Karl Radek


The European Crisis
and Soviet Russia

(29 August 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 73, 29 August 1922, pp. 548–549.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). 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.

What is now happening in Europe may be characterized as the death-agonies of the Treaty of Versailles. Economic necessity is the cause of the Treaty’s breakdown. The victors had decided to treat the wounds which the war inflicted upon western capitalism at the expense of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Turkey and Russia. This attempt could not be realized, not only because of the frightful havoc caused to Central and Eastern Europe as a result of this policy, but also for another reason which the leaders of the victorious capitalist nations do not seem to have understood, in spite of all the economic sermons they have been so good to deliver to us, to the effect that the world forms a single economic unit. Germany was one of the greatest export markets of England and the United States, which are now compelled to look on how a plundered Germany can no longer buy their products. Lloyd George realized this even before the Treaty of Versailles was signed. In a memorandum, which ex-Prime Minister Nitti has published in his book Peaceless Europe, he warned the Allies of the baleful results which would follow the burdening of Germany with an absurdly enormous debt.

But in spite of the fact that he realized that the Treaty of Versailles would plunge capitalism into chaos, be nevertheless signed the treaty and has not yet found the courage to demand its revision. His defense of Germany has always been within the limits of the treaty. This proves not only imbecility on his part, but also that the conflicts within the Entente have blinded him to the ABC of capitalism, namely that a ruined man is a bad customer.

Lloyd George has been fighting France for many years already. Were we to adopt the tone in which the English official press comments on the French policy, we would bring down upon ourselves severe notes of protest. And this fight has gone beyond mere word-conflicts; the canon’s voice is also heard. The so called Turko-Greek war is nothing else than an Anglo-French war. The English government is openly furnishing the Greeks with arms and money, and accuses France of doing the same with the Angora Republic. But England cannot afford an open break with France, even if the break should not bring about an immediate war on a world scale. America’s position towards France and England is not yet clearly defined. America supports, on the one hand, England’s policy towards Germany and, on the other hand, France’s policy towards Russia. The simple fact that in Washington, America did not support England’s declaration against the use of submarines in warfare, proves that America has not definitely given up its anti-English policy, and is willing to play up France against England. An old English publicist wrote recently in the Fortnightly Review that Napoleon had never brought about such a military hegemony on the Continent as did the Bloc National. Against Napoleon, England found allies in Russia and Germany. The simple German believed he was fighting for the liberation of his fatherland, when he was actually playing the game of English imperialism against French imperialism. Today, England herself has destroyed Germany’s military power and could not use it as a weapon against France, even if it should now be needed. Imprisoned in the iron circle of French, Polish and Czecho-Slovakian armies, Germany, even if she be allowed to make open preparations for war, could never fight France, except with the support of Russia. But England, hopelessly entangled in the contradiction of her European and her Asiatic policies, thought it in her interest to keep Russia a weak power. She feared that she might meet in a strong Russia an enemy to her robber policy against the interests and the life of the Mahammedan people. England’s plans were not fully successful, for Russia was not so naive as to believe, like the Germans, that no other motive then the re-establishment of peace activated England, and was unwilling to become the tool of England. Russia’s attitude towards the world crisis is that of an independent great power, concerned primarily with its own interests, which are also the interests of the international working class.

The dissolution of the Entente places England, France, and Germany before this question: what next? France may proceed with the occupation of the Ruhr without the support of England. Germany, disappointed in its expectation of English support, may sell out to France and save herself from dismemberment, by agreeing to combine the Ruhr coal with the Alsacian and French ores. This idea is not so new among the German industrials. They expect in this way to save their mining industry, and hope that their talent for organization may give them a decisive influence on French industries. In any case, the possession of the Ruhr valley would give to France an unparalleled industrial position among the victorious countries of Europe.

The ripening changes in the European politics have a deep, practical interest for Soviet Russia. France’s advance upon the Ruhr, and the participation of Poland in an attack upon Germany would bring a change in the European situation equally important to that resulting from a Franco-German agreement. France would become the greatest economic power in Europe, and constitute an even greater danger to its imperialistic enemies than it does to day; it would then become a power disposing of immense economic resources.

The coming events in Central Europe require from Russia a clear and calm estimate of the possible consequences, and combinations of power that may follow. We must remain on our guard on the military field. We have proposed to our neighbours a restriction of armaments, only to receive from Poland the ridiculous answer that this was a task for the League of Nations. The Baltic nations are protracting the negotiations under various excuses The agreement reached before Genoa for a temporary armistice is coming to an end. We have no idea of the intentions of our neighbors. Citizen Marshall Pilsudski invited Comrade Litvinov to a friendly talk, but this meeting was a pure sham to calm Polish public opinion. But even if we accept the friendly tendencies of our western neighbors, we must not forget, – first that they are dependent upon London and Paris; secondly that Soviet Russia is an Asiatic as well as a European power. Asia is affected by the decision on the Rhine question. Our army must remain war-ready whether partially demobilized or not. And not only the army, but all Russia must be prepared for all events. The question of crops and industrial work is not only one of stomach, but also a question of the maintenance of the Republic and its international position. It is possible that madness may again take hold of Europe. Woe to him who falls unprepared into the hands of the mad ones! We must call the attention of the masses to the international situation so that we may be ready politically for any eventuality.

It is also possible that a compromise may again be reached, but this compromise will be rotten to the core and will not endure. A new storm menaces Europe. It is quite possible that it is not preachers’ sermons and diplomatic notes only that will play a role in the attempt to kill the Treaty of Versailles. A whole period of diplomatic attempts to settle the question of the Treaty is behind us. All these attempts, Washington and Genoa as well as the Hague, have proved to be fiascos of bourgeois pacifism. It is quite possible that the capitalist rulers of Europe may look to cavalry, infantry and artillery rather than to Adam Smith for a solution of the problem. We must make sure that we can answer this sort of argumentation too.

Last updated on 5 May 2020