Karl Radek

The Champions of the World Proletariat

(5 May 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 32/33, 5 May 1922, pp. 245–246.
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.

The Congress of the Amsterdam Trade Union international adopted a truly heroic resolution at its last session, it pronounced in favor of a mass strike in case of – a future war. Such heroism is like a post-dated check – the cheapest kind of heroism in the world. The Congress did not, however, mention the fact that not far from Rome where they were meeting a bitter contest was going on over one important aim of the proletarian class struggle the title of society to its machinery of production. This proletarian congress did not think it necessary to appeal to the proletariat to support the Russian Soviet delegation with all means at its disposal. It did not do this, although even without being possessed of special information it should have known that in Genoa a merciless struggle was being carried on and that any moment could witness a rupture of the negotiations. The conflict in Genoa is a book with seven locks to the European trade-union bureaucracy which formed the International Workers’ Congress in Rome. Are not Tchitcherin, Krassin and Litvinoff like themselves, the Jouhaux, Hendersons, Leiparts and Grassmanns? Was not Henderson, when His Britannic Majesty’s minister, compelled to don silk hose and breeches when attending court? Did not Tchitcherin and Krassin attend the reception given by the King of Italy? And when the Russian delegates haggle with world capital over concessions well they, the Hendersons, Jouhaux and Grassmanns, have all their lives done nothing but make concessions to capital. True, there will be a bit more noise in Genoa in that respect, but, all things considered, they, the exponents of trade-union officialdom really need not worry over Genoa.

Meanwhile Socialism’s right to exist is at stake in Genoa. Without mincing words, the Allies uncompromisingly demand in their memorandum that:

The Russian Soviet Government assume responsibility for all material and direct losses caused by the breaches of contract or in any other manner which the subjects of other powers have suffered in consequence of actions or failures to act on the part of the Soviet Government, its provincial and local authorities, or its agents.”

The memorandum goes on to demand that:

The subjects of foreign powers have the right to claim the return of their property or acknowledgement of their rights and interests. If such property, rights or interests still exist or can be ascertained, they are to be returned and compensation granted for their exploitation or damage. If such property, rights or interests do no longer exist or cannot be acknowledged, or if their former owners do not desire their return, the Soviet Government must compensate such parties either by giving them similar property rights or interests, or by compensation.”

The tenor of these demands is the declaration of Allied capital that capitalism was, is and will be. Private property is sacred, and woe to you, proletarians, if you dare to follow in the footsteps of the Russian Revolution! We hold you responsible for all the damages you inflict upon capitalism! And we shall make you suffer for such damages to the tenth generation. Not only will you have to return all sacred property, but if you were to die of hunger, and if your children nad neither bread nor milk, neither clothing nor shelter you will not be allowed to provide for them, but will be forced to make good the injuries you have done to the bourgeoisie!

World Capital, which arose from the policy of the exploitation of half the world, beginning with Venice’s piratical expeditions in the 12th century, with her slave plantations, through the colonial spoils of the Dutch and the English and the ransacking of the churches and monasteries to the modern form of exploitation of whole nations by trusts, now stands up and declares:

The rights I have acquired with blood and iron – rights and the property built upon mountains of human bones and cemented with blood and tears, shall not be touched henceforth, neither by the sword nor by fire, neither by the wish of the toiling masses nor by any other means whatsoever!

And if the ocean should rise from its bed, and if nature itself should offend against our rights, we shall punish it as Xerxes did: we shall whip the waves of the sea. And Soviet Russia, if it does not desire to perish of hunger, must reinstate Sacred Private Property on its throne and worship it.

The memorandum of the Soviet delegation in reply to the Allies’ memorandum draws a truly heartrending picture of what will happen if Russia should acknowledge the Allied debts and if its counter demands were not recognised and it should within a short time start paying off the Allied debts.

Even if the war debls of the Czarist and the Kerensky government were annulled, Russia’s debts together with the accumulated interest (the payment of which the Allies’ memorandum demands on November 1st, 1927) would amount to 13 milliard gold roubles. On that day Russia would have to pay 1,200,000,000 gold roubles partly as interest and partly as amortisation of 1/25 of the total debt for the last five years before the war the Czarist government paid for the same purpose approximately 40,000,000 roubles annually. In order to comply with that demand, Soviet Russia would have to attain till 1927 not only the pre-war level of production, but treble that production. Before the war the national annual income of Russia was estimated at 101 roubles per capita; now, after the devastation of the war, it is only 30 roubles per capita. It follows that if it desires to start paying off its debts in 1927, Russia would have to increase its production ninefold. Nor are war debts and compensation for the revolutions damages included in this estimate! When proclaiming the rights of sacred bourgeois private property, World Capital is also proclaiming its title to the slave labor of 150 million people, thus is becomes quite apparent that Soviet Russia’s struggle against the Allied demands, against the burden of debts with which the Allies intend to saddle it, against the attempts at depriving the proletariat of what it gained by stubborn struggle common property – is not a fight for theories, but for the very existence of the Russian people.

The Social Democrats of all shades together with their spiritual brethren, the Centrists, persist in repeating: “What do we care for Genoa, for the Soviet delegation and its struggle; there are merely Russian state interests at stake, which is to say that the interests of European labor are not in danger. The interests of the Russian State coincide with those of the Russian working people, and those interests demand war on the sacred institution of capitalist private property. And the fact that they are the interests ot the Russian working masses (both of the peasants and of the workers) provides a bedrock basis for the Socialist character of Soviet Russia’s policy, not because the Soviet Government wants to adhere to its old slogans and principles, but because it must do so. This is the ultimate cause of, and the best foundation for its Socialist policy which is directed against the domination of World capital, a policy which is as far above the compromises and the combinations of the day as the stars in the sky.

Marx once called the English workers the champions of the international labor class. And they were that; not because their outlook was more international than that of other proletarians, but because their situation compelled them to fight capital in order to attain the first fundamental rights of labor, the right of organization and the protection of labor and as the first phalanx which was forced by the logic of events to enter upon the struggle destined to last a century.

The Russian Soviet Government, the Russian Red Army, the Russian working masses were compelled by history to fight for the principle of common property against international capital which implies private property, they took up arms for these general aims of international labor, while bitter hunger was gnawing at their stomachs. Now they are fighting for the same aims with diplomatic methods, and if the negotiations in Genoa prove futile, they will, perhaps, once more be obliged to defend themselves against fresh attacks. And because the Russian Soviet Republic has been placed in a position where it must .struggle for the general aims of international labor, against private capital and its alleged right to enslave and starve whole peoples, its struggle, no matter what its forms, becomes a fight for the international interests of labor, the Soviet Government and the weakened, hungry and bleeding working class Soviet Russia’s are the paladins of the international proletariat. They advanced with weapons in their hands in 1919, borne by the rising wave of the revolution; they have now, after a retreat which was dictated by the temporary quiescence of the revolutionary movement in Europe, occupied positions which they will defend with their lives but which they will never abandon.

Anybody hesitating to come to the assistance of this vanguard of the international proletariat which is fighting for the interests of international labor – not with diplomatic resolutions and phrase, but by exerting his whole energy and with a holy enthusiasm – betrays the working class, no matter what his name and no matter what the arguments he advances in favor of his attitude. History will judge him and it will not ask for the reasons of his betrayal, but will find him guilty of betrayal, because he deserted the Russian working class, the vanguard of the revolution, in its darkest hour.

Last updated on 27 December 2019