Karl Radek


Soviet Russia and Genoa

(10 January 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 11, 10 February 1922, pp. 73–74.
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.

Moscow, January 10, 1922

The Invitation of the Soviet Government to the International Conference

The conference of the Prime Ministers at Cannes decided to call an international conference in March, which is to deal with the question of the reconstruction of Europe. Soviet Russia was officially invited to this conference. Neither France nor the United States, whose representative, Ambassador Harvey, was present at the conference, raised any objection against this decision. This step signifies a great change in the international situation. The Supreme Council has finally and officially recognized what the greatest authorities among the economists of the capitalist world have said, namely, that without the participation of Soviet Russia there is absolutely no possibility of the reconstruction of the world’s trade and industry. But this decision means still more; it recognizes the fact that the Allies who hoped against hope that the Soviet power might perhaps be overthrown by famine, have now realized the utter futility of such hopes and are convinced that the Soviet power is the only possible power in Russia. The leading political organ of France, the Temps is compelled to make the following statement:

“Notwithstanding the crimes committed by the Soviet Government, it is nevertheless the only power which is now in a position to carry on the national policy of Russia the Soviet Power defends the national independence of Russia against enemy attacks and against foreign intrigues, it speaks in the name of the Russian people.”

This admission on the part of the leading organ of the intervention policy is an admission of the futility of that policy. It does not mean that the Entente will make no more attempts to overthrow us by force of arms, but it does mean that the Allies have realized the barrenness of all such plans and that they now want to conclude peace with us.

This decision on the part of the Allies is the result of three years’ fighting and of one year’s watchful waiting with the bayonet in hand, in expectation of an overthrow from within; it is the most important event in world politics. Furthermore it means that even with the extremely slow development of the world revolution, it proved impossible to destroy Soviet Russia, and that the breach we made in the government system of world capital in 1917 remains as such. A state of equilibrium is setting in. In the midst of a capitalist blockade and with such a slow development of the world revolution, Soviet Russia was not in a position to make progress on the field of socialist reconstruction. It was even compelled to retreat a step or two and to make greater concessions to world capitalism than it would otherwise have done even in petty-bourgeois Russia, had the proletariat of at least one industrial country come out victorious. But the capitalist governments are not in a position to undertake a fight against Russia. They are compelled to tolerate this workers’ and peasants’ country, and to seek a modus vivendi with it.

The Recognition of Soviet Russia

The telegram in which the English government notified the Soviet Government of the Cannes decision to invite the Russian representatives to an international conference reads that at this conference the conditions for recognizing the Soviet Government will be taken up if the latter so desires. This is only a subterfuge. The very invitation of Soviet Russia to an international conference which is to work out plans for a world economic reconstruction already means the recognition of the Soviet Power, if under certain conditions the latter is willing to assume the obligations which the capitalist powers believe are necessary to lay upon Russia in order to draw it into international trade There is no special question of the recognition of the Soviet Power nor any special question of economic cooperation. The question of the recognition of the Soviet government is merely one of the conditions for loans and reparations and the security which the Soviet government will give for the loans, the payment of interest and for loan redemption. The Soviet government does not seek any moral diploma from the governments of Lloyd George, Briand or Harding, nor has it any use for the recognition of our virtue by governments which oppress their working masses What we want are real, material relations with them, and it is just these relations that compel the capitalist governments to cease their agitation against Soviet Russia. Not so long ago the French government wanted to have nothing to do with us, in its hope that it would finally defeat us, it called the Russian gold “stolen gold” and labeled the Russian factories and mines as “expropriated” factories and mines. But from the very moment that the capitalists of all countries begin to realize that they cannot defeat us by force of arms, and begin to enter into actual relations with us, they are compelled to recognize our government, and to consider that which they will get from us not as stolen but as legal.

The Conditions for the Recognition of the Soviet Power

The Soviet government can speak very openly and clearly of the conditions for its recognition; the more clearly and openly these conditions are made known to the whole world, the less chance will the March conference have of turning into a fiasco and ending in nothing.

To name these conditions would mean to call the attention of the entire capitalist world to the actual state of affairs in Russia. The Allies have mentioned the question of the recognition of the old debts. This question is more of legal than real significance, at any rate for the next few years. In the next few years, Soviet Russia will have no means of paying the old debts. Indeed, no government occupying the Kremlin would fare any better; every one of them would be compelled to say, “When the debtor is penniless, the bailiff is powerless”. A White government would not be able to make gold out of paper, nor would it be in a position to take from the starving peasants grain and raw materials to the extent required for the payment of the old debts. The fact that in the last few weeks the question was raised as to which debts we recognize, is only an attempt to compel us to recognize any and all debts humanly possible. This attempt is only a tactical move. It is absolutely unimportant to make any classified table of debts. Only one thing is important; namely, whether the Allies will furnish Russia with credit sufficient to insure the economic reconstruction of Russia. Even if Soviet Russia were today to declare itself ready and willing to recognize 100 billion gold rubles of debts – and no one in this world knows how big Russia’s debts are – the Allies would not benefit in the least by it, for they would only be getting a scrap of paper. Is there any one who now believes that about 20 years from now Germany will still be paying debts? The Allies themselves do not yet know whether a year

from now they will not be compelled to cancel all debts among themselves. There is hardly an intelligent man in all the Allied countries who could prophesy what the relations of the powers and the prospects for the fulfilling of obligations which one government or another may have assumed will be ten years from now. The recognition of debts is to give this or that government a privilege in the concessions that are to be given as security for the loans which are now put at Russia’s disposal for its economic reconstruction. The main task of the conference will be the determination of the amounts of the loans, the organizations that are to furnish them and the conditions upon which they will be made. Everything else is of secondary and diplomatic nature.

Soviet Russia and the Capitalist Powers

The re-entrance of Russia into world commerce and the fact that it is drawn into relations with the present system of government present a series of questions of a general and special nature. Is it possible to employ capital in its territory as long as the dictatorship of the proletariat exists? At first the Allies put certain conditions to us. They wanted to dictate to Russia certain changes in its system of government. Soviet Russia declared that it would not permit such intervention. The fact, therefore, that now the Allies say nothing about these conditions, shows that they are willing to take into consideration the fact that 150,000,000 Russians are not negroes of the Congo nor helpless like China (helpless for the present). It means that the Entente is beginning to wake up to the fact that although at the present moment the Soviet government and the Russian working class consider it necessary to draw upon foreign capital, the Allies will nevertheless be compelled to find or create the necessary legal forms or institutions for increasing production in Russia. This will happen as soon as the employment of foreign capital ceases to be a mere subject for newspaper discussions and becomes an accomplished fact. Capitalism existed under feudal power, under enlightened absolutism and in the democratic as well as in the oligarchical republic. Capitalism is capable of adapting itself to various conditions; it will also be compelled to reckon with the conditions existing in Russia, and it will only reckon with them if these political conditions are stable and as lone as its profit is guaranteed. On the other hand the new economic policy and system of laws adopted by Soviet Russia present no rigid form. In Russia there will be no pure capitalism and no pure Communism; there will be no pure capitalism as long as the Soviet Power of peasants and workers exists, and there will be no pure Communism there as long as the international working class has not won its victory and as long as it does not manifest the real benefits of the Communist system of production.

Another general question of our relations to the capitalist powers concerns those enterprises which are beyond the powers of a single capitalist group and which require concerted action. Should such steps actually be undertaken, the Soviet Government would of course not reject them. The crux of the question is the following under what conditions are the enterprises established and of what nature are they? Do these conditions threaten the independence of Russia or do they mean the enslavement of Russia? All negotiations for consortiums have so far been only of a theoretical nature. Firstly of all gigantic enterprises of this nature require billions. Without America an international consortium is an impossibility. But does America now intend to engage in such gigantic enterprises as may require the creation of an international association, and does it at all intend to participate in the reconstruction of Europe? On the 31st of March 1921, the long-term loans of America amounted to $16,000,000,000. The short-term debts amounted to $7,500,000,000. The interest now due on American government debt is now more than $1,000,000,000. In 1914 the total government debt of America amounted to less than $1,000,000,000. The American budget for 1914 amounted to $1,000,000,000. We thus see that America must now pay more interest on its debts in one year than its entire debt amounted to before the war, and more than the entire American pre-war budget. Under these circumstances the most important question for America is that of new taxes. The keynote of President Harding’s inaugural address was mainly the question of reduced expenses. This necessity for reducing expenses was one of the main driving forces that led to the calling of the Washington Conference. At present it is very difficult in America to get credit for house building. First-class cities can obtain loans only with great difficulty. The so-called “Liberty Loan” is quoted very low on the Stock Exchange. America does not know how it can possibly receive the interest upon the loans made by it to the Allies; in the meanwhile they art being paid with American taxes. The financial situation in both England and France is very unfavorable. It is clear that the Entente governments will hardly be in a position to make big government loans. But as soon as the question of drawing upon private capital comes up, every attempt is met with the troublesome problem of the currency in which this consortium is to make a loan. The British idea of a consortium has already met with loud protest because it proposed a loan on the basis of the English pound, thus crowding out France and Germany, for the English rate of exchange is considerably higher than the French one. It stirs us to laughter when we read in the Paris Temps that France will never agree to participate in financial enterprises which are intended to put the Russian people under the care of trustees and to cause it damage. The Soviet government is so much the less willing to agree to such operations.

The Tactics of the Entente

No one will accuse the Soviet government of not clearly comprehending international politics or of not being aware of the benefits that may accrue in the speedy calling of the international conference for a solution of the disputes which may lead the way to the economic reconstruction of Russia. We are also able to appreciate the significance of the Allied request that the president of the Council of People’s Commissars, Comrade Lenin, should participate in the international conference in person on the ground that if he comes, all the Prime Ministers will attend and the matter will be taken care of quickly. Were we disposed to be humorous, we would say that until now the Allied gentlemen and their press have represented Lenin as the autocrat of all Russia, in such a case the reference to the Premiers is not quite in place. Under those circumstances it would be necessary for the American and French presidents and the King of England to participate in the conference as the equals of Lenin, the autocrat. But quite the contrary is true. The request that Lenin come personally is a tactical move whose purpose is self-evident. The Allies take it for granted that before the soviet delegation makes any decisions, it must ask Moscow first, they take it for granted that Lenin decides questions independently. If Briand or Lloyd George meet a few bankers and decide upon a course of action, of course they can then do as they please, because the banks in question hold the press and the Parliamentary groups in their hands. But things are altogether different in the country where a workers’ and peasants’ democracy actually exists. There the President of the Council of People’s Commissars is only an executive, and important decisions require not only that the voice of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee be heard, but in questions of special importance the calling of the Soviet Congress is required by law. The Allies should not labor under any illusions just because of the fact that at the public sessions of the Soviet Congress there was no opposition when the question of recognizing the debts came up. Many heated discussions took place in the communist caucuses as well as in the non-partisan group, and we can show the Allies reports from numerous provinces, and even from local Soviet Congresses where a considerable part of the peasants protested very strongly against the burdening of the masses by the recognition of the debts. The Soviet government must take all this into consideration in all its negotiations. Perhaps the demands that the Allies will put to us and their concrete plans and suggestions will require that, during the negotiations, the authorities among the leaders of Soviet Russia be at the helm and in direct contact with working and peasant masses. The international conference must take place as soon as possible, but it must be carefully prepared. If the countries in question are not to have called this conference in vain, they must see to it that the delegates of all countries have a clear idea as to what questions will be dealt with so that they can prepare the public opinion of their respective countries for the matter in question. The Tower of Babel of the Versailles Conference has had such results that now “three days” after Versailles the Allies have to call new conferences to deal with the economic reconstruction of the world. The lessons of Versailles must be given particular attention, because Russia is not in the same position as disarmed Germany was at Versailles.

Last updated on 4 September 2018