Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
AT the beginning of the fourth year of the Second World War, Germany still holds the initiative on land and sea. Her legions are scattered from the North Cape to the Sahara, and from Brittany to the Caucasus, while her subsurface navy preys along the American coasts. The fundamental questions are still unanswered. How long can the German people and the Nazi economy stand the tremendous and ever-increasing strain? Where and when will the system begin to crack?
Once it was widely assumed that the deterioration of the European food economy would break German stamina and morale. So far this expectation has not been fulfilled. A host of analysts has long insisted that lack of motor fuel and high-grade lubricants would sooner or later halt Germany's mechanized divisions and air forces. The writer is convinced that she has solved her motor-fuel problems to such a degree that she is not in desperate need of the oil of the Caucasus. More recently it has been suggested that man power has become the most crucial commodity in Germany, that human reserves are more or less exhausted, and that as a result the production of war materials has passed its peak and must begin to decline. Let us see.
In the First World War the Central Powers actually did exhaust their man power resources within four years, or one year less than had been estimated by the United States Army. By the spring of 1918 Germany was forced to reduce the training period of recruits to six weeks and to lower the physical requirements so greatly that the quality of the troops was seriously impaired. In 1916 the army conscripted 1,443,000 men; but in 1917 it could get no more than 662,000 and in ten months of 1918 only 405,000, because the war industries claimed more and more draftees. The labor force, largely supplemented by women, aged people, and prisoners, was increasingly listless and tired from 1917 on, and efficiency fell off steadily toward the end of the war.
In 1914 Germany had a population of 68 million people, the Austro-Hungarian Empire 50 million, Bulgaria 4.5 million and Turkey 12.5 million. That made a total peacetime population for the Central Powers of no more than 135 million. Excluding Turkey, they mobilized for their armies during the four years of war approximately 30 million men. Germany and Austria-Hungary alone drafted 22 million men. On November 11, 1918, the German army had 8 million soldiers, 5,300,000 of them at the front and in occupied territories. Austria's army must have reached a strength of 6 or 7 million men.
From 1914 to 1918, 1,865,000 members of Germany's armed forces were killed. There also were 1,089,000 soldiers listed as "missing," that is, taken prisoners or died without being reported killed in action. It is probable that total deaths amounted to about 2,100,000. In other words, nearly 3 percent of the total German population, or 15 percent of the male population between the ages of 18 and 45, lost their lives in military service. Austro-Hungarian losses in killed, died of wounds and died of disease have been estimated at about 1,530,000, while 1,130,000 more were taken prisoner. Germany and Austria-Hungary combined lost nearly 3.5 million dead.[i]
In addition to these absolute losses, the wounded constituted a serious drain on the available man power. The two Central Empires had between 6 and 7 million casualties due to wounds. Even if from 40 to 50 percent of these recovered entirely and returned to active duty or replaced men on the home front, the aggregate total of lost man-days in the fighting forces was very great, especially if one considers the extent to which additional man power is absorbed by the care of the wounded and convalescent. The Reich paid disability awards to 1,537,000 soldiers, of whom some 400,000 were seriously disabled.
In addition to all these drains on her man power, Germany lost about 1 percent of her population due to increased mortality of civilians as a result of war conditions and the influenza epidemic.
Germany employed up to a million prisoners of war in agriculture and industries, Austria-Hungary nearly 2 million. Germany also employed many women, children and aged people; by the end of 1916 about half a million more women were employed than in prewar years. Yet, in spite of this, the volume and quality of man power of various kinds available for war industries never sufficed to keep industrial production at prewar levels. Even the output of coal and iron was much lower in the peak year of war activity, 1917, than it had been in 1912-13. The index of industrial production shows clearly what the shortage of man power and the other effects of the war did to Germany's war economy. Taking 1913 as 100, we find that in 1914 it was 74; in 1915, 63; in 1916, 73; in 1917, 74; and in 1918, 73. These figures correspond closely to the number of persons employed, as shown by the last peacetime census (1907) and the only wartime census (1916):
|(in millions)||(in millions)|
|Mining and industries||8.7||1.8||10.5||5.1||2.5||7.6|
|Trade and traffic||2.4||.7||3.1||1.6||1.0||2.6|
It is probable that employment in 1913 was considerably higher than in 1907, so that the real difference between 1913 and the war years was undoubtedly much greater than these figures indicate.
The increasing loss in efficiency of the labor force also contributed to the decline in industrial output. The coal output per shift and per worker in the Ruhr basin fell from .97 tons in 1913 to .70 tons in October 1918; in Upper Silesia it dropped from 1.18 to .83 in the same period.[ii]
It should not be forgotten, however, that, in spite of reduced industrial production, the Central Powers reached the peak of their military striking power in the spring of 1918 and lost the war only when the Allies wrested the initiative from them in the great battles on the Western Front in the summer of the same year. It was the ever-increasing production and flow of war materials to the Western Front, plus the growing reserves of well-equipped, well-fed and fresh American soldiers, that overcame the depleted human and material resources of the tired and battered Central Powers.
The present situation differs greatly from that of 1914-18. At the opening of the fourth year of war Germany has control of most of the European continent and its human and industrial resources. Holland, Denmark and Norway, all neutrals in the last war, are conquered territories. Belgium and France, which fought through four years, have been defeated. Italy, which fought with the Allies, is in the German camp this time. So is Finland, which was a part of Russia. Germany, with Austria, Sudetenland, Memel, Danzig, Luxembourg, Alsace-Lorraine, the annexed western part of Poland, Slovakia, Bohemia and Moravia, has a population of about 102 million people. Her allies, Italy, Rumania, Hungary and Finland, are some 80 million strong. Hence the bloc from which Germany can draft man power for military purposes, even if Slovakia, Bohemia and Moravia are omitted, has a population of more than 170 million people as against 136 million in the First World War. Germany also benefits from the coöperation of Japan, a nation of approximately 100 million people, which ties up large forces and great quantities of matériel of the United Nations.
The countries and territories which have been occupied but not annexed are inhabited by 148 million people.[iii] Of these, France and the Low Countries harbor the most valuable reservoirs of skilled and intelligent industrial labor. Finally, there are 34 million more people living within the German orbit -- either still free, like Switzerland and Sweden; or defeated but not occupied, like unoccupied France; or coöperating but not allied in combat, like Bulgaria.[iv] From Switzerland, Sweden and unoccupied France, all of which have modern war industries, Germany can obtain much of what she wants by means of foreign trade; from Bulgaria she will be able to get soldiers in case of war with Turkey.[v]
These are the reserves of man power upon which Germany can draw to fill the ranks of her armed forces and the labor force for her war industries. According to available information, the German armed forces in 1941-42 included between 8 and 9 million men, as compared with an average of over 14 million in the German-Austro-Hungarian forces during the First World War. It is probable, however, that the Italians, Rumanians, Hungarians and Finns are supplying forces at least equal in number to those which Austria-Hungary put into the field.
Up to the attack on Russia, the German casualties did not exceed 200,000. Compare this with the period from August through November 1914, when the German Army lost 225,000 killed, missing or taken prisoner, plus 453,000 men wounded on the Western Front alone. German losses on the Western Front from 1914 to 1918 amounted to 1.8 million soldiers killed, missing or captured and 3.1 million wounded. In comparison, the losses incurred this time in defeating Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France, or the total losses up to June 1941, were negligible.
Germany's real man power problem during the opening phases of their war was that of replacing men drafted from agriculture and industry, traffic and commerce, the professions and the civil service. This presented no insurmountable difficulties. During the periods of blitzkrieg the German Army operated with relatively few divisions. Only 2.5 million German soldiers were used in the Polish campaign, while at the height of the Battle of France the Army strength rose only to 6.5 million. Between the big campaigns the Army granted furloughs generously to millions of soldiers, lending them to their former employers until they were needed again. Indeed, it was possible to replace the total quota of 4 million men which had been added to the prewar strength of the Army by employing a million more women, 1.5 million foreign workers, and 1.5 million prisoners.[vi] As a result, production was kept at a high level.
From 1933 to the time of the invasion of Poland, Germany had steadily increased her production and employment. The index of total production (1929 -- 100) rose from 69 in June 1933 to 123 in March 1938. Up to September 1, 1939, it continued to rise steadily. Employment rose during the same period from 13,300,000 to 18,800,000. The national money income of the Reich rose from 46.6 billion marks in 1933 to 85 billion marks in 1939, or 10 billion more than the 1928 peak. And the trend did not change when war began. From 1939 through 1941, the national income of Greater Germany (the Reich plus Austria, Sudetenland, Danzig, Memel, and the annexed parts of Poland and France) rose from 95 to 115 billion marks, or 21 percent. Coal output in 1942 is still at 1938 peak level. Iron and steel output rose in 1939 and 1940 and was maintained in 1941.[vii] This affords a remarkable contrast with the First World War when, during the first three years, an initial slump in business and employment was followed by an acute shortage of labor, coal output fell to 88 percent and pig iron output to 70 percent of 1913, while production in general remained 15 to 20 percent below the prewar level.
There is nothing miraculous, however, about the production records of the Nazi economy. Industrial output increased in 1940 and 1941 because the resources of the annexed territories were fully utilized. At the same time the 4 million new workers within the Reich completely replaced the men drafted into the Army. The practical cessation of hostilities on land between August 1940 and the spring of 1941 also released many of the skilled laborers in the Army for war industry.
The invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941, opened a new phase of the war. In it Germany's man power problem became for the first time really serious. This war, which Hitler and the German High Command supposed would repeat the 16-day Polish campaign on an enlarged scale, made a much larger army inevitable. From a peak of 6.5 million men in the spring and summer of 1940, the German Army rose to 8 and perhaps 9 million men. Not only was there need for from 100 to 150 new divisions; they had to be on the job continuously. For the first time in this war the German Army met a well-prepared and surprisingly well-equipped enemy of equal or superior numerical strength, with good leadership and excellent morale. The methods of lightning war succeeded initially; but they failed to prevent the development of stationary combat, which is much the most costly form of warfare both in men and matériel. The Russian venture began to take a heavy toll in man power. Up to midsummer of 1942, according to German military sources and the most conservative foreign estimates, German losses in Russia and the preceding campaigns in killed, missing and wounded soldiers surpassed 1.5 million and were probably higher. Frostbite and all sorts of diseases also reduced German strength. At the same time, the war in Russia has taxed German resources of war matériel and transport much more heavily than all the previous campaigns combined.
The economic capacity of Greater Germany and her dependencies must be completely utilized in order to continue the Russian campaign successfully, and at the same time keep the Battle of the Atlantic going, replenish and remodel the Luftwaffe and strengthen the defenses of the Continent against invasion. The economic general staff must keep the machines and assembly lines of industry manned without neglecting agriculture. Transportation, administration of occupied territories, protection against sabotage all require German personnel. There can be no doubt that by now the Nazi régime is put to it to keep production in high gear without loosening its grip on Europe.
A brief calculation will show the magnitude of the task. At the present time the strength of the Army is at least 7.5 million greater than it was before the war. In addition, total net losses by the end of 1942 will amount to a minimum of 1.5 million. Hence, recruitment for all the armed forces will have eliminated about 9 million men from non-military employment. Approximately 2.2 million recruits will have been drawn from among high school graduates. That leaves from 6.8 to 7.0 million men to be replaced. Employment of women may be increased slightly, but no sizable reserves are left. To make up the bulk of the deficit, amounting to between 5.6 and 6.0 million workers, the alternatives are to obtain foreign labor or to shift workers from civilian production and distribution to war industries. Foreigners are available in relative abundance. Germany had 1.7 million French prisoners, of whom only 400,000 were conditionally released. The rest are working in Germany. Polish prisoners are available in larger numbers than the French. Russian prisoners number from 3 to 4 millions.
If it were merely a question of numbers, Germany could fill the whole gap in man power by prisoners alone. The common assumption that prisoners are dangerous workers because they tend to commit sabotage is contrary to experience in the last war as well as in this one. The real difficulty is that they are likely to be deficient in the necessary occupational skill and familiarity with modern industrial processes, in intelligence and education and in ability to learn a foreign language. The employment of prisoners is a makeshift solution, adopted only when all other possibilities have been exhausted. This is best illustrated by the deal announced by Pierre Laval on August 11, 1942, by which Germany offered to release 50,000 French prisoners in exchange for 15,000 French "specialists" to work in German factories. In fact, Germany relies heavily on mobilization of the last reserves of her own man power and in hiring skilled labor from foreign countries.
As regards the mobilization of German reserves, the law of diminishing returns is beginning to operate. It is especially doubtful if many more German women can be induced or compelled to work. Other methods, to be mentioned later, continue to bring small additions to the labor force. But the main resort must be to the greater use of every kind of foreign labor.
The labor dictator, Gauleiter Sauckel, as well as his predecessors Dr. Mansfeld and Dr. Syrup, are well aware that voluntary workers, whether foreign or German, make much better laborers than people who are conscripted or otherwise coerced into jobs. Hence, work in Germany is being made attractive to foreign volunteers by offers of high wages, extra food rations, permits for transfer of money to families, and many other special features. In addition to these inducements, methods of "persuasion" are applied, such as denying ration cards or work-books in the homeland, forcing employers to dismiss men, shutting down plants by denying them raw materials, and shanghaiing men and women by the train-load, as has been done in Poland. Large numbers of foreigners of practically every European nationality are now employed in Germany. By September 25, 1941, the number exceeded 2.1 million.[viii] They included 29,000 Danes, 93,000 Dutch, 122,000 Belgians, 49,000 French, 220,000 Bohemians, Moravians and Slovaks, 272,000 Italians, 35,000 Hungarians, 109,000 Jugoslavs, 15,000 Bulgarians and 190,000 others. These included 472,000 women and 1,667,000 men. The Economist estimated that up to February 1942, besides at least 1.5 million prisoners, the number of foreign workers had probably increased to 2.5 million.[ix] The total number of foreigners may rise to 4 or 5½ million if the plans of Dr. Mansfeld -- including conscription of more than a million Russian workers, especially Ukrainian coal miners, and the hiring of foreign labor elsewhere -- should succeed.[x] By the fall of 1942 this estimate will likely have been surpassed.
This means that out of about 24.5 million insured workers, 22 percent are foreigners. The Frankfurter Zeitung complained that 1.2 million agricultural workers out of 2,130,000 were foreigners in the spring of 1942; that it was "not a rare occurrence to see on a large farm the manager and his family do the work with the help of one German and seven or eight foreign helpers, and that one must not overlook the friction caused by the employment of so many aliens," who require re-training because they are not used to German methods of work. The necessity for retraining and adjustment arises with particular urgency in industry, except in the case of the skilled mechanics and metal workers from the Lowlands, France, northern Italy and Czechoslovakia.
Another effective and common device for using foreign labor is to let foreign industries work on armament contracts for Germany. If raw materials are available and the plants are out of bombing range this is often the easiest way out, since it eliminates all the problems connected with the housing, feeding, and policing of millions of foreigners in Germany proper. Moreover, it utilizes foreign plant capacity, management and research facilities. Of course, either method puts a heavy burden upon German supervisors. Germany is so short of qualified personnel for these jobs that more and more women are being used as managers.
Clearly Germany's problem of man power is far more complex and the available labor reserve is much smaller today than was the case during the seven years used to prepare for the assault and during the 22 months of blitzkrieg which preceded the attack on Russia. Nevertheless, Germany today, on the threshold of her fourth year of war, is in a far better condition as regards man power than she was in the First World War. In spite of all the existing difficulties, and in spite of the possibility of much heavier losses than assumed by the writer, it is most unwise to conclude that these will lead soon and automatically to a serious deterioration of Germany's war production, and that her military might will crumble in turn as a result of economic collapse. The chief reason for skepticism is the efficient way in which Germany employs her available labor supply.
Economic planning, centralized control of war production and supplies and allocation of labor were not contemplated before the last war, and under the compulsions of the conflict they were improvised poorly. Most of them never were fully mastered. This time the Nazis spent seven years in perfecting their streamlined war economy. The Government today has complete functional control over the total labor market. It treats the man-power supply for the fighting forces and the war economy as one integrated and indivisible whole. No unforeseen labor bottlenecks arise; shortages are anticipated by a completely unified command under the military and economic general staffs.
Labor statistics are made up differently in Germany than in most countries. They cover all working people, numbering 41 million in 1941 out of a total population of 79.4 million. Only 24.5 of these 41 million are insured wage earners; the total includes independent farmers, artisans, and other self-employed workers and working members of their families. The advantage of this sort of statistical count lies in its comprehensiveness; it reveals most of the existing adjustment reserves among the gainfully employed. By 1935, Germany had introduced compulsory work registration, together with military draft registration. The work-book made possible the control of the labor supply through labor exchanges and the labor front. Restrictions on shifts to other types of employment, restriction of the right to unemployment relief or other social insurance and compulsory re-training for more essential types of work are also part of the control of labor markets. Except in a few occupations, everyone who changes his job must be examined as to his qualifications as a trainee for such vital fields as the metal trades. This system covers young people, men and women, employed and unemployed, civilians and wounded veterans. Disabled soldiers begin retraining while they are still hospitalized.
Every possible means of control is used: patriotic appeals, higher wages and other rewards, various sorts of pressure, and finally conscription or other direct methods.[xi] Young girls, as well as all boys, must do compulsory labor service; the original period of six months for girls has been extended to one year. The age limit for workers has been raised from 65 to 68 years, and pensioners of all ages have been induced to return to part-time or even full-time work by continuing their pensions in addition to paying them wages. Under pressure of necessity, the Nazis have not hesitated to reverse some of their original policies. The drive to reduce the employment of women and send them back to the home has given way to a policy of maximum employment of women. All sorts of pressures are exerted in order to bring them into offices and factories. Late shopping hours, and other shopping facilities, supervision of children by the Deutsche Frauenschaft, paid furloughs for soldiers' wives when their husbands are on leave, and more and more public canteens, all enable married women and mothers to accept jobs.
Other features of the control system insure the greatest economy in the utilization of labor. Strikes and lockouts are eliminated, political disputes are impossible, and wage disputes are settled by official arbitrators. Moreover, the labor office introduces and speeds up rationalization in industries where it yields the greatest saving of labor, such as coal mining. New processes and labor-saving machinery are introduced by decree, and special rationalization shock troops rove through the plants and determine changes to be made in methods and equipment in accordance with the principles of scientific management. Another widely-applied method of civilian mobilization is to remove labor from non-essential, inefficient, or over-supplied segments of the economy or from individual enterprises. Hundreds of thousands of men and women are being combed out of the distributive trades, minor crafts, and other small enterprises.
The food situation in Germany, since it must affect morale and efficiency, is also a factor in the problem of man power. Conditions in this respect are in no way comparable to those of 1917. Despite restrictions in rations introduced in the spring of 1942, the food situation in Germany is probably slightly better, by and large, than it is in England. This is not the result of chance. Food supplies are as carefully planned and controlled as, for example, the supply of raw materials or the labor market. Nothing similar to the very real food shortage of 1917 now exists in Germany. In so far as there are malnutrition or famine in occupied territories, it is an advantage for the Nazi labor economy, because it induces foreign laborers to "collaborate" in order to get food.
In one respect, however, the situation is much worse than it was in the First World War. Destruction and death have been carried into Germany proper. Bombing of individual areas has had some effect upon the efficiency and the mood of labor.
In conclusion, we may say that, according to Germany's own controlled press and the statements of her high officials, she faces increasingly more serious labor problems at home as well as in the occupied countries. These problems, however, arise from the greater need for highly skilled personnel in the metal trades and specialists in various fields, including management, rather than from any shortage of unskilled or semi-skilled workers. Since most of the domestic reserves have been absorbed, still more employment of foreigners seems inevitable. Probably this will lead to a reduction in efficiency and output per hour of work. Probably, also, the presence of so many millions of foreigners in Germany and the necessity of spreading German control more thinly over industries abroad will cause increased friction throughout the industrial system.
Whether the German war effort will be hampered to any serious extent, however, will depend primarily upon the development of military events and the course followed by the United Nations rather than upon any economic factor within the "new order." If the Nazis are not interfered with they will, no doubt, be able to cope with the situation one way or another. The people in the conquered nations will have no choice but to assist their oppressors in solving whatever problems arise. But the situation may change if the United Nations are able to increase Germany's difficulties. There are five ways in which this might be done: 1. By encouraging and organizing slow-downs and sabotage in the occupied countries and in Germany. 2. By bombing factories and military targets. 3. By bombing the transportation system. 4. By opening new fronts outside Europe. 5. By invasion.
Sabotage, which is carried on in all the occupied countries, differs from one to another in accordance with national temperament and the treatment meted out by the conqueror. It is more widespread and serious in Czechoslovakia than in Denmark, and more violent in occupied France than in Holland. The total effect upon industrial output is, however, greatly overestimated. Lack of enthusiasm for efficient and full-speed work, and the general slow-down, are probably more effective in the aggregate than are acts of sabotage, although the latter do tend to poison the relations between the occupation authorities and the working population. Slow-downs are harder to counteract than sabotage. It is well-nigh impossible to enforce standards of efficiency; and revenge in the form of sabotage follows attempts to do so. The governments in exile and the ministries of economic warfare of the United Nations should, therefore, do all they can to encourage workers in Germany and in the countries which are working for Germany to reduce their output to the lowest possible level. Passive resistance, non-coöperation and slow-down could, theoretically, have decisive results. At the least they will pour a little sand into the Nazi economic machine.
The quantitative effect of bombing is a controversial subject. Nuisance raids which send crews to shelter and rob them of sleep fall into the same category as slow-downs. They reduce efficiency slightly. Large-scale target bombing promises greater damage to production because it consumes materials which have to be replaced and necessitates repairs and adjustments. The frequency of the raids is, of course, as important as their size. So far the most extensive raids have come at such long intervals that their effects have usually been wasted. It is likely that the spread of nervousness among laborers will do more harm in the long run than the actual loss in hours of work. Destruction of residential sections close to war plants probably has more effect than does the damage to the productive machinery. But here again it is easy to overestimate the total effect of bombing on the scale and frequency attained so far.
Greater results might perhaps be obtained by tying up the railroad system in vital areas for days or weeks at a time. The writer is of the opinion that if the bombing attacks were shifted from the industrial centers to the railroads and highways leading to such centers, and if they took place at the critical peak-load periods of late fall and early spring, greater strains and stresses would be created in the German labor situation, food supply and industrial output than by all other bombing methods combined. Whether or not this idea (shared by certain exiled German and Fighting French railroad experts) is practicable can be determined only by trying it out.
The best way of bringing about a serious man-power crisis in Germany is, of course, by large-scale attack on land. The opening of a new front in North Africa or in the southwestern corner of the Continent would put a tremendous burden on transportation, men and materials. Only by denying the Germans the use of industries in conquered territories, by depleting the strength of their divisions in actual combat, and by forcing them to consume equipment and munitions more and more heavily, is there real hope of exhausting Germany's reserves of man power.
[i] See Samuel Dumas and K. O. Vedel-Petersen, "Losses of Life Caused by War." London: Milford, 1923, p. 142; "Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich, 1921-22." Berlin: Hobbing, 1922, p. 28-30; and Leo Grebler and Wilhelm Winkler, "The Cost of the World War to Germany and to Austria-Hungary." New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940, p. 77.
[ii] The decline in total industrial output did not mean a decline in armament production. However, the drastic curtailment of production of civilian goods and services did its part in undermining public morale.
[iii] Holland, 7.9 million; Belgium, 6.1; occupied France, 25.0; Denmark, 3.8; Norway, 2.8; Poland, 25.0; Lithuania, 2.4; Latvia, 2.0; Esthonia, 1.1; occupied Russia, 50.0; Jugoslavia, 15.7; Greece, 7.2.
[iv] Switzerland, 4.2 million; Sweden, 6.3; unoccupied France, 17.0; Bulgaria, 6.4.
[v] She already has the use of considerable Bulgarian forces for occupation purposes in Jugoslav territory and for operations against General Mihailovitch's guerrillas.
[vi] See Fritz Sternberg, "German Man Power, the Crucial Factor." Washington: Brookings Institution, Pamphlet No. 36, 1942.
[vii] Cf. The Economist, July 18, 1942.
[viii] Frankfurter Zeitung, Handelsblatt, April 24, 1942, No. 211.
[ix] The Economist, London, February 21, 1942, p. 259.
[x] Ibid., February 14, 1942.
[xi] Cf. Herbert Block, "German Methods of Allocating Labor," a report of the Research Project on Social and Economic Controls in Germany and Russia, New School for Social Research, New York.