I have travelled through Germany, 'Hindenburg's country', and seen it with the unclouded eyes of a visitor from the country of workers and peasants, Lenin's country. You have castles and museums, government palaces where ministers sit, victory avenues and victory monuments, madhouses, war memorials, barracks, schools, prisons and factories -- millions of people sucked dry and a bourgeoisie with culture, technology and all the comforts of a good life.
But I did not merely wish to learn about German streets and who was begging, starving, strolling, motoring or parading in them, but rather to see the places from where it is all being invisibly ruled and where the millions of threads and cables come together: the power centres of public opinion and the industrial workshops of the German spirit, German culture and German guns.
I have looked for Germany within her national sanctuaries.
The cities of the Ruhr with their streets, plants and pits are marked with the name of Krupp just like the teaspoons and pillowslips of a propertied family. Essen is but a hereditary estate, a family possession passed down from generation to generation. The family, as if in its own home, casually puts up memorials to its deceased members in the public squares and gardens. Grandma orders one monument, the cousins or sons or grandsons who have tastes and pleasures of their own, another. At every junction, a bronze Friedrich-Albrecht, an Albrecht-Franz or a Franz Friedrich. The buildings, tramlines, people and vehicles meekly give way to their iron masters. The cult of ancestors reigns over the greatest of Europe's industrial centres. The last male of the reigning family died long ago and the outrageous scandal that accompanied him to the grave has long since been forgotten. The daughters, widows unknown to anyone, have inherited thousands of millions by right of blood and become the autocratic sovereigns of hundreds of factories, pits, shipyards, railways and harbours; they are given husbands for the continuance of the line and petty officials turned prince-regents adopt their wives' name and multiply so that the great city of Essen shall not be left without thoroughbred masters, and hundreds of thousands of workers with millions of machines can quietly settle to work for real, pure-blooded little Krupps. Life, of course, has long since outgrown the patriarchal economic forms with which old Adolf started half a century ago; business is managed by the board of a joint-stock company instead of a monarchical lord and the Krupp colossus strides out in a direction fixed and ultimately guided by an army of expert officials rather than by the will of the brilliant organiser and builder that Krupp II had been.
On the site of the city of Essen thirty or forty years ago--where today the giants of metallurgy work so closely crowded together; where plants jostle each other and factory chimneys crane their necks so as not to lose sight of each other partitioning the soot-black sky with thick strips of smoke; where far beneath the city's feet pits gnaw at every piece of coal (between them black covered ways are stretched like cables: each colliery grabs them with a hundred hands and pulls them over to its side); where the great smelting furnaces that knit the Ruhr cities into the body of one gigantic plant are never extinguished -- on the site of this Essen were once open fields and scattered peasant farmsteads. You can still see today how the city has grown up from a mine. Concrete and asphalt have merely overlaid its age-old disorder. Streets have formalised the winding, crooked paths trodden by the first miners between pub and works. The city has reconciled itself to wild ungainly houses that will not recognise any discipline. Like tramps turned millionaires overnight they loaf around with pipes between their teeth, without gardens (or without trousers), with the wind blowing freely across their bare stone chests. The city, crushed down with wealth and overcome with the smell of money, rushes on its way pretending that there is nothing here and building bridges to avoid those feet in rough miner's boots stretched out across the street. Essen has from that time onwards retained a passion for reconstruction and large useless earthworks. It loves to sit down and sort through its bag of odds and ends, its old kit-bag. To pull forty-pound stones out of the road surface, dig over the soil so that the stench of bare earth that has not removed its stone shirt for decades hangs over the city and then put everything back in place, open a tramline and light up street-lamps. The city, like the web of a goose's foot, lies mostly between the works. Its dwelling-houses are squeezed in between the factory blocks, huddling against the fences and afraid to be the first to take a single patch of vacant land without permission from the coal syndicate. Any narrow multi-familied back-street has only to take a run forward to find at its end a factory chimney standing like a watchman waving a smoky flag:
"Go back, this is Rhine Steel" or "this is Herkules" or "this is AEG".
So the very smallest houses have such a cramped look and bulging eyes. Black, half-blind, round-shouldered and capped with tiny roofs they cling to the walls of banks, plants and commercial offices. They are pits full of people which creep upwards because the terrible pressure is forcing them up from the ground.
All the plants in Essen city belong to Krupp and all its housing is the property of Stinnes. The ineffable squalour of the latter was until recently still entered as an asset in that concern's fabulous accounts.
But even where factories are compelled to move aside to let streets and tramlines through the fissures they still remain masters; the alleyways are so narrow that women could dry their washing on lines thrown across from one window to another. But instead, the works has stretched its own cables, pipes and bridges across the pavements. It strides over the roofs and blocks of flats like a giant across Lilliputian cottages. Quite unashamed, this lord and master: it ejects its waste directly on to the street, spitting steam, ash, water and grime on to the heads of passers-by. Every one rushing past the wide-open windows can see it beating its constant wife, pliant but unyielding steel, with a hammer. Children in their beds are awakened by her screeching and shrieking. Day and night the dormitories that hug the factories hear iron crying out like an infant in pain. Every object in workers' homes shudders like an anvil -- even though the blows are falling far away -- and adjusts its breathing to those sighs borne on the wind. The worker unconsciously puts his heart and his watch-- a silver miner's watch like an onion and with a fat black hand like a finger -- forward or back so as to be right by the works' hooter. Everything keeps the same time. Hundreds of thousands, an army of miners and metalworkers, move about, sleep, work, wake up and have their dinner without missing the pace, falling out of the column or breaking their march and never, even in the moments of deepest oblivion, cease to hear that martial music of labour issuing from the factories on to the city, its outskirts and the whole workpeople.
In all Essen there is only one spot where deep solemn stillness reigns. And that is not by any means the so-called'estates for the works long ago caught them up, swallowing them whole with their flower-beds and the bees that died from the coal-dust. Nor is it the country club where a speck of nature with grass, leaves and a fishing-pond has been specially set aside for loyal office workers and their children. (This club looks at everything with one eye, screwing the other tightly up and turning away so as not to see the factory chimneys that waft their dirty clouds of smoke even here, to this garden of delights for sixth-grade officials.) No, real stillness, one so deep that not even the best lift gliding down past every floor can plumb its depths, stillness insulated and shut off from the outside world by glass walls of silence, is in the main office and board room of the Krupp works. Not an office but, strictly speaking, a ministry. Not a board but a government. Oak, leather and halls as if for coronations. The portraits of kings are only incidental. In places of far greater honour are guns with their wives and godmothers; samples of steel and certificates awarded at international exhibitions. Something about the whole of it -- those expanses of officialdom, the deep pools of secrecy and staid respectability -- is more appropriate to both the Quai d'Orsay and the Foreign Office, or, in Petersburg, the old embankment or the gloomy house by the canal where the Reichswehr mission is today. Applicants who have gulped that atmosphere fall lifeless into the armchairs. Nearly everyone, even specialist technicians with top references, go away without achieving anything. Krupp has a crisis so Krupp has the pick. The firm's internal life is known to very few. Even his own people make mistakes.
"May I see Major von R.?"
The old functionary answers with a grin:
"You mean Colonel von R.?"
"What, since only last year?"
"Yes, Mr. Consul.. ."
They continue to move up the ladder of ranks that is not supposed to have existed after 9 November. They walk in single file or overtake each other in the slow promotion race while in the shadows someone shifts its faithful servants from one step to the next. Second lieutenants become lieutenants; lieutenants, captains; captains, majors. Quite young men take up the vacant posts in this force without fighting men, this army without lower ranks.
His own General Staff so, naturally, his own diplomatic corps. Over recent years it has shrivelled in size and been sharply reduced. The cannon king recalled his ambassadors long ago. Today they sit around the small houses built by Madame Krupp for her old domestic retinue, receiving tiny salaries and eating herring-tails with the daintiest family silver, while in drawing rooms where the crown prince's horsey face with its pair of bubbles under the eyes looks on they reminisce about the days when one word from the Krupp representative in Peking meant more than all the assurances of official envoys. Yuan Shih-kai would pay regular trips to a little Chinese house far from the hated European quarter where he would purchase advice and order guns. Then came the war -- and all was lost! Yet to this day what sources of information and what contacts Krupp has! In the Essener Zeitung brief items on foreign and, particularly, eastern affairs are indicative of a vast operation that is quietly in hand. While the Foreign Ministry gropes to find a route for German exports, here in Essen they have long understood what a Chinese market can mean for German industry. Her revolutionary struggle is followed with the closest attention, prices offered, relations renewed; they watch and they wait. I happened to get into an argument about China with one of the Krupp managers. To add the final telling weight to his argument he snatched open a desk drawer with an impatient motion, unfolded a fresh report and revealed first odd lines and then odd pages -- it was a resume of every movement and every word of Comrade Karakhan in Peking!
The rectangular tower on the roof of the main administrative block has outgrown all the other factory buildings on its skyward path, outreaching the sharp pinnacles of an old monastery that laboriously sends up to heaven its peals and laments about the machines whose constant vibration crumbles the church walls: 'O Lord, who shall come unto my fourth-century Christ with beads of sweat on his brow when a 25,000-ton blast furnace is smoking next door? O Lord, grant that this be not so!' But Essen's heaven has changed. It is just the cloudy vault of a railway station, the ceiling of an immense factory. Where the glass panes have been smashed you can see a bit of blue. But high up there a celestial ventilator quickly slams it out again.
A lift cuts a thick slice off the house of Krupp like a razor. First the applicants are left behind, then the lower floors fall away and finally, in the building's head, the corridors are grey and still like the coils of a brain. A young girl with a yellow complexion who drops up and down in her box for ten hours a day pushes the door back. How strange. Here is a dining-room set for ten people, as bright as a lighthouse around which the whistling wind lashes rain and soot against walls of glass. "Here", our escort whispers, a former officer with a scar-like mouth and a black glove on his wooden hand, "here the demigods dine".
Sitting at the table you can see Essen and all Krupp's kingdom. The history of German imperialism written out in lines of factory blocks with chimneys as punctuation marks. All around the horizon is scribbled over with them like notes in the margin of a ledger. Like a stock-jobber, the wind rubs them off the sky's board every minute and washes it down with a rainy sponge to write up new signs and figures. The smoke creeps up in long erratic lines as if representing the level of Krupp's yearly dividends. The sky is playing the stock-exchange, the sky is buying and selling.
Far below amid concrete and granite is the little wooden house with two windows where the first Krupp set to work a hundred years ago. He had wanted to take advantage of the weak state of British industry during the Latin American Wars of Independence and forge a powerful rival upon German anvils but lost all his fortune, was ruined and died in the little house while British steel ruled the world market undefeated. The crisis had ended too soon, the German bourgeoisie was still in nappies and its prophet who lacked both credit and cash was crushed together with his experiments and his one blast furnace. His son started from the beginning. For twenty-five years he worked to prepare steel's victory over iron. The victory of the steel gun cast in one piece over the old bronze cannon. He sent a top-quality steel ingot weighing 2,000 kilos to the London Exhibition of 1851. That lump, which gained a gold medal, was a warning that no one understood. It was destined twenty years later to flatten the French war industry. Within that ingot, before which the thousands of visitors had stood in ecstasy, was Sedan.
On the eve of the Franco-German War a prototype of the modern steel gun was already complete. Krupp had become a world name. Short and cast in one piece like his steel it boomed out first in Europe and then in Asia. It was uttered wherever thunder-clouds gathered. 'Krupp' meant'war: A new war whose horrors were still unknown to mankind, a new mode of death and a new strategy unlike those before. On the Ruhr, over in the west of Germany, all day and night plants smoked, furnaces blazed and the metal poured and cast to produce heavy guns, rifles, mortars, howitzers and explosive devices for anyone who could pay. It was the arsenal of the world.
Krupp was born a German and a patriot, in so far as any businessman can be a patriot of one country. That meant that the German Kaiser would be received at the Krupp court more frequently and informally than others seeking his friendship. Any new invention would be offered first to him. The fatherland was the first among customers. But if the fatherland could not pay or requested a deferment the goods would pass into enemies' hands. Pinner writes: 'In the days when Krupp threw the barrels of his guns on to the market for the first time, nobody was tormented with pangs of conscience or prejudices of a political nature. Everyone would without hesitation sell his instruments of murder to both friends and foes. Bismarck's wars were but a proving ground, the ordeal by fire, for his guns.'
Had the French government realised the superiority of Krupp's guns and hastened to re-equip its army the war of 1870 might well have ended differently.
The subsequent forty years were the period of the coming of age of German industry and its imperialism. Krupp turned into a whole state. He was one of the first to reconstruct his whole industrial process in the form of the vertical trust. Everything from coal-mines to engineering plants, from ore deposits to power stations. Everything at first hand, everything his own product. He made his rear secure and waged war against middlemen and whole alliances of middlemen for the independence of the raw material: ore, fuel and chemicals. His furnaces, plants and workshops acquired their own foreign colonies. Krupp conquered for them whole territories and seas of oil. He strangled his neighbours like chickens, swallowing up their assets or forcibly merging them with his own in the form of joint-stock companies.
On the very eve of the war, in 1913 probably, Krupp uttered a brilliant remark at a press banquet which passed as unnoticed as that lump of steel sixty years before:
"A factory must create its own demand."
Krupp made guns and war was his customer. In 1914 it broke out.
Never had the works flourished as it did in the first years of the war. 130,000 workers were employed in armaments manufacture. 40,000 would sit down at a time to eat in the factories. The old buildings were finished and new ones shot up at an incredible speed. Taking the first year of the war alone the firm's turnover rose from 33.9 million gold marks in 1913 to 86.4 million in 1914. Finally, on the outskirts where nowadays French soldiers have their firing practice and sing those merry songs, there grew a flat-roofed lizard, a dark red barn beneath which the earth shook night and day. The greatest gun plant in Europe. This, the Hindenburg Works, had arisen thanks to that celebrated plan for the militarisation of industry whose father the Field Marshal was considered to be. Simple, this plan: flood heavy industry with gold and cram the country's last resources into its maw but force it to turn out more guns than all the allies' plants put together. Krupp was beaten at this game. Vickers-Armstrong and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation proved the stronger. Today, the day the Hindenburg programme was implemented is regarded as the day of the German mark's final decline, the beginning of the fall and the beginning of the inflationary years.
No one had been so enriched by the war as Krupp. No one was dealt such a blow by the Versailles Peace as he. The machines that had produced the arms were blown up. Tools in the shell shops were wrecked or removed. Whole districts fell silent and dozens of chimneys stopped smoking. The pits and mines in Alsace, Luxembourg and the Saar passed mostly into the hands of French industrialists who treated them exactly as Krupp would have done in the event of victory. The sites of the now destroyed or paralysed installations have become yawning gaps. Fresh reserves of the raw materials, lost for ever at home across the Rhine, had to be found abroad.
Krupp made an attempt to switch over to peacetime rails. Hitherto he had never made things in the accepted sense of the word. But now he is largely following his original path: you can't make soup or sew dresses with his products. His plants produce not goods for consumption but the means of production. Krupp is a nursery for pedigree horse power, the breeding-ground for siring machines that will in turn beget countless generations of motors. His looms are like queen-bees from which the life of entire beehives springs. Their slim steel bodies toss out millions of feet of cloth and his lorries and cranes shift thousands of tons. Railway wheels are but bobbins around which space is wound self-emptying wagons, diesel engines, struts for overhead railways, harvesters and machines for potato-planting and spreading fertilisers. Rakes and mowers, shovels and locomotive boilers, oil storage tanks and pipes -- all are embryos of factories, the sperm of new airways and towns and the tonnage of fleets that will carry the crops of the next decades.
Nonetheless there are no trifles for Krupp today. Krupp scorns nothing. He has been forbidden to make guns. All right. He will make false teeth -- light, durable, stainless, odourless,tasteless steel jaws. Ten times cheaper than platinum and just as good. He fell upon the dairy maids, took away the rags and strainers through which they used to pour milk into the bottle and gave them lovely separators for twenty marks each. The great Krupp struck up a friendship with the smallest and darkest cinemas where the boss's daughter plays the piano. Now they will buy their projectors only from him. He tempted doormen's wives, little post-office clerks, old maids, schoolteachers and chemists into buying his magic lantern. He supplied thousands of grocers with their cash registers. Yet all these are still trifles, even all this is insufficient to stop the gap. Krupp has been caught off-balance. He must take a new stride forward and carry out a technical revolution if he is to beat the foreign competitor without guns and bayonets.
But there they still are, visible from the tower. At lunch every day the directors count up the dead shells with their eyes: the long flat roofs of the Hindenburg Works; there they lie in the midst of plants with a smell that seems to turn fouler every day like the carcass of a rotting whale. A silent polygon resembling a cemetery. A dead building beneath a dome looking like a dormant, black, Petersburg Admiralty: that's the factory that worked for the navy. There are the endless workshops of the gun plant lying drawn out like a gun's barrel, sealed up on the outside and empty inside with flights of stairs showing through the glass walls like bones through skin. Somewhere there booms not a cannon but a hammer -- a hydraulic press is stamping out cisterns and boilers for chemical plants. But this work too will soon come to a halt. Today boilers but tomorrow cannon again. No, it's better all blown up. The Control Commission is implacable.
The engineering plant that suffered so cruelly now works at half capacity and is the largest in Europe occupying an area 47,000 square metres. Its last big order was for locomotives for Russia. But many months have passed since then and Russia is making her own locomotives.
Away to the west are open-hearth furnaces with their clear yards, a square grey lake of water from underground, towers with the racing wheels of winding gear -- a few of those pits that are still operating -- gasometers, garages for hundreds and thousands of vehicles, a hunchbacked house -- the laboratory where a rustproof iron was discovered this year -- steel mills, more open hearths, blast furnaces, chemical works, textile machinery plants, all fanning outwards. Some of these have been snuffed out, others are half-empty, while yet others are working three shifts flat out, setting world productivity records with the lowest possible wages and the longest possible working day.
From this height it is all quite plain: these plants, factories and workshops are not standing still at all. They are moving and their movements are co-ordinated like on a chessboard or a battle plan. Some edge round their own corpses, stepping over their empty yards and structures, while others, weakened and unable to keep their feet, are assigned to the rear to re-arm and replenish themselves with new energy. The burden is being wholly shifted off their shoulders on to the stronger ones. The latter have to bear double the load as the clouds of smoke hang over Krupp' s camp like banners of the armies.
A crisis. Yes. Elsewhere, for the press, creditors and the workers at whose expense the silent technical revolution is being prepared, it is a palace coup by machines. But for these latter merely an acute coal crisis. Apparently German coal can no longer compete with British coal. The Ruhr's newspapers are full of the news that Russian coal which no one had taken seriously before, is beating German and British coal in the Balkans and throughout the Near East. Production costs must be brought down otherwise the economy will collapse -- that is the catchphrase of all the rightwing, democratic and social-democratic press. And so down with miners' pensions, down with their leave and public holidays, away with national insurance and pit safety legislation and away with all the proletariat's rights gained in a fifty-year battle.
In order to demonstrate the gravity of the crisis to the workers the Krupp family has resolved upon drastic measures. It has dismissed no less than forty footmen from its castle and moved from its palace, which was as large and ugly as a covered market, to a well-appointed town house. The magnanimous gentlemen are sharing their travails honestly with their workers. By saving on the wages of a couple of stable-lads Krupp can throw another few score thousand on to the streets with a clear conscience. Heavy industry's wounded body is convulsively shrinking. It rationalises its production and discards everything superfluous, everything with little or no profitability. Over the last few months some forty thousand men in Essen and the surrounding district alone have been thrown on to the street. Krupp feels no need to conceal the fact that a hundred thousand more will be sacked this winter. The state -- that means the taxpayer and that means the worker -- will feed these armies of unemployed and their families at its own expense so as to give Krupp and Stinnes a chance to hatch their conspiracy without undue losses: a conspiracy for an uprising of manufacturing industry. Coal -- yes, that's what the uprising is directed against. Coal is the black bread of industrial plants which for just over a hundred years has kept the world dependent upon its prices and quality. In order not to be totally overthrown it must adopt a constitution, accept concessions, dissolve itself, turn liquid and share equal rights with the brown coal it had hitherto held in contempt.
The Versailles Treaty exploded and halted half Krupp's works. But it did leave in the hands of the German bourgeoisie its great and inexhaustible source of wealth: that sinewy backbone of Ruhr miners and metalworkers. Krupp, by supporting himself on this spinal column, today makes convulsive attempts to drag himself out of the crisis. Not just to darn holes but to take a new step forward. German social democracy and its trade unions are assisting Krupp's stabilisation as loyally as they had assisted him during the war. For only under their cover can the uprising of the machines be carried out, metallurgy's Ninth of Thermidor.
The Barracks and a Cobbler's Wife
In Germany a man out of work is not threatened with starving to death. The benefit that he receives from the state is, as they say here, too little to live on but too much to die on. An unemployed man will continue to exist on the brink of utter poverty. He has nothing except a piece of dry bread. A family man is in no position to afford a flat, however small, out of this assistance. Once thrown out of his factory he automatically flies from the block, neighbourhood and district where he has lived for many years and where a communist may maintain dangerous contacts. Then the city authority will allocate him accommodation somewhere on the outskirts in an empty abandoned barracks, a regimental stable converted into a hostel or an unoccupied ordnance depot. These are the special concentration camps of poverty: godforsaken stone barns that the Empire had built for the soldiery but which the republic now settles with unreliable workers.
No grass grows on these fields trampled by decades of Prussian drilling. Ragged children play in sewage puddles around the sentry-boxes.
These huge structures that spat entire armies on to the battlefields, stand empty, murky and desecrated. With what bile must the hearts of the former officers who have moved on to the neighbouring Reichswehr barracks be filled when they see a worker's hand-cart, laden with shabby goods and chattels, jingling and trundling in the heat of the day over the field of Mars towards this drab, dismal hermitage.
The wives of the poor folk attach washing-lines to the old eagles on the gates and dry their rags on the sacrosanct window ledges of the officers' former quarters. A lame red-haired cobbler, now eighteen months out of work 'because of politics' has dragged a soldier's old stove out of the ruined barracks and saws it in half in the sunshine, making ready for a hard winter.
All efforts to make these dead buildings warm and human have been in vain. Objects have been taken from their natural intimacy and spread out, standing heavily to attention along the naked wall. It is impossible to fill barns designed for forty soldiers each with this debris from shipwrecks. The emptiness swallows them up. A bare-footed, bandy-legged child shuffles around on the mucky parquet floor, part of which went for fuel last year when there were not enough panes in the vast and always open windows like eyes without lashes. The second child has died.
Two beds side by side where the father and mother and the boy with his fourteen-year-old sister sleep. A cheerless cur sits in between and yawns.
Every day the communist cobbler's wife washes down the endless corridor out of fear and a desire somehow to appease the hostile house whose walls repeat footsteps and words aloud but without expression. She does this in order to try and come to terms; paying the barracks a pledge of human warmth which the walls accept with as much indifference as a field-marshal accepts a naive bribe from a raw recruit.
But Frau Schumacher need only lift her head to lose her last hope. The old barracks with its dead face repeats from its walls the only words left to it: "Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen" Learn to suffer without complaining) or "Ordnung regiert die Welt" (order rules the world).
And wherever the poor Frau turns with her bucket and floor-cloth, barrack-room virtue greets her at every step with a fist to her head.
Receiving seven marks a week for four, living on this isle of the dead and knowing that in the evenings in the cramped space her little girl cannot get to sleep for a long time but listens morbidly to every movement and every sigh of her parents-- all that's nothing. But hearing that incessant voice from the past prattling with a sluggish tin tongue about valeur and obedience, yellow Uhlan uniforms and dashing Hussars who have long ago rotted away somewhere on the Marne or in the Russian snows is just too much.
This winter one more rickety little boy will perhaps no longer be. Perhaps the cobbler himself will pass away for it is hard for him to drag himself along in the rain and cold, damp spells to the labour exchange on his skidding crutches. Yet those spectres will live on and another proletarian family which comes to perish in this unlocked prison where the gates have been ripped from their hinges, where the wind from the field sweeps the crumbling stonework down the corridors and from where there is as little escape as from any other prison, will be greeted by those Fredericuses and the drum-beat of dead bones.
"Furchtlos und treu für Gott, Kaiser und Vaterland." (fearless and true for God, Kaiser and Fatherland) Only one window shines in the dark of the unlit buildings -- one gold tooth inside big dead jaws. When it is dark and particularly cold the eagles painted on the ceiling find their way out into the black yard and scratch up the scraps among the rubbish that the cobbler's hens did not manage to peck out.
Into the filthy heaps they dip their pedigree heads adorned with the bald down of the old empire.
Madame Fritzke runs around in stockinged feet so as not to make a noise down those corridors. She is a Ninon de Lenclos of the wastes and on her face love life is packed up in large grey bags.
The atmosphere of this building harms her life: her hairnet, ear-rings and 'Kasan' face-powder all dissolve in it. In the sober light the pipes of her long narrow trousers show horribly clearly through her torn skirt.
Madame Fritzke was widowed during the war. Everyone will sell what they have: since then hundreds have tugged at her breasts, just as the chain is tugged in the lavatory, until they have become long and always seem to be wet. If you were to cut through the lace of her collar they might drop on to the floor and melt away into two large puddles. In this way Frau Fritzke had saved her children from starving to death in the years of the war and inflation. The state that had taken their father from them and spent their orphan's benefit on subsidies to Krupp and Stinnes, has now decided to take them away from their immoral mother. A policeman will arrive in a few days' time and remove the stubborn plump boy and the twelve-year-old girl, an imbecile who has continual fits, to a Catholic orphanage.
August, Frau Fritzke's last friend, had married these relies of love in order to save the family. They had gone along in triumph to the registry office; she, ski-ing over the dust in her narrow lacquered slippers, he in a paper collar reeking of petrol looking as solemn as fate. This heroic measure was the talk of the whole camp but was of no avail.
Fritzke collected together references from her previous employers from which it was clear that she had not only been a prostitute but also a charwoman and that if the morality police gathered up all the filth, muck, soot and cobwebs she had carried out of other people's flats on her back they would have a pyramid in honour of her scorned labour.
But the assessors are adamant. Frau Fritzke weeps. The rings round her eyes are like those drawn with an umbrella in the sand.
An Iron Cross
If you land in the barracks sit down in their depths and don't stir. It's all right for Frau Fritzke to wear her crepe-georgette dress and put special rubber pads on her corns so that they do not break through her shoes but that's her profession.
The cobbler's wife is entitled to heat her curling-irons on the communal stove until her hair--and its nits--crackle, because she married the cobbler (everyone knows this) out of pure love when he was already legless. But nobody else dares raise a comb. Here there is no point in putting on an appearance to impress people with a false idea of your supposed income. Everyone lives in a complete nakedness like snails squashed on the road weakly twitching their horns surmounted by never despairing eyes. So when someone like Mr. Boss is ashamed of his pawnshop receipts and allows no one in his room in case they find out about his feather-bed without a slip and the red pillows out of which the feathers are spurting (which everyone long ago knew about anyway), the affectation is offensive.
In this house, as in paradise or the precinct of a country church, middle-class shame stays behind the gates guarded by the fiery sword of the angel of poverty. If anyone attempts to feel ashamed he at once upsets the others and they too must waste their energies on fig-leaves of pretence which can fool no one. The house, for its part, despises Boss along with the collar on his bare body, the medal on his tummy and that voice sounding as if he'd dined today.
But were it known how much smarting humiliation and bitterness had accumulated right inside those former field marshal's quarters of his! If anyone had slept on nails and gone grey with hot ashes it was that same Boss who for thirty-four years had worked in a War Department powder-mill.
All his life he was separated from ordinary men by an oath. Men who had taken this soldier's vow of silence entered neither trade union, party nor workingmen's pub. Even reading newspapers of any tendency whatsoever was regarded as improper and suspicious within the gates of the power-mill. What General Staff officers kept quiet about for big money, high ranks, plumed helmets and tiers of decorations on their chests, workers in the powder-mills and munitions plants kept quiet about for nothing, content with the confidence placed in them. That seemed to have turned them from mere hired workers into partners in government. The Kaiser himself was, as it were, indebted to the armaments workers for their modesty and disinterestedness. They loved the dynasty like paupers whose hard-earned pennies a millionaire had deigned to accept from them as credit. And when the war came and gold was smelted into powder and iron, the government actually did do Mr. Boss a great honour by reaching its hand out for his savings book. When that most confidential adviser, the manager's wife, visited his flat with her daughter and servant to offer the old worker a few war-loan bonds, how great was the trepidation and self-sacrifice with which Boss threw all his savings into that abyss!
Ten-pfenning pieces evaporated into thin air like dew. Marks turned to smoke before Boss had time to wipe away his tears of emotion.
As for gold coins-- there were 132 of them -- no one heard even a slight sound as they fell to the very bottom of the inflation. But Boss was happy.
Since then five, no, more--seven whole years have passed.
The world was drenched in blood, made a convulsive bid to free itself but was finally skinned over with a thin membrane of stabilisation broken by black ice-holes of starvation and unemployment.
When the Vertiko (a small cabinet), rocking-chair and clock, received from the works for twenty-five years of irreproachable service, were loaded on to a hand-cart Boss still believed in God and justice.
When his wife came home from the pawnshop with a receipt instead of the personally inscribed silver clock with the imperial monogram, he still held out and did not let her talk at table about their elder son killed in action.
But when all the sacrifices had been offered up and the still patient and devoted Boss began to be overcome by the great tiredness that suddenly descends upon a worker when he is nearing sixty -- his eyes were growing dim, his hands became weak and dithery and his saliva, poisoned with alcohol and ether, began to come out as rank yellow spittle -- then Boss received his notice. Two billion in fake money and a room in a dead barracks. Suddenly it occurred to him that he too was a worker. What a fright! What loneliness! Stripped bare and crushed in the wheels of a blind machine, Boss, a grain of sand, Boss, a splinter, all at once tumbled into the great sea of his class, right to its bed where there is neither light nor hope.
Above him rolled dark waves, 1919 and then 1921. Boss lay still and saw only revolutionary ships wrecked in battle coming to the bottom from time to time and settling down beside him. With flags on their broken masts and dead men on shattered decks. The best sons of mankind, its stormy petrels, the madly brave Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.
In those long hours of miserable idleness, Boss would take a box stuffed with now worthless money out from under the bed, and sit over it for evenings and sit over it for days.
The wallpaper in the room is grey with red specks faded with time -- as if here and there had gushed a fountain of human life which spattered it and ran dry.
The veins in Boss's legs swelled up: his tired blood was begging to go back to the earth.
Tall and dressed in a coffee-coloured jacket, with a medal on his watch-chain and leaning on a crutch, he goes to meet his wife who, despite her grey hair, has started as a worker at the tobacco factory. Everyone in the area knows Minna -- there are no other faces like hers. It is a whiter-than-white mask of such beauty that you want to stand up before it and bow to the ground. In his youth Boss was shrill, imperious and insistent, considering it his duty to torment her to keep the family's equilibrium. After work this face with tiny beads of sweat on the forehead shines like plaster-of-paris.
Through the walls of basements and attics, prisons and factories, there seeps and oozes the still, quiet river of labour solidarity, drops gathering into streams, streams into rivers and seas. With infinite patience it laps against stones and iron bars, undermining, gouging and washing away grain after grain of sand to break surface at the right day and hour in a torrent of indignation.
Such a day came for boss, too. His neighbour, the cobbler, raised himself up to the first floor, took a rest, got himself to the second, knocked at the door and opened it. He had come to offer Boss an Arbeiter Zeitung (a communist newspaper).
A deep silence fell upon his lodging. The white Minna turned even whiter and hid in the kitchen. The cobbler sat down. The paper cost twenty pfennings. Boss, nearly choking in his tie, paid the twenty for it and flung on the table another, grey, spiked coin with a little ring on one side.
"Take that sh-t! That's all I've earned in my life."
The Iron Cross.
"Für Kriegshilfsdienst" (for war service behind the lines.) WR and a crown.
These are warm comfortable slippers made of camel hair. Everyone thinks they are foreign, most often English, because of their checkered design and takes them in carriages on international trains. Four marks fifty pfennings a pair.
As a matter of fact these luxurious 'Anglo-Saxons' are made in the town of Hanau by special slipper seamstresses and at home what's more. The slippers are haughty, fearing to open their mouths and breathe lest they betray their lowly origin. They reek of poverty. Frau Kremer gets four marks for a hundred slippers. In an hour she can complete five. Her daughter, in only her second year in this job, can sew seven slippers in fifty-five minutes. To learn for forty years only to be beaten by the automatic advantage of energy. Like a cabman's horse. However many years it may have clattered its hooves on the road, its skill does not thereby increase. If she jabs the needle in at lightning speed, pressing it with her pet corn, it make no odds -- she's already an old jade. Any country foal will outjump her simply because it is twenty years younger.
The maximum straining of effort cannot increase her earnings. The faster the needle flies, the more often the cheap, weak thread breaks and her employer gains also. It is all calculated and measured out so meanly that the seamstress not only cannot save a single pfenning but has to put in some herself.
It is very tempting to sew slippers padded with cotton-wool. A young working girl ignorant of the craft easily falls into that trap. For every warm pair the factory owner pays not ten but all of fifteen pfennings. But you won't catch Mrs. Kremer with such a bait. Let others burn their fingers: for she knows that it is all a matter of needles. Pushing through a double sole is harder than a normal one. But for both types you are supplied with exactly the quantity of needles. Three per hundred. As if she didn't know that with cotton-wool the most dexterous seamstress will break at least ten. And that's not all. The tricks and ruses by which the last drop of energy can be squeezed out of a human being are endless. It is easier to sail a ship around the Cape of Good Hope than to stitch a bulky sole so that not a single stitch can be seen.
Add it up: how many plain ones can a woman sew in an hour? Five. But with the padding, only three. An extra pfenning will go on needles but for the same sixty minutes the boss will give ten pfennings less. It is not for nothing that Frau Kremer with her hunched back, black rags and a wad of cotton-wool in her ear oozing with pus, resembles a statue of sorrow and distrust. If life itself passed right by her today with outstretched arms she would only purse her lips and hide her store of finished slippers further out of the way.
This room, with its sideboard without crockery, purple feather-beds which the fluff leaks out of, uncleared chamber-pot and a kitchen, with no water and no lavatory, whose ceiling, unpainted and unpatched for ten years, is peeling with soggy scabs and Frau Kremer herself, like a mouse fallen into an anthill and half-gnawed to pieces, all have but one means of defence: total distrust. They vote against everything. Frau Kremer says: the SPD are rogues, every word they say is a lie, and the communists are cowards. They let 1923 slip by. What does it matter to her whether the party was ready for struggle or how many more months or years of petty boring work might still be necessary in order to lead the proletariat to victory? And when will that be?!
She needs help now, at this minute, or otherwise never, because Frau Kremer's energies are coming to an end and she is 'dying in harness'.
When a mouse is mortally terrified it stares to sweat. It becomes wet all over with fear. So where should Frau Kremer await the revolution, covered as she is with the perspiration of the final weariness?
"I cannot join a trade union. It is forbidden to work for such a low rate in the union. Then they'll demand that I give up the job."
But in Frau Kremer's home it's a big labour holiday: her one son, a fifteen-year-old boy employed at a cigar-box factory, is on strike for the first time in his life. The strike began three weeks ago and 135 people are taking part. Without a hope of success-strikebreakers are converging from neighbouring villages in droves.
The old woman is silent. Neither a word of reproach nor a single complaint. To be true to herself she acts as if nothing has happened, as if she does not notice his presence. After all, she doesn't believe in strikes, or socialism or even smallpox. Everything that originates from the masters is a big swindle. For a whole year she hid her grandson from the municipal doctor. Anyway they dragged him off to hospital the other day and pricked him all over and there, wasn't she right? Four pock-marks had opened up under the dirty shirt on his little arm.
But how Frau Kremer puts out her son's plate on the table and how she gazes at his tall manly back leafing around the larder! How she tells the neighbours, raising her eyebrows and guardedly expecting a rebuke:
"My son's on strike."
For being true to his class, for the solidarity that passes from generation to generation and the young courage that does not remember past defeats, the old dead tree waves its last branch to him without a sound.
He a Communist and She a Catholic
Workers who have been deprived of their livelihood because of their political unreliability belong mostly not to the younger but the older generation. The young peasant lad who is in the way in the house will go off to the factory whatever the wage a nd however long the hours if only to get himself a couple of marks for his beer, a bicycle and a fashionable suit with knee-breeches for Sundays. He eats and drinks at his father's for nothing. The older generation of workers that has passed through a twenty-five year school of trade union and revolutionary struggle is, in spite of its relatively high rates of pay and its position as an aristocracy of labour, far less compliant, having no desire to yield its final positions without a battle.
The result of any resistance, however cautious and moderate, is dismissal. At first the worker is not depressed. He has excellent references covering twenty or twenty-five years, a revival can be discerned in his trade and to-morrow if not today a vacancy will be created somewhere. Anyway his wife is working as a domestic help for the family of some well-to-do person and earns quite a decent wage.
At the beginning no one reminds him of the cruel law of unemployment. It comes into force by itself. The one who feeds the family becomes the head of the household. Returning from a hard day's stint he likes to sit down to a good spread laid on the table in a clean tidy dwelling. The children must be washed and brushed before his return, their noses wiped and their homework checked. But then, three days later, father slams the front door behind mother, meekly puts her apron on and sets about the housework. He does the dusting, cleans the windows with a cloth, washes the dishes, rinses out the rags he cleaned the pots and pans with, takes out the slops, sluices down the kitchen floor, makes the bed, hangs out the feather-bed over the window sill and when it has been warmed through in the sun puts it back in its place with meticulous care.
We Russians haven't the least conception of the ritual of cleanliness and order which the wife of an average or even the poorest German worker performs every day in her home. You can sit and watch her for hours, cleaning, washing and scrubbing her kitchen, crockery and linen. Not just flipping a wet rag round now and again like we do. No, under the divan, behind the stove, along the window-sill and in the farthest corners where no one ever peeps. All this must now be carried out by her reluctant husband. And just as in good times past he would run his finger along the stove to check that there was not a speck of dust and not forgive his wife for a single grain or a single spot missed, so now it is he who must answer to her. She is the head of the household who feeds the family. He is the subordinate, obedient domestic help, a nanny in trousers, a washer-up in his own hearth and home. In the depths of his soul every German regards his wife as his servant and looks down on her work. As he shuffles the wife's mop into the corners, sits over a bag of potatoes and gets the dinner ready the husband feels degraded beyond measure. These workers see things just as any petty-bourgeois does. One very good comrade who had been unemployed for several years said to me with deep bitterness, pointing to his sleeves rolled up to the elbows, with a brush in one hand and the wife's boot in the other:
"See what wretched humiliation unemployment brings us. I, a man, have to clean the old woman's shoes."
Insulted and injured in his masculine pride, a father attempts to restore the balance by other means. On pay day, when his wife will lay out her week's earnings on the table with a feigned modesty, he walks up and down ail day, gloomy, irritable and pained. A furious scene erupts over dinner:
"Who's master in the house -- you or me?"
The thump of a fist on the table. An old lash comes off the wall. The children scream. Mother begs forgiveness. After dinner the parents go off to the bedroom. He makes her beg for a long time. She gets undressed, staring at him with imploring eyes. He violates her with hatred and makes her cry out so loud that it can be heard on the staircase and finally sends her downstairs for some cigarettes. Never, even in the days of good money, had he loved his wife with such a jealous love; never had she fancied caresses more than now, when they had in effect to be bought.
A husband gradually turns into his wife's souteneur.
"I'll soon become her Alphonse," said little Kamm, the one who was cleaning the boots. His situation is further complicated by the fact that his wife springs from an old-established catholic peasant family, with portraits of the Kaiser and Kaiser's wife, Augusta, masses on Sunday and a grandfather who is the standardbearer of the veterans' association of the 166th Regiment of blue-and-yellow Uhlans. They had been against the marriage all along. Why on earth had he, a short, restless foundryman who changed bosses like gloves, married the tall, fine honest peasant maid! A little husband cannot keep a family! ...
Now that Kamm has fallen into material dependence on the old folks, her family seeks to review the whole family constitution to the advantage of the wife and children and at the expense of the dissolute husband. Yes, little grandaughter Lieschen can spend the whole summer with grandpa and grandma and it won't cost a penny. On Saturdays they will send dumplings, lard and goose to the town but granddaughter must go to church and not miss a single mass. If the young ones want to be supported, father must tell the child that God exists and that all godless ones will land in hell. What can you do! You have to put up with it. Fortunately Lieschen shares her father's sceptical mind and his French guile. They understand each other by hints.
"Lieschen," says Kamm to his daughter, sitting her on his knees, "you remember I told you there isn't a God and that heaven is just a silly tale for children! Lieschen, look at me in the eyes: I made a mistake, I told you an untruth. He's really sitting up in the sky and he sees and knows absolutely everything."
The old folk are standing by him and watch their son-in-law's mouth like a card-player's hand. The little one nods:
"I see, daddy.
Kamm knows his own sort. "What a good thing the child is as cold as a dog's nose to all these tricks," he thinks.
Kamm has been out of work now for three years. He does the washing, bakes the bread and has learnt to darn stockings. There is no end to the reproaches. With continual talk about how the poor chap has driven his family to poverty, how the party makes use of men when they're working in the factory but abandon them in poverty, you can go out of your mind.
"What have you got for your privations? They haven't even appointed you as a minor official in the party!" He escapes from all this into work. In the winter he goes round the villages as a roving agitator; he ascends the Vögelsberg and climbs the Spessart hills. He is the first to have dared speak as a communist in public in a settlement of old Waldensians, erstwhile partisans of the great peasant wars and now rich peasants secludedly living a viciously miserly life far away from the world. Each of them is in fact wealthy, with up to sixty acres a piece but not a horse or a labourer to work them. Inflation has gobbled down their money but without machines and fertiliser how can you wring a crop out of the cold brutal ground? Deceived by the faith of their fathers and themselves, the village commune drove from the settlement both the priests and the recruiting agents of the various parties, the votehunters for the presidential elections. Kamm has not yet won a single supporter from among these embittered Old Believers, but it is only to him that the grim-looking old men in broad-brimmed medieval hats and their womenfolk in white caps looking like starched kites, give their greetings.
In the remotest upland settlements where it is almost impossible to till the soil because of the frequent rain that washes all the manure downhill, they know his face, which could pass for either eighteen or forty years of age, his satchel of newspapers and halting step.
"That chap's not satisfied with watching beans come up," the hewers from the basalt mines say of him, wild men, farmhands, forest poachers, the dearest friends of the prince' deer that enjoy an immunity in the forests along the Rhine as if they were diplomats. It is quite true that Kamm does not have even a kitchengarden or an allotment out of town with a summer-house and a lettuce-bed where the German proletarian potters about so happily after his day's work. The vicar of Griesheim whom they get tied up with on Sundays after the sermon once said of him:
"A spiteful, biting mouth" and "a poisonous little spider".
But all the mountain tracks lead down to the valley again.
After the long wanderings he has to go home. And at home there waits the pious, wicked wife, the tall beautiful peasant girl with the perpetually downcast eyes, imperious, greedy and burning. Twenty times Kamm has left never to return and twenty times he has turned back for Lieschen's sake -- for "his own blood". If he goes off who will protect her from the priests, the old women and her mother's false beliefs?
The most horrible part, the retribution and punishment, begins when the children are already asleep, the door locked and the windows corked up; the whole middle-class house is obligingly silent and turns a blind eye.
Now she is undressing. An iron corset and savagely tightened, unpuncturable, fireproof breastplates. Alien in spirit, hostile to his every thought and booklet on his table, she is happy in his defeats and rejoices with his enemies yet she is more unscrupulous in bed than any street-girl. Would they ever! What prostitute could conjure up what the devout middle-class girl is up to on the quiet on a legal footing in her own home with the blinds down; with a husband obliged to love and satisfy her even though for her, he is, God forbid, not fit for anything else because of his idiotic communist ideas! He that does not work, neither shall he eat!
The sharper the encounter, the deeper the defeat that follows. Having taken her fill the woman sinks back like a swollen tick only to show at once, with her hair scarcely straightened and her nightdress still creased up, that "all that" can change nothing in their relationship. Everything remains as before.
"Don't forget to remind me, Hans, that tomorrow we have to buy a prayer-book for Lieschen, are you listening! The Old and the New Testaments."
"Sit down here and don't move! if anyone sees you and starts talking to you, keep your mouth shut!"
The door slammed and a miner's lamp tilted in the direction of the miners' shed. Shafts of light from the windows of the nearby generating plant lie like white leaves across the Works Committee's table. The walls are bare and a loud snore resounds from the shadows. Or so at least it seems. That's the compressor breathing, forcing air down underground. You count and measure those sighs with infinite jealousy. Is it better or worse than in Russia! The engineers pass by on their way underground for the night. Their shadows wave sleeves across the floor.
"Well, let's go. Take longer steps. Right hand in your pocket. And your cap further down."
Now the lift is hurtling into an abyss. A modest little cage. For the pit is not a large one. About eight hundred men are employed here -- it has survived only because its coal can be tossed straight on to the Rhine. Yet this is the Ruhr, Germany's most technically developed region.
Two hundred, three hundred metres. Down the shaft's black gullet twinkle golden fissures marking the different levels. They clank with the sound of tub wheels and again the platform stands still while the damp slime of the walls, humming gloom and the depths rush to meet it at indescribable speed. Longer than a whole flight of stairs yet lasting only a few seconds during which the cage pulls up and settles carefully upon some levers which stretch upwards to meet it. It gropes blindly for the floor level although an underground station with bright lighting, trains and people stands right in front of it.
The air which had been stuffed into your ears like cottonwool has now leaked out.
From the black galleries somebody seems to be calling out in Russian, so intelligible are the sounds of the pair of rails disappearing into the darkness, converging towards the sloppy churned-up mud between them, the pony's neighing, the smell of dung from a stable nearby and the quiet singing of water braiding its streams into plaits over the coals. No matter where he comes from the foreigner will read the signs of international labour on these German walls with a private shiver and a sure and deep excitement. For the stillness of the pit is filled with a wordless tongue common to all the world. The earth's alphabet is even simpler than tapping on prison cell walls. Its runic characters are made of tough pine and the branches and crowns of oak. You find yourself smiling! What thin trunks are used here for the pit's backbone, what slender graceful trees. They stand as if on a forest fringe in the calm before a storm, bent to one side. On them lies the weight of mountains. They heed the course of these ranges and are bent by their imperceptible motion. The cavity behind the bulkheads has to firmly be stopped up with boulders. The overman walks up and down these coops woven out of the wood. The stones peep between the twigs and touch his hands with their dumb muzzles and cold animal snouts. Isn't there more space out there! Has that demonic gravity, crushing down to entomb, squeezed in from behind! Can he really not throw open this grave, stick his feet into the earth's belly and push it back with his untiring hands?
Beware! On the wet wall the pit writes one warning after another with its wooden joists, just as a deaf-mute forms letters from matchsticks. Can't you see how badly the work has been done here, Stonefalls give a hollow ring. Cold leaks out of the cracks. Here there is nothing, there is a void and over there it will fall out, pour through and slide down. And pressing, pressing down unbearably.
At a glance all is in order. The neat and carefully made pit almost resembles an underground farm. There are no luxuries or signs of special opulence but everything is in place and fits well. The concrete areas are bright as gold and fresh straw gleams in the stables. The plump well-fed ponies can each pull fifteen loaded tubs and push up to four in front with their chests. The water brought here from the other levels murmurs peacefully as in a village mill. At the end of the western gallery a dam stands like a bastion. Behind it a well has been sealed off: a few years ago a drunk drank himself silly and drowned himself. They had tried to push forward in that direction but snakes of water shot out with such an evil hiss and an unexpectedly high pressure that the breach had to be plugged quickly with a concrete cork. Since then there has been order and calm in that sector too; the pony-men, like shepherds, have simply stopped driving their flocks that way.
But alarm signals persist from the steps along the very first offshoots branching off the main trunk. Why hasn't the timbering been replaced for so long! Nearer the light stand dry trunks treated with a special compound that protects them from damp. Oak is like iron. But this costly method has evidently been dropped years ago. Dampness happily flowers in frothy sponges everywhere. Whole rows of clean trees suffer from it like a bad disease. They stand in silence not letting each other down. Only the water quietly sniggers as the overman unpicks their porous skin with his lantern hook to reveal immediately soft wet reddening flesh.
Keep walking. You are soon in a dark side-burrow. My legs, spread apart, fumble along the upper joist; the roof pressing on my head comes down lower. Here are the old corridors where coal is no longer won. They look like drunkards, wandering now to one side and now the other, getting booted back by the mass pressing on either side. Barely managing to make the exit, they drop their rotting crutches and feel the ceiling settle down on to their necks. Broken, snapped, crushed props are everywhere. As if after a pogrom. A naked imprint of neglect, miserliness and poverty lies upon it. You stumble at every step on traces of a criminal thrift and a wretched fear of expenditure.
The footsteps that passed slowly by us behind the wall belonged to the boss's son-in-law, a former Prussian officer. During the coal crisis economising extended even to the staffing of the pit. In 1918 this young man knew nothing about mining. Although he did not manage to complete his course and gain a qualification he can now in these hard times replace a dismissed overman. Ever since economising on wood, nails and even lamp-oil started anxiety has increasingly often driven this man with his old soldier's sense of duty underground. He shouts at the workers, telling them off for extravagance and for not knowing how to save on materials. That is why as soon as the men turn away he rushes to the face, studies the joists, squeezes himself into its every corner, taps and eavesdrops on the danger with a quaking heart. This individual surprises the workers day and night with his unexpected appearances and it's hard to say what they hate him most bitterly for: the affected coolness with which he drives them to work in dangerous, poorly reinforced places, those miserable pangs of conscience and fear of responsibility oozing from every pore of his pale, puffy face, or that infinite lack of self-confidence that saps the courage of others. A boorish animal that cares nothing for itself and cuts short other men's fear would be better than this miserable sergeant-major in whom an antiquated sense of honour rots and stinks like a bad tooth.
In that night of subterranean roving we nevertheless ran into him at one of the crossroads. He was sitting on the ground propped up against the wall, his lamp between his sharp knees. Two workers were silently clearing stones that had collapsed on the railway track to the accompaniment of his monotonous, persistent droning. Sweat shone on their bare backs trickling down their ribs to wash out white gashes in their black skins. Meanwhile the manager went on sitting and scourging them with the birch rod of his tedious discourse. The muscles of the men at work swelled and crawled in front of him in silence.
"Let me tell you: had you not stabbed us in the back in 1918 everything would have been different. Yes, the seven-hour day too and we wouldn't have had to save on every pfenning. Look, for instance, this ceiling could cave in and kill one of you. Who would be to blame? In your opinion, the boss. No, not the boss. Yourselves. You should not have had the revolution."
The overman fell silent all of a sudden and his ears pricked up like an animal's. What did he take fright at? True, there is a boiler nearby where rising air deposits its moisture. Every tap, every blow resounding in the most remote part of the pit echoes through its depths with a quiet rustle. The boiler lies still, listens, and rings like a seashell in the stillness.
What was it? Or did I imagine it? Of course I did. The cast-iron vessel again hisses as if rocking a baby crying in its sleep. A nauseating fear. You can see someone else spew up and you feel queer yourself. One of the workers lifts his eyes, filled with deep hatred, towards the overman but he had moved off in time.
The pit is a black book. Telling how the earth makes war on man and also how, here under the ground, man, the boss, makes war on his own workers. Water washes away walls, erodes ceilings and rots wooden structures. While behind the miners' backs walks the owner, forcing them to work rapidly and carelessly, plundering the wood of the timbers for his own use, dragging out every superfluous prop from the face, tugging every bit of wood from the creeping walls and snatching every spare joist from menacingly overhanging ceilings. He looses danger from its chain and unties death's hands to gain the extra penny. He is a marauder looting his own army and sending it into battle with rotten weapons into positions that he himself has undermined, weakened and surrendered.
The Works Committee does everything possible to obstruct such 'business activity' by the pit-owner. My escort, I won't mention his name or his face -- let the brim of his miner's cap conveniently cover his coal-smeared features -- swings his lamp to the right and left to dispel the importunate blackness weighing in on all sides, and from time to time slaps the wall with his hand and strokes the coal like a black horse with a dewy-wet mane. He says with pride: "This is our doing. Sec those iron brackets that secure the steep ladders? Before, they stood free. A miner'd risk his life using them. See the oblong manhole in the floor covered by the wooden hatch? Management bargained about it till one of the workers whose lamp had gone out fell through and was killed. See those steel bolts: the two bars jutting up where the railway track suddenly breaks off at the edge of the shaft? They cost the lives of several of us and were got at the cost of a strike. They weren't there before. A pony would trot gaily forward with its tub, put its coal on the platform and then go back. Sometimes the lift would be late and then the tub, pony and driver would drop into the void. Over there in the wall is a new strut. Several nails stick out of it. I have the authority to rip those clean out and fine the overman for negligence because in the event of the smallest landslide this thing with nails on the end could kill a man. Only two or three years ago I couldn't have done so."
Throughout the colliery there is evidence scattered of the Works Committee's small victories but down the deep shafts lie its defeats in graves. Drifting up from those cellars sealed up by reaction comes a hollow groaning. Down below, those buried alive raise their fists to the roofs of their earthen coffins in impotent rage. There all is crushed, disillusioned, filled with distrust and despair.
The coal face. From far off the miners' movements seem somehow strange. Or do they just appear so through the dim lamplight? If lunatics can go on with their work without opening their eyes, their arms constrained by deep slumber, they would undoubtedly move like those face-workers repairing the coal-shute. The oldest of the three workmates sits a little on one side on a pile of new boards and watches our approach with completely white eyes. He is fast asleep and his eyelids, unsoiled by coal-dust, stand out in the middle of his face like two cataracts. He can now hear his name mentioned and the light from our lamps strikes those pale shades; yet he still cannot open them. Eventually they lift slowly like an iron curtain.
"Why are you still here?"
"We're not leaving tonight."
"Your shift finished a long while ago."
"We're now on the third shift here. He didn't let us off."
Previously the boss had permitted these three workmates, who lived some fifty kilometres from D. and came to work by rail, to leave the face ten minutes before rime. Not out of the kindness of his heart but because the gang is virtually the best in the mine and to lose such men just for the sake of a few minutes was not worthwhile. Today the foreman met them by the lift and sent them back. Their train left without them of course. To go home by the next one in the middle of the night would mean being late for the morning shift. Lateness means dismissal. Having waited at the station for two hours they went back below ground. So they crept back here not knowing what to do, humiliated, tired, perhaps already unemployed. The coal sparkles under their hacks like the snow of this hard winter they are all thinking about, lifting their heads longingly towards a narrow crack as if morning would dawn through the thickness of the earth.
Two were not in any party and one was an old convinced SPD man. When he realised what was afoot, the Menshevik worker quickly put his implement down and lowered himself so as to stand guard at the nearest corner.
"But relieve me when you lot have had your say. I want to hear about Russia too."
Three times night had swung the heavy gong of its clock and above the bell had rung three times, but the pit in its dark depths could not hear this ring. Dangling their legs over the edge of their hole and bringing their lamps closer in, the face-workers, the night-lights of their coal-ringed eyes gleaming, read out but were unable to conclude an indictment that was at the same time a long night's story-telling. They took it in turns, passing the tale from one to another in the same way as one tired worker passes his pick to the next. None of them could remember the experience of the revolution as a whole. For them it was a history that stretched back over a whole decade, one of strikes badly fought and lost. A man does not die from all the wounds he receives. Each of the miners had lost faith in socialism from one specific betrayal or one single act of treachery. Here, the old man had been poisoned by the toxic gases of Vorwärts articles against Russia; there the fragments of a smashed strike had crippled the young worker. A speech by Noske had burst like shrapnel over the third. There are also very recent injuries, no more than a few days or weeks old.
For example the SPD worker who was standing on guard had been lost recently, in 1924, when the unions broke the last big strike of Ruhr mineworkers only three days prior to the verdict of the conciliation commission, despite the feeling of the masses and notwithstanding the fact that the strike had lasted twenty-five days and could have held out as long again. They smashed the moment's solidarity, preventing the transport workers' union from coming to the aid of the coalminers; in this way they helped the metalworkers betray their comrades so that to this day the treachery has not been forgotten among workers.
They whipped up discord, sowing a caste hostility between the different branches of labour, salting and teasing this wound on the body of the proletariat. Comrade T., forgetting all caution, no longer spoke but shouted at the top of his voice. His coal-matted beard stuck out from his face like a stake.
"The Saar goes on strike but we work. Didn't you see! Hundreds of trains ready at all the stations! They started to move as soon as the strike in England began. They even called it 'English coal."
"I'm an old social democrat and these two here are honest working men but together we were strikebreakers. And our party urges workers to do the work of traitors. Oh yes, the unions talk to us like the Kaiser used to: 'Kumpels, raus oder du kriegst eine.' (Get out, mate, or you'll get one.) Where's all this going to end? What will they do with a hundred thousand unemployed?" The old man laughs, the face around his eyes has grown dim like a piece of raindrenched canvas. "Well, they'll put us in a compound and set the machine-guns up around. Sie haben noch Mätzger genug! Darum kriegen wir Schlag wie junge Hunde." (they've got enough butchers so we'll be beaten up like puppies.)
Communists had been to see the old man and had offered him in vain their own world-view, unstained by betrayal of the proletariat. After the great disappointment that social democracy has brought them people are so distrustful and fearful that they will no longer take anything from others. Let's see if communism hits the capitalist like a good rifle. They break it up into pieces(to see if there are ally tricks in it) and string together out of the assorted damaged pieces a naive home-made weapon, the trade union. The defeats of the last years have shown: struggle is impossible without them. So the Kumpels, digging themselves into their dark lairs, had dreamt up a utopia. It was built up around Lenin's name and the fragments of his teaching which had already penetrated down here underground. Lenin had said that the cell must be at the point of production. In one way or another he had expounded this idea many times. Why is it that the party goes after workers in the factories and mines and is not afraid of their dirty flats, while the unions sit somewhere up on high beyond reach and just give orders! They ought to come down here underground to the face so that it'd be just as easy to grab the union by the scruff of the neck as to reach up for your bottle on the wall for a drink.
"Kein Berlin, keine grossen Menschen. Hier, hier, mit uns!" (No Berlin, no big shots. Here, with us here!) Not knowing how better to express his idea, comrade T. lifted his lamp up to some new props driven into the wall. There in the twilight some blind grey subterranean butterflies were swarming round the pine-log. Wherever you have timber you have this semi-translucent moth as well; eating the moisture and sipping the darkness together, dwelling together and rotting together. "That's how our unions ought to be!"
"Goodbye, comrades! Maybe we'll meet again in different circumstances."
"No. We pretty certainly won't live that long."
I can't remember at which end or whether it was deeper or higher in that underground labyrinth: possibly it was on a pony- man`s plank-bed in a hidden corner where the overman doesn't peep very often and you can stretch out for half an hour, blissfully resting your legs and sense just the draughts and a peculiar chill seeping up like the earth's breath through the cracks into the hard bed, through your clothes to the body -- possibly it was on just such a plank-bed that there was a burly old man, a Bavarian peasant. Standing behind in rows like stooks in a field are the years he has worked. He has not counted them and has not looked back. He has not known politics but cut coal clinging to the ground with his peasant's clamp-like feet. He has twice been to war but even then did not wake up -- a worker without thoughts, all his life a farmhand. Only the recent Reichstag law on invalids forced him even to raise his head. Under this law sixty-year-old miners will receive nothing from the state. They will have to go back to the pit for a further five years to await the alms-giving. Old G. had walked towards his pension over mountains of coal like an ox going home from the field dreaming of rest and a night's sleep. But suddenly right at the gate where he could scent habitation, hear the dogs barking and see lighted windows, he had to turn round and go back into the night, the cold, deep earth. G's huge hands, rakes with which he has raked up so much coal during his life, lie heavy on his knees and he stares at them: they are too heavy. He'd like to take them off and lay them down on the coal by his shovel and pick.
"After work I'll have to have a glass of vodka in the tavern." Then suddenly pain wells up through his whole body: there's no money for that glass. But how had it been reckoned! He's worked for sixty years but hasn't got himself enough for some Schnapps. "Schuften und schuften auf meine alte Tag." (Slaving and slaving until my old age.) His grandfather and great-grandfather had been peasants. He is a ploughman too and has ploughed his whole life: he has turned over and dug the earth and thrown into the mine's black furrows the seed of his strong peasant years. He has sown and sown and nothing has grown. Not a single grain has come up. Not one has borne a crop. Deep down in that ravine there lingered a confused thought about the absurdity and ugliness of life and an irony chat bursts through the clods of his benumbed brain like a brook from under a stone.
'Wait till I pass away, then I'll stick my hands in my pockets!"
Only after having wandered like this under the ground, warming yourself first at one lamp and then another shining like a watch-fire in the middle of the coal-face, peering into dozens of faces emerging one after another from the gloom and listening to those voices coming out of the dark keyholes of the earth do you begin to realise what today, in these years of defeat, connects the German worker with Russia. There was no crevice, no lair at the bottom of which they would not be talking about the Land of the Soviets, like exiles abroad talk of a distant homeland.
Even the gloomiest, the most backward and the most defeated men on whom the whole burden of stabilisation lies. Linked to the idea of Russia is another hope which they cherish and nurture in the pits' deep darkness and thousands, each in his own way, think about and jealously guard from the corrupting contact of the victors. At present it is but a pale, weak shoot growing up without sunlight, by the light of a wretched miner's lamp. The idea of working-class unity.
On the first face: "Man alone made war -- so why is unity impossible in the world'" "Let our delegation come back. What it says will settle everything. Nach dem wird sich alles richten." (After that everything will be all right.)
On another: "Wenn die Verband nicht in einem Topfgekocht werden -- sind wir kaput." (If the unions don't all get in together, we've had it.)
"Why are the capitalists united and not us?"
"Why did the railwaymen laugh when we were on strike?"
"Mensch, man hat a Spass daran, wenn die Hand gehen." (It'll be pretty good, pal, when we march together.)
On a third, the deepest and blackest: "Please convey our thanks to the Russian workers for the grain sent in the 1924 strike, for it reached us in time of need. Everything else has been stolen by our unions; they gobbled from the strike fund with big spoonfuls."
No one runs to fetch the news from the telegraph office: it arrives on its own. Wild swallows beat against the floor right in front of the editor's desk and lie down before him already complete and translated into the human tongue and printed out by a little gadget on to a narrow ribbon of paper. Ten small machines receive and tap out continuously. A dark monastery with a hundred cells. A hundred telephone booths. A hermit in each invoking the god of sensation with a wild cry:
"This is Berlin, B.Z. [Berliner Zeitung] This is Ullstein. Hallo! Speak up!"
Messengers are dozing like the unemployed on park benches. Like passengers waiting for trains that are always arriving, every minute departing but never standing still. A train of news girdling the globe. Many have been waiting since the previous evening. They have already met the specials from America and the Entente Express packed with flighty little stock-exchange bulletins, those bewitching adventuresses that slip unnoticed over the border with a skimpy luggage of fake news, that priceless contraband so hunted by newspapermen.
Well, Ullstein's home is large enough to accommodate all comers. 4,500 rooms, six floors, staircases like elevator chutes, a dozen separate print-shops -- the best mills in Germany grinding a daily harvest of lies and truth -- and six newspapers that bake the daily bread for Berlin's millions, all its layers of population, both sexes and all ages, for Germany as a whole and for each of her cities individually. Cologne does not eat what Berlin likes; Dresden's favourite dish will not find a customer in Frankfurt. For the Hamburg docker, Knackwurst with porter, for Dresden, Eisbein and cabbage while for the southerners anything that is light, nourishing and dainty.
Nobody travels on foot in Ullstein's house. Idlers can climb the stairs. Here people fly by lift. Running past all the floors are its open cages. The door has been done away with and the liftman gone the way of the ichthyosaurus. This lift stops nowhere and waits for no one. People leap on to one of its platforms while moving and leap off it while moving. Proofs, copy and telegrams follow a course in practical gymnastics. Leading articles, weighty feuilletons and paunchy, corpulent, short-breathed political commentaries have all become acrobats and circus artistes. They run from building to building, crossing the yard on a wire, flying up and down at a hair-raisins speed hardly catching hold of the electric postman's wire basket. From the day that Ullstein senior built his first shed on the Kochstrasse -- a small print-shop -- his business has grown ceaselessly. Once it reaches a certain level of perfection it stops and gobbles up its old body. The day that the ever self-renewing spirit of industry dare not and cannot club its own skull or digest in its own stomach obsolete modes of organisation, technique and business management it will become breakfast for a more flexible and powerful competitor. Take the old Berliner Morgenpost: it had grown up out of a cemetery -- not of its obsolete methods but of the entire social-democratic press destroyed by Bismarck. It was then that Ullstein proved able to throw hundreds of thousands of copies of his moderate street news-sheet on to a deserted newspaper market -- into the breach made by the Anti-Socialist Law. It was a paper aimed at the broadest mass of the petty bourgeoisie.
How often have methods of work changed since then! From hand setting to mechanical setting, from drawings to photography and then from anaemic smudgy colourless photos to artistic montage. After each technical revolution, a brief incapacity for the whole concern as after a vaccination. Then a frantic leap forward -- the prey: hundreds of thousands of new subscribers, new buildings, workshops, staff, drivers, lorries and telephones. Over the recent post-war years appendicitis has again set in the newspaper plant's body: now it is the old type-casting machines, English machines that run on gas and have to be always full of molten tin otherwise they don't work. German machines have been brought in to replace them: they devour plain and simple coal and can be topped up when you wish -- from one cardboard mould you can get thirty metal castings.
The works knows no gratitude nor remembers past services rendered. Life has left the old section. It is cold and empty and a lazy fire lit in the furnace of its rivals is reflected in its dead window-panes. The merry clank of matrixes and files brushing their hot edges drift up to the now banished section like the clatter of knives on plates.
At one time only one newspaper was produced and they were afraid to put out an evening one lest its circulation be reduced. Today Ullstein, like a clever madame, sends dozens of papers into the street, distinctly dressed, speaking different tongues, landing on the pavement at different times and not getting in each other's way. Like prostitutes, they share the street between them and do not quarrel. Each one has its customers. In the morning, Vossische Zeitung, intended for the stock exchange and the banks. She latches on to the smart operators as they stand in Aschinger's with sandwich in cheek and mug of beer in hand. She gets into the car with them and has time to do her business with them in the five minutes between restaurant and stock exchange or station and office. A clever, prudent and very well-informed newspaper, edited by one of the best German journalists. Every speculator hopes his fifteen pfennings will elicit something useful from it.
While the husbands are in town, Ullstein's Die Praktische Berlinerin, Die Dame or Blatt der Hausfrau call at their wives' doors. The last-mentioned is a masterpiece of technique. For this commercial traveller to run from house to house, inflaming appetites with whispers about the cheapest coffee-pot, a house-coat at 3.70 marks, a double-bed and a pregnancy remedy, typographical technique has accomplished a real miracle and human genius has arisen to a new level. In one shot the machine not only prints 96 pages of text and cover but also cuts, collates and folds them ejecting the completely finished issue into a tray. In this way 3,500 copies can be produced in an hour. What can be said about the needlework section and the patterns for cheap night-caps which Die Dame supplies its subscribers free of charge? Before anything has time to take shape in the mind of the woman instinctively putting money by for a future purchase as a bird gathers straw for a nest, her day-dreams have been already anticipated and snipped out in cigarette paper by Ullstein's cutters. The spirits of overcoats to be, spirits of blouses and trousers to be, nod towards the customer from out of the fog of the future and the tinsel never-never land of fresh cliches.
There are horses that can solve problems and dogs that know geography but what inconceivable intelligence a machine may acquire no one yet knows. Hoffmann's mechanical Olympia sang romantic songs and took her curtsey -- but that's nothing. At Ullstein's a worker sits in front of a machine and types on a keyboard. He has pressed a letter. It immediately breaks out of its place and lies down at the beginning of the line. That is the first cross of the game. Next to it a second, a third and then in two seconds the whole line is moulded from the tin and leaps on to the galley. What do the letters do once the word they have formed is no longer needed! They demobilise. They go off to their homes. The machine lowers its long black arm, snatches up the used composition and places it on a special track along which each letter runs until it tumbles like a key into a keyhole.
Old Ullstein's youngest daughter comes on the streets at noon. She is a newspaper like a lizard or a fly: the fastest, most persistent and accessible of the sisters. Anyone can catch her on the wing and for next to nothing. She has neither her own opinion nor her own voice; she is a little puddle in which the whole world is reflected. In two minutes in a language intelligible to anyone she can re-state in the simplest crudest form what the big press is saying and thinking that day. Don't chew this news over: it has been well chewed up already, moistened with saliva and fully cooked by the B.Z. One swallowing action and you are informed. The man who has no time to think or collect his own information cannot live without this final, lowest and handiest intermediary, this echo of big cities, this flying street gramophone. She is born from the waste pipes of all the newspapers and lives for half an hour. Her appearance is eagerly awaited. Millions of people look at their watches as they await their rendezvous with B.Z. Yet no one is so quickly for gotten and no one is abandoned with such disdain on bus seats, cafe tables, the floor or underfoot. Every day there emerges from the froth of the streets this queen of the left-overs, a little tigress with a million customers.
12.10 p.m. The first bulletin is posted at the stock exchange. 12.12 p.m. The last telegram is received in the composing room. 12.15 p.m. The editors stop accepting copy. 12.16 p.m. The rotary press puts on its armour of gleaming plates. 12.17 p.m. The duty engineer switches the current on. The continent's largest rotary presses are beginning their morning's work.
The pages flow like water on a mill-wheel. A word is no more than a microbe in their torrent. The first finished, collated copies edge into view. And off they trip into the world with the staccato bark of machine guns. This is the morning assault, the crossfire of the press, shooting that neither misses nor misfires. Every sheet will be read by someone. Every cartridge will fall on somebody. The boom of the offensive hangs over the walls. They steam like waterfalls or like the brink of a mountain in eruption. The paper slowly revolves in the fire of this speed like a white whale on a spit. Rolls of it cover all the floor, gigantic cocoons of lies from which millions of ephemeral butterflies will flutter.
The factory is like a fortress. Its deep yards, separated from the city by mountains of granite, resemble those of a prison. In the event of siege a fortress must have a stock of water and bread. Ullstein has an energy source independent of the city that can feed his besieged machines for a week. A strike or an uprising. Armour plated doors will close and within three minutes of the alarm signal generators will be sending thousands of horse-power of electric strikebreakers to the machines. None of the employees will go in or out of the gates unnoticed. The doorkeepers have been drilled on people and objects. But at 12.18, that is eight minutes after receiving the last urgent telegram, all the sluices are raised and all the doors opened wide. The newspaper plant overflows into the street. Conveyor tubes vomit bundles straight on to lorries. Light motorbikes stand throbbing, waiting their turn. Cyclists hold open their bags. The couriers who travel with the newspapers to the station or to the provinces drop their unfinished lunches. On a Saturday 400 tons are loaded in all. Twenty mail trains taking a single lunch-time paper. Counting the other publications that means 75 mail coaches in three-quarters of an hour.
A newspaper outstrips time. A newspaper overtakes the hands of the clock. A human being sleeps for half his life. He steals the night hours for himself. Clearing the hurdle of speed, the newspaper stumbles over an insuperable obstacle: it cannot surmount a barricade of snoring night-caps. But in the cities and on the asphalt that gleams like ice everything is relative. Dawn can put on pyjamas instead of its out-moded morning clouds; from now on Europe will be like Greenland or the Arctic Ocean. Its electric day is continuous. At half past eight in the evening the news vendors come to do their morning turn outside Aschingers (and Aschingers are everywhere). The provincial edition of the Vossische Zeitung, without the final telegrams that are printed and transmitted at night, goes on sale in Berlin at 8.40 in the evening. A piece of tomorrow, a piece of the future, with football results, the names of the dreamers who have fallen under motor cars and English House of Commons debates can be bought for fifteen pfennings.
Ullstein is one of the great powers levying a duty on any vulgarity that can be imported into man's consciousness. His place is like a wharf where they discharge ocean-going ships of phrases that fit on to the consciousness like rubber protectors on down-at-heel boots, unloading witticisms that are as flat as the soles, smutty anecdotes and political slogans. The masterpiece in this genre, one without par, is of course the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, the most widely distributed magazine in modern Germany. 1,600,000 readers. And still growing. In six months it will probably reach two million. The foundation upon which Ullstein stands today is a propaganda machine of vulgarity. In reality it is a cipher, a nothing, a zero. Thirty-two pages of laxative ease. A peephole drilled into the boudoir of a celebrated film star, a chink through which anyone can spy on beautiful women in the bath from Spitzbergen to the Cape of Good Hope. A fragment of a novel so racy and banal that you can read it in the lavatory. Adverts. A prince's wedding. Another advert. Ten pages of adverts.
The Illustrierte has never been an enemy of Soviet Russia. German workers may have learnt more from it about the real, true face of the USSR than from anywhere else. It provides everything interesting and unexpected. Russia is a sensation. The Illustrierte provides Russia. Her streets, demonstrations, crowds, leaders, avenues, army and children's homes.
The practical, sober-minded businessman more readily believes in an established stable government than in one still existing only in the heads of Kurfurstendamm and Tauentzienstrasse residents. If the Bolsheviks can hold out another five years Ullstein will treat the White emigres just as his previous government treated Russian students after 1905: anyone subverting the legal power, even if Soviet, will be a revolutionary, a bomb-thrower and a crook. Yet while Ullstein insures himself for all risks and is generally friendly towards the USSR he quietly prints the White Guard Rul in one of the secluded corners of his home.
Friendliness is all very well but when the entire press raises a hue and cry against Bolsheviks Ullstein cannot remain silent. After printing news items that are amicable towards us in Russia for a whole year, he suddenly pounds away with all his heavy guns and, when repeated 1,600,000 times, his words echo more loudly than Moses' Commandments from the ancient mountain of the Hebrews. 'A New Crime of Bolshevik Justice' 'Three German Scholars Sentenced to Death'. Not just 'three scholars' but three times 1,600,000 'Kindermanns' and three times 1,600,000 'Bolshevik murderers'. And here it is not a zero any more but a social motor of a power and capacity of which there are few in Europe.
The Illustrierte does not give its brief, acid, political formulas in statistical columns and curves -- no, it tattooes them on a music-hall artist's velvet skin, a celebrated ballerina's underwear or a bottle of scented water for removing foul odours from the armpits. This is where the indelible words 'War on Bolshevism','War on World Revolution' and 'War on Murderers of Innocent Shortsighted White-haired Kindermann with his Travelling First-Aid Kit' are in fact branded, stitched and written. Whatever the slogan Ullstein might launch -- for or against Russia, for or against the Chinese Revolution, for the pact or against the pact -- footballs fly into the sky with these slogans. B.Z.'s motor boats and yachts furrow the seas, its racehorses leap barbed-wire fences, B.Z.'s favourite cracks a top American boxer's nose and B.Z.'s motor-cycle sets a new speed record -- in preference to any political watchword. A dog show, tennis, swimming, a prize for the best pedigree bull. Europe follows such things with the closest attention. Every proper newspaper has a page of sport each day. Its champions are far better known than the most important political figures. Ullstein was about the first to discover this gold-mine. He established a special department while others still had the fire reporter covering the races and matches. He took on a special editor, despatched plenipotentiaries to all Europe's totalisators and attached special correspondents to all the famous stables.
Ullstein understands nothing about art. For such subtleties and for the editorial board of Querschnitt, an aesthetic magazine printed on vellum paper for a few hundred subscribers, he has hired himself a gentleman, a connoisseur of old porcelain and all the eighteenth century snuff-boxes the world has seen. This magazine is a lily that seems to be wholly unconnected with the midden from which such vulgar grasses as B.Z. and the Illustrierte grow. It floats on the surface of Ullstein's millions, fragrantly smelling of negro sculpture and the shine of old Friedrich's jackboots in Menzel's pictures. It presents very artistic and very naked drawings intended for the connoisseur. When old Ullstein sees all this refinement, he snorts and curses. But the other editors, manufacturers of that terrible pulp literature, are forbidden to interfere in the aesthetes' affairs. Leave the Apollos to root around on their own for although they might not bring in any income they do attract people of circumstance and taste into the building. It's always good to keep a classical Venus in the entrance hall.
But for the manufacture of such goods as Die heitere Friedolin, old Ullstein has no need for assistants. Here he is the craftsman and specialist. Nobody knows better than he how much suer, margarine and sugar should be sprinkled into those little ten-pfenning booklets with a cycling dog on the cover, specifically designed to pollute, poison and degrade children's fantasies. They go out in 35,000 copies; 700,000 a month. A mixture of Pinkerton, circus, and a newsreel of crimes and slush. Its hero is a police dog with the soul of a Vossische Zeitzung Sunday supplement reader.
Now about those romances. before the war a little 250-page book with a wedding or a noble suicide would cost about a mark. Today two. Never will any 'immortal' be read as these hacks are. Who is Tolstoy and who is Goethe by comparison with the Mr. Weber who wrote Yes, Yes, Love? Good old Ullstein deals with literature as a camel does a date. He makes his reader pull back and chew it over again. Immediately upon publication all Ullstein's romances are filmed in Germany's studios. The shop-girl, school-mistress and post-clerk require a faith in good fortune. The petty-bourgeois must learn that an honest man can achieve anything -- a villa, a motor car, his own shop -- without bloodshed, without violence and without struggle. Reading it is not enough. You have to see it. So Ullstein shows it. Anyone can go along and be convinced about how honest Alice with her neatness, good figurework and rather pretty little mug, could find her way into the world of the financiers. Stinnes marries her. Except that this Stinnes is as young and handsome as an assistant in the outfitting department at Wertheim's. Old people who have worked for a hundred years die rich. Look at their funeral corteges. Isn't it worth being obedient your whole life if it means that you can drive to 'rest' with those pompons and white top-hats! Not to mention the workers and petty clerks who all regularly win 200,000 and marry the boss's daughter. Why have a revolution, What's the point of politics? Millions of European workers live with a dream about Russia. Millions of SPD workers privately cling to a hope for it ...Workers send their delegations to Russia. But Ullstein`s reader, the petty-bourgeois, goes to the pictures to see his promised land.
Ullstein is not alone of course. Competing with, and possibly outgrowing him, are newspaper publishers like the former Scherl Verlag that created in Germany a sort of 'non-party' paper now in the hands of Hugenberg, a former Krupp manager. Having seized what had belonged to a king of newspapers, Hugenberg converted these old'non-party' papers, to which the average German philistine had grown accustomed, into mouthpieces of the most vehement and rabid counter-revolution. Following them are Messe and many others who are more and more monopolising the newspaper and book market. There are many Ullsteins ...
The tribute that these factories of bourgeois ideology rendered the government during the war cannot be overestimated! There were no pores in the social organism and no cells in its brain which they could not penetrate and for which a special toxin was not developed. Ullstein, Messe and Hugenberg drove more than a few nails into the great wooden Hindenburg that then stood beside parliament opposite the Victory Column. Under the cocaine of their literature armies of men allowed themselves to be slaughtered. And without the aid of the newspaper trusts the government could never have pumped out of the petty bourgeois mass all the millions it extorted for the war loan.
Like any true scientist, Professor Junkers had to break out of the university and leave its walls for ever in order to devote himself to science. This he did in 1909 along with his colleague and assistant, Doctor Mader, whose slighty askance, motionless gaze was fixed upon internal combustion engines as much then as today, nearly twenty years later.
Yet neither scientist had left the gymnasium at Aachen to take up aviation. The flying machine interested them no more than any other machine. But the university demanded that they teach certain subjects to ignorant little boys. So they gave up the university and pursued their experiments in peace and quiet.
If flying had ever been an art rather than a craft it was surely in those years. It engaged dreamers, sportsmen, adventurers and martyrs. They fashioned funny little boxes out of sail-cloth, a few brittle wires and matchboard and upon these paper kites flew or fell wholly at the will of fate -- from the standpoint of 1925, a year of calm reckoning -- irrationally, brilliantly and in profound ignorance. Nearly every contest ended in disaster. Two or three times a day spectators would jump over the fence and run across to the spot where a heap of fragments lay smouldering in the middle of the field. As many front-line aviators perished in a few days as in a whole year today. Mankind cleared its path to the sky on paper wings spattered with blood.
Professor Junkers had nothing in common with that noble lunacy. After many years' toil in the quiet of his office he just took one of technology's commanding heights and as a result of the conquest a most interesting and unresearched area fell to him. When the prisoners were being counted, there appeared that capricious aviation that had never before surrendered to anyone' s hands. So Professor Junkers decided to give it a thoroughly scientific upbringing.
One of the basic ideas of this scientist who produced a revolution in the field of aeronautics was extremely simple. Think of this: what bird, butterfly or fish in whose image the aeroplane should be built, flies without a skin with bare bones and nerves? Where can you see a living creature carrying its innards on its exterior? Yet the old-time aeroplane did just that. Its heart lay on top with no protection at all. The wind moaned and whistled through its extensive rigging, clogged it with dust, soaked it with rain and dried it with sun. All those webs, strings and boards increased the surface area and its resistance tenfold despite their obvious lightness. Junkers decided to cover the aeroplane's nakedness, make a chest for the machine's heart and a tummy for its guts. Count Zeppelin's stupid sausages still occupied the attention of the public and the Imperial Court. Wilhelm, greatly fancying the scale and altogether militaristic look of those flying contraptions launched them into the air in whole packs while Professor Junkers took out a patent for the first machine made entirely of metal. The pilot and fuel tanks were both hidden inside a silvery-white oblong aluminium body.
The war brought the professor resources and world fame. Satisfied that he could at last work without worrying about the pennies, the kindly, humane Junkers who seems more like a vicar than a scientist, sent model after model and flight after flight to the fronts. His fighters became, after submarines, the favourites of Admiral Tirpitz. The buzzing of his silver dragonflies left an indelible scratch of fear in the memories of millions still alive and millions who fell.
After the Versailles Peace, the Entente commissioners arrived in the quiet little town of Dessau and smashed up with hammers anything that might serve the aims of war. The plans for an unbuilt torpedo-carrying plane went to Paris. The plant halted. At the high noon of the inflationary crisis, Stinnes and AEG, the big sharks, gathered in the murky waters around Junkers. Those were the years when you could become the chief of any concern if you were smart enough to send a couple of thousand dollars with your visiting-card.
The professor had had enough experience with war department officials to have any illusions as to the fate awaiting him in the pocket of a private businessman. The merchant is an enemy of innovations not forced upon him by competition. He must make the most of what already exists and milk as intensively as possible an idea that has already won its market. It would not enter the merchant's head to compensate him for the experiments that had by now swallowed up all the professor's means and all his government grants.
At this tough moment God sent Junkers two guardian angels to deliver him from the voracious jaws of the speculators: an aluminium pot furnace and Sachsenberg First, about the pot furnace. Every Don Quixote has his Sancho Panza. To enable the scientist's thoughts to range freely, commit stupidities, make mistakes, drop what has been started and begin all over again whatever the cost, a docile devoted donkey of practical common sense must follow behind him. Its broad back will carry him out of any situation and on days of setbacks will seek out its hero in a roadside ditch licking his muddled face with the heavenly caress of its warm rough tongue.
A workshop for advanced aluminium smelters had nestled on the fringe of the plant for a long time. In the days of the revolution when soldiers suddenly started ripping the epaulettes off their smart lieutenants, this furnace emerged from its workaday garb; its broad shoulders and industrious fists were extracted from the wreckage of the frail aero-dragonfly. And to this day it tamely repays all the professor's costly ventures into the land of the unknown.
After the war Germany's heavy industry suffered a major crisis: the change to peace-time production. Krupp started making mincing-machines and milk separators; heavy Stumm, the battleship king, took up children's toys. The change came easier to Junkers's plant than to others. The Versailles Peace only made him expand in a new direction. That tiny bird of prey, fleetingly glimpsed as a scarcely noticeable spot in the sky of war, descended, grew bigger and its whole body was gradually reborn. Its head was enlarged, its trunk extended and its wings threw themselves out into a strong metallic cross. And, impelled by hunger, the eagle of war entered the service of the post office.
Was it alone? The waves of revolution rose high and white-haired people with thoroughbred noses had to live more and more badly. They joined foreign legions and were hired as soldiers by the little Baltic states. Deeply concealing their pride as officers of the Imperial Fleet it was they who begrudgingly did the dirty work of hunting down Bolsheviks for the Latvians and Estonians. But the governments of small shopkeepers and retainers had no intention of letting this picked guard of German imperialism make itself at home in their countries for ever. For Latvian peasants still remember the agrarian riots of 1905 and the country folk hanged by the ribs on the baronial lands; they remember the Ostsee bureaucracy, that bulwark of Russian autocracy, and the keys of the city of Riga handed over to Wilhelm II by the head of the Baltic nobility. In short, these Landsknechte were used and then booted right out. Thousands of German peasants who had been promised land and a house if they would make a little war on the Bolsheviks paid for the adventure known as the Baltikum with their lives.
In 1919 one of these detachments returned to Germany virtually on foot. The wolves that had been cut down in war decided to take up farming if only to avoid serving the cursed republic that to them still appeared to be revolutionary. They planted potatoes, carted muck and when they lifted their heads from the plough or spade they followed a Junkers mail plane flying over their fields with a longing gaze. Sachsenberg, the founder of a farm for officers and an organiser of exceptional ability, very quickly contacted Dessau and offered the professor his services and an elaborate plan for international air lines. That select bunch from the old imperial officer-caste, hated by the proletariat and the finance aristocracy and of no use to anyone at home, took to the sky. Russian emigres in Paris are reputed to be first-class hairdressers, waiters and chauffeurs especially. But these people were soon to become the best coachmen of the international sky, travelling the horizons of Europe and Asia as calmly as the former did the Paris boulevards.
The commercial side of the business requires that the citizen can board an aeroplane as easily as a lift or motor car. Aviation must be dethroned and have all its romantic features plucked so as not to scare off the shy bourgeois. That's why the modern aeroplane is so infinitely vulgar in its interior decor. Its armchairs have been taken from the smoking-room of a bank, its mirrors transplanted from a middling restaurant and the whole cabin is full of the habitual dusty luxury of the European railways. The toilet with its white board on the door is soothingly familiar and utterly down to earth; imperturbable, obliging paper bags for queasiness beckon from their nails. So rare are accidents, so convenient the spittoons and so calm the pilot's mittens on the control column that the passengers no longer offer him their hands. One more step forward and he will be the equal of the servant and the chauffeur. The bourgeois will finally be freed from his fear when he sees an aviator in livery. Flying will become ten times more popular the day they start to accept tips in the air.
There is a special irony in the fact that this de-mystifying and uncrowning of aviation has attracted the last romantics of the old regime. With impassive faces they bring their machines up to the 'apron' and then calmly wipe the traces of their passengers' seasickness off the silver wings. There are among these men fliers who had their legs torn off several times during the war: first their own and then the wooden ones. Even now they carry them out of the cockpit in their hands. Yet ...
The land belongs to the republic. It has been cut out for many years and divided up without any to spare. The stitches put in by the Versailles Peace and Dawes will not be unpicked by a bayonet for the time being. But the sky, a great blue continent, is not fully discovered or fully conquered. Here are unsounded depths and untravelled roads through which no one has passed. Clouds crawl across it like opulent caravans open to plunder. And, morever, what has been already seized cannot be retained. Command of the air is a result of the changing balance of power. The very boldest flight does not leave a trace -- not even the light strands of foam running after a ship across the ocean.
The great powers launch fleet after fleet into the air but their ships are for the present swallowed up in the world-wide expanse, minute in comparison with the millions of miles that have to be covered. The night sky is the setting for the new war; to shower Russia's snowy expanses with dynamite and nail China to the ground, the enemy's air forces have to stand like stars over the great agricultural plains.
Furrowing through a foreign sky Junkers planes are continuing to expand in empty space an empire that no longer exists. China has been lost, Kiaochow seized, the Baghdad railway torn from Germany's hands and the Congo gone. But there is China's sky, open to all winds. They can see the flag of the lost Pacific fortress hoisted on its clouds. High in the air hostile routes of the airways criss-cross and cut each other. The struggle for these colonies is only just warming up.
Junkers planes are winning them not for themselves nor for their country. The knots of Versailles bind them tightly. They work for any client and every customer.
Deruluft's  tentacles stretch into Italy, Scandinavia and Switzerland; Sachsenberg has conducted an offensive into the Balkans and through the Balkans into Anatolian Turkey.
Not so long ago Dessau began to stir like an alarmed beehive. Airmen who had flown in from all parts sat down gloomily at the table in their pub. Strictly by rank and by the list in the officers' mess. One has come back from Persia, another had come down on the Gobi sands while on a third is the dust and sunburn of a Russian summer.
"How's the health of the Crown Prince?"
"Very well, thank you, His Highness has bought a new horse."
"The King of Saxony .. ." But this is not the big news after which these men are usually prepared to chase and comb through the skies of the whole world. The bombshell bursts.
"Haven't you heard? Junkers has signed a concession with Poland. We are to build a fleet for those rascals." For a whole week the lieutenants drink dismally around the grail and with loathing set their coachmen's accounts in order: they measure out miles to the nearest yard -- pieces of space chopped off infinity. There's nothing else to be done. Such is the law of capitalist development. Trade is a member of no party and internationalised.
Homeless German imperialism will run little fighters nurseries for both its enemies and friends. Always hoping that the pupils will not grow too quickly into teachers, that its own people will, at the decisive moment, find themselves at the helm and that the shadow of machines built by these same German engineers will never hang over the fields of Germany. A vain hope.
The war industry of foreign countries is avidly learning from Junkers's pilots and designers. But scarcely having learnt to walk it is already driving from their command posts men in whom it senses irreconcilable enemies. Futile are all attempts to strengthen his position by honest and entirely disinterested work. The better the school the sooner the pupil reaches maturity and casts off his foreign tutelage. The more conscientiously Junkers fulfils his obligations the quicker they endeavour to be free of him. The gates of plants that he had built and put into operation one by one slam behind him. The self-assurance and youthful ignorance of his pupils only accelerates his collapse.
No one is enduring these catastrophes with as much pain as the professor himself. At the first disquieting telegrams he redoubles his efforts. He invests ever fresh resources into the threatened enterprises. This has brought him several times to the verge of ruin. Nevertheless, one fine day, embittered and once again unemployed aircraft builders will again appear on the doorstep of his quiet little house in Dessau.
Junkers is the purest scientist. For him air services are in the final count as necessary as the furnace. He runs them in order to nourish his experiments without perhaps suspecting the colossal political significance of the international organisation he has created. Of course he gives his contractors more than they him. For what is money compared with that culture of knowledge, experience and organisation that he scatters throughout the world like Mechnikov with his yoghourt.
But in the final analysis the professor cannot complain of lack of success. Under whoever's flags his ships may fly today not a single government has at its disposal such an integrated staff or magnificently trained, educated airmen, engineers and workers. Not one of his men had arrived ready-made. The majority began their service as volunteers, receiving no pay for months, suffering hunger and hardship. They grew up with their machines. Each step forward and every new invention was checked by them in practice. The pilots were a sensitive monitoring apparatus without which the professor could not have worked. How useful to him was even little Jüterbog, an indefatigable coachman of the air endlessly roving somewhere in the East. He flies low, hugging the earth tight. In stormy weather the Caspian Sea spits foam almost on to his wings, he creeps along through fogs, stumbling over the telegraph poles of the East India Company but there has never been an occasion when wind or fog has halted him somewhere en route. He roams on for days on end but he will without fail get his sack of letters and his two or three Persian merchants, yellow with the pitching, to their destination. That's Juterbog and there's nothing he doesn't know about tropical dew, the finest desert dust and the effect of air, sun and humidity upon an aeroplane's organism.
Take another man: promoted from a mere mechanic to one of Junkers' most brilliant airmen today. He is not drawn to the East. He still circles round the lushest, dampest, cheeriest bit of Europe. An ex-sailor, he's happy in thick fog, on the damp wind of Holland. Over hundreds of miles through dense haze the golden fires of Amsterdam's taverns beckon to him. Mr. N. is a night pilot. His bulging eyes, flush with his face, can see in the dark. He can feel the nocturnal earth beneath him like the sea-bed under a fishing-boat. And he avoids danger with amazing sensitivity.
For speed and altitude records there are the cold idlers. They board their machines without changing their suits and emerge unstained. Formerly higher gentry, overfed with life, lovers of a risk that is frozen like a bottle of wine in the rarified atmosphere. For them the value of life can be equated with the maximum of acute, nervous pleasures still to be squeezed out of it. The result is immaterial. The object once achieved is not even worth talking about. Yet how delectable are those minutes of single combat at an altitude of 5,200 metres where danger lies dissolved in the air like a diamond in a glass of water.
But it is not in new air lines, nor in agents' offices and aerodromes, nor even in the main shops of the renowned aircraft factory at Dessau that the tap-root of the business lies. The heart of Junkers is hidden away in an unprepossessing little single-storied house standing apart from the commercial offices, where Sachsenberg and his lads run the business side and the aerodrome swept bare by the propellors' whirlwinds. Here is his scientific research institute, chemical laboratory and archive. Experts say that there is nowhere like it in Europe.
All the work of the scientists gathered here is founded upon the deepest mistrust of materials. Their laboratories are an arena where metals fight for supremacy like champions. Anyone can take part in the contest. From specimens from the best-known firms down to unheard-of young fighters coming on to the market for the first time. Krupp's proud steel must prove its advantages every day. The first chance tramp to be met on the street can challenge it to a duel. The metal that wins first prize in junkers' modest laboratory will become a celebrity by the morning.
Bright white aluminium triumphed over all its rivals and only then would the professor decide to cast his aeroplanes from it. To date over twelve competitors are scrapping over the tough material for the engine, for a wheel that gives off heat more readily than others, an axle that does not snap on landing, a steady frame and a light wing. One metal shows off the skin of an eskimo fearing no amount of cold, another is a negro created for African heat.
Investigation of raw materials does not begin with the finished article but with atoms. The metal lies down under a microscope and then is shone through with X-rays. The slightest irregularity in the alignment of its crystals is enough for the whole batch to be rejected. Steel is a terrible thief. Minutes are sufficient for it to snatch up any alloys. A special gadget in the laboratory forces it to yield everything it has gathered up and concealed. Stolen carbon is burnt up in its stubbornly clenched fist.
Thus, over the years, absolutely priceless scientific material has been accumulated. The resumes of these experiments, each of which is strictly recorded, grow up into entire libraries. Outstanding scientists collate them. Before setting to work the young practitioner studies all the literature existing on the subject in question. He stands directly upon the shoulders of his predecessors.
No metal passes unrecognized through the monitoring section. Any alloy can, like a criminal by his fingerprints, be recognised by a little imprint inflicted with a ball in the testing apparatus. As strict as the party: materials that have passed the first purge are not exempted from the second. Every idea suggested, however persuasive it might be on paper, at once puts on its metallic body and defends it in practice. There are long thin pipes that have promised to sustain the whole weight of a wing. An unlikely load is lowered on to a fragile-looking reed. It withstands 9,000 kilos, over 40 per square millimetre, and fractures only after that. Steel veins twang on a torture rack: they snap at 5,200 kilos (50 per square millimetre). Mechanical scissors bite through threads used for sewing up parts of the apparatus. From thousands of skeins iron hands select the one that will take 127 kilos, 25 kilos per square millimetre of cross-section.
A metal in this department is like a sinner in hell. It is cut, ground, stretched, torn and snapped. A special machine does not let it go to sleep. Day and night it shakes the strips under trial, which, crated with insomnia, tremble a light feverish tremble, the trembling of an aeroplane travelling at full speed. In another corner the spring of a skittle-like valve keeps squatting down and getting up for hours on end and an observer peers at its glowing core through a special tube and notes the slightest changes. Here all the accidents that could ever happen to an aeroplane are induced. The effect of any wear and tear and any catastrophe upon each individual component is calculated. Thousands of objects undergoing the effect of weight, heat, cold, impact and stress are in essence but one aeroplane dismantled into its smallest parts. This aeroplane makes a journey round the world, fights storm and fire, smashes, drowns and burns, experiencing a thousand most perilous adventures without moving from the spot or leaving the tiny laboratory.
The Chinese do not cherish their ancestors as much as the laboratory its bits of iron mangled during experiments. They are safeguarded in the most perfect order -- set out along the path of aviation like a row of unforgettable warnings. An error can be corrected but science's retentive memory will for ever remain alert and attentive, if only because of one unsuccessful experiment out of a thousand successful ones.
The aeroplane is very young. Not even its life expectancy has been fixed yet. At Dessau there is a machine that has been flying since 1919 and no one knows how much longer it will hold out. What does it eat, what food is healthiest for its delicate constitution? For years chemists have hovered round fuel. But no supervision or warnings were of any help. So you have old men who have all their lives been led by the nose, deceived and duped by that frivolous, fickle petrol to whom in their old age has now come the idea of divorce. They have turned their glances towards the heavyweight, reliable, uncapricious diesel oil, towards those fatty liquors that the motor vehicle drinks in the Alps, Russian snows and Arctic ice.
"But," says the quiet little old man who reports every day to the professor on the behaviour of the oil in a jar, "Das sind nur Anhaltspunkte, Wir wissen noch nichts!" (This is only a basis. We still know nothing.)
Nothing! After so many years of toil, improvements and discoveries! Look at the scientist X-raying some microscopic membrane and you suddenly go cold inside. How on earth did those first men fly with no Anhaltspunkte apart from their own willpower? Junkers has many courageous men but which of them would have dared ascend on those wings of heavy iron now hung around the walls like the hauberks of medieval knights?
With all its perfection Junkers's plant still resembles a university or a craftsman's workshop rather than a factory. Production is hardly mechanised. The machine is the worker's spare hand, assisting and taking over one of his many actions but not carrying a single operation through to the end. It is surprisingly difficult to maintain strict uniformity of type using the hand. One rudder-cable guide must be absolutely identical to the other; one claw under the rail on which the machine rests when it lands should in no way differ from the other. The men cannot turn away from what they are doing for even a minute. Their whole intellect is necessary for each separate seam and every nut. The engineer with the close-set eyes, flat face and infantry officer's cheek-bones can walk round as much as he wishes and beat his brow against the unknown; let him track down all items coming our of the workshop, rummaging through and scrutinising them as if in a barracks. A worker's slightest negligence will lead to a catastrophe a day, a month or a year later. The fear that goes with responsibility slows the work down dreadfully. A man will sit for hours over a trifle and will not dare let it slip out of his hands. The workers, engrossed, cultured and accustomed to relying upon themselves, are becoming as individualistic as the airmen. Every little hammer speaks its own language. Bench-mates do not understand one another.
Why was I reminded of the professor's house with its light rooms full of the cries and scampering of children when in the very section of the works where such a reverential stillness reigns and only the scratch of a drawing-pen occasionally unpicks the silence like a piece of taut silk? The children of Professor Junkers. You recall them not only in the drawing-office but even before, at the aerodrome where twenty machines lie out on an earthy meadow like the plumage of swans. Not one looks like the next. Each has evolved from its own embryonic idea and is not prevented from growing up and testing its strength. A scientist's enormous patience is required to rear children, machines and ideas the way Junkers does. Of course it is hell for him at home. If one of the adjutants arrives with a paper he has trouble finding a corner where the vivacious chatter of the marvellous, self-educating, model children growing up as their inner logic dictates does not reach. Any serious conversation over the table is unthinkable. There is always an age at which any situation seems madly comical. And the child dances a wild tribal dance over his father's wise head. But take a look at this same principle in the drawing-office. A few dozen highly talented designers hired only to think, draw or do nothing in front of their tables; they are not daunted by their assignment. Any one of them can take any detail or basic principle and stand it on its head. The works causes an artificial selection of men unafraid of independent thought.
Among the taciturn drawing-boards before which the designers stand in white aprons like the anatomists of ideas, a font has been set up for new-born ideas, a bureau that registers all the findings. A meticulous clerk writes out the birth certificate of a new idea as soon as the mathematician's heavy head begins to shine through the light fabric of figures and formulas. This section regards as its most talented young engineer a former worker, an apprentice who out jumped all his professionally qualified contemporaries in the feverish competitive race. He is a puny, mobile and unusually nervous man. In putting him on to one of the most responsible jobs Junkers was able to evaluate not only his talent but his whole physiology which was imbued with a sharp aversion to brute force and brute physical toil. No one will eliminate the remnants of the aeroplane's animal nature with greater delight than the upstart ex-worker who despises his 'low-brow' class. The future belongs to brain. Aeroplanes, like engineers and scientists and all creatures of the higher ruling stratum as a whole, should not have a body. So there before him upon a wide sheet of Bristol board the final touches are already being put to Junkers's pet idea: the machine has been castrated, truncated and pruned. Its trunk, whether long like a dragonfly's or short and fat like a bee's, has been reduced to nothing.
All the passengers, and the interior of the plane for that matter too, are hidden away in its wing, tucked under its arm.
In this shipyard of the air, these new fliers stand almost finished. Over them hangs the heady smell of paint and the day is not far off when, drunk with the spirits and oil which they are fed and rubbed down with during the final preparations, they are rolled out on to the field.
The bang of hammers resounds like a triumphal march: an armless machine tries on its wings and stands sensing for the first time the unprecedented weight, toughness and flexibility of its shoulders. Then, although not knowing what to do with them, it suddenly realises what the visible patch of sky in the square of the doorway means.
Workmen with nails between their teeth are still crawling through the empty eye-sockets in a skull which is upholstered with soft leather on the inside, while a pool of petrol is already lying on the bare floor.
It's peeing so it's alive.
With present-day unemployment and current price levels a German working-class family has to strain every effort to fight for its children's lives.
The drops of milk are counted out and eagerly sucked up if not every day then every other day and if it's not first grade then it's second grade. While they are drinking milk there is hope. It is only today that is wasting. The future sucks away at its fat teat and has rosy cheeks. In life's wretched game children are the last stake. Vaguely bound up with them is the idea of ultimately winning: well, if we can't our children will'.
The milkman's steps on the stairs of a reeking tenement are the steps of fate.
The milkman comes round at daybreak: the first herald of the day ahead. His ring gets people up from bed. They drowsily open the door to him wearing just their vests but without any embarrassment. The door may be open for only a minute. Through the narrow slit he can see everything: what left-overs there are from last night's supper, whether there is lard gone cold on the plates or a piece of stale bread on an empty oil-cloth, dirty beer glasses, the meagre sediment of acorn coffee -- that illusion of food, the first substitute -- or the thick pallid flabby-faced margarine that makes its appearance wherever money's coming in and the father or son is still working. The milkman casts one glance around the room. Aha! A heap of dirty washing in the corner, the stink of miners' boots drying out on the stove. To his nose that smell is sweeter than incense. They are working so they are living.
"I'll pour you first grade, shall I, Madam?"
And he's not wrong.
With sufficiency comes joy. Sometimes bare feet patter so gaily across the floor to the door, which is opened to the smart milkman with such a cheerful smile. What a disappointment! Warm sleepy eyes hit the bib of my starched apron as if it were icy armour-plating.
"Oh, Mr. Milkman, you are late today! I'm going to have a word with your neighbour. What's this then, you've got a new helper?" And the slam of the door echoes like a shot.
That was lyrical. In the majority of the flats there was nothing lyrical. At first sight it had seemed to me that the Essen miner or metalworker lives better than ours in Russia do. A collar and a stiff shirt front, clean shoes and a smart hat. Lunch in a tidy bag. It wouldn't hit you in the eye so much now that workers and peasants are getting more comfortable in our country. For us growing prosperity goes towards boots, fur coats, warm shawls and mittens. A heavy, shaggy, sheepskin-smelling comfort. In the West glittery department stores with their annual sales are at the worker's service. Mountains of smart, gaudy, hastily run-up rags. The price: five roubles a coat, 80 kopecks for stockings and three roubles for perfectly decent-looking boots. All these moult at the first rain, fade in the sunlight and have a mortal dread of air, wind and rain. The German worker will deny himself the most necessary things and go short on food and sleep if only to dress smartly and not stand out in the crowd by his poor clothes. His day-to-day requirements are infinitely more sophisticated than ours. For, as long as poverty does not break his bones in two he will not put on a dirty shirt or tolerate a bug or cockroach in his home.
"I think you wanted to meet a railwayman? Well, look, on the third floor they take six bottles of milk and one of cream. He's a Lokführer (engine-driver), twenty years on the railways; his old woman is a comrade of ours. Go on up, the old dog probably won't be back yet." And indeed he wasn't. A charming young lady opened the door.
Her unlined face, the face of a thirty-year-old girl who had not given birth or been close to the heat of a kitchen stove, an office girl's podgy white face, winced and turned hostile:
"I'm not your comrade. Go and see mother, she's in the kitchen."
After the holes where I had only just been what a paradise this labour aristocrat's bright warm spacious flat seemed.
The kitchen was as white as snow. Shelves, chairs, cup boards, towels and table cloths -- all snowy. An entrancingly fragrant cloud over the coffee pot, butter, ham and white bread on the table. A grand piano in the sitting room, paper flowers, curtains, a carpet, two magnificent beds in the bedroom, a mountain of feather-beds and, once again, snowy linen. Frau Rotte, the mistress of all this prosperity and abundance, was a stout but anxious woman of about fifty with a kindly face on which there leapt a neurotic flicker: her left eye twitched with a nervous tie. Her husband wasn't in. He had left behind him objects loathed by all the family: his old formal dress -- a blue jacket with red cuffs and a sword presented to him for the quarter of a century's service that Frau Rotte would sourly say had 'made a man' of her husband.
Frau Rotte's unconscious communism had its origin at the time when she was roughly three years old and her mother, the widow of a labourer, left with little children on her hands, would on Sundays prepare to entertain the minister on whom she depended for financial assistance. As soon as his heavy steps sounded on the staircase the whole family would settle down around the Bible and start to sing psalms. That comedy went on for many hate-filled years.
Ever since then Frau Rotte could not look at a priest's clothing without shuddering. She married early and, as the local women said, couldn't have done better for she married a Lokführer, a man of honest, sober, steady character in good standing with his boss. Depression gripped her after having the first children. Her husband religiously brought home all his pay keeping nothing back for himself. Notwithstanding those visiting days at the clinic which he never missed Frau Rotte was left with a feeling of such bitterness and frustration that even thirty years later she could not forgive. Herr Rotte held the whole family in an iron grip. He would drive to church and on Saturdays wouldn't let them have a single newspaper. At times it seemed to Frau Rotte that she was re-living her mother's life. The footsteps of the parish vicar resounded continually in her head. Old Rotte drove his sons to their education with his fists and lash. They all ended up as accountants and technicians. Heinrich handles all the correspondence at Mannesman's. Otto is a cashier with a big bank. All of them are loyal servants to their masters -- any class instinct firmly stamped out by their father's heels -- pen-pushers for whom the sight of a worker's jacket arouses nothing but revulsion. Back in wartime Heine had made an attempt to go along to some workers' meeting. The poor lad forgot to take off his monocle, which he really did wear for short-sightedness, and was beaten up. He never forgave his class the misunderstanding and did not resume his coy attempt to return 'to his own'. For long years Frau Rotte had quietly watched her husband crippling, politically emasculating and selling her children one by one to the employers. Only in 1917 did she quite by accident run into a communist meeting, take a gulp of revolution and come home drunk on it. It was now too late for the older children. But she did save her youngest son: she made him into an ordinary metalworker and sent him to the Young Communist League.
Since then the old Rottes had an agreement not to argue about politics over the table in order to preserve the family. But the loss of the daughters causes the old woman untold pain. In this family which shows a cross-section of the social stratification of the highest-paid workers, the girls represent all the bourgeois republics from Scheidemann to Seeckt. They hate their father who has not given one of them an education. They hate his monarchy and his uniform, his voice and his fist.
But mother's communism is likewise infinitely amusing to them. Their father's broad back has after all lifted them up and set them down on the next rung of the social ladder. They have not swallowed factory fumes or choked over black bread. Admittedly a boss treats his typist no more courteously than he does a labourer. The beautiful girl who can type in three languages and knows bookkeeping is out of a job today because she dared to rebuff an overture by her chief.
Mother sought to exploit her sorrow.
"Come with me to the meeting!" Minna just stiffened her smooth, still fresh neck.
"You get such horribly ordinary people there, mother. A girl who can earn 125 marks can't allow herself such idiocies. No, it's better for me to go to a cafe!" And then the old woman lost her temper and with a feminine sensitivity struck her in the most painful and well padded place:
"You're thirty now, just you wait and in five years you'll be finished. None of those rich people'll marry you. You're waiting for nothing. You don't want to marry a worker. But soon workers won't want you either. You'll be pattering round from office to office like a lone dog. You've fallen between two stools. And then, go and see yourself in a mirror -- tired, grey and played out. A plain jaded charwoman like any other. You're worse than your father. The old man's got some sort of convictions even if they're false. But you've nothing. You'd be quite happy to give up the work you despise so much, and your body what's more, just for someone to call you in the dark gnedige Frau quite unintentionally. But they won't! You'll go to bed a worker and get up a worn-out hide."
"Du Klassenlose!" (You traitor to your class!)
That's the strongest abuse one worker can throw at another. Through the powder on her mealy-white cheeks a blush rises ...
 Deutsche-Russische Luftlinien -- the joint German-Soviet airline operating in the 1920s. (R.C.)