Soviet Russia will not submit

(12 May 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 40 [22], 31 May 1923, pp. 374–375.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive

Speech by Comrade Chicherin at the Enlarged Executive Session
of the Moscow Soviet, on May 12, 1923

Today we mourn the loss of our old comrade V.V. Vorovsky, one of the veterans of the revolution, slain by the bullet of a despicable murderer whilst heroically standing at his post at Lausanne, where he was conducting a strenuous fight against world imperialism. The immediate guilt for the murder is borne by the Swiss government, which omitted to take the necessary precautionary measures, despite the threats of the Lausanne Fascisti. But the governments of England, France, and Italy, share the guilt, for these invited the Russian delegation to Lausanne without providing for precautionary measures. The tragic end of comrade Vorovsky is a striking symptom of the present historical moment, when world reaction is preparing to aim a blow at the Soviet republics, a blow which is fully expected for, and which will bring the enemies of the Soviet republics to grief.

Comrade Vorovsky fell at his post at Lausanne, where a diplomatic struggle of the utmost importance is being carried on between the awakening and arising East and western imperialism fighting to maintain its supremacy, and where the Soviet republics have appeared in their world-historical capacity of friends of the suppressed peoples struggling against the yoke of imperialism.

The Conference of Lausanne

Two worlds confront one another at the Lausanne conference. The old western governments are incapable of grasping the meaning of the demand for complete political and economic independence which is as necessary for the awakening Turkish people as the air they breathe. The great diplomatic successes gained by Turkey in Lausanne are still very far from attaining that minimum which is necessary for the Turkish people, but they are of extraordinary importance for those western governments from which these concessions hate been wrung. These diplomatic successes of the Orient were only made possible by the diplomatic united front of Turkey with the Soviet republics. In the Straits question we do not agree with the concession granted by Turkey, which had bound itself in this regard long before the Lausanne conference, and uphold the standpoint that the Straits are to be completely closed against warships, an arrangement which would reduce the danger of war and reduce military and taxation burdens for all peoples. In demanding the closing of the Dardanelles to foreign warships, we are fighting at the same tune for the elementary security of the south coasts of the Soviet republics, and stand for a system of defending our security which also signifies the complete security of the independence and sovereignty of the Turkish people, and the establishment and security of general peace. The security of our coasts is one of our first tasks, flow great is the danger to which our coasts are exposed by the warships of the strongest Sea Power may best be seen at the present moment, when an English war vessel has penetrated into our closed White Sea, and our ships and our coasts are threatened by attack if we defend our fishery against the piratical invasion of English capitalists.

World reaction against Soviet Russia

Dark clouds are gathering on the horizon. Extreme reaction, supreme in every other part of the world, and step by step robbing the working class of its hard-won rights, it preparing to strike a blow at the Soviet republics. The government of England is composed at the present time of extreme reactionaries, who are anxious to utilize the favorable opportunity to shake the power of the workers and peasants of the Soviet republics. Badly informed as to the real situation of the Soviet republics, without any real understanding of the real character of the workers’ and peasants’ power, and of the real role played by the Communist Party, they ascribe exclusive significance to the role of our beloved leader Lenin and his illness fills them with a naive confidence that the Soviet power has now lost all firm foothold, and can be overthrown by outside pressure. These intentions of imperialist reaction find fruitful soil in the so-called disappointment in economic circles, of which we read and hear so much. The capitalists are disappointed because the Soviet republics will not permit themselves to be degraded to objects of unlimited exploitation. During the first period of our existence, the capitalist world attempted to overthrow the Soviet power by force of arms, by physical intervention. Then came the second period, in which the capitalist world tried to subject us by means of agreements, by peaceful penetration, and economic conquest. But the Soviet republics, though willing to enter into agreements with foreign capital so long as they retain complete control of their own economic life, have not permitted—and never will permit – foreign capital to subjugate them by peaceful penetration.

Lord Curzon’s Ultimatum

The capitalist world set great hopes on the New Economic Policy, but now it realizes that the New Economic Policy does not imply any capitulation to capital. This has led to the so-called disappointment, and to a cooling off in the matter of agreements with Soviet Russia. The resultant situation has been favorable to the intentions of the extremely reactionary English government. Lord Curzon, this representative of extremest reaction in the sphere of diplomacy, remains today, at the bottom of his heart, the viceroy of India. In Lausanne we already encountered his irreconcilable enmity, his utter lack of any wish to enter into any compromise with us. He possesses the typical haughty and ironical manner of treating the great Soviet state as an insignificant factor.

In his ultimatum, the Eastern Question plays a leading part, as is only to be expected from a one-time Indian viceroy. At the present time, the Orient is passing through events which will have great influence on its future. The liberation movement among the peoples of the East is one of the greatest facts of our day, and the world power of Imperialism threatens the peoples of the East precisely as it threatens us. Profound sympathy binds us to the oriental peoples fighting for their Emancipation. The imperialist governments regard this natural sympathy in the light of treacherous intrigues. Their Russian secret agents fancy themselves on the track of treacherous intrigues, whilst in reality they are spectators of an historical process.

In the matter of our eastern policy, Lord Curzon’s ultimatum is a collection of false accusations, these are composed partly of pure invention, as for instance the quotations in the section dealing with Persia, and partly of purposely distorted extracts from obviously badly deciphered telegrams. And on this basis Lord Curzon makes the unheard of demand that we retail our authorized representatives from Persia and Afghanistan, and apologize to the English government fur our eastern policy. This absurd and independent challenge is typical of its author.

A number of trifles then follow, whose mention in the ultimatum is a matter of surprise. The English spy Davison was executed in 1920 in connection with the notorious fuel swindle the proceeds of which were partially devoted to the support of White Guard and English spies. This execution was a perfectly legal act, based an a legal verdict. With regard to the English spy Stan Harding, a vivid light is thrown on this case by a few extracts, now being published in the newspapers, taken from an article written by the American spy Miss Harrison, in which she narrates that she knew of Stan Harding’s activity as a spy while still in Berlin. All this went on at a time when we had no treaty whatever with England.

A further English claim relates to the English fishing boats which lave been fishing within the twelve mile zone fixed by us for our Northern coast. In her own case, England has fixed a prohibition zone on the coast of Ceylon, for the pearl fishery, which in some places extends to 25 miles. But she wishes to compel us to limit ourselves to a three mile zone for our Northern coast. When we arrest and punish Englishmen who penetrate within the twelve-mile zone, we do so in full accordance with our laws and decrees, and yet Lord Curzon demands that we not only annul the verdicts, but pay compensation as well. Lord Curzon also rails at the religious policy pursued by the Soviet government with respect to the execution of Budkievitz, a spy who had been for years the medium for Polish espionage in Russia. Lord Curzon demands the withdrawal of the two letters written by our comrade, the head of the Entente department of our people’s commissariat for foreign affairs, to the English representative in Moscow, in reply to his interference in the affair of Cieplak and Budkievitz.

The Reply of Soviet Russia’s Working Masses

The working masses of Soviet Russia will not submit to the force of the capitalist governments. Our working masses have risen in indignation, and are ready to make any sacrifice in defence of the independence of the republic and yof the rights and liberties won by the revolution, now that the spectre of aggressive imperialism again rattles the bloody sabre of intervention.

We must reply to Lard Curzon’s threats with calm determination, in the full consciousness of power, but without allowing ourselves to be provoked by the challenge. The Soviet republics will not allow themselves to be degraded, their glorious flags will not be lowered before foreign rulers. At the same tune we shall show the peoples that it is not we who break the peace, not we who cause the rupture; that the responsibility for all the tremendous consequences of the rupture dues not fall on our shoulders.

The English people does not consist entirely of reactionaries. The working masses have already risen, and have demonstrated in the streets. They have already begun the fight against the aggressive policy of the reactionary government. Commercial circles are also dissatisfied with this policy, and demand the continuation of trade with Russia. The English liberals, and even a number of conservatives, have taken sides against Lord Curzon’s disastrous policy. And should the absolute majority of extreme reactionaries in Parliament succeed in making the breach, everyone would see, and convince himself beyond all possibility of contest, that the responsibility for the rupture and its consequences is not ours.

We reply to all complaints by proposing a conference. A pistol is presented at our head in the form of an ultimatum, but to this we calmly reply by proposing negotiations between two equal parties. What could be more just? If Lord Curzon forces the rupture upon us after our proposal for negotiations, everyone will know that be was determined to have this rupture at any price.

We are told of English spies against whom we took proceedings before the conclusion of the Anglo Russian treaty, but we can tell of a whole series of other victims, of Russian subjects shot or arrested in territory occupied by the English or under English influence, of innumerable executions of our comrades to Archangel and other northern districts. We are prepared to consider the English claims with respect to these spies, but we demand the same consideration from England, and that compensation be granted in justifiable cases. In the question of our northern fisheries we have also proposed negotiations, and the rejection of this proposal would show that the English government is irrevocably bent on a rupture.

In the present period of acute world antagonisms, in the present atmosphere of tension, a breach between England and Russia would signify the greatest increase of war danger, the possibility of extending the Ruhr adventure to further military conflicts, the stimulation of the militarist elements of Poland and Roumania. We for our part decline all responsibility for this increase of war danger. We steadfastly await our enemy on our threshold, and we do not think that he will have the courage to attack us. We are confident that the militarists threatening us, will retreat before the determined self-defence offered by the working millions of Soviet Russia.

Last updated on 28 April 2023