Www.WorldHistory.Biz
Login *:
Password *:
     Register

 

9-08-2015, 22:34

ECONOMIC GROWTH AND POLITICAL STABILITY

No one could have foreseen the remarkable transformation undergone by a defeated Germany in just one decade. Two Germanies had emerged by the 1950s, military allies of their former enemies, Russia, Britain, the US and France. Germans in the West were no longer treated with contempt and condescension but were admired for the discipline and hard work that had restored their prosperity. Not that both halves of Germany prospered equally. The free-market economy in the Western part proved itself to be far more efficient in the production of wealth than the stateplanned economy of the Eastern third. The Democratic Republic was a truncated state: the former German agricultural and industrial territories east of the Oder–Neisse had been lost to Poland and the Soviet Union. In 1945 some 17 million Germans lived in the Soviet zone, the later Democratic Republic, and nearly 44 million in the Western zones. Twenty years later, together with their respective parts of Berlin, the preponderance of West Germany over East had become even greater; almost 60 million were living in the Federal Republic and West Berlin, and 17 million in the DDR including East Berlin. The two Germanies provided something like a test of the relative efficiency of the Western economies and the command economies of the East, given that both of these new states were starting from much the same base in 1945. The results were little short of astonishing. Progress was certainly made in the East, but the disparity in wealth, let alone liberty and quality of life, between the countries grew with every passing year. Just how backward the DDR had become was hidden from the West until the collapse of the East German state in 1990. Before the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 millions had walked to the freedom of the West. They tended to be young, more active and more enterprising. With barbed wire, control towers and orders to shoot, the East German regime survived almost another three decades. It is possible that without the fortified barrier between East and West the DDR would have collapsed before from a haemorrhage of its active population seeking a better life in the West. The transition to parliamentary democracy in the West seemed smooth, the path almost too easy. In the early years of occupation the Allied authorities still had much suspicion of German grass-roots revanchism. At least one generation had to pass before support for the democratic institutions of the Federal Republic became something more than opportunism for the majority and turned into a conviction that democratic values were worth defending. The concerns of the adult population in the immediate post-war years were necessarily materialistic: to put together the bare necessities for family life and after that to gain a share of the good things – a home, furniture, enough to eat, a refrigerator, a car. The Germans were also asked in the 1950s to help defend the West. The sudden change in Allied attitudes on the issue of German rearmament was not universally popular, since only a few years before German militarism had been condemned as the root of all evil. But the Second World War had brought about a great change in German thinking: if a third world war broke out, it would be fought in Germany, and everyone understood that it would totally destroy the country. Militarism was dead. Indeed, in the 1950s, a strong extra-parliamentary movement opposed to rearmament made itself felt. The Federal German Republic had a better start than Weimar, because its birth in May 1949 did not coincide with the hour of defeat, as had that of the Weimar Republic. Instead, it was the Allies and their occupation policies that were blamed for the hardship of the early years. The evolution of a fully sovereign parliamentary democratic state was a gradual one that was not completed until six years later in 1955. Political parties, assemblies and administrations had been set up in ten Länder (regional territories), though West Berlin was not included in the Federal Republic. In the spring of 1948, France, Britain and the US had agreed to the formation of a central German government for the Western zones, but ultimate powers still remained in the hands of the three Allied governments. The minister presidents of the Länder were invited to call a constituent assembly to draft a constitution. But the minister presidents, fearing that this would make the division of Germany permanent, would agree only to call a ‘council’ and to draft a ‘basic law’, thus emphasising the transitional nature of what they were doing: Germany would not have a constitution until it was reunited. The two major parties, the SPD and the CDU/CSU, sent the same number of delegates to the parliamentary council; Adenauer by astute management secured the presidency, so establishing an ascendancy in German politics that was to last for fifteen years. Given the bitter personal relations and conflict between the SPD and the CDU/CSU, not to mention the deep divisions within the parties themselves over the extent of federal powers, over regional self-government, over voting procedures and over a host of other practical questions, the framing of an agreed basic law was a remarkable achievement. Behind all these questions always lay assessments of how, eventually, complete sovereignty could be achieved and how reunification could be brought about. Reunification was still the goal; it appeared unthinkable then that Germany would remain divided for long. The Basic Law, or West German constitution, stood the test of time and by the 1980s had lost its provisional appearance just when it turned out to be, indeed, provisional. Voting was by a combination of proportional representation (with candidates drawn from party lists in each of the Länder) and constituency representation by simple majority; a barrier was created on the Länder list, so that no party with less than 5 per cent of the vote in the Federal Republic could win a seat in the parliament, the Bundestag (although, if three seats were won in direct constituency elections in one Land, the per cent rule was set aside). Presidential powers, largely ceremonial were less extensive than those held by the presidents of the Weimar Republic. The chancellor became the most powerful member of the executive; he and his government could gain office only if he enjoyed the support of a parliamentary majority. But a vote against him by a majority would bring about his fall only if the Bundestag could agree by majority on a successor. The rationale for this ‘constructive vote of no confidence’ was to prevent a repetition of the extinction of Weimar, brought about by the combination of two antidemocratic parties, the National Socialists and the communists. The constitution could be changed only by a two-thirds majority and was buttressed by nineteen articles defining inviolable fundamental rights; a constitutional court was set up to decide claims that the constitution was not being observed. Legislation by the elected Bundestag could be delayed by the Bundesrat, a second chamber to which the Länder sent representatives and whose purpose is to scrutinise legislation which affects particularly the Länder. The constitution is a long and complex document and only its salient features are here described. As a written constitution embodying individual rights and a constitutional court to enforce them, it provides safeguards against their abuse by simple party majorities in the parliamentary assembly. The strong element of proportional representation allows a voice for the views of those who do not wish to choose between the two mass parties. The 5 per cent rule prevents the proliferation of small parties, which destabilised Weimar and has undermined governments in Italy; on the other hand, proportional representation can allow too much influence to a minority. In most years since 1949, the two major parties could gain a majority only with the help of a third party, the Free Democratic Party, which could bargain with either in order to gain its objectives and switch support accordingly. No constitution is perfect; its success depends on the politicians and the parties who bring it to life, and on the attitude of the electorate towards the government and the institutions established under it. The Federal Republic has enjoyed great stability in good times and, more importantly, in bad. The German Socialist Party (SPD) was the most coherent and best-organised mass party to put itself before the electorate when the first Bundestag elections were held in 1949. Despite a tendency to strong central leadership, local and district organisations during the subsequent four decades acted as ginger groups and at times stood well to the left of the party leadership. This became especially true of the young socialists after the revolt of youth in the 1960s. A serious handicap for the party was the separation from the Federal Republic of Berlin and the Soviet zone, which had traditionally been the stronghold of the Social Democratic Party. Their leader in 1949 was Kurt Schumacher, passionate and autocratic in style, but his suffering in concentration camps had undermined his health, and he died in August 1952, only three years after the elections. He stood for a clear, uncompromising policy in both domestic and international affairs. His opposition to communism was total and he ensured that the Western SPD would have no truck with the communists. Schumacher’s socialism had its basis in ethics: his appeal was a moral one, for the betterment of the majority, of the poorer sections of society, for an end to the exploitation by capital of labour, of working people. But the party stressed that socialism without democracy would only lead back to the dark years of Hitler’s totalitarianism or to Soviet tyranny. The British Labour Party was the model. Two other planks in the party programme were important: a strong anti-clericalism, which condemned interference by the Church in politics and education, and an insistence on the recovery of national independence for all of Germany, not just for the Western zones. The SPD wanted to be seen as the patriotic party. This stance led to the most bitter clashes with the governing Christian Democrats. The Christian Democrats were less coherent than the Social Democrats, even to the extent of avoiding the label ‘party’ and calling themselves a ‘movement’ (union). They too set out to learn the lessons of the Hitler years. Politics should be anchored in ethical values, not vaguely but specifically in Christian ethics. Yet the Christian Democrats would not become a narrow Catholic party. From its foundation Protestants participated with Catholics in its organisation. Christian Democrats also championed parliamentary democracy and saw in communism the principal threat to civil liberties in the West. They were fiercely anti-Marxist, vociferous in their opposition to class warfare and state ownership of production. The Rhineland CDU, with its strong industrial Ruhr base, was overwhelmingly Catholic and led successful efforts to align the party with policies limiting the exclusion of workers from the exercise of power and its concentration in the hands of industrialists. Worker participation in industrial management became one of the planks of the CDU in the 1950s and so attracted support from sections of the trade unions. Capitalism was to be modified and restricted: industrial policies would be based on free enterprise, but the social good would be taken into account. The CDU’s sister party, the Bavarian CSU, has traditionally represented more conservative views. Adenauer, more conservative than the Rhinelanders he led, skilfully reconciled the different elements, moving the party to the centre-right in doing so. Until his last few years der Alte (the Old One, a term of affectionate respect) stood head and shoulders above his party colleagues; he succeeded in putting his stamp on a broad pragmatic party that could attract progressive liberals, trade unionists, farmers and conservatives. Adenauer had lived through the agony of the last years of Weimar, when the splintering of parties had been one factor in bringing Hitler to power in 1933. He had no high opinion of the democratic instincts of his fellow Germans. Their tendency to form religious, political and interest groups, which zealously pursued their aims without regard to the destructive effects on the polity as a whole, had left Adenauer with the conviction that strong leadership was necessary. He knew his people, their strengths and weaknesses, and so was determined that the CDU/CSU should draw its support from a broad crosssection of conservatives and liberals and of all classes and religions. This would isolate the irreconcilables, even if they breached the 5 per cent electoral barrier. To the left of the CDU, but opposed to socialism, stood the Free Democratic (Liberal) Party (the FDP), whose programmes were a different mix of compromises to those of the CDU: they agreed with the SPD in wishing to exclude clerical influence but concurred with the CDU in supporting an ethical or social-market economy. Other parties gaining more than 5 per cent have come and generally gone. Despite many internal divisions, the Green Party, emphasising the dangers of relentless industrial exploitation of the environment, especially from nuclear power plants, and advocating a more anarchic, grassroots democracy, have survived longer than many political commentators prophesied when they were first formed in 1980, becoming partners of SPD governments in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century. The first elections for the Bundestag in August 1949 confounded the expectation of pollsters and others that amid general hardship the Social Democrats would win and that Kurt Schumacher would form the first government as chancellor. Schumacher had fought a strident campaign, denigrating the policies of the CDU and the big bosses, and asserting Germany’s right to self- determination and self-respect. Now, he declared, was the German people’s chance to break decisively with the social structures, the politics, the economic policies and the interfering clerics that had brought a Hitler to power. These policies attracted 6,935,000 votes, not only from the poor and the working classes. But the broad coalition represented by the CDU/CSU gained 2 per cent more votes. Why had the SPD lost? Schumacher had attacked the opposition on too many fronts and had alienated voters, among them a number of the Catholic workers of the Ruhr. The result was very close, but it proved a decisive turning point. Had Adenauer listened to a chorus of advice that with so small a majority a ‘general coalition’ of CDU and SPD should be formed, parliamentary democracy might have been strangled at birth. Many politicians did not understand this, and such coalitions existed in the Länder, forcing the small remaining opposition into impotence. Instead Adenauer was determined to follow policies that would be in clear contrast to those of the opposition, the ‘socialists’. The CDU/CSU had emerged as the largest party thanks to its broad approach and its compromises with capitalism, mainly worked out by Professor Ludwig Erhard, who called his system a ‘social-market economy’. Free enterprise and competition on the American model would create national wealth, but working people would be protected by wide-ranging social-security measures guaranteed by the state. The economic management by the occupying powers had been rigidly planned and controlled. As far as the Allies would allow, Erhard (though no more than an adviser) had daringly made a bonfire of controls and set the Germans free to choose. The currency reform of 1948 was another key aspect, substituting for the worthless old marks a small circulation of sound Deutsche Marks. Overnight the shop windows filled up with goods, confidence in the currency returned, and after an early period of inflation prices stabilised by the time of the elections. Erhard’s policies and the injection of Marshall Aid were beginning to lift the economy. Living conditions were still harsh but they were getting better. As long as the SPD remained restricted by its socialist doctrines (which it was until 1959), it could achieve no more than 40 per cent of the vote; on the other hand, CDU/CSU was strong enough only in 1957 to govern without the coalition support of other parties; its main partner was the FDP. This allowed the FDP a role in German politics far greater than the electoral support it could muster, which reached at best about 10 per cent. The communists barely passed the 5 per cent barrier in 1949; in 1953 they could not manage even that and so lost their representation in the Bundestag; banned until 1969 on the ground that the party did not support the democratic state, its support (less than 1 per cent) thereafter remained too small to regain representation in the Bundestag. Adenauer so dominated German politics from 1949 to 1963 that the period came to be referred to as the Adenauer era. These years irrevocably determined the course of German history, which changes of government and international conditions could only modify before 1990. As chancellor he followed a clear course, exhibiting an unblinkered view of the morality and behaviour of the majority of the electorate and the particular needs of the new West German state. The most immediate need was to extricate the Federal Republic from its leading strings: the Ruhr, with its steel and coal production, had been placed under an international authority; the Saar had voted to remain in close association with France; the Federal Republic itself was not permitted to follow an independent foreign policy. It was still bound to the Allies by the Occupation Statute (10 April 1949), which reserved supreme power to the US, France and Great Britain, acting through their high commissioners. The Federal Republic was not truly sovereign in September 1949, but was on probation. Adenauer made concessions and obtained some in return. He realised that he must win the total trust of the Western Allies as a precondition for regaining complete sovereignty. For all his rhetoric about German unity, he did not seriously believe it possible that the Soviet Union would withdraw and grant genuine freedom of choice to the German people living in the Soviet zone. After twelve years of Nazi totalitarian rule, the German people in the Federal Republic would have to learn and experience the blessings of democracy and civil liberty for some years and resist any temptation to compromise with the Soviet Union or to enter partnership with communists as the price of unity. In the world of the 1950s, Adenauer saw a choice that had to be unequivocally made: between falling into the grip of the communist-dominated East and forming the closest possible association with the Western states prepared to defend their freedom. There was no neutral road. Moreover, Adenauer reflected in his memoirs, ‘It was my conviction that the only way for our country and people to regain their freedom lay in close agreement and co-operation with the high commissioners.’ But the Germans were not necessarily prostrate, nor completely dependent on Allied goodwill. With Cold War tensions reaching a climax, the US was not about to leave West Europe, as it had intended to do in 1944 and 1945; Adenauer understood that in such conditions it was in America’s own vital interests to create a strong Western Europe, and for this, as he wrote in his memoirs, Germany was indispensable: ‘A country in shackles is not a real, full partner. I therefore thought that our fetters would gradually fall away.’ He recognised that ‘the most important prerequisite for partnership is trust’. With tenacity and skill Adenauer exploited his country’s position. He had to work simultaneously on many fronts: to assure the Americans of his anti-communist commitment, to point out to the three Western Allies that the dismantling of German industry must stop and that growing German prosperity was essential to their own well-being; to stress that they, especially the French, need never fear a revival of German nationalism and aggression; and to demonstrate that Germany would contribute to Western European unity and defence and would work for the common good. At the same time the German people would have to be convinced of the benefits, above all the material ones, that would be conferred by these policies. Adenauer needed to be flexible, adroit, sometimes tough, sometimes ready to agree to disadvantageous bargains, able to assess correctly the feelings of his neighbours, while proceeding step by step to fulfil his major objectives. Meanwhile from the opposition benches he was assailed by Schumacher – sounding a strident nationalist note and rejecting conciliation with France – as the ‘chancellor of the Allies’. But Adenauer could show results. In 1950 West Germany became a member of the Council of Europe; the dismantling of German industry was first slowed down, then halted. Then in May 1950 the chancellor responded with warmth to the French proposals known as the Schuman Plan to place the French and German production of coal and steel under a joint high authority and to invite other states to join. Jean Monnet had put forward the idea as a practical means to bring Western Europe into a federation of states and to remove forever French and German fears of aggression since neither country could build up armaments against the other without national control of its heavy industries. The problem of the Ruhr as a source of French anxiety was thereby imaginatively solved. Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg participated in the Paris negotiations. These were completed in April 1951 and Adenauer paid his first visit to Paris to sign the momentous European Coal and Steel Community Treaty; it was the first step towards the formation in 1958 of the European Economic Community of the six. In Paris, Adenauer was the first official representative of the new German state to be received as a friend. He had moved steadily forward despite hostile French moves in 1950 designed to ensure that the Saar would become French. Patience was rewarded: the Saarlanders were given the opportunity to vote to rejoin West Germany; just as material interests had first turned them towards France, they now, in 1957, voted to join the Federal Republic as the tenth of the Länder. Two years earlier, on 5 May 1955, the Federal Republic had regained its sovereignty, and the occupation was ended – though it persisted in the Soviet-controlled DDR and in divided Berlin. A treaty had been concluded on 26 May 1952 to hand back sovereignty. But it was dependent on a second treaty signed in Paris a day later, providing for a German military contribution to Western defence; this treaty required ratification by the parliaments of the participating countries including the French Assembly. What had transformed the situation so dramatically since 1949 and what had then delayed the actual consummation of a changed relationship with West Germany? The process was closely related to the growing tensions of the Cold War as a result of the Berlin crisis and the Korean War. The costs of West European defence had become so high that both the French and British came to regard German help in some form as indispensable. So far, the armies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which had been founded in April 1949 had borne the burden alone. Recognising the sensitivity internationally of the question of German rearmament, Adenauer showed no unbecoming keenness but suggested that only if hardpressed by the Allies would his countrymen consider a West German contingent within the framework of a European army. In discussing Germany’s possible readiness with the high commissioners in August 1950, Adenauer astutely linked the issue to the recovery of sovereignty. The Americans urged that it should be taken up. In October 1950 Prime Minister René Pleven, to allay French fears of a revived Wehrmacht, proposed what became known as the Pleven Plan – a European army with only small German contingents under European command. The ‘Stalin Note’, 10 March 1952, sought to disrupt the process by offering unification and a peace treaty to a non-aligned Germany. A spoiling tactic or a sincere offer? The West rejected the proposals of a sovereign Germany forced to remain neutral. The procrastination over ratifying the treaty to set up a European Defence Community signed on 27 May 1952 and the refusal of the French Assembly in August 1954 to ratify, delayed acceptance of the Federal Republic as an equal, but it was only a delay. The die had been cast. A West German army was needed by the NATO allies. The path to German sovereignty was complex. A nine-power conference was called in London in September 1954 consisting of the five original European Allies – Britain, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (the Brussels Treaty powers) – together with the NATO allies Italy, Canada and the US; the Federal Republic was invited to this conference. It then transferred to Paris, where a number of interdependent treaties, the Paris Agreements, were concluded on 23 October 1954. In May 1955 the Federal Republic was integrated into the Western alliances – the European alliance (to be known as the West European Union) and NATO. But limits were placed on West German rearmament, the most important of which was to forbid the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The occupation regime was ended, except for the Allied rights in Berlin, whose integrity and survival rested on Allied agreements made with the Russians in 1945. Adenauer gained the right for the Federal Republic to speak for all of Germany. The Federal Republic for its part bound itself not to attempt to change its frontiers nor to attempt to reunify Germany by force. Thus the Federal Republic made clear that it would act only in its own defence with its new allies – NATO was a defensive alliance. This reflected Adenauer’s own beliefs. In this respect the foundation for the new policy towards West Germany’s Eastern neighbours in the Chancellor Brandt years of the 1970s was already laid in the 1950s. Finally, France and the Federal Republic agreed on the new Saar plebiscite. It was a comprehensive clearing up of problems. Schumacher’s opposition was, in part, an opposition to Adenauer personally and to what he believed he stood for; the gradual reintroduction to the leadership of German society of all those who had served and flourished under Hitler. Schumacher wanted to bring about a thoroughgoing reform. He was bitterly opposed to communism and ready to see Germany align with the West, and he too championed West European integration. But he demanded the full recovery of German sovereignty first, the regaining of respect, before the Federal Republic could, as a free agent, ally with the West. What he condemned was the kind of bargaining – a West German military contribution as the price of sovereignty – in which Adenauer was willing to engage in the spirit of Realpolitik. But Schumacher’s nationalist tone and his demands for reunification had an air of unreality. His terms, that the Germans in the Soviet zone were to be allowed to choose freely and the Russians were to withdraw, were unacceptable to the Soviet leaders despite their blandishing of West German opinion by holding out the prospect of reunification provided Germany remained neutral thereafter. Such a condition was as unacceptable to Schumacher, to Erich Ollenhauer (who succeeded to the party leadership after Schumacher’s death in 1952) and to the majority of the SPD leadership as it was to Adenauer. The SPD was also united in opposing all the practical measures for rearmament Adenauer had negotiated, on the ground that West Germany had negotiated from an inferior position. But on the issue of rearmament itself the party was deeply divided. As an opposition, without ultimate responsibility for policies, they could more easily afford to take their principled stand. Adenauer’s approach to rearmament and sovereignty won majority support in the Bundestag. The former enemy was now accepted as an ally. Adenauer’s closely linked foreign and rearmament policies had also overcome the most bitter division at home and had resisted the attacks unleashed on them by the SPD. Among young Germans, who now faced conscription, there was understandable opposition; the ‘re-educated’ Germans could hardly fathom such a turnaround, and then there were those genuinely convinced by the experiences of the war that Germans should not bear arms again. On the right, among ex-soldiers’ organisations, arose the demand that the besmirched honour of Hitler’s Wehrmacht must first be restored. Schumacher’s arguments in the Bundestag were powerful: the linking of rearmament with political concessions to German sovereignty, he thundered, was a cynical bargaining that marked the end of democracy. But Adenauer secured ratification of the Paris treaties by the Bundestag in March 1953. He went on to win the elections in September. Yet with the failure of the EDC, the Paris treaties had to be renegotiated. The new Paris Agree-ments (October 1954) now had to be ratified. Consequently the recovery of German sovereignty within the Western alliance was postponed to 5 May 1955 and conscription to 1956. During the fierce debates Der Spiegel magazine ironically echoed Goebbels’s ‘Do you want total war?’ Popular opposition to nuclear weapons in Germany and remilitarisation remained a rallying cry in demonstrations until 1969 and revived in the 1980s. Adenauer’s foreign and rearmament policies did not win universal support, but the acceptance of their chancellor as a respected equal in the capitals of Western Europe, and even in Moscow in September 1955, restored the buffeted sense of German pride. Yet, more than anything, the evident success of Erhard’s economic policies and the marked improvement in standards of living, the visible recovery of West Germany with the rebuilding of its cities, assured Adenauer and the coalitions he led of seemingly inevitable victories in elections. The CDU/CSU was further helped in 1953 by the June risings in Berlin and the Soviet zone, in 1957 by the continuing fear of Soviet aggression. In both these years, Adenauer easily won an overall majority. By the next election in the summer of 1961, confidence in der Alte was slipping. His dithering reaction to the Berlin Wall crisis and his age (he was now eightyfive), combined with his reluctance to step down to make way for Erhard, the heir apparent, cost the CDU/CSU its absolute majority. His last two years in office were unhappy. The Cabinet squabbled; the FDP partners made difficulties; then the defence minister, the ebullient Franz Josef Strauss, unwittingly resurrected memories of the totalitarian past. Der Spiegel had published an article on defence matters in October 1961. Believing that confidential information had been leaked, Strauss ordered police to search the magazine’s offices and an editor was arrested; meanwhile Adenauer absurdly referred to Der Spiegel as ‘a hotbed of treason’. But it all ended with a government rout: democracy had passed a test in the face of arbitrary government. Two years later, in October 1963, Adenauer at last made way for Erhard. Adenauer had never doubted the path West Germany had to follow. Unerringly he anchored the Federal Republic to the community of Western European nations and to NATO. He rejected all Soviet blandishments and hints that a neutral, disarmed Germany might be reunified. Was there ever a possibility that West Germany could have chosen the ‘Austrian’ solution? Adenauer regarded as the centrepiece of his achievement the Franco-German reconciliation, and the creation between them of an ‘unarmed frontier’. The Franco-German friendship treaty of January 1963 symbolised the special relationship that had been established between the two countries. Adenauer did not have to create tension with the Soviet Union to drive his countrymen into the arms of the Western alliance. The repression of freedoms in the Soviet zone, the harsh Ulbricht regime in the German Democratic Republic which led to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent even more millions of Germans leaving their people’s republic, the periodic Soviet threats to West Berlin, the preponderance of Soviet troops and tanks, not at a safe distance but just across the border, their use in East Berlin in 1953 and in Budapest in 1956 were all sufficient to convince the majority that safety lay in close alliance with Germany’s NATO partners. In the Adenauer period there was little opportunity to improve relations with the Soviet Union and the DDR. Adenauer’s claim that his government could speak for all Germans until free elections were held in what was, in Western eyes, still the Soviet zone took up the moral high ground, even if the claim was looking increasingly unreal. The Federal Republic broke off diplomatic relations with any country that recognised the sovereignty of the DDR and exchanged ambassadors (the Hallstein Doctrine). On his visit to Moscow in 1955, however, Adenauer had to breach this line and agree to an exchange of ambassadors with the Soviet Union, as part of a bargain to release German prisoners of war still languishing in the USSR. The Soviet Union in the post-Stalin decades was realistic too and accepted the Federal Republic as an independent and powerful nation whose loyalty to the Western alliance could not be shaken. Responding immediately to the Schuman Plan, Adenauer had also helped to lay the foundations of the European Economic Community, accepting that in its relations with France, Germany would for a time have to show deference to de Gaulle’s visions of grandeur. In changed circumstances, his successors were able to modify the policies adopted towards the Soviet Union and the DDR, but in all its essentials Adenauer had set the fundamental course to be followed by the Federal Republic in its relations with its neighbours and the rest of the world. He possessed that rare gift of the statesman, the ability to distinguish the important from the secondary, and steadfastly to pursue the main objectives of his policy without being led astray by subsidiary considerations. In his policies at home Adenauer was less successful. Autocratic in his Cabinet, he manipulated colleagues and felt little loyalty towards them. His views of the past and present were clear to the point of cynicism. Above reproach in his own behaviour during the Nazi years, he knew that the same could not be said of the majority of his countrymen. But the nation could not simply discard all former adherents of National Socialism; who would have been left to run the country and to rebuild it? Everyone would need to pull together, whatever their past, except for a few members of the Nazi elite. There would be no witch-hunts. The administration that had run the country before 1945 ran it again in the 1950s. Owners, managers and workers pulled together to achieve better living standards. The watchword was Wiedergutmachung, restitution. Pensions to those who had helped Hitler were honoured; refugees from the East received capital to start again; those who had survived the war with property intact were taxed to pay for this. Jewish victims received some compensation and, for those millions who had been murdered during the war, the new State of Israel received a global sum which, by 1980, amounted to nearly 3.5 billion DM. But despite the large sums paid they could not match all the looted wealth or compensate for millions of murders – though this was not the view taken by many Germans at the time. Nonetheless, Adenauer persistently backed Wiedergutmachung as morally necessary, and essential for the good name of the new Germany. At the same time he defended the employment of former high officials of the Nazi state, even employing in his own office Hans Globke, the civil servant who had helped to draft the Nürnberg anti-Semitic laws in 1935. The past was past and new loyalties were allowed to replace old ones. To one man in his Cabinet Adenauer owed more than to any other. Ludwig Erhard, minister of economic affairs, symbolised the new-found German prosperity: jovial and rotund, he was never seen in public without a fat cigar. A vote for the CDU/CSU was as much a vote for Erhard and his concept of the socially responsible market economy as it was for Adenauer, the father figure, the ‘helmsman’. How did the economic transformation come about? Erhard could only provide the right conditions for workers and management to create the export-led boom. It was the quality and reliability of German manufacture, machine tools, products of heavy engineering and cars that brought success. It was also the willingness of the trade union leaders to give up class warfare and for two decades to restrain wage demands. Abroad and at home there was an almost insatiable appetite for capital goods and cars. The cities had to be rebuilt. The ‘American dream’ propagated by Hollywood created desires and expectations that only hard work could fulfil. The change for the better from the low point of 1945 to 1947 was so dramatic by the mid-1950s that people spoke of an ‘economic miracle’. Confidence in a better future was rekindled. The statistics in the accompanying tables reveal the steady growth with unemployment falling to negligible proportions in 1971, though inflation increased from 1 per cent to 5 per cent in the 1960s. Unemployment was a particularly sensitive issue in Germany. High unemployment in 1932–3 was widely credited with having made possible the rise of Hitler. Could the democracy of the Federal Republic survive high unemployment? Progress was not smooth: between 1954 and 1958 unemployment reached 7 per cent and fell no lower than 4 per cent, which alarmed the electorate; but thereafter from 1973 until the 1990s never exceeded 3 per cent, and for the period 1961–6 it stayed below 1 per cent. The shortage of workers was first filled by the steady influx of refugees from the Soviet zone of Germany and then increasingly from the pool of unemployed in the Mediterranean countries, especially Italy and Turkey. By 1973 there were 2.6 million Gastarbeiter (guestworkers) in the Federal Republic. This availability of labour was one reason for West Germany’s rapid industrial expansion. Periodic boosts were given by Marshall Aid, by the boom that followed the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 and by the establishment of the Common Market in 1958. Management and trade unions were prepared to work together, investment provided up-to-date production methods and German goods gained a reputation for quality in a widening world market hungry for goods. The over-valuation of the German currency during the 1950s and beyond acted as a spur to efficiency and productivity. Ultimately it was the skill and will of management and workers that created the ‘miracle’ of recovery based on export-led growth. The Germans had come to expect improvements in their standard of living and low inflation; a sound economy was regarded as the natural state of affairs. By 1963 Erhard no longer received the credit for Germany’s prosperity. The heir apparent had been kept too long in the wings. Now as federal chancellor he lacked lustre and soon ran into difficulties with his FDP partners and particularly with the ambitious Franz Josef Strauss. There were Cabinet squabbles over Erhard’s preference for America to de Gaulle’s France, over the support price for grain, which caused a deep Franco-German rift, and over the supply of arms to Israel. The electorate in the 1960s, however, was more concerned with continuing the economic policies that had served them so well and were not about to entrust government to the Social Democratic opposition. Despite Erhard’s declining prestige, the CDU/CSU won another resounding electoral victory in 1965. Just a year later, the FDP ministers resigned; the economic climate had worsened temporarily, and between 1965 and 1967 the gross national product grew by less than 2 per cent. Haunted by fears of inflation – another trauma of the 1920s the Germans could not shake off – government expenditure was cut back and unemployment averaged 3 per cent. To German perceptions it appeared as if a grave crisis was at hand. What in fact had occurred was no more than a swing in the business cycle. As the economy developed the Federal Republic could not sustain the rates of growth of earlier years. But Erhard had lost the confidence of his own party, the CDU, and Strauss and other leading politicians were ready to fight for the succession; in the event, Kurt Georg Kiesinger emerged as his successor and leader of the CDU/CSU. The outcome of all the political intrigues and negotiations was an astonishing one. The FDP became the opposition party, and the CDU/CSU and SPD led by the charismatic former mayor of West Berlin, Willy Brandt, formed a Grand Coalition in December 1966 under Chancellor Kiesinger, with Brandt as his deputy and foreign minister. The coalition had been possible only because the SPD had formally abandoned its Marxist doctrines in 1959 at the Gotha party conference. To win the opportunity of becoming the party of government, the SPD moved to the political centre. Like the CDU, the SPD now turned itself into an umbrella party appealing to a wide spectrum, from the socialist left, who had nowhere else to go, to the liberal centre. This became its source of electoral strength, but also brought with it an internal weakness as the left wing came into conflict with its right wing. The years of the Grand Coalition also saw a kind of midlife crisis for the Federal Republic. A new, young post-war electorate, bored with bourgeois values and prosperity, made its presence violently felt in 1967. Traditional society in the Federal Republic and elsewhere in Europe and the US was on the eve of fundamental changes.

 

 

html-Link
BB-Link