Willy Münzenberg

Help for Russia

Is it possible to aid the starving Russians
through worker’s contribution?

(5 November 1921)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. I No. 5, 5 November 1921, p. 44.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2018). 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.

Many a worker hesitates in his aid and holds back his contribution for the starving Russians, doubting the proper application of those gifts. Many a worker fears the waste or loss of the money or gifts, which are sent all the way to the parched Russian steppes. Indeed, certain workers do not at all believe that the relief of the great number of starving Russians can be effected by the scanty collections from the workers. They are terrified by the immensity of the need and the meagerness of the possible aid. Millions of people are starving, and pennies are all they can offer to ameliorate their condition ...

This way of thinking is false and works to the greatest injury and disadvantage of the relief work in Russia.

It is true that the oppressed working class, which is itself so ruthlessly exploited and which was so impoverished and pauperized by the war, cannot as an oppressed class gather the billions which are necessary in order to save and feed the 20 million starving Russians, and what is equally important, necessary for the economic reconstruction of Russia. What the working class can do however, in spite of its own poverty and need, is to ameliorate the still greater need of their Russian brothers, and through their gifts and contributions to help feed the hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands of people who are otherwise doomed to death.

With the unpretentious feeding done by the mass-kitchens, a ridiculously small sum is necessary to furnish a day’s food per person; a few marks in the low-valuta countries and a few cents in the countries with high exchange.

There are millions of workers and active people on this earth. Were each one of these millions of workers to make one fixed contribution, say a single day’s wages, for the starving peasants and workers of a nation that offered pyramids of dead and rivers of blood for the suppression of war and for the victory of the proletarian class struggle, a sum would be collected that would be sufficient to feed even millions of starving people until the new harvest ...

Just because the worker cannot spare more than a cupful, it is necessary for every worker to contribute his cupful, thereby filling pails, barrels and carloads.

The idea that gifts and contributions do not reach the place intended, is false and unfounded. We have every guarantee that the contributions which are sent by the national relief committees through the Foreign Committee for the Organization of Worker’s Relief for the Starving in Russia, are applied in the best possible manner, and that relief transports are sent in the quickest possible way directly into the famine regions.

Thanks to the rigid international unity of all relief committees and organizations which are co-operating with the Foreign Committee, all advantage is taken of the situation in the valuta and world market, the purchase of food – and only food is bought for the money – is effected as follows: in the individual countries such purchases are made according to instructions from the Foreign Committee, whose business and techno-financial commissions must approve all purchases, after having examined and compared the offers and estimates of various countries.

In this wise fish and cod-liver oil are bought in Norway, sugar in Czecho-Slovakia, milk in Denmark or Holland, flour and rice in Argentine or, when because of the distance impracticable, in France. Besides this, low prices are gotten whenever possible through the managing boards of individual factories, and purchases are made through the consumers leagues and co-operatives. In this manner the first large German food transport, consisting of over 300,000 kilograms of food, was wholly transacted through the wholesale purchasing co-operatives of the German Consumers’ League in Hamburg. Besides, whenever there are any representatives of the national committees or of the trade delegation of the Russian government in the particular country, they are consulted in all purchases ...

Besides the American relief ships, which were fitted out by the American working class itself, and which carry mainly grain, the following ships and transports were dispatched in the last few weeks from various countries either by the Foreign Committee or under its supervision: on the 15th of October the ship Miranda sailed from Stockholm with 400,000 kilograms of food; several days later a Norwegian steamer left Denmark with herring, cod-liver oil and milk; on the 15th of October the steamer Siegfried left Stettin with 6 carloads of food, drugs and equipment for public kitchens; several days later the steamer Bolshevik left Hamburg with 350,000 kg. of food, mainly flour, rice, bacon, beans, etc.

The following are, at present being organized: A ship carrying 1,000 to 1,200 tons of food, and 10 carloads of shoes, clothing, etc., which is to leave Stettin on the 7th of November; then a ship fitted out by the French committee, which is to leave Marseilles for Odessa on the 15th of November with 1,000,000 kilograms of rice and 200,000 kg. of goods.

The Northern transports are sent to Petrograd, the southern transports to Odessa. The cargoes are unloaded in the Foreign Committee’s own warehouses and are at once sent to the famine regions. There German and other workers are working together with a group of Russian workers in the kitchens of the Foreign Committee, which will be in a position to feed 45,000 to 50,000 people daily, as soon as the ships which are on the way and those that are being fitted out arrive.

It is thus provided for that the gifts and contributions made by the workers be applied in the most profitable manner to the needs of the starving people, and that, above all, the donations reach them quickly.

It depends upon the individual worker whether the gifts are small or great, whether thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are to be saved and kept alive.

There is no excuse, no evasion. Every one must understand that upon him depends the fate of millions of people, upon him depends Russia’s fate and with it his own. For, as he speaks, so speak the others; as he does, so do the others.

Last updated on 9 January 2019