From New International, Vol.12 No.6, August 1946.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
In a pre-convention discussion article on Germany (The New International, May 1946), Comrades Stone and Gorman direct some rather heavy polemical remarks against my notes on Germany published in the October 1945 NI. This, of course, is their absolute right, and the article in question at least fulfills the function of indicating the enormous political gulf that separates the majority and minority political tendencies within the Workers Party.
It is not my intention to answer the authors of Germany Still the Key in this letter. The whole pre-convention discussion, in general, and the international resolution adopted at the convention, in particular, can well serve that purpose. To anyone with an ounce of objectivity it was apparent that my notes on Germany – written in that unhappy land, and passing through army censorship – were intended for just that purpose; journalistic notes based upon direct observation. No effort was made to draw any political or programmatic conclusions – an impossibility in the situation. The current articles on Germany, by Henry Judd, are an effort in this direction. Nevertheless, I maintain that these notes on Germany were, and remain, a realistic appraisal of the German people in the immediate period of post-war defeat. I am compelled to say that the whole article of these comrades reveals an utter absence of any comprehension as to what has happened in Germany – an ignorance of even elementary facts.
Permit me one example. Quoting from that section of the notes (with, incidentally, that unfortunate habit of omitting most of my paragraph) that explains how, to a considerable extent, the German worker has lost his clear proletarian status, our authors remark,
“This is a most astonishing statement. Do the university professors in Germany go into the coal mines or do the railway workers consort with the American officers of occupation?”
Well, dear comrades, prepare yourselves for a shock. I’m afraid the answer is a distinct YES, and your sarcasm is misdirected. I do not know whether, specifically, college professors are now working in the Ruhr mines, but considering the extra food allowances, plus clothing and other benefits, it would not be at all surprising to learn that many professionals, deprived of all means of livelihood, have taken up coal digging to live. But I do know – having seen it many times – that college professors, doctors, lawyers, business men, etc., have taken up the “occupation” of wood-chopping at four pfennig per hour. I’m not referring to the fact that these men chopped wood all throughout last winter in order to heat a room in their homes. That everyone did. I’m referring to their official mobilization, by the labor branch of the military governments, to chop wood, clear roads, dig ditches, etc. Or haven’t you heard?
As for the “railway workers consort[ing] with the American officers of occupation” – forgive my lack of “revolutionary passion,” but that is so widespread as to be obvious even to non-German speaking GIs. Nor am I referring to railway officers, foremen, etc. German railway workers are totally passive, subservient and “cooperative” at present, just as are German workers, in general, in all branches of industry. And who, but a dogmatist, would expect otherwise? In this respect, the German workers reveal far more revolutionary sense than do our incorrigible sectarians. These workers grasp the depths of their defeat, they are marking time and attempting to regroup their forces. Since the bayonet-point of the Allied occupation is at their throat, they understand a bit clearer than Stone and Gorman how one must go about adapting oneself to unfavorable conditions and not risk a premature struggle. May I risk a more violent denunciation by suggesting that I find their methods infinitely more correct?
Am I suggesting that the German worker is incapable of struggle? Nonsense. The question is – what kind of struggle, what forms of struggle, what methods of struggle. Blind doctrine of the type proposed by these comrades (Germany is still the key to the European revolution: the destruction of German capitalist class automatically makes the German working class the strong force in the nation, etc.), all of this will leave us nowhere. Our comrades have forgotten a simple truth written by Marx in the Manifesto. The failure of the socialist revolution to materialize will ultimately lead to the mutual decline and disintegration of all the contending classes into barbarism. In Germany 1946, we have a colossal preview of the concrete meaning of this dread prophecy. The German proletariat, too, has sufferer a catastrophe along with the entire nation. It is pointless to dispute with people who haven’t understood that crying fact. Not to pass subjective, emotional judgments on the German masses; not to impose wishful schema upon the German nation; not to set tasks impossible of achievement before the German workers – but to grasp the meaning of what has occurred and to proceed from this point.
Last updated on 13.9.2008