A. Rosenberg

Behind the Scenes in Lausanne

(7 December 1922

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 108, 7 December 1922, pp. 883–884.
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.

Diplomacy, in its character of the art of concealing thoughts, has been celebrating particular triumphs at the peace conference of Lausanne. The participators, and the press organs behind them, glide skillfully around the matters which they have most at heart, and hold long speeches and write endless leading articles on questions long since disposed of and of no interest whatever to anybody. The Turks form the sole exception; they do not need to help the Entente to play hide and seek. The Turkish delegation declares openly that at Lausanne they will demand the possession of Mosul. Besides this they demand Karagatsch, the suburb of Adrianople, in which the railway station of this city is situated; and thirdly they demand a plebiscite in the districts of Arabia which were separated from Turkey. With their demand for Mosul the Turks have uttered the decisive password, for the petroleum fields of Mosul form the main object of contest in Lausanne, however little they may appear in the official declarations.

The question of the Dardanelles, of Constantinople and Thrace, should not really form any subject of contest at the peace conference, for these matters have been settled in their essentials by the September agreement between the great powers of the Entente, an agreement Based on the armistice of Mudania. The English government was obliged to declare itself in agreement with the restoration of East Thrace, with Constantinople and Adrianople, to Turkey. The sole reservation made was that the Straits should be free. France and Turkey declared themselves equally in agreement with this. The present disposition of political power does not permit of there being any question of the freedom of the Dardanelles being secured by English garrisons. The solution of the problem will have to be sought in the way recently indicated in the Parisian press, that is, by evacuation of all military forces from both shores of the Dardanelles and of the Bosphorus, and by a control of the Straits by an international commission headed by a Turk. In Paris the inclination is not to refer this question to the League of Nations. This would be a concession to Soviet Russia, who will have nothing to do with the League of Nations of die capitalist robbers. The question of the station at Adrianople, and of the fate of Thrace west of Maritza, where Bulgaria is seeking its outlet to the sea, form in themselves no danger to the peace of the world, and are not likely to disturb the slumbers of the worthy diplomatists of the Entente.

There is however a strange contradiction in the fact that while on the one hand, everything is so satisfactorily settled yet the English government was nearly entangled in an oriental war during Lloyd George’s last days. A war of incalculable extent was threatened, for the sole reason apparently of deciding whether the English troops should have the right of occupying a wretched little place called Tschanak, on the Asiatic shore of the Dardanelles, for a few weeks. But the conflict was naturally not on account of the few chimney stacks of Tschanak, but was plainly a despairing protest of English capitalism against abandoning its Constantinople position without even an attempt to hold it by force of arms.

The English policy of renunciation has meanwhile involved further consequences. The English capitalists are seriously concerned as to what is to become of the debts which they consider owing to them by the Turkish government, but are not recognized by Kemal Pascha, and of the railways in Asia Minor, of which the English owners have been deprived. And behind all this there is the greatest worry of all, the fear of losing the oilfields of Mosul.

Now that reliable experts have expressed the opinion that the petroleum fields of both states may be exhausted within two years, the race for the oil sources has been greatly intensified among the great petroleum trusts of all countries. In the Near East there is a struggle for the oilfields of Roumania and Mesopotamia. A short time ago the well known Anglo-Greek billionaire Sir Basil Zaharoff spent some time in Roumania, and endeavored to obtain petroleum concessions there. At the same time a group of American financiers were negotiating with the Roumanian government in pursuit of the same object. America is showing an equally lively interest in the petroleum springs of Turkey and Mesopotamia. A few days ago the world was surprised by the news that a special representative of American economic interests, a Mr. Ambry, had arrived m Angora. At the same time the American government expressly emphasizes that the American delegation at the peace conference in Lausanne have no notion whatever of merely playing the part of spectators, but that America is going io take action to the utmost of its power for the protection of its economic undertakings in the Near East. That is plain enough: The Standard Oil Company is reaching for the oilfields of Mossul. At the same time the Parisian press reminds the English that France possesses the right, according to contract, to a part of the Mossul petroleum production. The district of Mossul is that part of Mesopotamia, belonging to the English sphere of interests, which lies directly on the frontier of Turkey. Mossul is a bone of contention between the English and Turks, and in Paris there are malicious voices which maintain that up to now the frontiers there have not been legally settled at all. England may come to an agreement with Turkey if she can. It is thus to be seen that England’s dominance over the oilfields of Mossul is not only threatened by Turkey, but by French and American capital as well.

What is the present English government, the government of “peace and anti-waste”, to do in this embarrassing situation? The best means at hand are resorted to. An uprising in the district north of Mosul, aided by the Turks, was recently suppressed by the generous use of English aeroplane bombs. It remains to be seen what the increased forces of the Labor Party in the House of Commons will say to these methods of British democracy. Further, attempts are made to give the Angora government as much trouble as possible The Sultan deposed by the Turkish national assembly was conducted, with every possible sign of honor, on board an English warship, and taken to Malta. And now we even hear that the king of Mecca, who maintains friendly relations with England, has invited the fallen Sultan to come to him. The object of this manoeuvre is perfectly obvious. The Sultan, friendly to England, now having been obliged to fly from Constantinople, is to he proclaimed Caliph, the spiritual head of Islam, in Mecca, the holy city of the Mohammedans; with English gold a counter-movement against Kemal Pascha and his new caliph is to be manufactured in the Arabian population. But this manoeuvre has but small prospect of success.

The European questions in connection with Turkey are already cleared up in their essentials; the real significance of the conference of Lausanne lies in the fresh unfolding of the Asiatic problems. The Turkish national government demands the establishment of an independent Arabian kingdom in the former Turkish countries of Mesopotamia and Syria. This projected Arabian state is to be supported by Kemal Pascha’s Turkey. The masses in Mesopotamia and Syria, weary of being exploited by foreign capitalists, welcome this idea. But this plan threatens not only the English dominance in Mesopotamia, but also the French power in Syria.

Despite all the skilful diplomacy of the Angora government, which has managed to play on the various conflicting capitalist interests against one another, and which may even succeed in solving this question in Lausanne, two great fighting fronts are plainly being formed. Here western capital and there the proletarian peoples endeavoring to liberate themselves. The one and only sincere friend of the Turkish nation, and of the other peoples of the Orient who are struggling for freedom, appearing at Lausanne, is Soviet Russia. The Turks have returned to Europe, and have thus broken the Balkan treaties of 1919. Victorious Turkey assails the most sacred possession of the British world empire, its petroleum springs. The fight for the oilfields may light a conflagration which will sweep away all readiness for peace in Bonar Law’s government, and many other things besides.

Last updated on 4 January 2021