Germany, had hitherto defended her vital interests in an active and resolute fashion and whose military efficiency in the Great War was still fresh in the memories of the whole world. The French occupation of the Ruhr coal field deprived England of all the successes she had gained in the War. And the victors were now Marshal Foch and the France he represented, no longer the calm and painstaking British statesmen.
In Italy also the attitude towards France, which had not been very favourable since the end of the War, now became positively hostile. The great historic moment had come when the Allies of yesterday might become the enemies of to-morrow. If things happened otherwise and if the Allies did not suddenly come into conflict with one another, as in the Second Balkan War, that was due to the fact that Germany had no Enver Pasha but merely a Cuno as Chancellor of the Reich.
Nevertheless, the French invasion of the Ruhr opened up great possibilities for the future not only in Germany's foreign politics but also in her internal politics. A considerable section of our people who, thanks to the persistent influence of a mendacious Press, had looked upon France as the champion of progress and liberty, were suddenly cured of this illusion. In 1914 the dream of international solidarity suddenly vanished from the brain of our German working class. They were brought back into the world of everlasting struggle, where one creature feeds on the other and where the death of the weaker implies the life of the stronger. The same thing happened in the spring of 1923.
When the French put their threats into effect and penetrated, at first hesitatingly and cautiously, into the coal-basin of Lower Germany the hour of destiny had struck for Germany. It was a great and decisive moment. If at that moment our people had changed not only their frame of mind but also their conduct the German Ruhr District could have been made for France what Moscow turned out to be for Napoleon. Indeed, there were only two possibilities: either to leave this move also to take its course and do nothing or to turn to the German people in that region of sweltering forges and flaming furnaces. An effort might have been made to set their wills afire with determination to put an end to this persistent disgrace and to face a momentary terror rather than submit to a terror that was endless.
Cuno, who was then Chancellor of the Reich, can claim the immortal merit of having discovered a third way; and our German bourgeois political parties merit the still more glorious honour of having admired him and collaborated with him.
Here I shall deal with the second way as briefly as possible.
By occupying the Ruhr France committed a glaring violation of the Versailles Treaty. Her action brought her into conflict with several of the guarantor Powers, especially with England and Italy. She could no longer hope that those States would back her up in her egotistic act of brigandage. She could count only on her own forces to reap anything like a positive result from that adventure, for such it was at the start. For a German National Government there was only one possible way left open. And this was the way which honour prescribed. Certainly at the beginning we could not have opposed France with an active armed resistance. But it should have been clearly recognized that any negotiations which did not have the argument of force to back them up would turn out futile and ridiculous. If it were not possible to organize an active resistance, then it was absurd to take up the standpoint: "We shall not enter into any negotiations." But it was still more absurd finally to enter into negotiations without having organized the necessary force as a support.
Not that it was possible for us by military means to prevent the occupation of the Ruhr. Only a madman could have recommended such a decision. But under the impression produced by the action which France had taken, and during the time that it was being carried out, measures could have been, and should have been, undertaken without any regard to the Versailles Treaty, which France herself had violated, to provide those military resources which would serve as a collateral argument to back up the negotiations later on. For it was quite clear from the beginning that the fate of this district occupied by the French would one day be decided at some conference table or other. But it also must have been quite