M.N. Roy: The Lausanne Conference (15 February 1923)


M.N. Roy


The Lausanne Conference

(15 February 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 16, 15 February 1923, pp. 125–126.
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 Near East problem still remains unsolved. The rivalry between France and England renders the solution impossible. At the eleventh hour, when everybody hoped for a final agreement, the Lausanne Conference broke down and the diplomats assembled there had nothing else to do but to return home. The mysterious Poincaré Note, to which is attributed the responsibility for this breakdown, indicated that over and above the international rivalry there is a very serious conflict of interests within the organism of French Imperialism, a conflict which aggravates the already complicated problem which imperialism is called upon to solve under pain of death. This internal conflict of French Capitalism affected the Lausanne Conference from another angle. It seriously told upon the attitude of the Turkish Delegation all along. On their side, the Angora Delegation, caught in the mazes of this conflict as well as of the rivalry between the two groups of Imperialists, greatly weakened the position conquered by the might of the Turkish people, and thus failed to impose its terms upon Allied Imperialism which was otherwise in a hole. Most of what had been won so heroically on the battle fields, of Asia Minor was gradually surrendered in the comfortable saloons of Lausanne. The liberation of the Turkish people still remains an unrealized goal, and a bitter struggle has to be carried on before the direct and indirect domination of Imperialism is finally overthrown.

A triangular fight was waged at Lausanne; it was between the English and the French on the one hand; between the Turks and all the imperialist powers, including the “spectator” America, on the other. The Turkish Delegation had very little to say when the real decisions were taken affecting the fate of the Turkish people. These decisions were taken by the Entente Powers and finally placed before the Turks either to accept them, or to reject them at the risk of forfeiting the “support” of a certain group of French Capitalists, on whose questionable friendship the Angora Government staked its all. If there was difficulty and delay in determining the terms which would be conceded to Turkey, it was not so much due to the resistance of Ismet Pasha as to the need for settling the conflict of interests among the Allied Powers themselves. It is true that the Angora Delegation congratulated itself upon its own cleverness, in deriving benefit from this conflict, but in fact, it was the Angora Government that proved all along to be the most helpless victim of this imperialist rivalry. Every time the Anglo-French conflict became sharp, the Turkish Delegation was encouraged by the crafty French diplomats to stiffen up its attitude, so as to threaten the British with a rupture in the Near East. The whole show at Lausanne was run, not to sign a peace-treaty with the Sovereign State of Turkey, at it was ostensibly declared to be, but to strike a bargain between French and British Imperialism over their respective shares in the exploitation of the Near East. Turkey, which is supposed to be the principal factor in the struggle, was used only as a pawn in the game. Nothing better was to be expected of the imperialist robbers; but what is tragic was that the Angora Government, at least the faction dominating it at present deliberately assumed this unenviable role after having conquered an otherwise almost invincible position.

Why did the Angora Government start on a road which led to such a tragic end? The answer is simple. If is to be looked for in the social character of bourgeois nationalism, and not quite bourgeois nationalism in the strictest sense of the term, at that. In the course of its evolution the Turkish national struggle arrived at a point where it had to choose between two ways: one of revolution leading to final victory, and the other of compromise, meant to preserve the social status quo. The social affiliation of the elements leading the struggle naturally made them prefer the latter way, and thus handed them over to the mercy of French finance under the pretext of a “friendly alliance”.

The growing antagonism between different groups of Imperialism is undoubtedly an opportunity for the subject peoples to free themselves; and to take advantage of this antagonism is indeed a very powerful tactic. But it requires a thoroughly revolutionary outlook and purpose to pursue these tactics without getting caught in the treacherous snares of Imperialism. The Angora rulers chose this method of fighting the enemy; but lacking the required revolutionary outlook they succumbed to imperialist intrigues. For the time being they have compromised the cause of Turkish Independence. They have played out their role. History will give them proper credit. But the final liberation of the Turkish people demands more revolutionary leadership.

That day, when, with the victorious National Army standing at the gates of Constantinople, it preferred the deceitful hand of French finance extended through its crafty envoy Franklin Bouillon, to the unconditional aid of Revolutionary Russia, the Angora Government started a career whose logical conclusion is the disgraceful defeat at Lausanne. It is a defeat not for the cause of Turkish independence, which is an historic necessity and thus will be attained eventually; it is a defeat for a certain brand of Nationalism and the compromising tactics followed by it. The present Angora leaders would much rather hand over the Turkish workers and peasants to the exploitation of French finance, than permit the Tprkish people to surge forward in the channel of revolution, aided by Soviet Russia. Fear of revolution drove the Angora rulers into the embrace of French capital which either alone or in conjunction with the British will reduce Turkish Independence to a fiction. French finance will employ the Turkish ruling class at least as its slave-driver in Angora, whereas a joint struggle with Soviet Russia might lure the Turkish peasantry dangerously far on the road of freedom, – this was the consideration that tied the hands of the Turkish generals at Mudania, and those of the Turkish diplomats at Lausanne.

The sudden breakdown of the Lausanne conference appears to have disturbed the agreement reached between France and England over the Near East. It is thought that Turkish intransigence is responsible for this rupture. Nothing of the kind. Turkey has as much to do with the rupture as she had to do with the agreement Lausanne blew up because of the combustability of Mosul oil was immensely increased by the addition of Ruhr coal. The group of capitalists, which stood behind the Agreement of San Remo, were represented by Lord Curzon from the English side, and M. Barrère from the French. Therefore, so long as the Mosul oil fields constituted (he principal bone of contention at Lausanne, France and England could go hand in hand in the process of ramming one bitter pill after another down the throat of the helpless Ismet Pasha. But M. Loucheur does not see eye to eye with M. Franklin Bouillon. The Ruhr occupation opened up another aspect of Anglo-French conflict. Under the tremendous pressure of Ruhr coal deposits, the delicate oil veins burst, and the spirit of Poincaré appeared on the scene io sabotage the Lausanne Conference on the very eve of its successful conclusion.

Mr. Lloyd George, representing the commercial and industrial interests of Britain, stoutly opposed France’s wild dream of Twentieth Century Napoleonism which rendered all hopes of reconstructing Europe impossible. After a feverish search in all directions, French capital whose ambition was thus thwarted by Lloyd George, turned towards the Near East, and by concluding the Angora Agreement, stole a march upon England. When the agreement was made, no serious opposition against it was raised in France. But the necessities in Europe soon convinced France that she could not very well afford to step on the toes of England, The result was the growing criticism of the agreement and the united front put up against the Turks in Lausanne.

The overthrow of Lloyd George brought into power the pro-French party in England. The interests represented by Bonar Law thought it wise to connive at Frances adventure in Europe, in order to disturb her menacing orientation towards America. In return for a free hand in Europe, France agreed to abandon her protegé in the Near East to the mercy of England. Hence we found the French Delegation at Lausanne faithfully supporting all the methods of Curzon for bullying the Turks. This policy of consolidating the undermined Anglo-French Entente went so far, that it became positively dangerous for the financial interests, represented by Franklin Bouillon, having a big stake in the Ottoman Debt. A few days before the final draft treaty was presented to the Turkish Delegation in the form of the Curzon Ultimatum, the alarm was sounded by the bitterest political opponent of M. Poincaré. In L’Echo National of Jan. 23, André Tardieu wrote: “I quite understand that we have given in so much at Lausanne in order to have a free hand in Essen.” On the authority of M. Barrère, he terrified the French bondholders in these terms: “The final text of the treaty will astonishingly abandon French interests in the Near East. In the matter of the Ottoman Debt, the French bondholders have been scandalously deserted.” Thus was started the financial wirepulling which broke up the Lausanne Conference.

Big finance, with a firm hold on Turkey through the Ottoman Debt, revolted against the policy which meant the betrayal of its interest in favor of the industrial magnates of Lorraine. Caught between these two fires, M. Poincaré had to tax all his diplomatic genius. Such was the genesis of the mysterious note, which was caught at by the Turks just as a drowning man catches at straw, and which created such consternation at Lausanne. The mystery which enveloped the interchange of notes during the days preceding the final break up of the Conference, is not yet cleared. But enough of it is already known to draw the main lines of conclusion.

In order not to alienate the support of the interests behind the Franklin Bouillon Agreement, Poincaré made a gesture to show that Lausanne would not be permitted to end in a complete victory for England. This was interpreted by the Turkish Delegation to mean that, in spite of Barrère’s and even M. Bompard’s (the spokesmen of the Franklin Bouillon group) adhesion to the Curzon methods, French “support” was still there. Poincaré intended to kill two birds with one stone, and it seems that he has succeeded, at least for the time being. On the other hand, France can still claim to be the “disinterested friend of Turkey” and, on the other, England is threatened with a new war in the Near East if she will not leave France alone in the Ruhr.

So, the Lausanne Conference has tended precisely where it started. This is specially true m so far as the Turks are concerned. They came to Lausanne elated with the hope of playing one imperialist against another, but they only played the part of a pawn. They are returning without signing the Treaty, not that they are convinced that the National Independence of the Turkish people cannot be won except through a revolutionary struggle, but again hoping to consolidate their diplomatic position while England and France are engaged in a new dispute. But the latter will prove as hopeless as the former. The internal conflict of Imperialism can never be over. It will grow sharper in proportion as the process of capitalist decay goes on. But in so far as the colonial peoples are concerned, Imperialism will still put up a united front. To have learnt this lesson from the experience at Lausanne would be of the greatest benefit for the Angora Government The sincerity of the refusal to sign the treaty will be tested by the latter is attitude towards Soviet Russia, whose unconditional help the Turkish rulers have so far rejected, if not in words still in deeds. The sinister design to perpetuate imperialist domination in Turkey can only be frustrated by a resolute struggle along revolutionary lines.

Last updated on 9 July 2021