1940s >> 1948 >> no-528-august-1948

The Trouble in Berlin

It stands to reason that when rival Powers are forced to unite by fear of a common enemy the one thing that cannot fail to bring their loving association to an abrupt end is the destruction of their enemy. Ostensibly the four Allied Powers agreed together to occupy the four Zones of Germany in order “to keep the Germans down” ; but only the very simple believed it would last. The destruction of German might in 1945 was bound to have the same kind of sequel as it had in 1918. Then it was France and Britain that were soon at daggers drawn, this time, with Germany crushed, it is Russia and the Western Powers that fear each other and are trying to win support for their respective policies among the Germans themselves. All the occupying Powers were in an awkward position when it came to making advances to the Germans. They had to explain by what right they remained in occupation of Germany after the end of the fighting. To each other they kept up for a time the fiction that they were united allies who were in Germany because each wanted the other to be there just out of comradely feeling and under amicably negotiated agreements.

As their quarrels became more open and heated this ceased to be of any use, especially as both sides accused the other of having broken the agreements. The other and only real “right” to be there was the “right of conquest,” since not even the most brazen politician could argue that they were there by invitation of the population. But when allies get to the stage of arguing about the right of might danger is in the air. When each side accused the other of wanting to split Germany both were evading the issue. Each wanted a united Germany provided the government would be subservient: neither wanted a united Germany which would back the other side. Russia had an advantage because its zone encircled Berlin, the traditional capital, but it still remained to squeeze America, Britain and France out of their sectors of Berlin itself. The latter governments stood on their right to be there by agreement, to which the Daily Worker (10/7/48), retorted with the answer that the Russians got to Berlin first and “invited” the other Powers, to join them because they then supposed that “the British, Americans and French were at one with the Russians in sincerely desiring the united control of Germany.” The major reason given by the Worker is, however, that “the Russians took Berlin with tremendous loss and sacrifice by their own forces. . . .”—in other words the “right of conquest.” The inevitable answer to the argument that one Power holds something by right of force is for some other Power to threaten to use more force to change the “right.” And that was the position in July when all sorts of vague threats of never yielding were being bandied about by both sides. The Observer’s Washington correspondent summed it up as follows: “There is every reason to believe that the American Government, and indeed all three Western occupying Powers, have accepted the risk of war which is inherent in the Berlin note to Russia.” (Observer. 11 7 48).

This Correspondent quoted a diplomatic informant who brightly remarked : “We have put our boat in at the head of the rapids and will just have to see how it turns out.” So the preliminary manoeuvring for the third world war goes on over the, at present, prostrate body of Germany. What the future will bring when some day the boat does “shoot the rapids” everyone can imagine.

In the meantime the palm for stupidity surely goes to the Labour Government’s Home Secretary, Mr. Chuter Ede, who as an ex-teacher must have learned nothing from history and as an ex-soldier must have learned nothing from war. and could actually talk in our age of war “for honour.” Speaking at a British Legion meeting in South Shields he said : “There is one price we are not prepared to pay for peace. That is the loss of our honour.” (Daily Telegraph, 12/7/48).

The joint military occupation of Germany was hound to fail because in a capitalist world the formerly allied capitalisms have real things to fight about among themselves.—the capture of markets and control of regions of economic and strategic importance. If the workers of the world were alive to their common interest in the struggle against Capitalism and for Socialism they would have opposed from the start any attempt to impose a settlement by armies of occupation. The German workers, like the workers of Russia and the West, have to learn to achieve their own emancipation for themselves: and behind the problem of destroying militarism, which is but one of the effects of capitalism, is the fundamental problem of destroying capitalism itself, a task for the working class of all lands.

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