Erich Ludendorff, the Quarter-Master General, is trying to harness the entire German economy for the war effort. As he sees it, the struggle with the Allies is a Materialschlacht, a struggle in which the side that can better marshal its resources will be the winner. Germany has long conscripted men into the military but now Ludendorff wants civilians to be conscripted into the vital war industries, to ensure the army has what it needs to keep the war going.
At Ludendorff’s behest, Groener, the head of the Supreme War Office has drawn up a draft law to extend conscription so that males between the ages of 16 and 60 can be conscripted into Patriotic Auxiliary Service, which generally would mean that Ludendorff and Groener could send them to do anything deemed necessary for the war effort.
Today at last the Reichstag passed the auxiliary service law. Unfortunately for Groener and Ludendorff, the politicians have heavily watered down the proposal, diluting the near dictatorial powers the generals had sought. A raft of exemptions have been added to the bill and the Reichstag has insisted on establishing a parliamentary committee to oversee the law’s operations. Worse, the Social Democrats and other left parties have added in provisions establishing worker committees in all enterprises employing more than 50 people, effectively mandating trade union recognition. Workers will remain far more free to switch jobs at will than Ludendorff or Groener had envisaged.
Ludendorff is dismayed at the Reichstag’s watering down of his proposals. If only there was some way of getting rid of these troublesome politicians. Then the entire country could be run on efficient military lines.