Arthur Rosenberg

The So-Called Peace of Lausanne

(9 August 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 55 [33], 9 August 1923, pp. 585–586.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2022). 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.

On July 17, at half-past one in the morning, the peace delegates concluded a stormy and protracted session, and deserted with feelings of relief from the castle of Ouchy, where the Lausanne conference has been deliberating for so many months. The last obstacles had been removed, and peace between Turkey, Greece, and the Entente was assured. The date for the solemn signing of the treaty was fixed for July 24, and all participators in the Conference lauded the work which they had accomplished.

This Conference, thus concluding so peaceably, is the same Conference before whose doors Comrade Vorovsky was murdered. Even in this cheerful town of conferences blood has been shed in the world war between revolution and counter-revolution. The smooth conciliatory speeches of the bourgeois diplomatists, and their howls of triumph over the victory of their traditional arts of statesmanship, are shown to be hollow lies by the grave in Moscow where Vorovsky’s body has been laid. Lausanne has been one episode in the struggle between international capitalism and proletarian revolution as embodied in Soviet Russia. It has been one episode in the struggle between western exploiters and the oppressed peoples. It has been one episode in the competition between the various groups of capitalists When the chairmen of the delegations sign their names at the foot of the peace document on July 24, when this document reveals the names of “Venizelos” and “Ismet Pasha” peacefully side by side – all this does not remove one of the matters of conflict which have been at issue in Lausanne.

If must be admitted that a diplomats’ conference has, perhaps, never before so completely avoided coming to the actual point as the international company which spent last winter and spring in Lausanne. And never before has a peace been so clumsily patched up as this peace. After the first part of the Lausanne Conference had brought a temporary solution of the Dardanelles question, and had found means of settling the sore point of Mossul, the main questions occupying the second part of the Conference were economic matters. The Conference had set itself the task of establishing the rights of the English, French, and American capitalists in the Orient, and of determining at the same time the liberty of movement to be accorded to the growing Turkish bourgeoisie. What was to become of the old Turkish national debt? Would Kemal Pasha’s government recognize all the loans and obligations which had accumulated during a century of Sultans’ governments? In the second place, what was to become of all the concessions won in eager competition w th foreign capitalist companies in the course of recent years? The solution of these two fundamental questions, as arrived at by the Lausanne Conference, is entirely characteristic. At the last business session of the Conference, the French General Pellé spoke on behalf of the Entente governments on the question of the Turkish debts. He expressed his regret that Turkey does not want to recognize the acknowledged principles of international law with regard to the keeping of contracts. The creditors of the Turkish state maintain all their claims, and the Entente governments reserve the right of taking adequate measures for the protection of the interests of their subjects. Ismet Pasha, in the quiet and ironical manner peculiar to him, replied that General Pellé’s declaration is in no way binding on Turkey. General Pellé inquired what this meant. Ismet Pasha answered that Turkey’s financial position prevented her from paying her debts in gold. The subject was then dropped. This is the solution of the national debt question, as reached at Lausanne! Turkey has not recognized the old debts; she will pay what she feels disposed to and the creditor states will exercise as much pressure on Turkey as their power permits. That is, the degree in which Turkey pays the old national debts is not determined by any paragraph ot tne peace treaty, but is a pure matter of power, as before.

The same session debated the decisive question of the petroleum concessions. The concession in question was that granted in the year 1914 to the English petroleum trust, appearing here under the name of the Turkish Petroleum Company. The Turks had granted this same concession to the Americans in the year 1923, with the utmost sang froid. The chairman of the English delegation, Sir Horace Rumbold, expressed his regret that Turkey would no longer recognize the concession made m 1914. He continued: “My government is of the opinion that all obligations undertaken in the year 1914 are still in full force, and are binding on the Turkish government in all lands which remain Turkish by virtue of this peace treaty. My government cannot recognize any rights granted to others within the confines of these concessions, and makes the Turkish government fully responsible for any non-fulfilment of obligations entered into.” Ismet Pasha replied, in his customary manner, that Rumbold’s declaration was not binding on the Turks. The Turkish government is of the opinion that the question can be settled by arbitration. The American representative, Grew, added diplomatically that the attitude adopted by his government with respect to the Turkish Petroleum Co. had undergone no change. The Englishman showed considerable irritation. He declared that when the Turkish government comes to two different decisions on the same subject within 9 years, that is no reason for calling in the services of a board of arbitration. For the second granting of the concession by the Turks is simply contrary to law. Rumbold inquired further, with respect to the Americans, what right a third government has to interfere in a quarrel between an English and a Turkish company? If the rights granted to the English company in 1914 are re-granted by Turkey to another company, the English government has nothing to do with this, and if insists on the carrying out of the contract of 1914. Here the matter was left. The struggle for the petroleum fields of Asia Minor has also not been concluded at Lausanne, but will be continued as a trial of political power. It is precisely in the concession question that the alleged peace conference reveals itself as a lamentable farce.

What has actually been attained by the Lausanne conference? It signifies a great success on the part of Turkey, which has remained victorious in the struggle with the West European capitalists and their Greek agents. The whole of Asia Minor, with Armenia, Kurdistan, and Cilicia are once more Turkish possessions. To this must be added, in Europe, the district of Constantinople and Adrianople. Within the boundaries of this new Turkish realm, the Turkish nationality is absolutely supreme, for the Armenians and Greeks have, for the most part, been driven away or killed. This war of extermination against Greeks and Armenians did not originate in nationalist motives only, but arose from the fact that the natives of these two countries resident in Turkey were almost exclusively members of bourgeois professions. The Turkish bourgeoisie has now rid itself of these competitors, and is master in its own house. The Turkish national movement is being transformed more and more from a struggle for the emancipation of the oppressed peasantry and poorer classes into a speculation conducted by the young Turkish bourgeoisie. This is further demonstrated by the severe measures now being taken by the Turkish rulers against the communists in their country. The Lausanne Peace brings with it the abolition of the so-called capitulations, that is, only Turkish courts of justice will be competent in Turkey for the future. Foreigners, hitherto possessing great advantages in being responsible to their native courts of justice only, are now on equal terms with the Turks.

During the second part of the Lausanne Conference, the English delegation worked most harmoniously with the French, but their combined efforts did not suffice to enable any real decision on economic matters to be arrived at in opposition to the Turks and the Americans. The young Turkish bourgeoisie considers it to its advantage to co-operate with American capital, and the old Anglo-French oriental conflict is to end by both contestants being left out in the cold, whilst a third party runs off with the booty.

Entente capital gained a temporary success at Lausanne, if not against Turkey, then against Soviet Russia. The opening and dismantling of the Dardanelles gives the English fleet the possibility of proceeding without hindrance against the Russian Black Sea ports – as far as Turkey is concerned. But Soviet Russia will find a way to protect her coasts and waters, despite the Lausanne Conference. Even should the Russian government accept the Entente invitation to sign the Dardanelles agreement, this does not in the least signify that Soviet Russia in any way alters her fundamental attitude on the Straits question. Should the Russian signature stand side by side with English and French signatures on the Dardanelles treaty, this practically signifies the official and diplomatic recognition of the Bolshevist government. For when a government is invited to sign a state treaty of such importance, it is not necessary to observe that this government is thus recognized. But the Soviet power knows very well what estimate to put on this “recognition” by bourgeois society. If she signs this treaty, she does so in the consciousness that this agreement mirrors the balance of comparative power at the moment. As soon as this balance of power changes, a fresh situation arises, and Soviet Russia will not be restrained by a so-called recognition from relentlessly utilizing the new position. Taken as a whole, the Lausanne Conference signifies a severe defeat for European capitalism, both in its relations to the Orient and to America. Even though Kemal Pasha’s government has given way in the Dardanelles question, it would never have attained its other successes had not the mere existence of Soviet Russia altered the political centre of gravity of the East. The defeat of West European capitalism at Lausanne is a step towards the dissolution of the Versailles system, and thus an objective step towards the disintegration of capitalist Europe.

Last updated on 3 September 2021