From New International, Vol.XII No.9, November 1946, pp.281-282. [1*]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
A careful reading of the above article by Comrade Leder convinces me that, in effect, there are no serious differences in our respective viewpoints, but rather misunderstandings, or differences in emphasis. Leder is correct, in section VII of his article, in emphasizing the internationalist causes and aspects of the decline of the German working class movement – that is, the tragic consequences of the lack of general class solidarity with the German proletariat, and that feeling, prevalent in the German worker, that he stands alone. But aside from this, we must regretfully express our opinion that Leder either has too hastily read the articles on Germany, or that he read only the incomplete Part I, published in the May 1946 issue of The New International. We find no basis for his exaggerated polemical comments, nor for his conclusions.
“The only thing that they (the German workers) cannot become is the prediction of Henry Judd: ‘farmers and artisans’.” So remarks Comrade Leder. Is it his opinion that we prophesize that the German working class, as a whole, will become “farmers and artisans”? If so, it is a clear case of misunderstanding, obviously. Nevertheless, it remains a cold fact that large numbers (statistics unknown, naturally) of German workers have been reduced to precisely such a status in order to live; they will remain so, unless and until a serious revival in German economic life takes place. This “declassed” German worker is a familiar figure throughout Germany; I would gladly put Leder in touch with some whom I know, if he wishes.
Likewise, Leder objects to my remarks that the remnants of the German bourgeoisie, in the Western half, continues on in a subordinate capacity, a sort of “compradore bourgeoisie.” This, he says, is the “only thing that cannot happen to them ...” But what then is the nature of the German capitalists remaining all in the American, British and French zones, operating their plants within the framework permitted by the occupying power? Leder himself answers this when he writes, “The foreign overlord wants to curb the old and new industries. The struggle is mainly against foreign imperialism, with the German capitalists – insofar as they still exist – playing only a minor role.” Wherein does this differ from our description of the remnants of the German bourgeoisie, and its part in the new Germany? We do not understand.
Judd’s “predictions are utterly misleading.” Which predictions, we must inquire? These articles on Germany predicted little or nothing; they were essentially descriptive in character, and indicated the basis on which we believe a revival of the German movement can take place. Does Leder disagree with this; specifically, with Part II of the series? We think not. He writes, “In Germany today, the German proletariat feels more the loss of national freedom and oppression by foreign imperialist powers than does any other social class. It cannot make the slightest move forward without coming into conflict with the powers which have deprived the German nation of its independence and which challenge the right of the German people to exist as a nation.” Exactly, we accept every word. But we must point out how these concluding remarks contradict the tone and meaning of the opening section of his article, where his general position seems much closer to that of Comrades Ria Stone and Willie Gorman (May 1946, The New International) – that is, the position that the German proletariat is still essentially intact, capable of leading the nation today, etc. In his justified anxiety to defend the German workers against their imperialist slanderers and malicious-minded detractors, Comrade Leder has confused the issue. We will defend the German workers against any and all imperialist propaganda, but at the same time analyse objectively their actual state and capacities in the Germany of today. These two needs do not conflict.
“Even the facts he reports are outdated, or will be within a few months.” But Leder makes this accusation without giving a single example of these “outdated facts,” with one exception that we shall mention below. What facts are wrong or outdated?
We find a terribly exaggerated misunderstanding of certain facts in Leder’s article, concerning the alleged creation of “local revolutionary governments,” established with the downfall of the Nazis. That “Antifa” committees did come into being, as the Allies overran Germany, is a well-established fact. That they were committees representing a revolutionary “dual power” is nonsense. They were spontaneously organized committees for the purpose of the orderly handing over of power to the Allied authorities – that is, ending the war. One can speculate on their potential capacity as organs of “dual power,” but this is not fact. It did not happen, nor could it have been expected, given the circumstances. Likewise, is it a fact that, as Leder writes, “The final course of the war was also modified by the fear of a revolutionary conclusion to the war?” But then, why did Roosevelt, Stalin & Company persist, up to the very end, on their “unconditional surrender” formula? They were well aware that this demand was the final prop under the Nazi war machine, the ultimate fear that prolonged the war as long as it did. Why did they not remove this slogan, if they feared revolution? The fact is that they had no such fear; every Allied document dealing with the early occupation and control of Germany (and I had the opportunity to read many long before the actual surrender) indicates the absence of such a fear. Unfortunate, no doubt, but true. Leder himself gives many indications as to why it was impossible to have such a perspective. Again, his completely understandable and justified emotional revulsion against the smug traducers of the German workers has led him afield.
Finally, there are two more personal, subjective attacks directed against me which cannot be ignored. It is unfortunate that Leder saw fit to introduce these remarks, particularly in a far from objective manner. Both are false to the core, and I deeply resent them. Their falseness can be shown to anyone willing to examine these “between the lines” remarks in their context, not in the manner in which they are presented by Leder. Thus, the entire responsibility for the demoralization of the young German girls is clearly placed upon the system of occupation. In reference to, (1) my alleged “contempt for the Germans,” it is simply inconceivable that anyone could find a single trace of this in these articles, describing one of history’s most tragically betrayed and oppressed peoples. In reference to, (2) my alleged “great contrast between Anglo-American and Russian methods of occupation,” permit me merely one quotation from the original as to any glorification of the “democratic” occupation as contrasted with the Stalinist occupation.
“Although each imperialist occupant pursues radically different methods of exploitation within its zone, all have much in common – pillage and robbery of German wealth and resources, denial of independence and meaningful democracy, imposition on great masses of an unwanted, oppressive regime.”
“... every principle, method, tactic or means employed by one and all of the four occupying powers must be cleaned off the slate.”
One of the major purposes of the articles, beyond their descriptive purposes, was to indicate that, despite the differences, the various imperialisms worked hand in glove in achieving certain common aims, that the general, overall aspects of the occupation, as affecting the mass of Germans, was essentially the same. It is almost beyond belief that any other meaning could have been established.
Finally, although we do not grasp Leder’s ideas on the question of European and German stability, and although we do not at all grasp his motivation or evidence in predicting a period of “acute crisis,” we take it for granted that any real, durable stability in Germany is out of the question, if alone for the reason that growing conflicts between the rivals exclude this. What the imperialist powers had in common is now rapidly being replaced with what they do not have in common – their mutual desires and needs to court and win Germany as a whole. This is perfectly clear, particularly since Byrnes’ Stuttgart address. The concrete consequences of this falling apart of the thieves are just beginning to be felt, and are of the utmost objective significance for the slowly reviving German working class movement. It is our intention to analyze these new trends in Germany and their results in the next, December issue of The New International, for this represents a new phase in the entire process, but certainly not disconnected from the first phase we have previously described.
1*. Henry Judd was a pseudonym of Sidney Plastrik.
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