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Henry Judd

Hoover Report Proposes Soup Kitchen
Economy for Germany

(10 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 10, 10 March 1947, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“For all of them (the German people) – in food, warmth and shelter – have been sunk to the lowest level known in a hundred years of Western. history.” – From Hoover Mission report on Germany.

The published report of the Hoover mission sent to study the economic and food situation in the western half of Germany (British and American zones, less the French zone) has strikingly confirmed the worst beliefs of those who have described what is going on, as well as verifying what has often been charged in Labor Action – namely, that tens of millions of German people, workers, peasants and middle-class, are threatened with extinction by hunger, cold, misery and disease. The facts of the Hoover report were not gathered together by a Labor Action editor; they are the facts admitted and made public by Herbert Hoover, a conservative and reactionary political figure if one ever existed. What does Hoover have to say?

Hoover Findings

We summarize the most important findings contained in his report as follows:

  1. The population of western Germany has increased by 9,000,000 people (refugees from the Russian-occupied territories) since 1939; whereas there were 34 million, there are now 43 million people jammed together. Their housing situation is the “worst that modern civilization has ever seen.” They average four to five persons per room; unheated rooms we hasten to add.
  2. During the war, 5,700,000 Germans (right out of the most productive layers of the’population) were killed, or permanently injured to the extent that they can no longer produce. On top of this, there are 3,000,000 German prisoners in Russia (Hoover adds, “at least”); 750,000 in France;. 400,000 in England; 40,000 in Belgium – a total of almost 4,500,000 German men who have vanished from the nation. Or, stated otherwise, over ten million German men – workers and farmers, producers – have been kidnaped or destroyed. Is there any wonder that the German nation is faced with the deepest social problem any nation has ever had to face?
  3. As a result of this, in the age group between 20 and 60 (that is, the important productive and reproductive age levels)’, there are at least six to seven million more women than men. The effect of this factor upon Germany’s birth rate, upon Its social and moral standards, is obvious.
  4. In 1946, the agricultural production of the western zones was 65 per cent of the pre-war level. There are, as we have seen, nine million more people to be fed. Little wonder that the 1,500 calorie daily standard prescribed by the military occupation is hardly ever lived up to – a standard, incidently, that is one-half of the average American food intake. The Hoover report summarizes the results of this slow-starvation diet as follows:

    (a) Over half of the western zone’s 6,595,000 children and young adolescents are in a “deplorable condition.”

    (b) A “considerable part” of the normal consumer’s group (17 million) are in the same “deplorable” condition. This deplorable state means, according to Hoover, a loss of weight, a loss of vitality, a loss in the ability to work. It is a condition of chronic hunger, weakness and susceptibility to illness (Hoover notes the spread of TB, the poor man’s disease), reinforced by the cold of Europe’s worst winter in decades.

Nothing less than the fate of “western civilization” is at stake, piously declares Mr. Hoover. Let us see what he proposes to do about saving this “western civilization.”

His Recommendations

Confronted by the above, the answer of any sane person would be that this country and its people must be given a completely, unhampered opportunity to work, to rebuild its shattered cities and industries, to produce. On this subject, Mr. Hoover has little or nothing to say – he is primarily interested in immediate measures to prevent a full prostration.

That is, despite his words to the contrary, he approaches it as a problem of large-scale charity, except that he proposes measures that will assure the German people paying for the charity, in the end, rather than the American “taxpayers,” whose interests he is repeatedly concerned with in his report. Any expenditures are to be repaid for by the Germans, in the form of exports they will eventually be able to ship out. And, sound business man that he is, Hoover proposes a nice, profitable tax on any American expenditures (loans) that must be advanced.

But what of his concrete proposals? They are so piddling and insignificant in nature that we hesitate to take them seriously. In effect, Hoover – a plan skilled in the manipulation of wasteland, depression, economic existence – would create a network of soup kitchens to cover this devastated land. He proposes a soup kitchen economy!

A hot lunch for the children in the group listed above, made from army 10-in-l rations, and aimed to increase calories by 350 per day.

Three hundred and fifty more calories for those of the aged and decrepit who are medically certified as needing such an increase (and who in Germany does not?).

The advancing of a portion of the normal consumers’ population from their present ration status to that of heavy industrial workers’ status.

Stop-Gag Proposals

All this means more food must be imported to Germany; therefore Hoover proposes the use of 75 idle Liberty boats, manned by German crews. He also proposes use of the huge American potato surplus, now rotting in warehouses and on the fields. And, finally, Hoover proposes to do away with the fantastic regulation that has forbidden German fishermen to fish in the North and Baltic seas.

All these measures are stop-gap proposals, and fail to touch the basic problems of reconstruction, return of the war prisoners, freeing of the German people from the rule and regulation of the foreign occupants, and, in general, the real problem of getting the German economic structure back at work and reconstruction again. These are measures of hypocritical charity, attempting to offset the worst and most brutal phases of the Allied occupation policy. The failure of this policy, after almost two years, is now admittedly complete.

Germany must be allowed to live; this is the necessary socialist and working class slogan for this tragic land. The present rulers of Germany – in all zones – are rapidly bringing that land to the greatest imaginable catastrophe. The same leaders and “democratic” spokesmen who so loudly condemned the Nazi plans, for the conscious extermination of whole peoples (as in Poland, for example) are now pursuing methods that inevitably will lead to similar, if not more severe results. The issue is, in reality – are millions of Germans to be doomed to death from hunger, slow undermining of their constitutions, endemic diseases and cold?

Instead of Hoover’s proposals, the socialist movement demands: