Socialization Commission

Socialization Commission
   Marxist theory asserts that the na-tionalization (or socialization) of industry is fundamental to working-class lib-eration. Accordingly, the Council of People s Representatives* formed a Sozialisierungskommission on 21 November 1918 to review the prospects for socialization. The formation of a commission, as opposed to proclaiming im-mediate socialization, underscored the interim cabinet s conviction that its ac-tions must harmonize with the maintenance of order and the protection of property; these men were appalled by events in Bolshevik Russia. Moreover, at the behest of Friedrich Ebert,* interim Chancellor, several nonsocialists were appointed to the nine-member commission. In Germany s postwar chaos neither government nor union leaders espoused hasty action against private industry.
   The November accord that heralded the Central Working Association* (ZAG, an employer-union partnership) indicated that the pressure for sweeping social-ization, outside of small pockets of radical workers, was hardly extreme. The employers' plan, "social policy in exchange for the renunciation of socializa-tion, was embodied in ZAG and promoted by such non-Marxist socialists as Walther Rathenau* and Wichard von Moellendorff.* Even the USPD made only guarded recommendations: Wilhelm Dittmann,* a member of the interim cabi-net, argued that the war-torn economy was unsuited to nationalization, while Karl Kautsky, Germany s premier Marxist theorist (and an outspoken opponent of Bolshevism), claimed that socialization without popular support could invoke civil war. But Kautsky agreed to head the commission. Short on funding and staff and impeded by ministries fearing its encroachment, the commission re-ceived only lip service from the interim cabinet. Yet, under pressure from the USPD it opened deliberation on 5 December and offered a preliminary report on 7 January 1919. The judicious report stressed the need to socialize "ripe industries, but underscored an equal need for further study in view of the danger attached to disrupting production. The ensuing Coal Socialization Act of March 1919 strengthened the economic coordination of the coal industry, but failed to nationalize that industry. The commission members resigned in April in protest of their lack of powers.
   Until March 1920 the Republic was too absorbed with the Armistice,* leftist unrest, drafting a constitution,* and haggling over the Versailles Treaty* to focus on socialization. The issue was clouded, moreover, by failure of the two socialist parties to win a majority in the National Assembly.* But in the agreement ending the general strike that had subverted the Kapp* Putsch, the new cabinet of Hermann Müller* yielded to a union demand that a second Socialization Commission be established to amend the Coal Socialization Act. Since the June 1920 elections brought severe losses to the SPD and DDP, Müller's government did not survive to appraise the commission s conclusions. Appearing in an Au-gust 1920 report and strongly influenced by Rathenau, they espoused an organic concept of state socialism based largely on the community ethics marking Ger-many s war economy. The minority cabinet of Konstantin Fehrenbach,* facing stiff opposition from an industry-backed DVP (heavy industry, led by Hugo Stinnes,* was urging vertical concentration rather than socialization) and fearing Allied pressure for enlarged coal deliveries, distanced itself from the recom-mendations. Although the commission deliberated into 1921, pressure for so-cialization abated.
   The power of heavy industry, exercised politically through the DVP, frus-trated the work of the Socialization Commission. However, even leading so-cialists were ambivalent about socializing the "ripe" coal industry. The experience of Russia, coupled with the weakness of Germany s postwar econ-omy, discouraged most socialists from embracing socialization. Unfortunately, this failure to address a once-important SPD issue spawned a bitterness that was not confined to the political Left.
   REFERENCES:Breitman, German Socialism; Feldman, Great Disorder; Larry Jones, German Liberalism; Ryder, German Revolution of 1918; Von Klemperer, Germany's New Conservatism.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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