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C.P. and Fallacy of the “Hard Peace”

(November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 46, 13 November 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In last week’s Labor Action we discussed why it was dangerous for the working class to adopt the position that the entire German nation is responsible for the war and the crimes of Hitlerism. We pointed out that this idea is deliberately sponsored by the ruling classes of England, America and Russia for the purpose of diverting the attention of the masses of people from the real causes of war, which are rooted in the capitalist organization of society; and secondly, in order to facilitate the imposition of very stringent peace terms upon the German people.

The labor leaders who foster this idea that all the German people are guilty of Nazism are. really helping the capitalists to escape the responsibility for war and fascism. These leaders claim that a “just” punishment of the Germans, even if it is “distasteful,” is necessary for the sake of avoiding a Third World War. But then along comes William Z. Foster, leading spokesman for the Communist (Political Association) Party with an added reason for the imposition of a “hard” peace upon the German people. Such a peace is necessary not only to insure peace after this war, he writes in a recent article in the Daily Worker, Stalinist mouthpiece in the United States, but also in order to strengthen democracy inside Germany. So you see, all proposals for the occupation of Germany by Allied troops, enslavement, forced labor in foreign countries, payment of huge indemnities, loss of territory – all these are really set forth for the good of the German people themselves! They will not only bring peace to Europe and the world, but they will also cleanse Germany and the German people of reaction and fascism, and therefore they should be greeted warmly by the German masses.

Now these punitive measures are not to be confined to a small section of war criminals in Germany. They are so conducive to democracy that they are intended for the whole nation. After paying some lip service to the idea that the “peace terms cannot be directed uniformly against the whole German people,” Foster goes on to say what he really wants to get across:

Foster’s Lie

“True the German people as a whole are responsible for the Nazi government and its maraudings. And it is not simply that they passively allowed this deadly regime to fasten itself upon them. Huge sections, probably a majority of the population, including a large percentage of workers, have been so deeply corrupted by Nazism that they have actively supported Hitler, and been eager- to share in his imperialist loot, seized by shedding the blood of other peoples.”

And further:

“While thus recognizing the national responsibility of the German people as a whole for the murderous Hitler regime of cutthroats ...”

We might note here that these slanderous remarks about the German workers are being made by a man whose party only some four years ago declared that “fascism was only a matter of personal taste,” and whose boss, Stalin, found it perfectly feasible to combine with the “murderous Hitler regime of cut-throats” for the joint invasion of Poland.

What are Foster’s proposals for a “hard” peace which is supposed to restore democracy in Germany? The same ones that are now being prepared by the imperialists who are interested in crushing Germany as an economic rival and don’t give a rap about bringing or restoring democracy for the German people-They are the proposals made by the very people who assisted Hitler into power and thanked their lucky stars for fascism as a preventive against workers’ revolution and socialism. The peace terms, which according to Foster should have “a democratic orientation from; the beginning” include: Military occupation by British, Russian and American forces for a long period; dismemberment of Germany through the return of such territories as East Prussia, Sudetenland, Schleswig-Holstein and Silesia to their “rightful owners”; imposition of large indemnities in money, machinery and other goods; and rebuilding of war-devastated areas in invaded countries by German labor. These are the measures which Foster hopes to make the “democratic forces in Germany” understand as “necessary for the creation of a prosperous, democratic Germany.”

The “Hard” Peace

Military occupation after unconditional surrender should be carried out “in the spirit of democracy,” says Foster. The troops should support the “democratic forces.” Just who these forces are, after Foster excludes “a majority of the population, including a large percentage of workers” who have been “deeply corrupted by Nazism,” is left to the reader’s imagination. To Foster, of course, the “democratic forces” will be those people in Germany who advocate subservience to Russian foreign policy.

The dismemberment of Germany on the basis of “returning” parts of that country to “rightful owners” (these, of course, to be determined by the imperialists of ihe Allied countries, and nat by the peoples who inhabit these territories) means re-creating the very conditions which have helped bring about World War No. 2.

Imposition of large indemnities in money, machinery and other commodities is a more monstrous repetition of the Versailles Treaty which has always been called by the labor movement a “Robbers’ Treaty.” Foster tries to polish up the old remedy by insisting that the “main burden should be loaded on the backs of the wealthy classes,” through capital levies and confiscatory taxes. War reparations and indemnities, payments in commodities and machinery, are always made through the most intense exploitation of labor. Socialists have ever been opposed to peace through annexations or indemnities because they know that it is not the rich who suffer by this, but the toiling masses who are thus doubly robbed of the product of their toil.


At one point Foster sounds almost radical, as if he were opposed to capitalist exploitation. Prevent the German capitalists from preparing for another war by nationalizing industry, he says. Nationalization, however, is not proposed as a measure to be taken by German labor in order that industry might be run to furnish the needs of the people, but as a measure under Allied occupation so that the payment of war reparations and indemnities can be made more efficient. The German workers are to toil in the “nationalized” factories in order to supply the goods and commodities for the imperialists, in the first place, of Stalinist Russia. German labor is to be squeezed and oppressed through taxation, work, occupation, enslavement in order to pay for a war which was not of its own making any more than it was the making of American, British, or Russian labor.

And finally, German labor is to rebuild war-ravaged Europe! Foster suggests that even this act of enslavement of at least twelve million German workers can be turned to the advantage of democracy! Foster realizes that it is going to be a difficult task to convince the German workers that these prospects are calculated to help democracy triumph in that country. But there are always prison camps, the occupation armies and other “convincing” ways of doing this. And these are the methods of the imperialists and their agents.

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