Stanley Plastrik Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Henry Judd

Major Powers Bicker Over Basic Problem

What Fate for German People?

(31 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 13, 31 March 1947, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

IN the heart of Europe lies a beaten and ruined country, inhabited by 66,000,000 defeated, sullen and stagnant people. The war has been over for two years, yet Germany – the largest, the richest in resources and most potentially powerful industrial country of Europe – lies virtually in the same condition today as it did the moment the Hitler machine fell. This country, capable of determining not merely whether Europe as a whole shall recover from the war, but the very rate and speed of that recovery, has been under occupation now for two years. Its fate is under debate at Moscow. Not a single German, regardless of his class, party or politics, is present; not a word may be said in the German press on the subject. The “democratic powers” are in assembly to handle matters!

For several weeks, these gentlemen have debated the question of how to assure a non-aggressive, democratic Germany. That, at any rate, is what we are told lies behind the furious debates and discussions at Moscow. Molotov, foreign policy spokesman for totalitarian dictator Stalin, advances the Russian point of view; flinty General Marshall presents the view of American imperialism in precise military accents; Beven tells us what the British Empire desires; and Bidault, on the rare occasions when he says something, presents the usual negative ideas of weakened France. This most significant international gathering since the war’s conclusion – for on the agenda is the question of the major point of division between the Big Four – has now reached the stage where each power has presented its program for the division and future of Germany. Next will come the effort to reconcile these programs. Let us meanwhile summarize these distinct proposals, country by country; indicate their chief differences, and also point out on what aspects they coincide:

The Russian Program: Russia favors the economic unification of Germany, but at a price – namely, huge reparations from the industrial regions of the Ruhr, the Saar and the Rhineland. Russia wants payments out of current production, to the tune of $10 billion worth of goods. Molotov revealed, during the week, a secret protocol in the Yalta Agreement of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, which provides that reparations should come partly from current German production. He made a good case for himself out of this secret clause by the master imperialists. This secret deal also provided for reparations by “use of German labor” – thus revealing that the “democratic” imperialists, in effect, sanctioned the seizure and kidnapping of German workers in the name of “reparations”!

Molotov also proposed the formation of a central German government, similar to the pre-Hitler Weimar republic; a centralized government which would enable the German Stalinists to exhibit more strength than they do today in the Western zonal areas. The Russians are opposed to any decentralization, such as is practiced in the British, French and American zones. (Now that the Russians have completed the looting and removing of plants from their zone of Germany, they are most anxious to find means to expanding into the other zones. This accounts for the reversal in line of the Russian stooge Socialist Unity Party, formerly opposed both to a central government and an economic unification of the country!) The Russians also favor, a system of proportional representation elections, rather than election by majority voting. The above is, essentially, the basic Russian viewpoint.

Centralized Government

The American Program: This runs directly counter to that of the Russians. Marshall proposes a decentralized, loosely federated group of German states as against the idea of a politically and administratively unified nation. While American imperialism favors “economic unification,” this must be considered only in the sense of a minimum revival of industrial life, sufficient to pay reparations and keep the country on a minimum subsistence level so that the occupying powers do not have to lose money by imports to Germany. “Germany must pay its way,” is the Marshall economic doctrine. Marshall denies the Molotov interpretation of the Yalta secret deal and opposes the raising of Germany’s industrial capacity to enable Russia to collect. That would revive Germany as an independent power, says Marshall. He proposes a strict regulation of industry (including steps to keep the Russians out of the Ruhr and the Saar!). No reparations are to be given out of any current production, just machinery already agreed upon.

Politically, Marshall proposes the establishment of a “provisional German government,” consisting of the heads of the present decentralized Länder (States), and operating under the Allied Control Council. He proposes a constitution that will provide for political decentralization and democratic liberties. The Americans propose majority representation in elections, as against proportional systems.

The British Program: The British, realizing that they hold within their zone the prize of prizes (the Ruhr!) go along with the Americans on economic and reparations questions, but desire an even stricter application of the decentralized, federation scheme. They well know that the Stalinist party would concentrate its efforts within their working class, industrialized zone! Bevin’s plan likewise proposed a raising of present production standards and the elimination of inter-zonal economic barriers. Of all the powers, Britain is most anxious for an economic revival of Germany – formerly her major European customer. The general British approach is much closer to that of the United States than to Russia.

The French Program: French imperialism has one basic desire – to keep Germany weak politically, socially and economically. Thus, Bidault’s position is for extreme decentralization; a central government should be subject to strict control and have virtually no power. The Ruhr should be internationalized (with the French obtaining coal from it for their iron and steel industries), and Germany should manufacture only consumers’ and light industry goods. He is against the establishment of a provisional government now (Bidault must have heard that there still remains something in the Saar or French zone of occupation that has as yet not been thoroughly looted!). Bidault favors the continuation of local government, with the lowest conceivable authority and industrial strength.

This, briefly put, constitutes the various programs of the Big Four. Their mutual contradictions, the general way in which the American and Russian plans exclude one another (and these two plans are the really important two at the Moscow meeting), indicate the divergences, As one cynical, but wise member of the American delegation is said to have remarked (New York Times, March 21):

“Because we have left the economic subjects behind temporarily there is no reason to believe that we have made any great progress. The discussion of these subjects wound up with the four powers pretty well deadlocked.”

And, he continued, “the Russians will not budge until they get reparations out of current production, the French will not budge until they get coal and a guarantee against Germany’s industrial revival, the British will not accept anything until they are certain the occupation will not cost them another shilling.”

He forgot to add that America will not yield until it is satisfied that its basic aims with respect to Germany (assurance against the country falling under Russian domination; a close check on industrial revival) have been taken care of.

The program of each power concretely demonstrates its imperialist intentions not only with respect to Germany, but with respect to each other. Yet, despite the many differences, there are certain basic questions on which all four see eye to eye. These points are, naturally, those that will tend to keep Germany an oppressed nation, devoid of national independence and freedom of action, with its workers and people producing for the benefit of the erstwhile Allies.

The world, in general, is being fitted ever more closely into the two airtight compartments of American, and Russian imperialism. Even those powers most capable of resisting tend to be dragged, despite their will, into one or the other orbit. At Moscow, Bevin echoes weakly what Marshall states boldly and firmly. Bidault, after his unsuccessful interview with Stalin, can only reluctantly fall info line (if he wants French imperialism to lay its hands on the Saar, with American approval). The two major imperialisms ate Struggling over Germany and Its people not merely because of its immediate value as a source of loot and wealth, a market for products, but even more significantly because of its inestimable value in preparation for the ultimate showdown, the eventual war between American and Russian imperialism.

In such a war the power that possesses a stranglehold on Germany starts off with a huge advantage. Russia’s intentions with respect to Germany are clear enough. The role of its creature, the Stalinists of Germany, is likewise clear. And American policy, after long vacillation, is tending more and more to the conclusion that Germany must be rebuilt, rehabilitated by American loans and capital. The latest Hoover report marks a complete abandonment of the Morgenthau-Roosevelt thesis for a pastoral, agricultural Germany. Next week’s Labor Action will contain material on this report.

But where do the German people fit into all this? Each power seeks to extend its authority and influence over these people, but not out of any love or interest jn their welfare. The Big Four have unanimous agreement not to pull out of Germany, to continue the occupation for a long period, to impose whatever treaty is finally agreed upon an obviously unwilling nation, regardless of their opinion. Each power agrees to treat the 66,000,000 Germans as so much human cattle to be disposed of at will.

Plastrik (Judd/Stanley) Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 December 2021