Mary E. Marcy

German Socialist in Russia

(October 1917)

From International Socialist Review, Vol. 18 No. 5, October 1917.
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

NOW that the German army, composed of one-third Socialists, as they have boastfully assured us in the past, is marching so bravely under the Prussian banner to destroy the new-won and glorious liberties of the Russian people and to succor the powers of reaction so busily engaged in fastening themselves upon their throats, we recall the farewell visits of a score or more eager political exiles who, on their way, called back to the homeland to help rebuild the glad new world of labor out of the ruins left by the Czar and his clique.

Full of sweet hopes in the glorious possibilities before them, they flowed into the office of the Review. The dreams of William Morris were coming true, they jovially assured us, and the Russian workers were winning their own at last.

“But what about the Germans? And the war?” we asked.

“We will end it,” they insisted. “We do not want peace for Russia alone, but for all the world.”

Then one of the Russian comrades told us how, in the rebellion of 1905, the Lithuanian peasants, made mad by hunger and oppression, drove the German land barons off the Russian land and back into Germany; how the peasants sent guards to protect the lives of these nobles, giving them all safe-conduct to the border line. He told us how the German barons, with the help of the czar, returned a few weeks later and murdered 2,000 Russian-Lithuanian peasants and exiled several thousand others to Siberia. The comrade who related the story had managed to escape to America.

“But now it will be different!” he exclaimed. “We have no cause to love the Germans but the Socialists – they occupy the trenches on the Russian front.”

In spite of his faith, we expressed grave doubts of the wisdom of trusting to the Germans.

“You shall see!” another returning exile shouted. “The German Socialists are not now attacking their Russian comrades. We will greet them at the trenches and refuse to fight. We will say to them, “Comrades, we have no quarrel with you. We have overthrown our czar and his overlords; go home and clean up your own enemies. The Russian workers are your friends. We are brothers in the same cause.”

He smiled down on us in triumph. It was all going to be so very simple. Among comrades the war would be quickly ended.

So full of eager hope and high resolves were they – these splendid, happy returning exiles, who had given so much, sacrificed so deeply for the cause of Russian liberty, that their enthusiasm was infectious.

So noble was their ideal, so wondrous their hope of seeing fighting, slaying men lay down their arms, shake hands and return home to their peaceful labors – that it caught us, too – the vision of a new German people – made sane at last.

I know it brought a lump to my throat. I could not speak. Was it not worth trying? Was it not worth the risk? Just to lay down your gun and call “Comrade” to the men across the battle-scarred fields; just to grasp hands with the weary German soldiers and wake them from their madness.

“It cannot fail,” continued our friend. “We will call the German comrades to their sober senses. They will respond. They will stop the war.”

But we were not so sure. We counseled, we advised, we feared.

“Do you not trust Socialism?” one asked us in surprise.

“Yes,” we said, “but, perhaps, not German Socialism.”

“Have you forgotten Liebknecht?” he returned.

“But the Party disowned him. Besides, it was he who declared the German Social Democracy the worst enemy of the German workers.”

“But when we show them that the Russians are their friends; that we want no land, no aggressions – the German comrades will go home and put the kaiser to driving a bus and all the other Prussians to doing useful labor.”

And so they shook hands all around, their heads held high, their faces glowing with great resolve.

“Do not fear. We have set them an example. When they see we are their friends, they will follow it!”

When they left my eyes were dim. Yes, I thought, it would be worthwhile to try this way of bringing peace, to bleeding Europe. Everything else had failed. Perhaps, who knew? the call of the old Internationale might yet save Russia, and Germany, France and England.

And so they sailed back to the new Russia and all her mighty problems. And the Russian soldiers set a new standard of sacrifice and brotherhood and appealed to their German comrades – and refused to fight.

But the German soldiers would not hear. At the command of their own supreme enemies they shot down the men who dared stretch out their hands across the trenches and offer them peace and freedom, and peace and freedom to all Europe.

Comrades of Russia, who bade us farewell a few short months ago, you have fought the good fight, you have upheld the faith; you have borne high the Red Flag of Brotherhood – and the German Socialists have shot it down.

Surely now you must see how little German “socialism” means. Surely now that the German Social Democrats have murdered our comrades and are bearing forward into the new Russia, by fire and by the sword, the hated Prussian flag of servitude, you have stayed your hand long enough.

The reactionaries in Russia can more easily make peace with Prussia than with the soldiers of Free Russia. Socialists are not pacifists. We have fought for every inch of progress made in the past. We will not hesitate to make war upon any army of wooing men which unites with its enemies and with our enemies to wrest from us any newly gained liberties. Since the German army has proven traitors to the Cause, Comrades of Russia, defend your dreams of freedom.

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