Willy Munzenberg

Relief For Russia

Famine Relief – Economic Relief

(17 January 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 5, 17 January 1922, p. 42.
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.

From the very beginning of the proletarian relief action it was clear to every far-sighted comrade that this action was not to be confined to bare food relief, but that if the proletariat of Western Europe really wished to help, it would have to devote its efforts to a far-reaching support of Russia’s economic reconstruction. The catastrophe visited upon Russia by nature through a most frightful drought which lasted for months, was rendered worse and so much the more difficult to overcome, by the catastrophic breakdown of Russian economic life as a result of many years of war, the blockade, the sabotage of the counter-revolution, etc. A few figures will serve to illustrate this. In 1913 the coal production of Russia amounted to 1,038,000,000 poods; in 1920 it was only 466 million poods. Naphta production in 1913 amounted to 638,000,000 poods, whereas in 1920 it dropped to 250,000,000 poods. In 1913, the production of pig iron was 259,000,000 poods; in 1921, 6,000,000 poods. In the spring of 1921 the output of Russian industries dropped to 20% of the pre-war output. Of course, it is as yet impossible for the Western European workers who are themselves oppressed and exploited, and who are as yet cut off from the means of production, to furnish the materials and means necessary for the reconstruction of the Russian economic life. This can be accomplished only by organizing the economic and trade relations between the industrial West and agrarian Russia on a large scale. As long as there are no social workers' republics in the West, Russia will have to deal with the capitalistic West—for better or for worse. The vast masses can aid only inasmuch as they bear pressure upon their governments to resume full economic relations with Russia.

But the workers and above all our trade-union comrades can do still more. Many Russian factories are at a standstill only because of the lack of certain single machines or even essential substitute parts for these machines. So for example the locomotive repair shops of Podolsk suffer mostly from a shortage of electric lamps. At present these shops repair 50 locomotives a month, whereas if they had 1,500 more bulbs they could increase their output by 30%. 850 25 candle power lamps, 200 50 c.p. lamps, 100 200 c.p., 100 400 c.p. and 200 600 c.p. lamps are needed. Above all there is a great lack of agricultural implements. The following table shows the chief needs of the famine-provinces.



of Farms






Reapers and



















































Stavropol (Kuban)










The supply of several hundred power plows would be of inestimable value for the creation of a better and more highly developed agriculture in Russia. It is the duty of the Western trade unions to aid in procuring these necessary articles. It is indeed impossible for many workers and comrades to make continual sacrifices from their wages in spite of their great willingness to do so. But many workers would be only too glad to work it few hours longer in their factories or even to put in an extra Sunday and to contribute the product of spell overtime to Russian relief. It is upon this task that our comrades in the unions should in the next few weeks concentrate their efforts for Russian relief, The Communist shop delegates and functionaries in particular could do much for Russia and aid greatly in its economic reconstruction. They must urge the other workers at the shop meetings to make a certain number of machines and tools produced in the particular factories for Russian relief; as a small group they must set the example. On the one hand, they are to see that the employees themselves contribute a certain number of tools or single machines, and on the other, that the employees put pressure to bear upon the management to sell tools and machines at an exceptionally low price. This suggestion should be taken up without delay by the active comrades in the factories where agricultural implements are manufactured. The work must be organized and carried out in the form of a regular campaign. If we set ourselves to this task with any will and energy at all we should be able to furnish a large percentage of the needed articles in German, English and American factories.

To work then! For the reconstruction and security of Soviet Russia. The first shipment of tools and machines to Soviet Russia must be made by the end of January; the last shipments by the end of February, so that they will arrive in time to be used in the Summer sowing and in the new field work.

Trade Unionists! Prove your international solidarity in deeds!

Last updated on 4 May 2019