The Global Zeitenwende
How to Avoid a New Cold War in a Multipolar Era
WITH the industrial age the old Franco-German clash of interests in Europe became primarily a struggle for coal and iron, the sinews--until uranium overtakes them--of peaceful industry or of the waging of war. The quarrels over Lorraine and Morocco before 1914 were part of the struggle to control supplies of iron ore. The coal mines and steel mills of the Saar were developed in conjunction with a German Lorraine from 1871 to 1918. Saar coal, however, was mostly not of good quality and it was difficult to mine; in consequence the German Government put the interests of the Ruhr before those of the Saar, whose communications were consequently neglected. It was not unreasonable, therefore, for the Saar to be provisionally placed, as it was in 1920, under an international régime--a commission of the League of Nations--which preserved its economic links with Lorraine within a customs union with France. This suited both the French, who were now short of coal in proportion to their iron, and the Saarlanders: indeed the latter were particularly well off under the League because their trade with Germany was also to all intents and purposes free. The Treaty of Versailles had laid down that a plebiscite was to be held in the Saar after 15 years; in January 1935 chauvinistic exaltation combined with Nazi intimidation to inflate the instinctive desire of this German population to be reincorporated in Germany, and 90 percent of the Saarlanders voted for this.
After the Second World War, the French took the view that the Ruhr mines should be taken out of German control. They abandoned this principle unwillingly and only in return for Anglo-American approval of the renewed separation of the Saar territory from the rest of Germany. Over 20 years after the plebiscite organized by the League of Nations, on October 23, 1955, the Saarlanders rejected by 423,434 to 201,973 votes (67.7 percent to 32.3 percent) a Statute to which the French and West German Governments after wearisome negotiation had agreed, and according to which the Saar would have become an autonomous entity under the aegis of Western European Union. The Statute was a mangled version of a project drawn up earlier by Jonkheer van Naters for the Council of Europe. Actually there was no reason why it should have been submitted to a referendum in the Saar since it was not intended to be permanent but only to hold good until the peace treaty with Germany.
It is often assumed that any referendum at any time in the Saar would induce a big majority in favor of incorporation in Germany. In spite of the figures in 1935 and 1955 this is not necessarily true. Three years ago, on November 30, 1952, elections to the Saar Landtag were held. The parties favoring reunion with Germany, since they refused to accept the autonomous constitution of 1947, had been suppressed in 1951; they instructed their supporters to spoil their voting papers, but scarcely 25 percent of the population followed their advice. The rest voted for the parties which accepted the partial autonomy offered to the Saar by the French in 1947, an autonomy tempered by a diplomatic, tariff and financial union with France.
The Saar was a politically backward area in Hohenzollern Germany, and perhaps it has never quite caught up with history. But, allowing for a tendency to obey orders, it remains true to say that a majority was content, until after the end of 1952, with the autonomous régime presided over by Johannes Hoffmann and dependent upon France. In 1955 many of the very same people who were thankful for the French offer in 1947, and who voted for Hoffmann in 1952, voted "Down with Hoffmann and the Statute" --indeed, about half the population must have changed its mind. According to the writer's personal observation, however, it is not true to attribute this change solely to the political campaign waged by the pro-German parties against the statute during the three months before the referendum. A marked, though not a measurable change took place during 1954, thanks on the one hand to the French rejection of the plan for a European Defense Community, and on the other to the mounting prosperity of Western Germany.
Until then a certain number of Saarlanders were genuinely attracted by Hoffmann's talk of passing from French protection to the guardianship of the Council of Europe or the E.D.C.: they agreed with him when he pointed out that, instead of being an apple of Franco-German discord, the Saar might thus become the nucleus of European integration. Certain Saar industrialists, in conjunction with leading representatives of French and German heavy industry, supported this policy more concretely. The Dillingen steel mills in the Saar, 60 percent of whose shares were now in French hands and 40 percent in Saar and German possession, were already profiting from their connection with the SOLLAC combine in Lorraine. The common market established by the Coal and Steel Community had veiled the conflict of Franco-German interests in heavy industry, and it was supposed that the steel works at Völklingen and Neunkirchen in the Saar, which the French had sequestered at the end of the war, would follow Dillingen into combined control. People representing the Châtillon steel group in France (associated with the ARMCO Steel Corporation) began discussions with representatives of West German mining interests (the Flick group) with a view to the foundation of a chemical industry based upon the Saar coal basin. This was an overdue project, but required free access to the West German market in order to succeed; those who launched it were supporters of the van Naters plan which provided for the progressive abolition of the customs frontier between the Saar and Germany. But with the defeat of the E.D.C. bill in Paris on August 30, 1954, the political hopes and economic plans based upon it were destroyed; Western European Union came too late to carry conviction to those in the Saar or the Federal Republic who had believed in the E.D.C.
With the collapse of the E.D.C. the Franco-German industrialists' honeymoon à la Schuman came to an end, and the voices of the more nationalistic entrepreneurs, the Stumms and the Röchlings, who had owned the steel mills sequestered by the French, were heard again. The Stumms had once ruled the workers of Neunkirchen and Dillingen with a rod of iron and were not popular; in any case they had lost control of Dillingen earlier,[i] and, after the return of the Saar to Germany in 1935, the financier, Otto Wolff, had acquired half the shares of Neunkirchen. But old Hermann Röchling of Völklingen, once an enthusiastic Nazi and bitterly anti-French, had treated his working people well, and some of them had resented his imprisonment as a war criminal. With the turn of the tide in 1954 popular sentiment began to demand the restitution of Neunkirchen and Völklingen as part of the national patrimony.
The E.D.C. failure approximately coincided with a rise in popular feeling in the Saar that it was no longer advantageous to be economically linked with France if one were cut off from Germany. Hitherto the union with France, followed by the Korea boom, had brought full employment, better wages than in Germany and higher social benefits which included children's allowances almost as generous as those in France. Already in 1952, however, people were beginning to speak of the miracle of West German recovery. In 1953 the talk of a recession in the United States caused German production to hesitate, but by 1954 it was steaming straight ahead. The Saarlanders, many of whom crossed the frontier frequently, became aware that German goods were cheaper than goods in the France-Saar union, yet a Saarlander was debarred by high French customs duties from enjoying German prices. From this time on the Saar-German tariff frontier became a powerful irritant, and not only to ardent nationalists; it will be cherished to the end only by those who depend upon the Saar light industries which it has sheltered from German competition.
In theory, it has been seen, the case for the France-Saar union was based upon the traditional exchange of Saar coal for the iron ore of Lorraine; the highly industrialized Saar had also depended upon the agricultural produce of Lorraine. In fact, since the end of the last war the Saar has consumed more foodstuffs from other regions of France. As for the exchange of coal and iron, once the common market was created this Saar-Lorraine traffic became less essential though the blast furnaces of the Saar were specifically adjusted to ore from Lorraine. On the other hand, the common market abolished the subsidies on French ore which became more expensive; consequently the Saar in 1953 imported more iron ore from Luxembourg.[ii] Meanwhile, large sums of money, including a high proportion of Marshall Aid, had been invested in the heavy industry of Lorraine, while relatively little--partly because of the uncertainty of its future--had been invested in the Saar. Thus Saar coal and steel products were faced with competition on the south-German market from the better-equipped mills and mines of Lorraine, and commercial opinion in the Saar began to regard the connection with Lorraine as an anachronism.
An important section of the Saar community--some 65,000 miners--was largely opposed to the Hoffmann régime from the beginning because the Saar mines were again, as they had been in the days of the League of Nations, the property of the French state.[iii] Although wages and conditions for the miners were extremely good, and the French helped to found a new university outside Saarbrücken with astonishingly cheap facilities for the sons of miners, the employees of a foreign state were certain to be resentful towards managers appointed by that state. The situation was exacerbated by the problem of the Warndt mines beneath the frontier with Lorraine, where the coal was of better quality and the reserves extensive. For technical reasons the Warndt coal had always been mined from Lorraine, and in 1948 the Warndt mines were leased to the Coal Board of Lorraine for 30 years. It was easy for anyone who wished to stir up feeling against the French to play upon this theme, and it added to the sheaf of grievances now associated with the name of Lorraine. Hoffmann fought hard for a share of control of the other Saar mines and to this the French agreed by the conventions of May 1953; but, with jealous eyes watching from Lorraine, it proved impossible to do more than appoint a commission to deal later with the problem of the Warndt. By August 1954 little progress had been made, and the coal quarrel helped to swell the wave of disillusionment.
In order to describe the situation accurately it should be added that anti-French feeling was stimulated by the arbitrary methods of Gilbert Grandval, the former military governor transformed into French Ambassador, and of Professor Angelloz, the French rector of the new university. It was never quite clear whether the French or Hoffmann were more to blame for the provocative fact that Hoffmann's Minister of the Interior, Hector, was a citizen of the French Republic.
The statute to which Mendès-France and Adenauer pledged France and Western Germany on October 23, 1954, was intended to grapple with the new facts and feelings by arranging, as van Naters had intended, for the progressive opening of the Saar-German frontier and for the substitution of French tutelage by that of a Commissioner appointed by the W.E.U. Council of Ministers. An annexed letter undertook that French control of Völklingen and Neunkirchen and of certain formerly German banks would be lifted before the referendum for which the Statute provided. The sequestration of Neunkirchen was lifted only in the week preceding the referendum. Völklingen, however, was dealt with six months earlier when the French and West German Governments arranged to buy out the Röchlings for 200,000,000 Swiss francs; it was significant for the state of public feeling in the Saar by April 1955 that this agreement was badly received with murmurs that "This should be ours."[iv] The new economic convention between France and the Saar, negotiated in accordance with the first part of clause 12 of the Statute and signed immediately after the Völklingen agreement on May 3, was greeted by pro-German opinion as precluding the possibility of West German participation on equal terms in economic relations with the Saar.
Even so, without an organized campaign of opposition to the Statute, it might well have been accepted. There would have been more spoilt ballots than in 1952, and more people who did not vote at all; but in all probability most people, in spite of the prevailing bitterness, would have felt that if the German Government made this arrangement there was no alternative.
So sure of its acceptance were the signatories of the Saar Statute that they wrote into it a clause--number 6--by which the pro-German parties previously banned by Hoffmann should be allowed to resume their political activities three months before the referendum on the statute itself. Having seized upon clause 6 which re-entitled them to exist, these parties set out to distort and obscure and thereby torpedo the rest of the Statute. Ignoring its provisional nature, they declared that to approve it would be forever to divorce the Saar from Germany. Mobilizing the irritation caused by French mistakes and by changing circumstances, they announced that the referendum was a unique opportunity to vote for or against Germany.
The campaign waged in this sense from July 23 until October 23, 1955, provided a disquieting display of the resurgence of German nationalism. The Refugee Party and the Landsmannschaften, which voice the grievances of the Germans expelled by the Poles, Czechs and other East Europeans, have made many chauvinistic and near-Nazi declamations in the Federal Republic. But politically such performances have borne no particular relation to any decisive international event and it is possible to dismiss them as the letting off of steam. The campaign of the anti-Statute parties in the Saar united in their Deutscher Heimatbund was a very deliberate affair, and its leaders basked proudly in the sunshine of international publicity. In this connection the present writer found it instructive to think back to the plebiscite held in January 1935 and to compare very carefully what was observed then and now. In 1955 the combined Heimatbund, or either of the major German parties meeting alone, draped the halls in which they met in the black, red and gold of the Federal, as of the Weimar, Republic, and indeed of the liberals of 1848; usually posters with some poultry-like eagles were also displayed. The audiences arrived early and were regaled with Prussian military music while they waited; at the end of most meetings the Deutschlandlied was sung (the aggressive verse only exceptionally).
One might have supposed that Christian Democrat and Socialist speakers would have insisted upon the contrast with 1935 and have cried out, "This is not Hitler's Germany to which we urge you to return, but a free and federal republic where the Saar can take its place among the Länder." But, on the contrary, appeals of this kind were avoided. A return to Germany, no matter of what kind, was all that the pro-German orators preached, exactly as the Nazis had in 1935--the Nazis to whom they were careful not to refer. At the same time they attacked Hoffmann and the pro-Statute Socialists like Heinz Braun precisely because they had been anti-Nazis in 1935 and had worked with the Allies during the war.
Except when he appeared upon a Heimatbund platform, Dr. Heinrich Schneider employed slightly different tactics. The symbol of his smaller, more middle-class party, the Democratic Party of the Saar, associated with the F.D.P. in the Federal Republic, was a stiffer, more pugnacious eagle in black against a red ground; thus his colors were in effect the black, white and red of Imperial Germany upon which Hitler had imposed the swastika. Again Dr. Schneider deliberately mocked the Statute as only diverging by one letter (Statut, Status) from the status quo of League of Nations régime which was so clamorously rejected in 1935 but has ever since been regretted by many of the Saarlanders. It was evident, nevertheless, that Schneider was the hero of the anti-Statute campaign of 1955.
Although anti-Semitism and anything that was undeniably Nazi was avoided by the pro-German orators, some of their technique was singularly reminiscent of that of the Nationalist and Nazi destroyers of the Weimar Republic. A prominent Saar businessman, Dr. Wildt, revived the phrase of Schandvertrag for the Treaty of Versailles, while Dr. Schneider loved to throw a Hitler-like scorn upon the Statute as something that the French might offer "to niggers but not to Germans." On the eve of the referendum the Belgian Senator, Fernand Dehousse, President of the W.E.U. Commission which was supervising the referendum, broadcast an address in which he explained to the Saarlanders what the Statute really offered them, correctly denying the pro-German claim that it presented a choice for or against Germany. At a meeting on the same evening Dr. Ney, leader of the Christian Democratic Party of the Saar, attacked this correction furiously as malevolent interference--assuming, as Hitler always did, that anyone who was not 100 percent with his party must be against it. Of course such methods may creep into electoral contests all over the world, but both the scale and the nature of this kind of distortion have acquired a disagreeable familiarity in the German language.
For German nationalists the whole referendum campaign comprised a first step in the reunification of Germany, the first stage in the electoral process by which that is to be brought about. His German antagonists had long abused Hoffmann as the Grotewohl of the Saar, and hints were circulated during the last week before the voting took place that if the Statute were accepted there would be risings like those in Eastern Germany in June 1953. On the other hand, by contrast with 1935 when Nazis and Communists had been at daggers drawn, in 1955 the Communists were the allies of the Heimatbund whose orators, if they condemned the East German régime by implication, never launched into Nazi diatribes against Communism. In the socially backward Catholic Saar the Communists have never had much following. The opportunity, however, was not to be missed, and East Berlin, no doubt working via Düsseldorf, stepped into the breach. During the anti-Hoffmann disturbances in the Saar in August certain young Communists from West Germany were known to have taken a hand in what it was hoped would help to prepare the discomfiture of the West.
The most striking contrast with 1935, when Laval was in power and it suited Hitler to forbid anti-French talk, was the virulent abuse of France which dominated pro-German propaganda in 1955. Hoffmann was abused, but essentially as the tool of France; the Statute was abused, but mostly as an ill-concealed instrument of France--it was even alleged that the Statute would cause young Saarlanders to be sent to die for France in Morocco. One of the most telling anti-Statute leaflets, which was sown broadcast in the streets in the last week before the plebiscite, showed a French military helmet being forced upon a Saarlander's head. A big red "No" was scrawled across it.
This leaflet was direct provocation of the W.E.U. which should never have tolerated such things. Article 4 of the Statute provided for the Saar to be fitted into the W.E.U. defense system under the Supreme Allied Command in Europe (SACEUR). The W.E.U. Commission in the Saar--the representatives of the League of Nations behaved in much the same way in 1935--instead of entering the arena as the champion of its own basic principles, seemed obsessed with the aim of impartial arbitration between the Hoffmann régime and the pro-German parties attacking it, an attitude only suitable later during the campaign preceding the Landtag elections in December. Thus the Statute, defended only by the Catholic People's Party and a small Socialist group, was identified with nothing but a government which had been in office too long to be popular in any case. The supporters of this government did their best to advertise the European idea, while responsible W.E.U. leaders did nothing. There was no reason, simply because they had assumed responsibility for the voting conditions like any government party, why they should fail to state the arguments for their great and good cause. Indeed, with the pro-German parties misstating the arguments against it, there was every reason for them to do so. The very faultiness of the drafting of the Statute made it the more needful for authoritative W.E.U. spokesmen to define it precisely.
Since in fact nothing was done beyond the appointment of a commission to supervise the voting, it appeared as if the W.E.U. felt no concern for the issue. In 1935 the League propped up its dying prestige with military contingents from four member countries, but in 1955 the W.E.U. had nothing but some NATO troops hidden in the background, troops in whose existence no one believed. Gossip spoke only of French troops in Lorraine--a boomerang, since nothing would have served pro-German propaganda better than their appearance. Even as an umpire the W.E.U. Commission in the Saar was ineffectual: the voters were less afraid than in 1935 by as much as Adenauer's Germany is different from Hitler's, but by no more than that. Senator Dehousse, one felt, should have explained the Statute at the beginning of the campaign and repeatedly, not only on the eve of the poll. He and his commission should never have allowed those who supported the W.E.U. Statute to be stigmatized as separatist, a word which is equivalent to traitor in the German mind. On at least one occasion, at the end of a pro-German speech devoted exclusively to abuse of the French, Senator Dehousse felt himself constrained to shake hands with the speaker, perhaps for some extraneous reason. But what incongruity that the Belgian representative of a Western European Union, of which France and Western Germany are the two most important of the seven members, should countenance the vilification of the French by a Saarland orator surrounded by the emblems of Western Germany! The French have always said that only in economic union with the Saar could they participate in the Coal and Steel Community without fear of being overwhelmed by Germany. One reason for their rejection of the E.D.C. had been the lack of a previous agreement on the Saar, and they signed the Paris Agreements in 1955 on condition that the Saar Statute should be accepted. What could do more to rearrouse all their suspicions than the rejection of this same Statute?
Thus the results of the referendum and the campaign preceding it may be summarized as follows. In the first place, the economic problems of the territory of the Saar, where those of France and Germany intersect, have been reformulated but not resolved; indeed, their solution, which seemed halfway to achievement thanks to the Coal and Steel Community, has certainly been postponed. Secondly, the German problem has been complicated by a regional outburst of chauvinism directed not against the Communist world of the East but, on the contrary, against the Western Powers. This has brought about, thirdly, the defeat of the most tangible political venture hitherto undertaken by the Western European Union. The bilateral Franco-German agreement which may now be attained in conjunction with a new pro-German Government in Saarbrücken after the elections to the Landtag on December 18 will be something retrograde by comparison with the Statute which was rejected on October 23.
[i] The French had gained a majority of the shares after 1918. At present the Stumms own little more than a fifth of the non-French shares in the Dillingen concern and they grumble that the French are edging them out. At Neunkirchen, since the French sequestration ended, Otto Wolff is the driving force though he nominally owns only 50 percent.
[ii] The Burbach steelworks in the Saar belong to the Luxembourg ARBED concern and depend upon ore from Luxembourg.
[iii] As reparations payment.
[iv] There had been a brief metalworkers' strike in the Saar towards the end of 1954 which was as much as anything a demonstration against French control of the sequestered steel mills.