Max Shachtman

Lovestone Discovers Esthonia

Propaganda Pledge Is Defended by Stalinist Attorneys

(January 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 3, 27 January 1934, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Continued from last issue)

3. In 1925, the British government made one of its periodical Curzon-Chamberlain demands against the residence of the Comintern in Moscow and its propaganda which had “as an aim the overthrow of, or bringing about by force of a change in, the political or social order of the whole or any part of the United States – (pardon us, we mean the British Empire!) – its territories or possessions”. Zinoviev, the chairman of the Comintern, replied publicly on May 20, 1925:

When they put forward that demand during the famine period they received from the Soviet Government the reply they deserved. Now that affairs with the Soviet Government are more favorable there can be no doubt as to the reply to their insolent demand they would receive from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics if they decided to advance such.”

Question: Why did Litvinov accede to an “insolent demand” put forward in 1933, which was contemptuously rejected by the Soviet government not merely in 1925, but in the most desperate period of its existence, the famine period, when Russia’s back was to the wall and it was ready to make any reasonable concession to obtain sufficient aid from abroad to keep alive?

Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement

4. Soviet Russia of April 16, 1921, comments as follows on the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement which had just been signed:

“In their preliminary draft the British attempted to bind the Soviet Government to ‘restrain Russian citizens’ from hostile action or propaganda against British institutions This impossible demand disappears entirely from the final text. Thus the mooted question of propaganda resolves itself into a mutual agreement on the part of the British and Soviet governments respectively to refrain from conducting outside of their own borders any propaganda directly or indirectly against the institutions of the other. This condition was accepted by the Soviet Government at the outset of the negotiations.”

Question: Why did the Soviets – in 1921, after the Esthonian, Latvian and Polish Treaties – regard as impossible the demand that Russian Communists be restrained from carrying on anti-British capitalist propaganda, whereas it now considers quite possible the demand that not only Russian Communists but American Communists in Russia be restrained from carrying on anti-British capitalist propaganda? Why could not what Herberg calls the “conventional phrases” of a “Paragraph Four” be conceded in 1921 in England?

Reply to Lord Curzon

5. On September 7, 1921, Lord Curzon wrote an insolent note to Russia demanding (again!) the suppression of the Comintern in Russia, complaining that government members like Lenin, Trotsky and ... Stalin were actively engaged in its work of undermining the “territories and possessions” of the British Crown. Three weeks later, the Soviet Vice-Commissar of Foreign Affairs retorted:

“The Russian Government desires to take advantage of this occasion to affirm once more, as it has frequently done before, that the fact that the Third International, for perfectly obvious reasons, chose Russia as the country in which its executive committee resides – Russia being the only country that allows full liberty for the spread of Communist ideas, as well as personal liberty to Communists – and also the fact that certain members of the Russian Government, in their capacity as private individuals, belong to this executive committee are no more to be taken as a basis for declaring that the Third International and the Russian Government are identical, than the fact that the Second International, constantly in session at Brussels, and including among the members of its executive committee the Belgian minister Vandervelde, may prove the identity of the Second International with the Belgian Government.”

(The author of this reply to Curzon was none other than Maxim Litvinov.)

Question: Why, although this occurred well within the Herbergian “second period” of Soviet diplomacy, didn’t Litvinov reply then as he did at Washington? Or a more pertinent question: Why didn’t he reply to Roosevelt as he did to Curzon?

Chicherin on “Propaganda”

6. In 1925, as is known, England demanded that Russia sign an agreement similar to that signed by Litvinov in Washington. In his foreign political report to the Third Congress of the Soviet Union in May 1925, the commissar for foreign affairs, Chicherin, a diplomat if you please, declared:

“The same idea (as held by Curzon at Lausanne) is to be seen in the declaration of Chamberlain: ‘Cease conducting propaganda!’

“What is propaganda? We stand before the main question of our foreign political relations. Our government is prepared to accept, and accepts all the obligations bound up with international relations. If the English government proves that we are misusing our diplomatic connections, our diplomatic rights, our diplomatic apparatus, that this or that official person violates the international obligations, then we are prepared to agree to everything demanded of us in this respect.

“If, however, we are told that all propaganda must cease in the Soviet Union, that is tantamount to demanding that the Communist party shall cease to be a Communist party. Here is a question of whether we shall continue to exist or not. It concerns the main question of our relations with the capitalist world by which we are surrounded.

“If Chamberlain says to us: ‘All propaganda must cease, the Communist party shall cease to be a Communist party’, then we must answer: ‘Faites le, citoyen Chamberlain’ – ‘Do it, citizen Chamberlain!’”

Question: When Chicherin called “propaganda” the main question of foreign Soviet relations, involving the existence of the Communist party and the republic itself, did he really mean it, or was he in reality giving the “Trotskyists and other anti-Soviet demagogues a basis of operations for their reactionary propaganda against the Soviet Union” – as Herberg so pleasantly puts it?

7. But enough for the moment. The dozens of remaining questions can safely be held back until the firm of Lovestone, Herberg and Huckman has replied to the ones already put.

* * * *

The Treaties with the Border States

Nevertheless – Latvia, Esthonia, Lithuania, Poland!

Is it not significant that the only countries mentioned by the Lovestoneites are those which once formed part of the Russian Empire and now border directly on the Soviet republic? An honest revolutionist interested in clarifying and teaching workers – not a group of Philadelphia lawyers fawning and groveling before the Stalinist dispensers of privilege and pelf – would have put and answered the questions:

Why was the Soviet Union ready to make an agreement with the former sections of the czarist empire on her frontiers which she refused to make with any of the big imperialist powers, nearby or far-off?

Did Russia have more to fear from Latvia than from America? From what standpoint was Esthonia so much stronger than England that she was able with comparative ease to obtain something from Russia which England, with her armies, navies, industries and wealth, with her threats and ruptures, was never able to obtain? Did Russia grant such a treaty to Lithuania and refuse it to England because she hoped to get more material aid – food, credits, machinery, political prestige – from the tiny, poverty-stricken Baltic country than from wealth bloated Britannia?

Not Ordinary Recognition Pacts

It is not necessary to dig far to find the answer. Latvia and the other tiny Baltic lands obtained such treaties for fairly obvious reasons:

1. The treaties were not ordinary recognition pacts; they served to put an end to a state of war existing between Russia and her neighbors. During the period of hostilities, all these Baltic lands had been the arena of activities for numerous active White Guard and other counter-revolutionary armies, some of them claiming to be and all of them aiming to be “government” of the whole or part of Russia. The continued residence of these forces on territory directly adjacent to Russia constituted a menace of serious proportions to the Soviets. The treaties demanded the dissolution or expulsion of these armed forces. In no sense was this a concession by Russia – it was Russia’s indubitable victory.

Where is this situation duplicated in France, England or, most of all in the United States? Are the decrepit Russian dukes and princesses the forces on American soil whose organization for the overthrow of the Soviet Russia has cause to fear? Or even the White Guard Ukrainians in this country? Preposterous! Infinitely more powerful counter-revolutionary and imperialist forces now on American soil threaten the Soviet Union! They are identical with precisely that regime which Litvinov praised so unstintingly as eminently pacific and war-abhorrent in his speech at the recent Soviet Congress! And these forces are not covered by the “reciprocal undertakings” of the Litvinov-Roosevelt pact. The Comintern is.

2. More important even than our first point, is this:

The masses in these small Baltic republics were then still permeated with democratic illusions, accentuated by the first whiffs of national independence they had obtained after decades and centuries of languishing under the heel of czarist tyranny. Even the tidal wave of proletarian revolution did not entirely succeed in washing away the prejudice, fear, hatred’ and suspicion these people felt of any “Moscow regime” – a government of “Great Russians”. The bourgeois democrats of these lands, more often than not in the service of a large western power sought with all their strength to intensify these prejudices and suspicions in the minds of the masses. The latter were told that the Bolshevik regime was no different than the czarist; both were despotic Muscovite centralists whose aim was to impose their regime upon the Letts and Poles and Finns and wipe out their just-gained independence.

The Bolsheviks attached an immense even if not all-dominating, significance to the slogan of self-determination of nations even to the point of separation. They never considered it, like Wilson, as a piece of clever hypocrisy, a shrewd watchword and nothing more. They alone proved that it was realizable. The Bolsheviks granted complete independence to all the former “provinces” of the czar, even if they instantly fell under the domination of reactionaries.

Bolshevik Policy on Self-Determination

Moreover, the Bolsheviks were intent upon exerting every effort to prove in practise to these border peoples that Soviet Russia alone really guaranteed their independence, that she would not seek to impose her form of social organization upon her neighbors. The existing fear of Russia’s vast size and strength in comparison with their own, was dispelled among these little nations essentially by the persistent demonstrations Russia gave of her principle of non-violation of their territorial and political integrity.

This and this alone explains why the Soviet Government was prepared, even in 1920-1921, to go to the point of giving her neighbors the assurances they received in the peace treaties cited above. What possible comparison is there between those conditions, those treaties and the relations between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. today?

Our original views stand. There are no two ways about the question. The Litvinov-Roosevelt pact remains an index to the degree to which Stalinism has abandoned the world revolution in its deterioration to nationalism. Lovestone and Co. remain the legal toadies of Stalinism, its aspiring apologist, its most anxious champion. Alas for Stalinism – its very champion cannot fight for want of a leg to stand on!

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