Willy Münzenberg

Relief for Russia

Genoa and the Proletarian
Relief Campaign

(31 January 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 9, 31 January 1922, p. 67.
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.

After several governments – especially that of America – have voted increased grants for the famine-stricken in Russia and after Soviet Russia has been invited to the Genoa Conference, tendencies in our Parties are making themselves felt towards bringing the relief action to an end. It is argued that the workers will never be able, by collections and small transports of goods, to mitigate decisively the sufferings of the Russian people and favourably to influence the economic reconstruction of Russia.

“There are only two ways of reconstruction,” they say. “Either we cause the social revolution in our own countries and with our newly-conquered state power provide a continuous support for Soviet Russia, or (by means of the united front of the proletariat) we strengthen our pressure upon the capitalist governments, so as to make them unconditionally recognize Soviet Russia, and, with regard to her economic position, conclude favourable economic and financial agreements (long-term credits) at the Genoa Conference.”

These conceptions are fundamentally wrong. All judicious leaders of the Communist International know very well that in the present period an immediate victory of the social revolution in one of the important countries (Germany, France, England, America) cannot be expected. The same arguments – no relief campaign but revolutionary action were, by the way, already at the beginning of the action in Autumn 1921 expressed by the small Communist Labor Party which on account of its “purity of principles” did not take part in the relief action. The results of the action up till now, however, and its political and material effects are the best proof of the incorrectness of this conception.

In those countries where the action was well organized, it was used as a means to counteract the policy of the Second and the Second-and-a-Half Internationals of isolating the Communist Party from the broad masses of the proletariat, and to bring Communist influence to bear upon non-Communist workers. In Switzerland where the Party numbers but six or seven thousand members, more than 150,000 francs were collected. Large masses of non-Communist workers have evidently contributed to this sum and thus for the first time got into touch with the Communist Party. On a still larger scale this has been the case in England, Holland and the United States.

To a certain extent the relief action of the Communist International has contributed in making numerous trade-unions, in all countries, bourgeois-pacifist circles and even governments alter their attitude towards Soviet Russia. Thus the relief action has had its share in creating the atmosphere without which conferences dealing with communications and commerce with Soviet Russia would not have been possible.

Still more evident are the material results Until the end of February not less than

10,000 tons of goods

will have been sent to Russia, collected by the relief action of the Communist International, including 8,000 tons of foodstuffs with which several hundred thousand people will be nourished for months. This is not much, but at least something. The more the international conditions in Russia improve, the stronger Soviet Russia will be at the Genoa Conference, the more energetic will be its attitude towards the bourgeois governments. It is evident that the relief action cannot be carried on eternally, but only as long as real need and suffering in Soviet Russia provide the psychological conditions for successful work. Today this is still more the case than in Summer 1921. All news from Russia report increased famine, misery and people perishing by the thousands in the famine-stricken districts. The bourgeois governments’ promises of relief have in most cases remained merely beautiful promises. Some bourgeois relief organizations in Russia receive more money from the Soviet Government for the upkeep of their apparatus, (hundreds of officials etc.) than they goods which they are bringing to Russia are worth.

Genoa is coming and its results depend to a large extent upon the economic position of Russia at that time. In short, all objective reasons for the continuation of the relief action, and even for its intensification, are present.

But it is necessary to enlarge our objects. Today our activities must not be limited to the mitigation of the famine. We must proceed to assist Soviet Russia in its economic reconstruction. We must send to Russia the necessary tools, machines and reserve machine parts. Various parties, trade unions and cooperatives must undertake to administrate some Russian factories. In some cases this has been accomplished already by the Foreign Relief Committee. This way will more quickly and surly show its practical results than the workers’ loan proposed some months ago. But like the latter it has the advantage of combining practical assistance with international Communist education and co-operation.

No, the end of the relief action for Soviet Russia has not yet come There remains the necessity of its intensification by political and parliamentary campaigns in all Western countries and of its extension by measures for cooperation in the economic reconstruction of Soviet Russia.

Last updated on 4 May 2019