Karl Radek

Speech at the Berlin Conference

(2 April 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 26 No. 2 [Vol. 2 No. 26], 12 April 1922, pp. 194–195.
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.

In our declaration we did not put any conditions for the convocation of the International Conference, we accepted the invitation of the International 2½ which stated that it was to be an conference for action, we stood upon the position which it appears the Vienna International desires to leave. We forego an accounting for the past, not because we want to remain silent upon what must be said but for the simple reason that we realize the need of the hour, the general situation of the world proletariat and say that it is senseless to begin at this moment with recriminations, it is now necessary to think of what we want to do.

The representative of the Second International, Vandervelde, considered it necessary to draw up a balance. He did it with the same voice, with the same gestural which we saw in Basle (“Quite right” – the Communist delegation) when he as leader of the International swore to lead us into the fight against war, and we were carried back by the pathos of Vandervelde’s voice for a moment to the time when we believed in the warmth of his voice and we forgot for a moment that this voice was drowned by the roar of cannon. If Vandervelde desires it, we will draw up an accounting of these last 8 years – an accounting which will perhaps break up this conference but will not sound very pleasant to this former royal minister of Belgium. He has forgotten the sea of blood, he has forgotten the mountain of corpses, he has forgotten all the misery of the world. This accounting does not exist for him. After this he comes to us and says, “A little faith, a minimum of faith, a grain of faith – and if you do not give me this confidence on credit, we have nothing to discuss in common.” And we tell Citizen Vandervelde face to face. Not a farthing’s worth of faith! We have paid for this confidence by the fact that we today face each other as enemies and must seek the path to an understanding. And when you come to us with your sweet phrases of confidence, we answer you with a plump “No!” Confidence for what? For the war? Confidence for what? For the Peace of Versailles which you as a Belgian minister signed? Confidence for what; for whom you speak in the name of an organization. This organization does not only consist of little Belgium. Confidence for the English occupation against which the Labour Party only fought in words? Confidence for all your crimes against those crimes of which the representative of the 2nd International has not spoken here today? The Social Revolutionary Tchaikin has published documents on the murder of 26 leaders of the Caucasian proletariat by the English political police. The names of the murderers have been published. Has Citizen Tom Shaw asked in the English Parlament, “What of these murderers, of General Maleson, of General Thomson?” And then you say, “Confidence?” The Second International asks that, among whose representatives here today there sit members of the German Social Democracy?

We ask, where is the court of all the three Internationals, which sentenced the murderers of Rosa Luxemburg and the murderers of Karl Liebknecht? (“Quite right!” – the Communist delegation) They were sentenced by the Extraordinary Court of the Guards Division in Berlin, and when you dare to speak of the Russian courts, we say to you, hands off before they are not washed of the blood of Rosa Luxemburg and Liebknecht (Storm applause by the Communist delegation) and of the blood of Leviné, who was not murdered on the street by bandits, but sentenced to death by your courts (turning to the German Social Democrats) as you sat in the government relying on the confidence of the masses which you have abused. But when you say, “If that is so, what do you want of this Conference; what purpose is there in making tactical manoeuvres? ” And I will coolly and categorically tell you what we want. You came to this conference because you were compelled to. You were the instrument of world reaction, and now if, you want it or no, you must become the instrument of the struggles of the proletariat. We sit down at the same table with you, we desire to fight alongside of you, and this fight will decide whether it is to be a manoeuvre, as you say, of the Communist International or will become a current which will unite the working class. Your action will decide what your action means. If you fight shoulder to shoulder with us, with the proletariat of all countries, – fight not for the dictatorship of the proletariat; we do not believe you are capable of it – but for a bit of bread; fight against the further devastation of the world, then the proletariat will come closer together in this struggle, and then we will judge you not for your dreadful past but on the basis of new facts. As long as these are not at hand, we coolly enter into these negotiations and into mutual action with the profound distrust; with the conviction that you will fail us ten times in this struggle.

But we want to attempt to fight together not out of love for you but on account of the terrible need of the hour moving us and which compels you to negotiate here in this hall with the same Communists whom you have treated as criminals.

And now for the further conditions of Citizen Vandervelde. What you have attempt to do here was a sharp attack on the part of the Second International in an endeavor to frighten us and the Vienna International supported it willy-nilly and with a heavy heart. I speak of the conditions which the gentlemen of the Second International raised and I believe you will not give my answer all the publicity in the world.

Conditions! Citizen Vandervelde said, “You speak of the Treaty of Versailles.” He said that he feared the discussions of this question might help Stinnes. The German workers cannot buy a shirt and Citizen Vandervelde regards the fact that international capital will fatten itself on the misery on the German proletariat with a carefree heart. He fears that Stinnes will become richer. As is well-known Stinnes is allied with Soviet Russia and perhaps will finance the Communist International. (Laughter on the part of the Communist delegation) M. Vandervelde did not clearly say whether he desires to speak about the reconstruction of the world like Poincaré, without touching the Versailles Treaty, or if not, what is the meaning of his remark concerning Stinnes. I am not enough of a diplomat to understand that. (Laughter – “You have shown that!”) I have shown that, quite right. Then I ask, does the Second International want the question of the Treaty of Versailles put on the agenda of the Conference or not? It would be very interesting to see the German Social Democracy as a member of the Second International vote against the consideration of the Versailles Treaty by the International Conference; probably in the hope that Lloyd George will revise the Treaty of Versailles.

Now I come to the other conditions which were put to us. With the great love which Vandervelde always displays for the small and oppressed peoples, even when they live on the Congo, he asked us, “How can you appear at this Conference when the ghosts of murdered Georgia and the Ukraine appear and ask, Cain, why hast thou murdered us?” I will clearly tell Citizen Vandervelde why we murdered this Banquo. As for the Ukraine, it is not murdered, it lives, it is very strong, it fights alongside Soviet Russia and only the ghost of the Petlura government, which was kept alive by gold injections of the Polish general staff and now begs for life in Paris and of the Second International, disturbs the slumbers of Vandervelde. He may calm himself. The Ukraine lives, it is healthy, although it is hungry and it will fight together with us for the reconstruction of Russia and for the recuperation of the Russian and the Ukrainian peoples not as a border state but as a part of the Soviet Federation.

As far as Georgia is concerned, I emphatically state to the representative of the Second International and above all to the English delegates – Hands off Georgia! You did not protest when the Georgian Government slaughtered the workers and peasants of Georgia under the protection of English guns! (Protests and interruptions) Our Tcheka agents are not talented writers. The Georgian Secret Service, however, was careless enough to leave behind a book written by M. Djugeli, commander of your National Guard, and in this book Georgian democracy is so represented that we will submit this book to you at the next conference in order that you may learn how the Georgian state was built up with blood and iron. And when you ask why we – and now we say it openly – helped to overthrow the Georgian Government, we will answer you out of the documents which the Georgian Government was careless enought to print. The information which Gegetchkori, Georgia’s Foreign Minister, gave to Aleixeieff reads, “we have helped the Whites; we have not only suppressed the Bolsheviks at home but have fed your White officers and sent them to you.” If the Conference desires to appoint a small commission for the investigation of the authenticity of this document, we will gladly lay it before you.

He concluded with a most pathetic appeal: “How can you come without the Social Revolutionaries! How can you come without these good internationalists, who are affiliated with neither the Second nor the Vienna International, but stand under the protectorate of the Second and ask for admittance into the Two-and-a-Half?” We have the honor of having with us in this assembly the former president of the Russian Constituent Assembly, Tchernoff, as a journalist, and I believe that if you desire to discuss the Social Revolutionaries with us, there are enough of their representatives within reach. It is not necessary that just those must appear at this Conference who attempt to murder the leaders of the Russian Revolution with a revolver in their hand.

Permit me to leave the field of polemics and put the question as it really is: We proposed a Conference in agreement with Vienna International for the preparation for action, we said to ourselves that a debate over disputed questions, over methods, will certainly not assist the action. If the differences can in any way be ironed out, that can only be done in the common struggle which will build the bridge between the various sections of the proletariat. If you desire to sabotage this Conference of action and have an international Conference of discussion, we say to you, you give the proletariat stones instead of bread. But we are not accustomed to evade a discussion. Then we will clear the table at this conference. We will then lay the history of the last eight years before you and demand your opinions thereon. We will remind the German Social Democrats who cry: “Hands off the Social Revolutionaries!”, of the fact that the militants of the Soviet Republic have been suffering in the Bavarian prisons for three years, that workers are in German prisons for the March action. We will ask then, what of the assassins of Dajo, whom the German Government, in which your representatives sit, delivered over to the Spanish hangmen for half a million pesetas to be distributed among the Berlin police at whose head there is a Social Democrat? And we will see what your answer will be. (Wels – Germany: “Ask Eberlein!”) Noske did not murder 15,000 workers; Eberlein did – the whole world knows that. We will draw up accounting for each country. For if we were sinners, you are the representatives of a dozen parties, worshipful gentlemen, whose sins exceed anything imaginable. We then say in conclusion, we propose a conference of action, a conference to decide ways and means. What must be done at the present moment when capital is uniting not to reconstruct the world but to pillage the whole world so that the capitalists can again establish their rule? What are we going to do against unemployment; what are we going to do against the lock-out wave? That is our programme. If you desire discussion, we are ready to discuss with you. However, in order to satisfy the refinement of Vandervelde, who keeps Flemish autonomists in jail and to calm the delicate Weis as to the fate of the accused Social Revolutionaries, we say, “Show that you are better than we. Propose to us the exchange of your holy Russian terrorists against the militants of the Bavarian Soviet Republic and the participants in the March action (“Bargaining!”), whoever speaks of bargaining is a man without brain. I will so answer you that you will forget that word. (Uproar) We therefore say to you, if you want to break up the conference, you have the liberty to do so; you will bear the responsibility. If you want a congress to consider action, we are ready for it. If you want a congress in which at the same time there should take place a discussion of the methods of proletarian struggle, we are also ready for that. We are ready for a conference in any form. There is one thing, however, we will not permit – that people should put conditions to us; people to whom we put no conditions although nine-tenths of the proletariat have the greatest distrust to them.

I say, if you put conditions to us, conditions which must be fulfilled before we can attend this conference, we answer, we will reflect [on] these conditions. When we approach nearer one another in the common struggle certain consequences will follow which need not be promised beforehand; for they will follow from the common struggle and therefore we advocate the common struggle.

I repeat: We have accepted the initiative of the International 2½ and we ask you, do you maintain the proposal which was made to us in the January appeal or do you retract it and set up new conditions? If you do so, we are confronted with a new situation and we will consider this new situation. We came here on the basis of your appeal. (Stormy applause by the Communist Delegation)

Last updated on 4 September 2018