Th. Rothstein 1908

The Shame of England


Source: Justice, 24 October 1908, p. 6-7
Transcribed: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The events of last week have amply justified our estimate of the political situation as well as our fears with regard to the line of action which the British Cabinet was likely to take. The negotiations between Grey and Isvolsky have resulted in an agreement which makes the diplomatic defeat of England patent to the whole world, and at the same time sets a seal to the prostituting character of her foreign policy. Briefly speaking, the agreement is to the effect that a European Conference should be held, that the Austrian and Bulgarian coups d’état should be “taken note of,” that Crete should be annexed to Greece, that Servia and Montenegro should get compensation by an addition to their territories at the expense of the newly-acquired Austrian provinces, that the question of the passage through the Dardanelles should form the subject of a private treaty between Russia, England and Turkey, and that the latter should be compensated by Bulgaria and Austria as well as by Europe at large by rendering her financial assistance and by a modification in the so-called capitulations.

The general press has greeted this agreement and programme as a triumph for the “disinterested” diplomacy of England, and as a guarantee of the political and moral rights of Turkey. In reality it is just the reverse. In reality it is a shameful surrender of her position by England and an act of treason to Turkey. We cannot do better, by way of proving this, than by putting before the reader certain authoritative expressions of public opinion, which were uttered in the press during the first days of the crisis, as showing what had been expected and what has since been really obtained by the British Cabinet. Incidentally they will show the hypocrisy of the present attitude of the press on the question of the Conference programme, and assist in placing the public on their guard against the efforts which are now being made to fool them into an acceptance of the policy of the King and Sir Edward Grey.

I will cite as my witness none other than the “Times”—a journal which nobody will accuse of hysterical sentiments on foreign affairs, and of being too extreme in its demands. It is a “sober” organ of the press which has, moreover, the advantage of being in close touch both with the British and French Foreign Offices. It has cordially endorsed the programme agreed upon by the three Powers working in entente, and expressed the hope that it may prove acceptable to Turkey as proof of the goodwill entertained for her by England and her friends. Let us, however, see what it wrote in the earlier stages of the crisis.

On October 7, immediately after the Bulgaro-Austrian coups d’état, it wrote anent the Russian suggestion of the immediate convocation of a European Congress (itself a manoeuvre pre-arranged between Aehrenthal and Isvolsky) as follows:—

“We are not ourselves altogether sure that it (the Conference) world be desirable in the interests of Turkey, or of those who unselfishly desire to preserve peace . In the first place it would condone and ratify the flagrant breaches of the Treaty of Berlin which Bulgaria and Austria, with or without the connivance of certain other Powers, have conspired to commit. Then, having secured to the violators of that solemn compact all they at present desire, it would reaffirm with much unction the principle that such compacts are sacred . Is there any advantage to international morality from this homage paid by vice to virtue. The spoliators of Turkey will retain their booty unmolested. Why should we and others, who honestly reprobate their misdeeds, join those who have connived or acquiesced in their schemes in passing a sham censure upon their conduct? But the activity of such a congress would not be limited to condonation of the wrongs already done to Turkey, accompanied by such a censure. To make the insincerity of its proceedings more glaring, It would be asked on the specious pretext of “compensation,” to sanction further encroachments on the rights of Turkey, and further violations of great European conventions . It does not seem to be in the interests of Turkey or in those of the harmony of the Powers that such a congress should come together.”

This was pretty plain and decisive. England does not want any conference at all. Such a conference would only condone the action of the violators of the Treaty of Berlin, by passing a meaningless censure upon them, and would lead to further encroachments on Turkey. Read in the light of the Grey-Izvolsky agreement and the Times own utterances at the present moment, this passage is not devoid of piquancy and shows the extent to which England has climbed down from her original position. Not only will there be a Conference but its initiators themselves have condoned the Bulgaro-Austrian violation of the Berlin Treaty (and that without even a formal censure) and proposed “further violations of great European conventions”. Could satire be more biting?

But let us proceed further. The “Times” probably foresaw that in her isolation England would not be able to resist the Russian suggestion for the summoning of a Conference, and so at the end of the above-quoted article it speaks hypothetically, in case such a Conference should be summoned, as follows:—

“We must refuse to take part in any congress whose authority is not strictly limited. With a general revision of the Treaty of Berlin, or with the infliction upon Turkey of further wrongs under the name of compensations England can have nothing to do. We must stand aloof from any congress convened for such ends, refuse to be bound by its proceedings, and reserve our rights.”

On the following day, October 8, the “Times,” having become convinced that a Conference was inevitable, returns to its demand that its programme should be strictly limited to the consideration of the Bulgaro-Austrian coups d’état and of the reparation due to Turkey. It wrote:—

“They (Bulgaria and Austria) have taken upon themselves to violate certain clauses of the Berlin Treaty, and they must bear the responsibility of any consequence which may follow from these acts. To us, at all events, those acts remain null and void until . the other signatories of the broken Treaty have been consulted, including specially Turkey . M. Isvolsky . is expected to reach London from Paris to-morrow He comes no doubt to discuss the proposed Conference, which the Turks seem ready to accept, with Sir Edward Grey. Much will depend upon the outcome of their conversations, and upon whether they can agree or not, as to the limitations which must be placed to the scope and authority of any Conference or Congress that may meet, We may say at once that the demand of fresh compensations at the cost of Turkey . is plainly inadmissible.”

Again, on October 9, the “Times” wrote as follows:—

“They (the Turkish Government) are favourable to the idea of a Conference, but only provided that the terms of reference are limited to the Bosnian and Bulgarian questions. It is only a conference with strictly limited authority that this country desires to see convoked, and such, we trust, will prove to be the desire of all other Powers who are anxious to settle these questions in an unselfish spirit.”

We know now what has become of this insistence on a strictly limited programme of the Conference. Though England has solemnly declared that she can have nothing to do “with a general revision of the Treaty of Berlin, or with the infliction on Turkey of further wrongs,” but will only attend a conference whose terms of reference are limited to the Bosnian and Bulgarian questions, the programme elaborated by Grey and Isvolsky, and accepted by Pichon, provides for a complete revision of the Treaty of Berlin, including the abrogation of all restrictive clauses relating to Montenegro, and for the infliction of further wrongs on Turkey by the annexation of Crete to Greece (which question is altogether outside the Berlin Treaty), and the final recognition of Eastern Rumelia, hitherto merely usurped by Bulgaria, as part of the latter.

But still more was to come. Knowing well that Isvolsky is after the Dardanelles, and at the same time feeling that the opening of this question at the present juncture would be the highest of all wrongs that could be inflicted on Turkey—especially as it stands completely outside the Berlin Treaty, the “Times,” in welcoming the arrival of Isvolsky to this country, tried to pat him on the back in the following manner:—

“M. Isvolsky has the great advantage of knowing that in Russia the feeling in favour of disinterested action for the maintenance of peace grows stronger every day. We recognise fully that for Russia to adopt the same self-denying attitude as the two Western Powers may involve a possible sacrifice of long-cherished desires, but we feel convinced that in the gratitude of a regenerated Turkey she will obtain a far more gratifying and desirable reward. Russia has nothing to gain by joining in an undignified scramble, whereby she would alienate Turkey and lose the goodwill of the Powers with which she is on the best possible terms.”

The hypocrisy of this passage is simply sickening, but the aim was laudable enough. The “Times” knew that if England were to agree to include the question of the Dardanelles in the programme of the Conference she would for ever forfeit the trust and the friendship of Turkey, besides probably wrecking the work of the conference itself. Hence its efforts to subject Izvolsky to that delicate operation which the Germans call “einselfen”—soaping. Probably on that point Grey made a strong stand but with what result? The question will not be discussed at the conference but—in the next room! It is stipulated that the subject will only be discussed between Turkey Russia and England and that Russia will only accept the decision with the goodwill of Turkey. Nice words which are supposed to butter parsnips!

It is clear that England has surrendered on all points to Russia! Isvolsky must have heartily laughed in his sleeve when he read the utterances of the British press before his arrival—he knew his men, and appreciated the value of their protestations. He, who had been in the conspiracy all along, came to this country, saw, and emerged from the trial of strength triumphant. England, in the consciousness of her isolation, but still anxious to secure friends in her policy against Germany, has prostituted herself once more to the most reactionary, the most unscrupulous, and the most perfidious of all Governments in the world—and this time permanently, and without return. We shall soon see how Russia, bankrupt, without an army, and without a fleet, will play the rôle of an arbiter of European destinies, will float a new enormous loan on the Paris and London markets, and will grab Persia with the connivance, if not assistance, of England

But, in addition to that, England has now lost the confidence of Turkey. It was one of the happiest strokes of English diplomacy that it at once ranged itself on the side of the Young Turks when the Constitution had been proclaimed. With one clever and generous move it obliterated the Turkish well-founded hatred of the past, and stood out in their eyes as the one true and sincere well-wisher of Turkey’s regeneration. Had England at the same time, or at the time of the Austro-Bulgarian coups d’etat, renounced Cyprus and declared her intention to evacuate Egypt, her position in the Ottoman Empire—an Empire full of the greatest promise both to itself and to England—would have become unshakable. She would have obtained a powerful and staunch ally, far more advantageous and more faithful than any she could have in Europe, while at the same time rendering the prestige of the Constitution in the eyes of the Ottoman peoples almost unassailable. Even as it was, the popularity of England in Turkey became almost a worship. But, as in the case of Persia, where, too, England had lent her moral assistance during the initial stages of the revolution, the effort proved too strong for the directors of her foreign policy, and now she has left Turkey in the lurch, imposing upon her, with the assistance of France and Russia, a wholly unacceptable programme, standing in crying contrast with her previous pledges, and playing into the hands of Turkey’s worst enemy, Russia. It is impossible to predict what the action of Turkey may be in the nearest future. Probably seeing that she has been abandoned by the sole Power which had professed friendship to her, she will submit to the ordeal with that fortitude of character and dignity which she has displayed throughout the crisis. There can be no doubt, however, that she will not forget her humiliation, and will remember the treachery of her soi-disant friend, and, like Japan after 1904, will cherish the resentment until the time when she can repay the insult with interest. England, however, will have lost her goodwill beyond recovery—lost in the anxiety to secure the vile friendship of the vile Czardom. We shall see whether any man in the House will have the courage, when these events come up for discussion, to get up and expose the infamous pact to which Sir Edward Grey has now committed this country.

TH. ROTHSTEIN