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Henry Judd

World Politics

The New Germany

(10 January 1949)


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 2, 10 January 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


Western Germany, a political football held tightly in the hands of the Allied occupation authorities, has received lately a series of vigorous boots and kicks at the hands of these same authorities. Under the guise that the Berlin crisis and the threat of Russian absorption of Western Germany has, for the time being, been averted and under the heavy threat of blackmail presented through the pressure of French imperialism (the blackmail consisting in the threat that General de Gaulle would come to power unless ...), a series of actions has been taken to throttle the developing independence, initiative and freedom from occupation that have become quite noticeable throughout Western Germany. The familiar propaganda barrage that “the Hun is stirring again” and “German insolence and arrogance are back” has accompanied these actions. Obviously, a cover must be provided, as the Allied powers reset their grip around Western Germany’s throat and curse the Russians as the cause of its having momentarily slipped.

Simultaneously with these actions, which we shall describe below, the revival of economic life shows full signs of slowing to a merely perceptible monthly increase in productivity. So far as living conditions for the masses of people are concerned, the spectacular improvement of the summer months has ended. We exclude Berlin from this, since the same situation of a bare-level existence has gone on there for six months and will continue indefinitely without any change. Dollar scarcities have strictly limited all but essential imports to Western Germany, and there is even talk of now resorting to barter trade on the international level in order to procure necessities.

Economically speaking, Western Germany is now beset by basically the same problems (except to a worse degree) as those of France and other European nations: inflation (the black market mark is now 15 to a dollar, as against the “official” rate of 3⅓ to a dollar) and chronic deficits in all forms of business, governmental expenditures, etc., rising prices, shortages of commodities, revival of all types of black marketeering, dollar shortage for trading, etc. After the sensational upturn of last summer, the economic picture is becoming darker each day with the masses of people unable to purchase what they need. It is simply the form of their difficulties that has changed, while its content – miserably low living standards – has remained the same. Put otherwise, the revival of capitalist economy in Western Germany has brought back with it all the characteristics of post-war European capitalism. It is against this background that the Allied imperialists have decided to launch their new blows at the German people, thus indicating the real nature of their occupation and administration of their half of the country.
 

Bonn Assembly a Farce

What are these fresh blows? First of all, the alleged “Constituent Assembly” which has now been meeting for months at Bonn has practically come to a halt in its work of drafting a constitution for a Western German government. The Allies, primarily because of France, of course, have been unable to present to this “Assembly” any draft of their so-called “Occupation Statute” which is supposed to determine relations between the as-yet-to-be German independent (?) government and the Allies. They cannot agree among themselves as to precisely how this quisling government of the future shall best be held under their thumb – in escrow, so to speak. The French, as usual, demand the utmost in decentralization and do not even wish to permit a German (not even one!) to sit on the proposed court which shall decide future interpretations of this “Occupation Statute.” Thus the phony “Constituent Assembly” now meeting at Bonn cannot proceed with its labors since it knows not which “powers” will be allotted to it in the not-yet-written “statute”!

The Bonn farce of “constitution writing” has largely been ignored by the German people who instinctively recognize that whatever emerges from that Assembly will merely be a legal structure for the continued occupation of Western Germany, until the nebulous future. It is clear already that no form or shape of sovereign power shall be permitted under the Bonn constitution; and that, in effect it will be a constitution largely designed to the requirements of French imperialism – that is, decentralized, autocratic, without sovereign rights, weak and quislingesque. The Bonn Assembly has degenerated to a farce.

A series of economic measures indicates a desire to check the tendency of Western Germany to develop its own economic life, particularly with respect to the world market. First, the report of the Hoffman committee on halting plant dismantling has been delayed and postponed, although it has been ready for weeks. Whereas it seemed a few weeks ago that most dismantling would halt, this is no longer so certain, and scheduled dismantling continues. The merger of the three zones economically into a “Trizonia” is far from completed, thanks to the French, who are still holding out for the exclusive right to milk their zone privately. A dispute over taxation powers is blocking this merger and the French have yet to permit trade unions in their zone to merge with similar unions in Bizonia. At the same time, the growth in German productivity, particularly in the commodity field (machinery and parts, chemicals, photographic and precision apparatus, wines, etc.), far from being welcome by her Western European neighbors, has, on the contrary, aroused nothing but fears and threats of trade blocking by Belgium, France, Holland, etc.
 

The Agreement on the Ruhr

Finally, and surely most significant, has been the new agreement on the Ruhr – arrived at by the London conference of six governments of Western Europe, England and the United States – which partly nullifies “Law No. 75” issued one month ago and strikes a heavy blow at the right of the German nation and its people to decide the ultimate issue of who shall own and control the Ruhr and its industries. The new agreement, marking major concessions to the French, may largely evade this question of eventual ownership by not taking it into consideration, but it does not evade the issue of who shall, for the next period, exploit the Ruhr territory and benefit from its production.

In this respect, the French have won important demands, from their standpoint – that is, the standpoint that the Ruhr shall remain. indefinitely under Allied imperialist control, management and that France shall largely benefit from its coal and steel products. The former proposal of a German “trusteeship” system, to be in effect until an independent government shall decide its ownership, is cast overboard and in its place an “International Authority” with sweeping powers to supervise the Ruhr’s industries for an indefinite period is created. While this does not detach the Ruhr from Germany, as the French demand, it postpones even that issue to the benefit of French imperialism in that it prevents even the beginnings of the creation of a purely German administration and apparatus.

It is true that the agreement is loosely worded and much of it will be subject to interpretation, but this applies only to the Allied powers who will fight it out among themselves. The “role” of the Germans in this agreement is far from loosely worded and is worth quoting at length to indicate the real state of affairs. On the “International Council” set up (which has full powers), there is a total of 15 votes. Three of these 15 votes are “German,” but let us consider the Allied definition of “German representatives.”

Under Article 9, Clause (c) we read, “The votes allocated to Germany shall be cast as a unit by the joint representative of the occupation authorities concerned appointed as provided in Article 4, until the occupying powers concerned determine that the German government, by accession or by other means, has assumed the responsibilities placed upon Germany by the present agreement. Thereafter such votes shall be cast by the German representative.”

Translated, this means that the Allies will do the voting now for the Germans, but the Germans will be allowed to vote when they’ve finally got a government that fully meets the “Approved by Military Government” stamp!

The three German votes, it is reported, are to be cast exclusively by America, according to a secret clause in the agreement. In fact, it seems that the agreement has other secret sections which will be revealed at a later date.

This Ruhr agreement has been universally condemned by all parties and sections of the German population and has undoubtedly wiped away much of the “good will” created by the Berlin airlift. It has raised once more all political questions, particularly those concerning relations between German political parties – above all, the Social Democratic Party – and the occupation authorities. It has given the German Stalinist movement in the West and in the Ruhr a new lease on life which it has quickly grabbed hold of. But these political effects of the new Allied offensive against the people of Western Germany – particularly as it affects the German Social Democratic Party – must be considered in a separate article in our next issue.


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