Karl Radek


The Hague Conference

(20 June 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 51, 20 June 1922, pp. 373–374.
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 French memorandum of the 2nd of June as well as the English answer of the 12th of June roused a discussion in the French press, which together with the above-mentioned notes, throws a certain light upon the conference that is to take place at the Hague.

First of all, it is interesting to note that the English memorandum emphasises the sovereign rights of the Russian soviet Government, and warns France to make no encroachment upon these rights. We greet this part of English memorandum as a significant step forward from the first memorandum which was presented to the Russian Delegation in Genoa, and which would have meant nothing more than the capitulation of Russia, that is, the attempt to make Russia a colonial country. The unmistakable language of the Soviet Delegation finally convinced the English Government that Soviet Russia was neither Old Turkey, nor Old China. The English government defends the sovereign right of the Soviet Powers to nationalize every sort of property, and it announces that any encroachment upon these rights is a contradiction to the conditions of Cannes.

The Paris Temps, the leading organ of French imperialism, answers that the sovereign right of every Government to nationalize is connected with the right of foreign capitalists to be indemnified for their nationalized property. If the existing government has no means of paying these indemnities, then its sovereignty must bow to the moneybags.

We have here a classical example of capitalistic “right” in general, whether it concerns a person, citizen or nation. “Where there is money, there is right”, announces the Paris Stock Exchange sheet. We shall not waste any time answering the capitalistic metaphysics of right with revolutionary metaphysics. Instead of discussing the differences between proletarian and capitalist “right”, we will rather talk business, for we think that even the French capitalists are interested not so much in abstract right, as in concrete interests.

It is true that at present the Soviet Government is not able to pay cash to the French capitalists for their offended innocence, even if such an act were motivated by the desire to be “just” in the capitalistic sense. But if we are unable to pay indemnities in cash, you gentlemen are unable to support your beautiful rights, your “holy” rights, by force. You have been sufficiently convinced of that.

You are able to support your claims only by means of a financial boycott. But in the first place, your financial boycott will not last forever, for if Russia is in need of foreign capital, foreign capital is also in need of Russia. For this reason, foreign capital will not tor the sake of past profits shut the door to future profits, and the English Government is right when in its memorandum, it points out that if no business relations are established with Soviet Russia in the name of the bourgeois governments, various capitalist groups will enter into business with it for the sake of concessions.

Secondly, Soviet Russia is an agricultural country. One or two good harvests, and its position will be strengthened, then it will make less concessions than it does today.

In such a case there is no capitalistic humanity which was offended by the proletarian revolution in Russia, whose legal point of view, as expressed in the memorandum of the 11th of May, the French Government simply seeks to reject and the English Government kindly to ignore (as befits noble lords). At the Hague the facts must be learned and practical conclusions drawn from them. And here is what the facts teach us.

In the first place, although the Soviet Government possesses no bagfuls of gold, it will not agree to the restoration of property that was in the hands of foreign capitalists. The greater part of the Russian metal, coal and oil industries was in the hand of foreign capital. The restoration of such conditions would mean that the Russian Government would be left without coal, without iron and without oil, and that it would have to buy all these things. This would mean in turn that the Russian Government would have to burden the Russian peasant with huge taxation. The return of the former foreign-owned industries to the foreign capitalists would destroy the industrial foundation of the Soviet Government; the basis which enables the Soviet Government to direct the economic development of Russia. It is useless to make demands which the opponent cannot satisfy, if he is not to commit suicide. The enemies of Soviet Russia did it many a wrong, but it is not yet known that Russia intends to commit suicide. For this reason, it is better to drop all talk of restoration.

Secondly, such a restoration is impossible because in many cases the property in question has either been destroyed or would be absolutely worthless to the owner. It is not rational from a technical point of view. So for example, the destruction of the property relations in the coal mines of the Don basin and of the oil industry in Baku, may be looked upon as a great technical step forward which may become a source of income that will lead to the improvement of the industries in question. For this reason, the demand that these be returned to their former foreign capitalist owners seems to be an act of stupidity or the game of banking interests that seek to buy out the rights of the former property owners in Russia and at the same time to negotiate with the Russian Government and get concessions from it favorable to their respective Stock Exchanges. That is why it is impractical from an economic point of view even to speak of the return of this property.

Thirdly, the question of indemnity as well as the question of debts are more questions of the possibilities and the paying capacity of the Russian Soviet Government in the future. If the experts of the capitalistic countries wanted to distinguish themselves from the diplomatic know-nothings who unfortunately so often speak in the name of these countries, then instead of wasting time in idle talk about property rights they would ask the Soviet Delegation, “What branches of industry does the Soviet Government intend to keep for itself and what other branches of industry it is ready to lease?” Secondly, they would ask the Soviet Delegation tor the most favorable conditions upon which the former foreign property owners in Russia could receive their old undertakings on a concessionaire basis, if the Soviet Government were to decide to keep these in its own possession; or on what basis it would grant new concessions. It should be clear that the Soviet Government, being interested in the attraction of foreign capital, would not proceed to boycott the old owners who are already en rapport with their former activities. Thirdly, the experts would state on what conditions and to what extent the capitalist groups which they represent would be willing to furnish credit to the Soviet Government. If they really desire to work in Russia and not merely to receive “rights” which would become the object of speculation on the Stock Exchange, they will and must understand that even for their own benefit it is necessary to improve Russian transportation and the Russian financial apparatus.

Fourthly, in the question of debts we must use concrete language based upon concrete facts. Russia is financial bankrupt. A bankrupt always pays only a certain percentage of his debts, and he pays them not at once, but only after a certain time has passed during which his creditor helps him get on his feet, for otherwise the creditor, with all his “rights”, would have about the same chance of getting a settlement as an ordinary corpse has of seeing his own ears by looking into the mirror. The Soviet Delegation is going to the Hague to speak business for the simple reason that it is a Delegation sent by a proletarian Government, and that it consists of Communists. It knows that it is useless to argue with capitalist representatives about principles. In Genoa it announced its principles while the capitalist representatives, instead of talking of their robber appetites, also announced their principles. In the Hague, however, the Soviet Delegation will only talk business. The only question is whether the representatives of the capitalist world will display as much interest in business. Should it do so however, it will be possible to strike a bargain without giving up principles.

Last updated on 27 December 2019