Arthur Rosenberg


The Peace Comedy

(27 December 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 117, 27 December 1922, pp. 993–994.
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.

The Hague peace congress of 1922 will figure in history alongside the congresses which were held in the same city before the war. The trade union bureaucrats of to day will contribute about. as much towards peace as the capitalist diplomats of that time. On the 30th of July 1907 the foundation stone of the Hague Peace Palace was laid by the Tsar’s ambassador, Mr. Nelidov. On the 28th of August 1913 the palace was inaugurated in the presence of every possible great personage: 12 months later the divisions of the peace-loving Tsar invaded East Prussia, and the cavalry of the peace-loving Kaiser reconnoitred near Paris! Where will we be in December 1923? If we are not in the midst of a new world war, it will not be the fault of Thomas and Vandervelde. The very memory of the Hague strikes alarm. The peace conferences of the Hague have hitherto been infallible overtures to war. May the proletariat be on its guard against the spirit of the Hague!

It is true that this time the messengers of peace have not met in the Peace Palace, that turreted building in imitation old Dutch style erected with American trust money under the blessing of the Tsar. This time the peace congress has had to meet in the Zoological Garden, the Peace Palace being occupied by a juridical conference. The congress is not to blame for being in the Zoological Garden. Jokes on the subject are cheap, and some animals are clever enough. But it does require a certain amount of self-control not to make all kinds of unfriendly comparisons with regard to this perfectly grotesque congress.

What do the international reformist socialists really intend with regard to this congress, which is certainly a very expensive pleasure? For we cannot visit the land of the guilder without paying for it. It may be calculated that the German General Federation of Trade Unions alone, a by no means rich organization according to world standards, is spending 30 million marks to keep its troop of delegates here for a week. Why does this Federation spend 90 much money? Well, the winter is hard for the starving proletariat of Germany. A desperate struggle is taking place between the old bureaucrats and the communists within the trade unions. The workers are looking anxiously for a way out of the misery, but as the Amsterdam leaders cannot find them this way, they have to tell the workers some other story. They must make it appear as if something were being done. Hence the reason for the Hague Congress. With the aid of this congress it may be possible to gain a month in Germany, and that is something this winter. It is worth 30 millions. Reports can be given, in the trade union meetings, that Fimmen and Henderson, and even Vandervelde, have condemned the policy of force against Germany. And thus the members will perhaps be induced to believe that the Amsterdam international does accomplish something. The feeling among the masses in other countries is similar. Everywhere one traces the connection between one’s own misery and the continuation of the imperialist military system. When the Amsterdam International issues a great proclamation against war and the danger of war, it fulfils the dearest wish of all the millions who still belong to it.

But this congress has its dangers as well: for the danger of war is a product of capitalism. To secure peace under the present conditions of power means to open war against the governing bourgeoisie. At their congress in Rome, the Amsterdamers passed a resolution demanding the general strike in case of war. As Radek rightly said at the Hague, such a general strike would be a social revolution. But the Amsterdamers do not want this. And how can one find a way to wash the fur without wetting it? The recipe has been thought out as follows: the peace idea is insulated from the social conditions, separated from the class war, and converted into a thing in itself. This conjuring trick is rendered possible by inviting all bourgeois pacifist societies, and by leaving out the Third International.

On this basis peace propaganda was no longer dangerous. Fraternal relations were entered into with bourgeois pacifists, with Buisson and Quidde and besides these with all the pacifist tendencies of the present-day bourgeoisie, which reach from Keynes to President Harding, and to the Lloyd George of Genoa. It may safely be said that at the present time a decisive part of the ruling capitalists want to avoid a new war more than anything in the world, and are anxious to postpone the collapse by a so-called pacifist solution. It is not by accident that Poincaré-la-guerre is transformed into Poincaré-la-paix, the keeper of the peace of the Orient. In the same manner Vandervelde-la-guerre, the man of Versailles 1919, has become Vandervelde-la-paix, the man of the Hague 1922. What a strange peace congress! In the president’s chair, sitting comfortably with his pipe in his mouth, is Mr. J.H. Thomas of London, a pillar of British war policy. And below in the hall there are Henderson and Weis, Renaudel and Vandervelde, all defenders of their mother country in the past and in the future! A disastrous discord was certainly struck by the delegation of the Russian trade unions, Radek, Lozovsky, and Rothstein, who held up a mirror reflecting the true countenance of the congress. But this had been prepared for and care had been taken that the necessary Georgians, Mensheviki, etc. were present to grind out the old anti-Bolshevist tunes.

The Hague congress is a double wedding: First between the 2. and 2½ internationals. This was symbolically expressed from the platform when Fritz Adler declared himself at one with Fimmen. Secondly between reform socialism and the bourgeoisie. In both cases the marriage legitimised a relation which had already existed for a long time. The proletariat has nothing to expect from these weddings and their results.

Last updated on 4 January 2021