From New International, Vol.XII No.5, May 1946, pp.131-136. [1*]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
“... there were some other Societies which were formed with a wider and more elevated purpose, which knew that the upsetting of an existing Government was but a passing stage in the great impending struggle, and which intended to keep together and to prepare the party, whose nucleus they formed, for the last decisive combat which must, one day or another, crush forever in Europe the domination, not of mere ‘tyrants,’ ‘despots’ and ‘usurpers,’ but of a power far superior, and far more formidable than theirs: that of capital over labor.” (Revolution and Counter-Revolution or Germany in 1848, Karl Marx)
The long and tortured history of the German nation is replete with abortive historic events; movements that began but which, for varying reasons, were never fulfilled – the Peasant War of the 1500s, the struggle for unification against Napoleon, the revolution of 1848, the Bismarckian and post-Bismarck drive for world imperial power, the 1919 revolution against the Kaiser, etc. But finally, ironically enough, it must be recognized that an historic “event”, so profoundly reactionary in nature that the like of it has never before been seen (except for the Nazi régime itself), is being imposed upon the German nation, and that this event, or action, is being fulfilled to its lowest, vilest and most humiliating depths. We refer, of course, to the Four Power occupation and destruction of Germany, an action whose course and meaning we wish to describe in some detail.
Why should we study the details of the German occupation? Because it adds to the mounting weight of material explaining the true purposes of those powers that participated in the war, banishing forever the myth of a democratic “rehabilitation” of the German people; because it indicates the “retrogressive” depths to which capitalist imperialism and barbarism must plunge conquered nations and peoples in its wars; because the tragic fate of whole nations and even continents, in future wars, is already pictured for us in the fate of Germany, and because, in this study, we may find indicated the difficult road the German people must labor up, if they are to free themselves. And finally, each of the occupying powers (France, England, America and Russia), in the section of Germany allotted to its peculiar form of occupation, clearly mirrors and reflects the nature, problems and contradictions of its own internal, home régime. French-Germany, EnglishGermany, American-Germany and Russian-Germany are in a sense, images of present-day France, England, America and Russia, each extending its policies and economies to its German colonial possession.
Under the Nazi régime, all centralizing trends within Germany reached their highest possible development, within the grasp of the super police state. This condition has been described in many studies. In May 1945 the Nazi state structure lay inert on the ground, a twisted mass of iron and steel without any frame. Nothing arose within Germany itself to replace it; not a single “dual power” tendency came forward. Into this emptiness rushed the Allied and Russian military forces, imposing their military will upon the former German nation, now without any economic, political or administrative machinery.
After almost a full year of occupation, we offer the following overall description of its results: The only adequate terms to describe Germany today would be those employed by medical science in detailing the condition of a paralytic. Atrophy of organs, lassitude and general feebleness, muscular degeneration and breaking down of cell life, with a general trend to sink lower and lower. What are some of the symptoms of this German paralysis?
First and most obvious is the physical destruction of the basic industrial plant and the key cities. These plants, market and transportation centers remain as they were, heaps of rubble. Nor does shoveling rubble into neat piles on sidewalks revive the life of modern cities. Secondly, the major industrial centers, as we shall see when we examine the specific areas of occupation, remain largely silent and idle. Saar mining, Ruhr production, Berlin electric power, etc., have experienced a revival, but completely inadequate for needs. Whatever coordination existed between sectors of economy – peacetime industry, or the highly developed war planning of the Nazis – has, of course, been entirely broken. This massive breakdown really explains the paralysis of production. In general, the agricultural east has been shut off from the industrial west (despite clauses of the Potsdam Agreement), while a further breakdown exists within these two basic regions – agrarian Bavaria (Bayern) has no economic exchange with the Ruhr industrial areas; the Saar and Ruhr are in limited contact (both have no ties with eastern Silesia). Canal, river, motor and rail transportation are so slight as to further accentuate this isolation and stagnation of the separate production centers.
The results of this process, in all areas, are apparent: production of machinery, capital goods or reconstruction has virtually ceased. Consumer’s production (soap, matches, clothing and textiles, canned foods, etc.) is minute and not near 5 per cent of needs. Raw materials are not used, with the exception of coal; plant equipment rusts away, with the exception of small plants handy for occupation use. The only real production in Germany today is agricultural; it is the only real production planned for the future. Some roads have been repaired, some bridges rebuilt (if they lie along military supply lines) and rubble has been shoved on the sidewalks. The rest is paralysis. Germany’s present living standard is closely approaching that of Europe’s most devastated areas, and steadily falling. Accumulated stocks of food, clothing, tobacco have already been dispersed. Money is meaningless – there is nothing to purchase.
In many respects, the Anglo-American occupation of Germany is quite peaceful, moderate and even tolerant. There is no open “terror” against the people (this, of course, does not hold for the Russian or French zones, as we shall see below), no concentration camps, beatings, etc., to affect the civilians. The elementary, physical fears of the German have largely vanished. The bulk of the British and American forces have been withdrawn, except for the actual occupation forces. Within his city or town, the average German goes about as he pleases, except for the 5 or 6 hours of nightly curfew. He may travel about freely within the zone, with nothing but his regular identification papers. No travel permit is needed. He has his radio and some newspapers, and movies have reopened. Many elementary schools and half a dozen universities have also reopened. The soldiers walk freely about, without weapons, and mingle in quite friendly fashion with the Germans. Many Germans work alongside of the occupation troops, in bureaus, army installations, repair gangs, etc. There is little or no trouble. Political parties,’ meetings, concerts, organization of trade unions are now, by official Military Government proclamation, permitted. Even the released German war prisoners go about their business unmolested. Certainly these people have no feeling of direct “oppression,” or “fear,” in the usual sense of the word.
It is in the sphere of economic life that Germany feels, and will continue to feel, the harshness of the punishment imposed by the Allied-Russian powers. This takes place in many ways, of which the following are most important. These methods fall into two general categories, direct seizures and expropriations; methods partially veiled in the processes of production and finance. It is well to bear in mind that the popular belief (even held by some Germans!) that the Potsdam reparation terms are lighter and “softer” than the terms of the original Versailles Treaty – that this belief is absurd. On the contrary, they are infinitely harder! This notion is based upon the fact that Potsdam reparation terms are stated in generalities, with no round, sum total figures; while Versailles terms were stated as blunt figures. The Germans are discovering their illusion.
“We intend the ‘tapping’ of German production for perhaps six years.” (Mr. Pauley, American representative to Reparations Commission.)
The “victors” utilize:
Such are the realities of the occupation of Germany. When we examine the various areas of occupation we shall learn more details of this unprecedented (except by the Nazis themselves) robbery and exploitation of peoples. Its effect upon living standards is obvious. Labor rates and prices are similar to those that prevailed under the Nazi government. Yet, in effect, rates and prices in destroyed Germany are meaningless categories. The real value of the marks received for labor is determined by what they can buy. At present, and for a long period to come, purchasing power of the Germans will remain at the same dead-level, sub-standard; that is, rations to enable them to exist from day to day. Money has largely lost its meaning. Every German – “rich” or “poor” – working or unemployed – is able to draw his daily rations in exchange for his paper marks. Food received is enough to enable him to survive and continue working; his fuel is hauled from the local forest (sufficient to have heated one room during this past winter), and on rare occasions he may obtain one or more of those commodities assumed necessary for life comforts. (There is no soap, few matches, no toilet articles, no new shoes or clothing, no furniture, no luxury item.) The German rationing system is the world’s simplest, applied only to standard foods, such as bread, meat and fats. Whether one produces or not, he lives essentially the same.
Such a disaster could not have overwhelmed any people, let alone a great nation of 75 millions, without the most profound political and moral effects. Beginning with Hitler’s 1933 successes in overcoming the working class parties and institutions, along with every remnant of progressive thought and action, this ideologic decline continued until it reached its low point in the apathetic collapse of the nation before the invading armies. The Nazi régime had steadily lost support in the years of its decline, but the fact remains that the German masses struck not a single blow against the régime during its greatest crisis. It is this weariness, confusion of mind and thought, social and political atomism, that has colored the whole reaction of the German people to defeat and occupation. It has meant, up till now, a continuation of the same apathy and intense individualism that prevents any formation of definite German trends.
The German bourgeois, or capitalist, where he has not been arrested or done away with, has placed himself at the disposal of the occupant and tries to retain some power through an essentially Quisling rôle. If one can speak of the German bourgeoisie as a whole, it is only in the sense of a colonial, “compradore” bourgeoisie, thoroughly subordinate to the master. The highly diversified German middle class (petty bourgeoisie) has reacted with characteristic bewilderment, but essentially seeks to find a new life within the occupation fold, with a “perspective” based upon growing differences between the master powers. That is, the petty bourgeois in the Russian area searches for a place in the new administration (or the Communist Party) while the petty bourgeois in the American zone sells his possessions and his soul to the Black Market and prays for war with Russia.
“We knew nothing; we just believed; had we only known; how we have been betrayed.” Every hope and emotion they had seen embodied in Hitler has now come home to roost, and the German petty bourgeois is filled with lamentation, remorse and self-pity. Despair is their lot, abasement their future and grovelling support to the powers-that-be is their present. Pastor Niemoller is their popular preacher; Professor Jaspers of Heidelberg their metaphysical theologian. Repentance, guilt, acceptance and subservience are their themes. But such moods cannot last long and will vanish with the first stirrings at national and revived political life.
The German Frau, the older German woman – those who are (or were) married, who have children; those past 30 and approaching middle aged – form a distinct and substantial stratum of the population. They are found in the remains of the Ruhr cities, in Berlin, in Nürnberg, Kassel, Breslau, Dresden; out on the farms and in the small villages. There are many millions of them and they have already borne the burden of the failures of the Weimar Republic, the years of war preparation and then the war itself. Now they must bear the burden of the occupation. Probably no group heretofore has undergone what these women have gone through – the years of endless labor, the struggle to keep families alive, the bombings and now the daily fight for food, winter fuel and material to patch up homes in the destroyed cities. For many of them, their men are gone forever. They are among the 4 million estimated German dead. They will never remarry, since estimates already show approximately 2½ women for every German man. They continue their lonely existence primarily for the sake of their children. All forms of work and labor are familiar to them. They are the bulk of the farm laborers; they clean the streets of the bombed cities; they participate in the slight rebuilding; they stand on the long bread lines; they go into the forests for wood and pull back the carts .... The bulk of their labor is unpaid for, except rations for themselves and their children. They are the women of Kathe Kollwitz’s famous lithographs, whom may simply say, “Mein Mann ist in Russland gefallen,” or “In Frankreich vermisst,” or “In Kriegsgefangenschaft.”  But they will be of major importance in any future German freedom movement.
By German youth we do not mean any fixed category since many soldiers and young workers belong in its ranks. Nevertheless, the young German boys and girls form a distinct stratum of German society, largely based on those remnants of the systematic Hitler indoctrination, with its simple slogans and fixed prejudices. The social vacuum in which this youth lives in all zones  has its obvious results in the continuation and festering within the minds of German youth of these Nazi doctrines. How significant is it that the first “opposition” to the occupation comes from these demoralized young people and takes on the most reactionary, chauvinistic forms! Its main thesis is condemnation of any and all forms of fraternization between the German people and the foreign soldiers, under the leadership of ex-Gestapo and Wehrmacht officers. In the general misery that envelops the country, the new masters have failed to revive the educational system (only the first four grades of elementary school and a few theological and medical universities are open); have failed to open a professional or career outlet to the intellectual youth; have failed to create clubs, sport associations, etc.; and have failed to offer anything to the youth wandering through the cities and countryside. The most shameful moral indictment of all against the régime of occupation is, it goes without saying, what has happened to the young German girls. They have reached the lowest level, at the greatest speed. The story is too well known to need repetition, except to emphasize the fact that the many thousands of military government officers (particularly the Americans and Russians) are the guiltiest among the guilty. “The rehabilitation of German society!” The false method of resistance already employed by small sections of the German youth is a condemnation in itself of the entire occupation, but also a bad sign for the future of Germany’s liberation movement.
Great masses of German soldiers have already been released from the prisoner of war camps. Although millions still remain, particularly in Russian and French hands, the German veteran is another distinct stratum.
He has found his way home, or to what remains of home. But many have remained in farm areas, preferring this drudging life (where food is available) to returning to ruined cities, or the Russian occupation zone .. Of all groups within Germany, the former Wehrmacht soldiery is the most difficult to penetrate or understand. The rank-and-file veterans are silent and opposed to any and all political parties, political activities and political thought. Only the former officers or army leaders have recovered to the extent of proclaiming some thought or program. This we shall consider later, but the real point is that the weary, exhausted and ragged veterans are still passing through that stage of weighing and evaluating the meaning of what has happened. As the inevitable regrouping and reorganization of German life proceeds, it is impossible to know or predict what paths these men will follow.
Much has been written of the German worker; the former Social-Democratic or Communist proletarian. American CIO and AFL labor leaders have toured the country and, basing the entire problem around the question of “growth of German trade unions,” have rendered optimistic or pessimistic reports, depending upon their eyesight. But this superficial nonsense is not confined to the liberal, or labor-bureaucratic press, unfortunately. The basic fact that there is today no German labor movement, in a political or organizational or ideologic sense, must first be grasped. The reconstituted political parties (see below) must not be confused with the tremendous task confronting the German working class – that is, wiping out the effects of Nazism within its ranks, reviving free and democratic trade unions and organizing a revolutionary, internationalist vanguard not bound by the Social-Democracy, or to Stalinism. In the February New International Comrade Johnson writes, “The German workers failed to achieve a coordinated revolt. The exact reasons for this we do not know and doubtless before very long they will tell us for themselves.” This wishful thinking belongs to the field of subjective mysticism, not clear analysis. The contention that the German working class, as a whole-that broken, ground-down, atomized and confused mass of workers now endeavoring to pull themselves to their feet – is capable of consciously analyzing its great failures and defeats simply ignores what has occurred and in no way aids the problem. Furthermore, the reasons for this failure to “revolt” are well known and have been written about for years. They are rooted in the process of fascism itself and in the nature of the war just concluded, in which the bourgeoisie succeeded, thanks primarily to the Stalinist movement, in keeping the world prôletariat sharply divided.
In a previous article we described what has happened to the German working class and the point at which it resumes its historic life. It is worth a brief repetition. The German prôletariat was mobilized and fought in the war, including its best sections (miners, steel workers, machinists, etc.), It suffered enormous casualties in dead, wounded and those who remain as prisoners. In the physical destruction of German industry, large numbers of workers were scattered about, in towns and villages, away from their factories. Most of them remain there still. They have become farm hands, along with their families; or handicraft workers. This tendency, this drop in the ranks of German prôletarians, can only increase with the application of the Potsdam agreements. Only coal, iron ore and railway workers remain in any substantial, organized numbers. The rest are engaged in light, domestic industries. As to the new unions, we shall discuss below their real nature as instruments of economic class struggle. Meanwhile, let us not place impossible tasks before this prôletariat. Its problems are on a much lower level. Those who, as Johnson apparently does, still consider Germany the “key to the European situation” are worthless counsellors to those German socialists and revolutionists who are seriously attempting to answer the problem of how to revive the German labor movement.
But what about, we may be asked, the various political parties? Is there not an active German political life, party discussions and conventions, campaigns and elections, newspapers and platforms? As with the trade unions, which bear only a nominal resemblance to the class struggle trade unions of pre-Hitler days, the newly revived German political parties only caricature their former selves. We refer not merely to size, membership, influence and resources, but primarily to their strictly limited rôle in German life.
Since the Potsdam Conference decided that political parties may operate legally in all occupied sections, thus extending the Russian method to the Allied zone, four political parties have been organized, operate openly and participate in elections. Political contact between these parties in the various zones, at first very slight, has now increased. The four parties are:
In most small towns and cities these parties have no actual organization, being confined largely to the big centers.
Formally speaking, the four parties have essentially the same program. The Communist Party works for a “united people’s Germany”; the Social-Democratic Party for “... a parliamentary-democratic Republic, with all democratic rights and freedoms for the German people” (Bayrischer Tag), and the two bourgeois parties are also “for democracy.” Formally speaking, furthermore, all parties agree on the following basic points:
Such is the formal basis of the present four-party agreement. It need hardly be added that not a one proposes an end to the occupation, proclaims Germany’s right of self-determination, protests against the reparations proposals, or advocates methods of economic struggle to the new German “trade unions.” Henry Morrison, in the March New International, has described in detail the politics of these parties, although we cannot accept his implied preference for the Social Democracy. The point is that not one of these parties represents anything but capitulation, humiliation and quisling subordination on the part of the German people to their present oppressors. The bourgeois parties represent the remnants of the German bourgeoisie, capable of only a “compradore” rôle in German life; the Social Democrats serve the Allied occupants as political stooges, while the Communists are, of course, the despicable quislings of the Moscow oppressors. All alike offer no hope for the nation.
The German people are well aware, of course, of the manner in which each of these parties, lacking a genuine independence and program, is tied down to one or another of the occupying powers. This explains the slight effect, or interest, their activities have upon the masses. This indifference is not due solely to the preoccupation with the problem of food and elementary survival. Since in no sense of the word do the Germans consider themselves “war guilty,” it is clear that they reject, psychologically, the spirit of meek resignation and passivity implied in the activities of the four parties. Refusing to enter the Sacred Convent of Repentant Peoples and don the Veil of Guilt, but finding no other home offered to them at present, they stand still. The four parties bore and annoy them (particularly with their newspapers). Only the old folks derive interest from this so-called party life. The youth, ex-soldiers and workers are thoroughly uninterested.
But one significant political issue has arisen in which there is undoubtedly widespread interest and concern. That is the effort of the Communist Party to merge with the Social Democracy, or rather, to swallow up the Social Democracy after a shotgun wedding. C.L. Sulzberger writes in the NY Times) “In the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany tremendous pressure has been brought on the Social Democrats to favor the merger with the Communists. Certain Social Democrat leaders opposing this have disappeared. Communists and pro-Communist Socialists have received special favors and rations.” The Russian military governors have even hinted at an easing of the occupation and withdrawal of large forces, provided the merger goes through shortly. On the other hand, they have bared their criminal fists by reopening old concentration camps, to house unwelcome opponents of the merger, including many who have spent years in the concentration camps of Hitler.
Such a merger would and could have only reactionary consequences, both for the possibility of independent political life and for the Russian-occupied zone. It would make firmer the totalitarian control of the Stalinists, destroy the Social Democratic party and provide Russia with an effective, quisling-like, method of maintaining its control over half of Germany even after the withdrawal of its troops. The struggle against such a merger with Stalinism  is the first progressive political step toward revival of an independent, class-conscious labor movement. The 2,500 delegates at the Berlin Social Democratic congress who voted 80 per cent against their leader who had proposed it were, in effect, taking the first step forward of the German working class, notwithstanding the fact that the anti-merger movement is led by Social Democrats who prefer to serve the Anglo-Americans. The Social Democratic workers are moved by a concern to maintain the independence of this movement, even if more concerned with national than class independence.
We must conclude that today, as has been the case since the 1933 capitulation of the German Communist Party before Hitler, the German working class has no political, vanguard leadership. It is a class without a representative party, and this fact must be the starting point in our analysis of how to reconstruct the German labor movement. Neither the Social-Democracy nor Stalinism; both basically committed – although to lesser degrees – to quisling rôles in German life, will serve the beaten working class of Germany. A quisling rôle means approval of national oppression arid foreign-enslavement, concretely. This fact alone is sufficient to damn them in the eyes of the prôletariat. But there are today no other working class parties to which they can turn.
In similarity of methods, the occupation forces fall into two categories – the Russians and French; the British, and Americans. In harshness, primitiveness of method and brutality, the Russian and French administrators stand closest together, although here the similarity ends. Both employed, particularly at first, the same technique of plunder, looting, raping, open confiscation of wealth and factories, living off the population and its land, etc. A report from the French zone states,
“The French administration is a definitely rightist régime. Almost the entire officer corps consists of adherents of the Vichy régime, of royalists and members of the Croix de Feu. A German Nazi is much nearer to many of them than a left-wing Frenchman. This the local Nazis understood quite well. Few of them fled. Many are leading a conspicuous existence in the smaller cities and are holding offices in the administration.”
A long trip, by the writer, through the French zone in late 1945 verified this, plus the additional fact that reconstruction (elementary repair work) has been at a minimum. The Saar district, principal French occupation area, is in a miserable state of semi-starvation and low productivity. The French occupation has well been compared with the colonial, imperial system of the Romans, with its overbearing administration of French praetors and proconsuls. It reflects the most savage form of French imperialist bourgeois spirit of revenge and expansion, and is guided by the policy of annexation of the Rhineland, Ruhr and the Saar (or as much as can be obtained with American approval). It is the frankest and most avowed of the capitalist-imperialist occupation zones.
The methods employed by the Russians in their occupation of half of Germany are now familiar to all, and have often been described. Its barbaric and criminal character, including the forced migrations of millions, on a scale not even employed by the Nazis, has silenced all but the most blind defenders of the theory that Russia is, despite all, a “Workers’ State,” and that its seizure of enemy territories will be accompanied by popular risings and revolutionary waves. But silence, of course, explains nothing and it is more than ever incumbent upon these comrades to explain themselves and their illusions. The truth is that the greatest and most intense hatred against the occupying forces exists in the Russian zone. At every opportunity, the population (particularly the workers) demonstrate their hatred of the Russians and what they have done. The workers, at present, can only demonstrate their attitude in the trade unions, where they defeat the Stalinist candidates at each chance, and in the Social Democratic party, in the struggle against unification. In this sense, the struggle against the merger has a national character.
But what of Russian social and economic policy? Despite the totalitarian set-up in the zone, isn’t this progressive? Isn’t “socialization of industry,” destruction of Junkerdom and the bourgeoisie, etc., a step forward? Perhaps the German workers and peasants are too backward and under Nazi influence to appreciate what is being done for them! What can be wrong, then, if the Russians impose “socialism” (with all its benefits) upon them?
The theoreticians of the “Workers’ State” theory are, perhaps, toying with such treacherous concepts (else, why should they continue their silence on this question?). All the more reason to state firmly that not only does Russian occupation policy have nothing whatever in common with socialism, but it has not the slightest “progressive” content and is, on the contrary, reactionary and against every interest of the German workers and peasants.
Why do we say this? To begin with, socialism requires the elevation and expansion of the, productive forces. That is basic. Russian imperialism loots, destroys and lowers the productive forces of the occupied nation.
“Reports from the Russian occupied zone of Germany indicate that a second wave of dismantling industrial plants is under way by Soviet Military authorities, the first having taken place last summer. In the latest instance the stripping of machinery and equipment from plants for shipment to the east has concentrated especially on sugar refineries adjacent to Magdeburg, said to be the largest in the world .. Six hundred plants are said to have been marked for transfer ...” (NY Times, March 23, 1946)
When the Germans protested, they were informed that the Russians, under Potsdam, were entitled to much more and they, the Germans, should be content that the rest had not been taken! The grand total of means of production stolen, looted, destroyed and “legally” acquired under Potsdam is not known, but an authentic guess would place it at about 5.0 per cent of the total in the zone. Its social effect upon the German working, class, now deprived of their means of livelihood, is clear. Perhaps the “Workers’ State” defenders will tell us that the “progressive” nature of this imperialist robbery lies in the fact that these former private means of production now become collective in Russia!
But what of Russian land policy, what of the “socialization” of those factories and mines that remain? What of the administration being created? Is it not a fact that the historically reactionary Junker landlord class has been wiped out, along with substantial sections of the German bourgeoisie in the occupied zone? A recent report describes how a plebiscite, to be held shortly, will decide on the “nationalization” of 3,600 industrial establishments (size not given) out of an estimated 4,000 in the whole area. Coal mines in Sachsen (Saxony), textile mills, electrical works, etc., are taken from their former owners (without compensation), and turned over for control and operation by the new state apparatus. A law “promulgated by the Soviet Military Government and covering the socialization of industries” will shortly be published. 7,000 large estates, totaling 4,0000,000 acres, have been distributed to date among 270,000 peasants and share-croppers, with the process continuing. Junkerdom and capitalism are finished in Russian-occupied Germany! Is this not social revolution?
To begin with, the action of breaking up the Junker estates and dividing them among the peasantry, is not a socialist measure, but one familiar to many types of bourgeois-democratic or Bonapartist movements. (Cardenas in Mexico; Peron in Argentina, etc.) Particularly under the given circumstances in Germany today, where it is apparent that a later development toward socialist collective farming is out of the question (due to the low industrial productivity that will prevail in the zone), the whole action takes on a dubious character. “Even Communist organs have come out with the statement that 200,000 of the 270,000 new farmers have been left in the air, without the wherewithal to get going.” (NY Times, Dec. 20, 1945.) Despite the destruction of the Junker class, this action, under bureaucratic aegis, without the mobilization of the peasantry into democratic committees, with no prospects of procuring machinery and industrial products, but a distinct prospect of violent grain requisitioning, this dividing up of the large estates has little in common with the “land to the peasants” slogan of the Russian Revolution. Above all, it shows little prospect of moving along the line of more productive, collective farming.
Nationalization of industry by decree has the same non-socialist character. The exact nature and conditions of this nationalization are not known, but it has nothing in common with workers’ control, management and regulation. The whole process is imposed from above, by the Soviet military authorities, who fix wages and labor conditions, then announce production goals! The German workers do not participate in this act, and their unions – dominated by Stalinist leadership have as little to say as the unions in Russia proper. The setup is totalitarian, by decree; there is not a tinge of workers’ democracy in it. Particularly must be borne in mind the fact that the production of these nationalized industries falls into Russian hands, through outright appropriation, or commercial action. For the Russian masters, this so-called nationalization is a method of obtaining the fruits of that German industry upon which they have not yet laid their hands. That capitalism, as we know it, has been destroyed (or so limited that, in effect, it doesn’t exist) is undeniable. That a reactionary totalitarian economy, centered in a new state apparatus controlled in turn by a foreign power, has replaced it is likewise undeniable.
What is the nature of Russian-occupied Germany? It is a semi-colony of Stalinist, Russian imperialism. The phenomenon of Russian imperialism, something distinct from Anglo-American imperialism, is new to us. It is in a state of flux and development and therefore not readily describable, like the older, classic imperialisms. But it is far more than a mere system of robbing and looting capital goods, and wealth in general. Classic British imperialism, in its early days of primitive robbery and accumulation, was represented by the East India company, but soon learned that a more organized, systematic method must be adopted. The same holds true for neo-Russian imperialism. In Germany, its first stage of naked plundering is finished and it is now organizing for systematic exploitation. It is developing new methods, but obeys the general law that a state-apparatus most easy to control, and parallel to the state-apparatus at home, is the most effective of methods. The British imperialists in India had their princes, landlords and “compradore” bourgeois; the Russians have their ex-Nazi “technicians,” civil service bureaucrats and above all, their Communist Party. The methods of British imperialism flowed from the nature of British finance and industrial capitalism; the methods of Russian imperialism (strategic, economic and political in character) flow from the nature of Russian bureaucratic state collectivism. Just as the Indian masses became the slaves of foreign imperialism, so will the German workers and peasants become the slaves, under a totalitarian state system, of Russian imperialism, provided the Russians succeed in completing what they are now in process of erecting. But that process is far from complete.
1. Allied Military Government and the Russians claim to have prevented inflation, rise in prices and the runaway panic of the 1920’s. By this superficial claim is meant that the entire process of inflation and drastic deflation after the last war – a process of several years’ duration – was accomplished this time by decree within a space of three months! Actually, the devaluation has been even more drastic, since middle class savings (bonds, forced governmental savings) have been entirely destroyed, and the important companies and industries that managed to revive after the uncontrolled inflation of the 20’s have this time ceased to exist! The German middle class and the small business man are infinitely more “deflated” now than at the end of their previous experience. The German mark (devalued from 2½ to three to a dollar to ten to a dollar) therefore now has 25 per cent or 33 per cent of its pre-war value.
2. “My husband was killed in Russia,” or “missing in France,” or “a prisoner of war.”
3. In the Russian zone, the Communist Party appeals to the former Hitlerjugend to join the young Communist organization; an appeal that has no political content to it but is aimed as a mere substitution of one movement for the other.
4. It is important to distinguish between the rôle or the German Communist Party In the Russian zone, and its rôle in the Allied zone. In the former it is, of course, a pure quisling, bureaucratic setup; in the Allied zone it is an opposition party, opposing the military government setup and demagogically critical of everything. But, of course, the Party functions as a united Party under centralized leadership from Berlin.
1*. Henry Judd was a pseudonym of Stanley Plastrik.
Last updated: 13.1.2009