Georgi Chicherin

The Language of Bolshevik Diplomacy

“Ours Is a People’s Government Yours ls Not” – Chicherin to Wilson

“Your Post Is Not Yet Taken by Debs” Said Soviet Comissar to U.S. President

(October 1918)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 54, 9 December 1933, p. 3.
Alternative translation: Peace Proposals Sent to President Wilson, pamphlet published by the People’s Russian Information Bureau, 152 Fleet Street, London, EC4, no date.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Note of Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs Chicherin to President Woodrow Wilson, transmitted through the Norwegian Attaché in Moscow, October 24, 1918)

Mr. President,

In your message of January 8th to the Congress of the United States of North America, in the sixth point, you spoke of your profound sympathy for Russia, which was then conducting, single-handed, negotiations with the mighty German Imperialism. Your program, you declared, demands the evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest co-operation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her political development and national policy, and assure her a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance of every kind that she may need’ and may herself desire. And you added that “the treatment accorded to Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good-will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.” The. desperate struggle which we were waging at Brest-Litovsk against German Imperialism apparently only intensified your sympathy for Soviet Russia, for you send greetings to the Congress of the Soviets, which under the threat of a German offensive ratified the Brest peace of violence – greetings and assurance that Soviet Russia might count upon American help.

Test of American Capitalism’s “Good Will”

Six months have passed since then, and the Russian people have had sufficient time to get actual test of your Government’s and your Allies’ good will, of their comprehension of the needs of the Russian people, of their intelligent unselfish sympathy. This attitude of your Government and of your Allies was shown first of all in the conspiracy which was organized on Russian territory with the financial assistance of your French Allies and with the diplomatic co-operation of your Government as well – the conspiracy of the Czecho-Slovaks to whom your Government is furnishing every kind of assistance. For some time attempts had been made to create a pretext for a war between Russia and the United States by spreading false stories to the effect that German war prisoners had seized the Siberian railway, but your own officers, and after them Colonel Robins, the head of your Red Cross Mission, had been convinced that these allegations were absolutely false. The Czechoslovak conspiracy was organized under the slogan that unless these misled unfortunate people be protected, they would be surrendered to Germany and Austria; but you may find out, among other sources, from the open letter of Captain Sadoul, of the French Military Mission, how unfounded this charge is.

The Czecho-Slovaks would have left Russia in the beginning of the year had the French Government provided ships for them. For several months we have waited in vain for your Allies to provide the opportunity for the Czecho-Slovaks to leave. Evidently these Governments have very much preferred the presence of the Czecho-Slovaks in Russia – the results show for what object – to their departure for France and their participation in the fighting on the French front. The best proof of the real object of the Czecho-Slovaks rebellion is the fact that although in control of the Siberian railway, the Czecho-Slovaks have not taken advantage of this to leave Russia, but by the order of the Entente Governments, whose directions they follow, have remained in Russia to become the mainstay of the Russian counter-revolution.

Promises and Performances

Their counter-revolutionary mutiny, which made impossible the transportation of grain and petroleum on the Volga, which cut off the Russian workers and peasants from the Siberian stores of grain and other materials and condemned them to starvation – this was the first experience of the workers and peasants of Russia with your Government and with your Allies after your promises of the beginning of the year. And then came another experience; au attack on North Russia by Allied troops, including American troops, their invasion of Russian territory without any cause and without a declaration of war, the occupation of Russian cities and villages, executions of Soviet officials and other acts of violence against the peaceful population of Russia.

You have promised, Mr. President, to co-operate with Russia in order to obtain for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her political development and her national policy. Actually this co-operation took the form of an attempt of the Czecho-Slovak troops, and later, in Archangel, Murmansk and the Far East, of your own and your Allies’ troops, to force the Russian people to submit to the rule of the oppressing and’ exploiting classes, whose dominion was overthrown by the workers and peasants of Russia in November 1917. The revival of the Russian counter-revolution which has already become a corpse, attempts to restore by force its bloody domination over the Russian people – such was the experience of the Russian people, instead of co-operation for the unembarrassed expression of their will which you promised them, Mr. President, in your declarations.

Wilson’s “Assistance” to Russia

You have also, Mr. President, promised to the Russian people to assist them in their struggle for independence. Actually this is what has occurred: While the Russian people were fighting on the Southern front against the counter-revolution, which has betrayed them to German Imperialism and was threatening their independence, while they were using all their energy to organize the defense of their territory against Germany at their Western frontiers, they were forced to move their troops to the East to oppose the Czecho-Slovaks who were bringing them slavery and oppression, and to the North – against your Allies and your troops, which had invaded their territory, and against the counter-revolutionary organized by these troops.

Mr. President, the acid test of the relations between the United States and Russia gave quite different results from those that might have been expected from your message to the Congress. But we have reason not to be altogether dissatisfied with even these results, since the outrages of the counter-revolution in the East and North have shown the workers and peasants of Russia the aims of the Russian counter-revolution, and of its foreign supporters, thereby creating among the Russian people an iron will to defend their liberty and the conquests of the revolution, to defend the land that it has given to the peasants and the factories that it has given the workers. The fall of Kazan, Symbrysk, Syzran and Samara should make clear to you, Mr. President, what were the consequences for us of the actions which followed your promises of January 8. Our trials helped us to create a strongly united and disciplined Red Army, which is daily growing stronger and more powerful and which is learning to defend the revolution.

The attitude toward us which was actually displayed by your Government and by your Allies could not destroy us; on the contrary, we are now stronger than we were a few months ago, and your present proposal of international negotiations for a general peace finds us alive and strong and in a position to give in the name of Russia our consent to join the negotiations. In your note to Germany you demand the evacuation of occupied territories as a condition which must precede the armistice during which peace negotiations shall begin. We are ready, Mr. President, to conclude an armistice on these conditions, and we ask you to notify us when you, Mr. President, and your Allies intend to remove your troops from Murmansk, Archangel and Siberia. You refuse to conclude an armistice unless Germany will stop the outrages, pillaging, etc., during the evacuation of occupied territory. We allow ourselves, therefore, to draw the conclusion that you and your Allies will order the Czecho-Slovaks to return the part of our gold reserve fund which they seized in Kazan, that you will forbid them to continue as heretofore their acts of pillaging and outrages against the workers and peasants during their forced departure (for we will encourage their speedy departure, without waiting for your order).

“Ours is a People’s Government, Yours Is Not”

With regard to your other peace terms, namely, that the Government which would conclude peace must express the will of their people, you are aware that our Government fully satisfies this condition. Our government expresses the will of the Councils of Workmen’s Peasants’, and Red Army Deputies, representing at least eighty per cent of the Russian people. This cannot, Mr. President, be said about your Government. But for the sake of humanity and peace we do not demand as a prerequisite for general peace negotiations that all nations participating in the negotiations shall be represented by Councils of Peoples’ Commissars elected at a Congress of Councils of Workmen’s, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. We know that this form of Government will soon be the general form, and that a general peace, when nations will no more be threatened with defeat, will leave them free to put an end to the system and the cliques that forced upon mankind this universal slaughter, and which will, in spite of themselves, surely lead the tortured peoples to create Soviet Governments that give exact expression to their will.

Agreeing to participate at present in negotiation with even such governments as do not yet express the will of the people, we would like on our part to find out from you, Mr. President, in detail what is your conception of the League of Nations, which you propose as the crowning work of peace. You demand the independence of Poland, Siberia, Belgium, and freedom for the peoples of Austria-Hungary. You probably mean by this that the masses of the people must everywhere first become the masters of their own fate in order to unite afterward in a league of free nations. But strangely enough, we do not find among your demands the liberation of Ireland, Egypt or India, nor even the liberation of the Philippines, and we would be very sorry if these peoples should be denied the opportunity to participate together with us, through their freely elected representatives, in the organization of the League of Nations.

For the Cancellation of War Debts

We would also, Mr. President, very much like to know, before the negotiations, with regard to the formation of a League of Nations, have begun, what is your conception of the solution of many economic question which are essential for the cause of future peace. You do not mention the war expenditures – this unbearable burden which the masses would have to carry, unless the League of Nations should renounce payments on the loans to the capitalists of all countries. You know as well as we, Mr. President, that this war is the outcome of the policies of all capitalistic nations, that the governments of all countries were continually piling up armaments, that the ruling groups of all civilized nations pursued a policy of annexations, and that it would, therefore, be extremely unjust if the masses, having paid for these policies with millions of lives and with economic ruin, should yet pay to those who are really responsible for the war a tribute for their policies which resulted in all these countless miseries. We propose, therefore, Mr. President, the annulment of the war loans as the basis of the League of Nations. As to the restoration of the countries that were laid waste by the war, we believe it is only just that all nations should in this respect aid the unfortunate Belgium, Poland and Siberia; and however poor and ruined Russia seems to be, she is ready on her part to do everything she can to help these victims of the war, and she expects that American capital, which has not at all suffered from this war and has even made many millions in profits out of it, will do its part to help these peoples.

Aims of the League of Nations

But the League of Nations should not only liquidate the present war, but also make impossible any wars in the future. You must be aware, Mr. President, that the capitalists of your country are planning to apply in the future the same policies of encroachment and of super-profits in China and in Siberia; and that, fearing competition from Japanese capitalists, they are preparing a military force to overcome the resistance which they meet from Japan. You are no doubt aware of similar plans of the capitalists and ruling circles of other countries with regard to other territories and other peoples. Knowing this, you will have to agree with us that the factories, mines and banks must not be left in the hands of private persons, who have always made use of the vast means of production created by the masses of the people to export products and capital to foreign countries in order to reap super-profits in return for the benefits forced on them, their struggle for spoils, resulting in imperialistic wars.

“Expropriate the Capitalists”

We propose, therefore, Mr. President, that the League of Nations be based on the expropriation of the capitalists of all countries. In your country, Mr. President, the banks and the industries are in the hands of such a small group of capitalists that, as your personal friend, Colonel Robins assured us, the arrest of twenty heads of capitalistic cliques and the transfer of the control, which by characteristic capitalistic methods they have come to possess, into the hands of the masses of the world is all that would be required to destroy the principal source of new wars.

If you will agree to this, Mr. President – if the sources of future wars will thus be destroyed, then there can be no doubt that it would be easy to remove all economic barriers and that all peoples, controlling the means of production, will be vitally interested in exchanging the things they need. It will then be a question of an exchange of products between nations, each of which produces what it can best produce, and the League of Nations will be a league of mutual aid of the toiling masses. It will then be easy to reduce the armed forces to the limit necessary for the maintenance of internal safety.

Appeal to American Workers

We know very well that the selfish capitalist class will attempt to create this internal menace, just as the Russian landlords and capitalists are now attempting, with the aid of American, English and French armed forces, to take the factories from the workers and the land from the peasants. But, if the American workers, inspired by your idea of a League of Nations, will crush the resistance of the American capitalists as we have crushed the resistance of the Russian capitalists, then neither the German nor any other capitalists will be a serious menace to the victorious working class, and it will then suffice, if every member of the commonwealth, working six hours in the factory, spends two hours daily for several months in learning the use of arms, so that the whole people will know how to overcome the internal menace.

And so, Mr. President, though we have had experience with your promises, we nevertheless accept as a basis your proposals about peace and about a League of Nations. We have tried to formulate with precision your proposals on the League of Nations in order that the League of Nations should not turn out to be a league of capitalists against the nations. Should you not agree with us, we have no objection to an “open discussion of your peace terms”, as the first point of your peace program demands. If you will accept our proposals as a basis, we will easily agree on the details.

“Which Is the Real President?”

But there is another possibility. We have had dealings with the president of the Archangel attack and the Siberian invasion and we have also had dealing with the president of the League of Nation’s Peace Program. Is not the first of these – the real president – actually directing the policies of the American capitalist Government? Is not the American Government rather a government of the American corporations, of the American industrial, commercial and railroad trusts, of the American banks – in short, a government of the American capitalists? And is it not possible that the proposals of this government about the creation of a League of Nations will result in new chains for the peoples, in the organization of an international trust for the exploitation of the workers and the suppression of weak nations? In this latter case, Mr. President, you will not be in a position to reply to our questions, and we will say to the workers of all countries: Beware! Millions of your brothers, thrown at each other’s throats by the bourgeoisie of all countries, are still perishing on the battle fields, and the capitalist leaders are already trying to come to an understanding for the purpose of suppressing with united forces those that remain alive, when they call to account the criminals who caused the war!

“Your Post Is Not Yet Taken by Debs.”

However, Mr. President, since we do not at all desire to wage war against the United States, even though your government has not yet been replaced by a Council of People’s Commissars and your post is not yet taken by Eugene Debs, whom you have imprisoned; since we do not at all desire to wage war against England, even though the Cabinet of Mr. Lloyd George has not yet been replaced by a Council of People’s Commissars with MacLean at its head; since we have no desire to wage war against France, even though the capitalist government of Clemenceau has not yet been replaced by a workmen’s government of Merrheim; just as we have concluded peace with the imperialist government of Germany, with Emperor William at its head, from whom you, Mr. President, feel as alien as we, the Workmen’s and Peasants’ Revolutionary Government, from you – we finally propose to you, Mr. President, that you take up with your Allies the following questions and give us precise and definite replies: Do the governments of the United States. England and France consent to cease demanding the blood of the Russian people until they agree to pay them a ransom such as a man who has been suddenly attacked pays to the one who attacked him? If so, just what tribute do the governments of the United States, England’ and France demand of the Russian people? Do they demand concessions, that the railways, mines, gold deposits, etc., shall be handed over to them on certain conditions, or do they demand territorial concessions, some part of Siberia or Caucasia, or perhaps the Murmansk Coast? ...

“State Your Demands Clearly”

The Russian people, through the people’s Red Army, are guarding their territory and are bravely fighting against your invasion and against the attacks of your Allies. But your government and the governments of the other Powers of the Entente, undoubtedly, have well prepared plans, for the sake of which you are shedding the blood of your soldiers. We will expect that you will state your demands clearly and definitely. Should we, however, be disappointed, should you fail to reply to our quite definite and precise questions we will draw the only possible conclusion – that we are justified in the assumption that your government and the governments of your Allies desire to get from the Russian people a tribute both in money and in natural resources of Russia, and territorial concessions as well. We will tell this to the Russian people as well as to the toiling masses of other countries, and the absence of a reply from you will serve for us as a silent reply. The Russian people will then understand that the demands of your government and of the governments of your Allies are so severe and vast that you do not even communicate them to the Russian Government.

Last updated on 4 January 2016