OBSERVERS abroad often identify the German unions with the Social Democratic Party and sometimes suppose that statements made by union officials can form the basis for conclusions regarding the attitude of German workers toward problems of foreign policy. Both assumptions are incorrect.

Contrary to the situation in Great Britain, where the unions are an integral part of the Labor Party, the German Federation of Unions (Gewerkschaftsbund) has nothing to do, as an organization, with the Social Democratic Party (S.P.D.). It is true that most of its officials and the core of its members are Social Democrats; but other members, though fewer in number, belong to other parties. Unlike the unions before 1933, the German Federation of Unions is a politically autonomous corporation. Nor do union duties include making decisions on foreign policy. Leading officials will, of course, make comments occasionally on problems in the foreign field. But these commit nobody--neither the union membership nor the political parties--and often are merely isolated personal opinions. Some time ago, when two leading officials of the Federal Board of the unions spoke in favor of the Adenauer Government's remilitarization policy, the industrial unions violently protested; and a recent meeting of union delegates agreed unanimously that foreign policy must be the exclusive concern of the political parties and the Bonn parliament.

The foreign policy of the Social Democratic Party is neither dogmatic nor doctrinaire. It is based on a knowledge of what certain facts may mean for peace and for democracy's chances in Germany and in the world. It is based further on an appraisal of the consequences which, experience teaches, are apt to arise when certain attitudes are adopted. The Party has developed a clear concept of foreign policy from the experience of recent years, and will hold to it so long as new facts do not force a revision of theories hitherto valid. No event, even one of the gravest importance, can alter the S.P.D.'s basic determination to make every sacrifice to the law of peace, creative coöperation among nations and the preservation and development of democracy.


From the very beginning the S.P.D. has pointed out that the German people must bear the consequences of crimes committed under the Nazi régime and during Hitler's war of aggression. Though it has always opposed the thesis of the German people's collective guilt, it has acknowledged that since they were unable to prevent the government's actions they must be held liable for them. It therefore followed logically that--to give just one example--the S.P.D. was the first German party to demand both publicly and in parliament that the Federal Government acknowledge a special moral and legal obligation to make amends for the terrible injustice done the Jewish people, and recognize in this connection the State of Israel's title to Jewish reparation claims when no individual heir had appeared.

Our Party realizes that so far as the material capabilities of the German people permit, everything possible must be done to liquidate the past. Those material capabilities are limited by the fact that 14,000,000 Germans were expelled from their homes in the East and had to be admitted to Western Germany and provided with the necessities of life. But the S.P.D. has always been equally determined to oppose all Allied measures which it regarded as superfluous and which merely flattered the national egoism of certain Allied Powers while damaging democracy and vital German interests. This explains its struggle against the dismantling of industries, the dismemberment of Germany and all measures that discriminated against the German people.

Furthermore, the S.P.D. has based its foreign policy on the belief that measures to liquidate the past and measures to help build new foundations for the coexistence of nations should be kept strictly apart. Otherwise the political institutions which are to support the European nations in the future will be constructed out of old materials, yesterday will control tomorrow, and what was planned in good faith as new will turn out to be simply old and ominous elements in a new disguise. Take as example the European Defense Community, which together with the Schuman Plan has been called the first step toward a fundamentally new relationship between the European nations and the creation of a new political atmosphere. It has even been represented as the nucleus of the United States of Europe. But can it be seriously believed that an institution of this kind should be developed on the principle of how to prevent Germany by verbal prohibition or actual discriminatory measures from damaging her neighbors or from fully developing her own economic potentialities? If so, these "European" institutions will be nothing but the ways and means of old power politics in new form.

It is not enough to fly the European flag when European functions are to be performed. Psychologically it is only natural that in the light of certain experiences with former German governments the neighbors of Germany should wish to protect themselves against a repetition of the past and hence are determined to build their policies on the basis of suspicion of Germany. It is not for us Germans to reproach those who feel thus. But those who declare their intention of building a European community on the basis of a partnership with the Germans must also accept its conditions and consequences. The primary requisite is that they have the courage to establish a political relationship with Germany based on confidence. If this seems to involve accepting too great a responsibility, then so-called European projects had better wait; their time obviously has not yet come. Any other procedure risks compromising the European idea for generations.

These reflections may explain the S.P.D.'s opposition to German participation in projected institutions which appear to be made in the image of new political convictions but actually conceal the machinery of old power politics. This attitude does not derive from nationalism of any sort. The S.P.D. is as internationalist as it ever was or as any Socialist party can be if it is prepared to take responsibility for the fate of the nation to which it belongs. It considers it a mistake to appraise and try to solve political problems solely in the light of national conditions and national interests. It is deeply convinced that the problems of all nations are interdependent and that the only solutions which are useful and can last are those which establish a sound and sensible balance of opposing interests. But it does not admit that nationalism can be conquered by yielding to the nationalist claims of others, even when they sail under an international flag.

The intensity of a nation's democratic way of life is, in the end, nothing but a political expression of its innate self-respect. If a people is forced to resign itself to being treated as a second-class nation or to become a simple object of policy for other nations, the period of conquest will create such bitterness in the hearts of later generations that they will open the door to the vicious and poisonous pseudo-religion of National Socialism which caused the world such suffering. The most effective way to prevent this from happening is to have a firm determination not to yield to any circumstances that may destroy the nation's power of self-assertion and capacity for self-respect. These qualities within itself will make it respectful of the rights and interests of others.

I should like to point out here in all seriousness that the victory of freedom in Europe will ultimately depend on whether the German working class can be convinced through fair treatment that it was right in deciding in favor of the West and its way of life. It must never be forgotten that the appeal to the working man's self-respect is the most effective temptation offered from the East. The appeal is false and the German workers know it. But the West should avoid anything that might breed resentment among them and dim the clarity of their convictions.

One of the main sources of evil after the First World War was the fact that the Germans were forced to sign treaties which no nation could have accepted except in the first moments of deepest depression following defeat and which actually obliged them to adopt a foreign policy of revisionism. If for ten years the foreign policy of a great people is concentrated on getting free from their signature the political atmosphere is bound to become poisoned. One side resents the refusal of the other to release him; the other considers the would-be revisionist disloyal, unreliable and troublesome. The consequences are well known.

The S.P.D. has therefore bitterly opposed the Federal Government's signature of agreements which, it feels certain, will be considered inacceptable by the German people in a few years' time. Where it is not yet feasible to negotiate agreements which will be acceptable in the future it would be better to settle for a modus vivendi which, with everybody's consent, should be made subject to the clause rebus sic stantibus.

Since the Federal Republic is only a provisional arrangement covering one section of a country it cannot under any condition enter into agreements that would presume to determine the definitive status of all Germany. Agreements of such a kind create a double danger: either they handicap or prevent a reunification of Germany, or it may happen that an all-German parliament might not feel committed to them--and quite legally, too, since one part has obviously no right to prejudice the fate of the whole. Neither danger should be risked, for each would be fatal to the world. Every practicable effort should be made to create the necessary conditions for an all-German government as soon as possible; this would obviously be the most wholesome solution because it would open the way to genuine agreements on the status of Germany. Failing this, and until it becomes feasible, one should keep to agreements of a provisional nature. I believe lasting solutions could be reached more quickly and safely by this means than by forced attempts to create something final at the wrong moment.

It should be realized that the S.P.D. is not obsessed with considerations of prestige when it holds that Germany cannot enter long-term and far-ranging commitments so long as the Federal Government is denied sovereignty. In the long run nations will feel a conscious obligation only to commitments which they have entered into in full freedom of decision. The S.P.D. wants the coexistence of nations placed on such solid foundations that the German people may waive parts of their sovereignty without misgivings. This is why it insists that mortgages on German freedom of action be liquidated. A nation cannot be brought into a supranational community through the instrumentality of a third party without risk of becoming a mere object of policy. A free people must have sovereign rights before it can give them up.

Finally, the S.P.D. weighs every political situation and every political project in the light of its possible effects on the strength and determination of the population in the Soviet zone to resist the pressures and temptations of the occupying Power and of its puppet government party. We must not lose sight of the fact that even valiant peoples can become accustomed to terroristic régimes. Occasionally such régimes even acquire involuntary allies--as when certain measures adopted in Western Europe, and particularly in Western Germany, cast doubt on the sincerity of the asserted dogmatic ethos of the Western Powers. The S.P.D. has warned against measures which might have such results and has refused to support those who ignore the warnings.

In particular, the S.P.D. violently opposes one method of negotiation used frequently by the Western Powers--that of "Junctim," signified by the fact that each time the occupying Powers decide to discontinue some regulation which has become unbearable they make the action, entirely appropriate on its own merits, subject to the assumption by the Germans of obligations which a free nation would not normally be asked to accept. The rate of industrial dismantling, for instance, had come to be recognized by everybody as senseless and harmful; it was finally altered on condition that the Federal Government accept the Ruhr statute. And now, as I write, West Germany's status as an occupied area is to be revised subject to its joining the European Defense Community. It is sensible enough for a country to enter a commercial treaty only if the other partner simultaneously accepts the same obligations; it is senseless and disastrous if an occupying Power makes long-required adjustments in its relationship with the occupied country subject to the acceptance by its new "partner" of essential features of the occupation régime as voluntary obligations. Few of the many blunders of postwar Allied policy have roused as many German doubts about the sincerity of Allied intentions as this clinging to the "Junctim" method.

The S.P.D. is aware of the important part Germany has to play in these times, since a large number of problems which do not seem to have anything to do with her directly will not be solved as long as her proper place in the political system has not been found. Our party would consider it a grave mistake to assume that the German people have a special "mission" in this world; but Germany has certain functions which if unfulfilled might affect the well-being of other nations and impede the attainment of their aims. Germany obviously does not acquire these functions through her own power but as the result of her relationship with the other nations; and since this relationship varies, the character and potential effects of the functions are liable to vary also. In view of this, the S.P.D. would like to shape Germany's foreign relations so that she can contribute the maximum to order and progress. But a policy so aimed is bound to run into difficulties wherever the position assigned to Germany seems not to be in line with political realities. After all, a nation held below the level of its capabilities is as harmful to the international equilibrium as one which tries to reach beyond its capabilities.


These general criteria may help to explain the S.P.D.'s attitude toward various specific factors which will determine the development of Germany's destiny.

Though the S.P.D. would naturally like to see Germany maintain pleasant relations with all nations it feels that there are some nations with whom it is important to establish genuinely good relations prior to others. These are the nations which occupied Germany after the war and still seem to intend to keep her occupied.

The S.P.D. is not anti-Russian. It would like to see the most friendly and prosperous relations established between the German and the Russian peoples. But it is also prepared to fight with all its strength against any attempt to bring Germany under the control of the totalitarian machine which holds the Russian people in its grip. The Party therefore has accepted every hardship involved in the present cold war.

The S.P.D. knows what the American people have done for the German people in the years since the war. It was the first party to welcome the Marshall Plan, without which the German people would have perished. This knowledge leads our party feelings in a special direction. Nor has the S.P.D. forgotten what the United States did during the Berlin blockade--for Berlin and consequently for Germany and for Europe. It recognizes that American policy has been able to prevent, or at least restrict, many fatal schemes of the other occupying Powers. But nothing in all this can free the Party from its obligation to utter a warning and, if necessary, to fight vigorously against any American measures which seem to it wrong; for good intentions do not, unfortunately, diminish the bad consequences of a mistake.

What is true for the United States also goes for Great Britain and France. As to the latter, we consider that one of the first and foremost problems is the establishment of a Franco-German relationship based on confidence, but that this can be done only if France ceases to insist on amputating German territory and agrees to recognize the Saar as part of Germany. If she did this she would in fact be simply confirming her official verbal statement that the régime which she was creating in the Saar--and which today already can be maintained only by the methods of a police state--was to be regarded as provisional until the peace treaty was signed. The S.P.D. is quite prepared to accept agreements which take account of France's specific economic interests in the Saar. But it will fight with all its power against a separation of the Saar from Germany, whether or not the label "Europeanization" is applied to the procedure. The S.P.D. does not want the Saar to develop into an abscess which ten years hence might have the same fatal effects on German democracy and world peace as Danzig had before.

The S.P.D. is convinced that the problems of European interrelationships can be solved only on a "European" basis, and is prepared to support the idea that Germany should surrender sovereign rights to a supranational authority on the same scale that other European nations do. But there must be guarantees to prevent discriminatory treatment; for as the Schuman Plan has proved, the details of an agreement may do precisely that even though the text as a whole purports to treat all the partners equally.

The S.P.D. supports a Federation of Europe in principle. However, it is not willing to join a supranational organization which does not include Scandinavia and Great Britain, since that would amount to splitting Europe, with unforeseeable consequences. Europe must be organized in a way to permit Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries to participate. Going further, the S.P.D. feels that the honorable word "European" should be applied only to projects where all partners share equally in the community's burdens as well as its privileges. Europe must be organized on the principle of equal risk and equal opportunity, and this must apply to the various interim stages as well as to the final goal. Where the basic European rule fails, so that this nation or that is able to dispose of its partners' capacities without giving anything in return, the result will not be "Europe" in a true sense but a new jungle of power politics. It is in the light of this anxiety that the S.P.D.'s attitude toward various projects which fly the European flag must be understood.


In 1950 the S.P.D. opposed Germany's joining the European Council in Strasbourg--not because it was hostile to the European idea but because it believed that only free nations could give it reality. We feel that an organization is almost disqualified from being called "European" if it includes some nations which are free as well as others which are under the occupation and control of nations whose representatives also sit with them in the European Council. We feared that this might dangerously prejudice a close relationship between the European nations in the future; the future United States of Europe cannot contain members with different privileges.

Another reason for our Party's refusal to approve membership for the Federal Republic in the European Council was that the Government of the Saar was invited to join the European Council at the same time and under the same conditions. For Germany to join the European Council in these circumstances would be interpreted, our Party thought, as recognition of the Saar Government. We did not share the Federal Government's view that membership in the European Council would end the difficulties caused in Franco-German relations by the Saar problem; and unfortunately recent events have justified our fears.

Because the S.P.D. has vigorously opposed acceptance of the Schuman Plan it has been reproached for a stupid excess of nationalism, and oddly enough some of the people who helped to bring Hitler to power in 1933 have joined in the complaint. The S.P.D. has nothing against the objectives of the Schuman Plan. On the contrary, it is an old Socialist demand in Germany that European key industries be placed under international administrative control so that they will serve the economies of all the nations concerned. If the hundred articles of the Schuman Plan agreement signed on April 18, 1951, had faithfully represented this ideal the S.P.D. would gladly have approved. But thorough study proved that the agreement was only a caricature of the ideal. I cannot explain the reasons in details here, but will mention a few.

The speeches made during the ratification debate in the French National Assembly made clear that the French Government was not guided by what might be called European intentions when it proposed the Schuman Plan in the first place so much as by the aim of securing access to the Ruhr coal by political means disguised in the form of a corporate agreement--in other words, it aimed to exploit the position of power created by Germany's defeat. France needs the Ruhr coal if she is to utilize her full steel capacity, uneconomically enlarged since 1945 by the expenditure of public and American funds. The S.P.D. does not deny France's right to supply herself with Ruhr coal, but does not wish her to do so in a way to endanger the German economy.

In fixing key dates and setting up various regulations the terms of the Schuman Plan seem to make investments in the Ruhr impossible, with the result that the industry of the region which has suffered from war, dismantling and wear is bound to remain at a disadvantage compared to the French industry which has been modernized by investment of public funds. The S.P.D. fears that this may cause unemployment in the Ruhr and, moreover, will limit the possibility of guaranteeing social security, with dangerous results on the score of peace and democracy.

As far as the structure agreed on at Paris is concerned it can hardly be called anything but a super-cartel. Apart from the fact that cartels are apt to have highly undesirable economic effects, the S.P.D. fears that it will be much harder to protect the workers' interests in dealing with an international cartel having sovereign functions. The practical impotence of labor organizations under the Schuman mechanism one of the Plan's particularly grave deficiencies.

Since the allocation of coal and iron was transferred to the Ruhr Authority, Germany has to a large degree lost her capacity to develop an autonomous economic, financial and social policy; and, in addition, by its control of Ruhr industries the Authority holds the keys to political developments in Germany. Nevertheless in character the Ruhr Authority is purely a management régime. Its nine members, elected for a period of six years, are practically irremovable. They are not subject to any genuine and effective parliamentary control; indeed, in their field they have more power than any government. The S.P.D. fears that some day people might say that if it is right for managers to rule in disregard of parliaments on the European level, why should it not be right also on the national level?

These considerations would have been sufficient by themselves to prevent members of the S.P.D. from voting for the Schuman Plan quite apart from the fact that Germany who contributes 51 percent of the coal to the pool is represented in the Ruhr Authority only in a proportion of 2 to 7. Those seven members, moreover, represent countries united in a common interest of obtaining as much coal as possible from Germany and of producing as much steel as possible--so that Germany need not produce it. Things should not be made as easy as all that for people to abuse their power.

The fact that the Schuman Plan has created a grave obstacle to German reunification will not be discussed here, beyond mentioning that any extension of the area to which it applies is subject to confirmation by all the six partners. A united Germany therefore would either have to reconcile herself to remaining split into two economic systems or else permit the other Powers represented in the Ruhr Authority to lay down the conditions for German reunification.

As regards the S.P.D.'s attitude toward the problem of European defense it should be stated at the start that the S.P.D. is not pacifist, neutralist or defeatist. The Party is determined to participate in all efforts that promise to increase effectively the security of both Germany and Europe. It is unwilling, however, to take the responsibility for measures which can give only the illusion of security while weakening Germany's capacity in fields where she could make her best and most effective contribution to defense.

We already are living in a war--a cold war which has one thing in common with hot war: it can be won only by the right means and by concentrating on those which are necessary here and now. If the cold war which Germany and her workers are fighting today in the front lines were lost, the rest of Europe need not give much thought to what would have to be done in case of a hot war. Stalin would then be everywhere he might choose to be--and without having to move a single Russian soldier. The cold war can be won only if the whole German people--and particularly the workers who are most susceptible to influence from the East --register a firm No to Eastern threats and temptations, not because the masses think that conditions in the West are simply the lesser of two evils but because they can be enthusiastic about them. This, in turn, requires that the standard of living in Western Germany shall not be pressed below a certain minimum. It will be if Germany is forced to make the military and financial contributions recently under discussion with the Bonn Government. Moreover, if the standard of living is lowered dangerously, Soviet infiltration will find vulnerable points for developing into a fifth column. Anybody can figure out what would be the military value of German divisions if a strong fifth column were operating in their back.

Can anyone seriously believe that there would still be room for considering the problem of European defense at all if the S.P.D. had not succeeded in preventing the number of German Communist voters from reaching the percentages achieved in France and Italy? In this respect the S.P.D. has through its past policy made a concrete contribution to European defense which should not be overlooked; it is more effective than would be the addition of 12 German divisions to the forces of the Western Powers.

The only sensible reason for raising German divisions is that in combination with the forces raised by other nations they can provide a reasonable chance that the European Continent will be spared the fate of becoming a battlefield and nothing but a battlefield and scorched earth. This would happen only if the militarily strong Powers of the West would send considerably more troops to Europe than they at present apparently intend; for then and only then would there be a reasonable chance that an addition of 12 German divisions might scare the Russians from risking even the first battle of a third world war. The fact that the last battle would be won by the Western forces is of no interest to nations whose fate--up to the point of actual biological elimination--would be decided by the result of the first battle.

In any case, it seems unjustifiable in S.P.D. eyes that Germany should be requested to raise a contingent for a European army if she is, at the same time, denied a seat and vote in the political and military committees which control this European army and consequently the German soldiers in it. Without the equal partnership of Germany in NATO the German contingents would be only a kind of foreign legion at the disposal of other nations. It cannot be assumed that under such conditions German soldiers will fight with the determination necessary for coping with such an overwhelming power as that of Soviet Russia.

The same applies to the agreements which are to replace the occupation statute. The occupying Powers apparently reserve essential rights and intend to remain occupation Powers in Germany, in their own right. The privileges enjoyed by American forces in Germany, for instance, will go much further than those which American troops enjoy in Great Britain and France. Is it seriously believed that under such conditions German soldiers will really feel treated as partners?

A further reason for the S.P.D.'s opposition to the military plans of the Adenauer Government is that in its opinion the basic law of the Federal Republic forbids the formation of an armed force and hence that a German defense law cannot be promulgated unless the German Constitution is changed. The S.P.D. therefore has raised objections on this score with the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht); and it demands, moreover, that elections should be held in order to give the people a chance to decide for or against the creation of German military forces. If the German people are denied this right a grave crisis of confidence in democracy will be inevitable in Germany.


Perhaps the main reason why the S.P.D. is opposed to the present agreements is its fear that if they are accepted German reunification will become impossible.

German reunification is the elementary and natural desire of the German people, who will never reconcile themselves to the present state of affairs. What is more, it is a political necessity of the first order. So long as the two halves of Germany keep each other in commotion nothing can be built on firm ground anywhere in the world; for it is a fact that the split in Germany is only a visible expression of the gash that divides the entire political planet. The fact seems now to be recognized also outside of Germany, and it is gratifying that certain countries--including probably the United States--have adopted German reunification as part of their policy.

German reunification can be brought about only in freedom and must be attempted only by peaceful methods. The only possible route is all-German free elections under international control. This requires the consent of the Russians, however, and that cannot be obtained except at a Four Power Conference. The S.P.D. is therefore of the opinion that it should be the first objective of the Western Powers to arrange such a Conference, to be limited to studying the conditions for free all-German elections, for guaranteeing the accomplishment of those elections and for underwriting the freedom of action of the all-German government that will emerge from them.

All further problems concerning Germany should be left for solution at a later conference. Especially neither side should demand before the first conference meets that the other should accept in advance solutions which can logically be only the result of meetings at which substantive problems are discussed. Our Party therefore regrets that the first note of the Western Powers in reply to the Russian note on the German peace treaty implied that the Soviets should agree to Germany's political and military integration with the West. This means asking the Russians to renounce the East German potential which they now hold in order that this potential may be fitted into a political and military pact which the Russians must feel is directed against them. If it had been planned intentionally to prevent the Russians from agreeing to free all-German elections no better way could have been chosen. It should not be insisted on the American side that agreements on Germany's military capacity must be made until the German people have been convinced by the attitude of the Western Powers that these Powers have done everything possible to come to an agreement with the Russians on all-German elections.

The S.P.D. stands against basic neutralism and against the neutralization of Germany. It does not believe in the possibility of Germany's being protected by neutrality even through a German national army, as the Russians propose. It simply does not believe in isolated recipes for squaring the German circle. The German problem can be settled only as part of a general new order, and the basis for this has still to be found. The dispute between the United States and Soviet Russia determines today the fate of the world. The Asian and European countries may by their attitude influence the course of this dispute; but no genuine and general political order can emerge except as a result of a basic accord of the two remaining World Powers. Everybody must work for the consummation of such an accord, or at least to make it become a possibility. If it cannot be reached--and it can hardly be reached if Germany is sold in advance to the Western pact system--East and West will dig themselves in on the political battlefield and the Iron Curtain which now stretches from the north of Finland to the southern seas will become a double row of trenches, behind which the giants and their satellites will lie in wait to spring at each other. What the upshot might be, nobody knows, except this: it cannot be good.

If, however, an accord is reached--and this presupposes that the Russians are not presented with a fait accompli with regard to Germany--the place of Germany will be in a European order upon which the United States and Soviet Russia, together with the nations of Europe, can and will, by application of the necessary patience, energy and judgment, agree. People who believe that the mere idea of such an accord is utopian must have the courage to call on the nations frankly to adapt themselves to the law of the jungle. The S.P.D. has no illusions; but because of that it does not consider as utopian the idea that an accord is possible.

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  • CARLO SCHMID, Deputy Chairman of the German Social Democratic Party; Vice-President of the German Federal Parliament, Bonn; Professor of Public Law, University of Tübingen
  • More By Carlo Schmid