Arthur Rosenberg


The New Fight in Constantinople

(12 August 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 68, 12 August 1922, pp. 508–509.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). 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.

Lovers of historical romance will rejoice at the thought that the Greeks have set out once more to wrest Constantinople from the Turk, after the rule of the Crescent in Stamboul from 1453 onwards. Romance is strengthened by the fact that the Greek King Constantine bears the old imperial name of the Byzantine Empire and would thus seem destined to call it once more into being. But in our times, modern capitals are no places for the romantic. They are more adapted to hand grenades and speculation. When today Greece advances on Constantinople, it is no fight between Cross and Crescent, neither is it Europe against Asia, but is arises from the intrigues of the Great capitalist powers and the chicanery of the Foreign Offices of London, Rome and Paris, which in turn take their instructions from the Council Chambers of the Big Banks. The modern Leonidas is in the service of a London Petroleum Trust, and the modern Soliman conquers in the name of a good Christian or Jewish Parisian banking house.

The new Greek operations in Smyrna and before Constantinople mean that British capital is trying to get out of an unbearable situation created by the foreign policy of Lloyd George and Lord Curzon. It is becoming daily more evident, that Great Britain in the East has backed the wrong horse. London under, estimated the Vitality of Turkey and believed that with the aid of Greek business men, bankers and ship owners they would fall into the old Sultan’s inheritance. In the winter of 1918, England occupied Constantinople, slowing the old Sultan to devote himself to his amusements as a puppet monarch. They also allowed the Turkish Government to remain in Constantinople, but the Grand Vizier and the other ministers are more impotent than the famous Egyptian Government in Cairo. Britain is the master of Constantinople. The British fleet commands the seas and British generals rule Constantinople. A few French regiments have been allowed to enter the city to show that the control of the town is under the Entente. But the fact remains that for 3½ years British capital has ruled Constantinople.

In Thracia, the last European Turkish province West of Constantinople, England’s Greek friends made themselves at home and Greece undertook the conquest of Turkish Asia Minor from the West Coast onwards. But the Turkish population did not surrender without a fight to the appetite of Anglo-Greek capital Without troubling about the puppet government in Constantinople, Kemal Pasha formed the new nationalist government in Angora and organized the resistance of Asia Minor.

The collapse of Constantine’s offensive on Angora and the retreat of the Greek army from Smyrna before the Turks is still fresh in our memories, and above all, the elegant right about face of French capital to an understanding with the Angora government.

The situation in the early part of this year was such that no one believed in the possibility of a Greek victory in Asia Minor. But on the other hand, the strength of the Turks was not sufficient to drive the Greeks into the sea. And the mass of Greek peasants and workers began to realize that they were being sacrificed for British capital. The anti-war feeling in Greece is growing. It will be impossible for the Greek troops to remain in Asia Minor forever thus risking the possibility that one day the Greek army will demobilize of its own accord. On the other hand, the Turkish peasant-soldier holds fast to the idea that he must protect his existence from foreign capitalist exploiters. But the concessions made by Kemal Pasha to French capitalists do not mean the open, brutal slavery which a victory of the Greeks and English would impose upon the Turkish masses.

The French are making clever use of the Turkish victories. The difficulties of the English international situation brought about a retreat of the British Government in the East. On March 26th of this year a treaty was signed by the Foreign Ministers of England, France and Italy which in its broadest extent conformed to the aspirations of the Turks. This document signed by Lord Curzon, Poincaré and Schanzer, recommended a peace between Greece and Turkey on the following basis: The Greeks evacuate Asia Minor, and Constantinople once more unite with the Turkish State of Angora. But the Greeks still hold Adrianople and the Gallipoli Peninsula south of Constantinople. This heavy sacrifice was made by Britain on account of the Indian Mohammedans. The religious solidarity of all Mohammedans with Turkey had led to an intensification of the Indian difficulties. Through the re-establishment of a strong Turkey, with Constantinople as the capital, Britain hoped to smooth down the opposition in India tor a time. The war-famed Gallipoli-peninsula remained in Greek, that is, in British hands. Who holds Gallipoli, holds the Dardanelles, and who holds the Dardanelles, commands Constantinople. Thus, although foregoing much of its power by the March Treaty Britain nevertheless maintained its military position in the Dardanelles

The decisions of the 26th of March, however, were never realized. The Greek Government refused to admit its defeat by evacuating Asia Minor. They fear an inner-political reaction in Athens which would sweep the jingo capitalist and military cliques. But France demands that the Eastern situation be cleared. The treaty was a strong trump in Mr. Poincaré’s hand; it prevented Mr. Lloyd George from retracting his concessions of March 26th. Now comes the London Conference, in which the conflicts between France and England should be cancelled, at least provisionally. The English Government desires, as it has often done before, to exchange concessions in the East for concessions in Germany. But to exchange one must possess something, And the signing of the March Treaty by Lord Curzon consenting to the return of Smyrna and Constantinople to Turkey, means that England, stands empty-handed as far as the Near East is concerned. English capital therefore had to find new securities for the London Conference. And this is being done by the instrumentality of Greece.

Greece remains absolutely a British colony. Only a short time ago the English Petroleum trust obtained a complete monopoly of oil rights in Greece. And now England is playing a double game. Publicly they deny any support of the Greek adventure. Indeed, they even declare that they will take up arms to oppose the Greek advance on Constantinople, but in reality Greece is playing England’s game. The first step was for the Greeks to proclaim the independence of Ionia. That territory is still occupied by the Greeks in West Asia Minor with Smyrna as Capital. The old game of Fiume and Vilna is being re-enacted. Formally, Greece is not responsible for independent Ionia. In Athens, the Greek Government will shrug its shoulders and point out that apparently, the workers, peasants and soldiers of Ionia are against Turkish rule. A new factor is thus introduced into the Orient question. The Treaty of March 26th, as far as Smyrna goes, is invalidated. England can now demand a French equivalent for having contributed to the Ionian solution.

The occupation of Constantinople by Greek troops would not effect the position of British Capital in this city but would mean that Kemal Pasha does not receive the city. And this would introduce another new factor. But Kemal Pasha threatens that he will advance from Asia Minor if the Greeks threaten the town. It is doubtful whether in case of a serious advance on the city, the English troops would actually fire on their Greek friends. Besides, the French are too weak numerically to offer any resistance for the present. From a purely military standpoint a Greek attempt on Constantinople is not without prospects. But in such an event France would raise such an outcry against England that Mr. Lloyd George would not dare support such an adventure. But diplomatically, Britain contents herself with the fact that the Greek Army is threatening Constantinople. England can show its good will by protecting Constantinople and sending the Greeks back home. And at the same time, Lloyd George can be paid for this good will.

Greece is thus a helpless instrument of English Capital in its quarrel with French Capital.

The nationalities of the Near East are pawns in the chess game played by the great powers. But Constantinople is not only a question for France and England, but one of vital importance for Soviet Russia as to who rules Constantinople and the Bosphorus.

An agreement in London which disregards the interests of Soviet Russia will not be recognized by her, so that the end of the refined chess party in which Lloyd George is playing with Poincaré will be Love’s Labor Lost.

Last updated on 31 August 2020