Banditry and Famine

Speeches and Articles

The Famine and the World Situation

Speech at a meeting of the Moscow Soviet, August 30, 1921

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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1. Why Has the Famine Put Russia at the Centre of the World’s Attention?

Comrades, our famine and Soviet Russia are now altogether at the centre of the attention of all civilised mankind. Everywhere they are talking, writing and arguing about aid to the famine victims in the Volga region. A most vigorous, sincere and impassioned agitation for aid to the working masses of Russia is being carried on by the workers’ organisations [1] and their press, and, above all, by the Communists. That is quite understandable. The warm sympathy and ever-increasing support given by the working masses of Europe and the whole world was and is the principal condition for the survival of the Soviet regime. What underlies the world proletariat’s aid to us is a complete identity of interest between them and ourselves.

Much less understandable is the fact that the question of aid has now taken such a strong hold of the ruling classes and governments of all the bourgeois countries. Even three years ago, immediately after the seizing of power by our working class, Soviet Russia was not the focus of world attention to such an extent as it is now. Ministers, industrialists, stock-exchange speculators, journalists, deputies are all passionately interested in the question of aid to the victims of famine. This is certainly something, you will agree, that is somewhat less easy to understand. Naturally, oh, naturally, none of us doubts that stock-exchange speculators, industrialists and ministers have very kind hearts, but those hearts did not prevent them from inflicting a bloody and ruinous intervention upon us, or from imposing the barbed-wire blockade. It is quite obvious that, besides considerations of humanity and other lofty but imponderable matters, there must be other, material and quite ponderable causes and forces compelling the rulers of Washington, London and Paris to take so much to heart the situation of the starving population of the Volga region, and to divide their attention between the Irish question, Japanese naval armaments and the Greco-Turkish War, on the one hand, and the terrible need of the muzhiks of Kazan and Samara, on the other. In the absence of such deeper reasons, what is now happening all over the world would be quite incomprehensible. The newspapers are full of articles, the ministers are making speeches, parliamentary commissions are assembling, the wireless telegraph is busy in every direction – and they are all talking about one thing, all thinking one thought: how to help the provinces of Kazan and Samara, which very few of the ministerial gentlemen would be able to point out on a map.

The industrialists and stock-exchange speculators are, of course, obliged to reckon with the disinterested and ever more powerful striving to help Russia which presses up from below in their society, but the true essence of the matter is, nevertheless, that what is actually happening, under the guise of the question of aid to the famine victims, is a new and apparently decisive attempt to take up in all its dimensions and to solve in a practical way the question of relations with Soviet Russia, of including Soviet Russia in the circulation-process of world economy.

The famine in Russia coincides with a commercial and industrial crisis throughout the world which is unprecedented in scale. International capitalism is now paying – it has only begun to pay – for the destruction and devastation caused by the imperialist war. Capitalist economy is taking account, in the form of this most severe crisis, of what it has lost, what it has ruined, what it lacks. This shortfall in the world economic inventory is no less menacing to the bourgeoisie than was the revolutionary wave which rolled over Europe as a direct consequence of the war. What is at stake here is the very basis of bourgeois rule. While during the last year or eighteen months the bourgeoisie recovered politically, restoring its state and police apparatus, economically it is only now seeing with full clarity the gulf which has opened beneath its feet. The turnover of international trade in the first six months of this year barely attained half the corresponding figure for the first half of last year. Yet the first half of last year was already deeply affected by the crisis which broke out in March (in Japan and the United States). Finally, even 1919, a year of artificial, imaginary, fictitious commercial and industrial boom, showed an extraordinary decline in trade and production as compared with pre-war. It is natural that the chief concern of the leaders of the bourgeoisie is to restore the capitalist economy on the basis of the world division of labour. Along this road the principal problem is that of Soviet Russia. Without including it in world-economic life, without increasing its power to produce and consume, the capitalist world can see no way out of their difficulties. But they say to themselves: after all, one can’t overlook the fact that Soviet Russia is a socialist state, headed by the Communist Party, whose thoughts are directed towards overthrowing capitalism throughout the world. The leaders of Soviet Russia have again, at the 3rd Congress of the Communist International, confirmed their unshakable belief in the inevitable downfall of capitalist society. What would be the sense of the bourgeoisie’s restoring economic relations with European [sic] [2] Russia? That is how the question is put, on the one hand, by some of the most inveterate doctrinaires among the bourgeoisie and, on the other – for quite different motives, of course – by some extreme Left and super-Left critics of Soviet Russia.

Counterposing the inevitability of the proletarian revolution in Europe to trade relations between Europe and the proletarian state, Soviet Russia, means not grasping the real mechanics of development. In the first place, the bourgeoisie does not in the least admit that its downfall is inevitable: it intends to fight. Furthermore, it intends, by means of trade relations, to transform Soviet Russia, subjecting us to its own regime. Consequently, relations between world capitalism and Soviet Russia, including ‘peaceful’, commercial relations, form a component part, one of the stages, in the struggle between the bourgeois regime and the regime that will replace it. And not only that. If an individual merchant who, theoretically, fully accepts the inevitability of his personal death, nevertheless does not in the least, on that account, give up buying and selling, but goes on squeezing out profit until his last breath, still less can the profit-making class give up trading, even if they agree to believe us when we say that their historical doom is inevitable.

But let us leave philosophy in peace. The fact is that, without ceasing to fight against us, the bourgeoisie is concluding agreements with us. The fact is that, without ceasing to hate us, they are signing treaties with us, some of these valid for very long periods. This does not signify at all that such treaties forbid history to intervene, in the capacity of an unforeseen third party, and liquidate through revolution one of the contracting parties. Nobody has so far signed a treaty with history. When we sign some treaty or other, it means that we answer only for ourselves. Contrary to what is stupidly alleged by the yellow press, we carry out all our treaties quite conscientiously – not out of sympathy with the other party, but because we know what is to our own interest. But we do not answer for history.

2. Philanthropy And Calculation

There can be no doubt – I return to my basic idea – that, behind the screen of the philanthropic organisations, Red Cross groups and so on, a new orientation of the capitalist governments is taking place where Soviet Russia is concerned. Precisely the circumstances of this new test by famine are causing the shrewder leaders of imperialism to become convinced, more clearly than ever, that there is in Russia no power other than the Soviet regime, and the Communist Party which guides it, that could have any hope whatsoever of undertaking to organise order and economic revival in our country.

Lloyd George said at a session of the Supreme Council [3], if certain newspapers have reported him correctly, that the question of Russia and the Russian famine is not a question of philanthropy: that, essentially, what is involved is the establishing of such mutual economic relations with Soviet Russia as will ensure her economic recovery. On that matter Lloyd George is absolutely right. Philanthropy can possess only palliative significance, and have very limited effect, at that. From the standpoint of world capitalism, the question amounts to this – how to invest capital in Russia which would subsequently realise a high level of profit.

To be sure, in the present movement for aid a big part is played by well-known bourgeois philanthropists such as the American Quakers [4] and so on. But they, too, are not only philanthropists: they fulfil a certain function in the struggle of their class for self-preservation and domination. Just as conquest of the colonial countries very often began with the despatch thither of missionaries, who were followed by traders and soldiers, so the restoration of trade relations can very well begin with philanthropic aid. Regardless of the will of individual persons, who may be acting in a perfectly disinterested spirit, philanthropy fulfils in the given case a task of wide reconnaissance, the creation of points of support and of a favourable, sympathetic atmosphere, without which there can be no commercial dealings. By saying this I do not in the least wish to cast discredit on anyone’s philanthropic intentions. On the contrary, when they are cleansed of the foam of sentimental phrasemongering and hypocritical conventionalities, these intentions assume very great significance in our eyes. They signify the onset of a new stage in relations between ourselves and the capitalist world.

I repeat, the most perspicacious elements of the bourgeoisie have understood, or are starting to understand, that in the Russia of today, after the world imperialist war, after the revolutionary civil wars, after a series of foreign interventions and blockades, there is no organised force capable, in these unprecedentedly difficult conditions, of doing the work that we are doing, for it is a fact that the famine has not brought chaos, that Soviet order is inviolate, and that the first measure of help and self-help, the winter sowing of the Volga region’s fields, has been carried out by us, with our own resources. Hence this at-first-sight-unexpected result, that the famine, this new and grievous trial for Soviet Russia, has been transformed into a political factor impelling bourgeois governments to seek economic rapprochement with us. But, along with this, there is also another result.

3. New Hopes FFor (Peaceful) Intervention and the Russian White Guards

The famine crisis which Soviet Russia is experiencing has aroused to an extreme degree the energy of those elements for whom the ultimate establishment of the Soviet regime means the loss of everything, or of very much. These are, in the first place, the White-Guard émigrés, and, secondly, those groups and cliques of the world bourgeoisie which in the past involved themselves very closely with the policy of intervention, blockade and other ways of strangling Soviet Russia. Here we see a second paradoxical phenomenon – that is, one which cannot be explained at first sight. Along with the marked strengthening of the tendency to economic rapprochement with the Soviet power we see a parallel strengthening of the tendency aimed at overthrowing the Soviet power.

There is no contradiction here – on the contrary, the one tendency complements the other. The Russian counter-revolutionary émigrés, who are connected in Europe with very powerful and influential imperialist centres, are fully aware that, if the present moment is allowed to slip by, if a renewal of intervention is not brought about now, if the Soviet power is enabled to cope with the famine, and even to strengthen its international economic ties, then they can say goodbye to all their plans and hopes of restoring old Russia. ‘It’s now or never!’ the landlord and capitalist émigrés tell themselves. ‘Perhaps it really could be done now?’ some French and other interventionists ask themselves.

What means are there for overthrowing the Soviet power? Nobody is going to invent gunpowder where this matter is concerned. All the means have been tried. A new Wrangel campaign, through Bessarabia, through the Caucasus or through the Far East: a movement of the Petlyurist, Savinkovist and other bands: peasant revolts inside the country: acts of terrorism – combining all this with ‘famine relief’, with the Committee of Public Personages [5] as a ‘mighty’ centre relying on all forms of struggle against the Soviet power and enjoying support from all the international aid organisations and the governments which are behind them. In this way the banner of aid becomes, on the one hand, the cover for a new orientation towards Soviet Russia, in the sense of economic rapprochement, and, on the other, the cover for plans of armed intervention, for which the famine has provided the longawaited moment.

The Russian émigrés who, only a few months ago, were sinking and shrinking, little by little, have now woken up and are displaying feverish activity, raging furiously in all directions, sending telegrams, interviewing, calling up on everyone’s telephone, lying and slandering. ‘Now or never,’ cry their leaders of all tendencies, from the Black-Hundred monarchists to the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, some in a hoarse bass, others in a shrill falsetto. That is the impression, one of many-voiced yet fundamentally co-ordinated baying, that the émigré press produces today.

4. What The Emigre Press Writes About Russia

Comrades, for lack of time I am, like the overwhelming majority of you, unable to follow properly the Russian White-Guard papers which are published abroad. But we have in the War Department an institution whose duty it is to keep track of what is being said by the foreign press generally, and the Russia White-Guard press in particular, regarding the Red Army, our military problems and our policy. From this institution I received yesterday this bulky book of extracts from the Russian émigré publications of the last few weeks. It would, perhaps, be useful to print this collection in its entirety, since it gives a very striking impression both of what these newspapers publish and of those for whom they are published. That the newspapers, by their very nature, do not always give true reports, that they often exaggerate, and are obliged to do so, is something which one can accept. But inevitably tendentious emphasis and exaggeration is one thing, and quite another is a rabid bacchanalia of fabrications, lies and slanders. I apologise in advance for having, along with you, to go down many steps and to spend a few minutes at a level which is lower than any other.

The principal task of the émigré press in recent weeks has been to show that we are preparing for a new campaign. Against whom? Against all around us. The Reuter agency reported in the second half of July, from Helsingfors, that the Soviet Government has ordered a general mobilisation. ‘It is presumed that this measure is directed against Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, or else that its purpose is to support the Kemalists against the Greeks.’ This telegram made its way into all the White-Guard papers. There can be no doubt that it came originally to Reuters from this same émigré source, and then ricocheted back, enriched by the authority of the semi-official British news-agency.

From Warsaw it is reported, through the Russian Press Bureau, that ‘the Bolsheviks are preparing fresh adventures, intending to send forward the newly formed Lithuanian army to take Vilna’. [6] It might have seemed that adventures connected with Vilna were a subject one ought not to mention precisely in Warsaw, for the same reason that, in the home of a hanged man, one avoids talking about rope. This, however, has not in the least prevented the Warsaw telegram from finding its way into all the émigré papers.

A week ago it was reported from London that mobilisation of all persons liable for military service, up to the age of 48, has been ordered here. This time, ‘the Bolsheviks’ military measures are being taken with a view to launching an attack on Poland’. Furthermore, the report gives details: ‘The railway battalions have been concentrated in the area Gusyatin-Shepetekova-Novograd-Volynsky-Korosten-Podvolochisk, which shows’ – listen, listen – ’that Trotsky and Bukharin have not renounced their warlike schemes’ ... As you all know, our railway battalions are controlled by Comrade Bukharin.

Then there is a report, with several variants, that ‘Trotsky’s project of an attack on Romania is being taken seriously in Soviet circles because, in the Bolshevik’s opinion, the conquest of Romania would provide Soviet Russia with the grain that it needs ...’

That these senseless reports, which contradict each other at every step, are printed in their dozens every day in the Paris Obshcheye Dyelo (The Common Cause), goes without saying. The editor of Obshcheye Dyelo is Burtsev [7], and those of us who spent long years in emigration know that Burtsev has always had the firm reputation of being a persistent and indefatigable – how should it be put? – unwise man. All of us always knew that Burtsev not only would not invent gunpowder but was by the very form of his thinking the exact opposite of one of those people who invent not only gunpowder but also more modest things than that. If Burtsev has become almost the leader of the most frenzied wing of militant Russian nationalism, that is in the order of events. However, these same reports, word for word, are also printed in the newspaper of Miiyukov, who has entered into history, not accidentally, as the inventor of the Cadets’ gunpowder – and, although this gunpowder did not always produce the expected political effects, all the same, Milyukov is not in the same league as Burtsev.

In one of the latest issues to reach us of Milyukov’s Paris paper, Posledniye Novosti (The Latest News), that of August 16, it is reported from Reval, or allegedly from Reval, literally this, that ‘in Moscow a desperate campaign has been whipped up against the Baltic border states. Appeals have been posted up in the streets in which the population is incited against Latvia and Estonia, where “the barns are bursting with grain”. The appeals end with the call: “To arms! Save the dying women and children! All into the campaign against the White Baltic states!”’ As you know, there are now in Moscow official representatives of the Baltic states, and also many foreign correspondents, and I should like to ask both the former and the latter to examine with care the walls and fences of Moscow, to see if they can find even one such appeal as that.

Further in my book there are reports on the condition of the Red Army. This is the central theme for the White-Guard émigrés. They have two tasks to accomplish where the Red Army is concerned, tasks which, to be sure, contradict each other, but which are both equally vital: first, to show that the Red Army constitutes a colossal menace, that it is the most powerful armed force that directly threatens the security of Europe: and, second, to show that armed intervention against Soviet Russia would be a very simple and easy enterprise because the Soviet power is dying and the Red Army is breaking up and already hardly exists any more. And it must be said that the Russian émigré press performs both tasks with amazing resolution, giving every day, in the same columns, reports on the growing strength of the Red Army and on its terminal disintegration.

I will quote only a few recent items, concerning the First Mounted Army, or ‘Budyonny’s army’, which has become widely known abroad, and the name of which is most frequently used by the émigré press in order either to frighten or to reassure the European bourgeoisie.

Here is one of the reports which have appeared during the last two or three weeks: ‘According to completely trustworthy information’ – these people never write otherwise than on the basis of completely trustworthy information – ’two cavalry divisions of Budyonny’s First Army, stationed in Stavropol province, have revolted against the Bolsheviks and Communists and seized Stavropol’. Later, after a day or two, Le Temps gives a report from Moscow that ‘Budyonny’s army has refused to submit to the order for demobilisation. The lower ranks have preferred to remain in the service, that is, to go on plundering and receiving high rations.’ It must merely be mentioned that the same papers deny, day after day, the demobilisation of the army which we are carrying out, and if, as we see here, they admit it, they do so merely so as to report that the cavalrymen do not want to be demobilised. Only a few days later we read in the same papers: ‘Cossack units of Budyonny’s army are deserting with their horses and weapons, and entire detachments are going over to the rebels.’ Thus, the same cavalrymen who do not want to be demobilised are leaving the army and going over in entire detachments to join the rebels.

But listen to what comes next: ‘Budyonny’s 1st and 2nd Mounted Armies were entrained at Yekaterinoslav and sent, abundantly equipped with machine-guns and artillery, to help Kemal. On May 20 they arrived at Trebizond, being destined to go on from there, through Ankara, to the Smyrna front.’ Whether Budyonny’s army seized Stavropol on their way from Yekaterinoslav to Smyrna, or at some other time, our sources do not tell us. But the itinerary of Budyonny’s army is not exhausted by the reports I have quoted. From Riga, or allegedly from Riga, the White-Guard papers report: ‘Budyonny’s Mounted Army has been assembled, brought to order, made up to strength in men and horses, and moved into Byelorussia. At the present time its units are disposed from Chernobyl up the Dnieper as far as Mogilev: they occupy the uyezds of Mozyr, Rechitsa and Bobruisk.’

I request you to look at the map. Smyrna is rather a long way not only from Yekatarinoslav but also from Stavropol, and yet it turns out that this same Mounted Army which did not want to be demobilised, and which at the same time broke up into rebel detachments, has been brought up to strength, equipped with horses and everything necessary and brought into complete order, and while its left flank, passing through Trebizond, advances towards Ankara and Smyrna, almost threatening India, its right flank is resting on Bobruisk uyezd, directly threatening Poland. I again beg your pardon for having had to take you for a few minutes into the realm of the White-Guard émigrés, where farce is combined with lunacy. But it is not possible to avoid doing this. The Russian émigrés form the extreme wing in the worldwide mobilisation of social forces which is now taking place in connection with the famine in Russia. The émigrés and the interventionists are at one. We therefore need to know what methods these people are using. In my hands I hold an inexhaustible mass of data. I am ready and willing to provide the foreign journalist gentlemen with copies of these quotations, with precise indication of source, if they will undertake to bring this material to the notice of Europe’s public opinion.

Here are a couple of telegrams describing the internal condition of Soviet Russia – one dated July 27, the other August 7.

The first says: ‘During labour disturbances in Petrograd on June 19 and 20, 618 workers who refused to go to work were shot. In addition, many were killed by the Kirghizes in the streets, and about 1,500 wounded. The Kirghizes lost four killed and 31 wounded.’ The second telegram ten days later, reports: ‘During the bloody events of July 19 and 20 in Moscow, 628 people were shot and more than 1,500 wounded. The troops lost four dead and 21 wounded.’ Thus, on days with the same number, 19 and 20, in Moscow in June and in Petrograd

in July [sic], there were bloody disturbances of which you and I knew nothing, but of which the Helsingfors correspondent of Mr Milyukov’s paper, and many others, had precise information. In Petrograd on those days 618 workers were killed, and in Moscow 628, and in both places, 1,500 were wounded, while the troops lost four killed and 21 wounded [sic]. In Petrograd it was Kirghizes who operated, but the nationality of the troops in Moscow remains unknown. And this repeated day after day, and indignant articles are written on the basis of these reports!

From that same Helsingfors it was reported at the beginning of August that Red troops ‘are releasing asphyxiating gases in order to prevent starving peasants from invading Moscow’. This was in Mr Milyukov’s paper! There too we read: ‘People are fighting in the streets of Moscow for a crust of bread. Revolver shots are heard every night. Nearly all the doctors have been killed.’ And, to conclude: ‘General Zayonchkovsky has been appointed commander of all the Soviet forces operating against the starving people.’

Ah! We see from here those persons who have lost so much and who are ready to pay any price to recover even part of what they possessed as a result of centuries of oppression and robbery. We see from here those landlords, manufacturers, Tsarist ministers, lawyers and professors who have suddenly been filled with burning sympathy for the Volga peasants. We know them, those philanthropists, by their deeds and by the deeds of their fathers and their children. If at this moment those gentry had in their hands the end of a fuse by means of which they could blow up nine-tenths of workers’ and peasants’ Russia, in order to subject and enslave the remaining tenth, then they, these tried friends of the human race, these Wrangels, Krivosheins, Ryabushinskys, and Milyukovs, and their servants the Savinkovs, Avksentiyevs and Chernovs, would all, without a moment’s hesitation, put a lighted match to the fuse. But no such fuse is available to them. And that is why their choking fury finds its outlet in this flood of unbridled lying.

In order to finish with the White-Guard press, inspired by the extreme imperialists of Europe, I will quote a report from the most recent issue of Milyukov’s paper to reach us, that of August 17, a report concerning Siberia, which the White-Guard press fills with endless revolts and coups d’etat, although complete calm reigns there. This is what the Paris paper has to say: ‘A Havas telegram from Tokyo reports the capture of Chita by Baron Ungern and the fall of Soviet power in Irkutsk.’ News, as you see, of high importance! Baron Ungern was a major card in the intervention in the Far East. He invaded Mongolia and threatened the Far Eastern Republic. Now they tell us that he has taken Chita and overthrown Soviet power in Irkutsk. I must admit that in this report, unlike the others, there really is a grain of truth. Baron Ungern is now indeed west of Chita. I have recent official despatches from our Siberian command which, while confirming in this respect the telegram from Tokyo, on the other hand correct what it says to a very substantial degree. I will allow myself to read out one of these despatches: ‘On August 22, at 12 o’clock, Shchetinkin’s [8] combined force (then follows a list of units) captured General Ungern with his bodyguard of 90 Mongols, led by a Mongol prince. General Ungern was brought to headquarters at 10 o’clock on August 23 and interrogated. General Ungern readily answered all questions, on the grounds that it was all up with him anyway. There is no fresh information about some small, scattered units of General Ungern’s force.’ Thus, Baron Ungern was taken prisoner and taken under escort westward of Chita. His army has been destroyed. Consequently, this card, too, of the intervention in the Far East has been covered. [9]

5. The British Government’s Position

What, however, are the possible chances of intervention, and, above all, what are the possible forms that intervention might take? Independent military action by any of the major European powers is not really counted on even by the Russian émigrés. But they do expect of the capitalist governments, and the French especially, that they give active assistance to Russia’s minor adversaries, on the one hand, and, on the other, that they present to the Soviet Government definite political demands in connection with aid to the victims of the famine.

Let us begin with the latter idea. Its absurdity is quite obvious. Conditions have already been put to us, and in the form of an ultimatum, at that. They were rejected. Then followed the period of military intervention and blockade. We stood firm. The capitalist states were compelled by the logic of the situation to open negotiations with us. We went to meet them. A trade agreement with Britain was signed by both sides, in which Lloyd George, drawing the conclusions from past experience, did not dream of presenting any conditions whatsoever relating to Russia’s internal regime. [11] One surely cannot suppose that this same Lloyd George would decide to put forward political demands in connection with the question of philanthropic aid? A ridiculous idea. Even if one were to allow for a moment the possibility of the inconceivable, namely, that an ardent supporter of Milyukov, Burtsev and Kuskova should take over from Lloyd George and present political conditions to us, it is quite obvious that this could only end in the greatest discomfiture for him. [12] Naturally, we should refuse to engage in any negotiations on such a basis. This we should do circumstantially, politely and firmly – you know how circumstantially and politely our diplomats sometimes reject highly uncircumstantiated and impolite demands. We should even enter into a dialogue. We should explain to the other party, that is, to the one presenting us with the proposal that we introduce here a regime of so-called democracy, that our theory recognises the utter uselessness of democracy as a way of deciding the conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Democracy is a regime suitable for concealing and upholding the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, which can be overthrown only by the dictatorship of the proletariat. But while democracy is unsuitable for deciding the basic issue of our epoch, namely, the class conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, nevertheless this same democracy may possess a certain historical value and progressive use, for example, in deciding issues of the national independence of entire nations, especially those amongst whom modern class antagonisms have not yet developed to a high degree. Thus, we should regard it as historically and politically quite correct to offer to India, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia and a number of other countries the possibility of taking the democratic road, that is, of deciding their national fate by means of universal suffrage, of voting whether to remain as colonies or to live as independent national states. On that theme our diplomats might – as, indeed, they have done already more than once – compose a very courteous and very cogent note which would be lethal for the other party. We have no doubt that the other party will not enter upon a dialogue of that sort.

6. Hoover’s Initiative

Perhaps the Russian émigrés pin their hopes on the initiative taken by America? We consider this improbable. The visit of Senator France [13] and the philanthropic initiative by Hoover are, in our view, symptomatic of that shift which has taken place in the public opinion of the American bourgeoisie. There are serious grounds for such a shift – the unprecedented commercial and industrial crisis in the United States, on the one hand, and, on the other, the growing antagonisms with Japan and with Britain. In our negotiations with Mr Hoover we went very far in the direction of concessions and the granting of various privileges to the American relief organisation. [14] In doing this we took into account – and said so frankly – the prejudices to which the public opinion of the American bourgeoisie, even of its leading upper circles, is subject. But, while making big concessions to prejudice and political ignorance, we utterly rejected those claims which resembled political conditions, attempts to lay hands on the sovereignty of the Soviet Republic. These conditions were withdrawn by Hoover. An agreement was signed. And we consider that this agreement will not only result in more nourishment for millions of children but will also serve to promote economic rapprochement between the two countries.

We do not, however, shut our eyes to the fact that elements exist – and not only among the Russian émigrés, – who associate the Hoover organisation with counter-revolutionary projects. For them it is not a matter of openly proposing or ‘dictating’ conditions to the Soviet Government, but of intruding themselves into Russia’s internal life, forming an apparatus under the guise of reliefwork, and using this apparatus to carry out a counter-revolutionary coup. There is no reason to regard such plans as being out of the question. Some precedents exist in this connection. None other than the organiser of relief on Hoover’s behalf in Hungary, a certain Captain Gregory, provides us with an interesting example and an instructive warning. This gentleman told, in the American periodical The World’s Work [15], of his very intimate, all but leading role in the overthrow of the Soviet Government in Hungary. In pursuit of this aim, Mr Hoover’s representative established close relations with certain traitors inside the Hungarian Government itself and then, with the blessing of the British military mission and the diplomatic representatives of Italy, got down to his work, which had the effect of establishing in Hungary the rule of Admiral Horthy’s band of arch-criminals. According to Gregory, Hoover instructed him to keep out of politics. However, as we see, Gregory did not take this instruction seriously. It may turn out, comrades, that among Mr Hoover’s plenipotentiaries in Russia, too, there will be found persons who decide that the instruction they receive to refrain from meddling in Russian politics is not to be understood literally, and who will be tempted to follow the example set by Captain Gregory – especially as the relief organisation may be penetrated by actual Russian White Guards who decide that it is worth shaving themselves in the American manner, and putting American shoes on their feet, in order to secure complete immunity for their conspiratorial work. These gentry are miscalculating. We shall hold close to the spirit and the letter of our agreement with Hoover, and take all necessary measures to enable the American organisation to carry out its philanthropic work unhindered, without any meddling in politics. We have no doubt, comrades, that all local Soviet organs will, in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the agreement, show real vigilance and exercise serious political supervision in the localities, so as to exclude the very possibility of adventurers and rogues utilising the peasants’ hunger to attempts a counter-revolutionary coup in Russia.

7. France and Plans for Intervention

Perhaps France will venture to link the question of relief with the question of political conditions? This is not likely. So far as we know, France’s principal condition is our payment of debts, but this condition is not so much political as usurious. True, French semi-official spokesmen and French ministers permit themselves from time to time to pronounce sweeping judgements about Russia, condescendingly slapping the Russian people on the back while counterposing it to the Soviet Government, and so on and so forth. But this sort of banal chatter, which plays a big role in French political life generally, possesses no political content whatsoever. The Russian people, as this people lives, works, suffers, starves, fights and hopes, is now represented by its Soviet power, and for the French Government there is no road to the Russian people except through the Soviet power, nor will there be. Realisation that this is so is penetrating even the French bourgeoisie. A whole series of organs and politicians are calling for the restoration of relations with Russia. But the wavering in ruling circles is still very substantial, and seemingly renders it possible that decisions may be taken either this way or that.

The not unknown Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who most often acts as a diplomatic courier for France, Mr Take Jonescu, declared, according to some Romanian papers, on August 10, at a meeting of the Romanian Council of Ministers, that ‘there can be no question of aid from France to the famine victims in Russia, because France is only awaiting the right moment to attack Russia and restore the bourgeois order’. This report does not seem to us altogether without foundation. I said at the outset that the marked and perhaps decisive shift towards economic rapprochement with Soviet Russia is complemented by a revival of plans for armed intervention. Most of the time, these two tendencies conflict sharply with each other. But they may also coexist. It is not impossible, for instance, that the French Government, having realised that it must finally reject the barbed-wire-fence policy of Monsieur Clemenceau, which has become mere window-dressing, like a lot else in the legacy of that politician, may be tempted simultaneously to try and test, for one last time, the soundness of the Soviet Government. What if it is the fact that, as Wrangel, Krivoshein, Milyukov, Kerensky and Martov all affirm, the Soviet Government is on the brink of collapse? What if it is only necessary to show political self-control for just one quarter of an hour more? And what if one were to try and shorten that historical quarter of an hour by means of a new intervention? In the past, intervention was not a success, but perhaps this time it might be? And if it should miscarry this time as well, then one could at last sit down at a green-baize-covered table and haggle over debts and interest-payments. Such moods are quite possible in France. Furthermore, they are highly probable.

8. The Holy Trinity of French Philanthropists

Indeed, it is enough to take a look at the personages whom France has appointed to participate in the international commission for aid to the famine-victims in Russia. You know that this commission has been, or is being, set up by decision of the Supreme Council. Its purpose is extremely vague. Its task is, apparently, to look into the conditions for forming a committee to study the question of the best ways and means for possible aid to Russia’s famine-victims. And to serve on this highly preliminary committee France has nominated three persons: General Pau [16], who is much better known as an ardent monarchist than as a military commander, and who was closely connected with Tsarist Court circles; the former manufacturer Giraud [17], who made a fortune in Moscow out of pitiless exploitation of men and women workers; and, finally, France’s last ambassador to Russia, Monsieur Noulens. The latter’s candidature is particularly symbolic. Noulens was the inspirer and banker of the Yaroslavl revolt organised by Savinkov in 1918. Noulens was at the centre of a conspiracy the aim of which was to destroy all the railway lines round Petrograd, so as thereby, through starving the city, to bring about a coup d’etat. Thus, Noulens is a qualified specialist in matters of famine. He regarded famine as his ally already in 1918. He himself tried, by exploding dynamite, to doom the women and children of Petrograd to starvation – in the highest interests of civilisation and humanity. Who but Noulens should now represent the France of the stock-exchange in its disinterested, ardent impulse to bring aid to the starving muzhiks of Kazan and Samara? In 1918 the name of Noulens was one of the best-known names in Russia. It has now, perhaps, faded somewhat in the memory of Russia’s workers and peasants. Your task, comrades, is to restore this name in all its brilliance in the memory of the working people.

Hungry children of Petrograd, peasants and peasant women of the Volga region, hear the good tidings: the France of the stock exchange is sending Noulens to help you.

9. Poland and Intervention

But Noulens’ malevolence is not enough. In order to test for the very last time the stability of the Soviet Government, armed intervention is needed, and for that one has to have an army. To use French troops for this purpose, as in the days of the occupation of Odessa, is now out of the question. One way alone remains – to act through the vassal states of the Little Entente.

Not so long ago, France’s principal weapon against Soviet Russia was Poland. But today the situation has altered. Poland did not come easily to the peace treaty of Riga. You will recall how we frequently but vainly offered peace talks, before the Polish Government, under French pressure, carried matters to the point of a major war. As a result of fighting that was severe, exhausting and ruinous for both sides, Poland obtained peace – a peace settlement which, though less favourable than what we had offered her before the war, was, all the same, essentially favourable to her. There are no grounds for fearing that, alter this hard historical lesson, the rulers of Poland will agree, at France’s demand, to start military operations against Russia a second time.

Poland’s internal economic and political situation is far from being such as to facilitate extensive military schemes. One of the Polish newspapers, Kurjer Poranny, writes as follows: ‘A state in which the railways have stopped running, in whose capital the water supply and the city hospitals are serviced with the help of soldiers, in which the workers and office staffs are quarrelling with the Government, the exhausted treasury is helpless, speculation and exploitation are raging all around, and the different parties are savagely fighting for power’, a state in such a condition as this cannot, obviously, place its army at the disposal of those heirs of Clemenceau who, before entering into negotiations, would like once more to put down a gambler’s stake on the battlefield, in the form of another nation’s blood.

It appears that commercial and industrial circles in Poland are resolutely opposing the fantasies of the petty-bourgeois chauvinists. And that is understandable. Europe’s markets are inaccessible to Poland. Closest of all to her is the old familiar Russian market. Polish capital hopes to work not only on its own account but also as middleman for European capital. There is nothing impracticable in that calculation. Poland’s geographical position facilitates it. But the first condition for realising this scheme is that peaceful relations be maintained with Soviet Russia. As for ourselves, there is no need to say, at a meeting of the Moscow Soviet, that, despite the White-Guard lies, we do not even contemplate resuming war with Poland. The best proof of our peaceful intentions is our progressive reduction in the numbers of the Red Army. This fact is excellently well known at Polish Army Headquarters, just as at other such Headquarters.

10. Relations with Romania

The position is considerably different where Romania is concerned. Here I must recall, if only in rapid outline, the history of our relations with Romania, since in this quickly-passing epoch of ours even important events soon fade from memory. During the imperialist war Romania was an ally of Tsarist Russia and shared a front with her against Austria-Hungary and Germany. These relations survived the revolution of March 1917. But they were sharply disrupted after the November revolution and the establishment of Soviet power. The Romanian Government exploited the advantages provided for it by the existence of a common war-front, invaded Bessarabia, and established there its de facto dictatorship.

On February 21, 1918 the Italian diplomatic representative Fasciotti made the following declaration to the Soviet Government, on behalf of all the Allied representatives with the Government of Romania: ‘Where Bessarabia is concerned, the appearance of Romanian troops there is a military operation without any political character, and which has been undertaken with the full agreement of the Allies, with the clearly humanitarian aim of ensuring food supplies for the Russian and Romanian soldiers and also the civil population.’

Serious armed clashes took place, however, between the Soviet and the Romanian troops, and, as a result, on March 5, 1918, the Romanian Government signed an agreement with Russia, by the first article of which Romania undertook to withdraw from Bessarabia within two months.

I recall this not in the least because I consider the Bessarabian question to be on today’s agenda. But it is perfectly obvious that these facts cast a bright light on the strange, misplaced and utterly monstrous statements made by some responsible Romanian statesmen to the effect that ‘good-neighbourly relations’ have never ceased to prevail between Romania, Russia and the Ukraine. If we interpret good-neighbourly relations as widely as that, the difference between war and peace does indeed disappear, and peace talks are deprived of any significance. It is not for nothing that the Romanian Government has so persistently evaded peace talks for at least eighteen months. I shall not recall here all the episodes of these peaceful and good-neighbourly relations, such as the murder by the Romanian military authorities of Comrade Roshal [18], or the attack by Romania on our ally, Soviet Hungary.

Since the beginning of 1920 the Soviet Government has made ceaseless efforts to bring about peace negotiations with Romania – above all, so as to create conditions of security and stability on that frontier. In the last few days, comrades, I have been rereading the notes and other documents covering relations between Moscow and Kharkov [19], on the one hand, and Bucharest, on the other, since the beginning of last year, that is, since the time, after the liberation of the Ukraine, when the Soviet federation came into direct contact with the territory over which the Romanian Government has extended its defacto authority. When brought together, the notes by Chicherin and Rakovsky make a tremendous impression. An unbroken series of appeals to Mr Take Jonescu, to Vaida-Voevod, again to Take Jonescu, then to Mr Averescu – all with one and the same proposal, to discuss the question of establishing peaceful relations between Romania and the Soviet Federation.

On the other hand, the Romanian Government’s replies, when assembled, strike one with their evasiveness and contradictoriness. First, Bucharest agrees, and proposes that the place for negotiations be agreed upon. Then, through absent-mindedness and forgetfulness, the Romanian Government unilaterally designates, as the place for the negotiations, Warsaw – that is, the capital of a state with which we were at that time engaged in open war. When our diplomats, with their characteristic calm persistence, explained, in a popular and circumstantial manner, the misunderstanding that had occurred, Bucharest remained silent. To explain its actual refusal to engage in peace talks it began to refer to the forthcoming conference in London, and at the same time informed the Romanian public through the press, that the Soviet Government had returned no reply to the note regarding the location for the peace talks. Our diplomats calmly and persistently exposed this fresh ‘misunderstanding’, as well. It might seem that one could go no further in avoiding a direct answer. All that was left was to name the place where negotiations could begin. But at this point the Romanian Government resorted to a new and unexpected course: it demanded that the allied Soviet Governments tell it beforehand, that is, before the talks began, what, precisely, the negotiations were to deal with. For the Romanian Government, you see, has always lived on friendly terms with the Soviet Republics and therefore sees no reason for any peace talks. One cannot improve on that for diplomatic tightrope-walking.

But, meanwhile, the absence of regularised relations affects everything – the frontier guards, with their constant skirmishes, navigation in the Dnieper estuary, fishing in the Dniester itself.

11. The Danger of a New Adventure

Having evaded negotiations, deluded Romanian public opinion and created artificial misunderstandings and obstacles to negotiation, the Romanian Government, fearful of the dangerously undefined situation it has itself created on the Dniester, is providing itself with additional safeguards in the form of the Petlyurist bands. For their part, the French interventionists, groping for the line of least resistance, are bringing all kinds of pressure on Romania to prevent negotiations with us. When Take Jonescu says that France is only waiting for the right moment to attack Soviet Russia, that is quite false, if what is expected is that France herself is going to launch an attack. But it is quite true in the sense that very influential circles in France are doing everything in their power to urge Romania to attack us, so as to see what will come of that.

It is not, of course a question of the opening of military operations by Romania’s regular army. No. A more modest begining is proposed. Operations are to be opened by the Petlyurist bands which have been concentrated in Bessarabia for that purpose. Romanian regular units will remain in the background, to back up the Petlyurists and bide their time.

The note of August 13 from Rakovsky and Chicherin was devoted to this plan. This note does not tell everything: almost nine-tenths of the information in our possession cannot be communicated for reasons of military secrecy. But even that one-tenth of this information which was made public in the note is more than sufficient to describe the actual state of affairs on our South-Western frontier. It is indeed not a question of diplomatic quibbling, or of verbal tightrope-walking and playing with the concept of ‘good-neighbourly relations’. It is not even a question of the history of our relations with Romania, not even of the most recent phase of these relations. It is a question of today and tomorrow.

In Romania, Bukovina and Bessarabia preparations are still going forward for hostile acts against the Soviet Republics. At Bendery a plenipotentiary of the Petlyurist rebel bands is with the Romanian army staff. The principal Ukrainian military representative with the Romanian Government is a certain Gulyay-Gulenko, who is well in with all the Romanian army staff and feels at home with them. The task of the bands being formed and supplied in Bessarabia is to seize Kamenets-Podolsk and Mogilev uyezds, as bases for subsequent military operations. Their immediate task is to disrupt food-procurement work in Right-bank Ukraine. Chicherin and Rakovsky demand in their note, in the name of the Soviet Federation, that an end be put to this activity.

Mr Take Jonescu replied, in the style with which we are already familiar, that when the note from Chicherin and Rakovsky was laid before the Romanian Council of Ministers, it caused the greatest amazement: there, you see, nothing is known about any such facts. They do not know. But we know! We know, very distinctly, about the people, the organisation, the staff, the communications, the arms, the money, and where the money comes from. And when Mr Take Jonescu tells us that he does not know about this, we can only advise him to make more thorough inquiries at Romanian army headquarters, starting at Bendery and ending in Bucharest. There they know, because there they act.

In reporting on this to the Moscow Soviet, as I reported on it to the Government, I ask you to give your closest attention to this alarming question. I do not in the least wish to be understood as saying that we are threatened with inevitable war with Romania. So far as I understand the situation, there can be no question of such inevitability. But, through the pressure of the French interventionists and the logic of its own lying policy, Romania may go a lot farther than it would itself wish to go. It is beginning with a little thing. It is grouping Petlyura’s bands along our frontier, establishing an administration and communications for them – that is, continuing to perform actions that were customary amid the bloody chaos of recent years. But we want, on the South-Western frontier of our federation, calm and stability, and not the continuation of bloody chaos. Again I say: what is involved here is not settling accounts for the past, but ensuring security for the future. If Take Jonescu speaks of the amazement of his Government, which knows nothing of the dangers that threaten the future, we can draw only one conclusion from that: alongside the official Government, which carries on negotiations, expresses amazement and ‘doesn’t know’, there is another one, an unofficial one, which knows and acts!

What would the realisation of this plan mean? Right-bank Ukraine is today the most abundant part of the Soviet Federation. They have reaped a splendid harvest there, which can and must alleviate the famine in the Volga region. If into Right-bank Ukraine were to advance the Pelyurist bands of which Take Jonescu knows nothing, that would mean that Right-bank Ukraine would become the theatre of the most exhausting kind of war – war between regular forces and guerrilla bands. It would mean that the dreadful roller of civil war would again pass over the villages, barns and cornfields of the Ukrainian peasants of the Right bank. It would mean that the Petlyurist bands armed at Romania’s expense, of which Take Jonescu knows nothing, would destroy in the Ukraine between five and ten times as much grain as the combined philanthropy of the whole bourgeois world is going to give us. And here, comrades, in the name of this authoritative organ of local Soviet power, as in the name of the workers and peasants of all Russia, we say to the Government of Britain, to the Government of France and to all the governments of the Entente: ‘You talk of helping us. You are preparing to investigate the needs of the Volga peasants: investigate first what is going on in our border territory of Bessarabia and in Romania. Are there not bandits and incendiaries there, whose activities may cause a conflagration in Right-bank Ukraine which would have most grievous consequences for the starving peasants of the Volga region?’

We do not expect, comrades, to receive an immediate reply from the Entente, but we are willing and shall be prepared to safeguard our frontier and our possessions with our own forces. However burdensome it may be now, when we should prefer to devote all our strength and resources wholly to the task, first, of aiding the famine victims and, together with that, the fundamental task of reviving our economy as a whole – we cannot take our eyes off our south-western frontier. The fate of the Volga-region peasant and his children is being decided today not only on the Volga itself, to which we are sending and shall go on sending thousands of men and women workers to help on the spot – their fate is also being decided on those sectors of our frontier where world imperialism has still not renounced the idea of subjecting the Soviet power to one last trial of strength. After all the experience we have acquired, after all the calamities we have undergone, after nearly four years in which we have fought and conquered, we feel that we are firmly enough established to defend, without slackening our economic work, the inviolability of the Soviet Federation everywhere that anyone dares to threaten it, despite our sincere and frank readiness for peace with all our neighbours. We are prepared to crush, with the same strength and resolution as before, any attempt made within the country to utilise the new difficulties we are having to overcome, in order to bring about a counter-revolutionary coup. Comrades, it was not for this that we took power in November 1917, not for this that the working class made nameless and numberless sacrifices – not for us to stumble now and give up in the fight to overcome our new difficulties. No, our enemies’ calculations will prove false this time too.

We shall stand firm, we shall overcome, we shall conquer, we shall consolidate, we shall go forward!

Stenographic Reports of the Moscow Soviet, 1921, No.6


1. The Communist-led organisation called Workers’ International Relief (W.I.R., or for Russians Mezhrabpom) came into being in connection with the campaign for aid to the famine-stricken areas of Soviet Russia. It was wound up in 1935. – Brian Pearce

2. ‘European’ is presumably a mistake for ‘soviet’. – Brian Pearce

3. The Supreme Council of the Allies, formed after the end of the European war, was an organ of the victorious Great Powers which had the task of dealing with problems connected with the fulfilment of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. It was made up of representatives of Britain, France, Italy, the United States and Japan. The Supreme Council has now been transformed into the Conference of Ambassadors of the Allied Powers.

4. The Quakers are a religious sect which began in England in the 17th century. – Brian Pearce

5. In October 1920 the Lithuanian capital, Vilna, had been seized for Poland in an ‘unauthorised’ operation by General Zeligowski. This caused an international scandal, and (fruitless) attempts were made by the League of Nations to get Poland to give up her conquest.

6. The All-Russia Committee for Aid to the Victims of Famine (the Committee of Public Personages) was formed on July 21, 1921. It included Kishkin, Prokopovich, Kuskova and other public figures. This committee was dissolved at the end of August. The Government communiqué about the dissolution of the Committee said that counter-revolutionary émigrés circles aimed to utilise the Committee for struggle against the Soviet power. Wishing to safeguard the Committee’s practical work, the Government proposed that an intended journey abroad by delegates of the Committee be postponed. The Committee insisted on carrying out its decision to send a delegation abroad, and declared that, in the event of refusal, it would have to cease its activity – after which it was dissolved.

7. V.I. Burtsev (1862-1942) became famous before the Revolution as an ‘investigative journalist’ in the service of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. It was he who exposed the Tsarist police provocateurs in the revolutionary movement, Azef and Malinovsky. – Brian Pearce

[8] P.E. Shchetinkin led the Red Army’s expedition into Mongolia to help the revolutionary forces there, whose opponents included Ungern’s White Guards then using Mongol territory as a base for raids into Siberia. – Brian Pearce

[9] Baron Ungern von Sternberg was one of the last of the leaders of White-Guard-officer banditry in the East. With help from Ataman Semyonov and Chinese and Mongol monarchists an army of between four and five thousand sabres was organised in order to conquer Mongolia. In May 1921 Ungern occupied Urga [10] and launched an offensive against the territory of the Far-Eastern Republic. At the end of May 1921 forces of the Mongolian Revolutionary Army began a resolute offensive and on August 8, after his forces had been defeated, Ungern, with a small number of ‘bodyguards’, tried to flee into Western Mongolia. At the end of August he was captured by units of the Revolutionary People’s Army of Mongolia (see map No.2). On September 15, 1921 a public trial of Ungern was held and he was sentenced to the maximum penalty and was shot.

10. Urga is now called Ulan Bator Khoto. – Brian Pearce

11. Trotsky doubtless specifies ‘Russia’s internal regime’ because the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement of 1921 was accompanied by British insistence that Soviet Russia cease supporting revolutionary activity in India. See R.H. Uliman, A History of Anglo-Soviet Relations, 1917-1921, Vol.3, The Anglo-Soviet Accord (1972), pp.479-482. – Brian Pearce

12. One of the factors which caused the Conservative revolt that put an end to Lloyd George’s coalition government in October 1922 was his relative readiness to seek agreement with Soviet Russia. The purely Conservative Government which succeeded him – headed first by Bonar Law, then by Baldwin – took a harder line, expressed in the Curzon Note of May 1923.

13. Senator France, of Maryland, after a four-weeks visit to Russia, assured the Press on his arrival in Riga, that Russia was ‘reverting to capitalism’. – Brian Pearce

14. Hoover, the American minister of trade and industry, offered the help of his organisation for relieving the famine victims. Negotiations with the American Relief Administration (ARA) ended on August 20, 1921 with the signing at Riga of an agreement for the provision of relief.

15. T.T.C. Gregory’s account of his activity as Hoover’s representative in Central Europe appeared, under the title: Stemming the Red Tide, in the New York monthly The World’s Work in April, May and June 1921. He described how he got Bela Kun’s representative in Vienna to pay him large sums for food supplies while at the same time he was secretly informing dissident members of Kun’s government that Hungary would receive nothing until Kun was overthrown. A coup d’etat took place, and then ‘supply trains began to roll into Hungary.’

16. General Pau (1848-1932) headed the French military mission in Russia during the World War, until 1916, when he was replaced by General Janin. – Brian Pearce

17. Paul Giraud was a big textile manufacturer in Moscow before the Revolution. Pierre Pascal says, in Mon Journal de Russie, that Giraud told him how he bribed the police to avoid prosecution because he was polluting a river with the dyes from his factory, and also mentions Giraud’s notoriety as a gambler who lost 700,000 francs in one night. – Brian Pearce

18. S.G. Roshal was sent by the Soviet Government in November 1917, as commissar for the Romanian front, to Jassy, to negotiate with General Shcherbachev, commanding the Russian forces on that sector. He was arrested and shot on the orders of the local Romanian military governor. – Brian Pearce

19. The capital of the Soviet Ukraine at this time was Kharkov. It was not moved to Kiev, the country’s traditional capital, until 1934. – Brian Pearce

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Last updated on: 29.12.2006