Felix Morrow

Big Three Differences in Germany

(June 1945)

Source: New International, Vol. 6 No. 6, June 1945, pp. 174–177
Transcription/XHTML Markup: Ted Crawford and David Walters
Proofreader: Einde O’Callaghan (August 2015).
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2004. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

The pattern of “Big Three” differences over Germany will in all likelihood be similar to that of their other differences. One month after unconditional surrender the Allied Control Commission for Germany has yet to meet. But it may well meet in the next few days and issue a communique announcing complete agreement. Then, within a few weeks, new signs of disagreement will emerge. Another meeting will perhaps again announce a new agreement, and so on. Amid the millions of words reporting both agreements and disagreements, we shall be told little officially of what is actually at stake. The fog will never lift because none of the powers can tell the truth. The gap between their public avowals and their real aims is too great.

They can tell the world what unites them in Germany: their common desire to prevent the revival of an independent German economic and military power. This common aim kept them together in the war and may for a time continue to hold them together.

What they cannot tell the world, however, is that this common aim does not exhaust their separate plans in Germany. Had the common aim been the sole one, there would have been a single mixed army of occupation, a single administration. Instead the Anglo-American and Red Army occupation areas are not only separate, but sealed off from each other. Not a single American or British reporter has yet been admitted to the Red Army zone. But the rest of the world knows little more of what is going on in the Anglo-American zones, for amid the reams of press reports there is almost nothing which answers the crucial questions.

The key to understanding the real situation in Germany is that, in addition to their common aim, each of the Big Three cannot fail to operate in its own occupation zone on the perspective of eventual utilization of its German base against one or both of the others in World War III. However short or long the time before the next war, this perspective must guide them. None of them can say so, but this is what is happening.

Publicly they join in assuring the peoples that they are at one in the aim of destroying the roots of Nazism and militarism in Germany, and in creating a free, democratic Germany. In this lying propaganda the powerful Stalinist movement throughout the world takes the lead. It can reach the working class as the capitalist governments cannot hope to do in their common aim of deceiving the world working class.

Stalin’s Public Line on Germany

There has just appeared, dated May 1945, a 107-page pamphlet, The Treatment of Defeated Germany, by V.J. Jerome, editor of Political Affairs, theoretical monthly organ of the American Stalinists. It provides us with the most rounded exposition so far of Stalin’s public line on Germany.

The key sentences are the following:

Differentiation should, of course, be made between the Nazis and the German people. Yet it is not a question of clay and potter. The collaboration of the people in its decisive mass with criminal Nazi rule and Hitler’s war of aggression is incontrovertible by the facts. Whether that support has on the part of some been through abject submission or of others through conscious adherence, the German people cannot be exonerated ...

... Given this reality, the post-war extirpation of Nazism and the democratic reconstruction of Germany must be brought about primarily from without – under the direction of the victorious Anglo-Soviet-American Coalition.

To bulwark the thesis that the German working class is incapable of extirpating Nazism after the military defeat, Jerome provides a falsified history of the German labor movement and of the German past. A few examples will indicate his method. “Germany is a country that has not to its credit a single consummated revolution.” True, but it was equally true of Russia, up to 1917, and scarcely justifies Stalin’s use of German workers for slave labor. Jerome quotes and accepts as true a cynical Social Democrat’s characterization of the November 1918 revolution: “There was never a more civilized revolution in history.” But he leaves out the fact, which the same Jerome wrote many times in the past, that the German proletariat wanted it to be and strove to make it a proletarian revolution like the Russian October. He says not a word about the revolutionary situation of 1923, when the proletarian majority followed the Communist party which, however, failed to seize the opportunity. He says not a word about the fact that the Communist party on the eve of Hitler’s coming to power had 600,000 members (the Russian party had 160,000 members at the time of the October Revolution) and six million voting for it, but under Stalin’s orders did not lift a finger to prevent Hitler’s entry into the government, whereas even the Austrian Social Democracy belatedly took to arms against Dolfuss.

We leave to another time, however, an adequate answer to the Stalinist and “democratic” libels on the German proletariat. Here we wish to deal with their assertion that what the German proletariat allegedly cannot do for itself the “Big Three” will do for it: extirpate Nazism and militarism and bring a free Germany into being.

Many times before 1935 the Communist International explained that Nazism and militarism were rooted in capitalism and could be permanently destroyed only by doing away with capitalism. Today the Stalinists begin correctly enough by stating, as Jerome does in his pamphlet:

The Nazi dictatorship left basically intact the joint and interlocking class domination of monopoly capitalists and feudalist Junkers – the former as owners of all the heavy industries and the latter as lords of the vast estates and as the militarist caste from which nearly all the Reichswehr generals derive.

The Nazi dictatorship came into being, not to subjugate monopoly capital and Junkerdom, but to serve as the desperate instrument of these joint class forces for maintaining their rule at home and for waging imperialist war.

It would logically follow from this that one must destroy not only the Nazi instrument but also its masters, monopoly capital and Junkerdom. But at this point the Stalinists drop the Marxist terminology, and declare that the solution is to carry out the Yalta agreement on Germany. That agreement, of course, contains nothing about abolishing monopoly capital and the Junker estates. Even if the Yalta agreement were carried out to the letter, the capitalist and Junker roots of Nazism and militarism would remain.

The Yalta Agreement on Germany

In reality, however, the Yalta agreement will not be carried out, is already being violated. The Stalinist press is full of proof of this fact but, far from drawing the conclusion that London and Washington cannot and will not carry out the freeing of Germany from the roots of Nazism, it treats each violation as a deviation which can be corrected. Thus the Stalinist press seeks to delude the working class with the false idea that the “democracies” are carriers of progress. As long as the Kremlin finds it possible to maintain the “Big Three” alliance, this propaganda will be continued. That the working class is disoriented as a result is of no moment to the Kremlin which long ago reduced the working class to the role of dupe and pawn in the game of power politics.

The Yalta agreement is quite specific and unambiguous. It declares for occupation and control that would

“... disarm and disband all German armed forces; break up for all times the German General Staff that has repeatedly contrived the resurgence of German militarism; remove or destroy all German military equipment; eliminate or control all German industry that could be used for military production; bring all war criminals to just and swift punishment and exact reparation in kind for the destruction wrought by the Germans; wipe out the Nazi party, Nazi laws, organizations and institutions, remove all Nazi and militarist influences from public office and from the cultural and economic life of the German people; and take in harmony such other measures in Germany as may be necessary to the future peace and safety of the world.”

Certainly this is a simple-enough directive to the occupying forces – were the “Big Three” able to carry out a united policy.

Are the “democracies” carrying out the Yalta decision to “break up for all times the German General Staff?” That is not indicated by the amazing incident of the 16-day Doenitz administration in Flensburg.

On May 7, at Reims, the German general staff unconditionally surrendered ... and set up shop as the German government at Flensburg in the British occupation area. A joint statement repudiating Doenitz’ pretentions could have been forthcoming in an hour – had Churchill wanted it. Instead, for weeks the Moscow radio railed against what was happening in Flensburg, while Washington remained silent and the British government blandly referred all questions to Marshal Montgomery in charge of the British occupation area. He, far from answering reporters’ questions, established a blackout of all news from Flensburg.

The Meaning of Flensburg

There followed two weeks negotiations among the “Big Three.” Washington at first backed the British, then advised the British to yield to the Moscow demand for liquidation of the Flensburg regime. It should not be forgotten, however, that as late as May 16, questioned in the House of Commons, Churchill simply said he preferred to speak of the Doenitz regime as “an administration rather than government.” He still hoped, it would seem, to leave the Doenitz group intact. Whether he seriously hoped to do so despite the Kremlin’s objections, we shall perhaps not know for certain until the British revolution opens the Downing Street archives. In any event, Churchill had given the German upper classes a signal that as soon as he could do so he would be amenable to a deal with them.

That such was the effect of the Flensburg incident is indicated by the former US Undersecretary of State, Sumner Welles, who (but only after it was all over) wrote:

It is a strange anomaly that the German general staff, the creator of German militarism, without which Nazism could never have plunged the world in war, should have been permitted to continue in existence for even one hour after Germany’s unconditional surrender ...

The British government, with at least the tacit acquiescence of our own government, permitted Admiral Doenitz to maintain what the German people considered a national regime. After the surrender the radio at Flensburg continued to broadcast to the German people in the name of his “government.”

For an even longer period Field Marshal Montgomery confirmed the command of Field Marshal Busch over two and a half million German troops.

Is it surprising that the German people still think the German general staff continues as before? (New York Herald Tribune, May 30)

The liquidation of Flensburg was hailed by the Moscow radio as “new evidence of Allied unity.” But, a few days later, it began to complain that Field Marshall Busch was still in command. This complaint continues, as we go to press, the May 31 Daily Worker reporting the May 30 Red Star in Moscow as stating:

At the very outset we pointed out the danger to the common allied cause in retaining the German high command. We again are compelled to declare that since Von Busch still enjoys the opportunity to execute the tasks of the General Staff – “demobilization of German troops” – he selects and reserves cadres for a variety of adventures.

Why Churchill continues this “danger to the common allied cause” – this neither Red Star nor the Stalinist press here explains. For to admit that the “democracies” are determined to preserve the German ruling class and are looking ahead to German bases in World War III – this would be to admit the falsity of the whole Stalinist line.

Are the “democracies” carrying out the Yalta agreement to “bring all war criminals to just and swift punishment?” The known facts prove the contrary. In the fall of 1942, Lord Chancellor Simon and President Roosevelt simultaneously announced that a United Nations War Crimes Commission would be formed, but it did not come into being until October 1943 when it first met in London. Nearly another year later, on August 30, 1944, its British chairman, Sir Cecil Hurst, told a press conference that as a result of the many obstacles (which he had created) the list of war criminals still “would be meager” at the end of the war. Even Sir Cecil Hurst, however, apparently wanted to do more than the British government would let him, and so he resigned in protest on January 5, 1945. The same month Congress failed to appropriate funds for the American delegate, H.C. Pell who, in an interview on January 26 told the press he had been prevented from continuing his work because “some officials in the State Department” opposed his view that the Nazis should be punished for their crimes against German Jews.

Now, at the end of May, Lord Wright. chairman of the Commission, announces that the time when trials can begin “seems to be within measurable distance.” He states the commission has prepared a list of some 2,500 Germans, 110 Italians, seventeen Bulgarians, two Albanians, two Hungarians and two Rumanians. This reads like a bad joke, when one thinks of the tens of thousands of German higher officers, SS and Nazi officials and big industrialists who by the narrowest judicial definition could to termed war criminals. Lord Wright hastens to add that ultimate lists will include “the thousands” who participated in mass murder and slave labor. But if it took three years to produce the present lists, one may wonder how many years it will taken even to double the number. More important, the commission is merely a fact-gathering agency, and there is no “United Nations” decision as yet as to the method of trial.

To any Marxist it is obvious from these fact – indeed, we were able to predict this in advance – that the capitalist governments have no intention of executing thousands of Junkers and capitalists. To do so would mean the decimation of the ruling class of Germany. On the contrary, it is just this class on which the “democracies” depend for ruling Germany and for eventual support against the Soviet Union. True, under prodding from the Kremlin and public opinion, there will undoubtedly be many more war criminals punished than the six rbought to trial after World War II. But it is already clear that the “democracies” have succeeded in establishing a procedure which is certain to save tens of thousands of Junkers and capitalists. Class solidarity and class aims motivate this.

The Stalinists complain about the non-performance of the United Nations War Crimes Commission but the Stalinist line takes it impossible for them to explain the class reason for the situation. So that V.J. Jerome must limit himself to chiding “our own over-zealous worriers over the rights of our enemies.” And when a reformist socialist like H.N. Brailsford remembers enough of his Marxist past to indicate the class reasons for the Anglo-American policy, Jerome has to defend to “democracies” against Brailsford:

“He has no intrinsic faith in the principles of the Atlantic Charter and is utterly inimical toward the purposes of peace, democracy and national freedom for which the United Nations and its leading Tri-Power Coalition are joined in common struggle.”

On the basis of such a line, Jerome and every other Stalinist can explain nothing and must deceive the working class about what is happening.

Stalin’s Policy in the Red Army Zone

What course is Stalin himself pursuing in the Red Army zone? Is it much different from that of the “democracies?” The censorship conceals the facts from us. But we do know that in Rumania and Hungary the Kremlin is not liquidating capitalist property. The League of German Officers sponsored by Moscow during the war may well be continuing in the Red Army zone. Like the “democracies,” Stalin may be planning to use the Junker officer cadres for his own purposes. But that means that the roots of German imperialism remain.

That, however, would be only one aspect of the reactionary policy pursued by Stalin. Whatever he may do to the German upper classes, his policy toward the German masses remains reactionary. Millions of German workers and peasants, in uniform or out, are being herded eastward for forced labor. The Stalinists attempt to justify this by the thesis of the workers’ responsibility for Nazism, including twisted quotations from Marx to prove that there can be such a thing as a reactionary people; even so, however, they can scarcely add that Marx prescribed that such a people should be put to slave labor.

The Stalinists therefore end by resorting to the bourgeois code: “Exaction of compensation from aggressors for their damages is an established right under international law.” Two things are false here: the whole idea of the war guilt of an “aggressor” when all the capitalist nations are equally guilty; and, in any event, the idea that the masses shall pay for the crimes of their rulers. Needless to say, Stalin did not begin with the idea of war guilt and thereupon decide to put the German masses to forced labor, but made his decision and turned over to the Jeromes the unpalatable task of justifying it. They could find no other arguments than those used by the imperialist bourgeoisie. There are no other arguments.

The Main Issues in Dispute

Perhaps the principal conflict today between Stalin and the Anglo-American bloc over Germany is not the latter’s failure to destroy the roots of Nazism and militarism – Stalin knows well enough they will not do so – but their refusal to turn over to him the millions of workers and peasants who fled in terror from the Red Army zone. For various reasons the American, British and French governments are unlikely to use Germans for forced labor on a large scale: there is much unemployed labor in western Europe; the labor movement apart from the Stalinists is opposed to it. This provides the “democracies” with a welcome opportunity to parade their liberalism in contrast to Stalin’s use of forced labor. In any event they do not want to provide Stalin with millions of additional manpower. They may still do so, however, in preference to yielding to other demands of Stalin. Meanwhile, however, they have already begun to release considerable numbers of German war prisoners, whereas in the Red Army zone millions of prisoners and civilians are being moved eastward for slave labor.

Stalin, who controls roughly about one-third of Germany’s industrial resources, is also demanding that the Anglo-Americans turn over to him movable industrial plants and machinery from their area. His purpose is twofold: to strengthen industry in the Soviet Union and the countries it controls, and to weaken the industrial power of the Anglo-American areas in Germany. Moreover he fears that living standards in the Anglo-American zones will be higher than in the Red Army zone. Hence the Stalinists argue against including in “reparations in kind” – the formula of the Yalta agreement – much consumers’ goods, because such manufactures will operate against the program for disarming Germany economically. “The dominant category of the reparations will have to be raw materials, capital assets, and retribution by manpower.” To strip Germany thus cannot fail to have catastrophic effects on the living standards of the German masses. Jerome justifies that too:

The interests of long-lasting peace and the dictates of justice demand that the German aggressor State be reduced to an economy in which the living standards shall not exceed those of Norway, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, or any other nation its armies sought to subjugate.

One can safely hazard a guess that, while demanding the removal of factories from the parts of Germany which he does not control, Stalin will not do likewise in the area he controls. The great industrial plant of Silesia will remain basically intact, ostensibly on the ground that it is now to be part of Poland. The real reason will be that German technology and skilled manpower remains superior to that of the Soviet Union and can produce more if kept as it is. Likewise, in all probability, with the industrial district around Berlin. For the last thing in Stalin’s mind is the eventual re-unification of a united Germany. What he holds he aims to keep, regardless of the feelings of the German people.

It should be obvious that Stalin’s demands for more capital assets from Germany will not easily be granted by the Anglo-Americans. That Stalin should keep intact one-third of Germany’s industrial strength while demanding that the others break up the rest is scarcely conducive to agreement. But we can be sure that Stalin will muster considerable pressure. He will back Polish, Yugoslav, Czechoslovakian, French, Belgian and Dutch demands for German capital assets. His aim will be that even if he does not get the assets for the areas he controls, to get them out of the areas controlled by the Anglo-Americans.

To sum up this brief sketch of the differences: Stalinist complaints at the failure of the Allies to liquidate the German ruling classes are a necessary part of the present Stalinist line of portraying the tripartite division of Germany as the method of democratizing the German nation; it is also a form of pressure to get further concessions from the Allies in the negotiations now going on. But the Kremlin itself has no illusion that it can succeed in getting the Allies to liquidate the German ruling class. That is so much pap for the masses. All that the Kremlin hopes for is to succeed in getting from the Allies more German slave labor and more factories and machinery. That is the real aim of the Stalinist libels on the German proletariat.


Last updated on: 22 August 2015