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Information bulletin
No. 133 (April 20, 1948)

Anderson, Nels
The food strikes,   pp. [3]-5 PDF (1.7 MB)


Page 5


Communist elements. These elements
were generally active, but they elected
to stand back. They were loud in
defining the issues, brewing unrest
and stirring up discord.
It is generally known that thesepro-
moters of unrest had been encouraged
to believe that the food strikes
would demoralize the workers, that
through the multiplying of strikes the
food deliveries would be interfered
with, and finally a condition of chaos
would prevail.
But the workers remained orderly.
Great numbers gathered for public
demonstrations; 70,000, for example,
met to hear speeches at Munich. Thus
the food issue, pushed by the Com-
munists to the striking point, spent
itself in disciplined demonstrations.
The "wildcat" strikes planned for
by the Communist functionaries during
January and February did not come
to pass. It is understandable why they
later called the strikes "pointless."
BEFORE CALLING the strikes, Ger-
man labor leaders were confronted
with the fact that the workers and
their -families were getting short
rations. There was increasing evidence
that the limited supplies available
were not being efficiently and fairly
distributed. And although the labor
leaders strove to bring about a cor-
rection of such conditions, progress
was slow. The functionaries of revo-
lution, aware of the attempts to
improve the food-handling machinery
worked hard to frustrate these efforts.
Thus the trade union leaders faced
the choice of taking action or risking
the loss of control by attempting to
hold the union locals in line. It was
for them a choice between risks. Not
to take the lead might result in their
leadership being repudiated by a rash
of unauthorized "wildcat" strikes and
leaderless mob demonstrations.
They elected to stage the strikes
and risk the possibility of releasing
the worker tensions through orderly
actions. Not only did it prove a wise
choice, but the union leaders emerged
stronger than they have been since
the war. The Communist sabotage
program failed and Communist in-
fluence declined noticeably.
Although the sabotage strategy of
the Communists was thrown off
schedule, their objectives to under-
mine industrial revival in western
Germany have not changed. They set
out to make the most of Germany's
food shortage this winter. They will
carry on because they still get some
encouragement out of the fact that
the food shortage continues.
It remains to be seen whether
German labor leaders are able to keep
political climbers out of the German
labor movement. They understand that
the most dangerous of these are the
Communists.
Can the democratic trade union
leaders hold the gains they have
won? The outlook seems favorable.
The Protest Demonstration in Bavaria
THE STATE-WIDE 24-hour protest
demonstration of the Bavarian
Trade Union Federation and its affil-
iates on Friday, Jan. 23, was the
largest of the German food strikes of
the winter of 1948. The demonstration,
which involved 1,000,000 workers in
22 cities, was viewed by trade union
leaders as a necessary outlet for re-
lieving the pent-up resentment of the
workers and less damaging to in-
dustrial production than the sporadic
wildcat strikes which were breaking
out throughout the state.
Military Government, appraising the
strike as a protest against German
governmental administration and an
affirmation by labor of its claim to a
more equitable share in the products
of agriculture, did not interfere.
The strike was impressive because
of the workers' voluntary discipline.
They agreed to keep all plants, or
Portions of plants, operating where a
sudden stoppage would halt production
or injure machinery. For example,
a large rayon plant near Augsburg,
APRIL 20, 1948
By Edward L. Deuss
Chief, Reports and Statistics Branch,
OMGUS
which normally employs 2,100 work-
ers, had 600 on the job the day of the
strike to keep the viscose liquid from
hardening in vats and spindles.
One coal mine was continued in
operation in the Upper Bavarian state-
owned bituminous fields to keep open
the power plant, which provided
electrical energy for all the mines.
Railway men agreed to move trains
coming into Bavaria to their destina-
tions rather than stop them at the
state borders. Skeleton signal crews
remained on the job.
Military and MG installations were
exempted from the strike order as
were gas, water, and electrical plants,
hospitals, press, and security services.
At MG suggestion the telephone serv-
ice also was exempted.
F OR THE first time in German
history, 65 to 80 percent of the
German civil servants in Bavaria
joined the strikers. This included
locomotive engineers, post office em-
ployees, and street car conductors.
Many higher ranking government
civil servants also joined, despite an
announcement by Finance Minister
Kraus that in striking they would be
violating their "oath to the public."
While the demonstrations did not
result in any immediate tangible gain
to the workers, trade union leaders
reported that subsequently the govern-
(Continued on page 12)
INFORMATION BULLETIN
Edward L. Deuss based his
article, The Protest Demonstra-
tion in Bavaria, on a volumnious
report of the Bavarian   food
strikes which he compiled for
the Manpower Division, OMGUS.
Mr. Deuss was in Bavaria when
the strikes broke out, and much
of his information is first hand.
A former newspaperman, he has
been in Government service
since 1943.
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