Guenter Reimann, 1904–2005
Casting A Critical Eye on Capitalism
Michael Hrebeniak, London Guardian
Guenter Reimann, who has died aged 100, was a pioneer of global financial analysis and founder of the prestigious newsletter International Reports On Finance And Currency, which provided an independent voice in the field after the second world war.
Reimann was born Hans Steinicke into a bourgeois German-Jewish family in Angermuende, north-east of Berlin. As a schoolboy, he joined the Communist party, then a vigorous force in German national politics. He was instinctively drawn to the leftist intelligentsia of inter-war Berlin, and regular nights in the company of Ernst Thaelmann, Anna Seghers and Walter Ulbricht at the Romanische Cafe followed. At 17, under the pen-name Guenter Reimann, he was appointed economics editor of the communist newspaper, Rote Fahne.
Having graduated in economics from the Berlin Wirtschaftshochschule in 1925, Reimann resigned from the Communist party in 1933, as one of the first to protest publicly at Stalin's rise to power. After the Reichstag fire, he worked underground with German social democrats and communist resistance fighters, fully aware that this might prove a terminal decision. Indeed, by 1934 the Gestapo was closing in. Nazi officials raided his house and arrested his student guest, Hu Lan-Xi, who would go on to become the Red Army's first female general.
Reimann fled Berlin, walking through the Bohemian forest to Vienna, and thence to Paris. He soon discovered, however, that the radical political circles that had always engaged him now lay across the English Channel. So he moved to London, seeking the tutelage of John A Hobson, whose work had exposed the rapacious market basis of imperialism at the turn of the 20th century.
Three years of hardship ensued, some of it ameliorated by daily sessions in the warmth of the British Library, where Reimann researched his book, The Vampire Economy: Doing Business Under Fascism. In spite of his situation, he took charge of two Jewish children until the Quakers, who had brokered the German refugee train on which they arrived, could find them a home.
Although he kept to government edicts to desist from political activity, in 1937 he was threatened with deportation to Germany, after the secret service had intercepted one of his letters. Fortunately, the American Friends Service Committee intervened to help him obtain political refugee status in the US, and he arrived in New York clutching the manuscript of The Vampire Economy, a scathing critique of the economic incompetence of the Third Reich.
Acknowledging that "in the shape of capital, the instruments of production dominate and pump dry the living labour power of the wage worker," Reimann concluded that "the dictatorship of the state bureaucracy becomes increasingly a dictatorship over the capitalist entrepreneurs, the small as well as the big business men."
Two more analyses of fascist economics, The Myth Of The Total State (1941) and Patents For Hitler (1942), soon followed. However, realising that the fall of capitalism was probably not imminent, Reimann set about demystifying the financial controls of industrialism and secured a job with the International Statistical Bureau.
Shortly after the war, he testified before Congress, and was instrumental in engineering the repeal of the US Trading With The Enemy Act. Shipments of care packages were immediately sent to German civilians in dire need of food, medicine and clothing — an achievement later recognised by the German government, which honoured Reimann shortly before his 100th birthday with the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit, the country's highest civil honour.
Although he considered returning to Germany to participate in its reconstruction, Reimann remained in New York out of a sense of responsibility to his two children, the product of a shortlived marriage to the activist Miriam Weber. He nevertheless maintained close relations with his homeland, initiating a lively correspondence with Herbert Wehner, the future chairman of the German Socialist party, which was later published in book form.
Taking advantage of his position at the epicentre of world capital, Reimann intensified his search for the appropriate bearings and tools to scrutinise global finance without institutional encumbrance. International Reports On Finance And Currency, which he founded in 1946, engaged leading financial figures as correspondents, and provided an uncompromising analysis of world markets. Subscribers included governments and central banks, and chief executives and national leaders actively courted his expertise.
Such men would, no doubt, have been surprised to discover that Reimann's understanding of capitalism derived from the position of desiring its overthrow. Remaining vehemently opposed to the tyranny of both state and market, his vision of individual freedom was rooted in the small-scale communalist models that he saw in the early work of Mao Zedong. Friendships with such renowned figures of the left as Karl Radek, George Padmore, Freda Utley and Mario Pedrosa testified both to Reimann's passion and international standing.
Reimann remained editor-in-chief of International Reports until 1983, when he sold the publication to the Financial Times. He continued as a consultant in international finance, working most notably with Madeira to set up a free trade zone, which remains intact today. He was still publishing prolifically on economics and history, in both German and English, well into his 90s.
He is survived by his wife, Jutta, whom he married in 1955, their two children, and the two children of his previous marriage.
Guenter Reimann (Hans Steinicke), financial analyst, born November 13 1904; died February 5 2005.
- "London Guardian" - http://info.interactivist.net/www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1427456,00.html
Collaborative Authorship, Collective Intelligence