Karl Radek

Reply to Ramsay Macdonald

(5 April 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 26 No. 2 [vol. 2 No. 26], 12 April 1922, pp. 198–199.
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.

My answer is divided in two parts; the first deals with the speech of Ramsay Macdonald; the second is the reply to the official declaration of the Second International which does not conform with Ramsay Macdonald’s speech. Macdonald’s speech tempts a detailed, discussion because one can argue with Macdonald without losing one’s temper. The honesty and conviction of Macdonald’s statements permit us to discuss them with complete calmness. We do not consider Macdonald’s speech as a part of the tragedy but as a part of the tragi-comedy of the proletariat. When Vandervelde spoke we heard the echo of Paris. “The Treaty of Versailles must not be placed on the agenda because Stinnes must not be assisted ...” From the declaration of the Second International we see that it sticks to the agenda of the invitation but on the other hand does not want to put the Treaty of Versailles on the order of business. It would be very interesting to find out from the representatives of the German Social Democratic Party if they agree to the omission of the reparations question at a conference which is to deal with the situation of the international proletariat. (Interruption by Wels Germany, “We have already discussed that time and again!”) Have you nothing to say upon the Treaty of Versailles? (Wels: “That is your logic!”) Rely upon it, we will later discuss that in all frankness. Ramsay Macdonald dealt with Georgia. All his charges – and he admitted it to me in a private conversation – are a repetition of the slogan of the liberation of small peoples, whom England always liberates as long as she does not possess them. We, however, were the biting wolves who devour small peoples. I would like to make a few statements of fact in this connection. Ramsay Macdonald does not speak as a representative of the Independent Labour Party for the latter sits at the table of the Vienna Working Union. He is not here as the latter’s representative. Notice now the Labour Party speaks of the Irish question. “The Irish coast should be neutral in order not to be used as a maritime base against the British Empire.” You believe that you must bring before this Socialist Conference what lies deep in the heart of every Englishmen. Your Party supports the independence of Ireland. I have established this fact. If that is so, permit me to say that you are for freedom as you understand it, as the English working class unconsciously understands it, as it understands freedom under the influence of four centuries of English Imperialism and as the latter’s unconscious accessory. Therefore Ramsay Macdonald has overlooked certain small but rather important facts in his speech, which was full of pretty words with which we became acquainted during the entire war as a part of the artillery of English Imperialism. He has overlooked what is at the bottom of this dispute over the small nations. For him there exists an England which is always for the small peoples when they do not belong to England. And there is another state which has devoured small innocent Georgia. They once were called border states and when Czarism still ruled in Russia Ramsay Macdonald never though of doing something for his wards. Only after the death of Czarism did English Imperialism begin to concern itself with the border states for it desired to control the ports of entry to Russia, Riga and Batum. That is the story of the border states which Ramsay Macdonald makes a Socialist affair. It is sufficient to ask Macdonald why, since he was already before the war a member of the Second International, did he never demand the independence of Georgia when Czarism still ruled? Why, if it is a principle of Socialism to free an oppressed people, did he not call for the independence of Georgia when it was a downtrodden land? Are you acquainted with the history of the Georgian fight for freedom? The present proponents of this question are the members of the deposed Menshevik government of Georgia. They are men, none of whom advocated the independence of Georgia up to 1917; men who were Pan-Russian patriots. Tseretelli fought so hard for Great Russia that he as a Minister advocated the death sentence during the 1917 June offensive. (Hear, hear!) He can himself judge what moral right he has to make an accusation. We have a right to apeak from a moral standpoint, but not those who fought in the front against the workers’ republic. You wanted to root out the Bolsheviks with fire and sword. If anyone laughs at that statement I will read your declarations and also cite General Alexeieff who describes how you sheltered White officers and took them under your protection. I have the secret documents of the Menshevik government which we took from it when it fled. (“The genuine secret decoments?”) Yes.

Shall I read to you from the book which was published with an introduction by your Foreign Minister those passages where Djugeli makes the following statements:

“My Social Democratic Party and Government were ordered by the British General Thomson to haul down the red flag from the government house. I was opposed to it, but my Party has not remained true to the red flag. And I do not agree with the decision of my Party.”

Georgia was small and weak. Georgia could not remain neutral and your government leaders understood that. Djordania said in a speech.

“And if we have to choose between Eastern fanaticism – that was the Russian Revolution – and Western civilisation, we decide for Western civilisation.

Now Western civilisation is an extraordinarily good thing, comrade Tsereteili, but not only are such beautiful things as democracy part of Wester civilisation, but the British General Thomson considers as component part of Western civilisation the petroleum wells of Baku. And a not so very unimportant firm, the Royal Dutch Shell, behind which there stands the British Admiralty, look upon the Baku oil wells with greedy eyes. And this eagerness of the English for oil was very great. You know very well that the question of oil was not only of some importance for the small Georgian people but also for the great Russian people and the Russian working class. To-day one of the comrades of the Second International called out, “Fine naphta-communism!” (interruptions). When Citizen Abramovitch introduces Socialism, he will do so without naphta (Laughter). Citizen Abramovitch will probably use the volcano of his indignation and enthusiasm as fuel (Laughter). This reference to the oil wells shows that the desire of the Georgian people for independence is of very recent date. The defending attorneys overlook that. However, if you think deeper than the present moment, if you think of more than the negotiations, but desire to examine the matter closely, you must then say, there is no formal principle when we consider the state as the result of the first wave of the revolution, when we think of future struggles. Then there is no other way of considering the matter but the following: Does it maintain a position of the world revolution or not? That is the question and when good Ramsay Macdonald comes and brings with him in his suitcase all the tracts of the humanitarian English liberals without knowing that they are only a concealed form of imperialism that does not change the given fact.

Comrades, we will not come to an agreement upon these fundamental conceptions in any conference. The proletariat the West will on the whole understand our policy. When they, driven by the course of events, themselves make a revolution and will undergo all the hardships of this revolution, they will only then understand us. We will not convince you by propaganda that all that is called self-determination of nations is not self-determination at bottom. We will not bridge over the chasm between us by propaganda. As Adler and Bauer correctly said and as we have been repeating for the past year, the working class is now on the defensive. These questions can only be solved by the experiences of the common struggle.

The general conference proposed by the Vienna Working Union is to serve this purpose and therefore this theoretical discussion has only [one] aim: To mark off the limits, to say beyond this point there is no unity and to discuss that upon which we can find a common platform. I repeat: when I said to Vandervelde no confidence, I did not say that for polemical reasons. I said it because it is good to say at the beginning of an action in what relationship we stand to each other. We cannot give you this confidence, but in spite of that we say, the situation is so bad that your workers will not ask whether we have confidence in each other but demand a common struggle.

Now for the concrete conditions. I declare: We are calling a conference which is to consider the misery of the working class and ways and means of a defensive struggle against the capitalist offensive. You have not discussed a single question, not put up a single condition for this fight against capital. You have, however, put conditions to us, but if you believe that you can set conditions, you are mistaken. However, I say frank[ly], we will attempt to come to an agreement for the minimum possible, without any party putting conditions to another. I will discuss the conditions which you have set up. The first is the rejection of cell tactics. I believed at first that the cells in questions were those of Moabit and Butirki. We would gladly discuss that. Since the representatives of the English Party do not gladly study documents of other parties, cell tactics appear to be some sort of horrible beast. What were and are cell tactics? At the Second Congress of the Communist International we discussed the trade-union question. We placed ourselves on record as against any attempt at splitting the trade-unions. This resulted in s break between a part of our comrades and ourselves. The so-called Left Communists, the K.A.P. (German Communist Workers’ Party) withdrew from the Communist International, mainly because they demanded: Splitting the trade-unions, the building of new trade unions, and we replied to them, the replacement of the reformist spirit of the trade unions by a revolutionary one. If you should demand of us that we renounce this struggle, we would answer with a clear “No!” Your reformist tactics have wrought the trade-unions to the point where a member of the English trade-unions writes: “The English trade unions are exhausted to the last farthing; they are also spiritually exhausted.” We will fight against the reformist spirit in the trade unions as long as we exist. I now ask the members of the Social- Democratic Party: Have you not fractions in the German trade- unions? Do you not put up lists in the elections for trade-union posts? And do not the German Independents do so as well? We fight the splitting of the trade-unions [not] out of love for you, but because we know that it would weaken the strength of the working class. That is the declaration which I consider necessary to make here upon the question of cell tactics.

The second question raised here is the appointment of a commission of delegates of the three Executives for the examination of the situation in Georgia and in countries with similar conditions, in order to arrive at an understanding between the Socialist parties. We agree to this condition which actually is no condition at all. Probably the Second International will also be ready to discuss the question of the attitude of the Labour Party to the question of India and Ireland.

The third condition is the demand for the liberation of the prisoners who are in jail because of political crimes and for the assurance of their right of defence by the control of International Socialism. Citizen Vandervelde seems to have a great desire to defend these people before the revolutionary tribunal in Moscow. I know, he is only actuated by ... noble motives. We can promise him that we will speak up with all our heart for granting of him the right of defending the Social Revolutionaries.

Comrades, I repeat once again: We accept no conditions. This questions is for us not one of polemics and the further intensification of our differences. As for myself it is a question of how we can arrive at general conference over all the obstacles in the way. Today Bauer proposed that we should not let this conference dissolve without calling upon the proletariat for a joint demonstration against the Genoa conference, which is merely a new attempt at exploitation and not at reconstruction. We support this proposal wholeheartedly. Abysses still separate us from one another. The question is, how can we overcome them. The proletariat will not be united at this table where we make declarations and hold up to one another our past. The struggle of the proletariat will decide the united front. You can call the Communist International as many names as you like. One thing is certain, our struggle – it could have a thousand times underestimated the length of the road – was fought in the interest of the working class. And therefore we are for the united front of the proletariat without conditions. (Great applause)

Last updated on 4 September 2018