Heinz Neumann


The Political Situation in the Near East

(19 July 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 51 [30], 19 July 1923, pp. 528–529.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2022). 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.

English Imperialism has maintained a passive attitude with regard to the French Ruhr occupation. But that does not imply its passivity outside of Europe. On the contrary, while France has been occupied with her adventures in the Rhine country and in the Ruhr, Lord Curzon has been furthering his oriental policy in a very quiet and skilful manner.

The London and the Paris press are full of articles on the “Deadlock in Lausanne”. They frequently devote greater attention to this question than to the whole Ruhr struggle. For 20 weeks, the Conference at Lausanne has not been able to emerge from the crisis into which it has been plunged by the rivalries of the two powers: Great Britain and France. For 20 weeks the Conference has dragged along its tedious and futile course.

At the present time, there exist three points of difference “between the Allies and Turkey”, which in reality are anatagonisms among the Allies. The points in question are the Ottoman debt, the concession question, and the garrison of Constantinople.

Kemal Pacha’s Government wants to pay back the coupons of the “Imperial Ottoman Bank” in French paper francs. France protests violently against this proposal – because it violates the sacredness of the contracts. To what extent it violates this sacredness may be seen from an article in the Matin, which states that the coupons were originally issued at 22 Turkish pounds each, which is equal to 20 pounds Sterling, or 500 francs. Should they be paid back in paper francs, they sink to a third of their value. The owners of the securities, the majority of whom are Frenchmen, lose two thirds of their investments. It is clear that this method is a direct violation of the sacredness of capitalist property.

In the concession question, the state of affairs is very similar The Turkish Government wants to reserve the right of regulating the existing concessions according to its own judgement. France demands that the pre-war concessions be confirmed and compensation paid for war damages.

The final question is that of Constantinople. Turkey had been already granted East Thrace and the Maritzen valley by the Allies after the Turkish army had reached the Dardanelles. The town of Karagatzsch, and with it the passage from the Aegean sea, is also given to the Turks. At the same time the Greek army is still stationed in West Thrace, and is waiting in vain for its demobilization, for a new bone of contention has arisen: the Turkish delegates, Ismet Pacha and Riza Nur, demand the immediate evacuation of Constantinople, before any decision has yet been arrived at on the concession question. While the French Government raises decided objections to the Turkish demands concerning economic questions, it is prepared to negotiate on the evacuation of Constantinople. England, on the other hand, shows but little interest m the Ottoman debts and the Turkish concessions, but for British imperialism, Constantinople and the control of the Straits are indispensable. At the moment, the greatest tension is between Turkey and France, while the relations with England are better. The British Government is utilizing the antagonism with great skill. It has made an intermediary proposal. The political treaty of peace is to be signed first. Special negotiations can then be carried on on economic questions. But as the readiness of the Turks to fulfil their demands is still doubtful, the English military forces are to continue to occupy Gallipoli and the entrance to the Dardanelles. This ingenious proposal would result in the French bondholders losing two thirds of their invested money. England would easily find a pretext for permanently occupying Constantinople. Lord Newton, in an open letter to the Times of the 26th June, reveals the sad position of the eucumenical patriarch who was recently beaten in Constantinople. The Times utters words of flaming protest on behalf of the “venerable old prelate”, and combines this with the proposal that the Turkish police force in Constantinople be further reinforced by English troops.

What does the deadlock at Lausanne mean? The situation in the Near East has changed. England has worked upon the Turkish Government. By means of judicious concessions, Kemal Pacha has allowed himself to be drawn to a great extent from France into the English orbit. Lord Curzon’s position in the Near East is today much stronger than the French.

In this manner, the formation of a new constellation is proclaimed, the French oriental politicians recognize very well the danger of the new position. As England has succeeded in thrusting a wedge between them and Turkey, they are seeking other fulcrums. France has turned once more to the despised and betrayed Greece. Constantine has been set aside by the officers’ revolution, and in his place good old Venizelos is again energetically negotiating with General Pelé, while General Le Rond is at present making a tour of inspection through Jugoslavia.

The whole Balkan question has cropped up again owing to the upheaval in Bulgaria. France must first make concessions to the English. It is a question of allotting spheres of imperialist activity.

England is neutral in the Ruhr question, and is meanwhile preparing in the Orient to assure her hold of India and obtain a base from which she can attack Soviet Russia. Curzon’s Turkish policy is only to be understood as an instrument of the new intervention planned against Soviet Russia. It is not by accident that our comrade Vorovsky was murdered in Lausanne as a result of English agitation.

Whilst France is continuing her European continental policy, and seeking to extend the bloc of the Little Entente to Greece, England is trying to create for herself a mighty counterpoise: a group of vassals extending from Turkey via Bulgaria and Hungary to Vienna, as a jumping off ground against Soviet Russia. As is well known, the English Government was the first to welcome and recognize the ministry of the Bulgarian Fascist putch. England, like Italy, had a hand in the Bulgarian upheaval. Apart from its social aim, the overthrow of agrarian rule by the capitalist class, the Bulgarian coup d’etat also served another function in foreign politics. Stambulisky had the Macedonians arrested in order to come to an agreement with Serbia, or perhaps even to a South Slavian united state. This would have tremendously strengthened the French Balkan bloc. England, with the aid of the Bulgarian capitalist putch, removed the last link in the chain of the French Balkan plan.

When one considers the Near East, it becomes at once apparent that the English policy, about which the pacifists and social democrats are so enthusiastic, is not one iota gentler or more humane than that of French imperialism, but just as militarist and at least just as reactionary as French imperialism. The 8-month crisis since the Greco-Turkish armistice, the five years of oriental crisis since 1918, signalize the new war and intervention zone in the Near East. The picture is exactly the same as in the Ruhr: violent and bloody liquidation of the reconstruction attempts of Versailles, military expeditions, futile conferences intended to bring about understandings. In a word, war during peace as the characteristic of the present imperialist advance.

Last updated on 7 September 2022