Th. Rothstein 1908

The Debacle

Source: Justice, 17 October 1908, p. 6;
Transcribed: Ted Crawford,
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.

There is one aspect in the present Near Eastern imbroglio which the entire bourgeois press has tacitly agreed to pass over in silence, but which for us, Social-Democrats, is of extreme importance. This is the crushing fiasco sustained by the foreign policy of King Edward and Grey.

Let us put the matter briefly. Austria and Bulgaria have torn to pieces the Berlin Treaty, which for thirty years had been the basis of the Concert of Europe in regard to the Near East. They have torn it up, and every other Power in Europe vehemently disclaims previous cognisance of the fact, though the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in Paris distinctly stated, when informing M. Fallières of the impending coup d’etat, that Russia, Germany and Italy had given their consent to it. No one in the world doubts the accuracy of his assertion so far, as Germany and Italy are concerned, but everyone pretends to believe that Russia was really not in it, and still less so France. When you come to analyse the data on which this latter belief is based, you find that they are exactly the same which exist in the case of Germany and of Italy, but are not accepted there as valid, namely, the protestations of their respective Foreign Ministers. Yet, if the protestations of Germany and of Italy are not to be trusted, there is much more valid reason not to trust the protestations of M. Isvolsky and M. Clemenceau. Consider the recent events and diplomatic movements in their sequence since the moment M. Isvolsky left Russia on August 20 last. He went to Carlsbad ostensibly to repair his health. A couple of days later he was joined by Count Berchthold, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in St. Petersburg. Between that date and the beginning of September he and M. Clemenceau, who was also taking waters at Carlsbad, frequently confer and pay visits to King Edward at Marienbad. At the beginning of September both King Edward and Clemenceau depart for their respective countries, and at the same time Baron von Aehrenthal, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, has an interview with Tittoni, the Italian Foreign Minister, at Salzburg. Very little transpires in the press about the subject of their conversations except that both were exceedingly glad to meet each other and exchange views on the situation in Turkey. If the universal assumption that Italy had been cognisant of Austria’s conspiracy be true, then it is evident that it was at Salzburg that the question was settled between the two Foreign Ministers. But, lo! on September 15, Isvolsky himself meets Aehrenthal, and where, do you think? At Buchlau, in Moravia, the country-seat of the above-mentioned Count Berchthold! The suspicion is strong that already in St. Petersburg the subject had been discussed between Isvolsky and the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, and that at Buchlau a final agreement was arrived at. Isvolsky then goes to Munich, but at the same time it is announced that Ferdinand of Bulgaria was about to proceed to Budapest, where the Emperor Francis Joseph was staying, and hints are given out by the semi-official press at Vienna that the visit was to have quite an exceptional significance. A week later, Ferdinand, indeed, arrives, and is received with royal pomp, but a few days previously a strange movement in the Sandjak of Novi Bazar, which been militarily garrisoned by Austria-Hungary during the last thirty years in virtue of the Berlin Treaty, which looks uncommonly like the evacuation of the district. Considerable speculation is rife on this point and almost simultaneously with Ferdinand’s arrival at Budapest a joint Austro-Hungarian Ministerial Council is held at Budapest, attended by the Minister of War god Baron von Burian, the Administrator of the two occupied provinces Bosnia and Herzegovina. In meantime Isvolsky meets Herr Schön, the German at a health-resort in Bavaria, and on the 28th meets Tittoni at Desio, with whom he, two days later, proceeds to visit the Italian King near Turin.

We are thus constrained to conclude that Isvolsky had as much foreknowledge, if not more, of the intentions of Austria-Hungary as Tittoni and Schön. Indeed, it is impossible that it should have been otherwise, as Austria well knew that Russia; now that she was friendly with England, would never allow any aggrandisement by Austria in the Balkans unless she was squared.

And now about France. That she must have known what was impending at least 24 hours in advance is evident from Isvolsky’s time-table. But just as it is incredible, in spite of all absence of facts, that Germany, as the ally of Austria, should have had no foreknowledge of the affair, so it is incredible that France should not have been informed of it by Russia, seeing that she is her closest ally, and that Isvolsky was one of the chief personages in the play. Isvolsky could not have had any motive—indeed, any wish, to conceal from his valuable ally such an important thing—the alliance would have been broken up immediately. As a matter of fact, we now see the “Temps” carefully taking up an attitude of reconciliation to the “accomplished fact,” merely hinting that the other Powers concerned, above all, Russia, should get compensation. We have not the slightest doubt in our mind that the information which Isvolsky had brought with him from St. Petersburg of the impending coup d’etat was communicated by him to Clemenceau during their Carlsbad stay, though the exact date (or rather the decision of Aehrenthal to anticipate the convocation of the Delegations and to make the announcement forthwith) was not reported to him before September 4.

The only Power which remained in complete ignorance all the time—was, indeed, left in ignorance by her friends—was England. She was taken by the events as much by surprise as the general public. Everyone conspired against her—some actively, others more, or less passively and with some compunction, but she was their victim all the same. That, however, means that all her laborious diplomacy of the last four years has been defeated at one stroke by the combined diplomacy of Europe, and she now stands in “splendid isolation,” though rather involuntarily. We do not wish to say by that that we regret her isolation in this particular case. On the contrary, we are glad for her sake and for the sake of her honour that she has found herself abandoned by friend and foe on the occasion of this shameful deed. It is better that she should be isolated in honour than be an accomplice in dishonour. What we wish to emphasise, however, is the fact that for four years England has been intriguing and prostituting herself to all the Powers of Europe, King Edward has been embracing and kissing all the monarchs in the world, from a thievish Dom Carlos to a blood-stained Nicholas—all with a view to isolating Germany; and now she has been left alone—kicked out, as it were, like a harlot of whom nobody has any longer any need. This is the price of a reactionary foreign policy, the fruit of the principle of “continuity”—a public shame and an insult. Have our rulers courage and decency enough left to them to recognise this lesson? Do they feel the whole depth of England’s humiliation in having played the role of a public wench and now sent about her business without getting as much as the current pay for her favours?

We are afraid they have not that sense, and they have not that courage. At this very moment negotiations are taking place between Sir Edward Grey and Isvolsky—about what? At first England refused to listen even to the suggestion of a European Conference. What is the good of conferring, when you are all thieves and cannot be trusted to observe international agreements? Then the suggestion was accepted, but on the condition that the Conference should be limited to the actual question of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bulgaria, coupled with that of compensation to Turkey. Now, however, a fresh melody is fleeting through the press orchestra. The Conference is to be a Conference on all things on earth and in heaven, embracing the case not only of Turkey, but of all other Powers entitled to “compensation.” That means a universal deal, in which England will obtain her due share at somebody else’s expense. Who that somebody is, is at present immaterial. As in 1878, it may well turn out to be Turkey herself, whose interests were at that time so strenuously championed by England that she had to cede—at the suggestion, be it observed, of her champion—Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria, and Cyprus to England herself. Be that as it may, the important fact is that Grey and Izvolsky are now negotiating for “compensations” and that England will again offer her graces to some of the most reactionary Powers in Europe in return for a wage. We congratulate the democracy of this country on her king, her Foreign Secretary and her official foreign policy.