Willy Münzenberg

From Famine Relief to Aid for Soviet Russia

(23 December 1921)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 1 No. 19, 23 December 1921, pp. 159–160.
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.

In the last few weeks the working-class press has ceased to stress the famine relief action. However, it would be an error to believe that the proletarian relief action for the Russian workers has come to an end. On the contrary! In several countries, as Sweden, Norway, Italy and Bulgaria, the relief action has only recently commenced an extended and successful campaign. Thus, the Communist Party of Bulgaria has now sent in a draft for 1,000,000 Leva representing the total of their collection campaign to date. The relief fund of the Czecho-Slovakian Party has attained the total of 1,000,000 crowns, that of the Communist Party of Norway, 120,000 crowns and the British Communist Party’s fund £3,500. The relief action is now being carried on with especial energy in the overseas countries – the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa. The relief fund of the American “Friends of Soviet Russia” has reached total of $260,000 and this committee has equipped and sent to Russia four ships with food and medicaments the Argentina Communist Party has recently sent the Foreign Relief Committee in Berlin 1,000,000 marks as the first installment of their contribution.

The international Conference of Workers’ Relief Committees, which met in Berlin on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of December, decided to continue the relief action in all countries, but justly stressed the necessity of especial concentration on the overseas countries. We have also succeeded in bringing about a revival of interest in the relief campaign in several trade unions, particularly in England, and in a large number of bourgeois organizations. Thus, Herr von Wattenwyl, representative in Berlin of the Nansen organization, reported to the Foreign Workers’ Committee that in England alone about £5,000 are being collected daily, al the present time. Similarly, the relief is beginning to make itself felt in Russia. The purchases of the Foreign Workers’ Committee, as well as the food shipments of the Nansen organization are daily arriving in the famine regions in ever-increasing quantities.

In part under the pressure of the continually expanding relief action which has taken hold of all the strata of the population in various countries, the governments are beginning to relinquish their at first extremely hostile altitude. Thus, the French government has voted 6,000,000 francs; the British government has placed medical supplies to the value of £250,000 at the disposal of the Soviet government; and a resolution has been introduced into the Italian Chamber of Deputies for the appropriation of 800,000 lire.

However, more important than the practical results of the relief campaign is the fact that in the course of the last few weeks the attitude of all organizations, even those of the bourgeoisie, toward Soviet Russia has undergone a change. The first appeals of the Trade Union International as well as of the bourgeois relief committees and organizations were merely appeals to the sympathy and charity of the workers and peasants. In fact, in several statements and meetings it was declared very emphatically that only the starving inhabitants and children were to be relieved and that under no circumstances were the Bolshevik regime and the ruling Soviet government in Russia to be assisted. Certain relief organizations went so far as to distribute their food and soups only to children. The poor, innocent children were to be saved; the wicked adult Bolsheviks could die of starvation. This point of view has to-day been totally changed in the majority of these organizations.

In October the Bureau of the Trade Union International pointed out in several appeals the great importance of Soviet Russia and of its continued existence for the entire proletariat of the world. It was declared with the greatest emphasis that the downfall of the present Soviet government would be followed by inconceivably disastrous consequences for the working class in all countries and that therefore it was in the interest of every worker to aid and support Soviet Russia. All the representatives of the bourgeois and pacifist relief organizations now working in Russia cannot sufficiently stress and laud the wonderful support their activity has obtained from the Soviet government. At the International Conference of the Labor Bureau of the the League of Nations in Geneva on the 12th of November Nansen praised the distinguished part played by the Soviet government in the campaign for the relief of the famine-stricken. At the International Conference in Berlin on the 4th of December 1921, in which representatives of all parties and the most diverse organizations participated, all speakers stressed the fact that almost more important than the obtaining of food for the famine-stricken was immediate assistance in the economic reconstruction of Soviet Russia. The representative of the Trade Union International, Grassmann, as well as the speaker of the Quakers, the delegate of the Norwegian Workers’ Party and others held that the obtaining of an unconditional resumption of commercial relations with Soviet Russia and the extension of long-term governmental credits were the chief tasks of the relief action in the future. On the 8th of December there took place in London a general conference of the English Labor Party and its Parliamentary group which unanimously decided to demand at once from the English government more effectual aid for the famine-stricken and the resumption of trade relations with Russia under the extension of special privileges. The Foreign Committee for the Organization of workers’ Relief for the Famine-Stricken in Soviet Russia, with headquarters in Berlin, in accordance with the demand of the presidium of the general conference and following the example of the English workers, on the 12th of December addressed a letter to all working-class parties and organizations in which they were requested immediately to take action in all Parliaments similar to those of the English workers and to demand:

  1. The immediate appropriation of funds for the starving workers and peasants in the famine regions.
  2. The removal of all remaining obstacles to the resumption of normal economic and commercial intercourse with Russia.
  3. The extension of long-term credits.
  4. The recognition of the Soviet government.

The Committee concluded its call with the following lines:

“There is no doubt that a unified move in all parliaments on the part of the working-class parties, supported by the entire economic and political power of the working class, will in no small degree hasten the slowly developing understanding between the Western states and Russia. We hope in the interest of 20,000,000 starving Russian workers and peasants, and in the interests of the entire working class, suffering under the decay of the world’s economic life, that our appeal will be heard and followed by all working-class parties.”

The Communist Parties can support this move by immediately communicating with the other workers’ parties and organizations in their countries and calling upon them to act in concert in the Parliaments. There is no doubt that the last few weeks and months have considerably hastened the recognition of the necessity of economic relations with Soviet Russia even in the circles of the bourgeoisie and that a determined and concerted action of the working-class can speedily bring about the necessary agreement.

Last updated on 4 May 2019