Karl Radek

From the Hague to Essen


Source: The Communist International, 1922, No. 24, pp. 3–19.
Transcription: Ted Crawford.
HTML Mark-up: Brian Reid.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.

History is now behaving like a wild horse. To prove that the vow of Hannibal taken by the Second International to prevent war was a deception, a whole epoch was necessary, but hardly a few months were necessary to convince the most backward worker, in the most decided fashion, that the gentlemen of the Second and Two and a Half Internationals gathered at the Hague Congress were bad comedians, and how purposeless was the comedy which they and the heroes of the Amsterdam International played at The Hague.

The Hague Conference assembled under circumstances which would compel even the blind to see. The Lausanne Conference to discuss Eastern affairs had just commenced. The representatives of the Entente gathered there, attempted to impose upon the awakening East terms of peace, which one cannot describe otherwise than as terms for a new war; for, if Turkey, weakened after the long wars, had been compelled to accept the terms dictated to her by Lord Curzon, sooner or later the whole of the people of Turkey would have revolted against them; for it was not for this that they had been shedding their blood since 1908. They did not, after four years of war, take to arms again to fight for their independence, in order, after having secured victory, to allow the yoke of the capitulations and of financial control to be placed on their necks again, or to allow the capitalists of England and France to be masters over the land which they had irrigated with their blood.

Simultaneously with the gathering at The Hague, there gathered in London MM. Poincaré, Bonar Law and Mussolini, to decide the fatal question as to what, after all, should be done with Germany. Six months’ payment of tribute to the Allies was a sufficiently long period to prove that Germany under the rule of the bourgeoisie was totally incapable of fulfilling the obligations of the Versailles Treaty or that it refused to do so. It was clear to everybody that a decisive moment was approaching, that the reparations question was nearing a fresh turning point, and that the questions of peace in Central Europe would be presented at the point of the sword.

The attitude of the capitalist States towards Soviet Russia was that of neither war nor peace. The Genoa Conference ended in a complete fiasco intensified by the results of the Hague Conference on the Russian question. The Allies, who for a whole year had been discussing the economic restoration of Europe, at those conferences proved to the whole world that for them the restoration of Europe was synonymous with compensation for the capitalists who had suffered in consequence of the revolution. Millions of workers died in the war. They left millions of widows and orphans, living in poverty, uncertain of their daily bread – but nobody in the capitalist world gave a thought to compensating them for their losses. And if the people of Russia refused to restore the property of foreign capitalists in Russia and compensate them for their losses, why, let millions more of them die.

In the Far East fresh events were developing. Their forerunners are the seething revolutionary cauldron of the font. Hundred million population of China, the increased armaments of Japan which, compelled under the pressure of the Washington Conference to abandon the construction of new Dreadnoughts, is rapidly building submarines and fast cruisers.

Or, as the American writer Turner, in his excellent book on the role of America in the Great War, says, “If the danger of war is less now than it was prior to the Great Imperialist War, how is one to explain the fact that the armaments of every capitalist State have increased?”

The Conference gathered at The Hague at that moment, and representing not only the Second and Two and a Half Internationals, but also the gigantic Amsterdam Trade Union International, which daily shouted from the housetops that it represented thirty million organised workers, had one task, viz., to say in the simplest terms and in the clearest manner to itself and to the whole labour world that the last war was not the last war, and that the workers and peasants will again be driven into war, for the cause of world capitalism, unless the working class combined all its forces in order to seize power from the hands of the criminal bourgeoisie.

What else could the Hague Conference say? Could it deny the daily increasing menace of a world war when every day the ex-Cabinet Ministers, Lloyd George and Nitti, were proclaiming it from the housetops, and when all the facts were pointing in this direction? That being the case, what could the gentlemen of the Second and Two and a Half Internationals propose to the proletariat, faced with the danger of being again driven to war to-morrow? Advise them to rely on democracy – that very democracy which in 1914 in France, England and America led the workers to the slaughter like cattle without asking them whether they wished to fight, or even telling them why they were fighting? While it may be said that the majority of the population in the Allied countries took the side of the capitalist Government on the outbreak of war out of fear of the menace of German Imperialism, it has been proved that in the “greatest of all the democracies,” America, the financial oligarchy secretly prepared for the war; that after the elections of 1916 in which the people expressed the desire to keep out of the war they were flung into it in order that the Morgans, Rockefellers, and Schwabs might obtain guarantees for the repayment of their loans from England and France and that the great American syndicate might continue to operate and obtain golden profits for the destruction of Europe. Can the gentlemen of the Second and Two and a Half Internationals invent a better bourgeois democracy than this American democracy, the glories of which have been sung for more than a century, not only by the European liberals, but even that King of Jesters, Karl Kautsky, the Pontifex Maximus of the Two and a Half International, who proved in a learned dissertation that it is by its very nature the Noah’s Ark of modern pacifism. What other anchor of safety could the priests of these pseudo Internationals, suggest to the proletariat except the systematic preparation for a world revolution? The League of Nations? That respectable virgin whose greatest delight is to be ravished by the giants of world capitalism and whose only scruple is to lavish her charms equally upon the English and French capitalists?

The Hague Conference justified the worst fears. It represented a picture of a cemetery in which the corpses that had long decayed had crawled out of their graves to drink beer and to talk about the advantages of peace and the evils of war. The “old leaders of the proletariat,” as they described themselves, but who are really people who had outlived their time by at least 300 years, sat together with not less ancient, pacifist, dames, digesting their dinners, listening to addresses on the use of the cinematograph in combating war and how to train the coming generation so as to lessen the possibilities of war. The youthful members of the Conference, like Fimmen – who shook his leonine mane on the platform and shouted in three languages that never before had there been an international conference such as this, threatened the bourgeoisie with the possibility of an international general strike if war broke out. The she-wolves of social-patriotism, the Renaudels, the Hendersons, the Welles and the Vanderveldes, listened to this propaganda against the defence of the fatherland conducted by the “neutral” friends, without blinking. When, however, the curtain was rung down, and in the small circle of the Commissions, when the time came to draw up the resolutions, citizen Huysmans, the sainted ex-secretary of the Second International which died in the embraces of imperialism – with the innocence of a child, declared that all this was nonsense. “When a new War breaks out,” he said, “we will do exactly what we did during the Great imperialist War.” When I repeated Huysmans’s statement at the plenary meeting of the Conference, it created no sensation at all. Nobody proposed that Huysmans should be ejected from the hall, because everybody felt that Huysmans was right, and Monsieur Vandervelde, whose brazenness distinguished him even in this company of card-sharpers declared that he would vote for a resolution threatening a general strike in the event of war breaking out, with the reservation that if the “fatherland” should again be in danger he would be prepared once again to join the War Cabinet of His Majesty, the King of Belgium. And he was greeted with applause when he stepped on to the platform, and applause accompanied him when he left it.

We pointed out to these champions of peace that it was illogical to talk largely about the dangers of war and shake their fists at the capitalists behind their backs, to vow to die a hero’s death at some indefinite date while at the same time remaining silent with regard to the Lausanne preparations for war in the Near East and the preparations for the seizure of the Ruhr. But not even a dog barked in reply. To be more exact, the dogs did bark, but they barked against Soviet Russia, which is notoriously the most imperialist State in the world. Only, after the meeting had ended, Mr. Charles Roden Buxton, an old, honest, English, liberal pacifist, who, disappointed with the pacifism of English liberalism, joined the Labour Party, came to us, his face wearing the air of a man about to be hanged, and declared that we were right. Such conduct was intolerable; and then he went off with the lantern of Diogenes to seek among his friends for a group that would support our modest demand to conduct an immediate agitation against the “threatening danger and a one-day strike to demonstrate to international capital the growing preparedness of the proletariat to defend their lives against the war monsters. But Diogenes returned with his lamp of hope extinguished and drew from his pocket a draft of a resolution in which the Conference informed Monsieur Poincaré and other evil-doers that they entirely disagreed with the new attempts to crush the German people and that if he, Monsieur Poincaré, insisted on carrying out this attempt, it would rouse the displeasure of all the ladies and gentlemen gathered at The Hague.

The Hague Conference, without taking a vote, rejected all our modest demand that if it was desired to combat the danger of a world war, at least they refrain from dragging the workers into the stables of a coalition with the bourgeoisie which is preparing for the war, but on the contrary to teach the proletariat immediately to carry on a daily struggle against imperialism and militarism. The Conference proceeded in its calm way and collected a bag full of wretched resolutions which threw the labour movement back to the position occupied by the Second International on the eve of the war.

Nevertheless, the Hague Congress was of great significance. It was a rehearsal of a fresh great betrayal of the proletariat in the event of a fresh world war. It was a proof that the Second Two and a Half and the Amsterdam Internationals do not even dream of putting up a fight, for, in rejecting our resolutions, they exposed their desire to maintain the completest passivity. We did nut call upon them to perform any feats of heroism; we did not say: Gentlemen, if a war breaks out you must make a revolution. On the contrary, we said: If a war broke out, the workers would not be in a position to resist it, the, workers would go to war and then the task would be to do everything in order to make the war end in social revolution. This task, however, is the task of the morrow after a fresh great defeat of the proletariat. The task of to-day consists in averting this great defeat and misfortune for the working class, and to mobilise the workers for a stubborn everyday struggle against war. Only in this way can we hope to avert war. In rejecting our point of view and the suggestions arising from it, the Second, Two and a Half and Amsterdam Internationals signed their own death warrant as an active force combating war. The rejection of the United Front with the Communists in the fight against the menace of war, was only a result of the abandonment of the struggle against war itself. The same thing applies to the alliance with the bourgeois-pacifists. The latter, like the Amsterdamists, simply declaim against war. Why, indeed, should they not join the chorus? It would make it more imposing.

Here the question arises which worried every revolutionary present at the Congress, viz. – Why did these corpses crawl out of their graves? Why did they gather at this Congress? The reply is that the masses that follow them are full of alarm; that these masses, although not fighting to-day against the menace of war, nevertheless sense the impending catastrophe and tremble at the thought of it. These masses must be comforted, their fears must be calmed and some kind of beacon of hope must be shown them. The Amsterdamists calm the fears of the masses with a mirage of an alliance with the bourgeoisie like a Jew, who, passing through a gloomy forest and fearful of robbers, puts his hat on a stick and shouts, “We are two, we fear no-one.” The beacon of hope is the League of Nations. “Did not the League of Nations prevent war between Sweden and Finland over the Aaland Islands question?” we were asked by an old Fligen who has known better days: “Nonsense,” replied his Swedish comrade, the reformist Engelberg, “Sweden and Finland never intended to go to war over the Aaland Islands.” But this is said behind the scenes. For the masses the mirage of the League of Nations is retained. Perhaps they will believe it.


The test came immediately. On January 13, amidst the complete silence of the international proletariat, the French troops occupied the Ruhr Basin; the heart of German industry and of the German proletariat fell into the clutches of the French Army of Occupation. The Versailles Treaty is destroyed. Again all the questions of the situation in Europe are in the melting pot; only a fool would believe for one moment that this business will end simply by some re-decision of the reparations question. The occupation of the Ruhr is the result not only of the catastrophic position of French finance, but also a result of the fact that the French are convinced that the Entente is coining to an end. The Entente is still retained only out of fear of all the Governments of taking a leap into the unknown. But it is totally incapable of any joint action on the old basis. The French ask themselves: What will happen if an Anglo-American Alliance is formed which will economically dominate the whole world and the almighty Dollar and the Pound reduce the Franc to the level of the Mark? What will happen, they ask, if England, accustomed to using other forces as its catspaw, will help Germany to recover its military power? The development of the role of chemistry in war will enable Germany to restore her military power if she can emerge from her isolation. What will happen, ask the French, if revolution is triumphant in Germany, and the German and Russian proletariat combine their forces? They seek to avert these possibilities by dismembering Germany. At Versailles, on the strength of a promise of an alliance with America and England, which was to guarantee them against new groupings of forces, they refrained from annexing the Rhine Province from Germany. But America turned down the obligations undertaken by Wilson, and now the French bourgeoisie once again bring up the question of the dismemberment of Germany. In the eyes of wide circles of the French petty-bourgeoisie the advance on Essen is only a means to compel the German industrial kings to pay the reparations. For the French militarists, however, this advance is a military campaign, the result of which is to be the fixing of the Rhine as the military frontier of France and the placing of the Ruhr Basin under the muzzles of the French guns. Finally, in the eyes of the French steel kings and the heads of the Comité de Forge, the advance on the Ruhr Basin is a measure calculated to compel Stinnes to submit to Loucher. The dismemberment of Germany and the formation of a Franco-German coal and iron trust means nothing more or less than the opening of a new chapter in the history of Europe. It means such a re-grouping of forces, which, in spite of all the efforts of the masters of diplomacy, is a re-grouping for a. future war.

The occupation of the Ruhr signified in the first place not only the subjugation of 500,000 German miners and metal workers, the vanguard of the international proletariat, but signifies at the same time the catastrophic deterioration of the economic and the political conditions of the workers of the whole of Germany. The outburst of nationalism among the masses of the petty bourgeoisie roused by the menace to the existence of, Germany provides excellent soil for the development of Fascism which to-day is arming against the French in order that to-morrow it may be able to turn its weapons against the workers.

In its further development, the occupation of the Ruhr signifies the attempt to complete the work commenced al Versailles, viz., to reduce Germany finally to the position of a colony. France is demanding that it should have the first lien on this colony. Whether or not this business will end by an arrangement between France and England, by which the colonial exploitation of Germany will be shared by France, England and America, whether France remains alone in the Ruhr Basin and subjects the German bourgeoisie or whether it remains in the Ruhr without compromising either with England or the German bourgeoisie, at any rate these events will give a further impetus to new mighty political and perhaps even military shocks.

In this situation, the German social-democracy, one of the pillars of the Second International and of the Amsterdam International, again completely followed the lead of the bourgeoisie. However much the German social-democratic Press may deny this, the German social-democracy has again proposed civil peace to its bourgeoisie. And what have the parties of the Second International in England and France done? They have made the air ring with protests against the conduct of Poincaré. But neither the great British Labour Party nor Longuet’s Party dared even to organise mass demonstrations jointly with the German social-democrats. They dared not even attempt the must modest expression of international solidarity. The leader of the Amsterdamists, Fimmen toured Germany and other countries, explaining to the world, eagerly expecting to hear a new word from the working class, that the workers are impotent to do anything. Meinheer Fimmen declares that. 20,000,000 organised workers are impotent to do anything! Why? Meinheer Fimmen refers to the split in the labour movement. But Fimmen lies. In spite of the abyss that divides the Communist International from the pseudo-Internationals, we have invited and now invite the Second and Two and a Half Internationals to combine in a. joint struggle against the impending dangers. The German social-democracy, in Parliament, votes confidence in a Government representing the heavy industries, but refuses to fight jointly with Communist workmen. Messieurs Jouhaux and Blum direct the attention of the French proletariat to Lake Geneva on which are sailing the yachts of the diplomats of the League of Nations, but they refuse the hand offered them by the French Communists and revolutionary syndicalists; for they do not wish to fight against the imperialism of Poincaré. When Poincaré falls they hope to enter a bloc with the bourgeois radical group of Henriot and Peneleve. But the radical bourgeoisie have no confidence in the success of Poincaré’s scheme, and therefore fear that by putting up any opposition they may call down upon themselves the reproach that they had prevented Poincaré from plundering. Like Pontius Pilate, they wash their hands of the business, and Messieurs Blum and Jouhaux do the same in order not to spoil the chances of a future arrangement with them.

And what about England? There the Labour Party has in its ranks at least nine-tenths of the workers. Nothing can prevent it from entering into the fight except its own lack of character. It does not even dare to demand a break with France, and the cessation of support given to French imperialism by the retention of British troops on the Rhine.

The Belgian Socialist Party, faced with the criminal complicity of its Government in the attack on the Ruhr, for many days discussed the question as to whether it should completely support its Government or put forward some reservations.

But the most instructive of all the events in the camp of the Second and the Two and a Half Internationals is the energy and passion displayed by Messieurs Jouhaux and Vandervelde in attacking the first real attempt at a revolutionary movement against the impending danger in the shape of the miners’ strikes in France and Belgium, which, in spite of the limited character of their aims, were a blow delivered against those who were stirring up a new imperialist adventure. Johaux and Vandervelde could not even defend their conduct by the pretext that they did not wish to help Stinnes and Krupp. They knew perfectly well that the revolutionary movement in Germany was stronger than that in France and Belgium, and that the slightest ray of hope of emerging from international isolation, would have been sufficient to render the labour struggles in Germany more acute, and assume national dimensions.

The Second and Two and a Half Internationals are soon to celebrate their nuptials. The bards of reformism are already strumming their harps in anticipation of the festival. But all their strumming. cannot drown the words of Fimmen proclaiming the impotence of these Internationals, and no festivities will conceal the picture of their treacherous inaction in the face of the approaching catastrophe.


Not for a moment did the Communist International and the Red International of Labour Unions harbour any illusions with regard to the relation of class forces in Europe. The Fourth Congress of the Comintern frankly stated that we were in a period of capitalist offensive, i.e., that the initiative in the struggle had been taken by our enemies. But, not for one moment, did we speak of the impotence of the working class. That phrase does not correspond with the facts, but simply conceals a desire for inaction. The Ruhr events were possible only as a result of the inaction of the working class. These events intensify the process of international capitalist collapse to such an extent that they provide the ground for fresh action by the masses of the proletariat. They make this action not only more necessary every day, but more possible every day. The Communist International endeavoured to organise the first battle jointly with the French and German workers; and although this battle is in its first stages, it nevertheless represents a great advance promising tremendous possibilities. The French and German Communists have adopted the same position and are doing everything to intensify this joint struggle against both German and French capitalism. They have already met in joint practical work in the Ruhr Basin. This work will expand and become more intensified and will create a bloc between the French and German workers as against the bloc between Stinnes and Loucheur; and this bloc will prove a powerful weapon if Stinnes and Loucheur decide to fall out.

In undertaking its task the Comintern simultaneously and continuously appeals to the masses of social-democratic and non-party workers to join it to form a United Front against the bourgeoisie. We are convinced that however scornfully the leaders of the Second and Two and a Half Internationals reject our offer of joint action, the insistent demands for the independent action of the Comintern will soon bear fruit. At all events, it must be said right now: the period for postponing independent action in propaganda for the United Front has passed.

Last updated on 18.10.2011