Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, Volume II
The Secretary of State to President Wilson
My Dear Mr. President: I do not wish to burden you with memoranda but here is another one by Mr. Bullitt upon the situation in Germany which I think you will agree is worth reading. It seems to [Page 99] me that it is the most critical question at present and possibly should be acted upon without delay.
Mr. William C. Bullitt, of the Division of Western European Affairs, to the Secretary of State
My Dear Mr. Secretary: Germany has moved along the road to Bolshevism with such speed during the past week that it is now doubtful that even the wisest action by the United States and the Governments with which we are associated in the war will prevent Bolshevik domination of Prussia and the seaports. If we do not act wisely, and at once, a Liebknecht-Mehring dictatorship inevitably will play the same role in Berlin that the Lenine-Trotzky dictatorship is playing in Petrograd.
The situation in Germany at present is this:
- There is not the slightest possibility of a return to power of any Hohenzollern or any counter revolutionary leader. The old order has been rooted out, though naturally in isolated country communities and in complicated Governmental departments remnants of the old bureaucracy remain.
- The Government of Bavaria and the Government of Prussia at the present moment are in the hands of the most decent men in Germany—the moderate Social Democrats and their intimate allies of other progressive parties.
- These Governments are menaced by the Spartacus Group of Bolsheviki. (Note. On November 21, Liebknecht formally announced that he is a Bolshevik.)
- At present the Bolsheviki are weak in Bavaria but strong in the Hansa towns, the northern Rhine districts and Berlin.
- Kiel, Bremen and Düsseldorf are already in the hands of the Bolsheviki, according to press reports.
- The Russian Bolsheviki are supplying Liebknecht and his followers with unlimited funds and materials for the dissemination of propaganda.
- The German Bolshevik propagandists are concentrating their efforts on the supply zone behind the active zone of the army, where all discipline ceased and disorder supervened the day the armistice was signed. Their propaganda is having great success in this mass of hungry, disorderly men.
- Liebknecht’s meetings in Berlin are becoming more and more popular.
- The so-called “Government” or “Cabinet” in Berlin has acknowledged [Page 100] the control of the Executive Committee of the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Council.
- This Executive Committee is composed of equal numbers of Majority and Independent Socialists, and an indeterminate number of representatives of the soldiers and workmen. The Executive Committee is much more radical than the “Cabinet”, and is becoming more radical every day.
- The Executive Committee has announced its opposition to an immediate Constituent Assembly and apparently has forced the “Government” to abandon the plan to hold elections for the Assembly on January 2. The Executive Committee favors the immediate summoning of representatives of the various Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Councils throughout Germany to form a Central Council and to prepare a form of Government for the former Empire.
The parallel between the course of the revolution in Germany and the course of the revolution in Russia is obvious. As the Government of Prince Lvov represented the progressive bourgeoisie of Russia, so the Government of Prince Max represented the progressive bourgeoisie of Germany. As Kerensky represented the moderate democratic socialists of Russia, so Ebert represents the moderate democratic socialists of Germany. As Lenine represents anti-democratic proletarian dictatorship in Russia, so Liebknecht represents anti-democratic proletarian dictatorship in Germany. Kerensky fell and Lenine succeeded him, partly, to be sure, because of Kerensky’s own mistakes, but partly because the Allies and the United States did not take his appeals for material and spiritual aid at their face value. So today there is the gravest danger that Ebert will fall because the Allies and the United States will not take his appeals for material and spiritual aid at anything like their face value.
It is my belief that Ebert is entirely sincere and truthful when he says that unless the period for carrying out certain terms of the armistice is extended and unless the number of railroad engines and cars demanded by the Allies is diminished, such dislocation of economic life will ensue in Germany that Bolshevism will be inevitable. A hundred facts may be cited to prove this contention; it seems advisable, however, to burden this memorandum with only one example: A secret agent of Military Intelligence who was in Düsseldorf on November 18 returned to Holland on November 21 and reported: [“]The street cars were running, the railroads not. The garrison troops had returned and were making a noisy demonstration in the streets for food. Otherwise things were quiet.” On November 23, the Spartacus Group gained control of Düsseldorf!
If the present German Government of moderate democratic socialists is to hold its position it must be sustained not only by economic assistance but also by political support. There is need for amelioration [Page 101] of certain conditions of the armistice, there is need for immediate supervision by Mr. Hoover of food distribution, and there is also need for the right word at the right time from President Wilson. In order that the right word may be said at the right time it is necessary to establish at once the closest unofficial relations with the Ebert Government.
The gravity of the situation cannot be overemphasized. Unless we support the Ebert Government a little more strongly than the Russian Bolsheviki are supporting the Spartacus Group, Germany will become Bolshevist. Austria and Hungary will follow Germany’s example. And the remainder of Europe will not long escape infection.
Very respectfully submitted,