The Schachtian Economy of the Third Reich
by Costas Axios
from the March 1975 edition of The Campaigner (10.7 MB PDF image file)
page numbers from source included to facilitate comparison
Present day Schachtians cling to the belief that Hjalmar Schacht, the Nazi Minister of Economics, "solved the depression" in Germany. Some have attempted to separate Schacht's methods from the Nazi regime in order to study Schachtian economics as a "pure model," supposedly providing valuable guidelines for recovery economics. Schacht himself would have dismissed such separation as ludicrous, since the crux of Schachtian economy is fascism and the indispensable fascist state.
This tenacious belief in the powers of Schachtian economics was demonstrated by the Financial Times of London, which ran an editorial entitled "How the German Doctor Cured Inflation," on the eve of Rockefeller's decision to shift to war production as an immediate solution to the world economic crisis. Provided one has a sane world outlook, the acclaim given to Schacht for having pulled Germany out of the depression has absolutely no basis in reality. The history of the Third Reich is essentially a history of breakdown crises, with each crisis temporarily circumvented by introducing more of the same Schachtian primitive accumulation measures that caused the breakdown in the first place. Implementing Schachtian economics as a cure for the depression is like proposing death to a patient as the remedy for his ailment.
We are not dealing with sane individuals but with the Rockefeller machine whenever we speak of contemporary Schachtians. The Anglo-American nexus under Rockefeller leadership is determined to go to any lengths, to use any means in order to maintain the moribund imperialist system. The marriage between the Rockefellers and Schacht is propelled by the same dynamic that brought Schacht to the Nazis -- the capitalist breakdown crisis.
Breakdowns occur under capitalism because of two
contradictory optimizing processes that operate simultaneously during the course of social reproduction. There is the production of real wealth in the form of reproducible material objects, and there is capitalist valuation of the wealth in the form of capitalist profits accruing to property titles.
Provided these two processes were evolving in tandem there would be no problem. However, the rate of capitalization of income in the form of credit expansion grows more rapidly than the rate of production of real wealth. As the social productivity of labor rises due to advances in technology and living standards, past investments are devalued in terms of society's ability to reproduce the corresponding material objects more cheaply and efficiently at current costs. To compensate for the devaluation of their old capital, capitalists overprice the commodities put into circulation. As more fictitious value is created, the demand for payments on debt-service and profit accounts grows much more rapidly than does the production of real wealth -- the means of this payment. Thus, a liquidity or monetary crisis builds up.
The capitalists' attempt to circumvent this tendency by cheating on payments to the real categories of social reproduction exacerbates the problem by causing further reductions in the net social surplus out of which growth is realized. Once this process is underway, a depression, or what amounts to a devaluation of overbloated assets, becomes inevitable. However, to the extent that capitalists can plunder both labor power and man-made nature (primitive accumulation), capitalist accumulation can take place even though social reproduction is zero. The only limit to such a recovery policy, pioneered by Schacht, is the resistance and physical endurance levels of the workers and farmers being subjected to this looting. Once
primitive accumulation becomes the core of capitalist accumulation, it must proceed at cancerous ratios relative to real production, which undergoes a process of total breakdown.
The Schachtian economy was not only a no-growth economy of the type advocated by the Rockefeller Foundation for the past decade, but actually one in which growth rates were negative. It was within this framework that the notion of "surplus population" relative to "scarce resources" came into being. Once industry and agriculture were bled to prop up Schacht's paper finances, entire populations were tossed out as surplus residue. The Nazi vocabulary expanded to include words born out of the new economy, such as "surplus population," "final solution," "forced emigration," "labor relocation," "resettlement," etc. Most of these words have now become most familiar to workers throughout the world, while new catchwords such as "cannibalism," "triage," "development projects" have been added to the Schachtian dictionary by the Rockefellers.
Primitive accumulation is the invariant feature of Schachtian economics, and it is from this standpoint that we will analyze the political economy of the Third Reich. Beginning with the Weimar Republic which disintegrated under the weight of the depression, up to the Speer war economy which collapsed through sheer depletion, we will trace the unfolding of fascist economies.
No attempt has been made in the text to draw parallels between the measures of Schacht and those of the Rockefellers, since this has been fully delineated elsewhere (see "Rockefeller's 'Fascism With a Democratic Face'," by L. Marcus in the Nov.-Dec. 1974 Campaigner). However in comparing the Nazis with their limited means to the Rockefellers, the former stand out as minor criminals; while in terms of morality the Nazis come off as enlightened moralists. This is no exaggeration. One need only cite the Nazi plans for genocide in the Ukraine which, once formulated, were circulated as Top Secret memoranda; or the Gestapo's thorough surveillance of all mail from the Eastern Front, lest the German population discover the full magnitude of the crimes being committed. Compare that to the Rockefellers' open ten-year publicity campaign which, under the rubric of Zero Growth, advocates the elimination of 1.5 billion human beings in order to solve "overpopulation." If anyone is horrified by the mass murder on the Eastern Front (up to this year the most hideous crime ever perpetrated), it is worth noting that it was minor compared to the deliberate extermination of over 40 million Indians, Bengalis, and Africans this past year.
On morality, compare the protests against genocide emanating from sections of the Nazi Party to the psychotic ruthlessness of the entire Rockefeller cabal --
to the "liberal" New York Times which advocates cannibalism and triage on its front pages; to William Paddock who proudly points to his political connections to John D. Rockefeller III and boasts that "30 million Mexicans will have to be thrown overboard"; or to the official policy statements and actions of the Rockefeller family itself.
The only significant difference between Germany in the 1930s and the Anglo-American empire from the standpoint of the breakdown process is that the German capitalists were limited to the available loot in their own nation state. The outer limits of primitive accumulation had been reached by 1936, whereupon the Nazis had to undertake military operations to extend their domain of plunder. The Rockefellers, through their control of the capitalist world's resources and finances, see no such national limitations, provided that the supranational fascist infrastructure is consolidated in the coming year.
We are now at the same juncture that Germany was on the eve of the Nazi takeover. The Bruening and von Papen regimes preceding Hitler's rise to power had already introduced the entire gamut of Schachtian economic policy, but lacked the coercive muscle to enforce it. The regimes of the United States, Western Europe, and Japan are of the same transitory character, governing only to the extent that they implement the programs that pave the way to the Fourth Reich.
If the Rockefellers succeed in the 18 months ahead, their success will signal the end of human civilization as we have come to know it. Auschwitz will be an inconsequential moment in history compared to the phenomena of entire countries and continents being written off as "Fourth World" death camps; starvation, plague, and genocide, administered by an international SS, will destroy human society and its ecology. Or if we are more fortunate, we will be spared that agony through a nuclear holocaust. That is the future if the enemy wins.
The working class acting as an international force can destroy Schachtianism once and for all. To the economics of plunder we pose the alternative of expanded production, vast expansion of agriculture to end hunger, investment in technology for the rapid realization of fusion power. A communist mobilization in Western Europe under the United Front program advanced by the International Caucus of Labor Committees can rally the forces to destroy the new Nazi regime before it comes to power.
It was the Red Army of the Soviet Union and the international workers' movement that crushed fascism in the Second World War, but it was also the capitulation of the Communist International to Nazism in 1933 which made Hitler possible. The working class has a choice in the coming months: either solve the problem of capitalism once and for all, or perish under capitalism's final solution.
PART I: The Weimar Republic
A Proletarian Nation
Beginning in roughly the 1870s, capitalism sustained an unparalleled cycle of economic expansion based on exports of fictitious masses of capital in the form of loans to regions outside the capitalist zone. The colonial sector subsidized the imperialist boom by providing sufficient margins of unpaid-for wealth until approximately 1905-07, when the sector as a whole could no longer carry the combined loan burden. World War I came as an attempt to solve the problem of imperialist "overpopulation," by the forcible elimination of competitors.
The Entente victory over the Kaiserreich reduced Germany to what German capitalists rightly termed a "proletarian nation." Not only were colonies and spheres of influence stripped away, but Germany itself now became subject to the type of looting that had previously been reserved for Asia and Africa. For the first time a capitalist country became the object of colonial plunder. The reparations accords made Germany a virtual satrapy for the French bond holders, who went so far as to occupy the Ruhr region in 1923 as collateral on payments!
The runaway inflation of 1923-24 was the direct outcome of French confiscations which deprived Germany of any means other than paper bills to meet outstanding payments. To prevent the outbreak of a socialist revolution, the United States intervened by providing long-term loans which then became the basis for the revitalization of the German economy. U.S. banks and to a lesser degree British clearing houses
financed the export of heavy industry commodities by taking advantage of the depressed wage levels of the skilled German labor involved in this sector. But since the recovery depended on continuously expanding world trade to absorb a rising flow of German exports, the first signs of a trade crisis were to have catastrophic effects.
The German financiers, unlike the Entente victors who could afford to delude themselves into a "booming Twenties" psychosis, were forced to make a more realistic appraisal of the fragile nature of their belated post-war recovery.
Schacht's new Rentenmark (currency based on German real estate to back up the depreciated mark) was negotiable only because the Dawes Plan of 1924 promised to secure an $800 million loan as a first installment from U.S. creditors. Even so, recovery quickly dissipated into a depression during 1925-26, and it was only when U.S. interest rates fell substantially below those in Germany that new capital imports resuscitated the paralyzed finances of Germany.
During this period of recovery unemployment averaged about two million, or one-seventh of the working class. State budgets and public employment were slashed, while taxation was drastically income creased. In a coordinated blitz by the Minister of Economy and Schacht, then President of the Reichsbank, 397,000 civil servants were dismissed at one fell swoop.
Having no colonies, Germany could not export or realize any portion of its debts in the form of traditional looting. On numerous occasions Schacht pleaded with U.S. and British financiers that Germany be granted a
few colonies, but this request was rejected. Strapped in and faced with an imminent decline in world trade, German financiers had to turn to their own working class as the sole reservoir of loot. Schacht expressed their viewpoint forcefully and bluntly throughout this period:
(The loan recovery) involved the newly revived German economy in the most enormous burden of debt. For with the long-term and short-term loans we assumed responsibility not only for the ultimate repayment of these accounts -- we had to pay current interest on them ... soon after I took over at the Reichsbank, I started to warn the public against excessive borrowing abroad, especially for such things as swimming baths, public grounds, libraries, sports grounds....
Until his conversion to Nazism Schacht preferred to couch his austerity program in metaphors that made reference to swimming baths, though it was well understood at the time that German workers were not exactly bathing in "prosperity." Even though the entire capitalist class clamored for an extraordinary austerity program, there was no force capable of implementing it. German capital, as Schacht bitterly admitted, was still crushed by the political aftermath of the war. Its Prussian army had been dismantled; its police force was in the hands of the Social Democratic Party. German capitalism was in no position to deliver ultimatums to the working class.
The Social Partnership
The Weimar Republic was a "social contract" between the trade-union-based Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the German capitalists. The contract had been consolidated in the course of the war when the SPD agreed to accept Ludendorff's military dictatorship over the war economy and in return gained recognition by the authorities as sole bargaining agent for the German working class. Under the contract the German worker's diet was reduced to turnips as the basic staple, women and children were herded into the plants, and the pace of labor was intensified to the limits of endurance. Under the contract the German working class was thrown back into the 19th century,
The 1918 "Winter of Turnips" marked the breakdown of the German war economy and gave rise to a revolutionary mass strike upsurge that swept through the factories and gathered into its ranks the uniformed workers on the battlefront. The German General Staff at that point called on the SPD to live up to its obligations by restoring order, and the Ebert-Noske faction eagerly obeyed by deploying fascist paramilitary Freikorps to carry out mopping-up operations against the mass strike.
After this unique display of faith both the General Staff and more enlightened capitalist-industrial elements committed themselves to renewing and maintaining
their temporary alliance with the SPD. In secret negotiations that preceded the adoption of the Weimar Constitution, a spokesman for the Iron and Steel Industry laid down for the benefit of the shortsighted Ruhr Barons the nature of the agreement:
We cannot get on without negotiations with the trade unions....Yes, gentlemen, we should be happy that the unions still find themselves ready to deal with us in the manner in which they have, for only through negotiations with the unions, we can prevent it -- call it what you will -- anarchy, Bolshevism, rule of the Spartacists or chaos.
In the course of the first few years of Weimar, the industrialists through their employers' associations negotiated a series of "concessions" whose net intent was to give the SPD a veneer of credibility as the protector of employed labor. This package in its entirety was the real Constitution of the Weimar Republic. To sustain the left-borderguard role of the SPD, the battered industrialists accepted a bill of minimum rights for the employed labor force under depression conditions.
With six million unemployed in 1918 the SPD negotiated a labor exchange scheme that prevented the importation of scab labor as a wage reduction tool. In addition, a national integrated network of employment agencies was created with safeguards guaranteeing that workers were to be placed at union rate jobs and were not to be used in factories where strikes were in progress, or in plants that violated normal working conditions. Other protective measures included a 48-hour week, eight-hour shifts, and layoff procedures that required six to eight weeks' advance notice.
More fundamental as a fulcrum for these concessions was the recognition of the right to industry-wide binding contracts and the unemployment insurance legislation which was enacted in 1927. These provisions gave minimal borderline defenses to the employed and semi-employed from being recycled down to 18th century levels of subsistence.
Hjalmar Schacht's political activities during the early Weimar years exemplify the quality of commitment among industrial-financial circles to the "social partnership." A faithful, God-fearing monarchist during the Kaiserreich, he served his country during the war in Belgium, where he helped transfer that occupied country's finances to German banks. In the upheaval of 1918 he suddenly transformed himself into a "revolutionary" executive member of a district Workers and Soldiers Council! During the "Year of Turnips" he recognized that Germany was about to undergo the same type of breakdown that led to a Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, but that unlike in Russia the mass-based SPD could provide a bulwark against revolution.
He propagandized in the upper-class Berlin "Club of 1914" against benighted, traditional intransigence
towards the SPD, an attitude which was most prevalent among Ruhr industrialists who had always relied on the decorticated Prussian military for "thinking." "We must endeavor to form a mighty reservoir of all those elements who, without being extremists, are dissatisfied with present conditions," argued Schacht. "We need a middle-class Left which will throw in its lot with the organized workers in the coming coalition government." Around Schacht's "liberal" German Democratic Party coalesced what today would be regarded as the strategic think-tank minds who formulated a coherent matrix of policies for the capitalist class as a whole. By allying with the Social Democracy they were able to dictate for the SPD the acceptable limit to workers' demands. As Schacht himself proudly noted:
The surmise we had entertained in connection with the formation of the GDP (German Democratic Party) came to pass.... The Social Democrats were compelled to form a coalition with the middle-class left ... and at a critical juncture ensured that Socialist theories were not applied in too one-sided a fashion.
For approximately ten years the German bourgeoisie grudgingly held to the terms of its contract with the SPD. This can also be seen from their reactions to the Kapp Putsch, to Hitler's attempted coup in Bavaria, and various other conspiracies of the right, which they correctly judged as premature and therefore lent no institutional support. This steadfast detente with the SPD had very little to do with the SPD itself. As noted earlier, the bourgeoisie had nothing to fear from the traitorous scum who led the SPD. The constant terror was that the rank and file would abandon the SPD en masse for the revolutionary struggle of the German Communist Party (KPD).
Every concession to the SPD had been nothing more than desperate retreats in the face of explosive mass strike upheavals which the SPD leadership was summoned to quash. Every gain was won through the soviet class-wide political forms of struggle to which the KPD in its formative years aimed at giving organization, coherence, and program for the seizure of power,
The strategic perspective of Rosa Luxemburg had been to extend these soviet (united front) forms of struggles, and to win hegemony over the SPD in these alliances by providing direction (program) for a European-wide workers' solution to the social breakdown. After her assassination and the Zinoviev faction's Comintern purge of the cadre trained by her, the KPD was thrust into the hands of tertiary leaders whose original commitment and integrity deteriorated to the extent that they carried out unscrupulous factional errands on behalf of Zinoviev and Stalin.
As a result of the witchhunt against Luxemburgism,
the communist movement was decapitated and during the depression years came to resemble a ship cast adrift in tumultuous hurricanes -- without compass, without command.
Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, the KPD attracted the most advanced and most committed layers of the working class, recruited mostly from the ranks of the unemployed, but the party had no way of linking them up with the SPD workers. By failing to bring the unemployed into alliances with the employed SPD trade unionists, the KPD reduced the unemployed to an atomized, heteronomic strata, and in turn as the depression deepened the party assimilated the desperate raw prejudices of this layer. The same type of mass under a petit-bourgeois machine is the chemistry for a fascist movement. "Directives from Moscow" are not sufficient to explain the eagerness with which the KPD allied with the Nazis against the SPD in the referendum elections of 1931, or their staging of joint anti-Weimar demonstrations, or to account for the transmigrations between the two parties. By dispensing with the teachings of Rosa Luxemburg, the KPD lost itself in the back alleys of the depression where inevitably its membership brushed shoulders with the petit bourgeois vermin of the Strasser Nazis.
The SPD unionist was left no alternative but to cling to the rotting corpse of his organization and to reinforce his swinish attitude towards the unemployed section of his class. This unresolved antagonism between the employed and unemployed under depression conditions was the virus that killed the working-class movement.
Once the German capitalists were convinced by experience that abrogation of the social contract would not immediately result in a mass exodus to the KPD, they prepared for a head-on confrontation with the working class. Despite the criminal ineptness of the Communist movement, the possibility that the KPD might rally the 15 million organized workers weighed so heavily on their minds that they had to proceed with extreme caution lest they ignite an explosion which would spread socialist power throughout Europe.
The offensive came in the form of "stages," or a succession of confrontations in which the defeat of working-class forces, and the subsequent demoralization, would create the conditions for the next confrontation. After the workers' movement had been softened up in this way, the Nazis were called in to finish the process.
Schacht's Conversion to Nazism
As early as 1927 the American banker Parker Gilbert, who was appointed by Morgan to watchdog the Reichsbank finances, issued a memorandum to the SPD government warning of "tendencies...that would lead to observable recessions and depressions."
To finance both reparations and interest on "recovery" loans, German industry and banking obtained short-term credit in foreign currencies at an alarming rate. The short-term notes, however, were being converted into long-term loans by the German banks to keep German industry from going bankrupt. The industrial contraction in Europe and the United States created a situation in which the German export market perspective was in inverse ratio to its spiralling debt. German finance was faced with the predicament of keeping interest rates high to prevent a flight of foreign capital and to maintain payment on these loans in the midst of the collapse in trade.
As President of the Reichsbank, Schacht expressed the viewpoint and interests of his foreign creditors, the Morgans and the British clearing houses. Schacht was fully committed to accepting the satrapy status of Germany, and for his insistence that austerity be intensified so that the loans could be paid off he was labeled (correctly) by both the left and the right as an agent of U.S.-British banking interests. At the same time Schacht concentrated his efforts on bargaining for a better colonial status. He pressured the U.S. for a lowering of reparations, explaining that it was in their own interest, and continued to repeat his appeals for colonies somewhere in Africa or Asia.
Domestically he became the leading exponent and propagandist for austerity, arguing that only a drastic cut in the living standard could save Germany's liquidity position. But Schacht's strategems up to 1928 had only a marginal effect, because the pace at which austerity advanced was slowed down by strong working-class resistance. It was only when the Ruhr industrialists took the offensive under the cry of "Break the Trade-Unions" that Schacht's program came to be implemented.
German capitalists were not concerned with unions as such, but in the obstacles which these advanced outposts of working-class gains placed in the way of recycling the class as a whole. The apparatus through which the growing numbers of unemployed could be processed as "workfare" labor existed in the form of national employment agencies, although the "trade union" rights won in the 1918 mass strike prevented the capitalists from making use of it.
In the winter of 1928 the Ruhr magnates locked out 200,000 workers with the bluntly stated aim of abolishing collective bargaining and industry-wide contracts. Under the circumstances this amounted to an explicit demand that working-class organization be done away with. The Social Democracy reacted to this turning point in the Weimar Republic by dispatching their whimpering Minister of the Interior, Karl Severing, to negotiate a compromise settlement. Otto Braun, an SPD trade-union leader, explained at the time why the unions became paralyzed under these attacks: "How
could the trade unions call workers from their posts when they knew that millions of unemployed were waiting for the moment when these places might being come vacant?"
Though a temporary compromise was reached, the working class parties failed to perceive that this event had taken place in a new geometry, one in which the social partnership could no longer exist. The failure of the Communist International to come forward at this critical juncture, with its own program for replacing the system that the capitalists could no longer live with, was the determining factor behind the successive catastrophic defeats that were to follow.
The employers' associations treated the Ruhr lockout as a crucial experiment, in which it was proven both to themselves and to capitalists of other countries that the best organized working class in Europe -- when put to a test -- would not fight.
The SPD nevertheless clung desperately to its illusion of renewing the terms of the old contract. At the price of implementing austerity legislation on a scale which no capitalist government would have dared, they were allowed to remain in government until 1930. Their traitorous collaboration in enforcing Schacht's austerity reached its limit only when the capitalists demanded that they voluntarily liquidate the trade unions, upon which their entire party was based. Unlike their modern day scions Woodcock, Vetter, Loderer, et al., they were not prepared to go that far.
When the Ruhr demanded that unemployment insurance be ended through legislative "revisions," even the most corrupted union leader knew that abrogation of that law in the face of mass unemployment would totally destroy the SPD and its unions. Over this issue the SPD resigned from government, though they never wanted to realize that the curtain had fallen on the Weimar Republic.
Until a political machine could be created to crush the working class, the capitalists had to turn to a Bonapartist military-backed government under Bruening that ruled above parties by decree. Under emergency powers "For the Protection of the German Economy and Finances..." wages were reduced by 15 per cent, and collective bargaining was torn up.
The Bruening government marked Schacht's transition to fascism. Schacht not only gave support to the "positive" measures implemented by Bruening; he was in fact the author of the new government's austerity measures. But it became clear to him that half-way austerity which merely weakened the working class could not salvage German capitalists.
Schacht was one of the first to abandon the sinking ship. In 1930 he put his signature to the Young Plan, which stipulated that Germany would have to continue reparations and honor its debts -- and then immediately resigned from his position at the Reichsbank.
knowing full well that the entire banking system was about to collapse. He then travelled to the United States where he propagandized for the coming Nazi regime.
The collapse which Schacht had easily foreseen came in 1931 with the failure of the Austrian Central Bank, which immediately set off a chain reaction of bankruptcies in Germany. Within days production fell by 50 per cent while unemployment soared to over six million. Schacht understood that this depression was not going to be solved by a "loan-export" revival, because it was the illiquidity of prospective creditors like the U.S. and Britain that had sparked the monetary collapse in the first place. Recovery would have to be financed out of the blood and bones of the working class. Schacht became convinced that only Nazi gutter scum, whom he personally loathed, could enforce a Schachtian recovery program.
Originally a Schachtian program had been handed over to the organ of heavy industry, Strassemann's Volkspartei, which was urged to move towards a presidential-military dictatorship. When the task was later shifted to Bruening, the impossibility of a purely military solution became apparent. The army, split up as it was into rival factions and permeated with intrigue at all levels of command, was not a reliable agency for dealing with 15 million organized workers.
Furthermore the military was numerically weak, lacking any "low intensity" capability and was considered to be incapable of dealing with the street riots that were spreading through the country.
Despite all statements to the contrary by Schacht's modern-day apologists, Schacht after 1930-31 devoted his entire political energies to the goal of bringing the Nazis to power. At the Harzburg Conference of Germany's fascist parties it was Schacht who was called on to enunciate the program for the coming Reich. Schacht stressed that this program “rests on a few fundamental ideas .... namely to extract from our native soil whatever can be extracted and finally to work hard for an entire generation." Because this task ("for an entire generation") was beyond Bruening, the arrogant, dignified gentleman Schacht now found himself in the company of the Nazi thugs.
Schacht had nothing but contempt for the so-called "theorists" of the Nazi movement. The economic program put together by cranks Gottfried Feder and Duree was a scratchsheet of heteronomic ravings designed to fit the "little interests" of each bankrupt section of the petit bourgeoisie that flocked to the Nazis after 1930. Schacht had no patience for the "pure-idealist" morons in the Nazi camp. "If men like Gotfried Feder and Rower were to gain control of the
banking and monetary system," he wrote, "I could see already that it would spell ruin for German economic policy. The work of the Reichsbank would collapse."
The populist lunacies of Feder (notorious for his ravings against the "Thralldom of Interest"!) remained for the benefit of the Storm Troop rabble, but Hitler's real economic program was shaped by industry and finance, for whom Hjalmar Schacht was the acknowledged spokesman. By 1933 the exuberant Schacht was signing his fervent letters to Hitler "With a vigorous Heil!" Goebbels jotted down in his diary during the dark period of 1932, "He (Schacht) is one of the few who stand firmly behind the Fuehrer." The former head of the Reichsbank ended up on the eve of the Nazi takeover as the treasurer of the Nazi slush campaign fund. At a major fundraising event before the 1933 terror elections, Schacht jumped up after Hitler's speech and exhorted the assembled industrialists, "Und nun, meine Herren, an die Kasse!" (And now, gentlemen, to the cash box!)
Once the coalition between finance, industry, the military, and the Nazis was consummated, Bruening was scrapped and replaced by non-entity von Papen. The sole raison d'etre of the von Papen government was to make the final preparations for a peaceful transition to the Nazis, who in turn were no more than the battering ram for the Schachtian coalition. Von Papen issued more emergency decrees, only to rub in the total rout of the immobilized working-class parties. The right to contract, already a legal fiction, was formally abolished. Adding to Bruening's 15 percent wage reduction, von Papen reduced wages by another 25 per cent, even though capitalists were already cutting wages without waiting for official declarations. Final proof that the stupid and treacherous leaders of the KPD and SPD would give up without a fight came in July 1932, when the only resistance encountered to the coup d'etat in Prussia which overthrew the SPD government there was an injunctive suit filed by the SPD in the Supreme Court! While the venerable judges of the court went through the faded footnotes of Constitutional law, the Nazis under von Papen's protection were let loose like wild dogs against the working-class parties.
Up to the last days of the Weimar Republic the working class still had the organization, the moral strength, and the military combat units to repulse and shatter the Nazis. Workers in the paramilitary units, who were engaged in daily combat with the Nazis to
protect their rallies, offices, and organizations, lived under the illusion that somehow, when the day of the Nazi bid for power came, orders to mobilize would come. Stalin and the KPD stood by and let the vanguard of the international working class go under without a single shot being fired!
Hitler's appointment to the Chancellery in December 1932 was followed by the most concentrated terror in history. The SS, the SA, and the Gestapo spread terror throughout the pores of society, not only destroying every form of working-class organization but also shattering morale and the very notion of solidarity. Now that the industrialists had a free hand, German workers were deliberately put through a two-year recycling journey at the end of which they emerged as broken, docile, chattel slaves.
The unemployed for all practical purposes were robbed of insurance payments. Like cattle they were rounded up at the national employment agencies from where they were either "relocated" to ditch-digging public works or sent to factories to take away jobs from the employed, at unemployment scale wages, under far worse working conditions.
The former employed worker now found himself at the unemployment office, ready and willing to replace those who had replaced him. When the workforce had been shuffled and reshuffled sufficiently, labor books were issued that tied the slave to "his" employer. Any protest, or even a sign of latent protest such as an unenthusiastic "Heil," was recorded in the little book. Usually "anti-social" behavior among workers was remedied by a trip to Dachau, where the SS administered remedial education.
The Nazi Labor Front reached right down to the floor level of the plants. No one dared talk or joke any longer. A sharp quip, a slip of the tongue in an unguarded moment, or a discussion with a former comrade who once belonged to the same party could all turn out to be one-way fare to a concentration camp.
In this jungle environment solidarity broke down even to the point where social interaction among workers came to an end. The days of home visits and after-work discussions over a mug of beer belonged to the past. This was a Zero Growth society in which your former comrade might turn you in, if only to get your job, your apartment, or some other scarce resource.
The combination of Nazi terror and recycling conditioned the German worker, "for an entire generation," to the quality of life that made the Schachtian recovery possible.
PART II: The Schachtian ‘Recovery’
The Real Dictator
It is often said that Schacht as Nazi Economics Minister did nothing more than plagiarize from the policies already set forth by Bruening and yon Papen. This line of thinking puts the cart before the horse, for although the continuity in the economic policies of the three regimes is patent, the continuity is a progression in the implementation of Schacht's own program. Von Papen and Bruening had as little to do with economics as did the Nazis.
Up to 1936 the Nazis were limited to a domestic police role only, while the Wehrmacht and the ministries of economics, foreign affairs, and defense were completely under the control of the financial-industrial-military bloc directed by Schacht. In the domain of capitalist policy no half-baked Nazi Party interference was tolerated. The industrialists expressed gratitude to Hitler for his accomplishments and paid him ceremonial tributes, but when it came down to policy the Nazis were persona non grata.
The purge of the SA (Sturmabteilung) is a case in point. While it is certainly true that Hitler was well disposed to ridding himself of any factional rivals in the party, the impetus and the orders for the purge came directly from the Schachtian bloc.
As long as the SA were needed as an auxiliary police force during the terror recycling period, their antics were tolerated and their populist demands met with some degree of accommodation. The first Nazi relief
program, a subsidy for repairs to residential housing, was in fact a sop aimed to pacify the Nazified artisans who were mostly involved in the construction trades.
The first phase of the Schachtian program, consisting of public works slave-labor recycling, took 18 months to complete. The SPD, the KPD, and their former members were pulverized to the point where the rabble in the SA were no longer essential. The Schachtian bloc, via the Economics Minister Schmitt (also director of Germany's largest insurance company and closely connected to the Reichsbank), presented Hitler with the next phase of the program, which centered around rearmament and stipulated that the SA and their "Second Revolution" be liquidated.
The question had come down to one of hard economics. The rabble were demanding that department stores be closed down, even though the commercial paper debt of these establishments amounted to 500 million Reichsmarks (RM)! Similarly, the demand for low interest rates, low taxes, housing subsidies, etc., ran directly counter to the real recovery program. Schacht, Krupp, Farben, and the military agreed that the rowdies had to go.
After the Roehm purge the last obstacle to a Schachtian recovery had been done away with. Schmitt was put under a great deal of pressure to resign, especially after he had donned an SS uniform and compromised the interests of the Ruhr barons by allowing the Nazis to make inroads into the employers' associations -- a situation that Schacht was to reverse swiftly. Both industry and the army now called directly
upon Hitler for Schacht's appointment to the Ministry of Economics, not as mere minister but as political dictator over the entire economy.
In late June 1934 General George Thomas, chief of the economics section in the Ministry of War, submitted a memorandum, to Chief of Staff von Blomberg in which he delineated the demands of the entire capitalist-military bloc. The memo stated that recovery must be achieved solely through a rearmament program and that an economic dictator be appointed, with power over all economic institutions and most emphatically with control over wage policies. Dr. Ley's illusions of turning the Labor Front into a corporativist "bargaining agency" regulating labor policy were quashed and the Labor Front was strictly confined to functioning as a Gestapo appendage in the factories.
Between June and August General Thomas had to remind Hitler twice that the only choice acceptable to the bloc for the post of economic dictator was Hjalmar Schacht. In his memoirs Schacht describes how "surprised" he was at Hitler's offer and how he underwent a deep crisis of conscience in trying to decide whether it was morally proper to serve a regime that was committing such crimes against the Jews and civil liberties.
The 18-month delay to his appointment was actually due to Schacht's own unwillingness to assume the post. Schacht, it must be understood, was an opportunist and fundamentally a coward who made no political moves when risks were involved. Only after the Nazis proved that they could enslave the working class, and after Hitler showed he could get rid of his own SA radicals, was Schacht prepared to take over as economic dictator. Once he did, however, there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to who was in control. U.S. Ambassador Dodd, Allen Dulles, and others acting for British and U.S. ruling circles took it for granted "that if anything happened to Hitler" Schacht would be the one to replace him.
Schacht's first actions in the Ministry were to establish his own command and to make it absolutely clear that he would not tolerate the least bit of Nazi meddling with his mandate. Schacht describes it as follows:
On the 2nd of August 1934, I took office as head of the Ministry for Economic Affairs. My first action was to summon the senior officials and urge them to arbitrate justly and impartially, and to tolerate no Party interference. I would support any official who upheld that standard.... Nor did I confine myself to the defense of my own departments: I also had recourse to attack. Immediately after my opening address ... I sent for Herr Gottfried Feder, whom Hitler had previously appointed Secretary of State in the Ministry. I told him that his connection with the Ministry ceased on the day I took office. "But sir, I am prepared to cooperate with you." "That may be, Herr Feder, but I am not."
Nor did Schacht confine his house-cleaning to such lunatic Nazi elements. Wilhelm Kepler, who used his post as Hitler's economic advisor to expand the power of the Nazi Party in business circles, was expressly forbidden by Schacht from entering any of the Ministry buildings. To an SS courier who told him of Himmler's opposition to his appointment Schacht replied that the only way Himmler could make him resign was if "he shoots me from the front, for I don't allow myself to be taken from the rear."
The image of a marathon poker game is appropriate to the "wizardry" of Schacht's "MEFO-bill"-financed recovery. The bank provides its privileged though penniless players with chips, and in return the players offer their own personal IOUs. As the ante goes up the bank graciously supplies more chips using the IOUs as collateral. At some point, however, one of the wary players wishes to go out into the real world, where to his misfortune his earnings at the poker table cannot be exchanged. Was the game in vain, he despairingly asks himself? The banker who is a financial wizard calms the player down and gives assurances that the exertions at the table were not for nothing. With a flick of his magic wand the wizard summons from the adjacent room a band of gentlemen who are armed with sub-machine guns, and he bids them to accompany our wary player into the world to ensure that the magic chips are honored.
It was machine guns -- not Schacht's magic bag of financial tricks -- upon which "recovery" was built.
The acronym MEFO stood for the Metall Forchungsinstitut GmbH, a corporate front group founded by the central bank, the Ministry of Defense, and the four major armaments producers. The purpose of the bills was to provide credit for arms production. Military procurement offices paid for their orders in MEFO bills, which were then acceptable by the dummy corporation, whose debt was guaranteed by the government.
Unlike the usual bill of exchange that must be paid on the day of maturity, rediscounting of MEFOs was guaranteed by the central bank so that the total MEFO debt could function as credit money for further payments. Nevertheless, as a portion of this mass was deposited by armaments producers and their suppliers in private banks, they found their way back to the Reichsbank and ultimately to the issuing of new currency.
The rate of currency expansion between February 1933 to February 1938 was 33 per cent. This, however, in no way represents the runaway inflation trend because it only covers the expansion of currency, which
is merely one of the credit instruments at the capitalists' disposal.
By exercising very tight control over the capital and money markets, Schacht was able to use the liquid assets of banks, municipalities, stock and bond markets to prop up the MEFO expansion. Savings and commercial banks were forced to invest 30 per cent of their deposits into MEFO-bills, municipalities up to 90 per cent, and similar ratios were set for insurance funds, both public and private. The issue of new securities was forbidden, while bonds and accounts that had been frozen during the depression were unfrozen by converting them into MEFOs. The capital market was inundated by MEFO-bills and other government-created paper, for which the Reichsbank paid declining rates of interest.
Without such regimented concentration of paper capital, one may well imagine the rate at which the government would have had to print new notes. From 1934 to 1938 a total of 12 billion RM in MEFO-bills were issued! It is not so much the gross sum of MEFOs which is significant, as the leverage (or "multiplier") which this credit provided for additional credit expansion throughout the financial system. The question which comes to the fore is, how was this paper empire maintained, since war production produces no value? This is where economics ends and the machine guns come in.
The secret was primitive accumulation. Here Schacht excelled as a cold-blooded gangster, divising scheme after scheme to squeeze every last ounce of value from his victims. Wage rates were fixed by Schacht through the state-appointed Trustees of Labor, at the depression level of 1933, and as rearmament financing increased, real wage rates steadily declined below this deep depression level.
In actual terms the 1933 wage level was approximately one-half the weekly earnings of 1928. It should also be noted that deductions from the money wage amounted to 10 to 15 per cent of the nominal wage. This was carried out in the form of unemployment insurance withholdings which were set at the very high depression rate, even though compensation payments were either reduced or refused until 1939, when all compensation payments were officially abolished -- though certainly not the deductions! Other deductions included "old age insurance," dues to the Labor Front, "Strength Through Joy," not to mention the numerous "voluntary" contributions solicited by the Nazi Party. And then of course there were the outright "con game" swindles, among which the Volkswagen (people's car) thievery stands out as a good illustration of what occurred daily, albeit in less spectacular reforms. Greater efficiency in tax collecting and an increase in indirect taxation, whose costs were borne
by workers, took further deductions from the gross wage fund. Reductions in variable capital (the social cost of maintaining and reproducing a skilled work force) must necessarily be reflected in a contraction of what Marx defined as Department II production, that portion of industry devoted to consumption goods production. The fixing of Department II to depression levels was the deliberate policy of the Economics Ministry upon Schacht's appointment. This was expedited by denying credits, labor, and raw materials to consumer production and imposing tight import restrictions. That the policy was one of contraction, freezing production to its most depressed level, can be seen from the special 1934 decrees which attempted to regulate the fiber industry, whereby a work week of 36 hours' was imposed, new plant or capacity was forbidden, and a ban was put on the introduction of new technologies. Investment in Department II never reached the pre-depression level of 1928, while the percentage of consumer goods investment to overall investment dropped by 27 per cent between 1933 and 1939. A significant portion of consumer production never reached the civilian population, since it was either directly channeled to the military or stockpiled to prevent shortages in the case of war. Import restrictions and the compulsory admixture of domestic synthetic raw materials ("Ersatz" ) had the immediate effect of lowering the quality of consumption items, especially the quality of food and clothing. The deterioration was so apparent that Ersatz became the butt of many jokes, but it was no laughing matter for the thousands of infantrymen who froze to death in the Russian cold in their Ersatz winter clothing. The contraction of Department II expressed itself in very high (relative to world market) prices, and this inevitably led to a shift from high to low quality items of consumption, as in the case of food. Overall the pattern is unmistakable: per capita consumption by 1938 was significantly below that of 1929. And 1929 was below that of 1913! Another form of looting variable capital was in the precipitous deterioration of education and in declining allocations for reproducing the labor force. If older workers were being driven into the 19th century, youth, in terms of skills, culture, and education, were being driven into the Middle Ages. During the depression working-class youth graduating from vocational schools were not integrated into the labor force. It is this layer, with an elementary knowledge of engineering-draftsman skills, which replenishes such skilled sections as machining, tool-and-die, etc. From 1929 to 1933 they were excluded from
the job market since an unemployed skilled worker could be hired at a fraction of the pre-depression cost. After 1933 these young workers were herded into the Hitler Youth as ditch diggers. By 1936 when unemployment came to an end and the armed forces were expanded, these youth were the first to be drafted, so that the bulk of vocationally trained youth during Weimar never entered the industrial labor force.
After Schacht came to power all schools, vocational and otherwise, underwent a collapse. A severe teacher shortage developed as those who entered the profession were judged by their loyalty to the National Socialist Teachers League and by their physique. The subject weighted most heavily was "physical education," while "ideological" subjects such as "racial theory" took a close second. A good barometer of the decline can be gauged from the sharp reduction in enrollment in technical schools, out of which most scientists and engineers graduated. Between 1933 and 1939 enrollment fell from 20,474 to 9,554, while a large part of their education was diverted to the study of "German sciences" such as "German mathematics" and "German physics." The decline in the quality of engineers and other scientists fell to such abysmal levels that the trade journals of the period are full of complaints and lamentations over the poor quality of technical school graduates, who couldn't be trusted to repair a car let alone practice industrial engineering.
Industrialists raised cries of despair over the quality of apprentices. Results in apprenticeship examinations were so poor that they became a national scandal. In one test of 400 apprentices in Hamburg, 75 per cent failed to capitalize proper names and an equal number could not spell the name of Goethe. By 1938 the shortage of skilled labor was so severe that industrialists were setting up their own emergency training programs.
The education and acculturation of the young was commensurate with a Zero Growth economy. Development of skills is only required for a society that is advancing; the Schachtian Reich was one in which the social reproductive process was contracting and turning on itself. Nazi education, a mixture of boot camp and Nazi brainwashing, was not a quirk but a curriculum designed to develop the qualities of the model SS killer. From the standpoint of Schachtian accumulation the most "productive" labor was that performed by the SS. The looting of the domestic work force was only one aspect of Schacht's MEFO-bill financing. Short-changing foreign creditors and trading partners was the other indispensable sphere of primitive accumulation.
In this venture Schacht was aided by the Morgans, the Rockefellers, and the British banks who supported the Reich by giving it credits and by graciously opening up some of their colonies for Schacht to
practice a poor man's version of imperialism there. Schacht's colonial ambitions came half-way true, as the Rockefellers opened up Latin America and the British, the Balkans for Schachtian trade. (Although it must be said that the Rockefellers, who hired Schacht after the Second World War as a trouble shooter for the oil cartels, made him work hard for the money.)
Under the rubric of the "New Plan" Schacht declared a debt moratorium, by refusing to meet Germany's long-term debt liabilities to foreign creditors in foreign currencies; instead Schacht offered "partial" payment in the form of scrip which could be used to purchase specific goods in Germany. Concomitantly the Reichsmark was taken off the international money markets and pegged at an artificially high price ranging to about 20 per cent above the going market price. Not only was the conversion of foreign assets into scrip calculated at very profitable exchange rates, but scrip also depreciated in value since many creditors had no interest in buying the commodities specified in the agreement. The scrip innovation, needless to say, could not possibly have succeeded without the collaboration of U.S.-British banking, which wrote the debts off as a political subsidy to the Reich.
The scarcity of foreign exchange to carry on trade was an even more serious problem. Trade with the U.S. and West Europe was drastically reduced due to the artificial pegging of the mark, which made German exports 15 to 25 per cent more expensive than those of Britain. To remedy this, Schacht shifted trade to those countries which also suffered from a shortage of foreign currency and were therefore open to barter. Almost exclusively these were raw material exporting countries in Latin America and the Balkans, which had devalued their currencies by 40 to 80 per cent after the British devaluation of the pound sterling to maintain their exports in the collapsed markets. Even though no conversion of currencies took place in these "clearing agreements," the commodities exchanged were calculated at the exchange rates prevailing in the respective countries.
Schacht got the edge by virtue of the overinflated Reichsmark, and in addition introduced a bit of mafia thievery known as "quantity manipulation." After the bureaucratically complex clearing agreements were negotiated, the German importers would go ahead and order more quantities of raw materials. By the time the third country had caught up with its paper work, it would discover that there was a gross imbalance in the trade, and would demand payment from Germany in hard cash for the additional quantities. Schacht's standard reply was to offer return payment in goods, not cash. The central bank of the country being robbed had no other choice but to restrict trade with other countries and to force its importers to trade with Germany to make up for the imbalance, even though
German exports were priced exorbitantly high.
Another practice ancillary to quantity manipulation was sheer dumping of surplus and Ersatz commodities. The case of IG Farben dropping a mountain of aspirin into Yugoslavia in exchange for raw materials was such a commonplace phenomenon in the Balkans that the countries in that region virtually pleaded for the return of British imperialism.
The 1936-38 Crisis and the Demise of Schacht
Only two years into the celebrated "recovery" Germany was once again on the verge of economic collapse. From a social reproductive standpoint the recovery had been a sham. Armaments served as an investment sector for "paper" accumulation, and the increase in production led to no increase in social use values, which remained stagnant and then began to fall below the deep depression levels. The inevitable result was hyper-inflation in Germany, coupled with a severe foreign exchange crisis.
A solution to this problem was heatedly debated between industrial, financial and military circles throughout 1936, culminating in a sharp factional confrontation between Schacht and the Ruhr barons, in which the "old wizard" was ultimately deposed from his post as economic dictator.
Tile real debate centered around the fundamental issue of whether MEFO-bill financed rearmament could be maintained without incurring immediate financial collapse. Around the central question three factional positions developed.
A section of the export trade and light industry called for a devaluation of the mark as a way of increasing exports and, more important, as a means of gaining access to international money markets. Schacht, the Ruhr industrialists and the military joined together in rejecting this position, on the grounds that the "devaluationists" wanted Germany to go back to the satrapy status of 1924-32. A devaluation would have ended the Reichsbank's capability of realizing the fictitious paper capital generated inside Germany, via Schachtian trade, and furthermore the subsequent depreciation in MEFO-bill holdings would have immediately triggered a chain reaction of bankruptcies inside Germany. German capital then would have no other recourse but to apply for "loans" abroad and accept the political consequences of propabecoming aU.S. colony,
Once the "devaluationists" were defeated politically, Schacht imposed a turnover tax on the entire capitalist class as a way of providing emergency subsidies to export trade without recourse to devaluation. This was merely a short-term band-aid which left the real problem of MEFOs unresolved.
From an enlightened and well-seasoned banker's standpoint, Schacht argued that further expansion of
credit was untenable. His alternative was to reduce the mass of paper, cut down on inflationary war production and increase the rate of primitive accumulation within Germany by enforcing greater austerity on the population. Throughout 1936 he became involved in heated political battles with what became the third faction, the Ruhr barons, by rejecting their requests for credits to finance the expansion of the war industry. The cutting point came when the military planning group (on behalf of IG Farben, Krupp, et al.) requested an increase in military expenditures requiring a doubling of foreign exchange outlays. Schacht's insistence that the new request was impossible to meet was immediately confronted with a factional document by the industrialists known as "Goering's Four Year Plan."
On the surface this economic "planning” I document presented the idiotic thesis that Germany could become self-sufficient in raw materials by investing in synthetic goods industries. On this basis, the document argued, Germany could do away with the problem of foreign exchange and at the same time equip itself for war within four years. Autarchy, the ostensible objective of the plan, was in fact never taken seriously, nor for that matter did anyone have any illusions about Goering's ability to handle matters pertaining to economic policy, especially anything going beyond the realm of thievery.
The only "planning" aspect of the document was a behind-the-scenes agreement between the military, the industrialists, and the Nazis to expand credit for arms production. The Goering plan was essentially an unwritten agreement to go to war at the earliest possible date. The stipulation of "Four Years" had little to do with economics and was actually a factional ploy to win over the General Staff of the Wehrmacht from their alliance with Hjalmar Schacht. Four years for preparations alone, with the prospect of actual war held off to about six or seven years, was palatable to the conservative-minded military strategists. Once Schacht was deposed the Nazi-industrialist alliance in turn purged the General Staff of all officers who opposed the military gambles that the inflationary, economic policy made necessary.
The origins of Goering's Four Year Plan bear out the nature of the new alliance. The document was written in tote by IG Farben aides who were supplied to Goering's office for this purpose. The massive propaganda campaign about "autarchy" was merely a device to justify government credits to IG Farben for the synthetic goods industries- credits that Schacht had been denying. (In the same way "Project Independence" in the U.S. today is a propaganda ploy to convince workers that Rockefeller's coal gasification projects are necessary to solve an "energy shortage.")
The industrialists understood as well as Schacht did,
that the rate of debt expansion was far greater than the rate at which it could be capitalized in the form of tangible (looted) wealth. Whereas Schacht demanded a halt to paper accumulation, the industrialists' remedy was to continue Schachtian measures (even without Schacht) on the premise that Schachtian measures could be extended to both the capitalists and working classes of other countries. Provided that the frontier barriers restricting primitive accumulation to Germany alone were dismantled by the Wehrmacht's Panzers, "inflationary spending" could be supported.
The Four Year Plan alliance raised the Nazis out of their junior partner status in the government. Once the decision for war was taken, the Nazis and their SS apparatus were entrusted with the political task of looting Europe. In the industrialists' minds the ability of the Nazis to do this would make the difference between whether the government paper in their possession would become useless garbage or certificates redeemable in the assets of the occupied countries.
Schacht was not adverse to the use of Panzers to back up the liquidity of the Reichsbank as much as he was troubled by the prospect that the Wehrmacht was insufficiently prepared for the task of requisitioning the assets of other European countries. When compared to the combined might of the standing armies of Germany's most likely opponents, the Wehrmacht was an underequipped, understaffed, under-trained force. The thought of gambling in war in the face of such overwhelming enemy superiority horrified Schacht, just as it was to horrify the upper echelons of the German General Staff in 1937-38.
The precise nature of Schacht's opposition to the inflationary policy that was adopted is made apparent by following his changing attitude towards Hitler's successive looting operations.
When the tempo of rearmament was increased after 1936 along the lines of the Four Year Plan policy, the inflationary strain in Germany was exacerbated to the point that the entire monetary system was on the verge of exploding. Hitler resorted to the most desperate stormtrooper methods to take over Austria's finances. Schacht gave full political support to the stormtrooper-mafioso tactics by which Anschluss was achieved, for the simple reason that the risks involved in the Austrian venture weighed far less than the certainty of bank failures in Germany without the immediate acquisition of foreign exchange and other liquid assets.
Appearing a few days before the "plebiscite" in Vienna, Schacht gave a speech to the staff of the Austrian Central Bank in which he praised the achievements of "the newly strengthened Wehrmacht" and ecstatically proclaimed that "the Reichsbank will always remain National Socialist...." Several
days later, under Schacht's direction, the foreign currency reserves of Austria and its liquid assets were transferred posthaste to Berlin, while the Ruhr industrialists picked their way through Austria's industries, grabbing as they went.
It was a totally different matter when Hitler's plan to invade Czechoslovakia brought the Wehrmacht into what appeared to be a head-on confrontation with the British, French and Soviet armies. Such a war violated sound banking principles! Schacht, one can imagine, was haunted by visions of engraved MEFO bills going up in smoke and a second round of reparations on the horizon. The prospect of defeat so terrified Schacht that he immediately entered into a conspiracy with the General Staff in a plot to overthrow Hitler. To this end Schacht entered into negotiations with British banking circles while the General Staff sent emissaries to Britain with full documentation of Germany's state of military unpreparedness. According to the plot the British were to call Hitler's bluff, the Wehrmacht would then proceed with a coup d'etat, and Schacht was to be appointed military dictator of the Reich.
When these overtures were rebuffed by Chamberlain (British and U.S. policy being one of encouraging the Nazis to go East) and the Czech gamble paid off, Schacht temporarily abandoned his opposition activities.
The Polish crisis was the point of no return. Here it was absolutely clear that war would erupt and only miracles could keep the Wehrmacht from total disaster. Hitler was confident of victory while Schacht was convinced that the contrary was inevitable; this explains their final split over credit policy. Schacht gives a revealing account of this last bout with Hitler in his memoirs:
Now, however, it became evident that the capital market was exhausted ... (and) no money would be available for further armaments. On the 2nd January 1939 I went to see Hitler.... On this occasion Hitler himself referred to the financial situation and told me he had found a way of raising funds to meet Government expenditure. I pointed out that the last loan had demonstrated the complete exhaustion of the capital market and furthermore, that the so-called Jewish indemnity of on billion Reichsmarks decreed in November -- of which the first quarter had been extorted -- only one hundred and seventy million Reichsmarks had been paid in cash: for the remaining ... the Minister of Finance had to accept real estate lots, securities, etc., as payment. Whereupon Hitler remarked: "But surely we can issue notes against these securities."
Hitler demanded that the Reichsbank provide the credits despite the runaway inflation. In return, Schacht issued a statement making his resignation from the Reichsbank official. In it he delineated his differences "with the reckless policy of expenditure on the part of authorities."
The unlimited increase in Government expenditure
brings the national finances to the verge of bankruptcy despite an immense tightening of the taxation screw, and as a result is ruining the Central Bank and the currency. There exists no recipe, no system of financial or money technique ... to check the devastating effects on currency of a policy of unrestricted spending. No central bank is capable of maintaining the currency against an inflationary spending policy on the part of the State.
Schacht overexaggerated in his statement; he himself had always maintained the principle that an "inflationary spending policy" could be financed provided it did not overstep the rate at which the state was capable of procuring loot. The question of credit was political, and in this case Schacht believed that the political course adopted would lead to insolvency of the Reich. IG Farben, Krupp, and the SS disagreed.
'Germany's Economic Preparations for War'
and Burton H. Klein
After the war Germany's relatively low level of arms production for the period of 1936 through 1941 was revealed to the public by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey findings on the German war economy. The issue of whether or not Germany could have increased its war mobilization became a focal point for discussion and analysis among OSS
MI-5 think-tank specialists who had been involved in the Bombing Survey.
The post-war debate was not motivated by any purely academic interest, but was in fact oriented to examining the inner workings of Schachtian economics for future use. The work which subsequently achieved hegemony on the subject of the Nazi war economy was Burton H. Klein's Germany's Economic Preparations For War, which argues the thesis that full war mobilization was possible. The book was written as an exercise in rewriting the 1936-39 breakdown crisis, as a reverse futurology, that is, "what we would have done had we been in their shoes" (or "what we should do under similar circumstances"). The work therefore assumes the character of a polemic against Hjalmar Schacht who is in effect dismissed as a bungling economist. It is therefore important to examine the 1936-39 crisis from Klein's standpoint in order to gain some insight into the fact that the modern-day Schachtian fascists are so confused, so muddleheaded, and so far below the intellectual level of their Nazi progenitor.
Klein begins his analysis with a cover story, as is usual among the members of the intelligence community. He states that the reason for writing this work was to dispel the illusions of the strength of the Nazi war machine:
When Germany marched against Poland in September 1939, her military might was not questioned. The Nazi government, it was commonly
believed, had for six years concentrated the country's resources on preparation for war. This was a tacit assumption of the diplomacy of the period, and a point of major emphasis in the voluminous writings on Germany.
It is of course true that European and U.S. workers, who were being inundated by pro-Nazi terror propaganda on the part of their own capitalists, were convinced of Germany's military strength. The ruling circles responsible for diplomacy, however, absolutely were not, because they themselves were so intimately involved in the formulation of Nazi war aims and strategy. Nevertheless, Klein's central thesis is worthy of consideration. He compares the military production of Britain and Germany on the eve of war, and the low figures for Germany are indeed impressive.
In regard to manpower, for example, mobilization fell nearly a million short of the number in the armed forces at the outbreak of World War I. Military production was on a much smaller scale than had been assumed: for example, German aircraft production at the beginning of the war, 675 per month, was about the same as Britain's. Tanks, the main weapon of Blitzkrieg warfare, were produced at the rate of 50 per month, a rate of output which was exceeded by the British. Another indication of German's preparedness was Germany's stockpiling program....
Klein states that since most conclusions about the Nazi economy were falsely premised on the supposition of massive war production expenditures "a number of important economic conclusions ... will have to be revised." In the process the traditional evaluation of Schacht is also "revised," along very revealing lines. The thesis is stated very briefly:
There is no doubt that without this concern for inflation, and without such an effective exponent of financial conservatism as Schacht, Germany would have had a large rearmament....
Procuring additional funds by borrowing, it was thought, would destroy confidence in the economy and lead to an inflation. The fear of inflation weighted heavily in the policy decisions of the whole decade....
The German leaders simply did not at this time understand the elementary economic lesson that a nation can finance anything which can be produced.
Had Klein been in Germany during the 1930s, Schacht no doubt would have had him barred from the Reichsbank along with the lunatic Nazis. It was this line of thinking which recently led to the International Monetary Fund's decision to print Special Drawing Rights in order to save the Euro-dollar market, while the bankrupt Euro-market was to provide the credit pool for the SDRs ... and this expansion of credit supposedly going to finance increased military expenditures!! Schacht, to his credit, had a fundamental notion of how capitalist finance operates,
unlike contemporary Schachtians whose grasp of economics seems to be no greater than that of their patron, David Rockefeller.
Throughout his career Schacht was cognizant that the volume of credit expansion had to be some multiple of real assets available in convertible liquid form. He also understood that if these two processes were moving in opposite directions at growing rates a breakdown crisis would manifest itself, initially through inflation, and ultimately through a general monetary collapse. His Rentenmark of 1924, which stabilized the price of the mark, was based on a comprehensive agreement with the U.S., in which the U.S. financiers agreed to provide emergency loans while the Reichsbank put up as collateral the real estate mortgages of Germany. The MEFO-bills of 1934 were kept liquid by looting the working class and foreign creditors. In the 1936-37 crisis, Schacht proposed that more intensive austerity measures be applied and that war production be curtailed. The invariant in these solutions was the determination to maintain a sane relationship between the mass of paper credit and convertible assets.
For Klein to argue that Schacht was a victim of inflation paranoia, at a time when the Nazis had to ram their way into Austria to keep the Reichsmark solvent, is gross stupidity. The psychotic thesis, "a nation can finance anything which can be produced," suggests that Schacht in 1936 could have financed the imports for war production had he only known about the wonders of credit. (Perhaps SDRs!)
Klein attempts to prove his thesis by citing two areas, consumer production and expenditures related to Nazi activities, which supposedly could have been curtailed to provide non-inflationary funding of arms production. This is hardly original, since Schacht himself bitterly factionalized to effect such reductions. Unlike Klein, however, Schacht pointed out that these intensified austerity measures must be accompanied by contraction of credit, and must be viewed as emergency measures to save the mark. Here again Klein's grasp of Schachtian economics falls below that of Schacht's chauffeur.
The Nazi Party's opposition to further austerity measures as a solution to the 1936-39 crisis was politically correct, whereas Schacht's "rational" economic policy was a political powder-keg. Between 1936-39 the intensification of austerity was creating boiling point pressures on the Nazi political machine, Complaints which the Nazis could not afford to ignore were being registered with local Gauleiters throughout the Reich. Towards the end of 1936, for example, the Minister of Labor was forced to protest "the social retrogression in the metal industries" to the Minister of War, citing the "absolutely untenable extension of the working day," and noting that once again
"thousands of women ... work eight or ten hours at night."
We have already documented the decline of German living standards to below deep depression levels; suffice it to he said that the shift to greater war production in 1936-37 brought a further deterioration. The reply on the part of the War Ministry to the charge of "social retrogression" expresses the Nazis' invariant political orientation to the question of austerity levels:
According to the decision of the ministry ... and General Goering, the present tempo of rearmament and overtime employment shall be continued, in spite of the social consequences for the workers affected.
As far as the present tempo went the Nazis were more than willing to enforce it; beyond that, they themselves were extremely frightened of the "social consequences." This may seem specious when one considers the massive terror-police apparatus with which austerity could be enforced, but only if we look at Germany in political isolation. The Nazis had no illusions about the hostility of the working class to their fascist regime, and what they realistically feared was a communist-led workers upsurge in Europe which would have pulled the plug on the German economy, and ultimately would have given confidence to the millions of formerly-organized German workers who had capitulated in 1933 because of their cowardly leadership. Had the Comintern mobilized its forces for the seizure of power in France, Spain and elsewhere, the German economy would have dissolved overnight. The political consequences of driving the working class to 1918 starvation conditions bred so much anxiety in the Nazi political machine that it always rose to protest whenever Schacht and later Speer attempted to impose a second "Year of Turnips."
As for depriving the Nazi Party of its pork barrel expenditures (15 billion Reichsmarks in 1938), the old saying "you can't have your cake and eat it too" holds true. The Nazi machine was the backbone of the recovery, and like all capitalist political machines its cohesion was maintained through "kick-backs," or patronage. To have foregone payment to the Nazis would have fragmented the Nazi machine through factional squabbles over diminishing gate receipts. In addition, such an action would have been enough to bring the old SA radicals out of the woodwork once again, with Hitler leading the pack. When it came to dividing the spoils the Nazis demanded their fair share for services rendered.
The idiocy of Klein's central theses on rearmament can be seen by taking his own comparison between the German and British economies a few steps further. In Britain, supposedly, the more advanced Keynesians
at the Bank of England were free of Schachtian paranoia and therefore could "finance anything which could be produced." Klein forgets to point out that Britain enjoyed the blocked sterling accounts of its colonials which were deposited in British banks, and income from war levies that Britain placed on her colonies. Even so, the strain of war production devastated the British economy (and the British working class) and bankrupted Britain out of her position as the world's leading banker. By 1941 the British were on their hands and knees begging for lend-lease in Washington, which the U.S. granted only after Britian agreed to surrender a large chunk of its colonial empire. The example picked by Klein turns out to be a vindication of "conservative" Schacht with a vengeance, if one considers Schacht's own comparison between the two economies, in which he pointed out repeatedly that the Reich did not have the benefit of a colonial empire to subsidize full war mobilization.
The German industrialists and the Nazis struck a balance between liquidity and the exigencies of war economy by opting for "production in width," or what otherwise has come to be known as the Blitzkrieg economy. This form of production was specifically geared to short tactical wars in which the outcome is decided in the first battles.
In terms of military production no expansion of the industrial base was required. Labor, material, machine tools and capacity were maintained at existing levels and shifted about according to the type of war to be fought at any given time. For example the campaign against France necessitated a shift to tank production, while later on "Operation Sea-Lion" required a shift in priorities for increased naval landing equipment and aircraft. In this manner hyperinflationary "production in depth" was avoided, while Blitzkrieg production was financed by the acquisitions in the occupied territories.
The Blitzkrieg economy gambled on the supposition that opponents could be annihilated in short wars characterized by mobile, concentrated German thrusts, followed by a breakthrough and encirclement. This too had been the line of thought which inspired von Schlieffen in his celebrated battle plan for war against France. Hitler and the industrialists thought they could succeed where the Schlieffen Plan had failed because the depression had rendered the bourgeoisie of Europe (and the U.S.) allies of fascism, especially in those countries where the working class had not been effectively crushed, as was the case in France. The Nazis gambled on the fifth column in the military and the bourgeoisie of their potential enemies. The deciding factor in the battle for France, for example, was not so much Guderian's effective
use of the Panzer as the defeatism among the French capitalists who decided to ally with the Nazis, just as Thiers had allied with Bismarck to crush the French working class in 1871. The French capitalists accepted a satrapy status under Vichy in return for a fascist machine. The development of technology which made the Blitzkrieg possible is a purely secondary matter, since it can easily be shown that German's opponents possessed the same knowledge but too often refused to make use of it.
The Blitzkrieg economy came to an end after the setbacks in the Soviet Union, beginning with the battle for Rostov-on-Don and ending with the defeat at Stalingrad in 1942.
Klein ecstatically prints statistic after statistic on German expansion of the war industry as final proof that, were it not for conservative prudishness, the German war economy could have been on full mobilization in 1936-41. Had Schacht known in 1936-39 that the Reichsbank would have at its disposal the entire assets of Europe, and that 100 million could be murdered in slave labor camps or starved to death, there can be no doubt that he would have abandoned his "conservative" scruples and financed expansion of arms industries. On these matters Schacht was more ruthless than the most diehard Nazi -- but in 1936-39 there were no such guarantees !
Klein blows his cover story and reveals the real purpose of his book in the final chapter, where he concludes by calling for stepped up arms production in the U.S. Here Klein comes straight to the point:
The lesson that we ought to draw from this experience is that whether future wars be nuclear or conventional wars, we should count less on our potential military strength than our actual military strength.
Thus Klein's work, published in 1958 while he was serving the Rockefellers at the RAND Corporation, is nothing more than a polemic for arms production as a solution to the 1958-59 recession. He argues that "the German war production effort was restricted (until Stalingrad) by the lack of a real sense of crisis ... Germany's awakening did not come until after her defeat at Stalingrad," at a time when the CIA and Klein's employers at RAND were creating precisely such a crisis in Vietnam.
We do not in any way wish to exaggerate the importance of Klein's incompetent work. Nevertheless the fact that this book is so widely accepted as "authoritative" has obvious implications. Klein's thesis, followed to its conclusion, does indeed make Schacht and the Nazis appear conservative and prudish -- for its implementation would require the working to death of the world's entire population. This is the new Schachtian economics.
PART III: The Final Solution
The Extermination of the Jews
"Final solution" (Endloesung) -- the Nazi codeword for the extermination of European Jewry -- has generally been interpreted as the result of the Nazis' ideological fanaticism, while some have tried to locate the reason in some dark, mysterious aberration of the German mind. The destruction of the European Jews can only be understood from the standpoint of Schachtian economics, in which this extermination was a result of ruthless, calculated, and methodical primitive accumulation. Once the "exceptional" policies towards European Jewry are viewed in this light, the generalized features of Nazi war policy can be comprehended.
Historically European Jewry, and even earlier the Jewry of the Levant, was the most accessible sector for the purposes of quick and thorough looting. The Jews within the borders of the Roman Empire evolved into an international mercantile capitalist stratum, providing liquid funds, credit, and discount markets on the fringes of non-capitalist economies. The Jews financed a significant portion of the risky trade of the time, and were prime lenders of funds to the state. Whenever Rome prepared for war, the Jewish money markets with their wide-flung connections were inevitably turned to. But the Jews remained a foreign element and were always in danger of being looted by the same people they were financing. Defaults on Jewish loans were a very frequent occurrence whenever the state no longer had any use for credit, or whenever looting ventures ended unprofitably. The Caesars
looted the mercantile Jews in cycles, almost as one would milk a cow, allowing the cow to pasture during the day only to take away its milk the next morning. The history of capitalist accumulation is filled with periodic milking operations at the expense of Jewish mercantile capital. These ventures, before the rise of industrial capitalism, were facilitated by the class- based anti-Semitism among lumpenized peasants and craft artisans. Peasants bankrupted by successive waves of tax farming (and "proletarianized" artisans) were allowed under appropriate circumstances to vent their populist rage against the merchant capitalist Jews. After the riots and the rag-tag looting, the state would move in and self-righteously rob the Jews.
The same technique was utilized by the German capitalists under the Third Reich. The radicalism of the bankrupted petit bourgeois was conveniently channeled against the "Jew capitalist" in Einzelaktionen ("individual actions") organized by the Nazi Party. For the first 18 months of the regime the SA rabble was allowed to indulge in petty thievery at the expense of the Jews. When Schacht took over the Ministry of Economics he made it clear that Jewish assets were to be appropriated only by the state, and to be used as leverage for MEFO-bill credits. His insistence that the looting must be systematic and efficient, as opposed to the smash and grab methods of the SS which Schacht found morally repugnant, places him as the individual most responsible for the process which finally led to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Between 1933 and 1938 German Jews were subjected to waves of primitive accumulation, during which
they were deprived of their properties through the various Aryanization laws, property taxes, penance taxes, emigration statutes, and more direct forms of confiscation. By 1938 the Jews remaining in Germany were entirely impoverished and were being forced into slave labor. To make labor as cheap as possible, all minimum wage legislation was lifted and at the same time Jews were cut off all public expenditure rolls.
Deprived of property, then depleted through slave labor, German Jewry became the capitalists' "surplus labor." For the Reichsbank the Jews were no longer worth maintaining; they were superfluous consumers of scarce resources. In 1938 Schacht, among others, negotiated with the British for "resettlement" of the surplus Jewish population to some abandoned colony. Ribbentrop and French Foreign Minister Bonnet discussed the possibility of sending the Jews to the tropical malaria-infested island of Madagascar, but the French were not willing to donate one of their colonies for this purpose. Later, when France was occupied, Himmler became obsessed with the Madagascar plan, hoping to turn the island into an SS labor colony, but British control of the African waterways prevented the Nazis from carrying out this scheme. The resettlement of the Jews to the Generalgouvernment area of occupied Poland in 1941 was a "rationalization" measure, concentrating the surplus population for final "resettlement" as soon as military conditions allowed. The relocated Jews shipped to Poland in cattle cars were sent off under the Nazi slogan, "on the way to the East the Jews must work."
Poland had already been defined by the Nazis as a "huge labor camp," or, as Hitler put it, an "Arbeitsreich fur den Herrenvolk" ("a labor empire for the master race"). Polish Jewry, unlike that of Germany, was overwhelmingly working class in composition, with approximately 45 per cent employed in industry. After the initial confiscation of businesses under the direction of Goering's Four Year Planning group, the Nazis turned to utilization of the massive labor pool.
Jewish workers on the whole were the most skilled section of the Polish working class. But the Nazis had no appreciation of this, nor did they intend to deliberately exploit this fact since Polish industry was being dismantled in line with the strategic policy of deindustrializing the entire East. Jewish labor was used for slave-labor projects, in lieu of costly machinery or animals.
The evolution of the slave-labor apparatus in Poland is the epitome of fascist political economy in its more advanced Schachtian stage. The principle applied by the SS is the same which the liberal-fascist Ford Foundation has sought to implement in the black and Hispanic ghettoes of the United States. The Jews were allowed the freedom to organize and expedite their own extermination through the "community control"
agencies of the Judenrat (Jewish Council). Unless one is blinded by Shinbet propaganda, overabundant historical evidence shows that Jewish bourgeois layers both in Germany and in Eastern Europe were fervent supporters of fascism (especially in Hungary, where Jewish bankers financed the fascist movement). Along with the bourgeoisie, the anti-communist sections of the Zionist movement, inspired by the teaching of proto-fascist Herzen, found admirable qualities in the communalist ravings of fascist ideology.
Out of these groupings came the Judenrat -- the Jewish elders who were so proud of their role as chosen guardians of the Jewish slaves under their command. The Judenrat offices were the epitome of bureaucratic efficiency, carefully modeled to approximate those of the SS. In the ghettoes the Judenrat leaders wore shiny boots, carried riding whips, and had their clothing tailored to closely resemble the SS uniform. The Judenrat built the apparatus for the efficient handling of the slaves. In the first months of the occupation the SS merely picked Jews off the street and forced them into labor columns from which they were released at night. This highly inept technique was changed after the Judenrat submitted a request to organize labor pools for servicing the labor requirements of the Nazi occupation agencies. The SS granted permission to the Judenrat -- on condition that the wages be financed out of Judenrat funds! Thus was established the self-cannibalization process which culminated at Auschwitz, where the body fat of the victims provided the fuel to burn the gassed corpses.
Initially the wage fund came from taxing prosperous ghetto Jews who were exempted from the labor rosters. As these assets were quickly devoured by the SS, the Judenrat came increasingly to rely on the left-behind valuables of those transported to the extermination camps, or the valuables brought into the ghetto by "resettled Jews." The industries organized in the ghettos for supplying the German war machine operated on the same principle. The importation of raw materials for ghetto workshops was generally prohibited by the Nazis, so that materials were acquired by collecting scraps from within the ghetto itself. The Lodz ghetto, which built up a significant war industry through the ruthless enforcement of slave labor ("rescue through work"), was not accidentally the last ghetto to be "resettled" to Auschwitz.
The food rations in the ghetto were constantly being lowered and the quality, poor to begin with, deteriorated to rotten garbage. Nevertheless, to the German financiers this putrid allocation for food appeared as a huge expenditure when the gross tonnage being supplied to total ghetto populations was computed. They progressively reduced the rations; at times shipments of food were simply stopped, at which times instances of cannibalism resulted. Starvation, poor housing, intensive
labor, inadequate clothing all combined to produce the spread of epidemics. Epidemic deaths accounted for 20 per cent of the deaths of Jews in Poland. Even the SS teams sent to clean up and disinfect the ghettoes after the Jews were transported became infected by a variety of diseases.
Had the Nazis simply followed this course to the end, Jews would have been exterminated through pestilence and starvation, in the same way that Rockefeller has over the past year exterminated 30 million peasants on the Indian sub-continent without the aid of death camps. The problem, from the standpoint of capitalist (primitive) accumulation, was that this long drawn-out process failed to optimize the utilization of labor while at the same time it squandered scarce resources. For every slave working in a labor camp or in light industry supplying the Wehrmacht, there were several young, elderly, or sick who were incapable of labor. As soon as the campaign in the East put a further strain on the war economy, the industrialists and the Nazis decided to rationalize the process by weeding out those who could work from those "superfluous industrial consumers" who could not. A Generalgouvernment official stated that "Jews who migrated to the East (to the gas chambers) will have to interrupt their journey and work in war industry."
Auschwitz was the result of a collaborative business venture between IG Farben and Heinrich Himmler. Sixty-three per cent of the total camp population, on the average, was employed in Farben's synthetic rubber (Buna) plants, in the coal pits, and in Krupp's armament plants. A big industrial park was built around Auschwitz, in which Farben made an initial capital investment of 500 million Reichsmarks. Employees from Krupp's and Farben's personnel departments stood on the railway platform and determined by sex, age, and health criteria which Jews would be employed in industry and which would be rejected.
No matter where one was sent, the ultimate destination was the gas chamber. The life expectancy of the Jewish slave at Auschwitz was three months in the factories, only one month in the coal mines. In the Buna works alone 35,000 workers were employed, out of which 25,000 died.
Once it was determined that an employee could no longer keep pace, because of overwork, starvation, or sickness, he was transferred to the inner camp as raw material for the killing industry, a capitalist industry in its own right. The production was organized with assembly-line efficiency, so that the cost of killing production (including transportation, etc.) was covered by the valuables and raw materials salvaged (eyeglasses, gold teeth, hair), while fuel costs were cut by recycling bodies to fuel the fires that burned the next batch. Gold from fillings was transported to the Reichsbank; fountain pens and other scarce Department II
commodities were distributed to the SS on the Eastern Front.
The extermination process may be separated into three phases: first the looting of all assets and personal possessions, then the looting of the stored-up wealth within the human body, through slave labor, and finally the body itself, a depleted hulk, becomes nothing but a raw material servicing the killing industry.
For those who would still cling to the myth of Jewish exceptionalism, it should be pointed out that the macabre saying making the rounds in Poland during 1942 was, "This year we are using soap made from Jewish corpses. Next year Polish bodies will be used for soap production." The Jewish "exception," as it turns out, is the very essence of Schachtian economics, in which capitalist accumulation feeds on the corpses of mankind.
The Looting of Europe
The looting of Europe was a continuation of the MEFO-bill process, by which the German industrialists tried to realize the government paper upon which their book-valued profits were based. In 1942 the Krupp firm's assets in Treasury bonds alone amounted to over 200 million hyper-inflated Reichsmarks, and this was the case throughout industry and banking. The way industrialists capitalized the state debt was described at Nuremburg by an individual who by chance happened to intrude on one of these industrial "planning" meetings during the invasion of Holland and France:
One of the businessmen brought a map. He spread it out and their eyes darted across it, searching for place names as the announcer identified the depth of the Wehrmacht penetration. As yet the communiques hadn't mentioned France....but in Holland the situation had so consolidated that there was a possibility that outstanding members of the economy would be able to travel there now. The tension of these gentlemen grew perceptibly; the radio was shut off ... and now the four gentlemen pointed with their fingers to certain places in Holland.... "Here is village x"; "There is Mueller"; "he is yours," and "There is Herr Schmidt, or Huber ... he has two plants, we will have him arrested." At one point Alfried Krupp said to one of the others "This factory is yours."
Before each Wehrmacht invasion the leading industrialists would submit, via the agencies born out of the Four Year Plan, a list of industries pinpointed for confiscation or dismantling. In all branches supervising distribution of conquered assets, Alfried Krupp, head of the Krupp firm, and IG Farben had a dominant voice. After Schacht was deposed, Farben and Krupp stepped in and became the leading spokesmen for the entire capitalist class. The Krupp firm alone spread its European empire from the shipyards in the Netherlands to the machine tool and steel industries in
France, to the ore-mining regions of the Balkans ... in addition to entire industries that were dismantled and transported to the Ruhr as "capital investment." But even this is minor compared to Krupp's acquisition of a large piece of real estate known as the Ukraine.
Under Farben-Krupp two distinct looting policies were formulated for Eastern and Western Europe. In the case of Western Europe, the industrial infrastructure was to remain, because the total destruction of Western European industry would have brought the German war economy to its knees in short order. Looting took the form of reparations payments, which were dutifully collected by the local fascist collaborationist regimes (in France $7 billion per annum in 1945 dollars), and direct seizures of plant, equipment, raw materials, agricultural produce, and labor, over and above stipulated reparations. The "surplus population" resulting from the severe contraction of industry was to be sorted out for the maintenance of German industry, while another section was to be resettled for "agricultural development projects" in the East.
The Eastern policy of the Krupps was one of deliberately destroying the entire social reproductive process by looting everything to the marrow. The military's views on the matter, which were expressed by General Thomas in the "Oldenburg Plan," proposed that agriculture and industry in the East remain intact, out of military considerations, and that looting take the form of stockpile and inventory confiscation. This plan was rejected by the Four Year nexus, and a policy memorandum was secretly circulated to all the relevant agencies under the title "Green File." The memo, as all memos coming from this group, bore Goering's signature, as the nominal economic "planner" for the Reich. It instructed:
Many tens of millions of people in the industrial areas will become redundant and will either die or have to emigrate to Siberia. Any attempts to save the population from starving to death by bringing in surplus food from the black soil region can be made only at the expense of feeding Europe. They undermine Germany's ability to hold out in the war.... There must be absolute clarity on this point. From this fact there follows forcibly the extinction of industry as well as of a large percentage of the human beings ....
The same policy applied to the Jews was to be enforced in the East. In the short run the assets of the Soviet Union were to be used to liquidate the monstrous war debt; Hitler and others were explicit on this point. The scale of plundering would necessitate the extermination of the total Soviet population over a projected period of ten years. Goering predicted that thirty million Russians would have to die from starvation during the first year of the occupation, while Alfred Rosenberg opined that, "it will be necessary to drive the surplus population into Siberia."
As the native population was starved and worked to death, colonialization from the West would take place. The Westerners were to be separated into two class divisions, the ethnic German caste that would rule, and beneath them the resettled unemployed who were to replace the Ukrainian and Russian farmers being exterminated. In the wake of the 1941 German victories, tours of the East were scheduled for the fascist collaborators of France, Denmark, etc., as a preparatory move for the resettling of Western stock.
The contention that Nazi racialism was the driving force behind these policies has no foundation. The ideology was an appropriate form of consciousness for those executing the orders dictated by the Krupp-Farben machine. It was in fact the most extreme of racialists, Alfred Rosenberg, who protested these genocide measures all the way to Berlin despite the danger of being purged and liquidated. The Nazi ideologues were warm-blooded humanists compared to the bondholders who organized and directed the operation. Interestingly enough, the dummy corporation which held all Soviet assets in "trusteeship," the Huettenwerksgesellschaft Ost GmbH, against which Rosenburg hurled much of his rancor, had as its executive director Alfried Krupp.
The eastern policies went through two phases as the Red Army disrupted the long-term plans of the invading capitalists. The first year they implemented the Green File directive to the letter, but after Stalingrad the German industrialists had to cope with the fact that, for the first time, there was a frontier limit to primitive accumulation. Krupp therefore had to switch to "conservation measures" lest the labor force under his control be wiped out completely by plagues and famine.
In the euphoria of the 1941 victories the Nazis saw no limit to manpower resources; this resulted in the extermination of prisoners who were herded to repair the damaged factories and mines captured by Krupp. The trainloads carrying the prisoners to their work sites would arrive at their destinations with at least 30 per cent of the "cargo" dead, although in many instances the figure rose to as much as 95 per cent. At the end of the year, out of a total Of 3,800,000 Soviet prisoners of war, approximately 800,000 survived. Even the Gestapo raised a loud cry of protest over the mishandling of Bolshevik prisoners who, though slated for execution, "arrive in the concentration camps already dead." Rosenberg howled from the Ukraine that "of the 3.6 million prisoners of war only a few hundred thousand are still capable of working." Goebbels during this period described the plight of Russian POWs with manic elation to Mussolini's son-in-law Ciano:
In the camps for the Russian prisoners of war after having eaten everything possible including the soles of their boots, they have begun to eat each other, and
what is more serious have also eaten a German sentry.
The bourgeois historians who clamor about the Nazis' inefficiency in exploiting their conquered assets are perhaps even more psychotic than the Nazis who carried out the crime. Krupp was not concerned in making long-term investments in production, but in looting every ounce of real wealth that could be squeezed from accumulated value.
Maintenance of the workforce was a superfluous expense. When plagues and epidemics spread throughout occupied Russia, the SS raised the question of allocations for emergency inoculations. The response from Hitler: "spread the superstition among them, that inoculations are quite a dangerous business."
Hitler on the training of youth, who, in an expanding 'society, are educated for a developing technology: "We don't want a horde of school teachers to force education down the throats of the subject races.... At most one must let them learn not more than the meaning of road signs." The youth who survived the holocaust were to serve as chattel, and accordingly education was limited by decree to only three years of elementary schooling, though youth were encouraged to learn the skilled slave craft of bricklaying, since villas and mansions would have to be built for the future colonial rulers.
The SS was responsible for enforcing Krupp policy in the Soviet Union. It was they who carried out the first "Operation Phoenix" in history; an operation copied by the CIA's William Colby in Vietnam, whose intent was to destroy the vanguard communist cadre force in the country. On the basis of intelligence supplied to the SS by Reinhardt Gehlen's army intelligence unit, communist cadres were weeded out from the civilian population and the POWs and executed en masse by the Einzatskommandos, the same units entrusted with the extermination of Eastern Jewry. Initially these cadres were shot in open ditches. Later, as an economy measure, they and the Jews were killed in mobile vans by carbon-monoxide poisoning. Other SS units, with the aid of fascists from allied countries, busied themselves with the task of procuring slaves for the captured industries.
The old school military, trained by the pre-World War I General Staff, protested these policies for obvious military reasons. It was not because, as some have suggested, the Prussian code of honor made genocide abhorrent to them. The exterminations and the endless labor manhunts were forcing the entire population to turn to the Soviet partisans, or wherever such units did not exist to create them as the only hope for survival. The military's plans for organizing a fascist movement against the Red Army under Vlasov were completely wrecked by the SS operations in the occupied zones.
"Morality" in the German General Staff died in 1871. Only weeks after the German army had accomplished the historically progressive step of German unification, the same army was used to batter the armed working class of Paris. Morality for the General Staff became a steadfast commitment to maintain imperialist class rule. The postwar General Staff was already an embryonic SS (as evidenced by Ludendorff's lawful conversion to fascism), an officer corps committed to settling accounts with the working class. The so-called "democrats" of the Truppenamt, like Goerner, pledged their allegiance to the Weimar Constitution only to the extent that the SPD "democrats" allowed them to fire their machine guns against the Spartacist workers. The only reason the officer corps could not develop an SS on its own was that the army was too battered and depleted to act with initiative.
Nevertheless the British-inspired Junker officer caste was the blueprint from which Himmler designed his SS. The officer corps, with its anal existentialist trappings, presented the persona model for imitation by every petit bourgeois philistine in the Kaiserreich. Himmler the chicken farmer, the paradigm of the respectful, impotent German petit bourgeois, tried to give some dignity to his "elite" thugs by dressing them up in the customs and rites of the officer corps.
The traditional relationship between the military and the Ruhr began to change as a result of the scale of primitive accumulation. The mere annihilation of the enemy on the battlefield, though essential, was secondary to the subjugation of the victim in a form that could immediately be realized as capital. The SS had already assumed that function between 1933 to 1939 in regard to the German working class. When the decision was made in 1936 to extend that policy to the rest of Europe, the SS rose to the occasion. The "state within a state," as the SS has been dubbed by sensationalist historians, is a convenient smokescreen hiding the fact that by 1941 to 1942 the SS was the state, acting as the military-executive arm of the Ruhr magnates.
The Waffen SS, the military arm of the SS, rapidly gained predominance over the field military per se. The field had to be subordinated to the overall economic policies of the Krupps and the Farbens. Hitler summed up his attitude towards his field generals, as typified by Guderian, when he rejected that tank commander's pleas during the early months of Barbarossa for an assault on Moscow, rather than continuing the sweep through the Ukraine. Hitler remarked to his staff, "My generals know nothing about the economic aspects of the war." Indeed, the red pins on Krupp's maps already identified the routes the military was to travel!
The military failed to notice the ironical truth of Clausewitz' dictum that war is a continuation of politics, as entire German armies were sacrificed for no
other purpose than to allow Krupp a few more months of looting time in the occupied zones. Hitler's suicide orders after Stalingrad were tolerated by the Ruhr because they conformed with their own interests. "Stand to the last man" may have been Hitler's personal psychosis; nevertheless it was also economic policy.
Krupp and Farben used every day won on the battlefield as a breathing space to plunder and to transform government paper holdings into real assets. Especially after 1942, when the combination of Stalingrad and the Allied bombings made it clear that the Reich would lose the war, Alfried Krupp committed the firm to a policy of rapidly transforming book earnings based on state paper into foreign currencies and liquid assets. A top Krupp executive testified to that effect at Nuremburg:
(In 1942) we felt that Germany had lost the war and in the strictest confidence we said so among ourselves.... In view of the coming defeat, Krupp managers were more interested in at least saving something for the post-war era.... Rather than invest assets in war production and lose them, the firm followed a new policy of secretly keeping all assets as liquid as possible. It rid itself of war bonds, cashed in claims for war damages, and collected outstanding debts from the Reich.
In the year 1942, marked by the great Soviet victory at Stalingrad, the German industrialists were forced to abandon the Blitzkrieg economy and shift to production of weapons and materiel in the massive quantities needed to sustain the armies in the East. The 250 per cent increase in production during the next two years was accomplished through the enslavement of millions of workers throughout Europe, imported into Germany as slaves.
The influx of slaves for the German war economy had begun just three days after the Nazi invasion of Poland, which serves as a further indication of how close to breakdown the German economy had been in 1939. Only two weeks after the Wehrmacht had crossed the frontier, before the fighting had entirely died down, the Nazis had already opened 30 "recruiting offices," which "recruited" over 100,000 Poles in less than a month. Within a few months the number of conscripted slaves amounted to over a million.
The initial recruiting was easily forced by the dismantling of Polish industry (much of which was transferred to the Ruhr) and the looting of raw materials, which created severe shortages and massive unemployment. To aid the process along, all social legislation pertaining to wages, hours and conditions of work, and social welfare expenditures were officially abolished by decree. Workers were left with the alternative of either starving to death or "voluntarily" resettling in the Reich. In 1940, when the German economy was gearing up for the offensive in the West, Goering
ordered Hans Frank to deliver the impossible quota of one million additional slaves on short notice. It was during this labor recruiting experience in Poland that the SS perfected the methods it was to unleash in the Soviet Union.
The victories in the West netted another million slaves, either as POWs or volunteers who had become surplus population after the dismantling of their industries. Another supply line was Italy, which agreed to send several hundred thousand, with special quotas of skilled labor, to Germany.
Prior to the influx of Soviet POWs, a modicum of attention had been paid to the diet, housing, and health of the imported slaves; once the seemingly endless stream from Russia began to arrive all restraints were removed. Slaves were herded into concentration camp barracks, the food allowances were reduced (these expenditures were deducted from the "wage," along with social insurance "benefits"), while the pace of work was intensified to murderous levels.
When the Speer office was created to mobilize and reorganize production for war in 1942, another office for procurement of labor was created under Hans Sauckel. Sauckel, unlike Speer, was an old Nazi party man who had come up from its working-class wing. From the start he was astounded at the tremendous waste of human lives on the part of the industrialists. The Ruhr constantly made demands on him for more labor, labor that was becoming increasingly difficult to procure as German working conditions became known in the occupied countries. Civilians preferred to hide, to join the resistance, in order to escape being transported. Sauckel was alarmed that the rate of demand for slaves was far outdistancing his office's capability to deliver, especially after the Soviet pool dried out.
Sauckel appealed to the industrialists that "even a machine can perform only to the extent to which I give it fuel oil and service. How many more prerequisites must be considered with regard to a human being even if he is of a primitive sort of race." Sauckel's directive on the use of slave labor demanded "that all the men must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent at the lowest possible expenditure." From Sauckel's harried standpoint this was intended to mean "bare subsistence," but the Ruhr took "minimum" to the literal auto-cannibalistic meaning, and they did not permit Sauckel (a mere official of the Nazi Party) to interfere with their own private interpretation.
For the Ruhr industrialists the foreign laborers in the Reich were not human, nor were they ever referred to as people in the office memoranda or in the workshops. Essen, Krupp's capital and headquarters in the Ruhr, was decorated with signs reminding the population that "'Slawen sind Sklaven" ("Slavs are
slaves"). The workers were referred to as Stucke (cattle) or just Sklaven, while Krupp himself appears in the memoranda of his firm under the title Sklavenhalter (slave-master).
Despite the unavailability of statistics on the nutrition levels for the slave workers, there is a simple rule-of-thumb way for calculating workers' diets. The official consumption level was set in 1940, ranging from a maximum of 2,900 calories daily for extra heavy labor to a minimum of 2,156 daily for light work. These official allocations of course were universally disregarded, but the degree of variance from the standard depended on how close these capitalists' connections to the SS were. The SS controlled the supply of slave laborers, and Krupp's factional industrial circle had top priority. It was in these firms that the diet was under 500 calories a day.
In Krupp's factories the staple meal was Bunkersuppe, a water-thin soup with a sprinkling of turnips thrown in. This diet was supplemented by a wafer, and on exceptional occasions scraps of rejected, chemically-processed meat called Freibankfleisch. At IG Farben it was potato peel soup, and so on.
Slaves had no clothing to wear. Upon arrival, if the prisoner was fortunate enough to have retained his shoes, they were taken away from him and in return wooden clogs were issued (and of course deducted from his "wages"). Slaves who tried to steal some underwear from the commissary, to avoid freezing during the winter months, were either shot on the spot or transferred to a death camp for execution. Other elements of variable capital, such as housing, were equally atrocious. Uniformly, "housing" was no more than a wooden bunk in a concentration camp barrack. German capitalists had to borrow from the state to pay for the construction materials to house over 12 million slaves, and because of the state of insolvency the costs were kept to a minimum. It is ironic that these barracks, remodeled after the war, provided housing for millions of German workers during the post-war miracle "recovery."
Krupp could not expect Sauckel's office to replenish his labor stocks at the rate they were being used up. Sauckel was hampered not only by the population's resistance but also by the Wehrmacht's outright refusal to recruit labor, fearing the spread of guerrilla activity. Krupp therefore contracted directly with the SS. The agreement stipulated that Krupp would pay the SS four Reichsmarks per day per laborer. On this basis Krupp managed to keep over a hundred factories and his 50 concentration camps in Essen adequately supplied.
Industrial peace was maintained through a vast extension of the SS, factory police, kapos, etc. In the Krupp plants company police, the Werkschutz, were organized under Krupp's personal supervision to oversee
the production line, along with male and female SS police. The motto was "keep the pace, or off to Auschwitz." Epithets were supplemented with kicks, whip lashes, blows from black jacks and steel truncheons, while torture chambers were built right into the factories. When a subordinate asked Krupp how to treat undisciplined slaves, Krupp issued a memorandum stating that no policy had to be formulated since "in such cases the Gestapo always passes death sentences."
Auschwitz and the other killing factories served Krupp and Farben as centers from which labor could be transported to industries in the Reich, and as disposal sites for the used-up workers who, once depleted, were sent there as raw material for the killing industry. Here again we see that the fate of European Jewry was not an exception, but what would have been the rule had not the Soviet armies smashed the fascist beast.
With the contraction of territory under SS jurisdiction, the recruitment of labor after 1943 took the form of widespread manhunts. In occupied territories labor recruiters were assassinated and battles erupted as SS tried to seal off areas for mass deportation to the Reich; in the Soviet-occupied territories women, children, even the crippled were grabbed off the streets. By 1944 Sauckel, in desperation, was instructing his agencies to seize labor whenever available. Plans were made to evacuate entire cities and haul their populations into Germany. By then even the Volksdeutsche in the East, who only two years before were preparing themselves to become the new colonial elite, were carted off to the Fatherland as cheap labor.
The scarcity reflected itself in a stream of conservation legislation and directives. Books and educational material were quickly printed up to remold the Geman capitalist's attitude towards the slaves. The change typically reflected itself in the new Nazi code word for the foreign worker; in 1944 the Sklaven (slaves) were renamed Gastarbeiter (guest workers) by Sauckel! Even the ethnic badges worn by workers (P for Poles, Star of David for Jews, etc.) were suddenly declared to be "badges of honor" for "loyal service to the German war economy."
The necessity of raising productivity brought the neglected Lewinite sociologists and industrial psychologists back into prominence again. The Zehlendorf Institute for Industrial Psychology and Industrial Training, along with other industrial relations centers, was called in to devise "incentives," "motivation," "building of rapport," as a way of raising output. In 1943 these Lewinite "token economy" techniques did produce a rise in productivity, for reasons obvious to anyone familiar with elementary brainwashing techniques (or to any worker in the U.S. who has gone through the United Auto Workers' "O.D." in-plant
brainwashing network). Sauckel and Ley reported a doubling of productivity. Just how effective these programs were (wherever implemented) can be gauged by the complaints registered in several instances by German workers on the preferential status and attention being given to the slaves!
The influence of these psychological techniques should not be exaggerated. That food was increased and better living and working conditions instituted (relative to the horrors of 1942) had more effect on the slaves' capacity to work. This can be seen from the drastic decline in productivity during 1944 when, under the pressures of the collapsing war economy, the working day and the work pace were increased. This immediately resulted in a 50 to 70 per cent decline in productivity, while the rate of absenteeism in many areas doubled.
The depleted German war economy was held together with the blood and bones of the slaves. By 1944 one out of five workers in the Reich was a Gastarbeiter. In industrial production the ratio was even higher, with slaves making up about 30 per cent of the workforce. In assembly line production, where simple, repetitive tasks could be executed by unskilled labor, the foreign workers were in the overwhelming majority. How much of the slave force was involved in skilled labor is impossible to figure, but what is certain is that the amount is generally understated. Sauckel made special demands on the occupied countries, especially on the Vichy regime, for quotas of skilled laborers. Out of the nearly 1,500,000 French workers in the Reich a significant portion must have been skilled, and this was the area in which the labor shortage was most acute.
Who can calculate with accuracy the number of workers herded off by the Schachtian capitalists of the Reich? Who can calculate the number of slaves killed, gassed, starved? At Nuremburg Sauckel stated that approximately 12 million foreigners were brought into the Reich. This figure, which seems so strikingly high, is a gross miscalculation. How many workers after all never appeared on the records, victims of Nacht und Nebel? How many died in the cattle cars while being relocated?
The figure of 12 million also leaves out the uncounted millions who slaved in the Krupp-Farben factories outside the Reich. Whatever industry in the occupied areas was not dismantled was integrated into the German war economy, and hence supplied from Auschwitz and other camps. How many such workers and POWs died in the Ukraine, in Czechoslovakia, in France, in the Low Countries, in Poland?
A number of scoundrels in their learned studies of the German war economy take issue with the “all-inclusive term 'slave labor,'“ and point to the fact that 750,000 Eastern European slaves prefered to remain in Germany rather than be repatriated. Perhaps these moral imbeciles would like to argue that
the inmates in the death camps who tailored their ragged apparel to resemble the uniforms of the SS guards did so because their tormentors "didn't treat them that badly."
Discounting for a moment the large share of these workers who were psychologically manipulated by the OSS and MI-5 and kept behind as a cheap labor pool for the Marshall Plan "recovery," the rest who remained did so because they were psychologically devastated. The SS had reduced them to a psychotic state, in which their identities as productive human beings had been destroyed; the terror of going home, of being independent, was too great to bear. These workers were to carry the concentration camp within them for the rest of their lives.
The Collapse of the Schachtian Reich
The failure of the German war economy has been described by Speer, who laments in his memoirs the poor production figures relative to 1918:
Even at the height of military success in 1941 the level of arms production of the first world war was not reached. During the first year of the war in Russia production figures were a fourth of what they had been in the autumn of 1918. Three years later, in the Spring of 1944, when we were nearing our production maximum, ammunition production still lagged behind that of the First World War considering the total production of Germany at the time with Austria and Czechoslovakia.
To the countries mentioned by Speer one might also add the French industries which were integrated into the German war machine (10,000 factories in France in 1943 received exemption from Sauckel's labor manhunts on the grounds that they were essential for the production of finished and semi-finished goods exported to German arms producers), the industry of the Low Countries, and of course the confiscations carried out all over occupied Europe. Then there were the millions of slaves, not available to Ludendorff when he ran the war economy in 1918. Yet even with these vast resources the German war machine could not reach the production levels of 26 years earlier, when Germany's industrial base had been confined within its own frontiers.
This in itself is devastating proof that the German economy never recovered from the depression of the 1930s. The Schachtian recovery was a recovery of paper capital, which totally destroyed the social reproductive process. The penalty for looting constant and variable capital was visited upon the war economy with breakdowns and bottlenecks at every point.
On the monetary side, finances were held together in 1943-45 solely through the SS' control of the state. Financing of increased production took the form of a tremendous rise in state indebtedness, which even though supported by intensified looting did not keep runaway inflation under control. Inflation was swept
under the rug only by doing away with currency and reverting to a ration card economy. In 1944 Speer was offering to donate his real estate properties as a way of helping to keep the mark solvent!
The failure of the economy had its origins in the lack of real investment during the years after World War I. The U.S.-financed investment "boom" of 1924-28 failed to make up for the tremendous depletions incurred during World War I. During the Depression, before the rise of Schacht, there was no net investment in industry; on the contrary there was the usual depression phenomenon of negative investment, Under Hjalmar Schacht, investment in expansion of new capacity was verboten, and these prohibitions were carefully regulated by the cartelization of entire industries. Similarly, investment in new industry or in new technologies was also expressly forbidden except in the case of industries, such as IG Farben's synthetic gasoline plants, which did not devalue the assets of already existing investment.
Steel production under the new Reich never reached 1929 levels until the steel plants of Austria and Czechoslovakia were requisitioned. Even more significant was the poor quality of steel produced relative to that of the pre-1914 period, as evidenced by the shortage in high-grade plate for finished arms. In machine tools the situation was desperate. The quantities of machine tools produced do not reflect the poor state of affairs. Machine tools of the inexpensive variety for general use were available, but special-use tools were never available in the necessary quantities. When the Speer Ministry tried to force industrialists to produce the necessary specialized machine tools, the response was massive sabotage. The bottleneck in machine tools prevented the German economy from shifting to the standardized mass arms production of 1914-1918, or from adopting the techniques being applied in the U.S. and the Soviet Union during World War II. German capitalists refused to invest in the production of the required tools since such investment was being financed by a tremendous increase in the state debt. No one in his right mind after 1942 had any hopes of ever retrieving assets held in government paper. Machine tools for general use, on the other hand, were real assets which were eagerly bought or invested in as a way of protecting one's assets against inflation. In a period when currency is totally debased and the state loses its police powers to capitalize the debt, investment in some form of convertible asset is better than getting stuck with a pile of worthless paper. Under different conditions capitalists would normally buy up food stocks, jewels, gold, or any other suitable form of convertible wealth to escape disaster when the monetary system collapses. In Germany these were not available; they had either already been bought up or looted by the Krupps, Farbens, and the SS.
Specialized tools are not convertible since their
design is tailored to meet very specific production, a particular airplane model, for example. A good portion of these tools were looted from the occupied countries, to avoid making irretrievable investments.
Skilled labor was the biggest bottleneck of all. This had devastating effects on the machine tool industry, which requires a high order of engineering skills from its workforce. When the Messerschmitt 262 jet plane was put into production, there were not enough skilled tool makers to undertake the necessary retooling; it was only after 3,000 workers were scrounged out of the army that production got underway. It was this shortage in skills that prevented these industries from going into a three shift production schedule. There were enough difficulties and bottlenecks with only one shift; where were the Schachtian industrialists going to find the additional skilled labor to spread over three shifts? Perhaps they could create them by issuing MEFO-bills?
To prevent disaster special military exemptions were allowed for skilled workers after 1942, and Speer attempted to create a mobile "flying squad" system for the dispatching of skilled labor on a project basis. The industrialists finally gave up trying to train more skilled laborers and instead concentrated on the expansion of the semi-skilled work force, only to discover that the shortage here was as acute, although more easily remedied.
To make up for their inability to produce the massive quantities of war material, especially in the aircraft sector, which required the most advanced skills and constant retooling, the Nazis opted for "qualitative superiority." This fig leaf was intended to cover over the fact that "production in depth" was impossible. Krupp, for instance, followed the hallowed profit-scheming traditions of the firm by producing armaments whose quality was supposedly determined by their superior weight. Weapons such as the Tiger Tank, nicknamed "the Elephant" by the troops on the eastern front, were produced under the cover of "qualitative superiority." The simple truth is that it was cheaper to produce these monstrosities than to retool entire industries for serialized mass production.
As for technological progress, the Nazis lagged far behind. Throughout the war they were unable to build the early warning radar system of the type that had saved Britain during the air war over seas. In all areas of production the complaints about poor engineering and lack of scientific talent were ever-present.
Speer has argued (and he has been supported by U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey think-tankers) that had he had dictatorial control over the economy he could have raised production to keep Germany in the war longer, by cutting down production in the consumer goods sector and recruiting women into the labor force. Speer, like Schacht before him, ran into determined opposition from the Nazi Party machine when he tried to enforce his "Turnip"-style austerity.
Repeatedly he threatened the Nazi Gauleiters with sanctions but with little effect:
The manner in which the various districts (Gaue) have hitherto obstructed the shutdown of the consumer goods production can and will no longer be tolerated. Henceforth, if the districts do not respond to my requests within two weeks I shall myself order the shutdowns.
Had the Gauleiters submitted to these threats there is no doubt that the Nazi war economy would have disintegrated sooner than it did. The German working class, already drained by years of looting, was working a sixty-hour minimum work week, while its consumption had been drastically reduced from its previous low level. At the same time it was being pounded from the skies by the Anglo-American terror bombings. Women, far from living a cozy, leisurely life at home, served as unpaid slave laborers, clearing the rubble, taking care of refugees and bombed-out children, and carrying out a variety of other "volunteer" tasks essential to the economy. To have campaigned under these circumstances for the additional conscription of women into the factories was sheer idiocy. Opposition to expanded female employment came not only from the Gauleiters but also from the industrialists who, accustomed to slave labor, complained that German women ''couldn't keep the pace."
Speer was ruthless in carrying out his assigned task of preventing the German war machine from disintegrating. It was he who coined the new Schachtian phrase "'Primitivebauweise," primitive construction methods that required no tools, only slaves. As early
as 1942 Speer was reprimanding the all-powerful Himmler for treating the death camp inmates "too mildly." He demanded that the SS enforce "Primitivebauweise" and the mode of labor that went along with it. Oswald Pohl, SS head in charge of the concentration camps and a mass murderer in his own right, lamely protested Speer's new directives:
Did he (Speer) realize how many deaths there were in the concentration camps? Did he realize the tremendous rise in mortality that "primitive methods" would occasion?
By 1944 the plight of the working class (and the millions of slaves) so terrified the Nazi machine that it concentrated on organizing a Home Army in the expectation of a 1918-type working-class revolt. Operation Valkyrie, which was used by von Stauffenberg and other plotters to overthrow Hitler, was actually a mobilization plan for defending Berlin from a working-class uprising.
With this depletion of manpower and equipment it was only necessary for the Allies to concentrate their bombing runs for a few months on Germany's rail transport network to bring about a total collapse. This operation was analogous to giving a shove to a dilapidated building already on the verge of disintegrating. As the Soviet armies approached Germany Hitler ordered the arming of the population organized in the Volkssturm brigades -- but there were no longer any arms to deliver. Production, transportation, distribution had all come to a grinding halt. By late 1944 the German economy had ceased to exist.
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