General Situation in Germany for week ending 27/12/18


(From the German Press)

  1. The Centre Party.For the RHINE Province and for COLOGNE in particular, the most important political party is the Centre (Catholic) Party, which always well organised, has rapidly adapted itself to the changed conditions and has come out with a new programme. Reading between the lines, however, it appears that it does so only reluctantly, and under the force of circumstances, not the least of which is the conviction that the Allies would not recognise any but an orderly republican government. In spite of its protestations to the contrary, this party must be considered re-actionary, and, if it ever sees an opportunity, it will probably openly support any movement in that direction.
  2. The Central Party Organisation in BERLIN, in conjunction with the Centre Party in the RHINELAND and in WESTPHALIA, has issued a proclamation and published its guiding principles; the new name of the party is, as already reported, to be the “Christian Peoples’ Party”. The following are the chief items of its programme:-
  3. Since the elections for the National Assembly have been fixed for January 19th, all parties are busy collecting their forces in order to secure the much desired majority.
  1. Foreign Policy.
  1. Immediate conclusion of a Preliminary Peace, followed as soon as possible by a World Peace of understanding and reconciliation.
  2. Creation of a League of Nations, with equal rights for large and small Nations; obligatory arbitration; far-reaching, mutual disarmament.
  3. Protection for national minorities in all states.
  4. Complete renewal, from personal and technical point of view, of Diplomatic and Consular Services. No Secret Treaties.
  5. Commercial equality and liberty of expansion for all Nations. Freedom of the Seas.
  6. International settlement of the rights of workmen, their protection and insurance. The same settlement with regard to other employees.
  7. Creation of a Colonial Empire, sufficiently large for German needs.
  1. Internal Policy.
  2. Constitutional.
  1. Safeguarding and strengthening of unity of the Empire. Maintenance of the individuality of the German races by a Federal Constitution on a Democratic basis.
  2. Popular Government in each State and in the Empire, based on the confidence of the peoples’ representatives, and possessing strong executive powers.
  3. Equal participation of all classes of the people in public affairs and offices, without preference for any particular caste or class.
  4. Protection for Political Minorities.
  1. Economic.
  1. Public economic life to be organised on the basis of production for the benefit of the community. Maintenance on principle of private enterprise, in as far as it is dependent on personal ownership. Suitable undertakings to be administered for the public benefit by the State or Community, by a Company or Corporation, as the case may be. Abolition of private Capitalistic monopolies.
  2. Equal protection for producers and consumers, and for their organisations. Decided preference to be given to the interests of the community as against all private and class interests.
  3. Land policy to be for the benefit of the community. Thorough reform of the housing and settlement question. Increase of farming by utilising State properties and other suitable large estates.
  4. Distribution of taxes according to ability to pay. Heavy taxation of large incomes, large fortunes and unearned increment. Severest possible taxation of war profits. Prevention of capital leaving the country.
  5. Introduction of a law giving every man a right to a home, particular regard being paid to those who participated actively in the war.
  1. Social and Educational.
  1. A far-reaching policy for assuring the increase in the population. Care for large families. Protection of and care for children and the young.
  2. Reform of the educational system, with the object of introducing a uniform system of education for the German people, and one which would acknowledge and apply moral and religious educational principles. Liberty of instruction and of all forms of scientific activity.
  3. Unfettered development and application of all kinds of talent by removing the out-of-date system of privilege and the spirit of caste from schools.
  4. No disability or preference in any department of public life on account of religious convictions. Sympathetic co-operation of Church and State.The Centre Party has openly declared open and violent war against every degree of Social Democracy, and has chosen as its main aim and object at the elections the prevention of a Social Democratic majority. What the official Catholic opinion of the present government and of all Social Democratic Parties is, may be summarized in the words of one of the COLOGNE papers – “We will wage a merciless warfare against Social Democracy which violently wrecked the whole machinery of the State on November 9th, and thereby brought GERMANY to the brink of destruction; it has since proved itself totally unfit for government and a betrayer of the true interests of the people.”In connection with the re-organisation of the Centre Party, certain changes have also taken place in its press. The “Rheinische Merkur” which appears in COLOGNE, but is chiefly read in the country, has been purchased by the extreme clerical wing who have also acquired the “Mulheimer Volkszeitung”. Those two papers are to be amalgamated into one important, strictly catholic journal, presumably in order to strengthen the hand and propagate the views of Cardinal Archbishop HARTMANN. Further, the “Kolner Lokal Anzeiger” which has so far been a side issue of the “Kolnische Volkszeitung” has been bought by the Centre Party, and will appear as the official party paper from the 1st January under the title “Rheinische Volkswacht”.
  5. In order to unite its own members and to rally all bourgeois parties, it is pointed out by the Centre Party that the sole duty of the National Assembly will be the creation of a constitution for the Empire; this task accomplished the Assembly will be dissolved at once and a Parliament elected. For this reason it would be a waste of time and energy for the opponents of Social Democracy to consider their party, class and professional wishes or grievances as such in the present elections. These smaller matters must wait till candidates are chosen for the Reichstag later on. Now, all energies must be united to secure the return of only the very best men to whom the laying of the foundations of the future German State can be safely entrusted.
  1. BOURGEOIS PARTIES.The “Kolnische Zeitung” which appears to favour the German Peoples’ Party, makes the interesting announcement that, though it considers a constitutional monarchy the most suitable form of government for Germany, it has definitely buried all hope, as any attempt to put its views into practice would result in civil war. The question “Monarchy or Republic” has already been settled, and the former is now nothing more than a convenient bogey in the insincere speeches by extreme radicals. For this party also the point to be decided is “Bourgeoisie or Social Democracy”. After the usual arguments that Social Democracy is an unknown quantity which so far has shown no aptitude for governing and possesses many dangerous elements, the paper states that all justified and reasonable demands of Socialists, which would not endanger the political and economic life of the country, have been adopted by the bourgeois parties and then proceeds to attack the Centre for trying to found a West German Republic, which would of necessity be under French influence, the ultimate idea being to create a Rhenish Clerical State.Initial meetings of the German Democratic Party have been held in COLOGNE and BONN; it seems to consist chiefly of former National Liberals, but in COLOGNE it was also joined by Progressives and Democrats. The party leader admits that they have had considerable difficulties, and as the membership is only 3,000 at present, the party is not likely to exercise any very great influence in the RHINE Provinces; the hope that they would obtain the allegiance of the democratic elements in the Centre Party had not been fulfilled, and they had been further weakened by the separatist movement among the bourgeoists which resulted in the creation of the German Peoples’ Party.
  2. An interesting statement made by one of the moderate papers is to the effect that an impression prevails that the blockade between occupied and unoccupied GERMANY is largely the fault of the Spartacus Group and of other anarchical elements whom the Allies wish to keep out of their area.
  3. The German Peoples’ Party wishes to unite what is good in the old regime with demands of the present day, and to steer a middle course between obstinate adherence to the obsolete and incautious, headlong progress. It assumes that the bourgeois parties will so far combine as to pool their votes against the Social Democrats, otherwise they would be committing a crime against Germany’s future.
  4. The two chief Bourgeois parties, the German Democratic Party and the German Peoples’ Party, have also been busily engaged in electioneering, without producing any very definite programme or conveying any marked impression beyond the one that they are against Social Democracy in varying degrees.
  5. SOCIAL DEMOCTATIC PARTY.The Majority Socialists, realising that their most dangerous opponents at the elections are the parties of the “right”, are making every endeavour to maintain good relations with the Independents, whose responsible leaders respond to this attitude, but as far as BERLIN is concerned, their followers prefer the Spartacus Group. The latter maintains its extreme attitude. It is bringing pressure to bear on the Independent Socialist members of the Cabinet to induce them to leave it; it intends to fight the Majority Socialists tooth and nail at the election, and its programme is to be against parliamentary government in favour of a reckless, proletarian revolutionary policy.
  6. The Majority Socialists have been able to achieve some successes: in BERLIN about 10,000 State and Municipal officials joined them in a body, while the local State and Communal elections in BRUNSWICK, MECKLENBURG-STRELITZ and ANHALT show that they have been able to obtain a considerable number of recruits from the bourgeois parties. It is, however, too soon as yet to say whether this movement will extend further.
  7. Large meetings of the Social Democrats at the beginning of this week have indicated the present tendencies of the various elements within the party.
  8. PRESENT SITUATION.            The result of these conditions is to create an ever increasing feeling among the rest of the German people that BERLIN is not a fit place either for the Government or the National Assembly. There is a growing agitation that both should be transferred to a place where they are not exposed to continual interruption by physical violence.
  9. The only factor which is likely to interfere with the election campaign and to plunge the country into anarchy is violent action on the part of the Spartacus Group. A pitched battle between a Naval Division in the Royal Palace and Stables at BERLIN and a Guard Cavalry Division took place on December 23rd and 24th; the ostensible reason was differences about pay due to the sailors and about their promise to clear the palace. But as the sailors actually imprisoned the members of the Government for a time during the fight, it is well possible that LIEBKNECHT is behind such outbreaks in the hope that one of them may enable him to bring off a coup d’etat and thus defer or make impossible the National Assembly to which his group are so violently opposed.
  1. The federal tendencies throughout GERMANY continue. In the RHINELAND the Centre Party is still energetically advocating the formation of the RHENISH-WESTPHALIAN Republic. In other parts of GERMANY the following political new formations have been proposed, and are being more or less actively developed:The small Thuringian states to combine into the Republic of Thuringia, including the district of ERFURT.HANOVER naturally wishes to re-gain at least comparative independence.A Low German Republic to include SCHLESWIG HOLSTEIN, HAMBURG, LOBECK, BREMEN, MECKLENBURG, and parts of BRUNSWICK and POMERANIA has been suggested.
  2. As reported before, the more BERLIN allows itself to be terrorized by a violent minority, the more the idea of independent, federal republics will find favour in the eyes of the German people.
  3. In the North-western corner of PRUSSIA the Republic of OLDENBURG – East PRUSSIA has formed itself.
  4. The Electorate of HESSE (CASSEL), the Grand Duchy of Hesse, the former Duchy of Massau, the Principality of Waldeck and the district of Wetzlar to form a federal state called “Great Hesse”.
  5. The Eastern Provinces to form themselves into a state known as the “German Eastern Marches”.
  6. A separatist movement, ascribed to the Centre party, is reported from Upper SILESIA; it demands the formation of an independent Republic of Upper SILESIA, guaranteed by GERMANY, POLAND, and the CZECHO-SLOVAC State. Delegates are said to be conferring with MASARYK on the subject and to have found him sympathetic.
  1. The Soldiers Council of the Colonial Troops recently held a large public meeting in BERLIN in favour of the possession of Colonies by GERMANY. A Majority Socialist speaker stated that their Colonial policy must in future possess a Social-Democratic basis; the 6th of President Wilson’s 14 points justified the hopes that GERMANY would receive back her Colonies, as demanded by the German Republic. A resolution was adopted that sufficient colonial possessions were a vital necessity for the existence of the German people; to assure this is one of the most important conditions for a lasting peace.
  2. A very influential committee has been formed for the creation of a German Society for the League of Nations. This is to be a centre where the tendencies and forces working for this ideal can be co-ordinated with the object of formulating and putting into practice the true principles of such an international League. Some members of the committee are: ERZBERGER, Prince MAX of BADEN, EBERT, HAASE, BERNSTEIN, BERNSTORFF, DERNBURG, etc.II. INDUSTRIAL.
  3. Apart from the uncertain and difficult situation due to the blockade and the gradual diminution of work as a result, no very marked changes have occurred.
  1. The Labour Market has been very unsatisfactory. On the one hand strikes were fermented in the ESSEN mining district by political agitators, who demand ruinous wages and terrorize the majority who are reasonable enough to see the folly of such a proceeding. These disturbances are, however, now dying down. On the other, there is a real disinclination to work among large sections of the population; they congregate in the big towns where the rates for unemployment relief were enormously increased during the days of the revolution by the W. & S. Councils, and simply live on the money thus received without attempting to get work. Steps are being taken to remedy this state of affairs by reducing the amount of relief granted and withholding it altogether in cases where work is offered and refused.
  2. A question which is agitating the public mind profoundly and which is one of the most important raised by the revolution is that of the “Socialization” of industry.At the last session of the Central Committee of the W. & S. Councils it was unanimously decided that such industries as are suitable, such as mining should be handed over to the State.DERNBURG recently spoke against hasty socialization at a meeting in BERLIN and gave as one of the reasons that the property of the State should not be increased, while the enemy was seeking for guarantees for the payment of his demands.III ECONOMIC.
  3. Apparently the Government is making an attempt to gain control over imports by artificially prolonging the life of the Central Purchase Board which was founded during the war. This organization is accused of making contracts for years to come with neutrals for the import of essentials. Traders consider this an attempt to create a State monopoly and thus socialize this part of commerce.
  4. The matter was discussed in the same sense at the Congress of the W. & S. Councils where the principle of compensation was also accepted and the decision reached that no socialization should take place until the National Assembly had met.
  5. So far this subject has been chiefly confined to theoretical discussions and a certain amount of rather dubious legislation, though a few cases have occurred where extremists have tried to put it into practice, but no doubt the National Assembly and any subsequent orderly Government will deal with the matter as a whole and endeavour to place it on a sound footing.
  1. In trying to estimate their position at sea the Germans have arrived at the following conclusion with regard to their mercantile marine: – Of the pre-war total of 5½ million tons they still own 3.7 million tons. Of these, 2¼ millions are in home waters or within easy reach, ¾ of a million tons are untouched in neutral countries, 625,000 tons have been requisitioned by neutrals for their own use and 75,000 tons have fallen into the hands of their enemies through the armistice. The balance of 1.8 million tons must be regarded as lost. Assuming that of the ships in home waters ¼ million tons were lost on war service, the Germans now own 3,450,000 tons; to this must be added a million tons newly constructed during war. Thus the total tonnage of the merchant fleet which Germans consider to belong to them is 4,450,000.
  2. They admit, however, that it is problematical how much of this they will, actually get. They hope that we shall consider the employment of this tonnage for the supply of necessaries to the country as a dictate of humanity.
  3. At a meeting of the medical societies of greater BERLIN which comprise over 3,000 members, the food situation was discussed. The experiences of general practitioners as well as of prominent specialists confirm that it is deteriorating. It was stated that mortality among the population had increased by one-third, in the case of children from 1 – 15 years of age by one half, and in the case of tuberculous patients in towns it had doubled.
  4. Considerable discontent and opposition is being aroused by the action of the present Government with regard to certain taxes. By mere decrees, without the passing of any statutory law, it proposes to seize completely all war profits and to increase the tax on turnover.


It is pointed out that no Government has the right to impose taxes or to lay hands on private property until a law to that effect has been passed by the representatives of the whole nation and that the National Assembly should not be placed before an accomplished fact in such a matter. Further, doubt is expressed whether the Allied Military Authorities in the occupied area would recognize the validity of such a decree and permit its execution; in any case, the existing regulations would make the transfer of amounts thus collected to BERLIN from the occupied area impossible.



Second Army “I”

29th December, 1918.

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