Leon Trotsky

Political Profiles

Rakovsky and Kolarov

(October 1915)

Christian RakovskyIN THE editorial offices of Berner Tagwacht I ran into an internationalists’ gathering absolutely unusual for these days.

Here were two Berlin editors, one activist from the women workers’ movement in Stuttgart, two French syndicalists – the secretary of the metalworkers’ union, Merrheim, and that of the coopers’ union, Bourderon – Doctor Rakovsky from Bucharest, one Pole and one Swiss. These were the first delegates to have arrived for the conference. Grimm was not there: he was completing a tour of agitation in his area and was to be back by the evening. Morgan was in London and telegrams were hourly expected from him about the departure of the British.

In the person of Rakovsky I met an old acquaintance. Crestiu Rakovsky is one of the most “international” figures in the European movement. A Bulgarian by origin but a Rumanian subject, a French doctor by education but a Russian intellectual in his contacts, sympathies and literary work (over the signature C. Insarov he published in Russian a series of periodical articles and a book on the Third Republic), Rakovsky has mastered all the Balkan languages and three European ones and has actively taken part in the internal life of four socialist parties: the Bulgarian, Russian, French and Rumanian and now he leads the last mentioned.

The policy of the young Rumanian socialist party at this stage of the war was known to be parallel to that of the Italian party. Defending neutrality the Rumanian socialists encountered heated praise and equally heated reproaches on the part of the French and Germans depending on which way the Bucharest government was leaning and at which tendency the socialist “neutralists” were aiming their blows at the given moment. Südekum turned up last autumn in Bucharest to “incite” the Rumanian socialists to resist intervention in the war on the side of the Entente. His assistance was, however, turned down. But on the other hand when the former deputy, Charles Dumas, the present head of the cabinet of Jules Guesde, in May this year approached his old friend Rakovsky with a letter expounding the official French viewpoint on the war, Rakovsky replied with an entire political pamphlet soft in tone but very firm in content too (Les socialistes et la guerre, Bucharest 1915). In this pamphlet he develops the idea that between the official tactics of the French and the German parties there exist no differences in principle but that within each of these national parties two irreconcilable concepts can be delineated: “We have before us not two tactics but two socialisms, that is the truth.”

“Will you go to war?”

“Ask a Bulgarian that,” Rakovsky answered us. “Our government is at the moment sticking to neutrality. But there are too many grounds for supposing that Bulgaria’s intervention will knock the unsteady board of neutrality from under the feet of the Bratianu ministry.”

(Let us remind the reader that this conversation took place in September 1915.)

“Will you go to war?” I asked one of the chief leaders of the “Narrow” socialists who arrived the following day, the deputy of the Bulgarian National Assembly Vasil Kolarov, a lawyer from Plovdiv and an officer of the reserve decorated in his time with the order of bravery in the Turkish campaign.

“Yes!” he answered almost without hesitation, “Radoslavov’s neutrality is of a purely temporizing nature. The question of Constantinople as it is posed before the Entente has played a decisive influence on the general direction of Bulgarian policy. And on the other hand the military reverses of Russia have considerably strengthened our Germanophiles who are the heirs to the Stamboul traditions ...”

“This in either case would mean that you would go to war on the side of Germany?”

“Without doubt. But did you doubt this?”

“The French press is busily fostering the illusions to this effect existing in public opinion ... What in this event would be the tactic of your party?”

“We ‘Narrow’ Socialists will fight to the end against intervention and against the war itself at that. But we cannot expect immediate practical successes from our opposition.”

“And the ‘Broad’ socialists?”

“They will tie up more or less closely with the Russophile bloc. But I have no doubt that as soon as Radoslavov tears the last veil from his policy and places the country before the accomplished fact of military intervention the ‘Broad’ socialists as well as the bourgeois Russophile parties concealing themselves with the national interests, the impossibility of producing a split at such a tragic moment etc. etc., will in effect bend towards Radoslavov’s policy. The government press is moulding public opinion in this direction from day to day.”

“By the way, did you know,” our speaker went on, “that King Ferdinand has just recently been making overtures to the 6#8216;Broad’ socialists? He met one of their leaders at a resort and complained bitterly to him that the socialists didn’t trust him while he was at heart totally with them. In Malinov’s paper Demokrat King Ferdinand has been dubbed with a jealous and suspicious irony the crowned socialist.”

The predictions of my perspicacious companion – he is probably now in the ranks of the active Bulgarian army – were realized in full. Scarcely had Kolarov managed to get back to Plovdiv when Bulgaria announced her mobilization. The “Broad” socialists promised as patriots not to impede Radoslavov with any complications. The “Narrow” socialists continued to uphold their line to the end. In the last issue of their organ Rabotnicheski Vestnik which reached me the conditions under which their fight against the adventures of the Bulgarian government is placed are characterized in this way: “Our meetings are banned, our appeals and posters confiscated, our speakers and agitators dispersed, beaten up and arrested, telegrams to our paper expressing protest against nationalist adventurism and demanding peace are intercepted ...”

Rakovsky and Kolarov came to the conference not only as delegates of the Rumanian and Bulgarian workers’ parties but also as representatives of the Balkan Social-Democratic Federation which was formed at the All-Balkan Convention, which was held this summer in Bucharest. The democratic federation of all the states of the Balkan peninsula which are linked together by their economic conditions and historical fortunes forms the banner of the united young Balkan workers’ parties. Now as never before they are convinced that the salvation of the Balkan peoples can lie only with a Republican Federation. But history has not laid out a straight road to this goal. Europe’s whirlpool of blood drags the Balkan nations in too. They are going towards an inescapable unity via mutual destruction. How many harbingers of the Balkan Federation have fallen in the wars of the last years! The heaviest blow for Serbian and all Balkan social-democracy in the war was the fate of Dimitrije Tucovic who was one of the noblest and most heroic figures of the Serbian workers’ movement.

Kievskaya Mysl, No.294, October 23, 1915

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Last updated on: 10.4.2007