Leon Trotsky

Between Red and White

Strict Neutrality

Kautsky, Vandervelde, Henderson, in a word, the international Mrs. Snowdens, are categorically denying the collaboration of Menshevik Georgia with the Russian and foreign counter-revolution. And yet this is the crux of the question. At the time of the fierce conflict of Soviet Russia with the White Guard forces supported by foreign imperialism, democratic Georgia, we are asked to believe, remained neutral. Not just ordinarily neutral, writes the pious Kautsky, but ‘strictly neutral’. It would be permissible to have one’s doubts about this, even if one were not acquainted with the facts. But we are acquainted with the facts. We know not only that the Georgian Mensheviks participated in all the intrigues against the Soviet Republic, but also that independent Georgia was established to serve as a weapon in the imperialist and civil wars against the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic. This was already made clear in the previous statement. But the benighted Kautsky does not wish to hear anything about it. Mrs. Snowden is indignant, and MacDonald indignantly repudiates the ‘stupid accusations’. He actually wrote ‘stupid accusations’, because he was so very angry. And MacDonald, though not a Brutus, is yet an ‘honourable man’. However, there are facts, documents, and minutes which are more to be believed than so-called honourable people.

On September 25, 1918, an official conference was held, consisting of the representatives of the Georgian Republic, of the Kuban government, and of the Volunteer Army. The latter was represented by the Generals Alexeev, Denikin, Romanovsky, Dragomirov, Lukomsky, the well-known monarchist Shulghin, and others. These names speak for themselves. General Alexeev opened the proceedings by saying: ‘On behalf of the Volunteer Army and the Kuban government, I welcome the representatives of friendly Georgia in the persons of E. P. Gegechkori and General B. I. Mazniev.’

There were some misunderstandings between these friendly parties, the chief of which was the reference to the Sochinsk area. In clearing up the misunderstandings, Gegechkori said: ‘Was it not Georgia which, during the persecution of the officers in Russia, became a refuge for all of them? We received them all, and from our scanty means we paid their salaries, we fed them, and we did every-thing possible under the existing circumstances in order to help them ...’ These words alone might raise certain doubts about the ‘neutrality’ of Georgia in the war of the workers with the Tsarist Generals. But Gegechkori himself has hastened to dispel any doubt on this matter: ‘I consider it my duty,’ he went on saying to Alexeev, Denikin and others, ‘to say that one must not forget the service we have rendered you in the struggle with Bolshevism, and also that you must take this support into account.’ These words of Gegechkori, the Foreign Secretary of democratic Georgia, and one of the leaders of the Menshevik party, speak for themselves. Or it may be that Mr. MacDonald requires further proofs. If so, they were provided by another representative of Georgia, Mazniev, who there and then added: ‘The officers are continually joining you (Alexeev and Denikin) from Tbilisi, and I am helping them in their transit to the best of my ability. General Lyakhov can bear this out. We are providing them with money and food on the way, etc., and all this without any remuneration. In compliance with your request, I have collected all the officers in Sochi, Gagri and Sukhumi, and I have called upon them to join your ranks.’

Kautsky has vouched for the strictest neutrality, MacDonald has termed our enumeration of the services rendered by the Mensheviks to the Whites in their struggle with the Bolsheviks, ‘stupid accusations.’ But we must, nevertheless, say that the honourable gentleman is premature in his scoldings, for our accusations are borne out by facts. These facts give the lie to MacDonald, for they are proof that it is we who spoke the truth, and not the international Mrs. Snowdens.

But this is not all. In their endeavours to prove that, by temporarily handing over the Sochinsk area to Georgia, the Whites were not losing anything, as their chief task consisted in moving northwards against the Bolsheviks, Gegechkori said: ‘If, as I have no doubt, a new Russia will be re-constituted in the future, we shall be faced perhaps not only with the restoration of the Sochinsk district, but even with more important questions, and you must take this into account.’ This statement discloses the real meaning of Georgian independence: it is not ‘national self-determination,’ but a strategical move m the struggle with Bolshevism. When Alexeev and Denikin have reconstructed the ‘New Russia’ – and Gegechkori ‘has no doubt’ they will – the Georgian Mensheviks will be faced with the question of restoring not only the Sochinsk area, but the whole of Georgia to the Russian Empire. Such is the nature of this ‘strict neutrality.’

But, as if afraid that some dense brains should still have any doubts left, Gegechkori added in conclusion: ‘As far as our relations with the Bolsheviks are concerned, I may state that the struggle with Bolshevism within our frontiers is relentless. We are using every means possible to stamp out Bolshevism, as an anti-State movement which is threatening the integrity of our republic, and I believe that, in this respect, we have already given many proofs, which speak for themselves.’ Surely these words do not require any comment!

But how could such intimate conversations have become known? They were put down in the minutes and published.

Perhaps these minutes are forgeries? No, they were published by the Georgian Government itself, as a blue book entitled Documents and Materials on the Foreign Policy of Trans-Caucasia and Georgia (Tbilisi 1919). The minutes from which we have quoted appear on pages 391-414. As Gegechkori was himself Foreign Minister, it was he who published his conversations with Alexeev and Denikin. To do justice to Gegechkori, he could not then foresee that Kautsky and MacDonald would have to swear by the honour of the Second International to the neutrality of Menshevik Georgia. In this case, as in many others, the position of the honourable members of the Second International would have been less difficult if shorthand and printing did not exist.

In order that the political meaning of Gegechkori’s statements in his conversation with Denikin should be quite clear to us, we must bear in mind the military and political situation of Soviet Russia in September, 1918. A study of the map will repay the reader for his trouble. Our western frontier ran between Pskov and Novgorod. Pskov, Minsk and Moghilev were in the hands of Prince Leopold of Bavaria, and at that time German Princes were somebodies. And the Germans, who had been called in to protect democracy from the Bolsheviks, occupied the whole of the Ukraine. The army of General von Kirbach was trampling Odessa and Sebastopol underfoot, while its head was pressing on Kursk and Voronezh. The Don Cossacks were threatening Voronezh from the south-east. In their rear, on the Kuban, the army of Alexeev and Denikin was gathering. The Turks and Germans were in possession of the Caucasus. Soviet Astrakhan was in a precarious position towards the north, the Volga was cut in two places: by the Cossacks near Tsaritsin, and by the Czechoslovaks near Samara. The entire southern half of the Caspian Sea was already in the hands of the Whites, under the command of British naval officers. The northern half was taken away from us in the following year. In the east we were conducting a war with the Czechoslovaks and with the Whites, who had occupied part of the Volga region, the Urals and Siberia. The Entente had established itself in the north, and Archangel and the entire coast of the White Sea was in its hands. The northern section of the Murmansk railway had been seized by the Anglo-French forces. Mannerheim’s Finland was a perpetual threat to Petrograd, which was surrounded by the enemy on three sides. Under these enormous difficulties our army was only in the process of formation.

Under such circumstances the official representatives of Menshevik Georgia were reporting to the organizers of the Volunteer Army that Georgia was protecting the White officers from Bolshevik persecution, was keeping them free of charge, was recruiting volunteers from among them whom they were despatching to Alexeev and Denikin. Moreover, it was also stated that Georgia was carrying on a ‘relentless’ struggle against Bolshevism, crushing it ‘with all the means at its disposal’.

Gegechkori was not boasting, and was not exaggerating his services to the counter-revolution. He and his friends had really done everything they could. They could not, of course, be expected to put considerable armed forces at the disposal of the Whites, as they had themselves to make use of German troops in their struggle with ‘internal anarchy.’ Their resources were less than their goodwill towards the counter-revolution. Nevertheless, they rendered relatively enormous service to the White Guard military organizations.

The equipment and stores of the Caucasian Army in Georgia, which were worth many millions, were seized by the Mensheviks, and were to a great extent used in supporting the Whites – the Don, Kuban, and Ter Cossacks, the Czech officers, the detachments of Heimann and Filimonov, the Volunteer Army of Alexeev and Denikin, etc. This aid was all the more valuable at that moment for the bourgeois-landlord detachments in the Caucasus, as the latter were hardly receiving anything from outside.

As the co-operation of Menshevik Georgia with the counter-revolutionaries of every kind was carried on from day to day, and as no regular record was kept of it, it would be very difficult now to write a connected account of this co-operation, all the more so as the Mensheviks have removed the most valuable archives abroad. But even the casual and disconnected documents, which have remained in the Tbilisi offices are sufficient to remove even the shadow of a doubt from the minds of the most ignorant of special pleaders concerning the so-called neutrality of Georgia. The negotiations and military co-operation with the organizers of the Volunteer Army began as early as June, 1918, if not from the first day of Georgian independence. Some of the purely military operations (for instance, the move towards the Govorishchensk Cossack settlement), were undertaken by Georgia at the request of the Kuban government, which was acting in conjunction with the ‘Volunteers.’ General Heimann, who was marching against the Bolsheviks from the Daghestan Cossack settlement, received from the already mentioned Georgian General Mazniev 600 rifles, two machine guns and ammunition. In Tuapse General Maslovsky, who, together with Heimann, was in the service of Alexeev, and operating in conjunction with the Menshevik army command, received an armoured train from Georgia. Gegechkori had these facts too in his mind when he reminded Alexeev and Denikin of the aid rendered by Georgia.

In October, 1918, i.e., soon after the Gegechkori-Denikin consultation previously mentioned, the Georgian government delivered to the Don government, which was then at war with the Soviet government, a considerable quantity of stores. [1] On November 3, 1918 the Georgian General Mazniev reported to his government that he was fighting against the Bolsheviks in conjunction with the Cossacks of the Volunteer Army. ‘I have left the Cossacks in established positions, and I have taken the troops, entrusted to me, to the rest camp in Sochi, etc.’ On November 26, the Georgian government resolved to send to the representative of the Volunteer Army, Obyedov, the necessary quantity of medicines and bandages ‘and to co-operate in every way possible in this affair.’ This ‘affair’ was civil war against Soviet Russia. Of course bandages and medicines are very humane, very neutral objects, but it was rather unfortunate that the Georgian government had previously taken these humane objects away by force from the Caucasian troops ‘infected with Bolshevik anarchy,’ and subsequently gave them to the White Guards which were attacking Soviet Russia from the South.

All this is called ‘strict neutrality’ by Kautsky, but not by Zhordania. The latter wrote to the Chairman of the Imperial German Mission, on October 15,1918, that is, at the height of these events: ‘I have never looked on the international position of Georgia as on that of a neutral power, as self-evident facts prove to us the contrary.’ Precisely! This letter was also published by the same Zhordania in the blue book already mentioned, which was at the disposal of Kautsky when he wrote his pamphlet; but he preferred to be guided by apostolic inspirations. It is more than probable that Zhordania, who could not ignore self-evident facts in his conversations with General von Kress, was, nevertheless prepared, during his soul-saving conversations with Kautsky, to lead this venerable old gentleman by the nose. Especially so as Kautsky had brought to Tbilisi a nose which was particularly adapted to the purpose.

Georgia, in accordance with an agreement, put its railways at the disposal of Turkey for the transport of the latter’s troops to Azerbaijan. By this aid Soviet power in Baku, which had been established by the Baku workers who were almost entirely cut off from Russia, was overthrown. This was fraught with grave consequences for us. Instead of being the source of the oil supply of Russia, Baku became a stronghold of our enemies. It may be said, of course, that, having separated from Russia, the Georgian government was forced to co-operate with the Sultan’s Army against the Baku proletariat. But quite apart from all this, there remains the fact that Zhordania and other Georgian leaders had offered their congratulations to the reactionary-bourgeois Moslem (Musavat) Party, on the occasion of the taking of Baku by the Turkish troops. Thus, we see that Turkish militarism was quite in accordance with Menshevik policy, which fact was not concealed by the Mensheviks.

The revolution was not only temporarily deprived of Baku, but it also lost for ever many of its best sons. In September, 1918, almost at the very time when Gegechkori was negotiating with Denikin, 26 Bolsheviks, the leaders of the Baku proletariat, headed by Comrade Shaumyan, a member of the Central Committee of our Party, and by Alexei Japaridze, were shot at a lonely Trans-Caspian station.

You can get full information on this matter, Mr. Henderson, from your own General Thompson, the commander in this war of liberation: his agents acted as the executioners.

Thus, neither Shaumyan nor Japaridze were in a position to hear about the jubilations of Zhordania on the fail of Soviet Baku. But nevertheless, they took with them into the grave a burning hatred towards the Menshevik abettors of the executioners.

The manuscript of this book had been completed, when I received a new book by Vadim Chaikin, Socialist-Revolutionary and member of the Constituent Assembly, entitled: A Contribution to the History of the Russian Revolution: The Execution of 26 Baku Commissars, and published by Grzebin, Moscow. This book, consisting mostly of documents of which the more important ones are reproduced in facsimile, narrates the story of the murder of 26 Baku commissars by order of the British military authorities, without the least pretence of a public trial. The direct practical organizer of the massacre was the chief of the British Military Mission at Ashkhabad, Reginald Teague-Jones. General Thompson was cognisant of the whole case, and Teague-Jones, as the evidence shows, acted with the consent of the gallant general. After the consummation of the slaying of 26 unarmed men at a remote station, where they had been taken under the pretence of exiling them to India, General Thompson aided the escape of one of the leading perpetrators of the crime, the hired scoundrel Druzhkin. The appeals of Vadim Chaikin, by no means a Bolshevik, but a Socialist-Revolutionary and a member of the Constituent Assembly, to the British General Malcolm and to the British General Milne were left unheeded. On the contrary, all these gentlemen demonstrated their solidarity in aiding and abetting the crime and the criminals and in the fabrication of false statements.

This book shows by documentary evidence that Gegechkori, the Georgian Minister for the Interior, at the insistence of Chaikin, promised to prevent the escape of the criminal scoundrel Druzkhin from Georgia. Yet, in collusion with the British General Thompson, he gave Druzhkin every facility to escape from trial and justice. While the committees of Russian and Georgian Socialist-Revolutionaries and of the Russian Trans-Caspian Mensheviks, after an investigation of all the facts of the case, signed a declaration testifying to the criminal manner in which the British military authorities had acted, the committee of the Georgian Mensheviks, although in common with the other committees arriving at the same conclusion, refused to sign the document for fear of displeasing the British authorities. The telegraph officer of the Menshevik Georgian government refused to accept for transmission the telegrams of Vadim Chaikin which exposed the murderous activities of the British authorities. If nothing more were known about the Georgian Mensheviks except what is established by indisputable and irrefutable documents in Chaikin’s book, it would be quite sufficient to imprint for all time the brand of shame and dishonour upon these gentlemen, upon their ‘democracy’, their protectors and apologists.

We do not entertain the least hope that after the direct, exact and irrefutable evidence furnished by Chaikin’s book, either Mr. Henderson, or Mr. MacDonald, or Mr. J.R. Clynes, Mr. Jimmy Sexton, or Mr William Adamson, Mr. John Hodge, Mr. Frank Rose, Mr. C.W. Bowerman, Mr. Robert Young or Mr. Benjamin Spoor will – as Labour MPs – deem it now their duty to investigate the case frankly and honestly and make these representatives of Great Britain, who in Trans-Caucasia were so gloriously defending democracy, civilization, justice, religion and morality against Bolshevik barbarism, answerable for their conduct.

* * *

The international Mrs. Snowdens have repudiated the co-operation of the Georgian Mensheviks with the counter-revolutionary organizations and armies, basing this on the two following circumstances. First that the Mensheviks themselves complained to the British socialists about the Entente, which had, so to speak, forced them to support the counter-revolution; secondly, that there was friction between Georgia and the Whites, which at that time assumed the character of armed conflicts.

The British General Walker shook his fist in the face of the premier Zhordania, and threatened to close down immediately the central Menshevik organ, if it dared to publish a paragraph which might give umbrage to the Entente. A British lieutenant violently struck the table of the Georgian Attorney-General with his sword and demanded the immediate release of all those arrested people whom he, lieutenant by the grace of God, designated. Generally speaking, the British military authorities, according to the documents, conducted themselves even more insolently than the German. Of course, in such cases, Zhordania most respectfully mentioned Georgia’s semi-independence, and complained to MacDonald about the violation of Georgia’s semi-neutrality. This was necessitated by ordinary caution. When Denikin was robbing Georgia of the Sukhumi area, the Mensheviks complained about Denikin to General Walker. Now they complained about General Walker to Henderson – in both instances with the same success.

If these complaints and frictions had not occurred it would have simply meant that the Mensheviks did not differ in the least from Denikin. But this would be as erroneous as to say that Henderson did not differ in the least from Churchill. The range of petty bourgeois vacillations during the revolutionary period extends from supporting the proletariat to a formal union with the landlord’s counterrevolution. The less the petty bourgeois politicians are independent, the louder they talk of their complete independence and of their absolute neutrality. From this viewpoint it is very difficult to follow the history of the Mensheviks and the Right and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in the course of the revolution. They have never been neutral or independent. Their ‘neutrality’ has always been a critical point in the movement from the right to the left, or from the left to the right. In supporting the Bolsheviks (as did the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and the anarchists), or in supporting the Tsarist generals (as did the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks), the petty-bourgeois parties frequently took fright at the decisive moment of the impending victory of their ally, and even more frequently deserted him in the moment of his greatest peril. One must certainly admit that if, during the revolutionary period, the petty bourgeois parties bear their share of all the drawbacks of defeat, they seldom benefit by the advantages of victory. After having consolidated its power with the help of ‘democracy’, the monarchist counter-revolution in the East (in the person of Kolchak), in the North and West (in the person of Yudenich, Miller and the British generals), and in the South (in the person of Denikin) always treated its aiders and abetters with the utmost arrogance and severity.

After all, the European social democrats have received a lesson in this respect, in the shape of more kicks than tips, not perhaps in the period of revolution, but during the period of war. The social patriots, who had been helping their respective bourgeoisie in the latter’s most difficult moments during the war, had been reckoning, if not on the participation of the proletariat in the fruits of victory, at least on the enhanced influence of socialism and of themselves on the fate of their respective countries. They were mistaken.

Swindled, Henderson, Sembat and others denounced their bourgeoisie, threatened it, and complained about it to the International. But this does not mean that they did not serve it. They served – and brought forward certain demands of their own. They served, but were cheated, and then they complained. No one says that they were simply hired servants. No, they were petty bourgeois opportunists, i.e., they were political, ambitious, verbose servants, who were always vacillating, always unreliable – but servants to the marrow of their bones.

* * *

Having adopted, as previously stated, the methods of the French academicians, Kautsky did not ask for any explanations or causes, neither was he astonished at any contradictions and incongruities. If Georgia severed herself from revolutionary Russia, the Bolsheviks were to blame. If Georgia called in the German troops, it was because the latter were better than the Turkish troops. The Hohenzollern armies entered Georgia ‘not as robbers and plunderers’ – stammered and lisped Kautsky – ‘but as organizers of its productive forces’. But even under the Hohenzollern armies, which were ‘enthusiastically greeted in the streets of Tbilisi’ (by whom?) Georgia retained all her democratic virtues. Thompson and Walker had also benefited Georgia. And after her charms had been enjoyed first by the German lieutenant (whom Georgia had herself invited), and subsequently by the British lieutenant, no one could have any doubt that at the time of the arrival of the delegation of the Second International, Georgia’s virtue was of the purest. Hence, Kautsky’s prophetic deduction: ‘Russia will be saved by the spirit of Menshevism, which is embodied in Menshevik Georgia’. (p.72).

The moment arrived for the ‘spirit of Menshevism’ to become articulate. Towards the end of 1918 (on December 27), a Party conference of the RSDLP (Mensheviks), took place in Moscow. At this conference a discussion took place on the policy of those sections of the party which had joined the White Guard governments, or had openly allied themselves with foreign imperialism. These discussions particularly centred round the Georgian Mensheviks. The official report of the Menshevik Executive Committee of this conference contained the following statement: ‘The party cannot tolerate, and does not intend to tolerate in its midst, the allies of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and of Anglo-American imperialism, regardless of the motives which prompted many of them to make such an alliance.’ In the resolution of the conference it was stated quite plainly: ‘The conference is convinced that the policy of the Georgian social democrats, who have been endeavouring to save the democratic form of government and the independence of Georgia by means of an orientation based on foreign help and on severance from Russia, has placed them in opposition to the tasks which the Party, as a whole, is pursuing.’

This enlightening episode throws light not only on the ability of Kautsky to judge properly the events of the revolution, but also on his conscientiousness in explaining them. Without even going for information to his friends the Mensheviks, and without taking the most elementary precautionary measures, Kautsky has presented the Zhordania-Tseretelli policy as the true Menshevik policy, which could therefore serve as a model for the international social-democrats. The official judgement of the policy by the ‘truly Menshevik’ Party, proclaimed through the mouths of Martov and Dan, was that the Zhordania-Tseretelli policy had a ‘disintegrating influence’ on the party, ‘the prestige of which it was lowering, nay destroying, in the eyes of the proletarian masses’. (See the above-mentioned publication of the Menshevik Central Committee, p.6). At a time when Kautsky was bestowing a Marxist blessing on the Georgian policy of ‘strict neutrality’, Martov and Dan were using very threatening language about this policy: ‘The party,’ they stated, ‘cannot, without becoming the laughing stock of the world, tolerate such political acts of its various sections, which, in open or secret alliance with its class enemies, are directed against the very essence of its revolutionary policy.’ (ibid. p.6).

This should be conclusive evidence. The dressing gown of the learned Kautsky has been caught tight in the two halves of the Menshevik door, and it looks as if he cannot extricate himself. But perhaps Kautsky will now make a rather belated appeal for help to Martov. If he does, help will be forthcoming. In order to lessen the shock which Kautsky has received at the hands of the Mensheviks, we ourselves may make some explanatory remarks. It was a very revolutionary period. The Bolsheviks were defeating Kolchak. Revolution had broken out in Germany and in Austria-Hungary. The Menshevik leaders had to throw overboard some of the most compromising cargoes, in order not to sink themselves. At the workers’ meetings in Moscow and Petrograd they indignantly repudiated all solidarity with the treacherous policy of Georgia. They threatened to expel Zhordania and others if they continued to make the party a ‘laughing stock’. It was a very critical period: Hilferding himself wanted to introduce Soviets into the Constitution, and this was certainly a proof that matters had reached a high pitch.

The official Mensheviks threatened to exclude the Georgians; but were they actually excluded? Most certainly not, and, what is more, there had never been any intention of excluding them. They would not be Mensheviks if they turned words into deeds. The entire international Menshevism is nothing but a conditional threat which is never carried out, a symbolic gesture which is never followed by a blow.

But this does not alter the fact that on the fundamental question of the policy of the Georgian Mensheviks, Kautsky has been shamefully deceiving his readers. This deception has been revealed by the Mensheviks themselves. Kautsky will find it impossible to extricate himself, for his dressing gown is too tightly caught.

And MacDonald? Oh! MacDonald ‘is an honourable man’. But he has one defect – he knows nothing about socialism, absolutely nothing!


1. The exact list of these considerable stores is based on original documents mentioned in I. Shaffier’s book Civil War in Russia and Menshevik Georgia, Moscow 1921, p.39.

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Last updated on: 3.1.2007