Th. Rothstein 1919

Towards a Revolutionary World War

Source: The Call, 31 July 1919, p. 5 (Originally written under his pseudonym W.A.M.M.)
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.

The Russian tangle is becoming more and more unmanageable. What is to be the outcome of it all? When our precious government and the Allies embarked on the adventure just a year ago with the landings at Murmansk and Archangel they did so in the simple belief, inspired by the Russian counter-revolutionaries, that their appearance alone would suffice to rally the entire Russian people, sick and weary as it was of Bolshevik tyranny, to their banner and to bring about the collapse of the Soviet régime. How we were at the time assured that the Bolsheviks were at the end of their tether, that they were tottering to their fall, that the people were against them, and that a couple of companies sent by each of the allies and some war material supplied to the leaders of the counter revolutionaries would swiftly end the Bolshevik nightmare. As a “Military Correspondent” showed us last week the dream ended in smoke and thin air. The counter revolutionaries have been and are being beaten; the Russian people, even those sections that have been bitterly opposed to the Bolsheviks, have rallied to the banner of the Bolsheviks for the defence of the Socialist Fatherland against the onslaughts of international capitalism, and the Allied forces themselves have suffered ignominious defeats—the French in the south and the British in the north. The latest of these defeats at Onega, brought about by the mutiny of the “:loyal” Russian troops, with the obvious assistance of the local peasant population, is not only ignominious but also disastrous, both from military and political points of view, inasmuch as it has proved up to the hilt, as against the Allies and their counter-revolutionary friends, that the Allies were not welcomed, but rather the revese of welcomed, by the people of Russia, even in the God foresaken and ever-starving North.

At the same time another dream has been shattered. The little peoples of the Baltic coast, including the Finns, on whom the allies relied for getting the chesnuts out of the fire for them by attacking Petrograd and Moscow from the north and west, have suddenly become recalcitrant, the Estonians have definitely withdrawn from the fray, while the Finns are hesitating and, after the ghastly failure of Olonetz, seem inclined to wait upon events. The reason is that they suddenly realised that the Allies are paying a double game with them, promising, on the one hand, to recognise and protect their political and national independence, and yet, on the other hand, supporting and almost officially recognising Koltchak, who frankly stands for a “Greater” Russia for a “united” Russia—in short for the restoration of the Empire of the Tsars. It is true that Koltchak promises them “home rule” within the Empire but the Irish are not the only people who have learnt by now the value of such “diplomatic assurances”. The Estonians and the Letts and the Finns and the Lithuanians know only too well that once Koltchak, or, in fact, any other “patriotic” dictator or even bourgeois or semi-bourgeois party is established in power, their independence would become a thing worth about six month’s purchase. Indeed, they know that the Bolsheviks are the only party to which the right of self-determination is something more than a pretty sounding phrase and that had not the class interests of their bourgeoisie stood in the way, all these small nationalities would have thrown in their lot long ago with Soviet Russia. As it is they only know that the victory of Koltchak would spell the end of their national rights and for this reason they have now conceived a distrust of the Allies, and are refusing to become their catspaw in the fight against Bolshevism.

But now comes a new danger. Germany has been freed from the blockade, and she can now trade with anybody she wants. Her attention is already concentrated upon Russia, who alone is in a worse economic position than herself, and who, therefore, is likely to prove a good customer and provider of raw material. Already a commission representing the main German industries has visited Moscow and brought back a very favourable report on the possibilities of the Russian market. Suppose she decided, as the commission, indeed, recommends, to import into Russia agricultural machinery, chemical products and technical experts, in exchange for timber, cotton, hides and other raw material. Would not Russia recuperate and her political régime become stronger both internally and externally? Yet who can prevent her from doing so? The Allies cannot, Poland cannot, and the Scandinavian states would even help her. Germany could even resume the war by equipping Russia and enabling her to fight the Allies, if she chose to go further than her proximate economic interests dictated. This is indeed a real danger.

From every point of view, therefore, the Allies have landed themselves in, colloquially speaking, a mess. They are antagonising both the great Russian and the small “border” peoples in a way which may, if Capitalism should continue, have the most disastrous results for them; they are restoring the economic and political connection between Russia and Germany; and all the time they are wasting the money and the lives of their nations, and are intensifying the revolutionary irritation among their own peoples. And all this for nothing for they cannot achieve their principal object.

There is a course which they can adopt for settling their differences. It is to declare formal war on Russia. Then they can proclaim a blockade against Russia, and thereby coerce Germany and other neutral states into ceasing to have any economic relations with her, and then they can collect a large conscript army and send it to Russia In am not sure if the Paris bandits may not hit upon this idea as the only means of stopping, at least, the new German “menace”. But if they do so, can anyone doubt what will be the consequences? If they declare formal war on Russia, they will soon have war within their own respective borders, and the Russian struggle between Capital and Labour will become internationalised into a universal revolutionary war between the two forces. The prognosis of Lenin and Trotsky that the world war would lead to a world revolution will become clothed with flesh and blood.