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Henry Judd

World Politics

Europe, 1948

(4 October 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 40, 4 October 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

We begin herewith a series of articles by Comrade Henry Judd which will discuss various aspects of the situation in Europe, notably in France and Germany. Comrade Judd recently returned from a stay of several months in Europe. Insofar as possible these articles will appear in successive issues of Labor Action in this column.


The danger of unwarranted generalities and baseless assumptions make it difficult to write on the broad subject of Europe, particularly after only a brief trip to parts of western Europe. The flood of American tourists was so great this year that it is clear that innumerable and varied opinions about the Old Continent must now be circulating far and wide in the United States. All the more reason why one must be careful and cautious in stating his observations, based partly upon comparison with previous years and partly upon discussion with various socialist and political people.

To begin with, the physical and economic upbuilding within the last year is obvious everywhere in Western Europe. There is productivity and activity on a large scale such as has not been seen since the end of the war. In writing further accounts of France and Germany in particular we shall give more details of this. But traveling throughout Europe today has none of the difficulties compared with previous post-war years. From the rebuilt dock and harbor works in the bombed ports, from the smooth and efficient running railroad systems in England and France (with improvements even in Germany!), from the general rebuilding and reconstruction work (bridges, roads, homes, buildings, etc.) there is an undeniable picture of a Western Europe which has, at least, gotten off of its back and struggled up to its knees.

To outward appearances, this same process of recovery has taken place for the average European worker and citizen who looks far better physically and so far as his dress is concerned, than he did last year, or certainly the year after the war. Closer investigation reveals that in continental Europe (including Germany) he is eating much better than before, and has been able to buy some clothes (even those who live most modestly and poorly). With the exception of Italy, there is no unemployment in Western Europe. Thus, together with the mass of importations under the Marshall Plan which are now flowing into Western Europe, there is a genuine supply of available commodities. Naturally, available at a price. In the stores of European cities (to a surprising extent in Western Germany also) practically every possible product is available – all types of canned foods, radios, automobiles, cigarettes, American vacuum cleaners, etc. Unlike last year, these things can actually be bought – not merely looked at. Clothing is likewise available and largely unrationed, with the exception of England.

But the Economies Are Unbalanced

These random facts indicate that, given its natural resources and labor power, and together with the undoubted stimulus provided by the sheer volume of Marshall Plan goods and materials, general European economic and productive has advanced to a surprising state in view of the deeply deteriorated political and social situation. And that; it seems to us, is the only real observation that one can make about Europe as a whole now. Economically and productively it has advanced tremendously; politically and ideologically it has sunk much deeper into the hole dug for it by the Russian-American conflict. The split of Europe into east and west exerts overwhelming influence in all phases of life, and the area of European political and social independence has correspondingly narrowed.

Even our remarks on economic recovery must be qualified and measured. To begin with, we are describing facts in comparison with previous conditions. Living, eating, housing and clothing standards are still far below that of American averages, although pre-war standards are now definitely being approached. And the basic economic difficulty of all is that of the apparently incurable divorce between the price of things and workers’ wages as well as middle-class salaries. With respect to this fundamental problem of purchasing power, the general European situation has definitely worsened and there seems to be no immediate halt in sight for the familiar spiral. In France, workers’ wages are now 10 times that of 1938, but prices of food and other necessities are 17 times higher! Even in Germany, where the new D-Mark had an actual purchasing value after the brutal devaluation, the same tendency toward runaway prices is observable.


State of Socialist Movement

With the exception of Germany – where the struggle for the saving of Berlin, together with the definite economic revival now going on as a result of Marshall Plan expenditures have brought about a marked change in the former political atmosphere and morale of the people – with this sole exception it is clear that socialist and independent class politics is at the lowest moment of its history. The re are many reasons for this, above all the failure of the Western European masses to develop independent political forces.

While it is true that Stalinism is in serious decline in all countries where normal means (such as elections) can be used to judge and test their strength, it is also true that revolutionary socialist politics is likewise weaker than ever. The so-called Trotskyist Fourth International has disappeared and can be found nowhere except by those possessing the infinite patience needed to track them down to their latest address. With the exception of the RDR (Democratic: Revolutionary Regroupment) In France, there is no new or important political tendency of the left, and there is added confusion and a striving for new understanding among most left intellectuals and supporters. This, of course, is largely due to the marked turning away from Stalinism and is a welcome event.

The official Fourth Internationalist program is entirely without attraction to these people who, unfortunately, largely flounder about. Again, with the exception of Berlin and Germany, the spirit of apathy and “disgust with politics!” is widespread among proletarian ranks. Even the ranks of the Italian CP have cooled considerably toward their party after its fiasco of the General Strike. Simultaneously, there is a definite strengthening of the neo-reactionary forces; those who offer a “bold solution” and “leadership.” Most notorious of all events, of course, is the revival and new forward spurt of General de Gaulle’s movement in France. There is little doubt that the reactionary political tendencies in Western Europe – if we isolate Europe from the general world situation – have the upper hand at the moment, thanks to solid American backing and support, as well as the apathy of the masses.

In future articles we hope to give more material describing some of these generalizations, perhaps indicating the possible tendencies within the more important countries of Western Europe.

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