A. Thalheimer

Genoa and Germany

(19 April 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 28, 19 April 1922, p. 208.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Wirth-Rathenau Government has landed in a ditch because of its policy of compliance and now grasps at Genoa as a drowning man grasps at a straw. As is well known the present German government did not entirely accept the latest decree of the Reparations Commission; indeed it declared itself opposed to a number of essential demands contained in the last note; it objected to Allied control over taxes and finances, to the cash payments decreed for the remainder of the year, and to the demand that new taxes to the value of 60 milliard paper marks be imposed. As for the other Allied demands, the Wirth Government declared its willingness to enter into discussion. Although this last note of the Reparations Commission was not in the nature of an ultimatum since it set no time limit in which an answer must be nude, nevertheless May 1st may be taken as the final date because by then the new taxes amounting to at least 60 milliard paper marks must be provided. There is thus a vacuum created and the Wirth-Rathenau-Bauer Government hopes to fill this vacuum with Genoa.

The economic and financial condition of Germany on the eve of the Genoa Conference may be briefly thus summarized: The German paper mark which suffered a heavy decline after the Cannes decision for regular ten-day payments, has again registered a heavy loss because of the last Reparation note. The dollar rate, the best measure of Germany’s financial and economic condition, is now above 300. The wholesale and retail prices follow the dollar rate more quickly than at any time in the past. An immense wave of rising prices is sweeping through the land. The cost of the most important articles of food is increasing almost daily, the scattered attempts of the workers to make wages meet the higher cost of living, is meeting with stubborn resistance on the part of the employers. Hand in hand with this resistance is the offensive launched by the employers against the eight-hour day, which is one of the last conquest of the November Revolution of 1918. The prices of various goods tends to approach the prices of the world market. But until the world market level is reached, the cut-throat competition of Germany will go on unhampered.

Another characteristic feature of Germany’s economic situation on the eve of Genoa, is the fact that the heavy industries and high finance are taking advantage of the tight position in which the government at present finds itself, concentrating all their energies on an attempt to acquire the most important government industries, like the railway, the post office, etc. The railway and post-office rates are constantly being raised, but the prices which the united heavy industries demand for the supplies they furnish these government industries are rising still faster. Thus the democratic petty-bourgeois government is backed more and more against the ropes and is skinned alive by the heavy industries

One might actually think that under these circumstances any German government would take a clear and determined stand at the Genoa Conference. The only card that it could play is Soviet Russia, to which the German nation is bound by a common fate. Only as an ally of Soviet Russia could Germany play an active and independent role towards the Entente. Only then would there be a possibility that its independent participation in the reconstruction of Soviet Russia would go to the credit of German economy instead of going into the war-tribute coffers of the Entente.

This vacillating policy, which is both brainless and characterless, that creeps along from day to day and seizes at a new straw after every defeat, that has made an Entente colony out of Germany, has turned the German Government into an English or French vice-regency, and has burdened the masses with unendurable war debts, is directly supported by the Scheidemann Party (which together with the Center and the Democrats constitutes the governing Bloc) and indirectly supported by the Independents whose “expert” in foreign affairs, Herr Breitscheid acts just as any other special adviser of the Entente would. Aside from the fact that after the railroad strike, the Wirth government owed its existence directly to the Parliamentary fraction of the Independent Socialists, every soul in Germany knows that without the support of the Social Democratic Party and the trade-union bureaucracy, this government could not live another day.

The mystery of this inconceivably idiotic and cowardly policy, whose effect [will] be that at Genoa Germany will be treated as an altogether negligible and absolutely dependent power, is nothing more than the blind class-egoism of the German bourgeoisie; this class-egoism is encouraged by the Social Reformist lackeys of the German bourgeoisie in the camp of the working class. An independent and self-conscious policy towards the Entente, a policy in conjunction with Soviet Russia is only possible when the inner political power is seized by a government which is supported by the overwhelming majority of the masses – the working class. But the support of the great masses is to be won only through the most ruthless shifting of the war-burdens upon the bourgeoisie and the subjection of the bourgeoisie to the most rigorous control of the working class. The Social Democracy does not venture into this struggle; instead it prostitutes itself continually in the office of tax-collector and henchman of the small clique of capitalists who are still the true masters of Germany, and who went to Genoa not as representatives of the German people, but as the representatives of the same small capitalist clique, which is so brutal and cruel within Germany and so crawlingly slavish outside of Germany. In view of all this it becomes clear that all that the marionettes of the German capitalist clique will get from the Genoa table (miserably covered as it will be) will be the crumbs. The key of the German situation is not to be sought in Genoa; nor is it in the hands of these marionettes. It is to be found in Germany, and in the hands her working class. To what extent the German Social Democratic leaders have become the hopeless Mamelukes of the Entente, was shown us by the Berlin conference of the Executives of the the Internationals, and this in a very unmistakable and shameful manner. At this conference, another petty Entente Mameluke M. Vandervelde, had the audacity to declare in the name of the Second International, that is, also in the name of the German Social Democrats, that the Treaty of Versailles was sacrosanct. But the Social Democratic leaders consider it their duty to lick the boots of the smallest vassal of their masters.

But the official Germany that went to Genoa is far from being the true Germany. Under the increasing pressure of need the proletarian class struggle is flaming up out of the depths of the masses with ever greater intensity against the “authorities” of the official Social Democracy; it is gradually undermining the hold of Social Reformism upon the masses and augments the ranks of Communism with masses of new recruits.

The stronger and the more energetic the struggle again the robber-pact of Versailles, as carried on by the Communist vanguards of other countries, will be the greater the determination with which they beat back the insolent attacks of the bourgeoisie, and the better they understand how to draw the masses to them, and into the defensive struggle against the worldwide offensive of the capitalists, the better will they be able to support the fast-growing revolutionary proletarian ranks in Germany, which together with the Russian proletarian army, are destined to take the next step towards the eradication of the disgrace of Versailles, and towards the reconstruction of world economy, ruined by capitalism, and which is now making a vain attempt at Genoa to emerge from the abyss and reestablish itself on a new basis.

Last updated on 4 September 2019