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Henry Judd

World Politics

The Ruhr (Part 2)

(6 December 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 49, 6 December 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Last week we described the economic and productive revival of the Ruhr, Europe’s greatest industrial concentration center, and the struggle for its products now freshly revived among the great powers. Secretary of State Marshall has indicated that the British and Americans intend a full speed ahead course for their plan, despite the French objections, and that the latter can only expect minor concessions which change nothing in principle. The Ruhr, then, is about to enter upon a new phase in its existence – a period of trusteeship nominally held by Germans, with strict supervision and regulation of distribution by America, first of all, and the other powers.

It would be a mistaken idea to believe that this new phase means a step in the direction of a revival of the old German, monopolist and cartelized Ruhr heavy industry – the economic heart and soul of the Nazi Empire. The old cartels have definitely been smashed, and they will not return because they symbolized – above all for America – German power and rivalry. Even if the new Ruhr trusteeship employs many of the former owners, plant managers, superintendents and personnel (the question of whether they were or were not Nazis plays no part in their choice by the military governments as trustees), this does not mean a return of the old system because these men return to work and management under entirely different circumstances and conditions, with a new role to play. Dream and conspire as they will among themselves for a revival of the Ruhr cartels, the real power is held by America and Britain which will determine the limits of production, set the market possibilities, and intervene whenever necessity demands it.

Behind the new Ruhr trusteeship stand cartels and monopolies, but they are those of America and the about to be created government monopoly of England. The Ruhr trusteeship cannot be the powerful rival and the mighty industrial Empire that once existed under an independent Germany.

This, then, is the imperialist solution to the Ruhr problem. Stalinist Russia is firmly and coldly squeezed out of the entire proceedings; France will be partly quieted by concessions and bribes; the German capitalists are offered a chance to resume business again; and the American colossus, by its sheer weight, effectively controls the management, distribution and productive levels of this whole area. The Ruhr solution then is a clear illustration not only of the real international relationships of our time, but proof of where real power resides. At the moment, it is a big victory for American imperialism and partly offsets its current defeat in China, for example.

Various Proposals for Solution

So much for the imperialist way of handling such affairs. Are there other proposed solutions? It is well known that among the Great Powers themselves there are variations in how to handle the future of the Ruhr. The British, for example, are not particularly keen on the American technique of recreating, under new conditions, the old Ruhr managerial caste. They go along, however, because they believe a future west German government will nationalize the Ruhr industries much in the same manner that coal has been nationalized in England, and steel is about to be – that is, under the direction and control of a governmental body and its bureaucracy. Rapidly becoming familiar with the techniques of such bureaucratic nationalization, and assuming it will take place under a Social Democratic government (prototype of the British Labor Party), the British believe such an achievement will best serve their purposes of reviving the great pre-war English- German trade which, in effect, dominated western Europe.

Equally well known is the so-called "internationalization" of the Ruhr proposed by French imperialism, and rather widely supported by types like Dulles, some American liberals etc. While this "internationalization" has never been more than vaguely explained at best, its cardinal principle is clear enough: to destroy the juridical basis upon which rests the claim and demand of the German nation as a whole that the Ruhr remain THEIRS, as a part of the sovereign wealth and possessions of the land of the German people. Under such a type of "internationalization," of course, this historic ownership would be destroyed, and replaced by a so-called international ownership, consisting of the powerful nations who would manage, control and run the Ruhr, sharing its products according to their will. In the hands of powers like France such a formula would merely be a legal basis for any power to claim future ownership rights over the industries and resources of any nation it may have conquered. It is simply a scheme for French imperialism to gain a veto hold over the Ruhr and, as such, was rejected by America which wants the Ruhr to move and produce.

These “nationalization” and “internationalization” proposals all have a common basis in the imperialist framework, and are simply variations due to the particular desire of a particular imperialism. They are frauds. Yet for socialists the Ruhr solution remains as pressing as ever. Within Germany itself, even the Social Democracy – noted for its timidity – opposes the return of the former Ruhr magnates and the resurrection of the former managerial groups in any form. They demand, first of all, unconditional recognition of the fact that the Ruhr and its industries – extractive and manufacturing – belong to the people, to the German nation, despite its present division and its defeat in the war. Such a demand is correct and must be supported.

The German working class has built and created this great center; it is theirs and must remain theirs. They are the ones to determine its future, how it shall be controlled and what it shall be used for. In their hands, we can rest assured its coal will go to revive silent factories and its steel to rebuild destroyed cities. Tied in with the Marshall Plan, or held in escrow by French imperialism, its products will go to rebuilding Europe's newly proposed western defense system.

The Ruhr then belongs to the German nation – this must be the first and foremost slogan of socialists. Take it out of the hands of the imperialist powers. Secondly, to assure that it shall never again be used by German capitalism in the form of monopolies, cartels, trusts etc., once its possession by a sovereign German nation has been won, the entire area must be socialized under the control of the miners who dig the coal and the workers who run the steel plants. Within Germany itself, then, the solution of the Ruhr problem is part of the struggle for the creation of a new, independent German state – free of and unhampered by any occupying forces – and making out of this state a democratic, socialist republic run by the masses of people.

Suggesting a Broad Perspective

But the problem of the Ruhr goes still further, and its solution along socialist lines is unfortunately rather remote. As the world’s greatest industrial concentration, the Ruhr means far more than the rebuilding of Germany itself; it is a vital part of Europe and has always been the heart of its (the whole Continent’s) existence. The Ruhr is an international center of production, and its wealth forms a part of the life blood of a vast continent. It is not enough to have the Ruhr operate in a progressive manner within the national borders of Germany itself. A unified and integrated European economy would make out of the Ruhr its foundation, producing coal and steel for all of Europe. Looking beyond national borders, German socialists must propose that the Ruhr become such a foundation for an independent and united Europe, free of both Russian and American influence, and – with the power given to it by holding the Ruhr – capable of living its own life.

Just as the solution of the Ruhr problem for the Germans cannot be separated from the need for an independent German government which has the power to freely settle the future of the Ruhr (a power it hasn’t today and will never receive from the occupants); so the European solution for the Ruhr problem cannot be separated from the struggle for an independent Europe, free from Stalinism and Marshallism, and so federated that it can best utilize the resources of this mighty area in the name of all of Europe. A nationalized Ruhr, sovereign property of an independent Germany, and economically integrated into an independent and unified Europe – this is the broad perspective that European socialists should offer as against the plans of imperialism.

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