Publication: The Economist

Full Citation

  • Title German Politics
  • Publication Title The Economist
  • Collection The Economist
  • Date Saturday,  Oct. 13, 1945
  • Volume 149
  • Issue Number 5329
  • Page Number 514
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The Economist Newspaper Limited
  • Copyright Statement © The Economist Newspaper Limited.
German Politics IT is doubful whether much notice was ever taken of the I recommendation made at Potsdam to the Czech and Polish Governments that they should call a halt in the expulsions of Germans. But now. it appears. a new wave. several millions strong. is to be poured into rump-Germany. Millions are already milling about and dying in the Russian Zone. The British authorities have agreed to take two million more into their zone. If another inrush engulfs what little organisation there is for dealing with these people. there will be an appalling famine in Germany this winter. with all its attendant horrors of disease. madness and crime. The first priority in any policy for Germany is thus to per- suade the Russians. Czechs and Poles to stop the expulsions. Yet. even if this is achieved. there will still remain in Germany an acute problem of divided policy. The Potsdam decisions on common action and common objectives still stand and on some of the projects - the restoration of a unified transport system. for instance - some progress has been made. But beneath all attempted or superficial agreement lies the fact that the Russian. American and British approaches to Germany are not the same. It can be argued that the Russians are pursuing a consistent policy. They appar- ently do not intend to maintain their armies in Germany for very long because of the urgent needs of their own reconstruc- tion. They wish to withdraw as soon as possible. To make this possible. they wish to weaken Germany drastically. to make Germany so impotent that the revival of its war power is im- possible. Logically. they can argue that if industrial and even agricultural wealth remain. the Germans can recover. This wealth must therefore be destroyed. The Russian Zone has been stripped- at the same time the reform of land tenure has put German farming back to the strip system of the Middle Ages. Finally. the refugees have been sent flooding in. The other safeguard of a Russian withdrawal is the selection of -safe German administrators to take over what is left of the country. The establishment of a German administration has gone further in the Russian Zone than anywhere else. Not only are there local and state governments- there is a Central Government with a complete set of departments. made up of 5 Communists. 5 Social Democrats. 2 Christian Democrats and 2 non-party men. These central and local governments are really a species of civil service. a trained German staff through which the Russians can act and from which they expect obedience. It follows that Communists predominate. At the same time land -reform and the nationalisation of industry have further accelerated the de-nazification of German life. Thrice protected-by the destruction of productive equip- ment. by social change and by the setting up of a docile administration-the Russians may feel they can withdraw. So far the Americans appear to have adopted some points from the Russian programme. They have closed down or de- stroyed a number of factories- in any case less than 10 per cent of the industrial plants in the American Zone are at work. Steady dismantling is also going on. The Americans are trying to get all local administration into German hands by next month and have set up four different state Governments. The speed with which they wish the transfer to take place. and the ruthless- 1 ness with which they try to -pastoralise -their zone almost I certainly reflect a realisation-perhaps not fully conscious-that neither Congress nor American public opinion will be willing for long to bear the burden of directing manpower and material resources to a large-scale direct administration of Ger- many. Perhaps there is no specific decision in favour of early withdrawal- but there is an unwillingness to contemplate stay- ing very long. The profound difference between the Russian and American Zones is that the Americans initiate no social changes. have relied hitherto on Catholic and Conservative elements.-and have-. been dilatory in de-Nazification.o a political concepf which their training does not fit them to interpret. The British Zone differs again from the Russian and the American Zones. There has been no further destruction. On the contrary. the British have adopted a species of New Economic Policy. simply designed to get something going and some goods produced in order to stave off disaster this winter. The building up of a German administration is not so advanced as in the other zones. There has been little or no de-Nazifica- tion.o Social reform or even social purpose-beyond the imme- diate purpose of starting up the factories-are equally lacking. In so far as the British have made use of German administra- tors. like the Americans they have tended to seek them among Catholic Right Wing circles. The difference between the three zones is thus not clear-cut. The Russians and the Americans think in terms of leaving a Germany which they have thoroughly weakened. even ruined the Russians have for good or ill profoundly changed the struc- ture of their zone and leave Germans in charge with some sense of political direction. The Americans will leave a zone economi- cally impaired but socially unchanged. The British. on the other hand. are attempting a measure of economic reconstruction. Their zone is already the least ruined and may remain so-if the expulsions are halted. But their policy has given little sign of either political or social direction. Against this background. talk of a uniform Allied policy for Germany is academic. The British cannot adopt the principle common to American and Russian policy-o -devastation. pas- toralisation. planned ruin. For one thing. it offends the humanity of the men who would be supposed to carry out and follow the consequences of such a policy. For another. Britain. unlike Russia or America. is dependent upon a prosperous European economy and will suffer itself from the balkanisation of Central Europe. On the other hand. nothing will now undo the social changes wrought by Russia east of the Elbe. Nation- alised industry and peasant-owned land will prove to be per- manent structural changes in German life. The fact of these profound divergences does not mean necessarily that Germany will remain divided. The old Reich was divided socially between a feudal Junker economy in the east and a liberal capitalist de- velopment in the west. But it does mean that a struggle will begin for the soul of Germany. a struggle in which the future of western democracy and of European peace is inseparably bound up. Everything therefore combines to point to the necessity for a stock-taking of British policy in Germany. The first administra- tive steps have been taken by setting up a London headquarters for the British elements of the Control Commissions in Ger- many and Austria and putting it in charge of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Mr Hynd. But what appears to be a step forward is immediately put in doubt by the addendum that Mr Hynd will work subject to the ultimate authority of the Secretary of State for War-as if policy for Germany were still a military operation and not a political task calling for the exercise of the highest civilian judgment. The trouble with British policy in Germany is precisely that it seems to have been conceived as a short-term operation. all tactics and no strategy. The tactics have been well thought out. the British are now in control of their zone and reports seem to agree that it is administered more smoothly than any of the others. But the wider framework of long-term policy is lacking. The instinctive determination of the British administration to rebuild and restore is right. The British do not share the Russian illusion that democracy can grow from desperate poverty. nor can they afford to take the American view that poverty in Europe does not matter. But they are going about their task of reconstruction as if they had all eternity to complete it. The expedient of leaving Nazis in key positions and of pick- ing administrators only among the Conservatives. for example. can be defended only on the ground that it is a temporary policy which will be reversed in due course-but that postpones until an indefinite later date the start of the process of rebuilding a trustworthy German society. But the British will not be given the time for such a leisurely approach. Within a very short time there will be pressures both from within and from without to reduce the scale of the British administration very drastically. It is already proving difficult to recruit the necessary numbers of competent administrators. Demobilisation. even in its present very early stage. is already eating into the supply of efficient officers in the Army- but Field-Marshal Montgomery will not be allowed to defer the release of these men for more than a few months. If. in a year or two's time. there are large-scale Ameri- can and Russian withdrawals. the pressure on the British to do likewise will be irresistible. Policy for Germany is. therefore. a race against time. The only realistic basis for planning is that. before many years have past. there will only be a skeleton cadre of British supervisors and investigators left in Germany. with perhaps a handful of troops to support them. When that time comes. there must be a German administration. which the British can trust or direct. ready to take over the responsibility of government. If. when that time comes. the British have not trained their successors. two consequences are sure. A partly re- stored Ruhr economy will be left in the hands of men who were ready to work with Hitler and will be equally ready to back his successor. At the same time. the political and social pressure coming from Socialised Germany east of the Elbe will be such that before long left-wing extremism may well be strong enough to sweep away the Conservatives left behind by the British and to extend to the banks of the Rhine a totalitarian system of govern- ment. There is an alternative to Britain's present policy. an alterna- tive which. with a Labour Government in Britain. it is possible to pursue. In east and west in Germany. the Social Democrats are potentially the strongest party. So far they have been cold- shouldered by all the occupying authorities-the Russians pre- ferring the Communists. the British and Americans the Catholic Right. In eastern Germany the degree of destruction and dis- -od01 Part capital. part interest 200 per annum guaranteed for f eleven years-... of which. on average. 175 is capital repayment p/wjj and 25 is taxable interest-... and. after the eleven years. an annuity 1 1-njf of 300 (subject to tax) continuing for life-.. this can all be Bi-W secured by a male life aged sixty-two for a present investment of 3.000. EQUITY LAW LIFE ASSURANCE SOCIETY LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS Temporarily transferred to 163-164. STRAND. LONDON. W.C.2 245 245 location puts the party of moderate Socialism at an extreme disadvantage. But in the British Zone. reconstruction is already the accepted policy. and it provides scope and genuine promise to a party of the democratic Left. If the British in their zone were to add to their sane economic approach a more adult politi- cal policy and decided to back immediately and deliberately the forces of social democracy. supporting the reforms the Ger- man Socialists demanded and using them to carry through a whole-hearted campaign of de-Nazification. then the British occupying forces could. in a few years time. be reduced to a handful. or even withdrawn completely. without the equal and opposite dangers of leaving behind on the one hand a Ger- many of industrialists and Conservatives ready for a revenge. on the other. an open invitation to left-wing extremism to flood westward. destroying all hope of democratic government. On the contrary. the attraction to the rest of Germany of an area of economic revival controlled on democratic socialist lines would be such that the Social Democrats east of the Elbe could recover their courage and their strength and take up the struggle for democratic government throughout Germany. A deliberate policy of this nature cannot be expected to please everyone. There will. for example. be those who think any preference for one German party over another a breach of democratic doctrine. But democracy cannot flourish in an icy vacuum- a refusal to express a preference is in itself favouritism towards the powers that be. Or there will be those who will call the policy a return to the Weimar Republic which (so runs the fable) led straight to the Nazis.o But a German administration there certainly must be. since the conscription of British civilians to serve in Germany is out of the question (and nothing less will for long sustain a British administration of more than a skeleton nature). and where else can a party be found that so well combines broad popular support with respect for the ideals of liberty and democracy Or. again. there will be the Conserva- tives. who will say that a Socialist Government in Britain is bad enough without deliberately creating one in Germany. They may be invited to say whether they would prefer a Communist regime on the Rhine. To those who have eyes to see. there is really no alternative. It is Weimar or Moscow. liberal Socialism or Communist dictatorship. Even a high Tory Government in London would in the end be driven to the same conclusion- though -in the end -would certainly be too late. The Labour Government. if they have the courage of their own convictions.- have a chance to save something out of the wreck of Europe.