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Susan Green

Readers Take the Floor ...

[German Armament]

(6 February 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 6, 6 February 1950, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

To the Editor:

Without extending the discussion of Socialist Policy and German Armament unduly, here are a few brief paragraphs in re-rejoinder to Eugene Keller’s rejoinder to Comrade Fenwick and myself [Labor Action, Jan. 23].

Perhaps it is for military experts to decide whether a militia is feasible in this day and age of military development. However, sometimes even a layman can read the handwriting on the wall, if he only wishes to. It is significant that the only concrete proof Comrade Keller offers that a militia is feasible is that it took only a few months of full-time time training to make aircraft mechanics – hardly an illustration of the training of soldiers, as anyone who has been through it knows.

I would submit for consideration that today the old socialist aim of a people’s militia must be replaced by the demand for full democratic rights for all branches of the military, to which end there must be cooperation and solidarity between unions and soldiers, with joint committees of workers and soldiers in localities, and so on. In other words, we must proceed from the facts of technical life in a modern army as we do in modern industry, and try to change not the technology but the politics. The militia idea ignores or tries to change, by wishful thinking, the technology.

But to go to the heart of my argument, it is not always necessary or wise to demand everything all at one time and on the spot. Undoubtedly an independent nation has a right to its own army if it desires one. Similarly an occupied country has the right and the duty to demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.

Sometimes, as we know, strategy requires more or less emphasis at a given time.

In Germany today any armed force that will be adequate against the Russian zone, will be based on the very virile remnants of the Nazi army. At least that is what all the reports from Germany indicate, and they also predict that this is what the Nazis in industry and government will consider their signal lo come forth openly into national life. However, there are still the occupying powers posed against the armed forces of the Russian zone.

With the withdrawal of the occupying powers, the urgency for military protection against the East will outweigh every other consideration, and those with the know-how to form an army, namely, the Nazi officers, will take over the job. As between paving the way for the rebirth of Nazism as a challenging power and the evil of the occupying forces, the latter seems the lesser.

Therefore, socialists may do better not to put forth either the withdrawal of the occupying forces or the formation of a German army as action slogans at present. Othei- demands from the occupying forces must, of course, continue to be made.

The Social-Democrats and the democratic forces of Germany have a three-pronged problem: they must fight Stalinism; they must prevent the resurgence of Nazism; they must rid themselves of the occupying powers. On a national basis it seems like an impossible task. Only through becoming a part of an Independent Western Europe can the German people find the ideas, the spirit and the forces to proceed to a democratic solution of their economic, political and military problems.

Today nationalist ideas are not the only ones heard. Proposals – coming both from the ECA and from vastly different sources – for one and another kind of Western European unity, are very much to the fore. The German Social-Democrats should come out with a militant proposal for Independent Western Union, seeking the support and cooperation of all Western European Social-Democrats and of wider democratic elements. This is not an evasion of the military problem, but calls immediately for the vehicle which carries hope for the democratic solution of military and other problems.

Susan Green


Labor Action does not agree that “German socialists may do better not to put forth ... the withdrawal of the occupying forces” as a slogan today. (We are not sure how Comrade Green’s use of the term “action slogan” affects the question. Naturally, the slogan for the withdrawal of the occupying forces is a propaganda slogan today.) We have discussed this question in our columns before, and would only add now – apropos of the question of German rearmament – that if socialists set themselves against the, near-unanimous desire of the West German people for complete national independence, this would only add grist to the mill of reactionary German neo-Nazi nationalism. On the contrary, the German Social-Democrats, in our view, should be the most vigorous proponents of the ending of the occupation and the withdrawal of all imperialist troops (Western and Russian) from German territory. – Ed.

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