War on Junkers in German Strike
Agricultural Laborers Rising Against the Heads of Big Estates.
SOLDIERS ENFORCE WORK
Military Repression Leads to a Wave of Protest Throughout the Nation
TENSION IN POMERANIA
Socialist Factions Join in Denouncing Course of Landed Proprietors.
By George Renwick
Special cable to the New York Times
Originally published in The New York Times on July 18, 1919. Now in the public domain.
Berlin, July 16.–The junker overlords of vast regions of Eastern Germany have had war declared on them by the working class in defense of the peasants.
In my message of yesterday I described how landlord tyranny had stirred the agricultural laborers to strike. Today the movement overshadows everything else in Germany.
It is in the agriculturally important province of Pomerania that the movement has become most serious. There for some weeks past the laborers on the land have been negotiating with the landlords without achieving any success. This is classic territory of junkerdom and the moment arrived when the patience of the landed tyrants became overstrained. The suddenly intervened in the negotiations and brought them to an abrupt halt by showing that they were not prepared to make any concessions or even to recognize that the land workers were anything but serfs.
The result was strikes in certain districts, but the junkers struck back with all their force. Through their influence at military headquarters in Berlin and with the High Command in Pomerania they had the whole of that great province put under intensified martial law and the most drastic measures with military coercion were applied with dramatic suddenness.
Stettin Tied Up by Strike.
Today a third force has intervened, that of the working class in the cities of Pomerania. A general strike has been declared in Stettin and elsewhere. Everything has stopped–gas, trams, electricity, and factories. The strike is a protest against martial law.
The workmen demand:
1. The abolition of the state of siege.
2. The liberation of every one arrested under martial law.
3. The recall of the notorious General von Oven, commander in chief of the troops in Pomerania, and the inevitable accompaniment of all workers’ demands in these days, recognition of factory councils or Soviets.
The most significant fact about this trouble is that it has reunited all the Socialist parties against the junkers and their military agents. Even Vorwärts this evening is just as uncompromising as Die Freiheit. It denounces the action of the junkers and militarists as a challenge against democracy.
The junkers, in short, have for a good time past been gathering their strength and courage for a decisive trial. They counted upon having the support of the whole of Germany in the contest they have forced upon the peasants, because of the fear that the harvest would be lost. They have made a gross miscalculation. Their motives have been seen through. It is the junkers now and not the peasantry that must look to themselves. The whole nation is aroused at this deliberate attempt of Europe’s arch reactionaries to set the clock back.
Berlin Traffic Relieved
Berlin has heaved a sigh of relief today, seeing her usual means of getting about the city beginning to function again. Indeed, the city has seemed to jump in one day from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. For a fortnight we have been without local trains, trams, or omnibuses, and Berliners have been going about their widely spread city in vehicles which might not have looked odd in the time of their great-grandfathers.
Crazy country carts with seating accommodations in the form of some half dozen kitchen chairs, lorries with forms taken from some disused school, cabs which must have been stored somewhere during the whole of William II.’s reign, donkey carts whose owners many now resume their occupation as fruit sellers, and other weird conveyances have again given place to the “modern conveniences” of local travel.
It was picturesque while it lasted, but it was highly inconvenient, and nobody is sorry it is over except those who profited handsomely, by the use of their crude vehicles. Berlin’s strikers have carried their point with regard to the bonus demanded on account of the high cost of living, but they got only 300 marks, less than half what they asked, and in the meantime they have lost among them $1,250,000 in wages.
Socialists Break With Soviets.
Berlin, July 17, (Associated Press.)–The Socialists of the Right have decided to sever relations with the executive of the Soldiers’ and Workmen’s and Communal Workers’ Councils, owing to the action of the two latter organizations during the transport strike. It is alleged that the only aim of the independent and Communist members is a Soviet republic.
The right Socialists are forming an executive council of their own which will probably be joined by the Democrats.
Allied representatives have told the German delegation at Versailles, it is reported here in Government circles, that Germany must be prepared to introduce measures for compulsory work if necessary. This, it was said, was intended as a means of bringing about prompt execution of the reparation work in Northern France, utilizing troops and a half million civilian laborers.
Officials here said that the allied conferences on this subject were conducted in a friendly spirit. These officials agreed that Germany had a problem in her labor troubles.
Copenhagen, July 17.–The strike of agricultural laborers in the Frantzburg district of Pomerania is being put down vigorously by German troops, according to a dispatch from Greifswald.
The soldiers have occupied the estates and are forcing the laborers to return to work. Fifteen members of the Executive Committee of the laborers’ union have been arrested.