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Henry Judd

Mass Resistance Rising Against Starvation

U.S. Rulers Threaten Starving
Germans with Death Penalty

(26 May 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 21, 26 May 1947, pp. 1 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The German food crisis has now reached a critical stage, opening up the definite possibility of death by outright starvation for hundreds of thousands. The food situation has reached tragic depths throughout all of Europe, but in Germany its acuteness affects greater masses of people.

The British and American military authorities are in a panic. Their every word and action reveals it. The American Military Government is utilizing its last, specially hidden 80,000 tons of food for “prevention of disease and unrest” in an effort to combat the crisis. The British authorities are busy blaming everyone but themselves for the situation, while admitting that it has gone beyond their control.

The average weekly ration for a German in the British, American or French zones (the Russian zone is apparently still able to supply higher rations) is reported as follows:

Three pounds, two ounces of bread
Seven ounces of meat (one large lamb chop!)
Seven ounces of cereal
Two ounces of fat
Some fish and potatoes

This diet approximates 1,200 calories a day, as compared with the 3,000 calories medically recognized as necessary for normal health. (New York Times, May 18, 1947.) The Russian zone of occupation has failed to live up to its trade agreements with the other zones. Fifty thousand tons of potatoes, for example, have been shipped instead of the promised 160,000 tons. There is no doubt the Russians are quite willing to see the situation worsened, in the interest of their German policy of attempting to strengthen their Stalinist puppets in the western half of Germany.

All this has contributed to a situation where even the ration cards that have been issued, calling for minute amounts of meat, butter, cereals, potatoes, etc., are not honored. Edward A. Morrow reports, “In the industrial cities, existence is solely dependent upon the people’s ability to supplement their rations by paying high black-market prices or by spending large amounts of time scouring the countryside.”

Black marketing, hoarding of grain, feeding of vital foods to cattle by farmers – all these are common occurrences throughout the various zones. The British zone is hardest hit and, under the leadership of the revived labor and trade union movement, the masses in this area have demonstrated their unwillingness to slowly starve to death. These demonstrations hake thrown them directly into conflict with the occupying powers, revealing the basic fact that the very struggle for life in Germany centers around the struggle for national existence.

In Hamburg, 150,000 workers demonstrated before their union headquarters and proclaimed their refusal to perish without a struggle for life. In Düsseldorf, one of the great Ruhr cities, union leaders announced the readiness of their workers to engage in mass strikes unless food was forthcoming. The entire industrial area of the British zone is a network of unrest and readiness for action.

What has been the American and British reaction? (Of the French zone, where food conditions have been appalling for many month's, little is known due to stringent French censorship.) The British are completely dependent upon America, inasmuch as England has a food crisis all of its own. The British authorities have, therefore, turned completely to the United States to pull them out of the situation. They are hoping that America can meet its promise to ship 1,200,000 tons of food to Germany within the next 75 days. Even with this, they are preparing an official cut in the calorie ration to 1,200 per day from 1,500, indicating they have little hope of alleviating the situation.

American imperialism, in occupation of a huge area of Germany, has spoken out in the unmistakable tones of the conquerer, threatening and hysterical, one at the same time. A “get tough” with Germany policy is announced by the military government. Imagine these ungrateful Germans! We are shipping food to them – true, not enough to prevent them from wasting away at a slow but steady rate of deterioration that can only lead to an early death – and they, wretches, are daring to complain! They even protest, threaten us with strikes and demonstrations, demand more food and a purging of the administration we set up for them! We will show them, proclaim the voices of authority. And, straight from the books of Hitler, they swing into action.

A scoundrel named Dr. James R. Newman, Military Governor of Hesse, threatens the Germans with the death penalty, in a radio talk; he also promised to invoke his powers of search and confiscation; cutting off the rations of protesters and blamed everything upon the Germans. The Military Governor of Bavaria, a Brigadier General Muller, repeated the same threats to labor unions and farmers in his area. General Lucius D. Clay, head of the entire administration, has pointedly reminded the German people of the powerfully armed and fast-moving American constabulary forces in Germany, amounting still to 150,000 men.

Starve if you must, say the American authorities, but by God starve quietly, peacefully and in perfect order, or we will let you have it! Those who have wondered what American penetration and domination of Europe and Germany might lead to are now close to witnessing the answer. It is too early to say whether there will be large scale and continued popular demonstration, but certainly the American authorities will not hesitate to use American troops against starving German workers who refuse to pass out quietly, according to military regulations.

The celebrated German-born author, Thomas Mann, has contributed his contemptible bit to the general attack upon the German people. One would almost think that the days of the war have returned! “Germany is again already misusing her liberty and democracy,” says Mr. Mann. If only the Germans would recognize that others too are suffering from hunger and food shortages! This recognition, apparently, would help alleviate their hunger. Little wonder that Mann fears to visit Germany where, he acknowledges, he would have to travel around “with an American MP or conducting officer at my side.”

A press campaign is already underway to place full responsibility for whatever occurs – mass deaths from starvation, or bloody incidents involving hungry strikers and the military forces – upon the German people. The American labor movement cannot afford to accept this propaganda in the slightest sense.

The Allies, in complete control of Germany for two years, have done everything imaginable to create the present crisis. They have dismantled factories, shut down German industries, cut off Germany’s ability to export its products in exchange, for food. They have aided the Russians in their pillage of the country by shipping them many factories and much industrial equipment. They have set up administrative machinery heavily incrusted with former Nazis and reactionary. They have prevented the revival of Germany’s industry; thus making impossible the essential production of machinery, tools, etc., needed by the farmers and for which they would be willing to turn in their crops and hoarded foods.

The present situation is a direct consequence of the entire two year policy of economic stagnation and strangulation. The guilty are the imperialist administrators and the governments they represent who have prevented the- masses of German people – the workers, the middle class of the cities, the poor farmers – fro taking over their land and setting it back upon its feet.

Germany needs food. Only America is in a position to supply it, at the moment. The American labor movement must see that this is done. At the same time, it must repudiate in advance any barbaric actions that may be taken by the panicky men who administer the occupation policy.

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