The winding-up of the Sevres Treaty is being effected in the Near East in military form, amid the thunder of cannon. It had set in even fore any of its fundamental provisions were translated into practice. The Versailles Treaty concerned Turkey in so far only as it deprived Germany of everything she had achieved there in the course of many years through capitalist penetration, – the Bagdad railway and all her capital invested in Turkish enterprises. The solution of the Turkish question was the object of the Sevres Treaty, which the Allies finally drafted in 1920. This Treaty realised the traditional programme of English liberalism to drive out the Turk bag and baggage from the European continent and to destroy Turkey as a factor in international politics – the programme of Mr. Gladstone. On the European continent Turkey lost everything which the Peace with Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria in 1912 had left her. Turkey lost, likewise, all regions in which the Turkey formed a minority. The Sevres Treaty created an independent Armenia, which needed Alexandrette as an outlet to the sea; Turkey was deprived of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Arabia. On the Mediterranean coast she had to give up to Greece the Smyrna region which stretches far into the land. In the south, France obtained Cilicia; the Adabien region was assigned to Italy. In addition to all those losses, Constantinople and the Straits were to remain in the possession of the League of Nations, that is, the Allies. The Sevres Treaty was not ratified by Turkey. The remnants of the scattered officer corps, led by Kemal Pasha, refused to acknowledge it. Kema Pasha, after his flight from Constantinople, went about organising the defence of the country against the Allies, so that even the mock Government of the Sultan, though completely in the hands of the Allies, was compelled, in the face of such development of things, to reject the Sevres Treaty.
As to the question regarding the distribution of forces at the partition of Turkey, it is not difficult to see that the overwhelming influence and the most important positions fell to Great Britain. To be sure, the French, in possession of Syria, could threaten the Suez Canal, the main artery of British Imperialism, but they are themselves dependent on British Imperialism, for, owing to the fact that USA has not ratified the Versailles Peace and has retired from Europe, the safety of the Versailles Treaty depends on the support which Great Britain would lend to France. Besides this, France is also economically, completely dependent on Great Britain, since the decision on the question of German Reparations depends likewise on Great Britain. For this reason no great importance can be attached to the menace of the Suez Canal by the French from their Syrian positions, the whole question has a rather theoretical character, all the more so, as the British Mediterranean fleet is far superior to the French naval forces, moreover, Great Britain could at any time throw a sufficient number of Indian troops to Mesopotamia. The British, in addition to their having obtained political control of Turkey, have likewise laid hands on her economic resources.
In spite of the fact that a secret treaty existed since 1916 between Great Britain and France, by virtue of which the oil region of Mossul was assigned to France, she ceded it in 1920 at San Remo to Great Britain. Oil, which prior to the war, was mainly a commercial article, has become, since the introduction of the Diesel motors, the main propelling power of the war navies. Also the airship and motor car industry depends on oil. Those two branches of industry obtained during the world war such an importance that Lord Curzon at the London celebration of the armistice with Germany coined the historic saying, “Oil waves bore us towards victory”. The Mossul oil was the last link in the chain of British oil possessions on the Persian Golf. The occupation of Mossul represents one of the most striking successes of Great Britain in the war. By the San Remo Treaty, which transferred the Mossul Oil to Great Britain, the latter is bound to supply to France 25 per cent of the output at current prices. Great Britain achieved this triumph not only in consequence of the above mentioned dependent position of France, but also by means of military pressure. Great Britain mobilised against her French ally the forces of King Faisul, who, armed by Britain, began to make things hot for the French in Syria. It was only the readiness of France to submit to the oil domination of Britain that the latter called off King Faisul. The submissiveness of France could not but aggravate her dependence, for deprived of oil resources, she can only carry on war with the consent of Great Britain, unless she succeeds in getting the assistance of the other oil Power, that is, USA.
British policy of economic control of the Near East had another trump-card, – namely, the old connections of British capitalism with the Greeks. Greece possesses in the Near East a relatively strong commercial capital. While the capitalist production of Greece is still in a backward state, she has got for centuries a considerable merchant marine and commercial connections which outstrip by far those of the Armenian merchants. At an early period, British commercial capital penetrated, through Greek channels, into Asia Minor. This was the economic basis of British Philhellenism. The handing over of Smyrna to the Greeks meant practically its annexation by British commercial capital.
However, the Allies at Sevres miscalculated the whole situation. Although the main cadre, on which Kemal Pasha relied in the rising of 1919, came from the old organisation of the Young Turks, he could not fight under their banner, for the Young Turkish Party is discredited, partly in consequence of the defeat in the war, partly through having turned during the war into a clique of army purveyors and profiteers, who, while they could not yet be called a capitalist party, exhibited all the vices of capitalism. Kemal Pasha, while keeping aloof from them as a Party, could not help seeing that they were the only organised force which Turkey had for her defence. These elements have come, before all, from a section of professional soldiers, typifying the landless gentry who lost caste, then from the old bureaucracy who descended partly from the same class, partly from the popular masses. In old Turkey it was possible for energetic men of the lower strata of society to enter the ruling oligarchy. (It may suffice to mention Talaat Pasha, who, as the son of a railway worker, rose, through his energy and talent from a telegraph operator to the office of a Grand Vizier.) Also in the army there were many higher officers who had come from the ranks of the people. These conditions made it possible for the decaying upper class to renew the oligarchy and to recruit fresh energies for the reorganisation of the State. These are the forces employed by Kemal Pasha, with such effect, in his work of organisation of the defence of his country. In view of the fact that Turkey had been undergoing a long series of wars since 1909 and that the peasantry has been well-nigh ruined, the success of Kemal Pasha appears to be quite marvellous, but it is, nonetheless, comprehensible if we recall to our mind the long past of the Turkish people, its rule for centuries over South-Eastern Europe, and its warlike traditions. These traditions are found most pronouncedly among the Anatolian peasants, who are distinguished by their strong attachment to their country and their unfailing readiness to defend it. In addition to this it may be remarked that the Turkish people regard this defence as a struggle against enslavement of the Islamic East by the Christian Occident.
In 1920, there began in Turkey a lively activity with a view to the organisation of her military forces. At the same time the Turks were on the look-out for allies in the coming struggle. As far back as 1919, when Soviet Russia was separated from Turkey by the Denikin front, the troops in Transcaucasia and Grusia as well as by the fronts of Mustapha and the Dashnaks, the Kemal Government and Turkish refugees sought to come into touch with Soviet Russia. This attempt testifies to their far-seeing statesmanship, which is all the more to be valued, as it was undertaken at a time when Denikin stood before Orel and Yudenitsh before Petrograd. In September 1919 pourparlers began between the representatives of Turkey and Soviet Russia at Berlin. Although the Denikin front was then still unshaken, Soviet Russia succeeded in getting into direct communication with Turkey and to start negotiations concerning a common struggle against the Allies. These negotiations resulted in the Treaty of April 1921. Soviet Russia, had, of course, no illusions as to the social views of the Angora Government. She was quite aware that that Government was neither a working class nor peasant Government, nor even a bourgeois-national Government which might undertake a political revolution. She knew that it was a Government of an officer section supported by bureaucracy. On the other hand, Soviet Russia knew that the war has nowhere touched the popular masses, without producing profound changes, and these must also have taken place in Turkey. The devastation of agricultural land which has not only ruined the peasantry, but also the very influential old landowning strata, is bound to set on foot a movement for agrarian reform, the essence of which would be less directed towards a new distribution of lands than to the abolition of the old taxation system with its mediaeval remnants, to the participation of the peasantry in political life. The future of the country depends on those democratic elements who have sprung from the masses, on the elementary teachers, young officers and educated peasants. When Soviet Russia renounced the Eastern policy of Tsarism, she was conscious of the fact that she was laying the foundation of a future alliance of the two nations. It was likewise clear to her that the present leaders of Turkey will often attempt to turn to those who would offer them most, that is the capitalist great Powers. Still, while there are among the clique of bureaucrats and military many mercenary elements, it is safe to say that the popular masses will not be a party to such a fraud, since any transaction with the Allies would be effected at the expense of the people. Soviet Russia, though quite aware of the possible diplomatic oscillations of the various Turkish cliques, thinks it nevertheless her duty to support, in the interest of the world revolution, the struggle of Turkey for national independence, for the victory of the world revolution depends also on the active sympathy of the peasant masses of the Near and Far East, who are to-day the victims of world imperialism.
When Kemal raised the banner of revolt, the Allies looked upon him as a robber chief. Even in the spring of this year, the British Government declined to receive the representatives of Kemal Pasha and to talk to them. At the beginning of August, Mr. Lloyd George delivered a speech in the House of Commons on British policy in the Near East, which was an echo of the ideas of Mr. Gladstone. However, the forces of British imperialism did not prove equal to the situation. France, which had renounced her Mossul oil claims and had given way to Great Britain in the Near East, soon discovered that the British Government failed to lend her that support in European affairs which she though to have a right to expect. Great Britain, guided by her commercial interests, desired to spare Germany as a market for British industrial products. Having deprived Germany of all her naval and military power as well as of her merchant marine and colonies, Great Britain suddenly felt compassion for her and began to see that France, intoxicated with victory, was taking outrageous liberties with Germany. For the purpose of preventing France establishing a hegemony over the European continent, Great Britain needed up to a certain degree the revival of German political power. Hence the ambiguous position of Britain towards the Versailles Treaty. On the one hand, British politicians defended theoretically the text of that Treaty, while on the other, they checked France in her attempts, or protested against her measures, to bring effective pressure to bear upon Germany and to make her fulfil the conditions laid down in that Treaty. This attitude procured for Great Britain among the Germans the reputation of a defender of the rights of the weak, or the halo of an angel of peace. But when France noticed the gradual withering away of the Versailles Treaty, she sought for means which would allow her to exert some pressure upon Great Britain, or to get a trump-card which she could at the proper occasion play out against Great Britain.
As soon as France got convinced that Kemal, with the assistance of Soviet Russia, was able to defend his country, she began to parley with him. M. Franklin-Bouillon went as French representative to Angora and signed an agreement with Turkey, in pursuance of which France withdrew her troops from Cilicia and handed over their arms to Kemal. France is supplying arms to Turkey. Moreover, according to British assertion Franklin-Bouillon’s Treaty with Turkey contains secret clauses which bind France not to put any obstacles in the way of Turkey’s attempt to reconquer Mossul from the British. After France came Italy which, menaced by the rise of Greece as a Mediterranean Power, has come to an agreement with Turkey. Thanks to this favourable position, that is, to the alliance with the first revolutionary great Power, Soviet Russia, on the one hand, and the agreement with France and Italy, on the other, Turkey has gained so much strength that the Allies, on their own initiative, convened in March a. c. a conference to Paris with a view to revising the Sevres Treaty and to propose Turkey’s re-occupation of Constantinople and, subject certain stipulations, also of Smyrna. Turkey rejected this proposal whereupon Greece prepared another attack. Abundantly supplied with British arms, the initial offensive was exceedingly successful and the Greek troops nearly reached Angora, while the Turkish troops retreated to the interior of the country. With great efforts the Turks just succeeded in saving their army. The Greeks then began to prepare the second attack, but now Fate turned against them. The Turkish army took the initiative, passed to the offensive which resulted in the complete discomfiture of the Greeks.
The military victory of Turkey confronted her at once with the cardinal question of her existence as a great Power. Greece, the vassal of Great Britain, was thoroughly beaten, but Britain herself was not. The question as to whether Kemal Pasha would force the Dardanelles in order to advance to Thrace, had two aspects, – a military and a political one. Was Kemal at the present moment in a position to carry on a new war against Great Britain? From the military and technical point of view, a conquest of the Straits offered no insuperable difficulties. The British forces on the Asiatic coast of the Dardanelles were few (altogether about 8,000 men) and they were surrounded at Chanak by Turkish troops. There is no doubt that if Turkey had desired to open hostilities against Great Britain, Kemal would have made the British troops prisoners or pushed them into the sea. Fighting and manoeuvring of the British Fleet in the Straits is no easy matter. From the experience of the world war we know that it is, altogether dangerous for a fleet to be exposed to coastal artillery. Turkey possesses also a considerable number of French and Italian aeroplanes which would make it possible for her to harass the British fleet from the air. But all considerations of that kind solved the question only in so far as it concerned military and technical matters. Turkey appears to have considered this question not only from the point of view of the immediate present, but from that of future developments. She argued, if Great Britain is not able to fight now, British imperialism will undoubtedly after a certain lapse of time start war operations with forces far superior to ours. It is true that certain Liberals protested against Mr. Lloyd George’s policy of war threats, as it was expressed in the dispatch of September 16, instructing General Harrington to present to Turkey an ultimatum. Those Liberals are however no real power to lean upon. It is further true that the British working class as well as the middle class are tired of war, so that if it came to a referendum vote, Mr. Lloyd George’s war policy would be rejected. Lloyd George is however a great democrat only in speech; has he not spent in the first few days of the crisis 200 million gold roubles for war preparations, without consulting Parliament? The spiritual leader of the Menshevik Labour Party, Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, melting into tears, writes in the first number of the “New Leader” that, if Lenin dissolved the Constituent Assembly, Lloyd George was more polite by simply regarding the British Parliament as non-existent. If however Great Britain would go to war, the British bourgeoisie, confronted with such a fact, would of course stand by the Government, not only because of the great national interests at stake, but because its class consciousness is so well developed that it subordinates its Parliamentary Party game to its class and national interests.
Romance is woven round the long and checkered history of the struggle for the Straits. Although since the opening of the Suez Canal which deprived Constantinople of its character as the commercial center of South-Western Asia, the Straits have lost much of their importance, they are still of enormous consequence in the formation of the future relations of Great Britain to Russia and Turkey. Great Britain can carry on no land war against Russia, but the latter as the neighbour of India can threaten Great Britain. Russia is a neighbour of Britain in India, which is separated from her by the thin Afghan wall. Russia is also a neighbour of Britain in Persia, whither she can more easily throw her armies than Britain could. In case of a conflict between Russia and Britain in Middle Asia, Russia’s communications are protected by an absolutely safe hinterland, – a fact which is of very great importance in war operations, while Britain must take into account the nationalist-revolutionary movement of the popular masses in India and Persia and may even have to fight against two fronts. From these considerations it may be inferred that Great Britain in a war with Russia would rely most on her naval power, in which she is of course far superior to Russia. The problem of the Straits consists, as far as Great Britain is concerned, in the question whether Great Britain could hold Turkey under a perpetual menace of war. Those who control the Straits, possess also the most effective means of exerting pressure on the future Turkey. Great Britain has not yet made peace with Turkey. Great Britain knows what she wants Turkey to grant her, and she knows, too, that she will not easily get it. She is not even inclined to renounce her demands concerning the Capitulations and financial control. Turkey, which even prior to the war was strongly opposed to those demands and immediately after the declaration of war abolished the Capitulations, will now, filled with enthusiasm and self-esteem as she is in consequence of her victorious war with Greece, be all the less be ready to acquiesce in the regime of Capitulations. Also the demand for financial control over Turkey as compensation for granting her a loan, will meet with stubborn resistance. Turkey possesses sufficiently rich resources which can procure for her a loan, without ceding financial control. She possesses, in the first place, oil, the enormous importance of which was revealed during the world war. And even if Britain controlled the Straits, she would only be secure in her possession, if the Turkish army be reduced to a minimum. The experience of the world war has shown that the British fleet cannot fight with any decisive effect against land forces. Aviation bases, even if situated in the interior of a country, are a strong defensive means against it. Turkey at the peace negotiations, must be prepared for the British demand for a considerable reduction of the Turkish forces. This demand is for Great Britain not only important in connection with the Straits. Armenia, which Britain intended to turn into her vassal and advance guard of her interests in Mesopotamia, is at present partly in the hands of Soviet, partly of Turkey. Great Britain can hold Mesopotamia only through the Persian Gulf where, despite the British bribery work, the tribes are Anti-British The demand for the reduction of the Turkish army means thus diminution of the perils that threaten British oil.
The control of the Straits by Britain is of importance not only when dealing with Russia and Turkey, but likewise with France and the USA. When France in 1920, in pursuance of the San Remo Treaty ceded her oil rights to Britain, it was the USA which organised a hostile campaign against it. The oil output of USA amounts to about 70 per cent of the world’s output; on the other hand, the America consumption of oil surpasses that of all countries in the world taken together. The growth of the American motor car industry and the many possibilities of utilising the Diesel motor have the effect of enormously increasing the oil consumption. The Washington Government does not pursue momentary interests, but looks far ahead into the future. After the San Remo Treaty, it had its oil wells inquired into, and the experts declared that USA will find her oil wells exhausted in seventeen years. The British Government which goes hand in hand with the Royal Dutch-Shell, has acquired the oil of Mossul, the oil at Persia, and secured, besides, through the Shell, the oil output in the French colonies. Moreover, the agreement with Royal-Dutch-Shell gave Great Britain the monopoly of the oil of the Dutch islands, the rich oil regions of Dshantis. This caused the alarm cry of the Washington Government that the oil of the whole earth is falling into British hands and makes Britain the master of the oil markets. The Washington Government has opened the fight against the menace of the British oil monopoly. Up to now, this fight has proceeded in a diplomatic manner, in which USA tried by various means to put pressure on Great Britain and to induce her to grant to Americans the possibility of producing oil in the British, Dutch and French Colonies. As no British-American agreement has yet been reached and as the victory of Kemal Pasha threatens the San Remo Treaty, there is occasion for USA and France to raise the whole oil problem afresh. It is evident that the result of these negotiations will essentially depend on the ability of the British naval guns to keep Constantinople in check.
The tangled skein in the Near East is not yet unravelled. Hitherto it has defied all attempts at straightening it either by the pen of the diplomat or by the sword of the soldier.
The solution of the Near East problem is being delayed. The crisis will assume a chronic character. First, because it is accompanied by a covert, underhand struggle of the Allies against one another; while they feign friendship and unity, they are engaged in bitter feuds with one another. Secondly, because a solution of that problem demands consideration for Soviet interests. During the whole course of this crisis, Russia abstained from all sabre rattling, all threats with taking military measures for the protection of her interests in the Straits. She could assume a calm attitude and limit her defence to diplomatic means, since the logic of things speaks in her favour. All agreements concerning this question entered into without Soviet Russia being a party to them, offer her the opportunity to raise afresh the disputed question, when she thinks fit and is in a position to do so effectively. At a moment when the European and Asiatic crisis becomes acute, she will re-open these questions in a categoric manner. While unprofessional opinion, formed by a superficial study of the lessons of the world war is undoubtedly wrong in asserting that the big ships have lost their fighting value, yet there is no doubt that in so limited a field of operations as the Black Sea the submersible and the aeroplane are of decisive importance. Russia, despite her poverty, is quite able to provide herself with those means of defence. As in matters of electrification, the young countries have in this respect also an advantage over the older ones. Countries, in which steam locomotion has absorbed large investments, do not easily adopt electrification of railways, for such a measure would mean the destruction of large masses of old capital. On the other hand, countries with undeveloped steam locomotion, can easily adopt electrification, since there are hardly any vested interests to offer resistance. The same consideration applies to countries which have spent billions on Dreadnoughts: they are reluctant to give up old notions and to start building submersibles and aeroplanes as their principal means of defence. They cannot make up their minds to scrap their monster ships. Hence the resistance of Great Britain to extensive building programmes of submersibles and airfleets. In the matter of flying she has lost her championship to France and tries now to check France in her building of submersible fleets. All young capitalist countries, though poor, are quite able to turn their attention to submersibles and airfleets. Soviet Russia, is at the present moment not in a position to say that she is laying the foundation of a new fleet. But she may assert something different, something which anybody can appreciate who has not yet forgotten the lessons of the war, – namely, that Russia can lay, politically, the foundation of such a fleet. Casting a retrospective glance at the history of the Russian fleet, we may say that the Russian warships, though not having constituted an airfleet, yet hung in the air, for they were merely the toys of Tsarism. All the infinite efforts directed towards the extension of the Russian fleet after the Russo-Japanese war, were unable to evoke any enthusiasm among the masses of the Russian people. While in Great Britain even a miner, spending his days in the bowels of the earth, is actually proud of “his” fleet, people in Russia took no interest whatever in the naval business. This is easily comprehensible when we recall to our mind the fact that, for instance, the peasant of the district of Pensa knew no more about the Baku oil than the peasant of Tambow or the Ukraine knew of Turkestan cotton. The civil war and the economic ruin have given the Russian peasant lessons in the commercial, geography of his country and he knows now that the loss of Baku, the foundation of his oil industry, or the loss of Turkestan, the basis of his textile industry, would be tantamount to an enslavement of his country by the capitalist Powers. The proletarian revolution inspired the worker and peasant of Russia with a sense of citizenship which he had utterly lacked in Tsarist times. The proletarian revolution, in defending the country for five years, in breaking to pieces the garotting iron ring which the enemies had been fastening round the neck of Russia, taught the people that the revolution is their sword which guards their future and will always defend them. The right to think so springs from the consciousness that the struggle of Soviet Russia for increasing and strengthening her international influence is not a struggle for national aggrandisement, but a struggle for maintaining the first proletarian State, born out of a victorious revolution, and on whose plenitude of power depends the acceleration of the emancipating movement of all other lands, the emancipation of mankind. The fact that the Communist Voting Federation, the organisation of the growing generation, whose task it is to accomplish the work of the October revolution, to direct the struggle for reconstruction and to promote the development of Russia, has been appointed chief of the Fleet, proves that Soviet Russia entrusts the people with the opening up of her resources, which she needs, not only for bridling the interventionist appetites of the Imperialist Powers, but to nip in the bud any attempt to decide, without Russia or against the interests of Russia, the vital questions of the future development of Russia.
The confidence that the logic of things is favourable to the further development of Soviet Russia, moreover, the growing class consciousness of her masses inspire us with the conviction that any decision arrived at in the Near Eastern question against the Russian interests, will be ultimately revised by Russia. The Near Eastern crisis may, after the lapse of a few months, end with some compromise, but, at bottom, it will for years to come remain unsolved and will form the starting point of a new development of the self-consciousness of the masses of the Near East. When the Turkish peasant catching sight of a new gun, cries out “Moscow”, he cannot help feeling that the Russian people, his enemy of a few years ago, has now hastened to his assistance in the fight for freedom. This is a good omen. It lays the foundation of a future alliance with the Turkish masses and the Russian labouring and peasant masses. If the mannikins of the Menshevist International tell us that Turkey will sell Soviet Russia, that we shall be the dupes of the Turks, then we calmly reply that we do not entrust ourselves to this or that nationalist clique, but to the stream of history which unites the labouring masses of all countries against the perils threatening them from international Imperialism.
Whatever may be the result of the Near Eastern crisis, one thing is quite patent: the Sevres Treaty has been smashed by Turkish canon. The popular masses of the Near East, who in the eyes of the Allies are not only a quantité négligeable, but simply the scum of the earth, have been set in motion against no less a thing than the Versailles Treaty. They are at present beginning to play their part. Among the diplomats who think to be able to control the course of history through clever formulae and secret conferences, there is disunity. Great Britain has experienced one of her deepest humiliations in her long history, when after the defeat of her Greek vassal, she durst not come in shining armour to his assistance, and after having pronounced a sentence of death upon Turkey, had now to flatter her and even to offer her a place in the League of Nations. This fact is the irrefutable proof of the break-up of the Sevres Treaty. Popular masses on a low level of civilisation can only be kept in subjection as long as there is unity among the slaveholders, but not when these come to loggerheads. As soon as the slaves perceive that the oppressors are trembling, they begin to rebel. The East of to-day which sees Great Britain trembling, is no more the East of the days of the Sevres Treaty. The Turkish victory finds an echo in India and the whole Islamic world. This echo is the best proof that we have to do with an important episode in the growth of the world revolution, with a success of the world revolution, though the organisers of the victory are far from being revolutionary in the modern sense of the term. When in 1905, Tsarist Russia was beaten by young Japanese Imperialism, an exultation caught hold of the various sections of the yellow race, who were regarded as a sort of human manure, but who desired to be regarded as a part of mankind. Their exultation sprang from the fact that the victory of military, semi-feudal and capitalist Japan over the Tsarist Government was a victory of the yellow man over the white “superman”. This victory was the starting point of the revolutionary movement in China, where, after the victory of the Japanese, a 300 million population said, “I shall likewise be victorious”. It gave a new impetus to the revolutionary movement of India, when over 300 million people are striving for freedom. From that victory sprang the revolutionary surge, the waves of which are rolling forth and before they reach the shore, are increased and strengthened by the rising waves behind them. The same effect will follow the Turkish victory. As proletarian revolutionists, who have steered their ship on the stormy seas of revolution and who are seeing to-day that the Oriental peasant masses who joined the struggle against Imperialism are being swept into the same current, we hail with joy and gratification the victory of the Turks.
The process of breaking up the Versailles Treaty in the Far East began, in the last year, with the Washington Conference. The motor forces of that Conference were controlled by the relation between the economic and political interests on the one hand and the prospective military successes on the other. For a better comprehension of the present Far Eastern position it is necessary to pass in review the balance of forces which existed there prior to the war, as well as the changes which took place during the war in the ratio of forces in the Far East. It is in that part of the earth that the most important future interests of world capitalism are being concentrated; there is to be found the storm-center of the growing great conflicts and convulsions, which in the near future, will put to a severe test capitalist Europe and possibly also Socialist Europe. As far back as in 1851, after the discovery of the Californian goldfields, Marx wrote that the centre of gravity is moving to the Pacific Ocean, and it is characteristic that the Russian scholar of Chinese affairs, M. Wassilieff, who knew nothing of the existence of Marx, described the same perspective in his book “The Discovery of China”. At that time they were indeed mere perspectives, which however were sufficiently established, since it could be even then foreseen that a growing economic development of the Western coast of USA, that is of California, could not fail to affect China and Japan and altogether to increase the importance of the Pacific. For the last half century which elapsed since then, history of mankind seemed, however, to have been riveted to the old moorings of the Atlantic. Great Britain remained unaltered the principal capitalist Power. Nevertheless there could not have been any doubt that the perspectives indicated by Marx and Wassilieff would soon come into full view of everybody.
Old feudal Japan, recognising the historic necessity of a transition to capitalism and taking into her own hands the capitalist development in the Far East, laid the foundation of modern Japan. As far back as the sixteenth century, Japan made the attempt to seize China; in the sure instinct that on that country depended the future of Japan. The campaign of the great Hideyoshi in the sixteenth century is of comparably greater significance in the history of mankind than all the expeditions of Xerxes against Greece taken together. As, however, we have been accustomed to regard the history of the white race as the history of mankind in general, we failed to appreciate the very important epochs in the evolution of the life of the various peoples of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is only at present that we are beginning to get conscious of the fact that they are essential parts of the history of humanity. Modern, capitalist Japan saw that her existence and growth could only be secured by adopting those national and economic institutions which are the main sources of capitalist progress and power. She perceived that, unless she acquired coal and iron, she would continually be at the mercy of the other capitalist countries. We see, then, that since the ’eighties of the last century Japan has been casting her eyes on China, for, despite her capitalist development, she remained a poor country, for she lacks the most important agencies of capitalist production. Despite all her enormous progress in agriculture, Japan does not produce rice in sufficient quantities to feed her masses. She is also wanting coal and iron, oil and cotton. In 1894 she gained a victory over China, but the Peace of Shimonoseki, imposed upon her by the intervention of France, Russia, and Germany, deprived her of the fruits of victory. The policy of Japan, reckoning with decades, carried on an offensive in all directions, which, taken as a whole, has hitherto been successful. Japan desires to annex China, in order to work with Chinese Labour the iron and coal mines of Shantung and Tangtse. At the same time the stretches her hands towards the South, the islands of the Pacific, for the continually growing population is, owing to climatic conditions, not able to settle in China, or Siberia. This advance of Japan towards the Pacific has also a strategic meaning, for the islands of the Pacific are forming naval bases for the defence of China against the USA and Great Britain. Based on them, Japan is able to conquer China and definitely to separate her from USA. In the war with Russia, she acquired Liaotung and South Manchuria, secured for herself Korea and made it possible for her to prepare the annexation of Northern China, finally, South Sakhalin, which offers her a naval base, from which she can threaten Vladivostok, unless this port is converted into a first-class fortress. These first steps of the Japanese foreign policy, owing to British support, were crowned with success. The wrestling with Russia in Middle Asia and the Russian menace to India induced Great Britain to come to an agreement with Japan, which was signed in 1902 and by which Japan was received into the comity of capitalist nations as a recognised Imperialist great Power. This secured for Japan not only financial assistance from the City, but also technical aid from Messrs. Armstrong and Vickers, whereby her victory over Russia was made possible. As soon as the Russian peril had been removed, British policy turned her front against Germany. The British- Japanese Treaty, renewed in 1912, acquired a new aspect. The point was no more directed against Russia, since Japan obtained everything she had wanted, except the indemnity, but against the German colony Kiao-Chao, which China had “leased” to Germany. This meant that Japan, having secured the Japanese Sea and turned it into a mare clausum, had now the chance of getting control of the Yellow Sea and the gate to Peking. With the Shantung bill in her hand, the hope of getting control of Peking was no more a Utopia for Japan, which participated in the world war, with circumspection and discretion, renounced all further warfare immediately after having achieved the conquest of Kiao Chao with very few losses. She economised her forces for future conflicts. She opposed all attempts at having China participate in the war side by side with the Allies, in order not to allow her to change positions from a passive object into an active agent of annexation. In 1916 Japan submitted to China the well known 21 demands, according to which China should have ceded to Japan also large coal and iron mines in Central China, financial control, supervision of military organisation, and a series of smaller railway lines. With the assistance of a map of China we can see that the control of these railways would enable the Japanese War Minister to surround China from the North and West, to send troops from Manchuria and Shantung to the South and to seize all its natural resources. The 21 demands represent the maximum programme of Japan concerning the Far East, – a programme of transforming China into a Japanese colony. The main opposition to that programme came from USA which combated Japan’s aspirations, for the time being, with diplomatic means.
USA realises that an economic annexation of China by Japan that is, the transfer to Japan of a whole country which possesses coal, iron, oil, rice, corn, and cotton and the cheapest labour in the world would mean the concentration in Japanese hands of so mighty resources which, assisted by foreign capital, would make Japan within fifty years a politically invincible universal Empire. During the last war, America was but able to deal through diplomatic channels, with the annexation plans of Japan. As long as the European slaughter went on and as long as America had to consider the possibility of joining the Allies, she avoided a duel with Japan, and confined herself to putting some spokes into the wheels of Japan, but at the same time entered into agreements with the latter, as for instance, the Lansing-Ishii Agreement, which safeguarded, in words, the special interests of Japan in China. But the Japanese politicians were no fools and they were aware that a victory of the Allies and USA would set at nought the whole preliminary work of Japan in the direction of annexing China. At the moment when the entrance of USA into the war became evident, when it became clear that USA was going to be engaged in Europe, Japan attempted to approach Germany and to start negotiations with her.
Those negotiations started in 1916 and continued in 1917. Their object was to prepare a separate peace of Japan with Germany, and of Russia with Germany, since Russia lost all terror in the eyes of Japan. The Japanese-German diplomacy pursued the aim of concluding an alliance between the German Emperor, Russian Tsar, and Japanese Mikado, an alliance of three Empires, whose bureaucracy and nobility in conjunction with the upper stratum of bourgeoisie, controlled the State machinery and determined its policy. Had this attempt of an alliance been successful, the whole aspect of world politics would have been different. But the negotiations were protracted, Japan avoided a decision. Meanwhile the revolution broke out in Russia. Tsarism fell. The problem got complicated. A materialisation of the programme presupposed the defeat of the revolution. This consideration made for further delay; eventually a preliminary treaty was drafted at Stockholm; its text is in our hands; it stipulated that the negotiations would continue only when the joint forces of Japan and Germany would have destroyed Soviet Russia. However, before this stipulation could be carried out, German imperialism was laid by the heels, while Japan fell into a diplomatic isolation which strikingly resembled that of the German diplomacy before the war. During the Versailles negotiations Japan, by hook or by crook, succeeded in pushing China into the background and prevailing upon the Council that the Chinese grievances should not be discussed. For the rest, Japan had to be satisfied with Shantung and a number of islands in the South Pacific.
After the conclusion of the Versailles Treaty in 1919, American diplomacy started to undermine the privileged position of Japan in China, and continued to do so in 1920 and 1921. It was only in 1916 that USA began building a powerful navy which, according to the construction programme, should in 1924 to 1926 surpass the British navy. This naval programme involving an estimated expenditure of 3½ billion dollars, is calculated to put pressure upon Great Britain as the ally of Japan. The immediate task of American diplomacy is evidently to destroy the British-Japanese alliance, the isolation of Japan. Meanwhile USA was launching one ship after another, until Great Britain began to perceive that the whole business was rather serious. At that moment, America came forward with the proposal to have a conference at Washington, with a view to arranging a limitation of armaments. The political meaning of the American proposal was quite patent. America could have continued arming; though she had her own financial difficulties, as already mentioned, yet she is rich enough to win the race of armaments even against Britain. For the financial position of Britain is by no means such as to allow her to go on building ships. Indeed, since the termination of the war, she had not laid down any new ships. Therefore, USA submitted essence, to Great Britain the following proposal, “If you are prepared to isolate Japan, we shall give up our big naval programme and shall thus ease your position”. The echo which that proposal evoked in Great Britain, is symptomatic and throws much light on the changed mood of the British. Immediately after the first news concerning the Washington Conference became known, the leading organ of British commercial interests, the most respected organ of the City, “The Economist” June 21, 1921) wrote in a strain of melancholy, “Great Britain has been for centuries the first sea-power of the world; the protection of seas was entrusted to her. Henceforth Britain, USA and Japan, instead of fighting against one another, will join forces in order to avert the most destructive and most terrible of all wars, — the submarine blockade”. The paper continues, “The USA is at present the richest and therefore, potentially, the most formidable great Power in the world. If she is determined to possess the largest navy, – a navy surpassing ours, nobody can hinder her. If we are stupid enough to try to measure forces, that is, to build against America, we shall be beaten.” (Retranslated from the German.) Great Britain then, has come to realise that the days of her sea-supremacy have gone. We may recall to our mind that in 1912, two years before the outbreak of the war, Lord Haldane came to Berlin to discus the question of mutual armament limitation, and when Germany proposed to fix the building ratio at 16 British big ships to German 10, Lord Haldane rejected the proposal, maintaining that such a ratio would give Great Britain too low a margin; further, that Great Britain refused to be satisfied with less than a two to one standard, that is, the British navy should be twice as strong as the navies of any two Powers combined. When we now compare that proud attitude with the melancholy confession that she is not even able to compete with USA, the change of mood is indeed startling.
The USA conceded to Great Britain that her naval forces would be kept only on a level with the British. She gave up building new big ships, in order to isolate Japan. Great Britain accepted the concession, renounced her ambition of ruling the waves and agreed to be satisfied with a fleet equal in power to that of USA. She gave way to the pressure of her economic needs and of her oversea Dominions which agree with the Anti-Japanese attitude of USA.
The question now arises, why did Japan agree to the proposal that at a British-American ratio of 5 : 5, her own naval strength should stand to either the British or American navies as 3 : 5? To answer this question, we must consider the home affairs of Japan as well as the ratio of forces in the Pacific.
The present home difficulties of Japan are sometimes looked upon as indications of the beginning of a socialist revolution. This view is not well founded. The social condition of Japan resembles rather that of England in 1842, when the old corn laws, or generally the protective system resulted in a struggle between the commercial middle class and the landlords for a reduction of the tariff, for a lowering of the prices of raw materials and the possibility of large scale production. The contest between the Free Traders, representing the interests of manufacture, and the landlords, who were in alliance with high finance, formed the main factor in the social evolution of England in the first half of the last century. Parallel with that contest there went on the struggle of the small farmer against high rents; at the same time a mighty stream of the Labour movement, Chartism, was overflowing the country, which was a rebellion of a pauperised proletariat against the penal servitude in the rising factory system. The present day Japan, in her class relations, bears a striking resemblance to the conditions of England in the Chartist period. Also in Japan two main classes stand in battle array against one another, – the class of high finance in alliance with the military and landed aristocracy, led by the Sejukai Party, the other class is the young commercial and manufacturing bourgeoisie, represented by the Kensekai Party; then there is the movement of the small farmers, who are groaning under the burden of high rents and excessive taxation. At the background of this arena we perceive the proletarian masses, stretching their limbs, if only in the shape of an unorganised revolutionary movement, but which is increasingly taking hold of the working class. If, on the one hand, all these contests prove that in Japan the middle class is still engaged in a struggle for power, as in England in Chartist times, there is, on the other, an essential difference between the Japan of to-day and the England of 1840-1850. The revolutionary labour movement in England at that time was beaten by the discovery of Californian gold and by the growing prosperity of the British colonies which gave a new impetus to trade and created new opportunities for emigration. The English manufacturer overcame the crisis, grew powerful, raised the rate of wages, lowered the prices of foodstuffs through Free-Trade, so that the bourgeoisie was able to deaden and extinguish, for about a half century, the class consciousness of the proletarian masses and make them sell their historic birthright for a dish of lentils. The conditions of Japan of to-day are quite different from those of the metropolis of capitalism, England, of 1840-1850. When capitalism set in on the European continent, (in France, Germany and Belgium), England was already in possession of enormous colonies and dependencies which made it possible for her to produce cheaply. Japan, on the contrary, finds in USA and the British Empire mighty competitors who by far surpass her in economic power. As long as Japan is isolated, Japanese Imperialism must try all it can to get out of the isolation. Unless a success is achieved in this direction, Japan is not able to improve the condition of her labouring masses. This must undoubtedly contribute to an aggravation of the struggle of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. Keeping this in mind, we shall understand the present conditions in Japan by putting them in parallel with the Labour movement of Russia, not of 1917, but of 1903: in the latter year the scattered forces of the liberal middle class, the Zemstwo representatives, the later constitutional democratic Party (“Cadets”), etc. began to organise and to grow, and at the same time, strike wave after strike wave followed one another in succession (Rostow events); simultaneously the peasantry began to awake. The existence of a sort of Parliament and freedom of the Press in Japan will assist the organisation of the revolutionary forces. If the ruling class in Japan desires to maintain itself, and they do desire it, then its policy will be in favour of marking time. If they are playing for time, they must make concessions to the labouring masses. This is the explanation of the readiness of Japan to reduce the outlay on armaments which swallow up 52 per cent of the Japanese budget, and particularly to withdraw her troops from Siberia. We see the Japanese Government, from the same reason, taking measures to combat high prices and to satisfy the claims of the peasantry and Labour. By this means it hopes to isolate the middle class. At the same time it is trying to win the sympathies of the representatives of that class by inducing the governing Party, the Sejukai, to grant them concessions and to appoint a “neutral Government”, headed by Admiral Kato, who had carried on the negotiations at Washington. Apart from these considerations of home politics, there are strategic reasons which induced the Government to favour the idea of a limitation of armaments.
The literature dealing with the strategic problems of the Far East furnishes the explanation of this policy. This literature is all the more valuable as it is coming from authors belonging to various nations and armies. We may mention the work of the British naval writer, Mr. Bywater, on the strategic condition of war in the Pacific and the development of the American and Japanese fleets; likewise the book of the American naval officer, Mr. Knox, entitled “The Disappearance of the American fleet”; finally the interesting researches of two former Russian army officers, General Golovin, former Staff Colonel of the VIII. army of Koltshak, and Admiral Bubnow. From the study of the mentioned books we learn that USA and Great Britain possess, as far as the number of big ships is concerned, a great superiority over Japan. In maritime warfare, however, the distance of the naval bases from the prospective sea battlefields plays a very considerable role. The distances of the best Japanese naval bases from the possible battlefields do not amount to more than 500 to 700 sea miles, so that any Japanese ships damaged in battle can be taken in tow and be in the dock within one or two days. Japanese floating docks are supposed to be always near-by. This enables Japan to make full use of her fleet, so that its fighting value is trebled. On the other hand, USA has but few naval bases, and the most important of them, which is to be taken into account in a war in the Pacific, namely the Hawaiian islands, are situated 3,350 miles from the Philippines, the next object of the conflict. The latter is 1,500 miles distant from the battlefield, and cannot be strongly fortified, for the topographic conditions do not allow to build a large naval port there. The American fleet, in case of war, would find itself fighting under most unfavourable conditions. American, British, and Russian naval experts are unanimously of opinion that, while it would take the American fleet four weeks, after the declaration of war, to concentrate at the prospective place of sea battle in sufficiently strong numbers, as well as to get the required oil, coal, etc., the Japanese would need but three days to seize the Philippines. If we consider joint operations of Great Britain and USA against the Japanese, the conditions would, of course, be more favourable, since Britain possesses strong naval bases at Singapore and Hong-Kong which are situated much nearer the prospective battle-fields than the American, though not so near than the Japanese. Of the two British naval bases in question, the value of Hong-Kong is problematical, since it can be outflanked from the landside. This is the real reason of the relations between militarist Japan and Sunyatsen, the leader of the revolutionary party in South China. Japan endeavours to secure the support of South China against Britain (Hong-Kong). Altogether, the value of the British and American bases is being reduced, on the one hand, by the growing significance of air fleets and submersibles, and on the other, by the numerous small islands which Japan acquired. For it is evident that Japan is, by these means, able to harass and delay the American fleet before its arrival on the battlefield. From these considerations one may infer that Japan cannot be defeated on sea. The approaches to the Japanese Sea from the north are in the hands of the Japanese, the entrance from the South has been locked since the day when Japan occupied Port Arthur. And even if the joint British and American fleets succeed in penetrating into the Yellow Sea, the forcing of the Japanese Sea would be more costly than the forcing of the Dardanelles. But Japan has neither iron nor coal, neither oil nor sufficient rice, so that America and Britain would try to blockade Japan and starve her into submission. The fate of Japanese imperialism would in this case depend on the possibility of getting raw materials and foodstuffs by the overland route from China or Russia.
In this respect, Japanese policy got itself into a tight corner. Japan’s predatory 21 demands awoke the hatred of China against her; and the annexionist policy in Siberia has aroused against her also the Russian people, so that the Japanese policy stands to-day at the parting of the ways: either the Japanese bourgeoisie, after a victory over the squires and militarists, inaugurates a Liberal imperialist policy, or Japan will share the fate of the junker-militarist Germany. Germany’s defeat may be traced back to many causes. But the main cause of her defeat is to be found in the incapacity of her old junker and military caste to create the political and psychological prerequisites to a German victory. We read, for instance, in the reminiscences of Admiral Tirpitz, one of the most prudent of German politicians, that immediately after the outbreak of the war, he jotted down in his diary, “Despite a first-rate army and navy, Germany will be defeated, for she lacks political leadership”! The Prussian feudal clique and the middle class elements assimilated by them, were incapable of guiding the policy of the nation. They allowed Germany to get isolated, although they could have had alliances of quite another calibre than of such corpses as old Turkey and Austria. All the more they understood to arouse against themselves the enmity not only of the proletariat, but also of other strata of society. So it came that Germany was broken to pieces. The Japanese bourgeoisie would have been quite capable of guiding China, instead of which militarist and feudal Japan has roused the Chinese population against her. Japan, which knows China better than any Western Power could know her, could undoubtedly have got from China by peaceful means all the coal and iron she needs. She could have put herself at the head of the emancipation movement of the yellow race, and form the vanguard of the struggle for equality with the white race. But Japanese militarism knows only how to order about and to steal, it sowed hatred where union could have grown. For Soviet Russia, American capitalism, because of its powerful position, is more dangerous than Japanese capitalism. The attitude which Soviet Russia will assume in the struggle of Japanese capital with American capital, is not a foregone conclusion. Russia could remain neutral, and Japan could get anything she might want through Vladivostok. Japan needs but renounce her predatory policy towards China and Russia. Japan’s leading men cannot arrive at any decision in this respect and will hardly arrive at any. Feudalised militarism is not a power which could carry on politics on the basis of mutual concessions and sober appreciation of the real balance of forces. The idea to concede to the demands of the Japanese masses is utterly foreign to it, because it incarnates in its character the most barbarian and arbitrary period of imperialism. We do not know whether the Japanese bourgeoisie will succeed in the near future in reforming the junker policy of their Government, but we know that the ruling class of Japan is thoroughly shaken. It is in utter confusion. Hence the new orientation, – withdrawal of the troops from Siberia, negotiations with Soviet Russia. At the same time it squints through the mask of mock liberalism at North Sakhalin, while, on the one hand, it assures China that it does not want to annex but rather to support her, it is really assisting Tshan-so-Lin, the embodiment of Chinese reaction, and thus provokes the hostility of the Chinese masses against itself. The Japanese imperialists have got shaky. They are quite aware that it is not advisable to go to war, even with the best strategic prospects, if the hinterland is not suitably managed, or without being provided with coal, oil and rice. Hence the policy of disarmament, of postponements; hence also the Amen to the Washington agreements.
What does Washington offer to Japan? From newspaper information it would be difficult to give an answer to that question. One must go to military literature to find a solution. USA formally destroyed the Anglo-Japanese Treaty without entering into any closer relations with Great Britain. This may be inferred from the fact that also after the Washington Conference the American navy has remained divided into two formations, one guarding the Pacific, the other the Atlantic. Seeing that the American navy, forming as it does a fighting unit, a tactical and strategic whole, and ought to learn to manoeuvre as such, is none the less split into two fleets and separated from one another, then we have to do with a fact which proves that no Anti-Japanese Anglo-American Treaty exists and that the American Atlantic fleet is still potentially directed against Great Britain. This inference from the strategic division of the American navy is corroborated by the fact that, when Japan asked USA not to continue fortifying the Philippines, the latter raised the counterclaim that Britain should dismantle the fortifications of Hong-Kong. If an Anglo-American agreement existed, no such demand would be put forward by USA, for in the case of an alliance, Hong-Kong would also be very useful to America as a naval base against Japan. It may, therefore, be maintained that, in exchange for Britain’s withdrawal from the alliance with Japan, USA made only the concession of giving up the programme of building a fleet superior to that of Britain. On the other hand, Britain is, in future wars, free to take up any attitude she thinks proper. In case no Anglo-American alliance be meanwhile come to, Great Britain will, in any future war, play the same game, which USA played in the last war: she will take up an attitude of expectation; Britain will wait and see, or intervene when she thinks fit, and she will join that party which may offer her the most advantageous perspectives. To-day, USA is the strongest economic Power; also her navy is stronger than the British. And since universal capitalism means competition, USA is, potentially, the most dangerous adversary. In the center of world politics stands now the question, which cannot yet be answered: Will an Anglo-American capitalist trust, a military, naval and economic alliance bind those two Powers together, or will they continue to face each other as competitors and eventually as enemies, because of their competitive attitudes? This is the question which they are facing and meanwhile each of them trying to obtain the best trump-cards into their hands in order to play them out, in proper time, against one another.
The four billion dollars which Britain owes to USA are the first trump-card of USA. Her second card is the possibility of stirring up France against Britain. The Washington Conference discussed the numerical limitation of big ships, but not of the submersibles, the “pirate boats”, as the British representative called them, and the numerical limitation of which he demanded. The opinion of France prevailed which regarded them as means of defence. Great Britain understood at once the meaning of this episode at Washington. Along the Western and Northern coasts of France, within easy reach of the British merchantmen which carry necessaries and raw materials for the British Isles, there are coastal defences and naval bases. France is still fighting for Tangier which is facing Gibraltar. Opposite Malta there is the French naval port Bizerta. A naval base on the Syrian coast will earlier or later have some surprises for Suez. The French sit at Jibuti and look on Aden: The island of Madagascar and the West Coast of Africa possess naval bases for the French fleet. Under these circumstances the French submersibles may achieve that which the German U-boats, from lack of bases and exiguity of numbers, could not perform – namely, to blockade the British Isles. While the German fleet and U-boats were compelled to operate, in the face of all sorts of British warships in the triangle between Helgoland, Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, the French naval forces, in case of war, would operate in the Channel and in Normandy, within a few hours from the British coast. The struggle round Ireland turns upon the question whether Great Britain should be exposed to the danger of having in the seas a naval base which is not controlled by British interests. These are the trump-cards of USA against Great-Britain.
On the other hand, Great Britain has the possibility of playing off Japan against USA and Germany against France. Also the attitude of Great Britain towards Russia will in many respects depend on the prospects of a war in the Pacific.
Under these circumstances we may unhesitatingly assert that the only result of the Washington Conference was the abandonment by Britain of her sea supremacy. All other questions have remained unsettled. One of the indirect effects of the Washington Conference is the withdrawal of the Japanese troops from Siberia. Japan’s struggle for the supremacy in the. Far East begins under new conditions.
The facts referred to above contain also the reply to the question as to the attitude of Soviet Russia towards the Far East. Despite the present economic weakness of Soviet Russia, she is a Power on whose attitude may depend the final outcome of the struggle for the Pacific. If she joins the Anti-Japanese group, the immediate effect may be the loss, for a time, of the littoral which gives her access to the Pacific. Such an attitude of Russia would nevertheless result in the defeat of Japan, for she would be cut off from Europe and at the same time be cut off from the sea by the American fleet. Japan would likewise be compelled to carry on a land war with Russia. Moreover, the moral significance of Russia as a revolutionary center would strengthen the resistance of China to Japan, – the neighbourhood of Russia and China would act as an incentive to resistance. This role of Russia in an Anti-Japanese Coalition applies, of course, also to the converse case of an Anti-American alliance. The policy of Soviet Russia may prove to be the decisive factor in the war which is preparing in the Far East.
There is no need to stress the point that Soviet Russia’s policy is exclusively guided by the regard for the interests of the labouring classes of Russia and of humanity in general. Her policy knows neither an absolute Anti-Japanese nor Anti-American policy. Any increase of her influence in the Far East will depend on the energy with which she will defend her frontiers. Her importance will grow from day to day. The solution of the problem of coal, iron and oil in the Far East, at which Soviet Russia will play one of the main parts, will be a better key to the hearts and pockets of the financial autocrats of America than all diplomatic notes, all appeals to humanity, all references to the 150 million Russians who have no desire to harm anybody, but just want to live.
The conditions under which the new groupings are beginning to crystallise, do not allow any other inference from the analysis of the whole international situation than that in all combinations the fixed pole in the moving events, or the most decisive factor is power. If Russia succeeds, after all the civil wars which are now at an end, to avert the outbreak of a fresh one; if she is able in the first place to improve her agriculture and to create for herself a solid, though limited, industrial basis, then the weight of her voice in questions of world politics will be of greater weight than ever before. And if, in addition to this, the policy of Soviet Russia does not deviate from that line which won for her the sympathies of the proletarian masses of all countries, as well as of the Eastern peoples who are awakening to new life, then her moral prestige will contribute to a further strengthening of her policy, of her aim and object, for the popular masses of all countries will increasingly arrive at the conviction that the world has to deal with a new Power which knows how to uphold the, interests of the working class of the whole world, the interests of all exploited and oppressed.
In the preceding remarks we have attempted to throw some light on the changes of the balance of power which had formed the basis of the Versailles Treaty.
Economically, USA has become the most formidable Power in the world. Great Britain has in her a more dangerous competitor than Germany was. The decisive question is now, – will the economic competition between the two Powers grow more acute, or will it result in the co-operation of the two English speaking Powers? On the answer to this depends the further development of the politics of the world. For the moment it is impossible to give any definite answer. Things are still in their inception, and nobody can forecast their development. Among British capitalists, the dangers of competition with USA are clearly perceived and there is a desire for co-operation. But such a co-operation could only be attained by British capital giving way to American capital, which is recklessly pushing its interests to the forefront. British diplomacy has been enlarging on the necessity of such a co-operation, but is at the same time convinced that its position is more advantageous, that it has in hand great trump-cards which could be played with great effect against America. Thus the forces of attraction and repulsion are struggling with one another, which may finally result in a universal Anglo-American antagonism. The experience of ages tells us that two great economic Powers, who are at the same time two great sea powers, settle their differences not by an appeal to reason, but by fighting them out in battle.
The American-Japanese antagonism is a fact, which cannot be slurred over by any phrase-mongering. This opposition intertwines with that of the British-American, and the development of the former will depend very much on the development of the latter. At any rate, it is the most decisive factor in the Pacific.
The Anglo-French-struggle for the supremacy on the European Continent, which is closely connected with the contest for the greater influence in the Near East, is, like the British-American, the result of post-bellum-developments. This opposition controls European politics. Its fate depends on the turn which the British-American relations will eventually take. The military supremacy of France on the Continent lacks a corresponding economic basis. France could only get it through the formation of a France-German iron and coal trust, either through a change of attitude towards Germany, or through force. Her ability to do either, depends on the aggravation or mitigation of the British-American antagonism. If an aggravation takes place, France, as the European sword of America, will get from the latter all the backing against Great Britain.
Germany and Austria have become the passive objects of world politics; They will not be saved from that condition by the new groupings of Powers, unless a proletarian revolution is victorious in Germany and transforms her into a powerful factor. The re-groupings of the capitalist Powers can only change the direction from which the blows will fall upon the German bourgeoisie. Only those who are willing to defend themselves, are of any account in world politics. The German bourgeoisie gets entangled in a struggle with the German working class, and can therefore do nothing in the way of an active defence against the Allies. Germany can only change her master.
Russia is already a powerful factor in world politics. This statement of the Paris “Temps” in its issue of October 17, 1922 is all the more significant as it came from the official organ of that Power, which has for the longest time persisted in refusing to recognise Soviet Russia, as a first-class Power. From the Beresina to Vladivostok, from the White Sea to the shores of the Black Sea, the Russian proletariat has gathered together the Russian territory into its hands, supported by the Red Army which has proved its mettle; backed by a national policy which has fullest regard for the national needs of the Non-Russian nationalities of the Russian Federation; fortified by relations with the Eastern peoples, which, rising superior to all disputes and embroilments of diplomacy, fill the hearts of the masses of the Near and Far East with the name of Soviet Russia as the symbol of freedom, as the shield of the emancipation struggle of the oriental races against Imperialism; making use of the antagonistic tendencies among the capitalist Powers, Soviet Russia occupies, despite her economic weakness, strong positions, in which she is increasingly becoming one of decisive factors in world politics.
No date can be fixed nor a categoric answer be given to the question as to whether or at which time will those unstable antagonistic tendencies, spoken of above, become acute and result in a new world war. The capitalist classes of the world are so shaken through the last war, the effects of which are not overcome yet, that they are in mortal fear of a new world war which, they instinctively feel, would bring the final victory of the world revolution. Therefore they seek feverishly for compromises. But split up in hostile groups, incapable of subordinating their respective special interests to the general interests, they are continually doing Penelope’s work. They destroy the cleverly spun nets of agreements which they after much labour and care, had but yesterday accomplished. In the hands of small cliques, verbose and brainless diplomats, ambitions military juntas, the capitalist classes of the world are quite incapable of a policy that would promote economic reconstruction. Therefore, the winding-up of the Versailles Treaty, instead of resulting in a relaxation of the tension and in an agreement between the great Powers, which could secure peaceful progress, will lead to new complications, new conflicts for the repartition of the earth.
In all these conflicts which have broken out since the conclusion of the Versailles Treaty, the international working classes in their great majority were the object and not the subject of world politics. They played a passive role by reason of the power only which, potentially, can be made use of in a new war. The fear lest the lamb-like patience should come to an end, is the only anxiety which the capitalist Governments have in this respect. The leaders of the majority of the international working classes, the 2. and 2½ Internationals, the Amsterdam Federation of Trade Unions have pursued a policy which was apt to mitigate rather than aggravate that anxiety. A classical example of the spiritual and political impotency of the majority of the working class may be found in the Minutes, published on October 10, of the interview of the British Trade Union representatives with Mr. Lloyd George. Having come to him with the purpose of declaring war on a Government who was preparing for war against Turkey, they allowed themselves to be entangled in contradictions of their own bourgeois ideology, with the result that they left the Prime Minister as his intellectual prisoners. The fact is, the leaders of the majority of the working class are dreading the revolution no less than the bourgeoisie does. Therefore they must be satisfied with ventilating their grievances, with raising protest and addressing supplications. Therefore they must harness themselves to the car of capitalism, as soon as they believe that capital prefers to draw profits from the sweat of the workers rather than from their blood. But in the moment when international capital, for the sake of its profits, draws the sword, they are flabbergasted, look rather foolish, feel helpless, duped, powerless, incapable of any resistance. Their hatred of revolution misleads them into taking up a hostile attitude towards Soviet-Russia, and in this struggle against the social revolution, against the first proletarian Commonwealth, they turn into confederates of Capital. The fact that they were silent during the Genoa Conference, aye, that they deliberately thwarted all attempts at mobilising the international proletariat against the international front of Capital, proves sufficiently their ready co-operation with international Capital in its endeavour to enforce a restoration of capitalism in Russia. This has been corroborated by Mensheviks wheeling to the right, as expressed in the articles of Martoff and Dan, who are pleading for a restoration of capitalism and bourgeois democracy in Russia, as well as by the letter of the leader of the British Labour Party, Mr. Clynes, who pleads for the ratification of the Urquhart agreement, which the social democratic Press regarded as a betrayal of the Russian Revolution, as a capitulation of Soviet Russia. The leaders of the the majority of the working class desire the restoration of capitalism, if it only renounces war. It is the old policy of Cobden and Bright, of Free Trade industrialism and exactly as futile as that of the Free Traders.
The Communist International is the only part of the international working class, which carries on active revolutionary world politics. By daily mobilising the labouring masses against the economic effects of the war, by endeavouring to mobilise the working class for the revolutionary struggle, the Communists are working for the formation of the proletarian factor in world politics. Their support of Soviet Russia is a part of that struggle which is carried on against the Imperialist war as well as against the Imperialist peace and for the proletarian reconstruction of the world. In Soviet Russia, the international working class possesses a politically organised center, a State led by communists, and when the sycophants of the 2 and 2½ International accuse the Communists that they represent the State interests of Russia, they may unreservedly reply, that the interests of the Russian proletarian State are the interests of the Russian working class organised as a nation of the first victorious section of the world proletariat and therefore of the interests of the international proletariat. Each day which makes the decomposition of international capitalism more manifest, adds to the power of Soviet Russia and drives new proletarian Masses into the revolutionary struggle. Soviet Russia and the Communist International are thus turning into a factor of growing power in international politics. This power they will use with a view to emancipate the international working class and its allies, the enslaved peasant masses of the Near and Far East and the black races. How long this struggle will last, cannot be foretold. The Communist International must reckon with a long duration of the world revolution, just as Soviet Russia does. This implies temporary defeats and reactions. This requires the employment of all means of warfare. This requires thorough preparation for the struggles. This implies continual observation of the world political changes; this is necessary if the working class is determined to play in an increasing degree its historic role. The activities of the Communist International are therefore so closely bound up with world political problems and discussions; the Communist International must consequently awaken in all its sections the desire and the ability to bring every particular economic or political incident into relation with the world political movements. to inspire them with the same conception of things and events and with the will which the proletariat needs, in order not only to comprehend and interpret the passing phenomena, but to bring its influence to bear upon them, to accelerate the historic process and to change the social complexion of the world. It is the will to world revolution, the instrument of which is the working class.
Moscow, October 28, 1922
Last updated on 18.10.2011