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Henry Judd

World Politics

German Workers Fight Against Hunger Diet

(26 January 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 4, 26 January 1948, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Hundreds of thousands of industrial workers in Germany’s Ruhr Valley cities participated last week in mass hunger demonstrations against their starvation rations. In the key industrial cities of Duisburg, Mulheim, Essen and Dinslaken, workers from the coal mines, iron and steel plants walked out in 24-hour demonstrations which threaten to be only the beginnings of mass action on the part of the six million people who live in the Ruhr region.

The basic cause of these actions is the outright shortage of all foods, which has driven the promised ration of 1,550 calories daily far below that mark. At the same time, in Frankfurt, officials warned that the worst is yet to come during the months of February, March and April, before spring sets in. It was predicted that the 40 million Germans living in the American and British zones would not receive a single “gram of fat and little meat,” beginning on February 1. “For the first time since the end of the war we really face famine,” said Dr. Gebhard Seelos, president of the German Bizonal Executive Committee. All reserves and winter stocks have now been exhausted, and the great need is for fats, meat and flour.

The response of the occupation authorities to this menacing situation has been typical. British and American military government spokesmen have simply placed the entire blame upon the Germans, particularly the farming section of the population. The economic chaos and stagnation existing in Germany, which forces the farmer to resort to black market sales and operations in the hope of there receiving some of the things he desperately needs for his farm, is directly the responsibility of the occupying authorities. They have had full charge of German life since May 1945.

At a meeting of leading British and German officials held in Duesseldorf, the occupation spokesman turned down each and every concrete proposal made by the Germans. No additional food is to come from outside beyond that already scheduled for import, woefully inadequate though it is; no additional food, can be purchased with money from export of coal, the production of which is steadily on the rise; the request to rebuild the German whaling fleet is denied; and the extra “incentive pay” money earned by the Ruhr coal miners cannot be used for buying extra food supplies from abroad. The authorities used this meeting as another opportunity to attack the Germans for not, collecting food from the farmers.

*But, simultaneously, all permission is refused by the British and Americans to organize trade union committees for the purpose of getting food from the countryside, or even to give police-authority to German officials for forced requisitioning of grain and hoarded farm products. Instead, it was decided that all other states in the bi-zonal area would be forced to contribute half their fat ration for the next month to Ruhr workers, and also to make up for the meat shortage. Certain sections of the population will receive no butter ration for two weeks and each food producer must contribute one kilogram of bacon.

This criminal policy of taking from the semi-starving to supply the starving is the sum total of what the Allies have to offer Germany. It is doubtful whether workers and the general population in those sections of Germany that are supposed to contribute from their own meagre supplies will respond to these measures. It is clear that the Allies are hoping to scrape through the winter by playing off one section of the German people against another section, and by refusing to tackle the real problem – that is, the problem of reviving Germany as a productive, economic nation. The British and American authorities, in line with their Marshall Plan orientation of setting into operation the coal mines and basic industries of the Ruhr, are seeking to lessen the serious starvation conditions of that area at the expense of all other areas of Western Germany. From their imperialist standpoint, only the Ruhr has any importance because it is a key to the successful operation of the Marshall Plan, above all, in the building of strategic bases against Russia. So far as they are concerned, the rest of Germany, including the French zone where economic life and living conditions are notoriously low, can continue to rot away and lie stagnant.

In the light of these actions, demonstrations and mass actions by the population, while temporarily at a standstill, will tend to flare up again and increase in intensity. The. Allies have once more revealed they have no solution for Germany’s misery, beyond its deepening and perpetuation.

The Mystery of “Protocol M”

The events in the Ruhr have uncovered a new, historic document – “Protocol M” – which is bound to take its place among the important documents of our time. Not only is it important in itself, but it is probably a key document in solving the problem of the aims, objects, program and strategy of the world-wide Stalinist movement. Is the document “authentic”? We are in no position, of course, to prove this beyond any doubt, nor are we inclined to accept in good faith the loud assurances of its British discoverers as to its authenticity. But nevertheless, “Protocol M” has the authentic style, ring and smell of Stalinism about it, even though close examination indicates the strong possibility of its having been touched up in several spots to make it more damaging to the German Stalinist movement, and more sensational to the outside world. Although admitting that they uncovered “Protocol M” many months ago, the British failed to release it until the Ruhr demonstrations of last week began, obviously wishing to imply that all this is only a “communist-led” plot, and not the genuine protests of hungry and needy masses of human beings. The Allies respond to Stalinism’s “Operation Ruhr” with “Operation Silence,” but the truth is a bit too evident. The fact that Stalinists, for their own political purposes, actively participate in these demonstrations does not detract one bit from their urgency, realness and correctness.

What is “Protocol M”? Its value lies in its revelations concerning the aims and objects of Stalinist participation in the activities of the German people and working class. This is their program for such events in Germany – to be sure, only in Western Germany, for is not Eastern Germany a people’s paradise, administered by the hirelings of Russia? “Protocol M” consists of instructions to German Stalinists for the disruption of Ruhr industry in accordance with a specific timetable laid down in the document. Let us briefly examine some of its aspects.

This document is a synthesis of old-fashioned radicalism in the style of the pre-Hitler Communist Party (including a quotation from Lenin), and the new pseudo-radicalism created by the Cominform bureau operating out of Belgrade. The Belgrade Bureau, in fact, is named as the coordinator of “the common battle” of world Stalinism. “Protocol M” announces the launching of a winter battle which will be “decisive” in the history of the German working class. “The main objective of the winter battle is to break the attack of the monopoly capitalists (of America), which they are launching through their so-called Marshall Plan.” Everything else in “Protocol M” is subordinate to this central proposition.

There is nothing said about a struggle for Germany’s rewinning of national independence, or of driving out the occupants and reasserting the right of a unified Germany to live free from the heavy hand of foreign troops and occupants. Once more the central strategic aim of Stalinism – defeat and sabotage of the Marshall Plan – is confirmed, and we see how the foreign Stalinist sections are expected to act purely as expendable troops in the service of Stalin, the master, criminal and dictator of the Kremlin. As if to underscore this, the instructions explicitly state that in its propaganda, the Communists should make clear, “The steady and constantly progressing development of the Eastern European economy under the protection of the Soviet Union.”

Hinder Arrival of Food

And how shall the struggle against the Marshall Plan be conducted? Here we see again the now familiar pattern followed in France and Italy – that is, the employment of all available weapons of economic sabotage and disruption, with an aim to worsening the already existing economic chaos. The interests of the German workers involved, even in the narrowest physical sense, are disregarded. The transport and metal workers are to be the principle capital expended by the Stalinists. What is their job, in Stalinist eyes? “... to try by all possible means to prevent the smooth running of their supply services.” “It is not essential to destroy food supplies,” continues “Protocol M,” “but merely to hinder their timely arrival. The timely coordination of delays in the arrival of food transports and the organization of wild strikes leading to loss in production is an essential feature of the operation.” And the document continues in this vein, concluding with a timetable which sets March as the period for the launching of mass strikes on as wide a scale as possible.

In the light of this document, then, the German Stalinist movement is branded as nothing less than a criminal organization of political hirelings and gangsters functioning directly as sabotage agents of Russia, with the eventual aim of facilitating the seizure and control of all of Germany, East and West, by Russian imperialism. Correctly employed, this document can be of great value in blasting loose sincere and trusting supporters of Stalinism who still believe this movement functions in the interests of the German and other workers.

At the same time, we must guard against any attempt on the part of the Allies, who have found this document most convenient for their purposes, to shift responsibility for the situation in Western Germany away from its real source and origin in the desperate conditions of the German people, their hunger and despair, and to paint every mass protest and action purely as a Stalinist-inspired event. In the light of this, it is high time that the American labor movement spoke out against the American maladministration of Western Germany, and in favor of full material aid and help to the German people, today, when it is most needed.

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