Karl Radek 1923
Published: by the Communist International in June 1923;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
We venture to republish in pamphlet form this speech of Comrade Radek to the Enlarged Executive of the Communist International in June of this year, because of its extreme value to the workers in the struggles of to-day.
It explains the meaning of the repeated attacks upon Soviet Russia and clearly shows the direction of the main forces that are struggling throughout the world.
It is indispensable to those who would understand the great tasks the workers have to accomplish.
Comrades, – During the six months that have elapsed since the last Congress, at which I presented a written report on the liquidation of the Peace of Versailles, a number of very important world political events have occurred which considerably modify the general picture and which demand a number of tactical decisions on our part. Before, however, I enter upon a consideration of these questions, I should like to address a few words to a great patron of the Communist International, Lord Curzon. In his note to Soviet Russia he termed the Communist International a “mischievous body,” and he expressed his extreme displeasure that we should be busying ourselves with world political questions.
Comrades, we fully appreciate the great honour Lord Curzon has conferred upon us by this apostrophe. We also know that we are not as competent to deal with world political questions as Lord Curzon. None of us have been to Eton. None of us have dreamed at the age of seven that we should become the Viceroy of India. Neither do we represent the class which, for three hundred years, has been the maker of world politics. We represent a class which hitherto has been the object of world politics. We have not studied world politics in the colleges of the English aristocracy, but in common with the working class we have studied the consequences of the policy of Lord Curzon during the world war by paying for it with our blood. These studies have been all too inadequate; otherwise Lord Curzon would not now have been in a position to conduct world politics. We are attempting to assist the working class in pursuing these studies, and it is only natural that we should occasionally make mistakes. Had not the point of view of Lord Curzon been fundamentally so different from ours, we should have been just as thankful for his criticism as for that of our opponents in the working class movement. But we do not hope that we shall ever be in a position to mollify the criticism of Lord Curzon, or to win from him a confession that our organisation is giving him pleasure. And, indeed, we are not seeking for it. But we are convinced that in occupying ourselves with world politics, we are at least serving the ends which the working class has set itself, which it is pursuing, and which it will achieve, whether Lord Curzon likes it or not.
Now let us come to the questions themselves. The first event that occurred after the Congress, and which created a great change in the International situation, was the Anglo-American Agreement on the payment of Britain’s debts to America; the second was the occupation of the Ruhr, and Britain’s attitude towards it; the third, the Lausanne Conference; the fourth, the Anglo-Russian conflict; the fifth and last, the practical liquidation of the Washington Treaty on the Far East. These appear to be isolated and unconnected events, but in reality they are closely bound up together, and only on analysis of the relations of these five questions do we obtain a picture of the world situation and learn the tasks which we, the Communist International, have to pursue. In order to understand what a great change was made in the world political situation by the Anglo-American agreement on the debt, it is necessary to recall in a few words the preceding phase of British politics, the politics of Lloyd George, as expressed firstly at the Genoa Conference and secondly in the well-known Balfour Note on Inter-Allied indebtedness.
The plan pursued by Lloyd George in the interests of British commercial capital was this: The Allies are indebted for enormous sums to each other, and particularly to America. France is one of the greatest debtors of Britain and the United States. Britain was aiming for an agreement, which, it is true, would ameliorate the burden of France’s indebtedness to the Allies, but which would have compelled France to limit its armaments and to decrease Germany’s burden of reparations. If France were compelled to reduce its army, the opposition between France and Britain for the hegemony of Europe would have been lessened, and the situation of England thereby improved. If France had been compelled in return for the surrender of a portion of her debts to England and America, to surrender a portion of Germany’s reparations, the German bourgeoisie would again, become consolidated. And as Germany played an important part in England’s trade balance, the British commercial and industrial bourgeoisie would have been in a position to reduce unemployment, which costs England as much annually as France is demanding of Germany in the form of reparation, namely, one hundred million pounds. The second part of Lloyd George’s plan was to reach an agreement with Soviet Russia in Genoa which would not only have drawn Russia again into capitalist world traffic, but would also have made Russia a new capitalist State. Lloyd George hoped that the Soviet Government would abandon its Socialist character, i.e., the determined effort to develop its economic system step by step in the direction of Socialism; that it would not only return the enterprises of former foreign capitalists in the form of 99 years’ concessions, but that Soviet Russia would be compelled to pay the debts and the so-called indemnities of the capitalists and to hand over her railways, ports, and perhaps her still undeveloped natural wealth, to international capital. According to this scheme the Russian peasant and worker were to be made to assist in the restoration of European capitalism. After the Genoa Conference, Lloyd George declared in Parliament that the leaders of the Russian Revolution were very shrewd and sober-minded men, but that they had behind them the mob which was being driven on by wild Communists such as our friend Bucharin, whom, it is true, he did not mention, but whom he quite obviously meant, and that therefore the tasks of these sober-minded men must be facilitated. The Russian Government should be allowed to call itself a Soviet Government, the International should be allowed free play, but Russian economic life should be handed over to European capital. There is no doubt that this magnanimous plan indicates that this former advocate of the British petty-bourgeoisie and later of the war profiteers, had an idea as to how the world should be best ordered. But the idea had one thing in common with the famous steed of Ariosto, it was dead. He reckoned without his host – without the United States of America and without Soviet Russia.
The necessary conditions for the success of the plan was on the one hand the consent of Soviet Russia, and on the other that pressure should be exercised by America upon France and that America should be prepared to grant Germany a loan. But America had no intention of conducting the policy of Lloyd George and Britain. When we examine the facts of the recent economic development of America, when we take into consideration her great prosperity in the year 1922-23, the fact that her steel output has doubled in comparison with pre-war years, and now amounts to 50 million tons, that her wheat area has increased from 46 million acres before the war to 98 million acres, that in spite of the Fordney Tariff, American industry is employing steadily increasing quantities of foreign raw materials, and that she is beginning to experience a shortage of labour power, we shall easily understand why America feels no necessity to fling herself into European affairs and to invest capital in the restoration of European capitalism. There are two groups which are opposed to the policy of isolation. The first consists of the farmers, but the farmers consist of only 30 per cent. of the American population, and they provide only 17 per cent. of the American income; 20 per cent. of America’s agricultural output is sent abroad. The second consists of the financial interests. At the recent conference of bankers in Washington, banking circles firmly expressed themselves in favour of interfering in European affairs. They hope in this way to get European industry into their own hands. A number of bankers are interested in financing exports from Europe which can supply goods cheaper than America. This would provide great possibilities for profits, but at the expense of the American capitalists who attempted to protect themselves from competition by the Fordney Tariff. The improvement of the economic situation in America has strengthened the tendencies favouring isolation in the United States, in spite of the admonitions of Hoover that they should think of the future and carefully foster their relations with foreign Powers. If American imports have increased, it has been due to imports of raw materials from the colonial countries to which American capital is also flowing. America has not departed from her position of isolation. If she is beginning to occupy herself somewhat with world affairs, it is more with Far Eastern and South American affairs than with European affairs.
When the question of an American loan to Germany was being discussed, the director of the Morgan trust, Lamont, declared that it would be difficult for the banks to mobilise capital for Europe. He stated that the banks do not possess so large a capital, but must procure it from the great mass of the small middle-class. But these people see that Europe is being torn to pieces and that it is being threatened by war and revolution, and they say that unless the European bourgeoisie create order in their own house, they must not hope for aid from America. This was the main reason why America did not adopt the plan of Lloyd George. But there were other reasons. Lloyd George, politically speaking, was seeking to form an Anglo-American Coalition against France. America knows very well that the French policy in Europe is one of disruption. America is not yet prepared to bind herself finally to England. As I said in my report on the liquidation of the Versailles Peace, British policy in the Far East is not yet finally determined. England has not undertaken any definite obligations towards Japan. America is still uncertain as to whether it will not be necessary in the future war in the East to become an opponent of England. America and England are not only two great industrial powers, competing for the world market, they are also two great naval powers. America has overtaken the British fleet and still does not know whether the necessity of war will not compel her to oppose the British on the high seas. If such a situation should arise, France will not be the enemy, and might even be an ally. The French submarines will then present the means of cutting off raw materials and foodstuffs from Britain, and the French harbours, which are distributed over the whole Atlantic and Indian Oceans, might offer supporting bases for the American fleet. And America, which is creating such a din about militarism in Europe, takes care not to insist at Washington that France should refrain from building submarines.
On the other hand, as far as Soviet Russia is concerned, the plan of Lloyd George came to grief owing to a slight error which he entertained regarding Soviet Russia. I will not deny that we have some intelligence and that we are very cool-headed, but Lloyd George was somewhat mistaken as to our intentions. He was, perhaps, the dupe of the Second International and the Mensheviki when he assumed that the New Economic Policy was a parachute whereby we meant to lower ourselves gradually to the level of capitalism. Soviet Russia declared at Genoa and later at The Hague that she was prepared to make concessions to foreign capital in return for credit. But under no circumstances will we hand over our heavy industries and our railways to foreign capitalism. So the plan of Lloyd George was also damaged in the East. He warned the Soviet Delegation during the negotiations in the Villa Albertis that if he died politically, so great a friend of ours would not come again to the fore and that our enemies would gain the upper hand. We said to ourselves, God save us from our friends – against our enemies we know how to defend ourselves. So perished the plan of Lloyd George.
When the new Conservative Cabinet was formed, it had to adopt new methods of seeking a rapprochement with America. If Mahomet will not go to the mountain, the mountain must go to Mahomet, and so the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Baldwin, a partner in the firm of Baldwin, Ltd., went to America and brought back with him a pact. Lloyd George expressed the impression this produced when he said that a cold shudder ran down the backs of Englishmen when it was officially reported that the British Government had definitely pledged itself to pay, for sixty years, more than thirty million pounds sterling annually to the United States on behalf of the debts incurred by Britain in the name of her allies, and this without expecting to get any contribution from her debtors which would lighten the burden of the British taxpayers.
No wonder that even so powerful a capitalist country as England felt a shiver run down its back. A victorious Power has to pay its allies in the war 300 million gold roubles yearly without receiving a kopek, not only from wicked Russia, but even from its good allies like France and Italy. Of the taxes which England pays, which are greater than those of any bourgeoisie of any other country, the interest on the allied debts to England represents ten. per cent. Ten per cent. of British taxation for the payment of unpaid interest of the allies to England. It is in this way that England is seeking closer relations with America. But this was not the only consequence of the bankruptcy of Lloyd George’s plan. The second consequence was that England was obliged to ask herself what was going to happen next in France.
America refrained from bringing the pressure of her dollars to bear upon France in order to compel her either to pay her debts or to declare herself ready to reduce her army, to minimise the danger of war in Europe, and to reduce the burden of reparations upon Germany. England was faced with the question as to what method she should adopt in her fight against France. There, too, she was faced with her extremely deplorable military balance-sheet. England’s strength lay in the fact that she was an island. Neither the plans of invasion of Napoleon nor of Germany were realised. But England after the war was faced with the fact that she had ceased to be an island. The development of air fleets and the development of chemical warfare have done more than reveal England’s Achilles’ heel – they have shown that England consists entirely of Achilles’ heels. If you read Major Lefebrucke’s book, which describes the development of chemical warfare – and Major Lefebrucke was one of the leading British chemists during the war – you will be forced to the conclusion that France with her air fleet is in the position to reduce England’s industrial centres to ruins. The relation of the British air fleet to that of France, which, as you know, was discussed in the British House of Lords on March 23, is little short of catastrophic. England possesses (April, 1923) 35 air squadrons of 529 aeroplanes, 23 of which are in the colonies, Egypt, India, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Constantinople. France has an air programme of 2,163 aeroplanes (1923) and actually possesses 1,722 aeroplanes. In the air France is accordingly three times as powerful as England. It is one of the little ironies of history that it is the Francophile clique in England, headed by the Morning Post, which is now leading the campaign for the enlargement of the British air fleet. In any case, Lord Grey was obliged to state in the British House of Lords that England could not risk a break with France. In such circumstances, England was faced with the question: what is going to happen next in the matter of reparations? The dollar stood at 9,000 marks and it was clear which way things were tending. The Paris Conference then took place. At the Conference England produced a programme which, as far as figures went, was no more favourable to Germany than the French proposal, but which gave France no security. France rejected this programme. The German programme was not even brought forward. Bonar Law knew as well as Poincaré that the German Foreign Minister was waiting in the anteroom with his plan, but they did not have him called in. Many people believe, and the good German public believes it to this very day, that this was a comedy of errors. The English demanded more from Germany than the French, and were even bringing matters to a break with the latter. They wished to save Germany, and although they knew that Bergmann was waiting on the mat, he was not called in.
The riddle is quite a simple one. England in Paris was pursuing a policy of provocation. She wanted France to act alone and occupy the Ruhr. The plan was obvious. Since England was not in a position to defeat French imperialism French imperialism must be induced to break its neck against the resistance of Germany. The British Government knew that finally it would not be able to tolerate the occupation of the Ruhr by the French. If France remains in the Ruhr, she will, by the union of German coal with Lorraine ores, form the basis not only for French militarism, but for the economic domination of Europe by French capitalism at least as far as Beresina. The English know very well that this cannot be permitted. But the scheme was to allow French ambitions to be wrecked upon their very object. England knew that with the fall of the petty-bourgeois Government, the fall of Wirth, a Government representing heavy industry had come to power, and that the German Volkspartie, the party of the large industrialists, who had fought for years against the policy of paying reparations, could not come to power without attempting to offer resistance. British policy was a policy of provocation, of which few examples are to be found in history. In London neutrality was declared. In Berlin the British Ambassador, Lord D'Abernon, was the driving force spurring the German bourgeoisie to resistance. It is related that Lord D'Abernon, who was once chairman of the Dette Publique Ottomane, and who, in addition to his interest in pretty women and horses, is also a financier, is speculating on the German Bourse upon the fall of the mark. We have so great a respect for the English lords that we are convinced that they would never allow politics to be mixed with finance. But let what will be said of the noble passions of Lord D'Abernon, he is nevertheless pursuing the interests of British policy. Curzon, in London, spoke of non-intervention, while Lord D'Abernon was attempting to force Germany into a fight in which he naturally promised that Britain would come to the help of German at the critical moment.
Thus England speculated that Poincaré would break his neck against the resistance of the German miners, financed by the bourgeoisie, and that at the right moment the struggle would be ended by a compromise by which the iron and coal trust would indeed be formed, but with the participation of England and the United States. As the United States and England are economically stronger than France, England hoped that in the end, in connection with the financially weak but organisationally strong German bourgeoisie, she would dominate the iron and coal trusts. This plan was furthered by the partner of Lord D'Abernon, the German bourgeoisie.
Comrades, the events in the Ruhr during the past six months deserve the most careful attention of the whole international working class. They show that the international bourgeoisie is not in a position to restore capitalist economy, and that even the bourgeoisie of the individual countries are not in a position to subordinate the interests of their individual groups to their common interests. The German bourgeoisie is now nothing but a pack of hyenas fighting over every morsel of carrion. As a class it has a great world political interest in moderating the Peace of Versailles. But it is helping Poincaré, inasmuch as every clique of German capitalists is fighting for its own immediate interests. Wherein lay the problem of resistance? It was to support the German workers in the Ruhr until Poincaré realised that he was unable to break the resistance of the miners. Instead of this the German bourgeoisie, under the cry of national defence, conducted a policy which I will illustrate by a few facts. The German bourgeoisie received many milliards of paper marks from the State as “help for the Ruhr,” in order to pay the workers’ wages when they were not working. They received two hundred milliard paper marks for discounting their commercial bills. This was two hundred million gold marks. The German bourgeoisie received perhaps one-third of the German gold fund with which to buy cheap securities, and with these securities, cheap coal. By the end of January the dollar had reached 49,000 marks. It was forced down to 20,000 and even to 19,000. The German bourgeoisie, as our reporter on economic policy, Comrade Pavlovsky, will set forth in greater detail in a special article to the Communist International, went to one counter of a bank, received paper marks as credit, and went to another part of the bank and there purchased dollars at less than half their price. When more than 300 million gold marks had thus been sucked out, there began a wild speculation, led by Stinnes, for covering in dollars. The results are well known. To-day’s telegrams report the dollar at 100,000 marks. The resistance of the German bourgeoisie was abandoned. They forced up prices to such an extent that the working class would be able only by a ten-fold increase of their wages to purchase what they did before the occupation of the Ruhr. But the German bourgeoisie attempted with the aid of the Government to force wages down. The Wolff Agency on March 8 declared outright that wages would now have to be reduced. In all negotiations between employers and workers the representative of the Government declared in favour of a reduction in wages. The result was that since February 8 the German workers in the occupied area have received no increases, whereas increases have been granted to the officials. There followed a spontaneous outburst of strikes, starting in the Ruhr and spreading over the whole of Germany, during which, as you know, the representative of the German Government, Doctor Lutterbeck, turned to General Degoutte with the plea of the great example of Thiers in 1871, and requested that the bill of exchange which the French bourgeoisie signed in 1871 should be honoured. In 1871 Bismarck helped to crush the Paris Commune, and Lutterbeck now demanded that the French should help to crush the uprising in the Ruhr. This document, which should be spread in every country by all the parties of the Communist International, not by the German alone, as a classic instance of the betrayal of the movement for national emancipation by the bourgeoisie, is proof that the bourgeoisie have abandoned their resistance against French imperialism. When the German Chancellor, Cuno, speaking in Munster two weeks after the lefter of Doctor Lutterbeck, said, “The resistance is not at an end, we shall continue it,” this was an attempt of restitution in integrum – a restoration of virginity, which, unfortunately, is not known to history. The German bourgeoisie is prepared to capitulate to Poincaré at the expense of the German proletariat. The German bourgeoisie proposed to the German Government on behalf of heavy industry, commerce, and agriculture, to supply five hundred million gold marks per annum for the payment of reparations, on condition that the eight-hour day was abandoned, and the railways delivered to the industrialists, i.e., that the capitalists would receive the right of buying up Germany wholesale and retail. Since the proletariat was not in a position to seize the securities of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie is seizing the State in the true sense of the word by depriving it of all its independent economic sources and placing all the burdens upon the proletariat.
We believe that the defeat of the German bourgeoisie on the Ruhr and the victory of Poincaré have already taken place, but not yet formally declared. It is still a question, however, whether Poincaré will be able to seize the whole fruit of the victory, or whether he will be obliged to surrender part of the booty to England, which naturally is attempting to give the appearance of again saving Germany. The German bourgeoisie is not even capable of capitulation. It let loose all the dogs of nationalism against the French, and now they are hanging at its own throat. It wished to capitulate by provoking an uprising of the Communists in the Ruhr in order then to cry that the Communists had opened the ranks to the French, to crush the Communists and to fling the Fascisti and nationalists, a part of whom might have turned against the Government, against the working class. This scheme miscarried owing to the coolheadedness of the Communist Party, and the German bourgeoisie do not know what the next steps should be. The offer is an offer for the enslavement of Germany, but the bourgeoisie wants itself to be the slave-driver. It does not give the French the possibility of itself conducting the pillage, and French imperialism fears that the guarantees will be merely paper guarantees. As the situation now appears, an agreement will be come to which will deliver Germany over to Entente imperialism; but it is possible that the situation will remain unaltered for several months. When the fight in the Ruhr began, Poincaré, in speech dealing with the German proposals for an international commission of bankers, which should determine how much Germany should pay, adopted a tone which reminds us of the notes of Chicherin. He said that France would never permit international finance to determine how much. France should receive and how much she needs. This Socialist tirade of M. Poincaré against international finance was really directed against America and England. It is quite obvious then in such an international commission British and American banks would be the suppliers of credit and would therefore play a dominating role. If France should triumph in the Ruhr, it would by no means follow that American and British capital would be excluded. But since France declares that she will not leave the Ruhr until all payments have been made, it means that she, in a military sense, holds the object of exploitation in her own hands, and so reduces the influence of the dollar and the pound sterling. Whether the fight in the Ruhr will assume revolutionary forms, whether the corpse of passive resistance will pollute the atmosphere, or whether an agreement will be arrived at, one thing is clear: the six months of the Ruhr occupation have set Germany back economically for several years. The mere adaptation of wages to prices will mean a revolution in wages. The financial prospects of Germany are absolutely hopeless. The expectation the German bourgeoisie entertained of an American loan was absolutely without foundation. We knew that when we asked for a loan at Genoa, but the German bourgeoisie still believes. And then comes Keynes, the friend of Germany, who says in the London Nation that the German bourgeoisie at the best can hope only for a very modest loan, by way of a charitable gift, just enough to buy cigars, but not enough to ameliorate Germany’s financial plight. Germany is, therefore, faced with extensive economic disruption. This for England means that she will lose for a considerable time one of her best customers. And here I come to the relation between the defeat of Britain in the Ruhr and her Russian policy.
An examination of the principal statistics of British foreign trade reveals the following:-
From 1921 to 1922 British exports to non-British countries increased from 310 million pounds to 336 million pounds.
British exports to the British colonies fell from 208 millions to 198 millions.
In general, trade between Britain and her colonies since the war increased by 2 per cent., which, when we remember what a revolution has occurred in prices and the value of the pound, is a very modest figure. It is particularly modest in view of Britain’s striving to consolidate her trade with her colonies.
Exports to Germany, which in 1913 amounted to 29 million pounds sterling, in 1921 were 12 million pounds, and rose in 1922 to 24 million pounds. This shows that Britain’s trade with Central Europe, in spite of the post-war disorganisation, grew in greater proportions than her trade with her colonies. And now we see that this market, the Central European market, the German market, has been destroyed for many a year to come by the events in the Ruhr. This is why the colonial tendency in British politics, the tendency of Lord Beaverbrook, is growing in influence, in spite of the fact that it is contradicted economically by Britain’s trade balance. A section of the British bourgeoisie says that European economy is doomed to destruction, and therefore it is more and more directing its attention to the colonies.
The expression of this tendency was Curzon’s Note to Soviet Russia. It was delivered almost simultaneously with a Note to Germany, and which was conceived in the bluntest terms, and in which Curzon demanded that the German bourgeoisie should pay what France was demanding. At first glance it seemed to be a piece of sheer folly, since Curzon addressed Russia and the German bourgeoisie almost in an identical manner. But there was method in this madness. The colonial tendency was seeking to carry into effect a policy which meant the delivery of Germany to France; Britain was to have a very small share, but in return France was to refrain from seeking a foot-hold in Russia in place of England. You will ask – Why the fight against Soviet Russia, and why the change in British policy towards Soviet Russia? The reason is to be found, as I have said, partly in the collapse of the plan of Lloyd George, partly in the development within Russia, partly in the Near East.
To begin with Russia. As I stated, Lloyd George regarded the new economic policy as a bridge by which Soviet Russia was to pass over to capitalism. He hoped for the spiritual and moral collapse of the Communist Party of Russia. Lord Curzon, it is true, did not study Marxism at Eton, but there are facts which are obvious even to a British junker. These facts are very simple. Russia did not capitulate in the civil war, but on the contrary, gained an armed victory. She, hereto, had suffered terrible wounds in the civil war. Then came the famine. At Genoa the knife of famine was at our throats, and they tried to force us to capitulate. In 1922 we had an average harvest, and we overcame the effects of the famine except in those regions where the difficulties of transport made it impossible. For the first time our workers are half on the way to being well-nourished, and are even better nourished than the German workers. This year we exported 23 million poods of grain. If in coming years we have good harvests we shall, and must, export from 150 to 200 million poods, so that the peasant may be able to extend the area of cultivation. The price of food is so low that the peasant will be obliged to reduce the area of cultivation if we do not export. As far as raw materials and grain are concerned, England should welcome this as an escape from the monopoly of America; but from the standpoint of British world policy, of the determination to force Soviet Russia to her knees, what do these 150 million poods signify? 150 million poods mean 150 million gold roubles. They mean that light industry will recover a little, because the peasant will buy its products; they mean that the peasants will receive gold for his grain and will have the money for the further development of industry. The Soviet State, which holds the monopoly of foreign trade, will receive money for the technical equipment of the Red Army.
More, Lloyd George welcomed the new economic policy. But the new economic policy is based for the consolidation of Soviet Russia in the year East. It is nearer from Teheran to Nijni Novgorod than from Aboukhir to London. It is nearer from Kabul to Nijni Novgorod than to Calcutta and London. The Oriental peoples are accustomed to Russian goods. Before the war the products of Russian industry were beginning to oust British products in the Near East. It is perfectly clear that even if Soviet Russia were not only prepared to renounce propaganda, but even to raise two fingers and swear that Lord Curzon was the greatest friend of the Oriental peoples, the economic changes would nevertheless strengthen the position of Soviet Russia in the Orient. It was these considerations that convinced Curzon that a menace existed to the line of policy on which he, in accordance with the whole of his past training and upbringing, wished to concentrate, namely, the consolidation of the relations with the colonies and with India in particular. In 1910, in a speech on the role of India in the British Empire, Lord Curzon declared that Persia and Afghanistan were the military bulwarks of India. The interests of British capital demand not so much the occupation of these countries, as that Russia should not enjoy any decisive influence in them. Soviet Russia, in contradistinction to Czarsm, seeks neither military nor economic domination in Persia and Afghanistan. But what Lord Curzon fears still more is that the moral influence of Soviet Russia, based upon her trade with the Orient, will raise these countries out of a position of political impotence, and will assist them to become masters in their own house. This would entail the greatest danger to British imperialism. The old Czarist armies could threaten the Indian fortress from without. If Persia and Afghanistan became free peoples, this may create an influence in India which would strengthen the enemy of British imperialism within the Indian fortress.
Accordingly, Lord Curzon said: Either 1 succeed in forcing Soviet Russia to her knees now, in drawing her into the channel of British policy, and eliminating her from the list of decisive factors in the East, or I provoke a fight before Soviet Russia becomes dangerous. We know that England is very fond of conducting a war through indirect agents; the notorious telegrams of the Italian representative in Moscow, Amadory, completely unmasked the British plan. Amadory, who was a petty official, without any political influence, was himself incapable of developing this plan. He reflected in the main the views of the representatives of the capitalist States. The plan of Lord Curzon was this: England and Italy would withdraw from Russia, and then would begin the pressure of the British vassals, i.e., of the Baltic and North Sea Powers. Germany would remain alone in Moscow. But German industry – so Lord Curzon presumed – was declining into ruin and had not sufficient resources to purchase grain and raw materials. Neither, after the disruption of the Ruhr, would she have sufficient resources to deliver industrial products to Russia. Amadory, in his telegrams, expressed it quite bluntly; he said that Russia would be cut off from the sources of foreign currency. In other words, this would mean the financial and economic blockade of Russia. Amadory proceeded to ask: What would be the relation of Russia to the neighbouring States? After the break passive resistance would become strengthened and pass over to active resistance. In other words, the Petlura, gangs, the S.R.’s and all that galley, and the Georgian Mensheviks would receive further supplies of pound notes. They would be passed into Russia through the Rumanian and the Polish fronts. Whereupon – so speculated Curzon— we would be forced to reflect whether, instead of looking on while our crops were annihilated, it would not be better to make a raid into the west.
British policy counted upon provoking us into a war with Poland. That was why the British Commander-in-Chief, the Earl of Cavan, went direct from Rome, where he had conversed with Mussolini, to Warsaw. He said to the Polish Government: In 1920 you lost the war because you had a young army, were badly organised, and had not the support of England. Now you can count upon England’s support. The plan was to force us into a war with Poland, the consequences of which Lord Curzon reckoned would be that we should have to increase the burden of taxation, the discontent of a peasantry would awaken, and through the economic strain of the new war we should, so Curzon fondly hoped, be smashed. The second hope was based upon speculations as to Lenin’s illness. Comrades, we are historic materialists, but Lord Curzon, who once rode on an elephant to Delhi, is a believer in the cult of hero-worship, and is convinced that since Lenin is ill everybody here has lost their senses.
We value the role of Comrade Lenin; it is greater than a man like Curzon can comprehend. But Curzon reckoned without the twenty-five years history of our party. The Chairman of the Executive Committee, Comrade Zinoviev, often used to tell me – and Bucharin and I denied it – that we shall be subject to new interventions and that our enemies will test with bayonets how much we are worth in the absence of Comrade Lenin. When I was abroad recently I asked a very shrewd American journalist: Why does Curzon want war? Is it that he fears we shall become too strong, or is it that he believes we are weak? He replied: Curzon fears that you may become too strong and therefore wants to test how much you weigh without Lenin. British policy counts upon the disintegration and destruction of our party by the new economic policy.
I need not here recount what pretexts Lord Curzon used to bring about a break with Soviet Russia. The tales of secret conspiracies conducted by us in the Orient fall very well from the lips of the representative of a Government which during the war, while an ally of Czarist Russia, at the same time conspired in an outrageous manner against Russia. This is proved in the most indisputable fashion by the British documents which fell into the hands of German agents in Teheran in 1916, and which were published in Berlin in 1917. But at the present juncture it is far more important to examine what was the sequel to the matter.
You know what Russia’s policy was. Soviet Russia declared that if Lord Curzon wanted a war he must conduct it himself. We declined it with thanks. Soviet Russia perceived a trap. We were to be insulted that our self-respect would not permit us to avoid a break.
Comrades, we are the Government of Workers and Peasants. If within ten years we become very strong – as I hope – and with us the whole European working class becomes strong, we shall perhaps insist upon a definite ceremonial which the Lord Curzons, if they still exist, will have to adopt. You know that when Japan severed herself from the capitalist world she demanded that the Dutch merchants, when they entered Japanese ports, should make kow-tow. Perhaps we shall adopt sonic such ceremonial in future. But we said that now there is no question of ceremonial and prestige; the point was that Lord Curzon wanted war and we did not want war, and if they insisted in forcing war upon us we should refuse to fight, but would wait until we could prove, with the minimum of sacrifice, that it was dangerous to trifle with Soviet Russia.
Lord Curzon is now letting it be trumpeted abroad that he had gained a victory. It is true that Soviet Russia had refused to recall her ambassadors, but she had paid 130,000 gold roubles, and had promised that she would not carry on Communist propaganda in the British colonies, and 130,000 gold roubles were not to be despised. But Lord Curzon forgot one thing in his triumph. With the stupidity in which the scholars of Eton outshine even those of Potsdam, he had overlooked two points. The one was Russia. Lord Curzon, when be was Viceroy of India, was responsible for the Indian national movement. His policy of partitioning Bengal advanced the revolutionary movement in India several years. In Soviet Russia, where the working class has assumed the dictatorship, national consciousness has become a part of the dictatorship. Count Mirbach and General Hoffmann were the national upbringers of the Russian people. When we foolish left Communists at that time opposed the teachings of our leader, Lenin, and refused to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Comrade Lenin said: What do you know of the Treaty of Brest? It is still a scrap of paper. We shall have to suffer still worse defeats, and the revolutionary masses of Russia will know that in order to defend ourselves we must have the weapons, and Hoffmann and Mirbach will become the national up-bringers of our masses. Lord Curzon attempted to carry this work further. We can promise him that we shall translate the things he said, to the representatives of 150,000,000 people, into popular Russian, so that every peasant can understand them. But Lord Curzon had not yet struck the balance of the recent conflict as far as the Orient is concerned. He thinks that the Orient will say: Soviet Russia feared a war with England and therefore she cannot defend us; so the Orient must lick the shoes of Lord Curzon. Lord Curzon under-estimates the situation in the East. The masses of the East will understand that the representative of Soviet Russia, Comrade Vorovsky, fell in the fight for their emancipation.
Lord Curzon wanted the break; he wanted the break even on Sunday, when our last Note was already in his hands. But he could not break, although we, to the very end, firmly refused to withdraw our ambassadors. He could not break because the common-sense policy of the Soviet Government convinced not only the British Labour Party, but both of the British Liberal parties that it was Lord Curzon that wanted war and not us. Lord Curzon could not force the break because the industrial elements within the British Conservative Party demanded to know where a break would lead. It is sufficient only to read Garvin’s article in the Observer order to realise the division within the Conservative camp. Curzon was beaten within his own party because the industrialists feared to take a leap in the dark. And from their standpoint they were right. The break would mean war all along the line, and British imperialism would feel the pressure not, perhaps, where it was prepared for it, but throughout the whole region of the British power in Asia. The retreat of Curzon, his renouncement of the demand that Russia should recall her ambassadors from Kabul and Teheran, were due not merely to the resistance of the British industrialists, but also to the bankruptcy of his hopes on the solidarity of the Allies and the neutrals. Italy, on whom he chiefly counted, drew back. Italy needs Russia because the latter can supply her with grain in exchange for industrial products, whereas in America she would have to pay for grain with gold. France, even after the Curzon Note, allowed the Russian Red Cross Mission to enter Marseilles, and sent a commercial mission to Moscow. This by no means signifies that she had finally made up her mind to steal a march on England in Moscow, but it does signify that she had not finally made up her mind to fall in with Curzon’s plans regarding Russia. Denmark, at the very moment of the Anglo -Russian conflict, signed a commercial treaty with Soviet Russia.
Lord Curzon did not gain his end. He succeeded only in profoundly wounding the national feelings of the Russian masses. The British Government, in refusing to come to terms with Soviet Russia in the Near East, thereby provided the seeds of new conflicts.
Leslie Urquhart, the industrial manager of the intervention, enraged by the fact that Soviet Russia would not assist him in establishing a capitalist-feudal principality upon Russian soil, demanded afresh that the British Government should break with Soviet Russia if the latter refused to return the factories to the British capitalists and to pay her debts. He thereby revealed why a section of the British industrialists are prepared to back the Eastern colonial group of Curzon in its fight against Soviet Russia. The Soviet Government will not allow itself to be beaten to its knees; it will be prepared to let it be war if a foreign power attempts to dispute the conquests of the October Revolution. Therefore we see a grave danger-signal in the Anglo-Russian conflict, and we warn the international proletariat that the danger of new interventions has not yet passed. The defeat of Curzon shows how the tendencies cross one another. The breakdown of Germany, and the domination of the colonial group, produced the Note to Russia; the British industrialists, however, were not prepared finally to renounce Europe. They still seek a method of saving their trade with Central Europe. The colonial tendency is beaten back. This, after the experiences of the world war, means that an act has come to a conclusion, but that we are, however, faced with new struggles.
The disruption of Europe and the disruption of capitalism are proceeding, and the Ruhr crisis and the events at The Hague show that the only power which knows what it wants, which will not allow itself to be provoked, and which clearly sees in what direction events are tending, is the first proletarian and peasant power, Soviet Russia. The others do not know what they have to do.
Comrades, Russia is not the only danger to British imperialism. The second enemy in the East is the awakening Mohammedan world, because it finds a State concentration point in Turkey. There are only eight million inhabitants of independent Turkey, but there are sixty million Mohammedan Hindoos, and Turkey’s fight for independence serves as a revolutionary factor of the first importance in India against British imperialism, the oppressor of India, because the Mohammedan Hindoos are themselves in a state of ferment. That is the reason why England is attempting to throttle Turkey, and why it drove its Greek vassals against the Turks. The Turks triumphed. The fight of the Greeks against Turkey was part of the programme of Lloyd George, namely, to come to an agreement with Russia, which was to develop into a capitalist power, and to abandon its revolutionary role in the East, and, following upon that, to destroy Turkey. Lloyd George neither won Soviet Russia for capitalism, nor destroyed the Turks.
Curzon is seeking to break the revolutionary front in the East in another manner. He has adopted the policy of his old teacher, Lord Beaconsfield, namely, War with Russia! Peace with Turkey! Turkey is too weak at present to fight for Mesopotamia and Arabia, that is, to win back what England seized. According to Curzon’s reckoning, it is easier to purchase eight million Turks and to hold the conquered regions with the aid of their influence, than to come to an understanding with Soviet Russia. This policy of Curzon’s produced at Lausanne the most striking change of scene ever known to diplomacy.
The French came to Lausanne as the friends of Turkey and tried to play off the Turks against England. It ended by the French becoming the enemies of the Mohammedans and Curzon their prophet. This was owing to the pressure of events. France was the old creditor power of Europe. Sixty per cent. of the debts of Turkey are in the hands of the French. The French rentiers used to lend money to the exotic countries. Turkey’s chief debtor was France, not England. At Lausanne it was not the territorial questions of Arabia and Mesopotamia that were the most important, but the question of what was to be paid, how much was to be paid, and what guarantees for payments were to be given. And on this rock the diplomatic game of France came to wreck. England behaved in a very sensible manner, it fought for English causes, then made concessions, and finally “supported” France loyally in its demands. The bankruptcy of the first Lausanne Conference was due to the financial demands of France.
England sought to leap into the Angora saddle, not only to destroy the revolutionary significance of Turkey, not only to throw France out of the saddle in the Near East, but for yet another reason. Friendship with Turkey guarantees Mosul to England at the price of small economic concessions to the ruling class. Once the oil of Mosul is secure, Turkey can be turned against Baku. This plan, it seems to me, as I pointed out in my last report, is based upon a misconception of the situation in the East. Turkey, which has a population of eight million, has been at war since 1909. The situation of the Turkish peasant is such as was not equalled even in the famine region of Russia. It was only due to the great energy of the Government and the conviction of the peasants that they were fighting for the national independence that Turkey was able to win in the war with Greece. To attempt to lead these peasants into a war with any country that is not attacking Turkey is a game which will meet with the same fate as the game of Lloyd George.
Lord Curzon passes for being the best informed Englishman on Eastern questions. The New Statesman, the organ of the Fabian Society, wrote of him that he knew everything that was to be known about the East except what ought to be done in the East. Lord Curzon believes that Turkey still looks the same as it did in the time of Abdul Hamed. But it only requires one or two facts from the life of Turkey to show how mistaken Curzon is. In Turkey, where the power of religion is stronger than in Europe, where the Sultanate has been bound up with the Caliphate for centuries, whereby the Sultanate learned religious methods; the Sultanate, when the British got it into their hands, was severed from the Caliphate, and the Sultan was dethroned; and yet the Mullahs were unable to create an extensive popular movement against the Government on these grounds. When, at the congress at Baku, we appointed a woman to the Presidium, the Oriental Communists came to us and said it would be better if we did not do this: in the East women must not take part in the assemblies of men – and we ought to respect this superstition. When we now read that at the Economic Conference at Smyrna 300 women participated, and followed the discussions with an attention which proved they were absorbed in politics; when we remember that the Smyrna Congress, which had been organised by the Government, broke up into class divisions, in which the workers fought against the merchants, and the merchants quarrelled with the peasants, then we see that the years of war have brought about a profound social differentiation in Turkey, which makes it impossible to judge the East in the manner in which Curzon judges it, viz., that it is only necessary for the British will to express itself in sovereigns in order for it to be sovereign in Turkey.
More. Soviet Russia supported revolutionary Turkey not from faith in every Pasha who calls himself People’s Commissary, and sends a telegram to Lenin, but from the profound conviction that the interests of the Russian peasants ran parallel with the interests of the peasants of the East, and that on this point the interests of Soviet Russia and of the international proletariat were identical. The result of this support is that the masses in Turkey do not regard Russia as an enemy, but as the only Power which helped them in difficult times. When Lord Curzon adopts the ideas of Lord Beaconsfield, he reminds us of the Russian proverb of the man who came to a wedding singing funeral songs, and to a funeral singing wedding songs. One of the best of English writers, Sidebotham, in a sketch of Lord Curzon, said he was a man with ideas of the past century. It unfortunately appears that not only had we to sweep Czarism out of Russia, and to fight the ideas of the Russian junkers of the last hundred years, but we must also sweep away the representatives and the ideas of the eighteenth century in England. This is a very difficult task. But, at any rate, we are convinced that the new policy, which bases itself on the masses, will triumph over the old policy of plunder which Lord Curzon derives from his ancient times.
Comrades, permit me now in a few words to describe the fifth factor which marks the change in the international situation in the last few months.
The Washington Agreement of January, 1922, between the great Powers interested in the Far East was to stabilise the position in that part of the world. Russia was not invited, was not recognised as a great Power, and not regarded as interested in the Far East. Two weeks later we marched into Vladivostok. The great Powers did not come to any agreement which solved the problem of the Far East. The Eastern Asiatic question is first and foremost a question of the partition of China amongst the great Powers. They contented themselves with an agreement which stabilised the relations of armaments until such a time as they were in a position to arrive at agreement. This agreement has already been flung on to the scrap heap.
“It now looks as though even the treaty for the limitation of naval armaments, which was negotiated by the representatives of Great Britain, the United States, France, Italy and Japan, might after all prove merely a scrap of paper.”
So writes Archibald Hurd, a foremost English writer on naval questions in the January, 1923, number of the Fortnightly Review. The Washington Agreement limited the number of dreadnoughts and forbade the construction of new dreadnoughts. The relation that thereby resulted was very favourable to England and America, but Japan knew what this signified. She knew that it meant the future throttling of Japan. She submitted to the Washington Treaty, it is true, but she changed her strategic plan. This was to provoke war in the Pacific and to smash the American dreadnoughts before they could reach the Philippines. This plan was altered. The Japanese strategic plan now is, as is clear from all the military measures adopted by Japan, to allow the enemies to attack. Japan stopped constructing dreadnoughts and proceeded to build fast cruisers and submarines. In 1925 Japan will have no less than twenty-five modern ships of the line and cruisers, and seventy submarines. The English naval expert, Bywater, recently published an article in which he showed that while the Washington Conference was in progress, 152,000 workers were busily employed in the Japanese shipyards. Not a single worker has been discharged. 153,000 workers are still engaged in the Japanese shipyards. Japan is passing over to a policy of defence in Chinese waters, where the strategic situation is such that it is easier to pass through Dardanelles than to attack Japan through the Chinese Sea and the Tsuschimeng. By the secret fortifications of the Bonin Isles, which were carried out before the Washington Conference, Japan greatly strengthened her strategic position. The United States also did not remain idle.
“It was said by idealists,” writes Archibald Hurd, in the above quoted article, “that this war would end all wars; but it seems as though it had merely sown the seeds of further wars. The fact that no mean proportion of the nations are poverty stricken to the verge of bankruptcy, while some of them are so insolvent that they can never hope to pay any dividend to their debtors, appears to be without influence on the mad race in armaments which they are still pursuing. Leaders of thought and action in the United States protest that they will do nothing to help bind up the wounds of the maimed nations of Europe until those nations show their repentance in reduced armament budgets. But, in the meantime, in the Budget which has just been presented to Congress, the American people are themselves asked to devote 256,552,000 dollars to the support of the Army, and 289,881,000 dollars to the maintenance and increase of the Navy.” The United States is increasing its small cruisers, destroyers, etc., in spite of the fact that it has not to defend communications with widely distributed colonial possessions, as is the case with Great Britain.
“If accepted by the American public and endorsed by Congress, it may, indeed, prove the death-blow to the Washington Treaty,” writes Hurd. Great Britain, for its part, is beginning the reconstruction of the world by spending nine million pounds sterling on the construction of the naval base of Singapore. This signifies not merely a complete change of England’s policy in that part of the world, but even a step towards America, a price which England is paying to America at the expense of Japan. It signifies the concentration of the main British Fleet in the neighbourhood of the Pacific. Thus, Britain also is circumventing the Washington Treaty, which forbade fortifications in the Pacific. This situation in the Far East means a growing aggravation of American-Japanese differences. It makes Japan to a large degree dependent upon Soviet Russia. The fight will be fought out on Chinese territory. All the internal conflicts of China are more or less the conflicts of the imperialist powers within China. Russia is a neighbour of China along an extensive frontier line. This would mean that Japan would have to fight with divided forces. Peace and friendship with Russia are absolutely essential to Japan in order to make it difficult for America to ally herself with Soviet Russia against Japan. It is these considerations that are inducing Japan to conclude peace with Soviet Russia.
These are the most important of the new factors. Allow me to draw some conclusions from them.
The first conclusion springs to the eye. The famous reconstruction of Europe has given place to what a witty Russian writer has called in his novel – “The Trust for the Destruction of Europe.” Taken together, the policy of all the capitalist powers is a trust for the destruction of Europe. If this had been deliberate, matters could not have been arranged differently. It means that to-day, as at the Fourth Congress, our policy must be based upon the prospect of a further disruption of the world. That in spite of the capitalist offensive, there are no grounds for believing in the possibility of capitalist reconstruction, but, on the contrary, we are on the threshold of an acceleration in the destruction of Europe.
American capitalism has temporarily strengthened itself. In Britain no improvement of the economic situation is to be observed. But the old Continent, for which we are now chiefly fighting, where the greatest revolutionary factors are at work, is not moving towards peace, but towards big wars. John Kennedy Turner, the author of an excellent book on the part of America in the war, which is better propaganda for the dictatorship of the proletariat than much of our own literature, remarks in his preface that the size of the armies and the military budgets are greater than before the war, and that therefore the danger of war is now greater than in 1914.
This is the first conclusion.
The second conclusion is that the only revolutionary Power, Soviet Russia, is at present in danger. We are in danger just because we are becoming stronger and because the hopes of the capitalist for our destruction are imperilled. We ask you: Do you know that the stronghold of the proletarian world revolution, Soviet Russia, is in permanent danger, and that Lausanne and the Curzon Note are alarm signals? Soviet Russia is strong, and will defend herself, and not allow herself to be defeated; but only if she is not compelled to rely upon her own strength. It will depend upon the international proletariat whether a new attack upon Soviet Russia is to be fended off by Soviet Russia alone, or whether the whole proletariat will assume a counter-defensive.
The third conclusion is that the German working class, and with it the German revolution, is in the greatest peril. Zinoviev said that in Germany we are marching steadily forward – and I fully agree with him. It is a fact. The disintegration of the German bourgeoisie is increasing day by day, and thereby a new danger zone is being created. The German bourgeoisie attempted to transform the Ruhr strike into a Ruhr uprising. It attempted to crush the German working class before the working class is in a position to crush it. The German Party manoeuvred quite correctly, but the need is so great that the party cannot limit itself merely to the cry: Do not let yourself be provoked! It will have to fight. And therein lies a great danger. Germany is a colony of France, and a colony cannot be exploited if it is given over to revolution. Therefore, France has an interest in crushing the German revolution. Lutterbeck’s request was rejected, but another time, when the danger is greater, it will be conceded. The German working class is between two fires: between the German bourgeoisie – Fascism – and French imperialism. We have to say to our French comrades: the French Party is still weak, it is still young, but it has great international duties to perform.
The fourth conclusion is that the revolutionary movement in the East is in danger. The day before yesterday we received the news that in Teheran the Nationalist Semi-Democratic Government has been overthrown by Anglophile elements with the help of English gold. It is clear how the matter stands in Turkey. The elements which are working for an agreement with the Entente and with England are those who wish to crush the Communist movement because it is becoming the centre of the peasant’s movement. It is not sufficient to say that we, the Russian Party, will do our duty in the face of this danger. We must here appeal to our British comrades to direct their attention to colonial matters; we must spur them on, young though they be, to assume a great part of the burden of supporting the revolutionary movement in the Orient, for thereby they will be protecting not only this movement, but also themselves. MacDonald, the leader of the Labour Party, in his speech on the Curzon Note, said that if it were true that the Soviet Government was supporting the revolutionary movement in the East, Curzon was justified in his complaints. If the workers and peasants of Persia, Turkey and India take this as the opinion of the British workers, then woe to the British working class when it comes to fight for power, when it will depend on whether the peasants of Egypt and Persia are its enemies or its friends, and whether they will supply it with foodstuffs or not. We direct this appeal to the English comrades. They are Englishmen; that means that they understand world political questions better than anybody else. They can build the bridge from the European proletariat to the slowly developing working class and peasant masses of the Orient.
These are the conclusions I draw. I do not suggest that we shall immediately dethrone Lord Curzon. Neither we nor you can do that. We do not issue violent manifestos, but we direct your attention to the disintegration of the political situation, to the coming struggles, and to the great task that we, as the world party of the proletariat, fighting for its emancipation, have to perform. We have drawn your attention to the work which we have to perform, not merely at the moment of danger, but daily. In these recent months we have witnessed a deed the dreadful magnitude of which we hardly realise.
Before the occupation of the Ruhr, before the events that unrolled themselves before the eyes of the proletariat, the representatives of many millions of workers met at The Hague, and this assembly witnessed the danger, understood it, and yet did not raise a finger. For a second time we have lived through the year 1914. That is the great lesson. If the bourgeoisie had been determined we should have had a new war without a revolution. We were not in a position to prevent it. We were too feeble. We must at least grasp the full significance of this fact and draw the conclusion, namely, to increase a thousand-fold the attention we gave to world political questions, not as spectators, but as proletarian fighters. (Prolonged applause.)