Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 6, 2010

How Germany became divided after WWII: Stalin didn’t do it

Filed under: Cold War,Germany,Stalinism — louisproyect @ 1:29 am

(A discussion about the Berlin Wall broke out in the comments section of my blog posting on John Weeks. That inspired me to post an excellent review of Carolyn Eisenberg’s “Drawing the Line” from the Nation Magazine in 1996, when it was still readable. Nothing can substitute for reading Eisenberg’s book, but Kai Bird’s review comes close.)

Nation Magazine
December 16, 1996

Stalin Didn’t Do It
by KAI BIRD

DRAWING THE LINE
The American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-1949.
By Carolyn Eisenberg
Cambridge. 522 pp. $59.95.

Nothing is inevitable in the course of human events. Yet every historian finds it difficult to persuade readers that what happened all those many years ago was not preordained, that indeed, choices were made which at the time were not necessarily obvious or at all inevitable. This challenge becomes particularly formidable when the historian’s topic is invested with powerful myths cultivated by the state.

Carolyn Eisenberg shatters the central myth at the heart of the origins of the cold war: that the postwar division of Germany was Stalin’s fault. She demonstrates unequivocally that the partition of Germany was “fundamentally an American decision,” strongly opposed by the Soviets. The implications are enormous. Germany’s division led to the rapid division of Europe, condemning not only East Germans but millions throughout Eastern Europe to a forty-year siege. If the responsibility for this cruel separation of a continent into two armed military camps lies with Washington and not Moscow, then the entire canon of the orthodox history of the cold war is called into question.

Eisenberg, a professor of history at Hofstra, took more than a dozen years to produce this exhaustively researched text. Drawing the Line opens with a moving description of the idealistic hopes evoked by the meeting of U.S. and Soviet troops at the Elbe River on April 25, 1945. In the face of a common peril, a Grand Alliance had triumphed over German fascism.

A half-century later, we forget that many Americans had been confident that U.S.-Soviet cooperation could continue in the postwar period despite ideological differences. Even an establishment figure like Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy noted in his diary on April 30, 1945, “It is little wonder that as [the US. and the U.S.S.R.] emerge in their own and in the eyes of everyone else as the two greatest powers that they should walk stiff-legged around the ring a bit.” But McCloy and Secretary of War Henry Stimson believed that with time and hard work a “practical relationship” was possible and desirable. As for Germany, the New Dealers who then prevailed in foreign policy deliberations-Henry Morgenthau Jr., Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White, Henry Wallace, Harold Ickes-fully intended to cooperate with the Soviets in administering a “hard peace” in a unified German state. Roosevelt had agreed to a firm program of denazification, deindustrialization and demilitarization. The Soviets would share in the supervision of a jointly occupied German state and be assured a share of reparations.

Then came Harry Truman, who was pretty much an empty vessel when it came to foreign policy. His instincts were erratic, McCloy wrote in his diary after observing him at Potsdam, “He always gives me the impression of too quick judgment.” Roosevelt’s Soviet policies were soon shoved aside. In the judgment of Truman’s influential advisers-Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, John Foster Dulles, George Marshall and James Forrestal- partition was preferable to the uncertainties of cooperating with a difficult wartime ally in a joint occupation of the defeated enemy.

Acheson and his colleagues did not fear the Soviets-they understood that the Soviet system was economically and militarily weak. And that was precisely why Washington could act unilaterally with little risk of provoking a war. “This judgment,” says Eisenberg, “allowed them to make careless calculations, to disregard the Soviet interests with a sense of impunity, and to sacrifice potentially favorable bargains with the expectation of a complete collapse down the road.” And act they did. In violation of Potsdam and Yalta, the Truman Administration fused the British and U.S. occupation zones economically in December 1946, incorporated western Germany into the Marshall Plan in July 1947, implemented a currency reform in June 1948 and convened a parliamentary body in September 1948 for the purpose of creating a formal West German state. Washington also abruptly ended denazification (leaving approximately 640,000 “highly incriminated persons” un- prosecuted), halted deindustrialization and canceled steps already taken to break up the German economic cartels.

Truman’s men feared not an invasion from the east but that the Soviets in their weakened position would offer a deal that could not be easily rejected in a public forum. As Ambassador Walter Bedell Smith wrote in December 1947 to his old friend Dwight Eisenhower, “The difficulty under which we labor is that in spite of our announced position, we really do not want nor intend to accept German unification in any terms that the Russians might agree to; even though they seemed to meet most of our requirements.”

Soviet demands were remarkably consistent. They wanted what they understood the Allies to have promised at Potsdam and Yalta: the $10 billion in reparations; four-power control of the Ruhr Valley; vigorous denazification and permanent demilitarization. In return they’d permit a freely elected German government, modeled along Weimar constitutional lines-a program, Eisenberg observes, that “did not differ appreciably from that previously advanced by liberals in the Roosevelt administration.”

The Soviets began to clamp down on Eastern Europe only in response to the U.S. decision to partition Germany. When they did so, Truman’s men were not at all surprised. When, for instance, Stalin imposed a ground blockade around Berlin after a unilateral American announcement of currency reform in western Germany, veteran diplomat Robert Murphy cabled Washington, “The Berlin blockade, with all its consequences, has had widespread repercussions, most of them favorable.”

Not everyone agreed. The military governor of occupied Germany, Gen. Lucius Clay, opposed partition. So did the author of the containment theory, George Kennan. In 1948-49, Kennan vigorously contested both the division and militarization of Europe. In an attempt to preserve access to Eastern Europe he crafted what became known inside the bureaucracy as “Plan A” or “A Program for Germany” to create a unified German state. Both U.S. and Soviet troops would have been required to withdraw to the borders of Germany. U.N.-supervised elections would have created a new all-German government. This reunified Germany would still have participated in the Marshall Plan, which implied, of course, that the German economy would be revived. Plan A was extraordinarily one-sided. The only thing the Soviets would get would be guaranteed access to German exports-and the right to continued participation in the supervision of the German state through a diminished Allied Control Commission. Presumably, Germany would remain demilitarized.

Kennan very much doubted the Soviets would accept a plan requiring them virtually to surrender exclusive powers in eastern Germany for a limited role in supervising a unified German state. But he thought it imperative that the proposal be put on the table; if the Soviets accepted, the impending division of Europe could be avoided.

Astonishingly, the Soviets were not even given a chance to reject Plan A. Instead, the Truman Administration went ahead with unilateral partition. An appalled Kennan wrote Secretary of State Acheson, condemning the “steady and progressive discarding of all possibilities which might really have led to something like the unification of Germany under allied blessing.” He warned that “some day we may pay bitterly for our present unconcern with the possibility of getting the Russians out of the Eastern zone.”

Thus began the cold war, a forty-year conflict for which we all paid, but none more so than the millions in Eastern Europe who were forced to live in police states.

Drawing the Line was largely researched prior to the opening of some relevant archives in Moscow and Berlin. But none of the documents released in the East to date contradict Eisenberg’s view that the Americans unilaterally opted for partition. Nor is she alone in her assessment of the origins and nature of the cold war. Significantly, her thesis has been endorsed by Melvyn Leffler, whose A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (1992) established him as the preeminent chronicler of the period. Leffler flatly states that Eisenberg has “proven her case,” that her findings “will compel a rethinking of basic assumptions about the origins of the Cold War”—this from a historian who has written with great caution about politically charged questions of assigning responsibility.

Even more startling, however, is an essay Leffler wrote in this past summer’s Foreign Affairs, the house organ of the foreign policy establishment, titled “Inside Enemy Archives: The Cold War Reopened.” Leffler’s survey of the “enemy archives” depicts a paranoid adversary always on the defensive. The Soviets, says Leffler, “did not have pre-conceived plans to make Eastern Europe communist, to support the Chinese communists, or to wage war in Korea.” Stalin had no ‘‘master plan” for Germany, and wished to avoid military conflict with the United States. Indeed, he hoped a policy of Realpolitik would somehow lead to a grudging cooperation between the former wartime allies. Leffler quotes David Holloway-a Stanford professor and author of Stalin and the Bomb (1994)–who studied records of Stalin’s military thinking in the postwar period and concluded, “There is’ no evidence to show that Stalin intended to invade Western Europe, except in the event of a major war.” Certainly, Stalin ran a cruel police state, but Leffler argues that “U.S.words and deeds greatly heightened ambient anxieties and subsequently contributed to the arms race and the expansion of the Cold War into the Third World.” The new archival findings suggest that U.S. policy prolonged the cold war, making it “difficult for potential reformers inside the Kremlin to gain the high ground.” To compound matters, Leffler suggests there were many missed opportunities in the fifties, sixties and seventies when Stalin’s successors might have curtailed the conflict-but the “perceived threat emanating from the United States held them back.” Not surprisingly, Leffler’s article has disconcerted such conservative historians as Richard Pipes and John Lewis Gaddis.

Eisenberg’s book ends in 1949, when the cold war is about to open in earnest. But Leffler’s essay underscores the tragic costs of a conflict that began with the U.S. decision to divide Germany. The most painful consequences, as Eisenberg points out, were “mainly borne by others.” And yet, the tally sheet indirectly includes all those Americans who died in Korea and Vietnam. “In the wreckage of the Cold War,” she concludes, “America has yet to acknowledge responsibility for the structures it has built.”

Kai Bird, a Nation contributing editor, is the author of The Chairman: John J. McCloy-The Making of the American Establishment (Simon & Schuster) and co-editor, with Lawrence Lifschulk, of Hiroshima’s Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History & the Smithsonian Controversy, forthcoming from Pamphleteer’s Press.

38 Comments »

  1. Fine, but the problem is Karl is saying the wall was actually a good and necessary thing whereas Eisenberg is implying it was an awful result at the hands of the U.S. And something tells me the original plan would allow Stalin to fuck Germany over like he did Poland.

    Comment by Jenny — June 6, 2010 @ 2:08 am

  2. Where do you stand on this issue Louis?

    Comment by Castellio — June 6, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

  3. Jenny. Amongst your considerable intellectual deficiencies perhaps your greatest one is the tiresome habit of attributing words to people that aren’t theirs.

    Necessary is not a synonym for good.

    I never said The Berlin Wall was a “good” thing but rather because Uncle Sam was ALWAYS the true aggressor in the Cold War, a point which you’ve refused to conceded before, the beseiged workers’ state of the USSR had no option but to erect it & maintain it, thanks in part to a psychotic genocidal maniac like Truman, who ironically was the only American President in the 20th century that wasn’t a millionaire before he took office. (Some argue Clinton wasn’t either but his wife probably was and he certainly was by the time he left).

    More importantly, now for once & forever you might understand why in all the previous posts that we’ve gone back and forth on this topic — the police state aspects of “actually existing socialism” (aka Stalinism) weren’t the products of the Bolshevik Revolution as social democrats & anarchists shriek at every opportunity — but rather imposed from without by imperialist turpitude, a simple yet crucial point which I’ve been compelled to belabor everytime you rattle off some nonsensical statement about Stalin or Mao.

    When a malnutritioned child gets its chest kneeled on by an adult Silverback Gorilla aggressively claiming territory the child’s expression is bound to be grotesque.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  4. I am not sure what issue you are speaking about but postcapitalist societies have a big problem with “brain drain”, something that affects all 3rd world countries. The difference, of course, between India and East Germany was that education was totally free in a socialist country. This means that a physician making $200 per month in East Berlin could walk over to West Berlin and make $2000. This might benefit him but it would be at the expense of the needy in his homeland. Unfortunately the Stalinist system did not breed a sense of civic duty so a wall became necessary.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 6, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

  5. Have you read Stalin’s Wars? It’s a damn good history book.

    Stalin’s original plan for Eastern Europe was to have Socialist-Communist coalition governments with foreign policies at least not hostile to the Soviet Union. Germany was to be a united but neutral country. The way Truman went about with the Marshall Plan rightfully scared Stalin into doing what he eventually did with eastern Germany and Eastern Europe.

    Comment by Jacob Richter — June 6, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

  6. Thanks Louis.

    I am very aware of the American role in dividing Korea post defeat of Japan… but perhaps I had never really considered the issue properly in terms of Eastern Europe, where I had thought the division was a form of mutual agreement along spheres of immediate influence/control …. if its true “it wasn’t Stalin” my understanding of European history would have to start shifting.

    Has the Eisenberg book stood the test of time?

    Comment by Castellio — June 6, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

  7. It depends on how you define the test of time. In any case, I think that the Eastern Europe question has multiple dimensions. Check this other piece I wrote a while back:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/state_and_revolution/czechoslovakia.htm

    Comment by louisproyect — June 6, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

  8. Karl, So Stalin has no responsibility for any of it, does he? Because it seems you have the same paranoid thought pattern as he does.

    Comment by Jenny — June 6, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

  9. Jenny. Please get this through your thick skull once & for all — of course Stalin has tremendous responsibility for many unfathomably hideous crimes, but as this post has clearly demonstrated — THE BERLIN WALL IS NOT ONE OF THEM!

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  10. Lou. That was an excellently written & very informative article about the Czeck state.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

  11. Hello,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Clearly the capitalistic states after WW2 were in a much stronger position. One advantage of capitalism is that it is superior in producing goods. History has proven that. Thus the Soviet Union had to dedicate more of it GDP to keep up with the military build up of the West. This state of “cold war” did nothing but make weapons makers richer and vilainize Communism.

    However to blame the United States or the west for the police state under Stalin is going to far. Yes, something was needed but definitely not to the extent of what happened. Stalin became a little tin god serving ego over the benefit of the masses.

    Mao’s problem was that he lived too long! Just goes to prove great generals do not always become great leaders.

    Marxism is by nature a reacting force. That is if people just developed through Love for one another Marxism would never been thought up. In order to combat the oppressions of capitalism Marxism came into existance.

    One day we will get it right. But it will not come by Marx but by Jesus. Jesus is the greatest revolutionary that ever existed.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — June 6, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

  12. Dear John. I suspect some tremedous trauma was introduced into your life in order to come to the conclusion that “Jesus is the greatest revolutionary that ever existed.”

    Whenever somebody brings up Jesus usually the subject of Natural Law arises I cannot help but think of Christianity’s historic dual nature described in this passage by Trotsky:

    [If we look back to the historical sequence of world concepts, the theory of natural law will prove to be a paraphrase of Christian spiritualism freed from its crude mysticism. The Gospels proclaimed to the slave that he had just the same soul as the slave-owner, and in this way established the equality of all men before the heavenly tribunal. In reality, the slave remained a slave, and obedience became for him a religious duty. In the teaching of Christianity, the slave found an expression for his own ignorant protest against his degraded condition. Side by side with the protest was also the consolation. Christianity told him:– ”You have an immortal soul, although you resemble a pack-horse.” Here sounded the note of indignation. But the same Christianity said:– ”Although you are like a pack-horse, yet your immortal soul has in store for it an eternal reward.” Here is the voice of consolation. These two notes were found in historical Christianity in different proportions at different periods and amongst different classes. But as a whole, Christianity, like all other religions, became a method of deadening the consciousness of the oppressed masses.

    Natural law, which developed into the theory of democracy, said to the worker: “all men are equal before the law, independently of their origin, their property, and their position; every man has an equal right in determining the fate of the people.” This ideal criterion revolutionized the consciousness of the masses in so far as it was a condemnation of absolutism, aristocratic privileges, and the property qualification. But the longer it went on, the more if sent the consciousness to sleep, legalizing poverty, slavery and degradation: for how could one revolt against slavery when every man has an equal right in determining the fate of the nation?

    Rothschild, who has coined the blood and tears of the world into the gold napoleons of his income, has one vote at the parliamentary elections. The ignorant tiller of the soil who cannot sign his name, sleeps all his life without taking his clothes off, and wanders through society like an underground mole, plays his part, however, as a trustee of the nation’s sovereignty, and is equal to Rothschild in the courts and at the elections. In the real conditions of life, in the economic process, in social relations, in their way of life, people became more and more unequal; dazzling luxury was accumulated at one pole, poverty and hopelessness at the other. But in the sphere of the legal edifice of the State, these glaring contradictions disappeared, and there penetrated thither only unsubstantial legal shadows. The landlord, the laborer, the capitalist, the proletarian, the minister, the bootblack – all are equal as “citizens” and as “legislators.” The mystic equality of Christianity has taken one step down from the heavens in the shape of the “natural,” “legal” equality of democracy. But it has not yet reached earth, where lie the economic foundations of society. For the ignorant day-laborer, who all his life remains a beast of burden in the service of the bourgeoisie, the ideal right to influence the fate of the nations by means of the parliamentary elections remained little more real than the palace which he was promised in the kingdom of heaven.]

    Leon Trotsky –Chapter 3 – “Terrorism & Communism”
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/terrcomm/ch03.htm

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  13. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    If I were to pretend to comment on Marxism the same way you comment on Christianity I would be absurd. I am not a Marxist though some of it’s aspects appeals to me.

    However your comments show you know far less about Jesus and Christianity than I know about Marxism. At least I can comment intelligently on Marxism, having read some of Marx and on the Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions!!!

    I agree with Marx when he say religion is the opiate of the masses. However I would qualify that with false religion. Clearly Ghandi and Martin Luther King did manage to do a little and neither was a Christian.

    I think you should go to the Bible itself, particuraly the gospels and see the Truth for itself. Stop listening to what others said. See the Jesus who defied the Jewish Heirarchy and the Roman Empire. A man who went to the poor and taught them how to be emancipated!!!

    They hung Jesus on a cross but they could not kill Him nor stop His message. So what they have done is tell lies about what He said. I doubt you have ever picked up a Bible for yourself to see what is inside of it. If you look you will find freedom.

    I respect Trotsky in the sense that he taught the idea of permanent revolution. Truly we cannot arrive into an more ideal society where there is an aggressive capitalistic state. If we eliminated all the imperialists but one it would be like cleaning a house of all the roaches but one room. The roaches would come back to infest the house.

    Jesus taught the idea of permanent revolution in a world wide scale as well. Mathew 28:19 “Go therefore into all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, son and Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

    Finally if you do as Jesus says in the second greatest command “To Love thy neighbour,” you would not tolerate war, hunger, poverty, racism, and the list goes on. Anyone who does not practice this Love and participates or encourages these evils has nothing at all to do with Jesus or Christianity.

    I could claim that I am a Marxist and then practice state capitalism like Stalin did. Or you can claim the be a Christian and teach servituted like the Catholic Church. Both are lies.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — June 6, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

  14. guys, the Berlin Wall was built 7 years after Stalin’s death, in ’61. it was a decision done in East Berlin, not Moscow

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 6, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

  15. Karl Friedrich, if a worker’s state offers it’s citizens living conditions that makes them leave in droves to the capitalist neighbour, why should it be worth defending? because sometime in the future it could became a worker’s paradise? People were not just leaving for higher salaries, they detested the atmosphere of surveillance & opression. East Germany basicially sucked, and therefore it never was able to generate any kind of real loyality to socialism in most of it’s population

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 6, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

  16. The Guardian (London) – Final Edition
    September 3, 2005
    New left strikes chord in disillusioned east

    BYLINE: Luke Harding in Cottbus

    Sixteen years after the fall of the Berlin wall, Ellen Muller looks back with nostalgia at her life in the then communist East Germany.

    “I didn’t have to worry whether we had enough to eat,” she says. “Brotchen (bread rolls) cost five pfennigs. People cared more about children. And if you were ill you didn’t have to wait to see a doctor. It was all free.”

    Far from enjoying the “blooming landscapes” promised by the then chancellor, Helmut Kohl, when the wall fell, Mrs Muller is one of a growing band of east Germans who are fed up with capitalism.

    Billions of euros have been pumped into places such as Mrs Muller’s picturesque hometown, Cottbus, near the Polish border. But there are no jobs: one in five of the workforce is unemployed.

    Mrs Muller, a machinist, lost her job when her factory closed in the aftermath of reunification. She hasn’t worked since.

    “It’s not that I’m lazy. There is simply no work here. I’ve done numerous training courses. In the DDR (communist East Germany) I had work. It was much better than now.”

    Since reunification, money has been lavished on eastern Germany – refitting houses, building railway lines, and tidying up parks.

    The new Bundeslander – as east Germany’s new provinces are known – look prosperous enough, but behind the facade is a story of economic disaster.

    Many youngsters have left, while those who stayed feel like second-class citizens.

    The disillusion of many east Germans, including Mrs Muller, has prompted a surge of support for Germany’s newest political party, the Linkspartei or Left party. It could even help determine Germany’s general election in a fortnight.

    “All the other parties are interested in strengthening capitalism,” says Mrs Muller. “We reject it.”

    The party is the result of a merger earlier this year between east Germany’s former Communist party and the Work and Social Justice party, a new group founded by disaffected activists from Gerhard Schroder’s Social Democrats.

    After a euphoric start, the Left party has seen its nationwide opinion poll ratings fall from 12% to 8%. But in the former communist east, it is expected to capture up to 30% of the vote. If the party does well enough, it could prevent Angela Merkel’s conservatives from forming a centre-right government with the FDP, her coalition partner.

    Germany’s mainstream political parties have all heaped abuse on the Linkspartei, and in particular, the party’s populist star candidate, Oskar Lafontaine.

    A former chairman of the social democratic party, the SPD, and finance minister, Mr Lafontaine was instrumental in bringing the Social Democrats back into power after 16 years in the wilderness during the Kohl era.

    But he resigned from Mr Schroder’s first government in 1999 in protest at the chancellor’s business-friendly policies. He has been a bitter critic ever since.

    This summer he quit the SPD and announced he was joining the Left party, prompting claims of treachery.

    The party’s other star candidate is Gregor Gysi, a sharp east German lawyer and the leader of the PDS, the former Communist party.

    Speaking before a Linkspartei rally in Cottbus last weekend, Mr Gysi told the Guardian his party was committed to fighting the “neo-liberal zeitgeist”.

    Mr Gysi told the rally: “We have been through a massive industrial experiment.” But it had failed, he said, leading to huge unemployment in east Germany (twice that of the west’s), and “humiliation” for many.

    Chancellor Schroder’s reforms – cutting benefits for the unemployed and pensioners – had been a disaster, he said.

    In contrast, the Linkspartei’s solutions for getting Germany out of its mess include big tax increases, among them a new 50% tax rate on earnings over euros 60,000 (£41,000) a year.

    In return, the party promises a minimum wage of euros 1,400 a month and generous benefits for pensioners and families.

    “Gysi is right,” says Manfred Kloss, 70, an east German pensioner. “What happened here after the wall came down was economic chaos. They should have done it differently.”

    Critics accuse the Left party of indulging in “Mickey Mouse economics” at a time when Germany’s debt is ballooning out of control.

    Meanwhile, Germany’s rightwing Bild tabloid last week attacked Mr Lafontaine, printing pictures of him on holiday at a villa in Majorca. He was a “Luxus-Linke”, the paper said, “a luxury-loving leftie”.

    More damaging, though, is the accusation that neither Mr Lafontaine nor Mr Gysi were effective in office. Both resigned after about six months from the only high-profile jobs they had – Mr Lafontaine as Germany’s finance minister, and Mr Gysi from Berlin’s senate.

    But others believe the new party is a sign of Germany’s “normalisation”. Writing in Die Tageszeitung, Germany’s leftwing daily, the columnist Jens Konig said the party’s struggle against the red-green government “marked a caesura in the history of the German left”.

    But this was no bad thing for German democracy, he added. “People have already decided that this government has failed. They are going to vote Schroder out,” Konig said. “The paradoxical logic is that they know under Ms Merkel things are going to get tougher. But they are going to vote for her anyway. It’s absurd, but it’s the hallmark of this election.”

    Back in Cottbus, few people have much time for Ms Merkel, Germany’s probable next chancellor. She grew up in the same region of the DDR, but has largely disowned her east German roots.

    “I can’t stand her,” says Erik Muller, 22, wearing a red hammer and sickle T-shirt. “She’s never said she’s one of us. She’s just a friend of the bosses.”

    Comment by louisproyect — June 6, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  17. PeeFromGermany:

    Per usual your superficial analysis lacks sufficient historical context.

    Why don’t you just change a couple words & pose your question thusly and see how far it gets you: “If Cuba offers it’s citizens living conditions that makes them leave in droves to the capitalist neighbour, why should it be worth defending?”

    Are you by chance one of these assholes that lives to rail against the Cuban Revolution too? If so why be a troll here?

    Nevermind we just went over the reasons that unattractive police states were formed in the Warsaw Pact, we’ve gone through this before and your liberal punditry doesn’t withstand scrutiny.

    Aside from drunken GI’s puking their guts out all over barrack sidewalks in Berlin from snorting heroin every payday, living in West Germany is naturally more attractive than living in a beseiged workers’ state economically blockaded and encircled by thousands of nuclear missiles & the paranoia (or legitimate fear if you knew what lurked in the skull of a kook like Truman) such relentless belligerence induces.

    West Germans had the luxury of not having to subsidize revolutions for brown people over the globe. It’s much easier to provide creature comforts to the citizenry when you don’t have to waste 25% of earnings for defense spending created by the aggressive warmongers that constantly ratcheted up the Cold war.

    No, instead W. Germans got to eat cheap bannanas & other scarce goodies thanks to all of Uncle Sam’s murderous network of Bannana Republics. Uneven trade provided by US Imperialism allowed West Germans to live large thanks to being part of a world stock market manipulated to keep brown peoples immiserated, generating sufficient superprofits to trickle directly down onto the tables of West Germans.

    There’s a correlation between the relative prosperity of West Germans and the abject poverty of Guatemalans that your superficial analysis conveniently omits.

    As the original post here illustrated, there was also a correlation between imperialist turpitude and the living conditions in East Europe that escape your simplistic knee jerk gut impressions.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  18. Dear John:

    Sounds like you’re saying that Jesus is no more to blame for the Crusades than Marx is for Stalinism?

    Fine, I’ll concede that point but as far as most of the others I’d argue that you cannot reason somebody out of convictions that they were never reasoned into.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

  19. Greetings,

    Hope all is well.

    Unfortunately the Socialist dreams of Russia, China and Cuba did not turn out well. But I hope we can agree on these points.

    The revolution came out of necessity due to the deplorable conditions of the masses.

    The immediate results after the revolution were an improvement for the massses.

    These countries were seriously hampered by the viscious capitalistic opposition which seeked to derail if not destroy the Socialistic advances.

    In America for a lot of people capitalism seems like such a fine thing. These people never travel into economically depressed areas in their vicinity let alone see the attrocities through out the world. Thus the Americans are on top of the food chain so to speak. And unfortunately do not care about anything but their own selfish selves.

    Karl yes I’d agree with your first point but I don’t understand your second statement.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — June 7, 2010 @ 12:08 am

  20. Well said John Kanieke. Jesus lived his speak, he is worthy of emulation.
    Indeed the best way to stand up to the Farwell’s & Popoff’s of the world(& of course the elites who use religion/invoke Christianity for their own political and selfish needs) is to invoke Jesus. Unfortunately to many good people attack religion based on the lunatic mumblings of people who are obviously not Christian in any sense of the meaning,while missing the true essence as exemplified by Jesus.
    I am not even particularly religious, yet here I am (again) defending religion,on second thought perhaps defending is not the right word. What I am trying to do, is persuade people to open their hearts and minds and see the good in others.

    Comment by dirk — June 7, 2010 @ 12:41 am

  21. No matter my second point John. You strike me as a fine human being who doesn’t hesitate to turn their face toward the oppressed masses and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 7, 2010 @ 1:24 am

  22. yeah, it’s all the West’s fault, the communists were only reacting. And noooo, the Eastern economies were never mismanaged,, they just supported the 3rd world sooooo much, and they just had to oppress their worker masses, they had no other choice

    sorry, that’s plain bullshit. and even if it were true, it would only mean that from the start, the “communist” states of Eastern Europe didn’t have any kind of chance. So, what are you saying?

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 7, 2010 @ 7:07 am

  23. I’m saying that if East Germany’s “capitalist neighbor” were Guatemala, a country that refelects the conditions of 70% of humanity, then East Germany wouldn’t have any defections, but Guatemala would.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 7, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  24. may be (perhaps some people would rate the absence of Stasi higher than their material conditions) – so what? why does that make it right for the East German government to basically imprison it’s population? If a state only works against the will of it’s population, then there is something very wrong with it, and no helping to construct similar states abroad will make it right

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 7, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

  25. [If a state only works against the will of it’s population, then there is something very wrong with it, and no helping to construct similar states abroad will make it right.]

    Now I get it. You mean like what Uncle Sam is doing in Iraq?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 7, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  26. why do you want move away from discussing Eastern European ‘Communist’ states and their failures?

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 7, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  27. Because, as the original article posted here confirms, they are ultimately products of US Imperialism’s organically predatory nature.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 7, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  28. it doesn’t. you are clearly misreading it. it explains why East Germany existed as a sovereign state; it does not explain all and everything about their interior politics. blaming the West for all the communists’ errors means that the communists were always so weak that they were never able to do anything different from what they did; which means that the whole experiment was doomed from the start – at least that’s the logical conclusion of your thought

    @louis: on your blog-admin-page should be an option for plugins available. there is a plugin that shows the latest comments on the blog-sidebar – that would be much nicer for your readers seeing what is a hot discussion

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 7, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

  29. PfromGermany,

    Hi hope you are well. The only reason West Germany faired better than East Germany is that the United States and England feared that Germany would turn against the West.

    Look at another country Afghanistan. We supported and trained the anti-Soviet faction and then when they Russians withdrew we abaondoned them. The major reason why Europe had a different fate is that it served the capitalist’s selfish self interest to aide them.

    No you can’t blame the West for the wrongs of Stalin in the East. Stalin however was a very evil man who was not a Communist. However as I mentioned before Marxism is a idea that came as a reaction. People suffered under miserable conditions where any alternative would be better including death.

    Just like the idea of the divine right of kings one day the imperialistic philosophies will become an abusrd mockery. I can hear history students in the future say, “Did the Imperialists really send people to kill and destroy to secure material goods and spent more on the warfare than it would have cost to simply purchase them through fair trade?”

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by john kaniecki — June 7, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

  30. No, my reading of it concludes that imperialist turpitude was largely responsible for East European police states.

    If idealistic anti-war students at Berkeley in the 60’s won the battle against Reagan’s tear-gassing fascist goon squads and seized the campus they’d ultimately be surrounded by the National Guard. They’d immediately have waste a lot of energies & resources fortifying everything against attack. There’d be a lot of solidarity & egalitarianism amongst the students at 1st but quickly their beseiged fortress would be blockaded, threatened with further violence, & starved. Naturally paranoia and defections would begin inside this beseiged fortress as the goons blasted propaganda speeches over bullhorns 24/7. Demoralization sets in. The leadership would either have to surrender like beaten dogs or set up a mini police state to prevent demoralized defectors from revealing intelligence and absconding with vital resources. Warned in advance, certain defectors might have to be shot in the back as they fled. Like the Gorilla kneeling on the child’s chest the expression of the student revolt becomes grotesque.

    Now whose fault is this state of affairs?

    But you’d rather troll on a Marxist forum and blame the victims of imperialism instead of the imperialists!

    Perhaps there really wasn’t enough denazification in whatever region of Germany you lurk in?

    Scroll away you troll as I’m done wasting my time with you.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 7, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  31. “Did the Imperialists really send people to kill and destroy to secure material goods and spent more on the warfare than it would have cost to simply purchase them through fair trade?”

    Yes, John they did because free & even trade with historically oppressed peoples doesn’t generate the enormous superprofits for the organically predatory parasitic minority of a ruling class that perpetual militarism disguising itself as “freedom & democracy” does.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 7, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  32. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    And let us be blatantly honest these imperialists are no different then the Nazis. Their method and lies vary but the end result is always the same. Death, destruction, oppression, enslavement and so forth.

    I see no difference in what Hitler wanted through Nazism then what the English/Americans wanted through manifest destiny, except the Americans were succesful.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by john kaniecki — June 7, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

  33. Right you are John. Moreover, if revolutionaries like Lenin & Trotsky didn’t come along to overthrow Czarism & nationalize industry across 7 time zones the Nazis would have been able to defeat the Russians then make a pact with the Americans so we’d still be three fourths of a century into the Thousand Year Reich, albeit the Americans are already in the 518th year of their own Reich.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 7, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

  34. Dear John:

    I find your brand of Liberation Theology (if I may fairly call it that) quite refreshing so I’m curious, even though it may be a bit off topic, as to your opinion on the following debate (video linked below) and how you think it relates to the larger discussion on US imperialism vis a vis the resistance against it we’ve been having.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 7, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

  35. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Unfortunately I have no audio at home and videos are prohibited at work, so I cannot comment on the video. But let me comment on what I observe.

    I see three male European men discussing things. That alone is enough. Talk is cheap brother, actions are what really counts!

    I believe that the fundamental difference between a socialist and a capitalist is this. A socialist looks at a situation and says “What can I give to society?” The capitalist looks at the situation and says “What can I get out of society?” In truth most people have some of both without even realizing it. Captialism, which is in fact the Love of money, is the root of all evil.
    1 Timothy 6:10

    Now concering the world situation I abhor the religious right which marches in Zionist ways. They throw God and country into our faces and manipulate us into doing evil. The second greatest commandment is to Love’s one neighbour. I recall a hankerchief I once owned which stated “Who would Jesus bomb?” But be forwarned I have had people say that one could Love their enemy and kill them as well!!!

    The key I believe is in the spiritual battle. The Bible says whoever hears my sayings and does them is like a man building his house on the rock and when the storms came the house stood. Many people have heard the Word of God but haven’t put it into practice. Some have put it into practice but haven’t carried it to it’s political implications.

    Simply put if somebody Loves another person they would not blow up their villages, kill their young men and rob their resources. Christians need this fact pointed out to them as the world is not telling them this. It is a hard thing to understand this to some!!!

    I would recommend anybody who knows sites that are Christian and right wing and advocates war to go to them with this statement. “I am a Marxist and I do not believe in God. However Jesus told us that the second greatest command is to Love one’s neighbor. He even told us to Love our enemy. HOW CAN YOU CALL YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN AND SUPPORT THE EVILS OF WAR? ISN’T THAT HYPOCRITICAL?” Be honest, open, allow yourself to be vulnerable but insist on getting an answer to this question.

    Remember some people haven’t really thought things out. An enemy today could be a friend tomorrow. Many capitalists want to help others but fail to see their own selfish evil.

    Well I don’t think I have answered your question and this is definitely a topic I could spend countless hours on.

    Going back to Marx, since this is a Marxist site, I believe in Marx’s theory of societal progression. We went from despotic kings, to limited monarchies, to oligarchies, to capitalism, to socialism and one day to Communism. Understand this principle applies to people as well. We are not born revolutionaries we are made them!!!

    There is a proverb “The gentle word breaks the bone.”

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — June 7, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

  36. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    I had planned to see the dentist today but she is ill. So I went to the library and I am listening to the debate. I will give comments on it.

    First of all let me say that I believe the Israel should have the boundaries that were given to them in the Bible. However what exists in the land now is not Israel at all. They are not God’s people. The Jews serve the god of mammon. They have forsaken the Torah for the Talmud. This is not %100 accurate but true in general, especially to those who hold power.

    The Israel I envision would not be gained by violence, nor would it be exclusively Jewish.
    I think the fake Jews are an offense to God. However if you look at the teachings of the Old Testament God did the Jews a mandate to take the land and take it by violent warfare. However with the coming of Jesus this promise to the Jews for a physical kingdom has been replaced by the Church of Christ.

    Now the problem is that their are so called ‘Christians’ who are exploiting the fake ‘Jews’ desire to take the promised land. In fact they use one another for their selfish purposes. These fake Christians which to hasten certain Biblical prophecies which they misunderstand. One thing these fake Christians desire is the rebuilding of the temple so Jesus can come down and live inside it for a thousand years.This is at the core of the support for Isreal. These fake Christians see a world dominated by the own kind, i.e. wealthy Europeans.

    The thousand year reign which I envison would return all resources to those it was give to. For example Isreal to the Jews, the Americas to the Indians,Australia to the aboringenees. Thus I do not advocate Libertation Theology. Liberation Theology does not go far enough. For example with the offical emancipation of the slaves in the United States they never received their forty acres and a mule let alone what they deserved. So not only must the masses must be emancipated but the must be empowered and be paid for the past exploitation.

    Let me use European logic to portray this point of view. Ask any capitalist if they have a great, great, grand father who put money in the bank if they would want the bank to give them the money of their ancestor. Without a doubt they would say yes. Now the African Slaves invested into the plantations with blood, sweat and tears. In effect they put money in the bank. Sometimes this was literal, for example the master investing into things. So reperations without a doubt are just. Now some in ignorance or evil would say these events happened so long ago. Well look at the history of the African American struggle in the United States and you will see that they never advanced without struggle and were constantly denied there fair share let alone what they are owed.

    Back to the video the man on the left I agree with. He even quotes the man on the right’s own book. Then the man on the right will avoid the quotes and be very rude. At the end of the quote the man on the left sites facts about the conflict showing Isreal’s attrocities. The man on the right avoids the facts. Destruction of chicken farms, flour mills, concrete factories and hospitals.

    I believe the man on the right is deliberately lying and saying trying to distract the issues and is wickedly evil.

    As a Christian I understand that God said “Though shall not steal”. Clearly Palestine was stolen from the Arabs and America from the Indians. It is true that Isreal had at one time lived their and God gave them that land. But if wish to enforce the Jews getting their land back after 2000 years then the Indias must get their land back after five hundred years. If you say different you are a hypocrite.

    I am glad that I could come to the library to see the video. The internet at the library is watched by a different part of home land security than my personal emails!

    Karl on the other blog you talked about your experiences around the world. I would love to hear about that. I do not take the Bible literally. For example “Jesus is the Lamb of God.” A literal interpretation would make Jesus a furry animal. I do believe the Bible is the Word of God and infallable. Also I am not really a Bible scholar as one must seperate Earthly wisdom and Heavenly wisdom.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — June 11, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

  37. Woah! You guys are WAAAAAYYYYY into history, but I guess that’s a good thing for me because your entries amd reviews were wonderful help for my school project.

    Thanks soooo much!
    Sammie

    Comment by Sammie Burtrum — March 10, 2011 @ 3:53 am

  38. I notice that there is a paragraph here that says that a bunch of people in the Roosevelt administration who were there long before Truman wanted to “get along” with Russia. The paragraph in question describes Truman as being an empty vessel when it came to foreign policy. Yet this understanding of history does not jibe with the observable facts. This understanding of history may jibe with what these insiders in the Roosevelt administration are REPORTED to have been thinking. But these reports of what they were thinking are contridicted by the forensic evidence. The fact of the matter is if the leadership of the USA and the UK, duing the time that Roosevlet was in power, really wanted to get along with the Soviet Union these countries would have entered Sweden (Assuming that they had the permission of the Swedish government to help resist a potential German invasion. Or they would have occupied Sweden if they did not have permission.) and cut off the supply of Swedish iron ore to Germany. If that had been done Germany would have been defeated no more than 18 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. For a critic to say that I am speculating about that would just discredit that critic as a completly incompetent stratigist.
    So the important thing to note as a result of this understanding that the western allies fought the Germans with both hands tied behind their backs so to speak,is that Truman did not redirect policy in a direction that it would have not gone otherwise. To the extent that he was in charge he was a seamless continuer of policy. Could that be seen as evidence that the policy was (is) made by the decision of some other actor(s) other than the president?
    Well if it is not evidence that of that it certianly is evidence that what gets reported as the history of infighting in the highest levels of government is bogus. Further evidence of the bogus nature of how politcal infighting is reported to the public comes from the attack by the UK, France and Israel on Egypt in the 1950s, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967, the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings in the late 1990s , the run up to the attack on Iraq in 2003, just to name a few. Essentially the American public is kept totally in the dark about what policies the leadership of the USA is going to follow. There is no reason to believe any reports about what some official in the US government thinks, or thought, as being true. If it is getting reported it is probably not true. My view on the unreliable nature of reported history is not a cynical view. My view is an accurate view.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — September 25, 2018 @ 8:48 pm


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