Comrade Radek

Session of Enlarged Executive of C.I.: Fourth Day

Speech on the World Political Situation

(15 June 1928)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 46, 28 June 1923, pp. 449–450.
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.

June 15, 1923

New Phenomena have appeared in world politics since the last Congress. The situation has changed in many respects. It is our duty to draw the necessary tactical conclusions.

Lord Curzon called the Communist International a mischievous organisation, presumably because it concerns itself with questions of world politics. We have not studied world political questions at Eton College. We, as the objects of world politics, studied world political questions in the school of bitter experience. It may be we have not studied sufficiently, and that would be bad. If we are to be successful we must have an exact knowledge of the world situation.

The first important fact during the last six months is the Anglo-American pact on the question of England’s debts, the second was the occupation of the Ruhr, the third, the Lausanne Conference, where on the question of Turkey, England and France exchanged parts. The fourth fact is the Anglo-Russian conflict, and the fifth, the liquidation of the Washington Treaty on the Far East.

All these facts are closely connected. Lloyd George also proposed an arrangement on the question of tax debts according to which the burden of France was to be considerably diminished, but in return for which France was to reduce her armaments and her reparations demands on Germany. Had this proposal been adopted, it would have eased the struggle for the hegemony of Europe. A reduction of the burden of reparations would have increased the purchasing power of Germany and with the enlivening of trade relations between Germany and England, a decrease of unemployment in England, which is costing the State £100,000,000 annually, would have resulted.

Furthermore Lloyd George wished to draw Russia into world commerce as a capitalist state. Russia was to have renounced Socialist reconstruction and pay her former debts. This in practice would have led to her mortgaging her railways and harbours. Had the plan of Lloyd George succeeded, it would have led to the restoration of European capitalism. It was a great idea, the only defect of which was that, like Ario’s horse, it was dead. Lloyd George had counted without America and without Russia. America did not intend to mix herself up with European affairs, and that is quite understandable. Since the beginning of the war she has doubled her output of steel and more than doubled her wheat area. America feels no necessity for intervening in European politics. Nevertheless there were circles who believed in intervention. The farmers were very anxious to export their products to Europe, and certain banks were very anxious to finance the export.

But owing to the prevailing prosperity in America, the influence of this group was minimized. America was more concerned with Eastern Asia than with Europe. American capital feared the revolutionary situation in the old world. On the other hand, Eastern Asia rendered an alliance between England and America impossible. Furthermore, England and America were competitors for sea power. In a struggle between America and England, France might become the ally of America. Therefore at Washington, in spite of the great talk about disarmament, no measures were adopted against the French armaments.

Lloyd George’s plan revealed a slight error. He believed the new economic policy was a parachute with the aid of which we intended to lower ourselves to earth. We were prepared to make concessions for the sake of credits, but we were not prepared to hand over either our railways or our heavy industries to capital. At Genoa Lloyd George threatened that if we rejected his plans, and thereby made them impossible, we should lose our best friend. We, however, said to ourselves, God save us from our friends; with our enemies we know how to deal.

If one method will not do, we will try another, thought our enemies, and they changed their attitude towards Russia. Baldwin concluded the financial agreement with America on the question oi the debts. On the subject of this agreement Lloyd George wrote that England experienced a cold shiver at the thought that for sixty years it will have to pay about 600,000,000 gold marks annually. Ten per cent of the revenue from taxation would have to be devoted to paying the debts to the Allies. The attempt at rapprochement with America was not the only result of the policy of Lloyd George. He brought up the Question of future relationships with France. Speaking militarily, England had ceased to be an island. It consists now of nothing but Achilles’ heels owing to the overwhelming superiority of the French aerial forces. This disadvantage, England is seeking to balance by other means.

At the Paris Conference, England made a proposal on the question of reparations which it is true was not worse than the French plan, but which made no mention of guarantees. England’s plan was a gigantic piece of provocation. She knew that she was not in a position to defeat French imperialism, and therefore planned to break its neck against the wall oi German opposition. While the British Government in England was declaring its neutrality on the question of the Ruhr conflict, the British Ambassador in Berlin, Lord D’Avernon, was encouraging the German, bourgeoisie to resist with the promise that England would assist Germany at the critical moment. England speculated that after Poincaré had run his head against the resistance of the German miners and the Germany bourgeoisie, the turn of the iron and the coal trusts would come, at which point English capital would have an important part to play. This plan was nullified by the German bourgeoisie itself. Events in the Ruhr proved that the bourgeoisie is not only not in a position to rebuild capitalism, but that the defeated bourgeoisie is not able to subordinate its own individual interest to its class interest. Owing to the colossal support given by the German Government to the Ruhr capitalists, which was used by them for monstrous speculations, the dollar which at the outset oi the Ruhr occupation stood at 7,000 marks, rose to 90,000 marks. Resistance was thereby broken.

Prices are rising so high that the workers ought to receive wages many times higher that they receive now. Nevertheless the German Government demanded a reduction of wages and in order to dam the strike wave that was spreading over the whole of the Ruhr and the whole of Germany, Lutterbeck, the German, appealed to the French General Degoutte for assistance to break the resistance of the German proletariat. When 14 days after this incident Cuno declared that the German resistance on the Ruhr was broken, it implied a “restitutio in integrum” which notoriously never succeeds. The German bourgeoisie were willing to capitulate on the backs of the proletariat. The German heavy industry proposed that an annual payment of 500,000,000 gold marks be made for reparations, which they would guarantee on the condition that the 8-hour day was abolished, that the railways were handed over, the repeal of the Tenants’ Protection Law, and free exports. These points imply nothing more than that the German workers failed to confiscate the capital of the bourgeoisie, but that the bourgeoisie will confiscate in the literal sense of the word all the capital of the State. Poincaré’s victory on the Ruhr is not formally complete. The German bourgeoisie who let loose the hounds oi nationalism against the communists find that they have released a spirit which they cannot now control. It endeavoured to thrust the responsibility for the collapse in the Ruhr on the Communists, but the German Party kept its head and did not permit themselves to be provoked by this manoeuvre.

The occupation of the Ruhr by France was directed not only against the German bourgeoisie, but also against the British. As a consequence of the struggle in the Ruhr, Germany has been thrown back economically for many years. For England it implies that its most important customer has been rendered incapable of buying for many years. Consequently, for many years Central Europe will be so disturbed that it cannot lx regarded as a market for the disposal of goods. The only outlet therefore is the colonies, and it was this that the Curzon Note to Soviet Russia expressed. It is remarkable that on the very same day a Note was handed to Germany in which the British Government called upon Germany to pay the reparations sum demanded by France. At the first glance it would appear to be madness to make both Germany and Russia enemies, but there was method in this madness. Britain was prepared to surrender Germany to France, in return for which France was to be set against Soviet Russia? On the one hand it was the failure of the Lloyd George plan, on the other the development oi affairs in Russia and the East. Lloyd George, whose hopes of a Russian capitulation, had, in spite of the civil war and the famine, been dashed, found himself also deceived in his expectations of the results of the new economic policy. Instead of bringing a return of capitalism. NEP only strengthened the existing regime. Russia was able to export grain, and given a favourable harvest, she will be in a position to export grain to the value of 150,000,000 gold roubles. This will bring about a revival of the light and heavy industries, which in turn will consolidate the country. The developments in the East are also strengthening the position of Soviet Russia. In this England sees a threat to her communications with the colonies, and therefore Curzon counted upon bringing Soviet Russia to her knees now before it was too late. All the Western States were to renounce their relations with Russia; Russia was to be isolated from the sources of foreign currency and to be subjected to a new economic blockade. At the same time the passive opposition of the Border States was to be enlisted against Russia. In other words, the Petlura bands, the S.R.’s and the Georgian Mensheviks were to be induced by British gold to unleash civil war in Russia. British policy counted also upon a Polish war against Soviet Russia. Another factor was for speculation upon the illness of Comrade Lenin. But England counted without the 25 years’ history of our party. An American journalist, who came from London, and whom I asked why Curzon wanted war with Soviet Russia, replied: Curzon wants to lest how strong you are without Lenin!

We did not give the response these people expected. The Government of Workers and Peasants does not want war, but if it is forced into war, it will see to it that the Soviet Government is maintained with a minimum of sacrifice. Throughout all the speculations Curzon forgot one side – the Russian side. He committed a similar error in India. He was the unwilling founder of the National Movement in India and was obliged to leave the country like a man whose political back was broken. In Russia, where the working class is in power, national consciousness is a part of the dictatorship. Mirbach and General Hoffmann were the fathers of this national movement when they forced the Peace of Brest Litovsk upon Russia. And Curzon, with his notes, is playing a similar role. We will see to it that these notes are translated into popular Russian and brought to the notice of every worker and peasant.

Curzon is also underestimating the situation in the East. The peoples of the East know that the Russian representative, Comrade Vorovsky, fell in the fight for their emancipation and that we are what we always were.

Lord Curzon wanted a break with Soviet Russia, but he did not dare to enforce it because not only was the resistance of the Labour Party and the liberals too great, but also because there was considerable opposition to such a step in the ranks of the Conservative Party.

The first act is at an end: but the new act Is about to commence. The disruption of capitalism in Europe is proceeding. The only power which knows what It wants in this Situation is the first Proletarian and Peasant Government.

Russia is not the only enemy of England. It has another enemy in the uprising Mohammedan World which finds a rallying point in the Turkish State. Therefore England thought to throttle Turkey also by setting Greece against her. Her speculations failed and the Greeks were beaten. England then adopted the policy of Lord Beaconsfield: war with Russia and peace with Turkey. Turkey is too weak to win back the territories England deprived her of, and therefore the attempt was made to make Turkey a friend in order eventually to play her off against Soviet Russia. Hence, too, the sudden change of front at the Lausanne Conference. The Conference ended by France becoming the enemy and Lord Curzon the friend of Islam. But here. too. Lord Curzon made a serious error. During recent years important social differences have arisen in Turkey. Soviet Russia supported the revolution in Turkey not from confidence in any Pasha who called himself the Peoples’ Commissary, and sent a telegram to Lenin, but from the conviction that the interests of the Russian peasant were in conformity with the interests of the Turkish peasantry. The result is that the mass of the Turkish population regard Russia not as an enemy, but as the only power which supported it in difficult times.

I must say a few words about the situation in the Far East. The Washington Treaty was intended to be the basis for the relations of power there. Russia was not recognized as a Great Power and was not Invited because it was not Interested in the Far East. Since then, we have marched into Vladivostok. Meanwhile, the Washington Treaty was concluded. It fixed a certain number of dreadnoughts for each of the participating powers, England, America, and Japan. Japan understood that this was meant to crush her and although she submitted, she changed her strategic plan and counted upon the construction of fast cruisers and submarines. This provoked counter measures on the part of America and England. America responded by an extensive scheme for the construction of fast cruisers and submarines, while England, who saw her base in Hongkong menaced, built a great harbour in Singapore. This situation renders Japan to a great extent dependent upon Soviet Russia. She absolutely requires peace and good relations with Soviet Russia in order to leave her hands free against America.

What conclusions are to be drawn from this analysis? Firstly, the famous reconstruction of Europe has given place to a trust for the destruction of Europe. We are able today to perceive the great lines of cleavage which will batter the whole world. If today reconstruction takes place, it is only confined to certain regions, as in America and England, where capitalism is experiencing a temporary revival. The old continent however, is faced with new conflicts. The magnitude of the budgets for military expenditures Is today far larger than before the war and consequently the danger of war is greater than in 1914.

Secondly, the only proletarian power in the world is today in a position of great danger solely because it is stronger than ever before and because the hopes of counter-revolution are being shattered. Lausanne and Curzon are the danger signals. We shall not allow ourselves to be defeated, but it will depend upon you whether this new attack upon Soviet Russia is to be the signal for the attack of the proletariat against capitalism.

Thirdly, the German working class is in a perilous situation and with it the German revolution.

The need of the German workers is so great that the admonition, “comrades, don’t allow yourselves to be provoked” is not sufficient. They will be forced to fight. Since Germany is a colony for French exploitation, and since it Is impossible to exploit a territory where revolution reigns, the German proletariat will have to fight not only against German Fascism, but also against French Imperialism. It is the task of our French comrades to help our German comrades in this terrible struggle.

Fourthly, the revolutionary movement in the Orient is in danger. We have only just recently heard the news that in Teheran the National semi-Democratic Government has been overthrown and replaced by Anglophile elements. In Turkey also, the elements who are anxious for an agreement with the Entente are also the bitterest opponents of communism. The attention of our English Party must be directed to this question.

During the last month we have gone through an experience, the awful consequences of which have not yet been realised by us all. Prior to the occupation of the Ruhr and the Curzon notes, the representatives of millions of organised workers had gathered in the Hague and this assembly did not raise a finger against the dangers which menaced us, although it foresaw them. We passed through the year 1914 a second time. If the bourgeoisie so determined, we should have a new war and there would be no revolution. We should be too weak to prevent it and we must therefore draw the conclusion that we must pay more attention to world political problems, not as spectators, but as proletarian fighters.

Last updated on 3 September 2022