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Henry Judd

Germany After the Moscow Meet

Imperialist Politics and Mass Starvation

(July 1947)

From The New International, Vol. XIII No. 5, July 1947, pp. 131–134.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The situation here is desperate. Not only materially) because of our not having any clothing and not enough to eat Рbut above all from a spiritual point of view! The worst part of the whole matter is, however, that every German man and woman who hated injustice and who, on that account, was against Nazism and Militarism Рis today silent. They fought in word and deed against the Nazis and believed that, after the overthrow of this evil, justice and real freedom would stay. They did not flinch before prison and concentration camp. They always pointed the way out to these deeds of horror and injustice, etc. But where are these anti-fascists today? They are no more to be found! They are in small. posts, disappointed and depressed and must recognize that the Nazis are overthrown only in name, that the Hitlerite spirit is triumphant, and by no means only by way of the Germans! Everywhere one hears Рyou must! Free expression of opinion? No. The Germans are afraid of everything, of every word Рof the CIC, secret service, Suret̩ and GPU. And this is precisely the most terrible thing Рthere is no difference in the times to be noticed. On account of this, everyone is silent; those who stood up for truth and right and those who quite obviously were anti-fascist. Today the lukewarm, the mediocrities who everywhere and always are up in front, today they speak. But these men will not help us. (Extract from a letter from Germany)


In the first half of this series of two articles on Germany today (Cf. February 1947 issue of The New International) we described the breakdown of the Potsdam agreement, and the launching of the struggle between the rival occupying powers for possession of German resources and industrial capacity.

It must not be imagined that this reversal in the prior trend to de-industrialize Germany has, as yet, produced any noticeable or notable results. The overall mass misery of the German people, in all zones, continues as before, as the nation ends its second post-war winter. The New York Times traveling correspondent, Mrs. Anne H. McCormick, graphically reports the situation.

“A tiny trickle of heretofore unavailable goods – ersatz soap, wire spectacle frames, wooden or composition soles – s displayed, but it is the barter shop and bulletin boards advertising articles for exchange that attract the crowds. Production is beginning, say military government officers, but little evidence of it appears on the counters of empty shops or in the motley clothing the people wear ... Nothing new is being built.

“... the population looks worse and works less than last year. They are thinner, yellower, slower-motioned, more threadbare. The military government health figures tell a story of decreasing resistance reflected in worried, pinched faces of women, hollow-eyed men, weak-lunged children ... With few exceptions, the whole population is hungry ...” (New York Times, October 20, 1946)

The Allied Central Economic Commission that sits in session at Berlin set the average German living standard in March 1946 at one-third below the pre-war level, or equal to the level of 1932 – a year of intense economic depression. But this was a distant objective, resting upon the assumption that the Potsdam accord would be worked out. The reality is far different. The following chart gives the official ration standards (daily) as of now. Even these standards of slow starvation are mainly honored in the breach!

American zone


1550 calories daily

English zone


1550 calories daily

Russian zone


1263 calories daily

French zone


1014 calories daily

Aside from the dubious value of employing caloric intake as a standard of actual food values, it is perfectly clear that this is a diet of slow murder, particularly if prolonged for any period. It has been in effect since October 15, 1946, and rests upon certain assumptions not always fulfilled – namely, that the Russian zone supplies its entire food supply by itself; that the British and American zones supply respectively 600 calories and 900 calories daily out of their own production. The Allies supposedly are to make up the difference, but the constant food crises indicate this systematically falls short of fulfillment.

Furthermore, the catastrophic long range effects of this deadly diet of undernourishment are already visible. All those diseases that take hold most easily in an organism weakened by lack of proper food – tuberculosis, heart diseases, skin diseases, endemic illnesses of all types, not to mention mental disturbances – are rapidly spreading among the German population. Lieutenant General Clay has admitted the existence of over 100,000 tuberculosis cases alone in the American lone, of which 85,000 are not being treated in hospitals but are, instead, free to spread infection. The physical undermining of the German nation physically is unprecedented in European history. That this should happen “according to plan” is inconceivable except in the modern world. Fritz Sternberg, writing in the February 8, 1947, Nation) is correct in stating:

“No lengthy documentation is needed to prove that even the increased food ration of 1,500 calories is absolutely insufficient. With the workers so undernourished, an increase in German production to the minimum figure set at Potsdam is impossible. People must get more than 2,000 calories a day if industrial activity in Germany is to be revived.”

And he quotes the apt summary of the general social condition of Germany in the remarks of Dr. Kurt Schumacher, Social Democratic leader in the British zone:

The situation in Germany is such that 35 per cent of the inhabitants have not only retained all they possessed before the war but have become in effect even richer because the others have become poorer. Another group, about 25 per cent, have not enough to live on but through connections of all sorts manage to keep body and soul together. The rest of the people, 40 per cent of all Germans, have nothing but their food ration cards. Such conditions mean latent social revolution.

“Connections of all sorts” refers, of course, to the black market. Only the German middle class that retained some savings can engage in these “connections.” But all signs prove that these people are now rapidly exhausting their savings, and selling the last of their valuable accumulations. The haunting fear of a wild inflation, followed by a devaluation of the mark that will wipe out whatever remains of their savings, has been heightened by wide rumors of impending financial changes in the Western zone. [1] Butter sells for 200 marks per pound on the black market ($2, if we accept the 10 cent evaluation of the mark), or three packs of American cigarettes. Current production, such of it as remains in Germany, is too minute to alleviate any of the pressures placed upon the German population, physically or morally. It is a piddling production, compared to the needs, despite the economic unification of the British and American zones. The German people today stand at the lowest and most humiliating point of their history, in terms of living standards, economic activity, morale, and cultural life. It is inconceivable for them to sink lower, or to pass through another such winter as that of 1946–47, without a national catastrophe. But this poses squarely the entire problem of a unifiedGermany, with a revived national economy – or, in political terms, the Moscow negotiations between the Big Powers for a German Treaty. Potsdam is dead; what shall take its place? This is the issue which confronts the Big Four enslavers of the German nation.

The Moscow Conference

For six solid weeks, the Big Four Foreign Ministers sat in Moscow, attempting to draw up peace treaties with Austria and Germany. Not only were the efforts to conclude an Austrian treaty unsuccessful – contrary to first expectations – but in addition, all efforts to approach even tentative agreement on the fateful German question have failed, unless the establishing of strategic diplomatic positions can be called success. The divergence of views is wide, reflecting the depth of the imperialist antagonisms over, not only what kind of oppressive treaty to impose upon the Germans, but, more important, in which direction Germany shall move in the future.

The question is not one, actually, of whether or not a German treaty will be drawn up and ultimately signed. None of the participants in this contest of sinister bargaining – sinister because it directly involves the fate of 65,000,000 peoples – have illusions on this score. The retired Secretary of State Byrnes spoke recently of perhaps two years of negotiations; Britain’s Bevin is as sceptical; others question whether a formal accord will ever be reached. The terms of the treaty itself are formalities, embodying politics and policies that each of the powers are already putting into practice, or intend to put into practice. The real question is whether these policies can be bound together, temporarily at least, by some common denominator formulas, or whether the divergencies will lead to a premature breaking apart of the Big Four, in turn precipitating an inevitable war. Since it is our contention that at the present stage none of the Big Four desires, or is prepared, for war, there will be no such split. Whether this will lead to the actual formulation of a general treaty for Germany is impossible to say. But it will certainly lead, in practice, to a series of agreements, if only on a day-to-day basis, if only to prevent the complete disintegration, economically and socially, of the German nation.

The German policies of the imperialist powers then, proceed on various layers of development, thus accounting for its complexity, confusion and contradictions. Each power, within its zones, pursues its own unique goals; but each power is forced to arrive at some common basis of operations with its rivals, to prevent the situation from getting out of hand, to hold the German people in check. The Potsdam Agreement waS such an understanding. Time and developments buried it. The Moscow Conferences of the future will arrive at some new understanding, regardless of whether it is embodied in treaty form, until fresh developments revive the problem in a different form. But so long as imperialism keeps its hands on the throats of the German people, the “German question” will be the uppermost issue in European politics.

What are the basic differences between the Allies in the matter of writing a German treaty? Pravda provides a convenient source for listing the major suspicions and accusations held by Russian imperialism against its “democratic” opponents. From various articles published in this official source book of Russian imperialist policy, the following may be deduced:

  1. Most basic accusation of all is that rival Anglo-American imperialism, with the intention of basing itself upon the Ruhr industrial potential, is building up a Western Germany and-Soviet bloc. The positive aspect of this accusation is the demand of Russia for a share in the control and production of the Ruhr – an issue that proved to be one of the major points at issue in Moscow.
  2. The British nationalization for their zone, and the modified American version of these plans, are disguised plots – in the eyes of Russian imperialism – for the restoration of Western Germany’s war industries. These plans, it is charged,would still leave the industries under the influence of “private owners and monopolists” who would remain leaders of German economy.
  3. The economic unification of the British and American zones is part of the scheme to form a Western Germany, under Allied control, and then – hiding behind the excuse that collapse is inevitable – to partly rebuild this area, cut off from the Eastern (Russian) zone, and prepare the stage for a new European war. Parallel with the process, it is charged, goes the conscious disorganization of economy so that German industrialists are being forced to “yield a considerable portion of their property to United States and British capitalists.”
  4. From these charges, there follow a series of secondary, subsidiary accusations. These themes upon which the Russian press constantly harps are: (a) Failure of the Western Allies to carry out the disarmament program; (b) Failure to give Russia her share of promised reparations from the Western zone; (c) Sabotage of the Potsdam Accord, and economic unification of the two zones to offset this sabotage; (d) Failure to carry through the denazification program and, in fact, conscious protection of important Nazi officialdom, with a deliberate building up of reactionary political groups (Christian-Democrats, etc.); (e) and, finally, tendencies toward erection of a decentralized, federalized and easily controlled govern-mental structure for Greater Germany. The mere listing of these points indicates the depth and quality of the differences between the great imperialist rivals. It will not be easy to arrive at even a temporary accord; one that can survive more than a few years. The dispute over Germany is more than a matter of disagreement on important, even fundamental, issues. It is, at bottom, an irreconcilable disagreement between the Anglo-American capitalist-imperialist system and the Russian bureaucratic-collectivist imperialist system. It is a dispute that will endure, in varying degrees, until the inevitable war comes; or until the international working class is capable of solving it in a different fashion.

Out of the Moscow Conference has emerged the following general picture of American policy with respect to Germany. It is a policy that is distinguished by confusion, half-heartedness, unbalance and that general incapacity to drive through a definite program that so characterizes American imperialism in all fields.

America desires a long, indefinite occupation for the obvious purpose of retaining strong positions throughout Europe. America desires an exceptionally weak central government, to prevent its use by the German Stalinist (that is, pro-Russian) movement, and to prevent any state manipulation by a possibly revived German bourgeoisie. This weakened system is known as a federated German structure, giving full play to all the centrifugal, provincial and regional forces (most notorious of which is Bavaria) that exist in the country. America desires a limited, tightly controlled economic productivity that will satisfy the imperialist utopia of (a) providing a satisfactory market for the United States; (b) keep the population sufficiently clothed and fed so as not to encourage resistance; (c) yet limit productivity to a sufficiently low degree that German export competition will not exist. The impossibility of achieving such a balance accounts for the numerous contradictory statements and actions (attacks on German cartels, followed by attacks upon nationalization schemes, etc.) that make it almost impossible to make any sense out of American policy for German industry.

The truth is that there is no set policy, particularly with respect to a perspective for the industrial and economic future of Germany. For the first period of occupation, the notorious Morgenthau-Pastoralization plan prevailed in practice. Every effort was made to reduce German productivity to new lows. The political meaning of this plan, operating in the setting of growing American-Russian conflict, forced its conscious abandonment. No clear alternative replaced it. The series of three reports of the Hoover Commission represent a definite alternative and would mean, if put into practice, a sharp break with past and present policy, the re-industrialization of the Anglo-American zone, and the pouring of vast sums into this area to “prime the industrial pump.” This alternative has not yet been accepted, even though the tendency is in that direction.

But it is, at best, only a tendency. The American authorities, for example, are attempting to sabotage and thwart the proposals of the British for the full merger (without limitations) of their respective zones, together with the outright nationalization of all heavy industries within the two zones, and their operation under a centralized state system. The British seem anxious to drive straight ahead and create a clearly delineated Western Germany (into which the French zone will be forced), with an economic life of its own that will counterpose one bloc in Europe against the Russian bloc of Europe that remains behind the Iron Curtain. But American imperialism continues to waver, to drift from day to day, food crisis to food crisis. The money it puts into Germany, for materials and food, is too small an amount to provide the necessary “lift” to the badly damaged and disrupted economy. This money, then, represents wasted capital, poured down the drain. Energetic billions rather than timid millions would change the story. But this appears most improbable because of the fears of a revival of a powerful competitor and rival at an inopportune moment; that is, when the entire capitalist world can only fearfully speculate on how soon (not whether) the next world economic crisis will occur. American policy with respect to Germany will thus continue without hope, without decisive action, without plan. It will be a day-to-day policy, meeting each new crisis with temporary measures, and guaranteed to continue the present general stagnation and hopelessness, both economically and morally.

The prospects for the building up in Germany of a mass, popular movement of resistance to the occupying forces of all countries, now seem quite favorable. The activities of the revived German trade union movement, particularly in the British zone, are important steps in this direction; above all, the reassertion by the German working class of its role as leader of the oppressed nation. More and more, the masses of Germans are becoming aware of the impossibility of their living under indefinite occupation by foreign powers, and of the fact that the axis of their struggles to live revolves around the issue of regaining their independence and freedom to exist as a nation.


1. Now announced as a 90 per cent devaluation of the mark; that is, one new mark to be issued for each ten old marks!

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