Karl Radek

Genoa and Soviet Russia

(19 April 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 28, 19 April 1922, pp. 205–207.
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.

Soviet Russia is fully aware of all dangers threatening it. Soviet Russia is going to Genoa free from all illusions. It knows very well that not a single capitalistic power is able to approach the work of reconstructing the world fearlessly and honestly. It knows too, that all of them are obsessed by a sole aim when they speak of reconstruction, and that aim is – to benefit at the expense of the weaker ones. In spite of this, however, Soviet Russia is going to Genoa with the conviction that no matter how diplomatic the negotiations at Genoa may be, Soviet Russia will none the less come back stronger than she went. What the capitalistic governments feared most until now was that the diplomatic forum might be used for Communist agitation. They were mostly afraid of the Communist propaganda of Soviet diplomacy. But Soviet diplomacy shall spare them from such propaganda. Not for the sake of compromise, nor to spare the delicate ears of Lloyd George and Poincaré, but because that which might and could have been said from the Communist point of view, is expressed more vigorously and impressively by the facts, the accomplished facts of Allied policy in Europe and throughout the world, during the three years that have elapsed since the conclusion of peace.

The capitalist press jubilantly announces to the world the bankruptcy of Communism, because the proletarians of Russia, isolated as they were in an agricultural peasant country, left to their own resources, attacked by the whole of the capitalistic world, subjected to wars and the blockade, and defending their bare existence with arms, were not able to realize a form of society, whose foundation is high technical development.

Well, capitalism rules the entire world with the exception of Russia. The guns have been silent for three years, and the capitalistic governments and the bourgeoisie of the world have had ample opportunity to show us how excellently they could reconstruct the world on the basis of the capitalistic system, the same world which they laid in ruins through the war. But the results are “peace” ruins on top of war ruins.

The capitalist system is doomed by the events of the past and by the events of the present. But perhaps the capitalistic rulers will collect themselves at this, the eleventh hour; perhaps they will now reveal a plan for the world’s reconstruction, a plan that might restore “order” at least from the capitalistic point of view, and which would pay the worker for his hard labor at least as much as a horse gets for his – sufficient food. We say beforehand: capitalist economists and capitalist thinkers have formulated these plans, but the bourgeoisie as a class will pull the wool over its ears and turn a deaf ear to their counsels m the same manner in which the English Government disregarded the counsel of its financial advisor in Versailles, J. Maynard Keynes, and just as the American government disregarded the council of its advisor on Russia, Mr. Bullitt. And should the Soviet diplomats hold up the advice of these far-sighted bourgeois economists before the capitalistic world, it would receive one and the same answer: “We cannot carry out these boundless plans.”

The bourgeois world in Genoa will be like a rudderless ship drifting into the boundless sea only to be shattered by the storm. The fact that at Genoa, capitalism will appear rudderless, bereft of its sense of direction and lacking any plan, will drown its own shouts about the bankruptcy of Communism and will announce to the proletarians of all countries: “Give up all hope in the capitalistic world, give up all hope that it can bring new life and order into the world.”

All the time at each other’s throats and eaten up by mutual distrust, the capitalistic governments will reach out their rapacious hands for the property of the Russian working people. All of them will do it in the hope that the famine in the Volga regions will compel the Soviet government to capitulate. The English Government displayed a murderous calm when millions of people died of starvation in India. “If they cannot live, they die,” coolly writes the historian of British imperialism, Professor Seelly, in his book on the expansion of England. But they know that the Soviet Government, the government of the workers and peasants, connected as it is with the suffering masses, has not toward their famished condition the coolness and calm of these white-blooded gentlemen. That is why they are carrying out the plan which Lloyd George in August 1921 called the devil’s plan, the plan to take advantage of the famine in order to rob the Russian masses. And now they are all preparing for the marauding expedition. What is more characteristic than the fact that the same democratic German Government which bewails its lot before the whole world, complaining about the plundering expedition of the Entente against Germany, joins the Allied plans to demand of Russia that it pay all debts, and that it return the factories and the mines to the foreigners; all this, without even as much as a word being uttered as to who should pay the Russian people for the death and destruction caused them by the three years’ intervention campaign and by the three years’ blockade. These were acts of war committed without any war declaration against the peaceful Russian people yearning and begging for peace.

Soviet Russia, its government and its masses are pursuing a cool policy of reality. They know that although the capitalistic governments are unable to put the unhinged world into gear, they none the less exist, and that they still decide the fates of nations. The Soviet Government knows that the first onslaught of the world revolution is over and that the second onslaught is gathering moment, but slowly. The Soviet Government knows that Russian economy cannot be restored without the aid of Europe. It hoped that it would be the European workers who would furnish the Russian workers with machines and the Russian peasants with plows, and in time get bread and raw materials in return. But the European workers are not their own masters as yet. The factories, machines and all means of production created by them, are still in the hands of the capitalists. And the Soviet Government knows that the capitalist world is based upon the “give and take” principle. Hence the Soviet Government says: We need world capital and in return we must give it that which constitutes the aim of its economic activity profits. But before we get new credits which we need, we must recognize old debts, and in order to restore our most important branches of industry which must remain in the hands of the Russian state, we must lease a part of our factories to the capitalists of the world, and in order to get at our mineral wealth we must lease a part of our mineral wealth to foreign capital. Fools who call themselves Communists, even “radical Communists”, have accused us of having betrayed the proletariat. Kind, well-meaning people have asked us whether we were aware of the dangers that such a step may breed. For the radical noise-makers we have this answer, “Show us another way! Can you help us with machines and plows, or is your aid only a phrase?” And to the well-meaning warners we say:

“We are a hardy nation of fighters, and we have learned to appreciate dangers, in the struggle. The fate of our republic depended upon the outcome of such a struggle. Do you believe that we are treading the new path which we call the new economic policy, because of our confidence or trust in world capital? Do you know of any revolutionary paths that are not beset with dangers?”

Fully conscious of the sacrifices that the Russian people must make, and fully aware of the dangers that are lurking on the new road, the Soviet Government has started on it, and it will continue in its course with calm and determination as long and only so long as the workers of Europe are not in a position to furnish us with technical supplies, without which no nation can now exist.

What we say to our comrades, we have openly said to the capitalist governments with which we are negotiating. We told them:

“Until now only the capitalistic world was in existence, you could therefore rule and fool it as much as you pleased. You have made the world war which gave birth to the world revolution And here we are, the first government of the working-class, by the grace of the new forces set into motion by yourselves. We have driven a wedge into the capitalistic system, just as at one time the English and then the French Revolutions drove the first bourgeois wedge into the feudal system. You were bent upon destroying us. But you have not succeeded and now we ask you: ‘Are you willing to accept our existence as we do yours?’ We are seeking a modus vivendi with you. as long as you exist.”

At Genoa, the capitalistic world will answer us, “We have nothing against the Soviet Government if it gives to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and if it restores to world capital what is its own.” What answer will they receive from Soviet diplomacy?

The Genoa conference is no learned dispute between Communists and capitalists, but a fight; and we old fighters know that before the battle the opponent is not to be lectured upon the tactics we will employ in the fight. The representatives of the Russian proletariat are informed of all details of our policy. The trade-union representatives of our party and our government have formulated our tactics, as much as it was possible to do so before the conference. But these diplomatic moves and counter-moves are of no importance. For great working masses, it is important to know what concessions we shall make to the capitalists and what we shall demand in return.

We shall undertake the obligation to pay the old debts if they recognize our government and if they help us to commence work, which alone can furnish the means of paying the old debts. But while undertaking this obligation we openly say to the capitalists:

“The imperialistic war and your brigand campaign against Soviet Russia have driven our country to financial ruin. What benefit do you reap when you burden us with a debt which we cannot pay? What advantage do you gain when we sign an obligation to you which we cannot make good? Deal with us as businessmen would with a bankrupt debtor whom they do not wish to see ruined, because they hope to get back from him at least a part of their money. The creditors postpone payment until he has recovered and become able to pay. They reach an agreement with him, which reduces his debt to the line of possibility, and then they aid him in starting up new work, whose profits he is to share with them. You should do so the more readily, because we can put counter-claims, and still more readily because it is the only sensible way out if you are to see any part of the debts at all.”

The capitalist world will answer us: “It is true, you are financially bankrupt, but you have factories and mines which at one time belonged to us. Return them.” To that we answer:

“The Russian Revolution has driven out the lord, has turned Land and lots into state-property, and turned them over to the peasants for cultivation, thus ridding the Russian people of its feudal parasites. And no one who has gone through the experiences of the three years of civil war, during which the peasants defended their land with armed force, will dare to attempt to deprive them of their land. It seems that you believe the workers will defend his factory less bravely. Well, we advise you not to test the matter. But aside from all this, the revolution has not only deeply furrowed Russia’s arable soil. In its defence against war and blockade, and in order to set the war factories into shape, which for three years supplied us with arms against you, we have consolidated the factories, making one factory out of ten. And when you stretch your hand out for your factories, you will encounter in many places four bare walls. A return to the old property relations is impossible. It is impossible because our new law providing for the nationalization of industries corresponds to the new demands of life created by the Russian Revolution. The return to the old property relations is an impossibility because Russia can be restored only through a new and vast technical apparatus, which reaches beyond the old boundaries of property. You can reap profits in Russia, we are ready to guarantee them, but we shall not give up the conquests of the revolution. Not denationalization, but leases and concessions; these are the essentials and the limits of our concessions.

We do not know what answer we shall get from the capitalistic world at Genoa. We are prepared for the worst, because we know how difficult it is for this capitalistic world, which is doomed to death, to regain its reason. But no matter what their answer to us may be, the deciding factors will be our relative strength, and the fact that international capital needs Russia’s market and raw materials, as well as the fact that a country with one hundred fifty million people cannot be treated like a desert.

For, should the capitalistic world leave Russia to herself, there can be no question of peace or reconstruction. If one thousand unemployed demonstrate in a capitalistic city, the police use their clubs and scatter the crowd. If ten thousand unemployed become militant, a cavalry division is sent out against them. But if the capitalistic world should want to drive a great nation out of employment, it would have to mobilize whole armies against it. It has already attempted to do so, but failed. Split and divided as the capitalist world is against itself, it fears that we might ally ourselves with the enemy of any country that might attempt to starve us out. We shall ally ourselves not only with Beelzebub, but even with his grandmother, if it comes to defending the rights for which the Russian working class and the Red Army have bled and starved. Soviet Russia is going to Genoa poor and hungry. But it goes there fully conscious of the fact that a people of 150 millions cannot be subjected to a yoke if it is ready to defend itself. Clear of vision and ready to make concessions, Soviet Russia is bound for Genoa to offer an armistice and peace to the capitalistic world. It now depends upon this world whether it accepts our offer or not. Should it reject it, well, then we shall continue to starve and to fight, and victory will be ours, for we represent the new life, we have sent that cry into the world, which is the cry of the new epoch dating from the day when the cannot of the world war disturbed the sleep of the capitalistic world.

The struggle which the Soviet Government will carry on in Genoa, and which it will perhaps have to carry on with different weapons after Genoa, will be watched by millions upon millions of workers (and not only workers) who deeply sympathize with us, and who will support us in our struggle.

In those three years, during which we fought for the life of the dictatorship, we were supported not only by the Communist workers who agreed with us on the great questions of history and the way to solve them; we were supported by the sober English workers who were no Communists, and by all those whose hearts were moved by the reports of the superhuman sacrifices made by the Russian workers for the cause of their liberation. We are convinced that the masses who will support us in our struggle today will be vaster, although we have not as yet succeeded in realizing our great ideal. Three years have passed since the capitalist world has proclaimed peace on earth, and these three years have convinced millions upon millions of people that capitalism can offer no peace and no bread.

Last updated on 4 September 2018