nor even that the new Wehrmacht, officered by Nazi generals under American overall command, will spring up overnight. Obviously a period of intense struggle is in view on all levels. The Kremlin, as is already plain, will move heaven and earth to spike the guns of the anti-Soviet coalition now pointed at the USSR. The mass opposition of the German workers to the permanent dismemberment of their country and to its rearmament has yet to be thrown into the scales. In these struggles will he determined how effective a bastion western Germany will be for imperialism in the coming war.

But it is equally certain that American imperialism will not easily be turned back. Its answer to those in Europe who are alarmed at the dire consequences this policy may have and to the opposition of great masses in Britain and in Germany, officially expressed by the Labor Party and the Social Democracy, is most bluntly stated by the authoritative Tory London Observer:

The creation of enforceable world law and order demands more, not less, exertion of power on the part of the people united in a Roman determination to pacify the world.”

There are dangers, to be sure, on this path of Roman conquest, and they are frankly acknowledged by the N.Y. Times which greeted the treaty by saying that “we all embark today on a perilous road, but one that must be followed. In reality there is no other choice.” They are right. There is no other choice than war for world imperialism except chronic weakening and eventual destruction by the encroaching forces of revolution on a global scale.

Behind them is the frightening lesson of Munich. The failure then to consolidate the anti-Soviet bloc, to turn eastward in concert toward Moscow and the Urals has fatal results for capitalism in one-third of Europe, in China and throughout the colonial world. Thus far Acheson has succeeded where Chamberlain and Laval failed not because of the strength but because of the weakness of the powers to be “integrated” into the anti-Soviet coalition. And therein lies the basic difference in the relationship of forces between the world of the latter ’thirties and the world of today. Economic rivalry and conflict of interest between the European capitalist nations has not become less acute. But their decline has beea so precipitate, so enfeebling that the State Department could set the terms for the alliance by diplomatic and economic pressure while Hitler had to resort to warfare against his intended allies.

All of the important European nations have been obliged to act contrary to their most immediate interests. German capitalism had the most to gain from unification and neutrality which would have permitted it to direct its trade to Eastern Europe and China instead of being hemmed into the narrow confines of the present world market in competition with all the others. Neither England nor Erance desired the rise of a strong militarized Western Germany with which they would have to compete economically and to which they would have to make ever greater concessions to keep its eyes turned easteward. But they had no power to make an independent decision. And as is always the case with vassals, it is the master who decides what is good for them, whether it is good for them or not.

Failure of Compromises

It is precisely for this reason that all of the Kremlin’s efforts to achieve some sort of modus vivendi with western capitalism have failed. The differences between the various powers, on which the Kremlin had played before the World War II and which made possible the “collective security” compromise, have since been subordinated in a common subservience to American imperialism. Germany was the decisive test. It remained the main area for bargaining. Even after the “cold war” began, Stalin deliberately refrained from pursuing the same course in Germany he had in the “peoples’ democracies.” Obviously he had no intention of assisting in the creation of a socialist Germany: that would have sealed the fate of European capitalism and would have had grave internal consequences for the Soviet bureaucracy. The Kremlin followed the same course of diplomacy vis à vis Germany as before World War II. It began with generous offers to France and England at the expense of Germany; it ended, at the last moment before the signature of the Bonn accord, by offering major concessions to the German bourgeoisie which nevertheless were not completely unattractive to France and England because they provided for German neutrality. Both policies were buried at Bonn by the colossus from overseas who demands far greater concessions than these, far greater than the Kremlin is willing or able to give.

It might be assumed that under such conditions, faced with a major threat to its existence, the Soviet Union would act decisively and without further delay while the military advantages are still in its favor. While such a possibility cannot, be excluded, it is more likely that the Soviet bureaucracy, like all workers’ bureaucracies, conservative, cautious, fearful of a final showdown with capitalism, will wait until the last moment, hoping all the time for “something to turn up.” In any case, that question will be more definitely answered after the voting on the ratification of the Bonn treaty occurs in the parliaments of Great Britain, France and particularly that of western Germany, i.e. after the Kremlin has made its last efforts to dissuade European capitalism from following Wall Street’s “Roman” road.

Scene of Conflict Shifts

Meanwhile the struggle over Germany is already shifting from the plane of diplomacy to that of class conflict. Trotsky long ago pointed out that faced with a death struggle with capitalism, where its own privileges are jeopardized along with those of the USSR, the bureaucracy is capable of giving an initial revolutionary impulse to the masses. This is already apparent in a series of events, heightening the class tensions and conflicts in Europe, on the very morrow of the signing of the Germany treaty: Outstanding is the speech by Walter Ulbricht to a quarter million East German youth at Eeipsig where he urged them to follow the example of the North Koreans and the Chinese volunteers in the struggle to overthrow the Adenauer government. Hard on its heels followed an attempt of 6,000 of these youth to cross the zone line into western Berlin, then the transformation of a trade union rally in Munich into a protest demonstration against the treaty, and then the clashes with the police growing out of the anti-Ridgway demonstrations on the streets of Paris.

The Kremlin probably has no other aim in these actions than to intimidate the ruling circles of western Europe into rejecting the German treaty. But it is setting a train of events in motion that cannot be easily controlled. Not the least of these is the repressive measures this appeal to the masses calls forth from the capitalist governments which are prodded and pushed by American imperialism to bring down the mailed fist. The very presence of Ridgway, of “Operation Killer” and “Koje Island” fame, should leave no doubt as to what is demanded. Duclos’ arrest and the attack on the French CP headquarters signals the beginning of this struggle in France. The CP is then obliged to summon the masses to action in defense of their leaders and their organizations, to organize its ranks for remorseless combat. A situation of civil war is thus created, regardless of the outcome of the first skirmishes, between reaction and the French workers.

More and more Germany will take on the appearance of another Korea prior to the outbreak of the civil war. Instead of a divided country ruled by agreement of the occupation powers, the foreign armies of the now mortally antagonistic powers will either be supplanted or supplemented by the creation of native military establishments on cither side of the Elbe parallel. But the division of Germany along horizontal or class lines is even more important than the vertical i.e. the territorial or state division.

The two German states are divided by a deep social chasm. Western Germany is dominated by the old Nazi gang of Ruhr industrialists and cartelists and ruled by a governing personnel which is not substantially different from that of the Hitler regime. In Eastern Germany, on the other hand, the economic power of capitalism has been largely undermined, the Junkers expropriated, the old organs of power shattered and replaced by new institutions which although run by an iron-bureaucratic hand are no longer dominated by capitalist interests and time-servers.

It is this east German government which is now leading the fight for the Soviet proposals for the withdrawal of the occupation troops and the creation of a united neutral Germany, a proposal which cuts through western Germany like a knife. Without benefit of formal agreement, it aligns the mass of social democratic workers and trade unionists, despite their well-known hostility to Stalinism, in the same camp with eastern Germany and the USSR and against their own class enemies who are committed to the perpetuation of the partition to serve the war aims of American imperialism. The spur to struggle given by the Kremlin must find an echo among the west German working class even though the movement thus aroused is far less likely to be under Stalinist domination than it was in North Korea.

In the struggle over Germany, which will eventually widen to include all of Europe in its scope, is to be seen the nature of the coming war and the direct link between the war and the conflict of the classes. As the pace to war is quickened so also is the class conflict sharpened to the point of civil war. And as in Korea, the conflict between the states is quickly revealed to be a conflict between the classes. The Soviet bureaucracy feared this situation like the plague, it despised the very thought of being involved in such a cataclysmic revolutionary struggle. But now that the doors of compromise are being bolted, now that direct betrayal means suicide it has no alternative for self-preservation than to unleash vast proletarian forces against the imperialist enemy. It can no more control these forces than imperialism can defeat them.

Hastened by the Bonn treaty, the conflict will probably go through many detours and zigzags before it approaches the final showdown. But its course and direction is now clearly defined.


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Last updated on: 26 March 2009