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Reva Craine

World Politics

(12 February 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 7, 12 February 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Stalin Grooms Von Paulus?

Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin are at the present meeting somewhere in Europe in an attempt to come to some agreement regarding the Allied partition of that continent. Of central importance is the question: What to do with Germany, and which of the Allied powers is to do it? As his armies move on toward Berlin, Stalin is indeed in the strongest position to put into effect his ideas on, the subject. In the days of the agitation for the opening of the second front, Molotov, Russian Premier, had warned that he who gets to Berlin first would decide the fate of Germany. Stalin is seeking to make good this threat.

If Germany is “liberated” by the advancing Russian army, if Hitler’s government is “overthrown” in this way, what will replace it? Will the German people be able to establish their own government? Will they be able to go after the hated Nazis and capitalists who brought them into the war and to the brink of disaster? Will they be allowed to purge their country of every trace of the detested fascist regime? Knowing what the Allied attitude has been to the Italian, French, Belgian and Greek people – not to mention the Polish people – there is no reason to believe that the German masses will fare even as well.

The Real Allied Policy

The policy of the Allies is to make Germany “pay for the war,” that is, make the German people pay. The people must be held responsible for the crimes of Hitler. The most rabid proponents of this policy are the Russian rulers, whose spokesman, the writer, Ilya Ehrenburg, recently declared that the Russians are coming to Germany, not as liberators, but as conquerors.

Stalin wants to make Germany pay by confiscation of whatever industry is left in that country after the continual bombings and raids. He wants, moreover, at least ten million German slaves. The chastisement of the German people must be complete, and the anti-fascists among them will be marked for the severest punishment. Ehrenburg’s reply to a question on what the Russians would do about a revolt of the German people who would “overthrow Hitler and welcome the advancing Red Army with appropriate banners,” was, “Those would be the first people we would shoot.”

Up to this point there is agreement on the part of the Big Three with regard to Germany. On the question of the three-way partition of Germany there may not be that much unanimity. Now that the practical settlement of the German, problem appears to be at hand, the Russian interests become more clear. Whereas Anglo-American imperialism would benefit by the dismemberment of Germany, in that a rival or potential rival would be put out of the way, Russian interests dictate the maintenance of a Germany sufficiently strong to act as a buffer against the other two Allied partners. Russia, desires a weakened, but not crippled Germany, one that is friendly, peaceful and “safe,” i.e., safe to the Russian ruling class.

Resurrecting the Junkers

The Kremlin has prepared for its policy through the establishment of a committee which it is rumored will be introduced as the provisional government for Germany. When the Russians turned back the Germans at Stalingrad, they not only reversed the European military situation, but captured a group of German generals who have been worked over into a Union of German Officers who have been acting with and for the Russians.

In addition, there is the Free German Committee, which is composed of some of these Junkers and loyal Stalinists. The committee is headed by General Walther von Seydlitz, who was a commander in the German Sixth Army, which surrendered at Stalingrad. Seydlitz is an old-line military man, comes from an old aristocratic family, is a descendant of Bismarck and has been in the army since 1908. He served his class under the Kaiser, under the Republic and under Hitler. Up to Stalingrad, he was a loyal German militarist. Now he serves his class in what he considers to be the best way, under Stalin.

In addition to the German generals, there are the Stalinist henchmen headed by one William Pieck. It is already being spoken about quite openly that Stalin is moving to install the Free German Committee as the provisional German government, which will be headed by Field Marshal von Paulus. He too was captured at Stalingrad, but it took him over a year to leave Hitler. Since then he has become a renovated Junker. Italy had its Badoglio – Germany will have its von Paulus.

We see then that it would be a mistake to take too seriously the Russian contention that all Germans are guilty, hopeless, incapable of changing. At least some “good” Germans have been found. They are the Junker generals who believe that Hitler has lost the war and that the best way to save German capitalism and German Junkerdom is to abandon Hitler, call off the war and establish “law and order” in Germany. In return for the privilege of doing this, they have become friends of Stalin.

On the other hand, Stalin sees in a government headed by these people a way of’ preventing civil war in Germany, that is, revolution, which might not stop merely at the overthrow of fascism, but which might make passible the victory of the German working class over capitalism.

Beheading a Revolution

We are sure that the Russian secret police have ways of winning over German generals. What is most important is that on the very basic point of what is to be the role of the made-in-Moscow provisional German government there is complete agreement and unity of interests between the generals and the Russian bureaucracy. There is to be no democracy in Germany, there is to be no. free government, no independent workers’ movement and organizations and, above all, no revolution. The new regime is to be a totalitarian one, without Hitler. In this aim Stalin has found the perfect instrument, the German army staff.

As one of the “free” officers stated in a radio broadcast: “Our first task is to save the lives of these German soldiers, to save them from the certain and useless death to which Hitler leads them daily. Our second task is to cleanse the besmirched honor of the German officers’ corps. The third task is to act as a preventative against the civil war which Hitler will be faced with.”

Not one word – and how could there be from this source? – about the restoration of those rights which fascist rule has stamped out.

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