Karl Radek

The International Situation and
the Task before the Working Class

(17 October 1921)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. I No. 2, 17 October 1921, pp. 13–14.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2018). 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.

A few months ago much was said in the press about an improvement in the international situation alleged to have taken place or, at any rate about to begin. Germany had accepted the Allied ultimatum and signs of an improvement of the world’s economic situation could apparently be discerned everywhere. But appearances are deceiving, for, in reality, neither the economic nor the political situation of the world has improved. This is exemplified by the settlement of the Upper Silesian question which has thrown a glaring light upon the contrast between England and France. The Allies are incapable of reaching an agreement which would at least resemble a compromise among themselves. Hence they have postponed the settlement in order to avoid a rupture, and the collapse of the Entente cordiale. Hardly has this matter been disposed of, however, when the contrast between them again becomes apparent. The atmosphere created by the question of how to divide the first billion paid by Germany prompted Gustav Hervé to write as follows in his Victoire:

“The number of Frenchman glad of any difficulties arising for England in any part of the world is steadily increasing. A Conference of all powers interested in the Pacific problem is shortly to meet at Washington. When the intention of holding this conference first became known, the trumpet of peace was sounded once again, and much was said about an improvement of relations between Great Britain, the United States and Japan. Nobody knows what that conference will lead to and if an agreement will be reached, which after all would but be a makeshift. But it is generally known that the powers concerned are increasing naval armaments. In the Near East England employs her Greek mercenaries for a bitter struggle against Turkey. The aim of this struggle is the final dismemberment of Turkey, the safeguarding of the fruits of the English victory in Mesopotamia, and a flanking movement against Soviet Russia from the East. If England proves victorious, her victory will go far in strengthening her position in Asia Minor in regard to France and, in the second place, be a source of fresh conflicts. But that would not be the only result of an English victory – such a victory would prompt the Mohammedan world, which is undergoing a period of deep unrest to place its faith in Soviet Russia. If Turkey maintains herself and compels England to have regard to her vital interests, the English prestige in the Mohammedan world will suffer considerably. All peoples suffering under the yoke of English imperialism will the see that liberation from that yoke is not to be counted as an impossibility!!”

So far Gustav Hervé

Germany’s compliance with the Allied demands gave rise to the opinion that the world had settled down to business and was consolidating. But at this very moment the economic development of Germany found expression in a tremendous increase of prices, in a phantastic program of taxes, and in a rapid decline of her currency on the foreign markets. The revolver shots at Erzberger and the subsequent spontaneous proletarian movement signalise the approach of civil war in Germany. Capital and landed interests alike, intending to place the burden upon the shoulders of proletariat and petty bourgeoisie, are preparing for battle. Currents of unrest are running through the proletarian masses. From the far-away Volga news of 20 millions beings in the grip of death and famine are coming in continuously. But the capitalist world, which during the war stolidly and consciously sent millions to their doom, only talks of helping the famine-stricken and meanwhile considers how the tears of the tortured peasant children along the Volga would be coined into gold. Under the humanitarian relief cloak England is endeavouring to compel Soviet Russia to grant her in return for a loan a monopoly for the whole of Russia. France attempts to stir up conflicts between Roumania and Poland on one hand and Soviet Russia on the other; this conflict could be made to result in open war or in an improvement of the situation, according to whether Soviet Russia acknowledges the debts of Tzarism or not.

Meanwhile the world economic crisis goes on. Forces capable of solving the capitalist chaos are not discernible. Profiteers and imperialist adventurers are flourishing upon the ruins of the old capitalist world, which have as yet not been removed by the proletariat, because it has hitherto not proved capable of building up a new world. So profiteers and adventurers go on merrily and increase the chaos and the sufferings of the masses. The result of it all is a bitter struggle of the various capitalist cliques against each other, a struggle which so far has not resulted in open conflict, because the powers that be have not quite overcome the effects of the terror, which gripped hold of their hearts at the sight of the Russian Revolution and the revolutionary risings in Central Europe. The capitalists pour oil on the conflicts, which contain the germ of fresh wars and new revolutions. The proletariat has not nude up its mind to call a halt to the mad dance, which the capitalist world is dancing on the battle-fields around the Golden Calf. But by its impotence to bring order into the chaos, Capitalism involuntarily teaches the proletariat that it must pay with blood and tears for its irresolution and take up, for better or worse, the struggle for a new system. It is not sufficient, however, to draw from all this the conclusion that the capitalists are busily undermining the ground for a proletarian revolution and – to let it go at that. We must try and learn what the proletarians should do in a situation such as this. This question can only be answered if one first of all states from whence the impetus for the forthcoming phases of revolutionary development will originate. Seen from the proletarian viewpoint there are two points around which the attention of the world proletariat should be centered: Russia and Germany. Soviet Russia will during the next months have to withstand a great amount of pressure both from within and without; she will be face to face with perhaps military attacks. The world proletariat must assist Russia in her struggle. It must, in the first place, increase its pressure upon its governments, in order to prevent them from taking advantage of the famine; and thus form a wall around Soviet Russia; it must, in the second place, strain all its energies in the work for independent relief of the Russian proletariat. No matter how poor they themselves are, the proletarians of the West can give up a day’s wage on behalf of their Russian brothers, who time and again have shed their blood for the sake of the international proletariat. The relief action will constitute a test of strength for the Communist Parties, and for the spirit of class solidarity of the international proletariat. The action on behalf of Russia is a defensive action on the part of the international proletariat, which must try its utmost to hold its important Russian position. Simultaneously it seems that the international proletariat will soon be in a position where it can make a few steps forward. It is impossible to foretell development and result of the autumn and winter struggles, which Germany is approaching. But there can be no doubt whatsoever that every step forward of the German proletarians is a step towards the world revolution, that every position they gain, will also be gained for the world revolution.

If in the course of the next months the white guards will be disarmed and organs are created to undertake the control of production, it would indeed be an enormous step toward the battle between international capitalism and the international proletariat. The proletarians of the Allied countries must, however, not remain sympathising bystanders in that struggle for there is no doubt the Allied governments will not tolerate disarming of the white guards, no matter what they say and have said to the contrary, and will support the German government in its attempts at keeping “law and order”. If the German proletarians try to repel the assault of capitalism, which is looming on the horizon in the form of fantastic taxes and create organs for the control of production, they will shake the very foundations of the peace of Versailles. The Allies, and especially France, will not be satisfied with the role of spectator in the forthcoming struggles over taxes and wages in Germany; they will declare their solidarity with the taxation programme of the German Government, which is but their faithful business manager. The proletarians in the Allied countries, and especially those in France, should know that in the course of the next months the policy of their government will become pronouncedly counter-revolutionary and therefore theirs must become actively revolutionary. The Communist Parties in the Allied Countries must already now rouse the proletariat and utilise their whole apparatus in preparing for the forthcoming struggle. The press of French capitalism will say that the Communist International is demanding of the workers of the Allied countries to fight on behalf of Germany and Russia. Every proletarian in these countries must clearly comprehend that the preservation of Russia and the attempt to prevent the Allies from interfering in the struggle of the German Proletariat are a matter of life or death to the proletariat in the Allied countries. If the German proletariat should be degraded into still heavier servitude, it will become not only a means whereby the wages in other countries will be reduced, but a mercenary of a new German imperialism as well, an imperialism that will grow out of the soil prepared by German capitalism.

We are approaching new, and great struggles. The capitalist world is a vulcano. The Communist International has at its congress given out the watchword: “To the masses, into the masses, with the masses!” We must prepare these masses, mentally and organisationally as well, for the coming struggles. The capitalist world has not been able so far to unite in one phalanx. That is the great chance of the international proletariat – if it can achieve a single, united phalanx.

Last updated on 10 January 2018