Peter Petroff Vanguard November 1915

The Balkan Problem

Source: Vanguard, No.3. November, 1915, p.9;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

A short time ago when the wave of ultra-patriotism had no yet reached its climax of frenzy, and when in democratic circle it was still possible to discuss calmly foreign policy, Lord Cromer in the “Times,” tried to instruct the public as to the advantage of secret diplomacy. The “Times” and other Northcliffe newspapers commented triumphantly on the sceptics who dared to question the wisdom of the oracles of the Foreign Office.

Now the “Daily Mail” tells us that the events in the Balkans are but “the consequence of a series of diplomatic failures such as have rarely been recorded in the history of any country,” that “the British Foreign Office seems to have been completely deceived,” and that “the Ambassador and his staff in Turkey knew neither the language of that country nor the Balkan affairs.” The “Times” is raising hell over the same question.

Similar voices are to be heard in France. The reactionary Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Delcasse, was dismissed as a concession to those elements who were disgusted with his Russian policy. Things nevertheless remained as they were. The “explanations” of the prime minister, Viviani, were so empty that M. Clemenceau rightly described them as a new attempt to disprove the ancient belief that nature abhors a vacuum, but the French Chamber blindly voted confidence in the ministry. It is true about 150 deputies, amongst them a considerable number of Socialists, refrained from voting confidence in the ministry of which the “Socialists” – Guesde, Sembat and Thomas are members. The “revolting” French Socialists, however, were actuated by the same motives as the “revolting” Tories in this country.

We social democrats never doubted the ignorance of the aristocratic diplomats of all the belligerent countries, and shall certainly not attempt to defend any of the governments; yet it seems ridiculous to assign the failures of Allied Diplomacy simply to the ignorance of the diplomats: surely the German diplomats are by no means better than those of the Allies.

Sir Edward Grey tried, in a recent speech in the House of Commons, to explain the failure of his Balkan policy by the fact that “the feeling between the Balkan States was not one of union but one of acute division,” and declared that in his opinion “it is clear that nothing outside a preponderating advantage to the Allies in the course of military events in Europe during the last few months would have enabled them, to make the policy of Balkan union prevail over the opposite policy of bringing about Balkan war.”

From the same speech it follows that the Allies were striving to get some of the Balkan States to join them in their fight against the others. The “Times” in an apparently inspired article of October 18th threatens Greece: “Should the Greek Government maintain its repudiation of Treaty with Serbia (read – maintain its neutrality) .... it will be guilty of a deliberately unfriendly ac towards the Allies which they will be entitled to resent and to meet with all means at their disposal. These means are formidable and no Greek statesman can be so blind as to imagine that they would not be effective.” The “Times” seems to believe in the simple maxim of morality of a certain savage: “If I take some body’s property it’s moral, if somebody takes my property then it is dreadfully immoral”; for when Italy, in spite of her treaty obligations, entered the war against her former ally, the “Times” and all the capitalist press heralded that as the most noble act of humanity.

The “feeling of acute division” in the Balkans was created by the imperialist reactionary policy of the Great Powers. In 1908 when the Revolution commenced in Turkey the French and British Governments, in order to prevent the regeneration of that country and to satisfy the reactionary aspirations of the Russian autocracy, fought the revolutionary forces by means of financial boycott, etc. Austria in her turn dealt a severe blow at the new regime by the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovinia in 1912, after having attained the overthrow of the Young Turks, the Allied diplomacy, headed by the Russian bureaucrat, Izvolsky, engineered the Balkan War of the “Christian States” against Turkey with the supposed object of “liberating” Macedonia, but in reality this war was directed to the acquisition of new taxable units and spoils for the reactionary snobocracy. Ferdinand of Bulgaria and Nicholas of Montenegro were proclaimed by the Northcliffe and the Cocoa press as the angels of peace and the liberators, if not of all mankind, at least of the peoples of the Balkans. Turkey was threatened by the allies of the Russian Government in order to satisfy the little monarchs of the Balkans and the Russian bureaucrats. The “Times,” which was then (March, 1913) the mouthpiece of the Foreign Office, declared to Turkey that if she would “fling to the winds the wisdom and moderation to which Sir Edward Grey exhorts her she will jeopardise her very existence in Europe and her whole future as a State.”

Again, when the division of the spoils came, the Tsar of Russia and his faithful allies, the French and British Governments, supported the annexation of Bulgarian territories by Roumania and Greece, and the acquisition by Serbia of Macedonia with its preponderating Bulgarian population. Moreover the approval of France and Great Britain given to the aspirations of the Russian Government to Constantinople and the promises of the Allies to Italy, on the one hand, and Germany’s attack on Serbia on the other have made the spreading of the European conflagration to the Balkans inevitable. The division of the Balkans into spheres of capitalist robbery was actually the immediate cause of this terrible war. Is it not quite natural that the Balkan peoples should now view with mistrust the sinister invitations of both groups of the Great Powers to participate in their business of destruction? The Great Powers are now reaping only what they have so deliberately sown.

There is only one solution of the Balkan problem: to leave the Balkans to the Balkan peoples. Our Balkan Comrades – the Bulgarian Marxist Party (tyesnye), the Roumanian, Greek and Serbian Socialists are bitterly opposing both the pro-Russian and the pro-German “patriots.” Their programme is the establishment of a federative democratic Balkan republic.

We Socialists of capitalist Europe should support our Balkan Comrades and demand that Russia and Austria, France, Germany and Britain leave the Balkans. Let the Balkan peoples work out their own salvation.