M.N. Roy: The Anglo-Russian Crisis (24 May 1923)


M.N. Roy

The Anglo-Russian Crisis

(24 May 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 39 [21], 24 May 1923, pp. 356–357.
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.

Lord Curzon has declared war upon Soviet Russia. This is what his Note means in plain language. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic must bow down before the haughtiness of the noble lord, or he will condemn her to the days of two years ago, to the days when Soviet Russia was attacked, blockaded and isolated on all sides. It still remains to be seen how the Soviet Government will take up this insolent challenge of the British bourgeoisie, and how the British working class will react to his new war menace. But it can be safely asserted that whatever may be the immediate trend of events, the days are past when Curzonian politics and methods go very far. One reads nothing but impotent rage and a clear indication of weakness between the lines of the note couched in such proud sentiments and such lofty phrases. Lloyd George has failed to reconstruct bourgeois society by means of his politics of concessions and conferences; now comes Curzon to try his hand. He believes in the big stick, with which he expects to make the world do his bidding. But this crude Curzonian politics is sure to fail more miserably in this advanced period of capitalist decay than it did in India nearly 20 years ago. If by his stupidity and haughtiness Curzon only succeeded in stirring up a hornet’s nest in India, those methods applied on a world-scale will make for his own ruin and that of the order whose proud protagonist he is.

Curzon may not be very clever; he may only succeed in damaging the capitalist cause by his bulldog methods; but he is an imperialist to the marrow and of the Victorian order at that. He still thinks of the world in terms of the British Empire, and hinges the latter on its ability to beat back the Russians. He is one of those dense British aristocrats who never learn anything and never forget anything. As a raw Oxford graduate, he wrote, about the Rqssian aggression in Central. Asia; as an Under-Secretary of State be talked of the Russian menace to India; as the Viceroy of India he turned the Middle East into a hot-bed of intrigues against the Muscovite Monarchy; as the chief British delegate at Lausanne, he successfully conspired to lure the Turks away from the Russians; and lastly, as the officiating Premier, he is on the warpath against Russia. Russia is Russia to him. Those little changes that have taken place in Russia since the days when Curzon won his reputation as an anti-Russian do not mean much to him. He only knows that the tables have been somewhat turned against him. Since 1917, British influence in the East has steadily declined, and that of the Russians has gained ground. He is unable to understand that the Russia which British Imperialism has had to face during the last years, is not the Russia of the Czars, and that it is this fact wnich is responsible for the change of feelings in the Eastern countries, – a change which terrifies Curzon and his kind. All that Curzon knows is that in the East, British influence is on the decline and. Russian influence is on the ascendency. Therefore, he comes straight to the conclusion that there must be intrigues and conspiracies; because Curzonian diplomacy knows no other method. None knows better than Lord Curzon what a brilliant record of intrigues and conspiracies the British Empire in the East possesses. He also knows how strenuously the Muscovite cousins of the Windsors parried and retaliated in the East. So he is sure that the Bolsheviks, who do not make any secret of their hostility to Imperialism and sympathy for the oppressed nationalities struggling for freedom, must be vying with the British agents in the Courts of Kabul and Teheran in intrigues, bribery and forgery. With this a priori conviction, Lord Curzon sets out to imagine and concoct gruesome reports of the activities of Soviet agents in Persia and Afghanistan, and of Bolshevik gold pouring into India. He stuffs his historic note with such questionable evidence in order to prove the lack of faith of the Bolsheviks.

The British Note outwardly is a flourish of Curzonian jingoism, but its real significance and scope do not confine themselves to the moral issue that the Bolsheviks have broken their faith. This is not the first time that Curzon has trotted out those fantastic tales of Soviet intrigues in the East. They have been heard before; but never were they made the sole pretext for an ultimatum.

Under the leadership of Lloyd George, the British bourgeoisie hoped to penetrate peacefully to the economic life of Russia and undermine the political power of the working class by boring from within. They had to adopt this policy upon the abject failure of the project to conquer Russia for capitalism at the point of guns. But the policy of concession-hunting, that of killing by kindness – also failed to satisfy the greed of the British bourgeoisie. The world economy cannot be reconstructed without Russia; but the continued existence and steady consolidation of the Soviet Power constitute a menace to capitalist economy. The British bourgeoisie adopted the policy of concession-hunting, not for the concessions themselves, but to use the concessions for undermining the Soviet Power. In this design they have failed. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic has proved her ability to defend her sovereignty, not only on the military front, but on the political and economic front as well. She has proved herself to be a harder nut to crack than the China of the Tu Chuns, the Persia of the feudals and the Turkey of the Pashas. She would give concessions but nothing more. Capitalist greed, on the other side, would not be contented with a limited profit. Russia must be conquered for capitalism. If this cannot be done, then she must be destroyed, at least condemned to isolation, blockade and renewed intervention. This is the real significance of the Curzon Note. Through it speaks the militant section of the British bourgeoisie, which still has the illusion of conquering the world.

Once it is derided that a policy of threat and bluster should be tried next, it is necessary to find a pretext. Typical of the mentality of the present Tory government, the slogans for the campaign of hate against Russia were found in “God and Empire” – two things dear to the British bourgeoisie, and which can be successfully, used in manipulating that amorphous commodity called Public Opinion, the alpha and omega of bourgeois democracy.

War cannot be made with notes, nor an army be raised from those zealots of (he Empire who provide the British Foreign Office with the materials for such notes. If not actual armies, munitions must be manufactured and transported to Poland, Rumania and such other border states as cannot live but by the profession of war. For these purposes at least tacit consent, if not the enthusiastic support of the workers has to be secured. But this is where the clay feet of Imperialism are exposed. The British proletariat, which certainly lacks a consciously anti-imperialist spirit, has no stomach for new wars. Hence the necessity of discovering a redoubt, through which (he proletariat can be taken by surprise and made to aid the bourgeoisie in its mad career. The leaders of the British Labour Party are all good Christians, and every good Christian is a pious Imperialist, believing in the mission of civilizing the backward peoples. This being the case could there be found any better cry than “God and the Empire” to retain the services of the Labour Party, in case the Soviet Government should take up the challenge so insolently thrown down by Lord Curzon?

The “godliness” of the Labour Party has already been fully exploited by the campaign of lies over the prosecution of the priests. But the days are gone when a war can be launched with the mere name of God. An additional stimulus was needed. The cry of “Empire in danger” came handy; and who can raise this cry more valiantly than Lord Curzon, the inheritor of the anti-Russian prejudice of British jingoism? Such is the genesis of the Curzon Note, which proposes to set the whole world once again on fire, because a few Indian youths strayed into a school at Moscow, or some enterprising journalist spun out of his fertile imagination some correspondence of the Soviet Representative at Kabul or Teheran. To an ordinary mortal, it looks ridiculous to make such a fuss over these incidents, even if they were real; but to a Britisher, and an ordinary British worker is still proud of being a Britisher, it means a great deal. It means a conspiracy against the Empire: the loss of the Empire means loss of trade; and loss of trade means absence of work which, in its turn, spells such terrible things as no wages, hunger, and so on and so forth. Thus the Empire is a reality to the average British worker. It has been impressed upon his mind since childhood. He reads about it in the daily paper. Even the “Workers’ Daily” Herald talks proudly of “our Empire”. This psychology of the British working class is a reality, and the note is meant to work upon this psychological complex. Soviet Russia is held up, not only as a standing menace to the safety of the Empire, but as working assiduously for its destruction.

But what are the facts of the matter? If the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement is to be broken, because the abstention from hostile propaganda stipulated in the Preamble has not been complied with, who is to be held responsible for it? In magnificent Curzonian style, the British Note points out the infringements committed by the Russians. Curzon asserts that the Russian Foreign Office knows that the charges levelled against it are all true. The appropriate retort to this would be that Lord Curzon knows he is having a daydream. But we can give a still better retort If a banknote, drawn by the Russian Trade Delegation in London, and found a year and a half later in the Punjab is a proof of the bad faith of the Bolsheviks, what interpretation should we put on the fact that the Ferganas rebels during more than two years used the same rifles and cartridges as are used by the British army in India, and that the insurgent army of Enver Pasha was clothed in British uniform? A particular banknote can easily stray in the course of a year and a half from London to India, but the same thing cannot be said of the continual supply of war materials pouring in from Chittral. Lord Curzon flourished an imaginary telegram of Raskolnikov, but conveniently forgets the activities of Sir Henry Dobbs and Capt. Humphreys. Lord Curzon has only to refer to his colleague in the India office to find out that Henry Dobbs offered the Afghan government 20 crores of rupees, as the price for breaking off relations with Russia! This was after the Trade Agreement was signed. Lord Curzon intends to bamboozle the naive British working class by an imaginary picture of an army of Bolshevik propagandists sweeping down upon India from the heights of the Pameer, while he can mention but seven students who, by the way, are not Communists, but religious emigrants returning home. These innocent youths will be locked in jail in. order to add a touch of reality to the Bolshevik bogey, will His Lordship enquire in the Criminal Intelligence Department in Simla to find out how many agents have Been sent to Russia, not to mention Afghanistan, Persia, Mesopotamia? The anti-Russian activities of the British diplomatic and Consular agents in Persia are an open secret, although they may not find their way into the British press. Then, the grandest violation of all was consummated by His Lordship in person. We mean his diplomatic exploits at Lausanne. The amount of intrigue and propaganda required for forcing the Turks practically to violate their treaty with Moscow, was enormous, and Lord Curzon knows better than anybody else that by this act alone, he can be held responsible for the termination of the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement, if it is be terminated on the ground of propaganda. But he wants to break the agreement and make the Bolsheviks responsible for it, so that the British working class will share with the British bourgeoisie the consequences of this break. Therefore, he bases his note exclusively on propaganda against the Empire.

That the Empire is in danger, there is no doubt. But it is sheer nonsense to think that the Empire is going to burst under any external pressure. It is disintegrating in consequence of the general decay of capitalist economy, and in consequence of the rise of internal forces. Czarist Russia was no more a friend of the British Empire than are the Bolsheviks. But it failed to inspire anything but dread and hatred in its Eastern neighbours. If the Russia of the workers and peasants gets the contrary response from the same quarters, the reason need not be attributed to imaginary propaganda schools and subtle agents everywhere. It is to be found in the great political and moral significance of the Russian Revolution, whose program appeals spontaneously to the subject nationalities.

So, the agents, propaganda, intrigues, etc. are all a pretext. The British bourgeoisie want to make another frantic attempt to choke the Russian Revolution, which objectively is the mortal enemy of Imperialism. Let the British proletariat be on guard and not fall into the snare of the ruling class.

The Empire is really in danger. The sooner it goes the better. The proletariat has nothing to lose but its unemployment dole.

Last updated on 16 October 2021