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Henry Judd

Notes on the New Germany

Observations Recorded During a Recent Visit

(July/August 1951)

From The New International, Vol. XVII No. 5, September–October, pp. 267–282.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

These notes and observations were made during the course of a trip through Western Germany during July of this year. As such, they possess the customary merits and demerits of “first observation.” Nothing has been added or changed, with the exception of a concluding section. A trip through this “New Germany” is certainly one of the most interesting and curious experiences available today. – H.J.

* * *

Saarbrücken/Saarland, July 3: “Ein schaffendes Volk,” these Saarlanders! If work, energy and activity are acknowledged characteristics of the German people, then the people of this hotly-disputed region possess them in excess. In their gloomy capital city, with its main streets reconstructed only to hide away the ruins of the side streets, they rush about on feet or in the street cars, on their way to factory or office. The Saar is rich in coal, rich in steel mills to convert Lorraine iron ore into steel, aided by Ruhr coke and Saar coal. The smoke of the Völkingen and Dudweiler mills drifts over the capital city whose post-war officialdom sits in collaboration with the French authorities. Dull-grey coloration everywhere; an active but depressed people, conscious of the renewed struggle over their tiny territory begun by a revived Germany and a despairing France. The circumstances have changed, but the language is an old and familiar one. No new solutions over Saar sovereignty have been offered, from all sides pious respect is paid to the concept of the Saar problem resolved within the integrating framework of a “United Europe.” But we find no one who believes in its realizability ...

M. Grandvaal, Haut Commissaire representing the French government; Johannes Hoffman (better known as “Joho”), Minister-President and champion of the current position; the Saar Landtag of 50 members; Chanceller Adenauer and Dr. Kurt Schumacher – those are the protagonists in the violent, heated debate. The 900,000 Saarländer (coal miners, steel workers, small farmers, merchants and industrialists) are largely passive and silent, hostile or sceptical of all proposed solutions, waiting for the possible crystallization of something new. This does not come ...

The current Saar regime was elected in November 1947, i.e., the period of Germany’s deepest social and economic depression. But four years have profoundly reversed this situation, and new elections in November 1952 may thoroughly overturn the present Landtag of 50 members. (27 CVP – Christian Democrats; 18 SPS – Social Democrats; 3 DP – Democrats; 1 KP – Stalinist; 1 independent.) The angry, determined voice of Kurt Schumacher blasted the Saar social democracy in 1947 when it accepted the French policy of alleged “political independence under French economic integration.” This voice has not ceased since, and the presence of Germany’s outstanding post-war personality is evident in every corner of the Saar. Even Adenauer dared not recognize the February 1950 agreement between France and the Saar.

The new pro-German party (Democratic Party) was rudely suppressed, revealing French political determination. The Saar is “christlich, sozial, deutsch,” was its motto. It proposed a simple reintegration into Western Germany. Its leaders were merchants, business men, professionals, stifling under French competition. There is no “neo-Nazi” movement in the Saar; too Catholic, conservative and traditional for that development. The socialists are in turmoil; Schumacher’s bitter tongue reaches far. Their coalition with the Catholics broke up in April 1951 over issues of an inner, social program. Their brother party in Germany, which they disowned in its hour of distress, has not forgotten; what shall they prepare for?

A cautious observer gave these estimates of public opinion: 15 per cent of the people want continuation of the present status; 15 per cent favor total reintegration with Western Germany; 70 per cent would like a true political independence and autonomy (like that of Luxemburg), with free economic ties with France and Germany. Most often this is expressed as “European unity” within which the Saar finds its normal place. Thus, 70 per cent favor a utopian solution which no party accepts and all ridicule as unrealizable! An anomalous position for a conservative population which shares the universal distrust of political figures and their parties. No fresh voice can be heard in the Saar, attempting to formulate concretely and realistically the confused ideas of the 70 per cent. Is this why the “Saar debate” in Paris and Bonn arouses so little response, or rather, a cynical abnegation. We are Western Europe’s favorite milch cow, say the Saar people. They will not decide according to our wish. Of course we are German, not French; but we do not think in terms of a purely Germanic solution.

A plebiscite is demanded at Bonn. The atmosphere for a plebiscite hardly exists today: the French claim the last elections served that purpose. But would the alternative of the 70 per cent be included in the plebiscite – or only “Germany” or “France”? Neither new elections nor a plebiscite are likely to break the frustrating bonds which surround this tiny region. Its malady is the European malady; the inability to unite under existing circumstances. Saar coal wants to join French iron ore with Ruhr coke, but its force of attraction is much too weak.

A hard-working people, they say at Saarbrücken. Catholic, moral, middle class concepts, unable to enjoy leisure time, demoralized by the endless international tug-of-war and the frustration of their hopes after they had given themselves first to one then another seducer. An atomized people, unaccustomed to pull together or formulate common hopes; centered on family and home life. The Saar coal miner has no resemblance to the Welsh, Scotch, American or Ruhr miner. A hard-working, sad people, living in dark towns and cities.

In the Saar one can find all of Europe’s diseases, but none of the even faint signs of perspective and hope which exist elsewhere. It is best to travel further on. It does not always pay to exaggerate one’s powers to schaffen!

Koblenz/Germany, July 6: A wearisome train ride through the Saar, entry into Germany proper, and finally contact with the valley of the Rhine at Bingen; then transfer for the famous boatride on the Rhine to Koblenz. Past the Lorelei now doubtfully enhanced by the presence of a physical “Lorelei” who combs her “goldene Haar” (at union wages) for each passing ship. A German seated next to me mumbles a few words against tourists, Americans with lack of imagination, commercialism.

At the Saar-German frontier, a first taste of the Adenauer burokratische Staat. A 1½ hours’ stopover for passport and customs’ inspection, filing of currency forms, etc. We count 10 to 11 bureaucrats (train controllers, police, customs officials, passport inspectors, etc.) busy at work on this train of perhaps 150 travellers. The Saarlander are given a workout; bags completely emptied, each morsel of coffee, tea, chocolate, etc., registered, listed and taxed; unfriendly attitude of officials toward countrymen who “don’t want to come home.” Obviously deliberately organized effort to annoy these people. Every bureaucrat in his own, peculiar uniform. The angry housewives, on their way to visit relatives, tell me, “These Germans love uniforms.” A discreet silence.

At Koblenz, a small Rhineland city for administration, our first taste of changes and developments in Germany since the last visit in 1947. At first glance, there is not much changed: A desultory group of French soldiers wandering about, characteristic ruins of homes, stores, buildings; poorly-dressed workers waiting for crowded streetcars. But certainly it has changed, and a walk through the city indicates this: the normal activity of a busy city, stores crowded with goods, housewives, school children, all the characteristics of a normal life. The streets have been cleared, the large avenues have resumed a partial elegance, the gaping walls of ruined buildings are blocked off by neatly piled stones, only the small side streets retain piles of rubble. The hopeless and tragic appearance of the “alles Kaput” days is gone.

But here we gain our first really new and striking impression. The stark newness of many things: shops and stores, theaters and movie houses, banks and bureaus, cafes, hotels and restaurants. Along the main and shopping streets, they crowd closely against each other, separated perhaps by a row of ruins. All are shining now, long lines, sharp corners, gleaming facades, fresh painted, desperately “modern.” Inside, flashy metal decorations, terribly clean and orderly, not conducive to a feeling of ease. Is this clash between “Kaput” and completely new responsible for the strange feeling a traveller has everywhere in Germany? There is no continuity, no growth between the past and this eerie present.

Nor does it take the technical knowledge of an architect to see the cheap, superficial and facade-like quality of the construction. Of new housing, apartments, projects, there are very few. This is get-rich-quick capital at work; movie houses, restaurants and cafes, night clubs, anything to draw attention away from the ruins, but executed in a planless, individualist, private-enterprise fashion. It has nothing in common with a systematic effort to reconstruct a ruined city. A visit to the city’s living quarters indicates that it is each man for himself in the effort to solve the housing problem. Some of the smaller units built before the monetary reform of 1948 are already sagging and collapsing. Shabby material, poor foundations, hasty work, everything Ersatz. We shall see more of this; it is the new Germany under the Adenauer regime, guided by the Allies.

Bonn-am-Rhein/July 7, 8: The Rhineland city of Beethoven and Marx, the young student. A Catholic city of pensioned officials and rentiers, mixed with 6,500 students (to whom they rent rooms), and suddenly dragged into the daylight by its conversion

into a capital city. The hasty erection of stores, cheap homes, cafes, etc., is still more noticeable in this city which appears ill at ease in its suddenly assumed political role. Here, all is “new” or ruins. Try though it may, Bonn can never possess the appearance of a true capital. Yet, this Adenauer regime feels at home here and the city’s personality reflects the regime: Catholic, conservative, bureaucratic, maneuverist, impotent, facade. We watch some of the new construction work, cheap offices for the various ministries. A quick pouring of a cheap concrete mixture into a mold of boards forms the basis for a wall; much pre-fabricated material; the work goes forward rapidly.

The new Bundeshaus (Parliament) of the Federal Government, an attractive modern building, built with more seriousness than other work, excellent furnishings. We attend two sittings: one over the “Saarland Question,” the other over “Schumann Plan Ratification.” The house is full, the debates heated, the assembly far from being an impotent body under occupation domination, thanks to the opposition of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and its leading voice, Dr. Kurt Schumacher. The socialists furnish a strong opposition to the government’s reactionary policies, and speak with a certain air of aggressive confidence in their future. The party of Adenauer is clearly on the decline and the future will pass it by since a new order of questions now exist.

The Saarland debate provides the socialists with the opportunity to illustrate their approach to the question of German nationalization (see conclusion), and to attack the government for its failure to preserve the nation and its resources; their opposition to the Schumann plan, which they have analyzed in detail and clause by clause, not only gives the party an opportunity to attack the government’s relation to the occupation powers, but also to present their independent economic proposals and solutions. The socialists reject the Schumann Plan because it is not presented on a basis of equality; it is “... the solidarity of the victors against the defeated.” Germany, which produces more than 40 per cent of the coal and steel envisaged under the plan, is to be represented by only 2 out of the 9 members on the High Authority. The Schumann Plan is a part of French policy toward Western Germany, enforced by American decentralization and decartelization politics toward the Ruhr. The socialists have carefully dissected the Plan, and exposed its narrow nationalism behind its ostensible steps toward European economic unity. The supporters of Adenauer appear considerably uncomfortable under attack; it is clear that their support is based upon the strategic choice that participation in the plan will forestall a future socialist nationalization of the industries involved. The solid socialist bloc in the Bundeshaus is a constant challenge to an outmoded government which dares not respond to the demand for dissolution and new elections.

Reichs Kanzler Adenauer; Dr. Kurt Schumacher – there are the two protagonists. What a contrast of personalities they form! Adenauer, old but well preserved; a large and expansive looking Rhinelander, staunch Catholic, gentleman, astute, conservative, German aristocratic tradition, excellent relations with the Allies and other foreign powers. Schumacher, the outstanding personality produced in postwar Germany, feared by his opponents (numerous!), devotedly backed by his party comrades. A harsh man, no doubt, as his opponents complain, with a scharfes Wort for everyone, but the one man who has renewed German working-class and socialist vitality and drawn the links between a nationalism with a progressive social content and the new socialist movement of the country. His role in reviving German socialism cannot be underestimated. A man of great will, with a perspective, but marked by his years of suffering under Hitler. He is physically brought into the Bundeshaus by one of his comrades, but he stands erect and scorches Adenauer with his sharp tongue and angry voice. The latter is Chancellor, but Schumacher dominates the chamber; the government’s plans and projects are obviously drafted and projected with both eyes on him and his opposition. His harassing of this traditionalist, reactionary, false “free enterprise” cabinet never ceases. The Stalinist spokesmen vie with the neo-Nazi spokesmen in vulgarity and coarseness of expression and thought. Neither count for much in the body. In manner, word and tone both exemplify the worst in German political life: loudness, resounding phraseology without content, vulgarity.

The socialists have moved their headquarters from Hanover to Bonn; a new, shiny and attractive party center; a friendly welcome despite different viewpoints, with helpful discussion and explanation by the international representative and other comrades. Much current information and taking of position available in pamphlets (largely reproduction of Schumacher speeches), but absence of theoretical or historical material. The party does not have a theoretical journal of its own, although the weekly Neue Vorwärts partly fulfills this function. We have our first sense of inner-party difficulties and problems: cleavage between young and older members; contradiction between local (municipal) and national policies; absence of ideological roots; confusion as to perspective, etc. (see conclusion). The party now numbers 1,000,000 members throughout Western Germany and is clearly the largest, strongest, best-organized movement in the country. Very weak among the youth and students, however. Many local organs, and smaller publications. It is sheer insanity for any socialist, of any shade of opinion, not to participate completely in the life of this party.

A visit to Bonn University and discussion with students. Frustrated hopes of the past 6 years are heard from all sides; true, they were naive to begin with (pacifism, United States of Europe, true democracy, etc.) but defeated naiveté turns into sour pessimism and cynicism. These students have lost the drive we noted among them in 1947, even though their material conditions were far inferior then. They are concentrated now on their studies, careers (keeping out of the ranks of Germany’s unhappy intellectual proletariat), material things, livelihood. They dislike the government, the state, all parties. Political clubs are numerous, but poorly attended. Only the Catholic youth groups have a certain success; virtually no Stalinist groups. We get the impression that the students, who showed signs of breaking away from their traditional isolation with German society during the years immediately after the war, have once more retired within themselves. If they no longer form the aristocratic elite of the past, they are nonetheless apart from German political and social life. Time lacks to sound their cultural interests or development; Sartre and his doctrines are still flourishing among them, however.

Duesseldorf/Rhineland, July 10, 11, 12: An agreeable trip to this city, gateway to the Ruhr, on the famous Rhinegold Express. The fields appear in excellent shape; much more agricultural equipment in sight than in France. The Rhine wines are as fine as ever. A stopover at Cologne to see the Cathedral, spared by American technique of precision bombing. The rest of the city is still pathetically destroyed, with little reconstructed.

Duesseldorf, once known as the Paris of Germany, is still an attractive city. Large avenues (Koenigs Allee), parks, lakes, a faint resemblance to modern Paris. The regional differences between Germans (even from city to city within the same region) never fails to impress. The spoken language, appearance and dress, but most particularly, the personality change drastically. An important center of commerce, industry, government; socialist and trade-union centers likewise.

A visit to the Socialist Party headquarters; evidence of party activities, construction of centers in all centers, towns, factory units, etc., of the neighborhood. There are over 50,000 party members in the city and surroundings. An equally valuable visit to Hans Beeckler [sic!] house, national center of the German trade-union movement (DGB). Friendly officials of the center provide much material on reconstruction of the trade-union movement, and freely discuss the newly-adopted Mitbestimmungsrecht (Co-determination law), which has confronted the union movement with a new perspective and new problems (see conclusion). A conflict appears to be brewing between the socialists and the trade- union leadership, including its new president (Fette) over specific issues which include the Schumann Plan, political influence in the unions, etc. The DGB is a completely unified movement, but this does not mean that political and ideological influences do not express themselves within it. Catholics, socialists, Stalinists, etc., are all alive and active within the unions. The responsible functionaries are mainly young, vigorous types, much interested in the outside world, broader views than their American colleagues, political; many socialists.

Our first contact with one of the leftist, revolutionary groupings in Western Germany: the Independent Workers Party (UAP), formed this year at Worms from an amalgam of former Stalinists, Titoists, Trotskyists, various ultra-leftists. Impossibility of discussing with the leaders who, unfortunately, are away. However, it is not difficult to verify previous impressions about this group received from their press (Freie Tribune) and other sources. In no sense of the word a party (several hundred isolated individuals); sectarian positions on all questions; an attitude of hostility toward the Socialist party which precludes any possibility of friendly collaboration (they consider the party of Schumacher in the same light as the pre-war reformist party!); a concentration on winning over the miserable Stalinist movement of Western Germany. The group has had no success and failed to develop since its premature foundation; it is disoriented and evidently starting to fall to pieces. To complete the dismal picture, the indigestible so-called Trotskyist elements within it have begun their factional struggle for “power” and acceptance of their Russian position.

We stay at the home of socialist comrades. Comrade B. explains to us the problem of living in the inflationist, uncontrolled economy of Adenauer. He shows us his monthly pay form, as a city employee. Its story is a revealing one as to actual living conditions. He supports a wife (housewife) and one child. Here is his situation.

He earns 406 Marks (roughly $100) per month; this is exceptionally high pay; average is about 250 Marks ($60).

From this are deducted the following taxes:

Income Tax


26 Marks

Church Taxes [1]

  3 Marks

Sickness Insurance

36 Marks

Additional Insurance

  9 Marks

Union Dues

  3 Marks

Pension Dues

16 Marks

Berlin Emergency Tax

  3 Marks

Total Taxation

96 Marks

His take-home pay is therefore only 310 Marks, after all deductions; amounting to almost 25 per cent of his earnings! Unmarried men are taxed one-third of their income. Das Geld ist sehr knapp, say the Germans everywhere; it is universally true – no one has any money. Here are some elementary statistics on living standards, incomes, etc., as of today. Real wages are 33 per cent lower today than they were in 1936. City food prices (1938 equals 100) have risen to 174 in 1950, and 234 in 1951. In general, living standards are about 10 per cent below that of France.

Incomes are fantastically distorted. More than 6 million people earn less than 100 Marks ($25) per month; 86 per cent of the employed population earns under 400 Marks ($100) per month (or, 60 per cent of the total income), whereas the remaining 14 per cent earn up to 8,000 Marks (or the other 40 per cent of the national income). Sixty per cent of those working (or, 20 million) earn 400 Marks or less per month. The Social Democratic Party publication, News From Germany (April–May 1951) has published the excellent material we reproduce below: Changes in the Social Structure of German Society.

The present social structure of Western Germany is that of a modern industrial class state and the following statistics prove this.

Population of the Federal Republic = 48 million
of this, employables, not independent = over 16 million

54 per cent of the population is Protestant,
46 per cent of the population is Catholic,

27 per cent of the population lives in cities,
less than in the Reich before the last war.

Distribution of trades and professions


per cent

Manual workers

about 44

Salaried employees

about 14

Public officials and employees



about 24

(incl. owners of means production,
that is capitalists in the old sense
– rough estimate)



about 14

The process of transformation from agricultural to industrial and export state began around 1890 in Germany very rapidly.

The number of dependent workers (wage and salary earners), in the total of all employed persons rose from 60 per cent in 1895 to 91 per cent in 1950. In 1882 about 40 per cent of those employed in production were independent, in 1920 only 20 per cent.

During the same period the number of salaried workers and officials rose from 6 per cent to 18 per cent, and of pensioners and disabled from 6 per cent to 14 per cent.

This development, inherent to capitalism, was influenced and interrupted by outside factors after both the world wars.

Today the whole population and social structure is out of balance. The population pyramid has become deformed. Dependence upon foreign markers has increased. In both 1918 and 1945 Germany was stripped of all foreign capital, of export markets, colonies, merchant fleet, etc.

After 1918 the total loss of foreign assets was around 35 million gold marks.

After 1945 this loss was about 13 million gold Marks.

The flight of capital is estimated at 3 thousand million marks already. Reparations and dismantling after both world wars were not the most severe loss from Germany’s national assets, except for the reparations and dismantling after 1945 in the Eastern Zone.

The social contrasts are clearly shown in cultural fields:

Income and, Standard of Living

The classification of income and property, and of the standard of living shows even more clearly the social cleavage. Approx. 75 per cent of all workers, employees and officials have a net income of up to 250.— DM. The average West German income is 250.— DM, the number of dependent employees is in a ratio of 4 : 1 to the independents, but their total incomes are in ratio of 1.5 : 1.

Of the income below 350.– DM 80–85 per cent is used for the following fundamental necessities: more than 48 per cent for food, etc., about 20 per cent for housing, of this 9 per cent for rents, about 17 per cent for clothing.

Of the remaining 15 per cent, only 7 per cent is used for all types of cultural needs, the least being spent on books. Cultural needs are therefore shrinking. Neither is much being saved.

In this family we see, in a still more striking form, that evidence of discontinuity between all forms of German life, thought and activity. A young socialist, active, eager, responsible secretary of an important trade union, anxious to develop both his political life and his personal education. He lives with an older man, a Social Democrat of the pre-war, pre-Hitler school, mistrustful to the point of disagreeableness toward his young comrade. In the party groups, I learn, the conflict between the two generations is a serious affair. It is not a simple affair of two generations which clash because of normal differences due to age; it is a difference of mentality and psychology. Worst of all, a transitional age group (those in their 40’s or late 30’s) seems to be missing; these generations were Hitlerized and do not participate in political life. Hence, the characteristic gap. The old Social Democrats, educated in the reformist traditions of Kautsky, Hilferding, the Weimar Constitution, etc., cannot understand these dynamic, younger socialists with their absence of theoretical training, knowledge and tradition (of any kind!). “They were raised under Hitler,” they say, “and don’t understand democracy.” By that, they mean the concepts of Social Democracy during its most reformist period. On the other hand, the younger elements confuse education and training in theory with the stale doctrine of reformism during the 20’s and 30’s! There is no contact between the two groups; a vast hole was formed by the Nazi epoch and no abstract education can fill it up. Perhaps the most significant achievement of Schumacher has been to bridge partly this gap, and hold the party together by giving it a national viewpoint and program, thus lifting it out of the field of traditional municipal and local Social Democratic politics (which constitutes the main activity of the Old Guard). The young socialist generation, active trade unionists, party functionaries, etc., are the real life of the party.

But what education shall they be given? In reflecting on this question, we feel the inadequacy of the traditional ideas of socialist education; not only that of the reformist school, but of the radical socialist schools. Abstract doctrine can never shape these comrades into a coherent group of socialist leaders; they are primarily concerned with the concrete experience of their own activity: trade-union work, co-determination in the factories, organization and administration of economic and social institutions, etc. A new type of socialist is emerging everywhere; those who cannot recognize this fact will never touch them. With all his failings, our young socialist friend (unhampered by false, doctrinaire hangovers), rooted in the concrete but anxious to deduce broader truths from this concrete, is worth a hundred of the resentful Old Guard, weighed down by their sterile traditions. But much more must be said on this matter ...

Essen/Ruhr, July 13, 14: The city of Essen lies in the heart of the Ruhr district, that territory of valleys and hills constituting Europe’s greatest industrial concentration. The train speeds past huge factory units, coal pitheads, bureaus, freight yards – all the signs of an enormous and active industrial center. Innumerable coal towns are scattered about; cities are linked together by their factory suburbs. Essen is the industrial and administrative heart of the Ruhr; in all directions trails of black smoke and a vague haze of soot.

Essen itself has a tragic appearance, completely destroyed. Of all the cities we visit, Essen most resembles the ruined cities of 1944 and 1945. Huge areas covered by skeleton walls, much rubble, people still in huts or cellar caves. On a hill stands the remains of what must have been an elaborate and gaudy Jewish synagogue, probably the reformed group. A new memorial in front of it tells us that the 2,500 Jews of Essen were gathered here before being shipped to their death. The building is sealed, scorched and blackened – by the Nazis, or by the bombing? A woman, waiting for a street car, approaches and suggests that perhaps, someday, the synagogue will be rebuilt and opened. She accepts our comment that that depends upon the German people. She describes the entire city as a memorial to the dead. But on the city’s outskirts, the smokestacks of the Krupp Werke are busily producing. It is not possible to remain very long in this city. On our way out, we pass a large group of unemployed gathered around the Arbeitsamt. Many of them tell us they are refugees, from the East – poorly dressed, rather depressed and desperate looking. They live on an insignificant relief; there are still 1½ million unemployed in Western Germany.

Hamburg/North Germany, July 17–21: The trip to Hamburg from Essen is a long, but interesting one. We stop at various cities on the way for a brief tour, or to spend the night: Bochum, Dortmund, Münster, Osnabruck, Bremen, etc. The industrial cities appear to be highly active (people speak of a partial boom), the administrative and commercial centers are more sedate. But everywhere, the Germans walk as all industrious, individualist people do: in a straight line, never stopping, their minds set on their goal. There is none of that relaxed, street-corner informality of France here. In Dortmund, we begin to feel the pinch of insufficient travel funds: prices are considerably higher than we expected (particularly hotels, which range from 6 to 10 Marks for a night). Food is high; coffee impossible.

After the smoking city of Bochum, we leave the Ruhr, touch on the northern fringe of Sauerland, a beautiful rolling strip of the northern plain and the Totenburger Wald, and pass rapidly through the first towns and ports of northern Germany. Bremen forms the American enclave of the north, a busy port now receiving the numerous American military formations on their way southwards. The people watch in the streets, but say little or nothing; it has become a familiar sight, even in reverse. The approach to Hamburg takes us through a corner of the famous Lüneburger Heide, the heather region of the north. Our first impressions of the city are that of an immense seaport, active, well-built-up, cosmopolitan atmosphere. We are not wrong; Hamburg is one of the most advanced, international, sophisticated cities of the country. Our visit here is worth every moment of it ...

Several long and valuable discussions with Dr. H., who welcomes us with generosity and spontaneity. An old Marxist and socialist, now in the Social Democratic party, he describes the difficult and bureaucratic atmosphere to be found in local formations, where the old party leadership dominates. The city of Hamburg forms a Land by itself, thus creating a double administrative apparatus (city and Land), as well as having a considerable revenue from taxes and port activities. Conditions for the creation of a bureaucratic apparatus are more favorable than anywhere in Western Germany; the Social Democrats who hold power locally have not missed their chance. We learn of the incredible story of recent weeks where students of Hamburg University, demonstrating for retention of reduced student fares, were set upon by Burgermeister Brauer’s police and fire department as “communists”! German students as “communists”!

Many left-wing socialists in the SPD have become seriously demoralized by the behavior of the party bureaucracy, and the grip retained locally by the older elements. They are pessimistic and lack a sense of the concrete possibilities. Will the party win an absolute majority in next year’s general elections and thus form the government of Western Germany? They are sceptical and doubtful, although they do not exclude the possibility; or the alternative of a coalition government with one or more of the refugee parties. The Christian Democrats are in decline; the Stalinists have been badly beaten throughout Germany, but the perspective is for a rebirth of the more reactionary, rightist groups. In Hamburg we are first entering the territory of the various so-called neo-Nazi parties and groups (SRP, etc.). We discuss in detail alternative possibilities, the need to have a clear outlook and perspective, to engage in concrete work. The elements for a broad left wing in the SPD certainly exist, but the will to create it, the leadership and the leader, appear to be absent at present. Too much pessimism and abstentionism in this milieu!

Why is this? Much of the explanation is at hand; despite wide belief in these circles that war is not at hand and the Russians are far weaker than is generally accepted, there is a great sense of Western Germany’s inability to play an important role because of its unfavorable position in the world; an even greater sense of frustration, lack of contact with one another and with international circles, lack of any centralizing theoretical or political journal. Much interest in Bevan and his movement, with the hope that it may stimulate regroupment efforts elsewhere. Lack of initiative and drive, largely due to the overwhelming occupation with gaining a living under adverse conditions, long hours of work, fatigue, etc. The German radical intelligentsia has a difficult time of itl

We hear a discussion on the issue of German remilitarization (Wiederaufrüstungspolitik) (see conclusion). Everyone assumes that there will be some form of German militarization, that it is inevitable – in fact, that it has already begun. Considering the ever more frequent appearance of thousands of young Germans in new, blue-colored uniforms in all the principal cities of the country, there would seem to be much truth in this! These men have enlisted in the Bundespolizei, but the charge is that they form basic cadres for the new army. In appearance and uniform, they resemble the old Wehrmacht soldiers, down to the peaked cap – only the color has changed. The issue, we are informed, is no longer, shall there be remilitarization, but what form shall it take; what tactical and strategic goals shall it have? We find no agreement over this. The American proposals are denounced as half-way measures which defeat their own purpose and only serve to provoke the Russians. There is not much clear thinking on this issue; our friends consider war, per se, so futile and incapable of settling anything that they automatically transfer this feeling to the belief that Germany is indefensible and helpless in the given situation. We question them as to their views on the concepts of a popular army, people’s militia, etc., the views of the old Jaurès in his famous book. They are interested, but seem not to have reflected before on such a concept.

Dr. B., a highly cultivated socialist, thoroughly trained in economic subjects and administration entertains us with stories of his experiences with the Russians. The Germans know the Russians better than anyone else; you must learn to outdrink them, they say, or you are lost! There is no hysterical denunciation of the Russians as such, but an effort to understand them as human beings and to find their weak points. This man has no fear of them; given support and a policy, he would be prepared to meet them on their own terrain. He describes for us the industrial and economic problems of the Ruhr, the revival of the Ruhr barons (“the most cynical bourgeoisie in the world”), the effect of American policies in the Ruhr, the false economy of Western Germany. There are many highly capable left-wing socialists like Dr. B., who, somewhat discouraged and isolated, are unable to exercise their talents in this stagnant land of Adenauer. Would a socialist electoral victory bring them to the front? The party could never depend upon its Old Guard to carry on a progressive government; much would change with such a victory.

This lively, energetic Hanseatic city is certainly one of the intellectual and political centers of Germany; its atmosphere is much freer than that of other German cities. Huge areas are entirely razed, but large parts of the city were completely untouched by bombing. The style of bombing was different here, and what is left forms a genuine city. The port area, the old city, St. Pauli and various suburbs give a personality to Hamburg we have not found elsewhere.

Hanover/Saxony, July 20: A trip to this commercial and administrative center of Saxony; a few brief hours passing over the Lunebürger Heide, a beautiful agricultural territory. In Hanover, we are told, the most perfect German is spoken, with a clear and elegant accent. There is much industry, “Volkswagon” factory and assembly plants (old model car is 3,000 marks; new model for export is 5,000). The Hanoverians are active, rather aloof, distant. We remember that Saxony is the center of revival of the new reactionary movements (SRP of Remer, etc.), that it has a tradition much different from Berlin, Hamburg, the Ruhr. Yet, until recently, it was the headquarters of the Socialist Party, and SPD strength is a major factor in the whole territory. The city was badly damaged by the British; there is much facade reconstruction in the center; a huge reconstruction and building show is being given.

In a discussion with local socialists, the issue of perspective is frankly (and somewhat pessimistically) sounded by an excellent left socialist, G. He does not believe the party can win the next elections, that too many neo-reactionary forces (encouraged largely by the Americans) can prevent such a development; the evolution of the trade-union movement and the concretization of its newly-won Mitbestimmungsrecht (see conclusion) are more important. He warns against an abstract interpretation of this new law, and the assumption in Marxist circles that it must necessarily create a layer of bureaucratized worker-delegates. Integration of all left socialists in the party through practical and concrete work (he holds an elective county position, unknown in America, which brings him into contact with a multitude of people), seems his central idea.

We visit a Bundesschule located in a town outside of Hanover. These are regional trade-union schools, organized all over Germany by the central trade union (DGB). Systematic courses of 2 or 3 weeks length are held without letup; picked worker delegates, secretaries, etc., attend these courses in trade-union problems, organization, co-determination, legal rights, etc. Nothing so thorough or organized exists to our knowledge elsewhere. It is a true trade-union school; a part of the broad revival of German workers’ education; very impressive and important.

Nuremberg/Bavaria, July 23: A long and very beautiful trip to Nuremberg, broken off for short stops at the university city of Göttingen, Fulda, Würzbörg, etc. We are back in the American zone of occupation, our first return in six years! In the train (travelling first or second class) are the first GIs we have so far seen; Nuremberg is full of them, wandering about, seemingly lost and with nothing to do. (A GI in a foreign land seems to cultivate the air of not belonging there.) The long rolling hills and woods of the Fränkische Schweiz through which we pass for hours seems to us one of the most attractive parts of all Germany.

The Nuremberg we last saw was one of the most battered cities of the country; the old medieval city of Hans Sachs was a pile of garbage, with most people living under the pile. We were anxious to see what had happened to all of this in 6 years. This is apparently one of the few cities where a coordinated municipal effort has been made to disperse the ruins of the past and resurrect the old city. Restoration of the medieval towers, walls, churches, etc., is evident everywhere; the famous Dürer Haus is back, as well as the statue of Hans Sachs. The toy, leather and other light industries are said to be restored also. These Bavarians are not political types; the socialist movement is feeble in southern Germany. They are lighter, moreready for adventure than their northern countrymen. At the moment, they are quiet and remain with their traditional conservative, Catholic and reactionary parties. The presence of numerous Americans in uniform is a part of the scenery, just as much as the ruined structures of the city’s suburbs. A mutual indifference.

Munich/Bavaria, July 25: The university city of Erlangen, slightly north of Nuremberg, has taken on a new appearance (and prosperity) with the transfer of the huge administrative center of the Simens Werke, German equivalent of G.E., from Berlin to the city. Testifying to the real capabilities of German industry, a series of excellent apartments for the employees, have been built. The capital exists, when the big firms want to make use of it, but neither municipalities nor cooperative associations can lay their hands on any. En route to Munich we pass through the dense agricultural areas of southern Bavaria, Augsburg and cross the Danube at Donau; agreeable countryside approaching Munich and the Alps of Austria and southern Germany.

Munich itself is a jammed city of perhaps 1,000,000 now; the characteristic Munich type seems partly drowned in the mass of refugees from Silesia (many of whom have a strong Polish appearance), the Czech Sudentenland and the east generally. The city is a center of refugees, and refugee organizations: Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Polish, etc. It has lost much of its former personality, not at all a bad thing. The socialists are stronger than before, under left leadership, but many people are on vacation and there is little occasion for discussions. We visit the severely damaged city; little reconstruction in sight. The old churches are still unrepaired, but the famous Deutsche Museum has been restored. Placed on an island in the river, this scientific and natural history museum is completely fascinating: realistic reproduction of the interiors of coal and iron ore mines, halls of communications, transportation, etc. Where else but in Germany could one be conducted by a guide through a hall of ancient musical instruments and have this same guide sit down and demonstrate each instrument with Beethoven, Bach, etc.? New halls in the museum indicate new development in German physics and research work. This place alone warrants a visit to the city.

The Bavarians seem to have no political life worthy of the name; they live on an easier level than their brothers to the north. It is easy to understand why American visitors feel more at home in southern Germany; it is a kind of glorified mid-west region.

Frankfurt-am-Main, July 28, 29: A long night trip through southwest Germany to this commercial, business and administrative city which bears most heavily the mark of the war, the occupation, and its consequences. The “American way of life” is in evidence on each street, each corner, each building. The city is the departure point for tourists, business men, officials, military people, etc. Every act here has an official character, dimly related to some decree, directive, law or authority. Reactionary nationalists and leftwingers avoid this city, feeling it is not a part of the new Germany. After a short, somewhat boring stay we take the train back through Saarbruecken, en route to Paris. The tour is over; is it possible to find any consistency in this multitude of observations?

Paris/France, August 1951: Conclusions: The time necessary to digest the multitude of registered impressions and observations has passed; what rough conclusions may be drawn from this trip? We shall resumé them under three headings: (a) The question of rearmament; (b) The Social Democratic Party and its perspective; (c) Co-determination and the unions.

Rearmament: “The Allies made war upon us because we were too militarist,” writes a German liberal publication. “Now they attack us for being too pacifist!” The lesson that war does not pay was thoroughly driven home by the Allies, particularly the Americans. Now the same gentlemen complain bitterly about the unwillingness of the German to “defend” himself, to take up arms again. The irony is a little too evident and lost on no one.

Yet the general German attitude has considerably evolved since the period of the Ohne mich (“without me”) movements, when the rearmament issue was originally posed. In point of fact, German rearmament is now inevitable and the only question is just what shape, form and extent it will assume. Actually, the elements of rearmament have already begun, but the process of conditioning the population to its acceptance is not yet complete. But they will be completed, and the young German men (like so many others) will once more know the feel of a uniform and a rifle. How many is another question. But the American determination to rearm Germany, despite the coolness or hostility of other Atlantic Pact members, gives rise to other factors not exactly welcomed by the same power: we refer to the mushroom rise of genuinely reactionary, chauvinist movements, organizations of Wehrmacht veterans, etc. The American conception of a rearmed Germany consists of subordinate forces with limited armament, within an Atlantic Pact framework; an essentially defensive force to meet the first shock of a Russian advance. An army, in a word, fitting the conservative, weak, cooperative Adenauer government. But other gentlemen have other ideas! The revival of authentic chauvinism, militarism and expansionism eastwards (beginning with reconquest of lost territories) follows automatically. To be sure, all German veterans’ organizations are not reactionary; most express legitimate pension, and other demands of the veteran mass. Further, only 1 out of 10 veterans belongs to any organization, so far. But the fashion in which American policy conceives rearmament automatically releases the most hostile and traditionally reactionary forces within Germany, whether the Americans like that or not!

What is the position of Dr. Schumacher and the SPD on the question? Naturally, it has had a rapid evolution since the question of remilitarization was first posed. But one aspect has remained consistent: the question cannot be considered in the abstract, apart from the general international position of Western Germany, the occupation status, the problem of Ruhr ownership, the kind of rearmament proposed, German economic life, etc. The SPD has rejected rearmament as conceived of by Adenauer and the Americans; it has equally rejected an absolutist and abstract “anti-rearmament” position such as put forward by pacifist organizations, the new UAP movement, etc. How, instead, has it aproached the problem? The essence is contained in the principal speech of Schumacher, early this year, which was widely distributed in pamphlet form: Gleiches Risike, Gleiches Opfer, Gleiche Chancen! (“Equal Risk, Equal Sacrifice, Equal Chances.”)

This brochure describes the conditions under which German rearmament can take place: the absolute independence of Germany in relation to the remnants of the occupation and its controls; an ending of the reactionary, anti-social policy of the Adenauer regime within Germany; the practice of a program of social reforms and measures to end unemployment, uncontrolled price structure, etc., solution of the Saar question; an ending of the Schumann Plan in its present form and the policy of the allies in the Ruhr; support of the SPD campaign for German reunification. For Schumacher, only the German masses can decide the issue of rearmament, along with the other issues before them. The sine qua non of such decisions is complete restoration of national independence; it is in this context that one must understand the alleged “nationalism” of the party spokesman and his party. [2]

Put in such a fashion the question of rearmament becomes a social and political question, centered about the inner political life of Germany itself, and the struggle for a Social Democratic electoral victory and the creation of a progressive regime in the country. Rearmament then becomes an even more concrete question: under whom, what kind of an army, socially and politically speaking; what conditions will be fulfilled first of all, etc.? The real struggle, then, in Germany has become one of how rearmament shall manifest itself; not the issue of an abstract principle. This is how it must be understood. And it is here that we can best touch upon the question of what is the perspective of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

The Social Democratic Party and its Perspective: The party now has one million members, and is at the height of its post-war influence. Any socialist who stands outside its ranks is clearly wasting his time (and that of other people). It is the most important and progressive party in continental Europe. Some sectarian circles of Trotskyists and others similar to them are fond of describing the SPD in terms of the old, pre-war, Weimar Republic social democratic reformist movement. Blinder nonsense could not be spoken. The party is a mass of contradictory tendencies of a greater or lesser potential development: old reformist elements, a mass of enthusiastic but uneducated socialists, a splendid layer of trade-union responsibles and organizers, a scattering of left-wing socialists, two or three isolated and thoroughly sectarian grouplets (Funken, etc.) living a useless existence, a section of youth. The new social basis of German capitalism make it impossible for the pure reformist element to advance the illusions of an “organic growth with capitalism” as they once did. This is a new kind of socialist party, which must find a new social base and program.

That base, of course, can only be found by conquest of power over the real economic life of the country: the heavy industries, the Ruhr, the credit machinery, etc. At the same time, the socialist interest in the trade-union movement is far different from that of the pre-war days. The socialists today want to see the unions become instruments in this same struggle for control over industry and its products; hence their development and pushing of the co-determination issue. The circumstances of life in Germany oblige the socialists to advance the most progressive, militant and practical kind of economic and social program; and to prepare to put it into effect. The perspective of the party is to take political power throughout Germany, to form the government, and to carry out their program much as the British Labour Party executed its program. This includes wresting of the Ruhr industries from private ownership and their complete nationalization; institution of a controlled economy of prices, wages and profits; a reformed tax structure to accomplish equalization of wealth and a series of social reform measures affecting housing, education, pensions, etc. Why should not the party carry out such a program if it receives the popular mandate from the German people? Speed the day of elections and electoral victory!

Co-determination and the Unions: “Co-determination” is now operative in all the coal and iron and steel works of Germany having 1,000 or more workers. It is the most significant development in European post-war labor history. To prejudge it as a “bolstering of capitalism,” or an employees’ concession to curb trade-union development, or a revival of pre-war Social Democratic Arbeitsgemeinschaft policy, would be to misunderstand grossly the situation and preclude a progressive development of this instrument for workers’ experience and training in the techniques of industrial management and commerce. Indicating the “algebraic” character of the entire concept, the law itself does not define but simply declares that Mitbestimmungsrecht exists in specified industries, etc. Obviously, the future will see what concrete content is given this juridical formula; the struggle for the decisive 11th man representative on the managerial council has already begun. Further, the unions and the SPD have joined together to demand the extension of this system to all German firms and industries having 300 or more workers. The heart of the matter seems to us the fact that co-determination has provided a framework within which not only can the best workers’ representatives gain invaluable experience for the future, but also a managerial and economic consciousness on the part of the mass of workers can be enhanced. This should not be underestimated.

* * *


1. In Germany, the church institutions are supported by direct taxation which a member must pay unless he resigns from his church.

2. The reference here is, of course, to the hypocritical attacks upon Schumacher’s “nationalism” made, above all, in the American bourgeois press. Schumacher’s position from the socialist standpoint is quite a different matter. – Ed.

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