First Published: Russia To-Day, March 1935.
Source: Ralph Fox: A Writer in Arms
Publisher: Lawrence & Wishart, Ltd., London, W.C.1.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
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 Mongol question has suddenly become of first-rate world importance. The Mongols, an ancient but little-known people who once ruled the whole of Asia, are now divided between four states. Many of them live in the Soviet Union, citizens of the Buryat-Mongol republic in Siberia or of the Kalmyk Autonomous Region on the lower Volga. Others, more numerous, are Chinese subjects inhabiting the provinces outside the Great Wall, Jehol, Chahar, Kan-su, etc. Others again, living in so-called Inner Mongolia, are divided between China and the Japanese vassal state of Manchukuo. But over the traditional home lands of the Mongols, the steppes, mountains and rivers north of the Gobi and stretching almost to Lake Baikal, so-called Outer Mongolia, flies the red flag of the Independent People’s Republic of Mongolia.
It is Japanese policy to gather the Mongols living outside the People’s Republic, those in Inner Mongolia and Manchukuo, and launch them in an attack on the People’s Republic. In this way, the Japanese hope to turn the line of Soviet defences in Siberia under the cloak of a struggle for Mongol “freedom.”
Every worker has, therefore, good reason for wanting to know what is the People’s Republic. Though Outer Mongolia did not become a republic until 1924 it won its final independence in 1921, when the Russian White Guardists led by Ungern-Sternberg, and paid by the Japanese, were defeated and broken up by a national rising organized and led by the Mongolian People’s Party, now called the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party.
The revolution was a Mongolian one, its chief forces the Mongolian Red Army, only small Soviet Red Army forces giving help. As soon as the country was freed from invaders the Soviet forces withdrew and from that day to this have never crossed the Mongolian frontier.
A number of brilliant fighters and revolutionaries arose from the Mongols, mostly from the poorer Arats (nomad working people), though the first great Mongol leader, Sukhebatoz, who died in 1923, was from the former ruling classes.
From the heroes of those days, however, were formed the present leaders of the People’s Republic, Amer, the president; Gendun, the Prime Minister, a poor nomad by origin, whose name is already immortal among the Mongols; )cmid, the present commander-in-chief of the Red Army; rind Choibalsan, former heroic soldier, now Minister for Cattle-raising and Agriculture.
The Mongols are nomads, and before their revolution were under the domination of feudal chiefs, both lay and clerical. The revolution destroyed the power of the feudal nobility and Buddhist lamas, as well as driving out the Chinese and Russian merchants who were rapidly enslaving the people to foreign capital. A great democratic revolution placed power in the hands of the people (Arats), nationalized the land, minerals, forests and water, annulled debts, separated church and state, gave the people their own army, nationalized foreign trade, abolished all titles and introduced complete equality—national, religious, racial and sex—for all the working people.
The constitution adopted by the Republic in 1924 contained this important phrase: “In view of the fact that the real people all over the world aim at fundamentally destroying present capitalism and reaching socialism and communism, the foreign policy of our People’s Republic must correspond to the interests of the revolutionary masses and main tasks of the oppressed small nations and really revolutionary nations of the whole world.”
The People’s Republic, though not itself a socialist republic, has, therefore, always maintained the closest friendship with the peoples of the Soviet Union.
The path of the new Republic has not always been smooth, and many mistakes have been made. In 1927 the leadership in the Government and People’s Party had passed to the right wing, who held up the anti-feudal revolution and aimed at a capitalist development with Japanese and American help. Thanks to the energy of Gendun, then secretary of the People’s Party, and a small group of comrades, they were defeated and leadership passed to the left wing in the Party. The left also made mistakes, thinking it would be possible to bring the nomad Mongols directly to socialism, to destroy the power of the monasteries, and so on.
The clerical question in Mongolia is of great importance. Out of a population of just over 700,000, more than 90,000 live in the Buddhist monasteries, each of which is the centre of a so-called commune (djassa). The attempt to make the monks return to secular life by force, the mechanical formation of collective farms and ranches among people who could not understand them, led finally to the Government losing the confidence of many of the people.
Comrade Gendun again fought bitterly and almost alone for sanity. At the end of 1932 he was victorious and a new leadership in the Government and People’s Party was elected. The collective farms and compulsion in religious questions were abandoned, and the policy of gradually preparing the transition to a non-capitalist development replaced the attempt to emplant socialism by force.
Tremendous progress in education, health and general culture has now been made. Co-operation in marketing and distribution extends throughout the country and the Government has also a special commercial organization for dealing with private traders. The first factories have begun working at the capital, Ulan-Bator-Khoto, and there is now a small, well-organized Mongol working class, which may become a guarantee of the eventual triumph of non-capitalist development. There is an efficient motor transport system throughout the country, and much work has been done towards eliminating cattle disease.
The Red Army of the People’s Republic is now a highly disciplined, mechanized force, able to conduct extensive combined operations of motorized forces, cavalry, artillery and aeroplanes. Its leadership is excellent and should the Japanese either themselves invade the country or send in mercenaries led by the princes and monks of Inner Mongolia, they will find that no “walk-over” such as they experienced in Manchuria will be possible. They will be faced by a whole people ready and eager to fight for its national existence.
The Mongolian People’s Republic is a democratic state, a dictatorship of the people against the parasites and feudal hangers-on. It is creating prosperity for its people and is a fact of great significance in the history of Eastern peoples.