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Labor Action, 20 May 1946


Herbert Mason

A Socialist Point of View

Conflict and Policy in Germany


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 20, 20 May 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Germany has been decisively defeated. The working class has suffered heavily both under Hitler and in the course of the war. Today, in the third phase of their miserable existence since Hitler took power, they are engaged in a life and death struggle with hunger. But, though weak and disorganized, the German people and economy are today the object of severe struggle between the four occupying powers. Their destinies are linked with that of Germany and vice versa.

Bases of Conflict

What are the aims of each foreign power in Germany?

  1. Russia desires a weakened Germany in the immediate future with agriculture as the main economic base. She desires to control Germany politically through her foreign arm, the German Communist Party, or by amalgamation of the Communist Party with the German Social Democratic Party. The latter she presses for today in Germany as everywhere else where the Social Democratic Parties have any strength. Either a weak, decentralized system of capitalism or a copy of her own system of bureaucratic collectivism, is possible of attainment: this is to Russia’s liking and need. She wants Germany in her orbit as a bulwark against western imperialist capitalist nations.
  2. England has one main aim in Germany which will serve two purposes. She wants German capitalism restored as a fairly strong economy under the control of the Social Democracy. Germany was England’s best customer before the war and Britain is in desperate need of markets now, since the United States and Russia have invaded her pre-war areas of control. She wants a capitalist Germany posed against the expansionist tendencies of Russia and Russian ideology. The old balance of power game is on.
  3. France wants a weak, decentralized Germany for her own self-protection, since she has so often been overrun by the latter.
  4. The United States wants Germany restored on a capitalist basis, not so much for trading purposes but rather as a field for investments, for the protection of old investments and as a bulwark against the encroachments of Russia.

These conflicting aims are the bases for three conflicts going on over Germany today. The first is the question of control of the Ruhr district of Germany. France desires control of the Ruhr while Britain and the U.S. refuse to detach it from Germany. This struggle has been going on since Hitler’s defeat.

The second struggle is for political control of Germany. Britain and the U.S. are backing the Social Democratic party, which stands for continuation of capitalist economy, struggle against Russian imperialism and, most important, against genuine revolutionary struggles of the working class. Russia is backing the Communist Party and its attempt to amalgamate with the Social Democratic Party and to control it. This is the main political struggle in Germany today. It is no accident that the Labor Party in England recently invited Dr. Karl Schumacher to visit England for discussions. He is the leader of the Social Democrats in the British zone of occupation. The jailing of two Communist leaders by the American authorities is evidence of their political preference.

The third struggle concerns the amount of steel Germany is to be allowed to produce annually. Since this is an index of industrial strength and war potential, it is of the greatest importance. Under the Potsdam Agreement among the four powers, a small percentage of Germany’s pre-war steel production was sanctioned. For the last two months Britain has been carrying on a strenuous fight to raise this quota. France is adamantly opposed to such a policy.

As revolutionary socialists, we are concerned mainly with the relation of the German working class to these battles. What policies must the international proletariat and the German proletariat follow if the German working class is to be put back on the path of their struggle for socialism?

FIRST: Germany must be unified again. That means a fight against all the foreign oppressors and the withdrawal of all their troops.

SECOND: All working class organizations must have full freedom to organize and complete democratic rights.

THIRD: Germany must be rebuilt industrially on the basis of nationalization of industry under workers’ control. Organization of its production under the conquerors, who will attempt to integrate German economy in accord with their own needs and suppress and destroy that which is in conflict with them, will lead only to the impoverishment of Germany and, with it, contribute to the lowering of the standard of all Europe.

FOURTH: The forced amalgamation of the Communist and Social Democratic Parties must be combatted. The Stalinists are the foes of the working class and their merger with the Social Democracy, which are democratic if not socialist workers’ parties, will further stifle the struggle for democratic rights and socialism.

FIFTH: All ties between the German proletariat and the international working class must be strengthened against their common oppressors: Russia and the United States. In the first instance, this means propagandizing for, on the part of the revolutionary parties, a Socialist United States of Europe, which is the ultimate solution for the partitioned and impoverished continent.

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