Willy Münzenberg

Relief for Russia

Recent Progress in Proletarian
Relief for Starving Russia

(30 December 1921)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 1 No. 20, 30 December 1921, pp. 167–168.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). 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.

It is five months now, newly half a year, that collections have been made among the workers of the West for the starving workers and peasants of Russia. It is seldom that collections for needy class comrades have been conducted with such tenacity and perseverance as those for the starving brethren of Russia. And the relief action is being continued in various countries despite its long duration; in fact many countries show a new revival of zeal in recent weeks. At the same time, it cannot and must not be denied that to judge by the material results at the beginning of the campaign there appears a slackening in some countries and parties, especially where the work of aid began with great zeal (Austria, Switzerland). On the other hand the collections in those lands that undertook an energetic organization of the relief work much later, are increasing both relatively and absolutely (Scandinavian and overseas countries, Italy).

Seldom has so much opposition been manifested to purely humanitarian work as in the case qf the proletarian action for the starving in Russia. The government of almost every country attempted to hinder and check the collections through all sort of petty police chicane. Germany forbade lotteries and raffles and collections in the streets planned by the Workers’ Relief Committee. The same happened in Holland and France. In America a meeting to aid the starving was held up, artists forbidden to sing in charity concerts, etc. In Lithuania and Poland the government forbade all proletarian relief work, dissolved all aid committees, and seized the collected money (over 5,000,000 marks in Poland). The reactionary imperialist press had no scruples in its campaign against collections. The Press asserts that the entire relief work of the Foreign Committee is nothing but a cleverly disguised trick to gather money for purposes of propaganda in favour of the Communist International. Social-democratic and Independent papers, though perhaps less brazenly, oppose the work of relief with similar arguments. The KAPD and a part of the left wing groups sympathetically inclined to it come out against the work of relief aj “grounds of principle”. Matters became far worse through the wave of high prices in September and October and the unemployment in countries with a high rate of exchange. To cap the climax, the first big steamer sent out by the French workmen with 1,200 tons of food products went down in an explosion off Malta, probably as the result of a reactionary crime.

The force of international solidarity and the feeling of international unity come out all the more clearly through the fact that despite all these untoward circumstances the working masses continue unabated their work of aid to their starving Russian brethren. And all the more valuable are the material results attained by the collections. According to the recently published report of the Foreign Committee, the Communist Relief Committee gathered about 70,000,000 marks until the end of November. The sum has grown now to over 100,000,000 marks. This success is due chiefly to the following countries: England whose Relief Committee gathered over £3,500. The campaign continues with energy. £200 are added every week. All money passes through the Foreign Committee of Berlin. The collection of the Workers’ Committee for the Relief of Starving Russia, in Germany reached 2,000,000 marks in money and 1,500,000 marks in goods; the collection of clothes, shoes and money is uninterruptedly being made in the various cities. Particularly good results have been reached in Holland. The Dutch committee has collected to date 120,000 gulden. From Holland and Germany come chiefly the contributions from women and children intended for the building of a children’s home. The collection is now large enough to install at least one children’s home and to board 200 children there for several months. In France the sinking of the first aid ship did not dampen, but on the contrary strengthened the zeal of the relief workers. The Relief Committee organized a wide propaganda for the week of Christmas. 400,000 leaflets have been distributed and the entire Communist press is carrying on a lively agitation. The Central Committee of Paris has again 200,000 francs at its disposal. The storehouse at Metz receives weekly 80-100 big chests of clothes, shoes, articles of food, etc. Clarté has joined the energetic work of aid. In Norway the collections reached the sum of 420,000 crowns. In Bergen and other cities great quantities of food articles were collected. Equally good results were achieved in Sweden where the Communist Committee alone gathered 40,000 crowns in cash and 70,000 in goods. Together therefore, the Communist collections alone show the respectable sum of 110,000 crowns. In Italy where the Communist Party started separate collections rather recently a total of 300,000 lire is already in. The Committee hopes to gather in the near future 1,000,000 lire. In Czecho-Slovakia, after the split of the joint committee the collection till mid-December amounts to 1,600,000 Czech crowns. Particularly good results were achieved by the Communist Party of Bulgaria, the recent collections bringing up the total to over 1,000,000 lewas. Recently the Social Democratic Party of Roumania began to make collections. Its branch in Brasow (Siebenbürgen) transferred to the Foreign Committee 10,000 Lei. All these successes are far surpassed by the results of collections in the oversea countries. Thus the Workers’ Aid Committee of Argentina alone transferred to the Foreign Committee 1,000,000 marks as a first instalment. The New York Committee “Friends of Soviet Russia” gathered over $200,000 up to the beginning of December. At present the branches of that Committee are commencing a feverish agitation in other American cities in order to raise the sum to $500,000.

In Canada also the work of aid is proceeding with energy. Toronto has a branch of the “Friends of Soviet Russia” that gathered $9,500. Many unions joined the Committee of the “Friends of Soviet Russia”. The miners voted at their convention in Indianapolis to contribute a day’s pay for the starving in Russia. In Brazil, Mexico and South America aid committees have been organized everywhere and successful collections have been made. Japanese intellectuals on temporary stay in the West have issued a call for the beginning of a wide campaign in Japan to aid starving Russia.

These good financial results allowed the Foreign Committee to send to Russia until the beginning of December, 17 ships – among them two big ships of their own – loaded with foodstuffs. Other transports are being prepared. In the next few days the Terie is leaving Christiania for Reval with a food cargo. Another Norwegian and Swedish shipment will follow soon after. The first days in January a bigger ship with several thousand kilos of foodstuffs will leave Stettin for Reval, taking with it all necessary equipment for the Rosa Luxemburg-Karl Liebknecht children’s home. The French comrades are now fitting out a special relief train at Metz which will pass through Stettin and Reval direct into the famine region. In Holland large quantities of flour and fat are being bought. America announces the departure of new relief ships. If the ships reach their destination without delay or hindrance the kitchens of the Foreign Committee will be able to feed about half a million souls in the famine region. These facts ought to remove all doubt as to the possibility of aid and induce every worker who is still standing aside to contribute his own mite to the general collection.

Last updated on 14 February 2019