French Writer in Le Temps Points to Dangers That May Arise By Imposing Too Much Isolation.
Where Will Germany Drift?
French Writer in Le Temps Points to Dangers That May Arise By Imposing Too Much Isolation.
THE lure of arms and of the soldier’s uniform has departed from the former empire of the Kaiser, and the German laborer, artisan and farmer are all voluntarily working overtime to bring their country back to its former highly organized state commercially and agriculturally if we are to believe Jean Herbrette, a French journalist writing for Le Temps, the widely known Paris semi-official Conservative daily. This writer declares that the arrogance and military egotism of the German are things of the past, but the race has retained all its old industry, precision and discipline. Still he makes the sinister bint that “their fighting spirit will come back as soon as they have plenty of meat.” On the other hand, returning to his first impressions:—
“Germany is at work. The Germany of to-day does not endanger peace. What more could we ask?
“Two classes in Germany are in very real distress. These are the city middle classes and the wage earners. The farmers’ whether landlords or peasants, are quite well off; for which the country has reason to congratulate itself.
“As we all know, the middle classes are in distress because their incomes have remained about stationary, while the cost of living and taxes have increased enormously. Except for the newly rich, who have exceptional opportunities for concealing their wealth and have spirited much of it away to foreign countries, the larger taxpayers are subject to present or prospective burdens which, until recently, would seem incredible. A great manufacturer figured out for me that the estate of one of his partners, valued at about 60,000,000 marks, would be reduced to 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 marks by the time it reached his only heir, an adopted daughter. That is quite a fortune to be sure; but is entirely inadequate to keep in operation the greatindustrial undertaking which the deceased created. Men living on their income, with an estate of 1,000,000 marks, have only 20,000 marks left after paying taxes. This is about the minimum sum now needed to maintain a prosperous workingman having a small family, and living in a modest flat. Government officials and teachers are rapidly being pauperized, if they have not already reached that condition.
“Salaries have been increased, but the cost of living rises far more rapidly. Moreover, many of the lower middle class spent all their savings in the course of the war, buying enough food to keep body and soul together. I could quote numerous instances where scholars have sold their libraries, well-to-do families have sold their furniture, parents have given up sending their son to college, because they have not money enough to live
“Workingmen with large families are also suffering cruelly. This does not apply solely to the unemployed, of whom there are some 400,000 to-day in Germany. What characterizes the present crisis is the fact that even a worker constantly employed at good wages cannot feed and clothe his family properly.
“The wife of a Saxon workingman said to me, as if it were the most natural thing in the world: ‘It is eight years since I have bought a cotton or linen undergarment.’ “Bolshevist propaganda spreads almost without effort among the working classes, who believe that they have nothing left to lose.. To be sure, the Hohenzollerns are still unpopular; and the trade unions are ranking up solidly against Bolshevist agitation in spite of the success which the Moscow agitators had at the Halle Congress. But the reactionary movement and the communist movement are one in their common hatred for France.
“By preaching vengeance on France, some hope to restore a military government in Germany. By preaching hostility to France, others hope to serve the Bolshevist régime in Moscow, which will
benefit by any conflict between bourgeois governments. Beyond question, propaganda of both kinds, that of the extreme Tories and that of the extreme Radicals, is still on the increase in Germany. These rally all the disaffected elements. We must not shut our eyes to the fact that enmity to France is growing both in intensity and in depth.
“In discussing reparations with Germans of political intelligence and influence, one comes up against these two general ideas: Germany wants the amount it is to pay fixed as promptly as possible, and it wants to pay that amount mainly in commodities and wares. But it does not wish all the commodities and wares which it delivers to be set off against its debt. It wishes payment in pounds sterling or dollars for a portion of those deliveries. The object of this is to enable the German government to establish credits abroad to use for buying provisions and raw materials.
“However, there is something else to be considered first.
“In travelling through Germany and studying business conditions there, one speedily discovers that it is neither logical nor tactful to debate the sum total of reparation.
“So let us try to start at the beginning. First of all, we must fix a quantity which Germany can pay and will pay. It is clear that Germany is solvent so far as our claims against it are concerned precisely in proportion to the volume of its exports. It is when we try to determine that volume that we fall into a vicious circle.
“Germany must purchase provisions abroad. The minimum of foreign bread, grains, forage, and meats required to feed the country until the middle of August next year will cost 1,500,000,000 florins ($60,000,000.) The advances promised Germany at Spa are computed by the German government at about 200,000,000 florins. So we see that the country must guarantee payments abroad greatly in excess of these credits.
“If either of two alternatives is adopted, raising the price of food or inflating still more the currency, the workers will have to have higher wages. But in that case, German manufactures will cost more. The foreign market will shut down, exportation will stop, and Germany will become insolvent. So there you have the vicious circle.
“Going into the question still more deeply, we find yet other difficulties. For instance, the higher prices go, the more the peasant receives for his crops. He makes the highest profit on his live stock. Bear in mind, too, that he can’t get fertilizers. Add to this that he distrusts the over-redundant paper currency, but at the same time is unwilling to buy goods in town because they cost so much more than formerly. Consequently, in spite of tempting prices, he does not try to produce big crops. For all these reasons, the intensive agriculture which Germany has hitherto pursued, and which it must continue if it wants to feed its people, tends gradually to change into extensive agriculture. It is estimated that there are already 7,000,000 sheep in Germany; and this increase of grazing is regarded as a dangerous symp-
“These few suggestions will perhaps be enough to show how futile it is to discuss the payment which Germany is to make us without first discussing how we are to keep Germany solvent. There are many people who say that this question of German solvency is very simple. What they propose is in substance to let the situation grow worse.
“If there is no work, if bread gets scarcer and dearer, will not the Communists seize their opportunity? Will there not be revolts and revolutions? ‘Let them come,’ say the partisans of force. Troops will march from Southern Germany, and above all from Bavaria, to bring the Northern Bolsheviki to reason. We shall thus kill two birds with one stone. Victorious Bavaria will restore a federal government and back it up by a monarchy
of its own. On the other hand, the defeated workers will be forced to accept lower wages and a longer working day so German manufacturers can export to their hearts’ content. Behind this program I suspect you will find General Ludendorff, who has taken up his residence at Munich , and is the real head of the Orgesch, that bourgeois militia whose nominal chief is an honest forester named Escherich.
“In a word, this is a proposal to rule by ruin. But even were that kind of success desirable, it would be far from sure. The powerful labor organizations of Northern, Central, and Western Germany would not tolerate a LudendorffEscherich régime any more than they tolerated last March a Ludendorff-Luttwitz régime. I personally doubt whether Germany would agree to a Bavarian hegemony or whether Bavaria is competent to exercise one. We Frenchmen, who want first of all a peaceful Germany, would probably have no reason to be pleased with a federation of the kind Bavarian reactionaries propose. I know all about the plan of separating Hanover from Prussia, and putting the English Duke of Cumberland on its
throne. Some reactionary Prussians approve this plan, we are told, because they would like to have a little Prussian royalist reserve in Hanover, separated from the Socialist eastern Prussia of to-day. But all these schemes have that fanciful character which the Germans describe as Wolkenkukuksheim. If Prussian officers ever restore reaction in Germany, they will make short work of Bavarian independence; and British princes in Hanover will discover only too soon that Bavarian federalism is but a rear view of Prussian militarism.
“So we must find some way to insure Germany’s solvency, and to make that country willing to pay its debts.
“In order to settle reparation, we must deal with a German government. That government necessarily represents a certain policy at home. Averse as we may be to interfering with the private affairs of Germany, we must try to discover with whom we can deal most harmoniously and profitably. I am personally persuaded that the only parties with whom we can thus negotiate are the supporters of democracy and of a republican form of government.”
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