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United States. Office of the US High Commissioner for Germany / Germany's parliament in action; the September 1949 debate on the government's statement of policy

Schumacher, Kurt
Comment on the statement of policy of the German federal government delivered in the Bundestag on 21 September 1949 by Dr. Kurt Schumacher of the Social Democratic Party,   pp. 29-38

Page 29

Comment on the Statement of Policy of the German Federal Government
delivered in the Bundestag on 21 September 1949 by
Dr. Kurt Schumacher of the Social Democratic Party
(Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands -  SPD)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Statement of Policy of the Federal Govern-
ment should not be regarded in isolation. It should
be viewed in conjunction with the politics of the
parties which today form the Federal Government,
with the slogans of the election campaign, with the
declarations issued subsequent to the elections,
with the methods adopted in the formation of the
Cabinet, and with the composition of the Cabinet
If one were to accept at face value that cardinal
part of the Government Statement of Policy which
proclaimed that social justice would be the guiding
star of the Governmental program, then one would
have to say: "With such a program, the Federal
Chancellor would have won a stupendous election
victory on 14 August over the policy of his Minister
of Economics and- Vice-chancellor." But social
policy costs money, and the German property-
owning class, the overwhelming majority of which
now backs the new Government, has certainly not
established this Government so as to indulge in
particularly heavy expenditures for the sake of the
(Exclamation from the Right: "You imagine
others will behave as you yourself would!")
The Government has now come forward with a
declaration which contains a number of social
promises, albeit not exactly defined. Clearest was
perhaps the one regarding tax reduction. We, too,
agree that the structure of the German tax system
must be radically reformed, since neither its
revenue nor its efficiency is up to the standards
required by the state. But if tax reduction were
the main basis of economic recovery, it would clash
with social achievements on the one hand and
occupation costs on the other. It is unlikely that
social achievements and tax reductions can 'be
implemented concurrently. Realizing this, the
Chancellor made social achievements contingent
upon a number of conditions, which, it may be as-
sumed, will not be realized in the immediate future
- namely a flourishing economy, plentiful tax
revenue, and the like. So we must conclude that
tax reduction is an immediate probability, while
social achievements are likely to slide off into the
realm of mere consolations.
(Interjection from the right: "Wait and see!")
Why? Do you have that much time?"
(Hilarity and loud applause from SPD)
The idyllic tone of yesterday's Statement of
Policy has perhaps caused some astonishment. Its
tenor was "Things aren't as bad as they look". To
that we can only retort: "It 'looks as if everything
were a good deal worse than the Statement of
Policy makes it out to be". Ultimately the real
heart of the matter, the point on which we have
a clear avowal of the Federal Government's inten-
tions, is the declaration that the existing course of
Frankfurt economic policy will be maintained.
(Interjection from the CDU: "Thank God!")
In the same connection a few other very concrete
things have been indicated, such as the removal of
restrictions on commodities for which controlled
prices still exist. Similar remarks were also made
in regard to government allocation of living space
and government control of rents.
The Government declaration is not only inter-
esting by virtue of what'it contains, but even more
interesting because of what it does not mention.
We cannot imagine any democratic form of state
in which the workers play so small a role that the
Statement of Policy does not even mention the
word "worker", and we cannot imagine an effective
social organism in which trade unions are left un-
mentioned. Failure to recognize that without the
trade unions, and the role they have played, the
German people's situation would be much worse
internally and externally seems to me rank ingrat-
itude. We have also noticed the lack of fundamental
recognition for the equality of men and women
before the law, as laid down in the Basic Law.
We have noticed that lack although we appreciate
the obliging expatiations of 'the Chancellor's State-
ment into the field of the difficulties experienced
by unmarried women. Out of this thesis there arises
a large number of tasks for the Government, and
we should like to know how the Government
proposes to deal with them.
Now, we are the Opposition, and there has been
unbelievably naive discussion among the German
public as to what an Opposition is. That idea of
Opposition  and  Government which  generously
overrates the functions of the Government and
equally generously underrates the functions of 'the
Opposition has its roots in the authoritarian state,
and the ideas of the authoritarian state still seem
to be very much alive in many of the minds of
this House. An Opposition does not do its job of
supporting the state if it is kindly regarded by the
Federal Government or the Government parties.
We have a Government which is quite cold-blooded
in its defense of the property-owningclass, and the
Opposition will have to be just as cold-blooded in
its defense of the interests of the working popula-
tion. Egotism loves to appeal to feelings of fellow-
ship. The Government and the Opposition will
demonstrate their qualities bY their achievements.
However, dear Representatives, the' Opposition
sticks to its fundamental principle that it is up to
the Government to produce, from within the ranks
of the Government parties, the majority necessary
for the adoption of its laws.
(Observation from the Center: "You're against
everything as a matter of principle!")
Pardon me, you remarked that I am "against every-
thing as a matter of principle". I think it is my

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