Ernst Meyer



(31 March 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 25, 31 March 1922, pp. 186–187.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The comedy of self-determination enacted by the Entente in the Treaty of Versailles is brilliantly illustrated by conditions in the Free State of Danzig. Since the Allies did not want to give Danzig outright to Poland, they created the artificial entity of the supposedly Free State of Danzig. At the same time they drew up a number of provisions designed to give Poland various privileges in Danzig.

The territory of the Free State contains approximated 300,000 inhabitants, of whom 200,000 live in the city of Danzig The agricultural territory belonging to the Free State is so small that its production of foodstuffs is insufficient for the feeding the population Danzig is therefore obliged to rely upon the importation of food. Of course, the territory of the Free State also furnishes an insufficient market for its industrial production. Therefore unemployment is greater than in most of the other industrial regions of Germany. As a result of the importation of the most important necessities of life, prices are in part higher than in Germany, so that the economic situation of the working class is very unsatisfactory. The economic dependence of this miniature state is connected with its political weakness. According to the Treaty of Versailles the Free State is under the protection of the League of Nations. This “protection” is expressed in the fact that the constitution requires the sanction of the High Commissioner of the League of Nations before going into effect. Furthermore, in the future all amendments to the constitution take effect only after approval by the League of Nations.

Poland has, after the High Commissioner, the greatest influence upon Danzig’s political and economic affairs. According to the Treaty of Versailles, the direction of Danzig’s foreign affairs, as well as the protection of its citizens, are taken over by the Polish government. Furthermore, the territory of Danzig is included in the Polish customs. In addition, Poland has the free use of the waterways, the inland ports and other facilities for foreign trade in Danzig without restriction. Still further, Poland obtains the policing and control of the Vistula, of the entire railway network and the entire system of postal, telegraph and telephone communication between Danzig and Poland. Finally, Poland is assigned the duty of the defense of Danzig according to a report to the Council of the League of Nations. In short, Poland possesses an extensive right of supervision, which is to some degree equivalent to the annexation of Danzig to Poland, and will make this annexation complete in the near future.

Poland’s preferential position and the supervision of Danzig by the League of Nations has resulted in Danzig having a constitution which is more backward than those of Danzig’s guardians, who are governed by a parliamentary form of government. The Danzig Parliament, the Volkstag, is, to be sure, elected by the universal suffrage of all male and female citizens over 20 years of age according to the system of proportional voting. But in the constitution elaborated by the High Commissioner of the League of Nations together with the Constitutional Assembly it is provided that eight of the members of the Senate are to be elected for a term of 12 years. (The other 14 Senators may be recalled, require the confidence of the Volkstag and may at any time be recalled by the express decision of the latter.) This has led to one party, the German National People’s Party (the monarchist and most reactionary party of Germany), possessing a majority in the Senate with 14 seats, although formally the government is a coalition of the three bourgeois parties. Alongside the Senate and the Volkstag, financial matters are in the hands of the Financial Council. Thus the population has a much smaller share in the government than in states with parliamentary government.

The egoism of the National People’s Party, which has filled almost all the more important official posts with its adherents, has caused dissatisfaction even in the ranks of the bourgeois parties. The German Party, formed by the fusion of the German People’s Party and the Democrats, as well as the clerical Center Party, all of which depend for a large share of their support on the middle class voters, are striving for an enlargement of their political influence. Although they are in the coalition, they would much prefer forming a coalition government with the Right Socialists, thus ousting the National People’s Party from participation in the government. The Right socialists, however, have been constrained to remain in the opposition by the force of political circumstances. Thus, in order to increase their influence, they are putting on a radical mask. The Independent Socialists are practically without influence and have been so since the split of 1920. They have only 9 seats in the Volkstag, while the Communists control 12. The Communist Party of Danzig, which is affiliated to the Communist Party of Germany as a district organization, has the greatest influence in the working class. The Independents and the Majority Socialists have been repeatedly forced to join with the Communists in demonstrations against the bourgeoisie. The democratic and parliamentary illusions of the Majority Socialists have however prevented them from declaring their readiness to join in the united front against the bourgeoisie. Demands of the Communist Party for action in common in the unemployment question and on May 1st were rejected by them under flimsy pretexts.

The Communist Party has great influence in the masses, but is in spite of that in a difficult position. It has very skilfully taken up the defense of all the economic interests of the proletarian and semi-proletarian masses. The rising cost of food, the proposed rent increase amounting to several hundred per cent, and low wages offer it an extensive field of activity. It is hindered however in the purely political field by by the Majority Socialists’ mask of radicalism, by the reactionary stand of the Nationalist Senate and by the political dependence and geographical situation of the Free State. The Communist Party is therefore devoting much attention to pointing out to the workers the necessity of Danzig’s close cooperation with Poland and Germany. The propagation of international relations and of the international connections of the working class is one of the most important of tasks the Danzig Communist Party.

Naturally enough, every great economic or political struggle in Germany or Poland finds its echo in Danzig. As against the other workers’ parties, who continually preach of Danzig’s “peculiar” conditions, the Communists must bring the fact home to the workers that the Danzig proletariat can only successfully carry on the struggle for the improvement of its social condition in close collaboration with the workers of the neighboring countries.

The Polish government has only recently refused to sanction the establishment of a Soviet Consulate in Danzig. The Danzig workers have been made to feel on more than one occasion how Poland is using them for anti-Communist ends. Thus, for instance, Danzig serves constantly as a transit port for arms and munitions against Soviet Russia.

The particular difficulties of the situation and of its own tasks have caused plans to appear within the ranks of the Communist Party which originate in impatience and a desire for a speedier change of the situation in favor of the working class and the Party. The Communist Party must none the less prove to the rest of the proletariat that only a clear realization of the similar position of the proletariat as a class in all countries and the unified international tactics arising from that fact offer the prerequisite for success.

Last updated on 1 September 2019