Karl Radek

Empty Threats ...

(9 May 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 36 [18], 9 May 1923, pp. 319–321.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). 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.

When the English Parliament began to play a conservative comedy in place of the liberal, Mr. Ronald McNeill became specialist for foreign politics. He began to brandish a paper sabre cut out of the leading articles of the arch-reactionary Morning Post, and to proclaim in terrifying bass voice the firmness of English foreign politics as pursued by the conservative cabinet. Mr McNeill is under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, and speaks for his department in the House of Commons; for his chief, Lord Curzon, adorns with his worthy person the Upper House, that honorable assembly of speculators, who contribute money for the election campaigns of the governing party.

We were much ashamed of our ignorance when we first came across the name of this new shining light of the English Parliament and of English diplomacy in the newspapers. We had no idea who he was, and were obliged to look up reference books to obtain information concerning this gentleman who has so suddenly emerged from obscurity. But alas! The reference books gave us nothing to go by, for all we could learn about this ill-disposed individual, who cherishes such unfriendly feelings towards Soviet Russia, is that he is 63 years of age, that he has been assistant to an editor issuing the 11th edition of the British Encyclopedia, and that he has written a work on the harmfulness of socialism and the utility of the exploitation of Ireland. But how this young man with the tremendous past has become the bard of English imperialist hopes, was a mystery to us until a few days ago, when we read the solution m the Fabian organ, The New Statesman. Mr. Ronald McNeill belongs to the most stupid-headed wing of the English conservatives, and has blazoned his name eternally in the book of history by a heroic deed. During the struggle carried on between the conservatives and liberals over the Irish question, he threw a book at Winston Churchill’s head. For this he has now been rewarded by the position of under-secretary of state in the foreign office, and the reader is thud obliged to study his biography.

This gentleman declared only a few days ago in Parliament, that there could be no thought of recognizing Soviet Russia until it acknowledges the debts and gives the English capitalists their factories back again. But even should Soviet Russia do all this, the severe Mr McNeill is only going to “see” ...

Mr McNeill is making a mistake. He will not get the chance of “seeing”. For Byron’s words, when he spoke of the heroes who come and go every month, and have incense burnt before them in succession by the newspapers, apply still more to the England of today than to the England of a century ago.

The honorable Lord Balfour, in 1918, threatened the Soviet government that he would make it personally responsible for the crime of the Red Terror. His lordship is now engaged in curing his piles and reading medieval mystics because he has plenty of time for such things, being no longer in the government. And then the prime minister himself, Ulysses Lloyd George the versatile, took an oath that he would never sit at the same table with the Moscow robbers. But still he did so, and even made himself very agreeable. Although we are convinced that the haughty English government will find itself obliged, sooner or later, to enter into negotiations with regard io the recognition of Soviet Russia, still there is little likelihood of our having anything to do with Mr McNeill, for Mrs Britannia has become very fickle in her old age, and changes the heroes of her heart with astonishing rapidity.

The hero of a month, Mr McNeill, has been endeavoring to frighten us. He has sent us a semi-official threat per radio, relating to the execution of that spy in Catholic cowl, the prelate Butkievitz, and informs us that the English government is about to examine into the advisability of withdrawing the English representative in Moscow, Mr Hodgson, since the Soviet government does not grant immunity to Entente spies. This intimation can do no more than call forth a smile at the clumsy agitative methods of the personified incapability at present representing the English government. It goes without saying that the Soviet government has been guilty of unheard of inhumanity in having spies shot. But that the English government will break with us on account of a Polish spy is something which nobody is likely to believe; for that we have too much respect for the understanding of the English government, however low its level may be at present.

The Bolsheviki are very bad people. But still they are good enough to trade with, and at the present time this trade is likely to be considerably increased, now that the fresh crops will permit the export of grain. But even were we to preserve silence on these material motives, none but a blockhead would think for a moment that the English government in its present international situation can risk destroying the weak beginnings of relations with Russia, represented by the commercial treaty of 1921.

It is of course ridiculous to suppose that the latest phase of Russo-English relations is the result of the appearance on the scene of such a high principled philanthropist as Mr McNeill. He, of course, does not count one iota. This policy is not even determined by Lord Curzon’s historical enmity for Soviet Russia. It is the result of the blind alley which English politics ran into at Genoa and the Hague.

After the Entente had become convinced that it had not the power to subdue us by force of arms, English Imperialism relied upon a change of policy on the part of the Soviet government. It was thought that the Soviet government would enslave the Russian people for the purpose of maintaining its own power, that it would fleece the peasantry in order to pay the loans of the Tsarist government, that it would not only restore to the English capitalists all the old factories, but would, in addition, hand over half Rusia to them in the form of concessions. In Genoa and at The Hague, we explained clearly to the allies that the Soviet government has no intention whatever of renouncing its existence as such in order to maintain its power, but that it is prepared to make contracts, and to grant economic advantages in return for others. The English capitalists could not make up their minds to go in for such a policy, and the new English government is waiting for good weather.

Let it wait. But why smash the furniture!! One year will succeed another; Russia will begin to heal her own wounds, and the English capitalists will see, in the course of time, that if they want to do business, they must do it in a businesslike manner, that is, they must pursue a real policy based on mutual advantage. But pending the moment when the English cabinet scrapes up sufficient common sense to come to fresh decisions, we advise that at least no panes he broken, and that the clowns disporting themselves in the English parliamentary circus, and flourishing their paper swords, be put on the chain at present.

English policy has obliged its enemies to respect its earnestness. If the English government is desirous of cutting a comic figure with its ridiculous threats, we cannot forbid it, but it will scarcely be of any use in Russia and the Near East. The peoples of the despised Orient have a keen sense of humor, but the popularity to be gained by appealing to this sense of humor is of no great use for bettering the relations between two countries.

Last updated on 14 September 2021