Leon Trotsky On
Excerpts from his writings

The Decline Of British Imperialism: Part V

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Anglo-Soviet relations 1921-1923

Comrades! Our most recent history begins with Lord Curzon’s ultimatum, so allow me to start with this historic fact.

Comrades, you will remember the contents of the ultimatum and you will remember that the history dragged on not for ten days but 41 or 42 days, and you will remember than on some very substantial points we gave way but on some other likewise very substantial ones we did not give way. In order to draw a balance, let us recall what exactly we conceded to Lord Curzon. In the first place we withdrew Comrade Weinstein’s letter which had not been written quite in total accordance with the textbook of etiquette. Secondly, on the question of fishing in the three or twelve-mile limit, we paid a due of respect to the long-range naval artillery of Great Britain and recognized her right to catch fish in the murky water beyond the three-mile limit. We paid out 100,000 roubles cash down. On the question of propaganda, we undertook with a clear conscience to do against Britain nothing worse than what she might do against us on the principle of the complete equality of the parties and I have no doubt, and nor will you, that our word is firm — we may not answer for Tsarist treaties but we fulfil our own in earnest.

On the question of recalling our two representatives, Comrade Raskolnikov from Afghanistan and Comrade Shumyatsky from Persia, we answered with a refusal. In his last note, or memorandum, Lord Curzon portrays matters as though we would still recall Raskolnikov for reasons of internal business or something of that nature. This was an obscure passage. Anyway we have not given anyone any commitments to this effect: if it is a matter of internal business it is of concern only to the Soviet government and no one else. As regards Shumyatsky, Lord Curzon proposed to leave him in Persia after having given him a severe reprimand. We accept this on the condition that a similar reprimand be given to the representative of Great Britain over there, and I can assure you, comrades, that he does need a little reprimanding.

That is the formal balance. On some substantial points we gave way, without any joy on our part, and on others we refused and the agreement was preserved. But if you try to draw up not a formal, diplomatic balance but a political balance, and ask yourself. as a result of this attempt to seize us by the throat with a ten-day ultimatum, did we become weaker or stronger? then I believe, comrades, that without bragging we can say we have become stronger. Not because we showed any finesse or diplomatic wisdom, but simply because the ten-day ultimatum not only failed to produce a capitulation from our side but turned into just over 40 days of negotiations which led to concessions, and it all boiled down to a rotten compromise between mighty Great Britain and the Soviet Union. …

The British and French bourgoisies are today ruling through their extreme right wing, but they feel it necessary to re-form and reconstruct themselves. In France, a shift towards the Left Bloc and in Britain to the Labour Party would almost inevitably signify recognition of the Soviet Union, and consequently the liquidation of our revolution recedes into the misty distance. But if this is so, the Fascists and Fochists (after our friend, General Foch), i.e. two parties which have identical feelings towards us, will argue: why, in the period still remaining, while imperialism has not yet spent all its energies (in Italy the Fascists have just triumphed and a coup has taken place in Bulgaria), why can’t we have a go at overthrowing Soviet Russia?

There, comrades, is the basic reason for Lord Curzon’s attempt to put us on our knees (and if possible to lay us out on the floor) by his ultimatum. We know of course that today Lord Curzon cannot send a single expeditionary corps or a single British regiment to Archangel, the Murmansk or Odessa. Such an act would provoke the deepest indignation of the proletarian masses in Britain, and the Labour Party on coming to power would be forced to respond to such indignation. Lord Curzon was banking on his ultimatum inciting some other country against us. He was counting on our close neighbours. Let us name them: Rumania and Poland. . . .

That, comrades, is what explains the Curzon ultimatum and the failure of the ultimatum. But if we digress from diplomacy — from the withdrawal of the letters, and from the 100,000 pieces of silver, which is after all a sum which even our modest budget can manage somehow — if we digress and weigh up the political result then you get this picture: the most powerful imperialist state in Europe had tolerated us, but finally presented us with an ultimatum hoping thereby to bring matters to a decisive conclusion. During the course of this ultimatum the government in Britain changed, while even within the government there was a conflict over it. The business dragged on and ended up with us paying 100,000 roubles for two agents and we forwent what in the language of bourgeois diplomacy is called ‘prestige’, but as our concept of prestige does not quite coincide with Lord Curzon’s we set a different price on this imponderable quantity. We have become stronger and more powerful and this is emphasized most sharply by the fact that we have undertaken negotiations, for the time being of a preliminary nature, with Japan, that mighty imperialist power in the Far East which, though linked with the Entente and linked with Great Britain, agreed to negotiations in the very same period as the Curzon ultimatum . . .

a speech to party, trade union, Young Communist and other organizations of the Krasnaya Presnya district (Moscow) 25th June, 1923.

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The revolutionary crisis in Germany

I said that Britain might intervene. But on this score one must at once clearly understand Britain’s impotence on the continent of Europe. It is important to understand this not only for the German revolution

Briand1 but also for ourselves: Britain is impotent on the continent of Europe. The more clearly we understand this and the more forcefully and distinctly we repeat it, the more useful it will be for our international policy, in the sense that Britain will brandish her threats and ultimatums around less. In point of fact Britain is a purely maritime state. She has played an enormous role in Europe. But how and when? Whenever there were two countries in Europe fighting each other for mastery. When France was fighting Germany with approximately equal forces Britain stood behind i heir back, supporting over a long period first one, and then the other. This had been so even earlier when Spain was strong; she would in this way first assist her and then weaken her. Britain has been playing such a role for many centuries now. She uses the struggle between the two major European states and supports the slightly weaker one with money, technical assistance and materials against the stronger one. And the European balance depends on Britain. She. as it were, gets a lot of fun for little cost. That is her age-old policy. Why did Britain intervene in the war in 1914? Because Germany had become too strong. Germany had here become so strong that Britain could not achieve a balance just by giving assistance to France. So Britain had to depart from her traditional policy. Now she had to roll up her sleeves and get involved in a war and a struggle. She managed this by mobilizing quite a large number of British workers and throwing them onto the European continent. Consequently she supported France so strongly that the latter finally crushed Germany. So now the hegemony in bourgeois Europe belongs exclusively to France. Germany is prostrate at France’s feet and France does not wish even to talk to Germany about the terms of Germany’s capitulation. But from the very moment that France had obtained complete hegemony and complete mastery Britain was rendered completely impotent. France declared: ‘I will take the Ruhr’. Britain replied: ‘that is not to my benefit’. They had a big row which went on a long time. Why was it not to Britain’s benefit? Because she needed to raise Germany up a little against France so as to restore the equilibrium. So what did France do? Curzon’s protests notwithstanding, France went into the Ruhr and took the Ruhr. And what did terrible Britain do? She resigned herself. Terrible Britain threatened Turkey, and the Turks who enjoy good-neighbourly relations with us organized an army, and not without our assistance.

What did Britain do? She counterposed the Greeks to them. She had absolutely no forces of her own. What did the Turks do? They smashed the Greeks and marched to Constantinople against the terrible Britain who had packed up and left Constantinople.

Comrades, from the standpoint of international relations this is a most important fact of the epoch in which we are living. On the European continent Britain is impotent. Of course we are not complaining about this.

What can Britain do to the German revolution? Deliver an ultimatum? But this would be inadequate. In fact the question can be reduced to France’s conduct, not Britain’s, Thus if France decides to intervene then Britain could be useful to France by assisting her with the money that she needs, by blockading German ports and shipping and so on. Britain’s role has been one of a quartermaster and pirate. But the decisive role in an occupation of Germany would belong to France and her land-based vassals Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia …

a report to the 8th All-Russian Congress of the Communications Union, 20th October 1923

But the German revolution will not be decided by the inner relation of forces alone. Germany is situated in a capitalist encirclement and a victorious German revolution would have to leap out of it. This encirclement is formed principally out of France, Belgium, across the Channel Britain, Poland and Czechoslovakia. These are the decisive states. There are in addition Austria, Switzerland, Holland. They will not play an active part, but of course if the big neighbours decide to follow a policy of suffocation then the little ones will be able to help by pulling the ends of the rope. But we must take account of the conduct of the chief imperialist states. Let us start with Britain. Yesterday I was speaking to the metalworkers about this and let me say again now that Britain is today powerless on the continent. Britain delivered an ultimatum to us and we made this or that concession not because she could have routed us, but because we were interested in maintaining our economic relations. This powerlessness of Britain appears to contradict the conception of her as an extremely rich country, a strong maritime power with her Stock Exchange, her City and her Navy, although in this latter respect she has a great rival in the shape of the United States. But Britain was strong on the continent only so long as there were two equally matched land powers fighting in Europe. Britain always supported the weaker against the stronger. If the weaker outgrew the stronger then Britain would change her sympathies. By adding her weight to the scale pan of Europe’s destiny she would thereby decide it. By intervening directly in the 1914 war she broke violently with her own traditions and put a big army on the continent because Germany had too far outgrown France. You know that the patriotic British trade unions have always maintained pacifist ideas, at least with regard to land wars, for their leaders were more inclined to live off their fatherland than to die for it. These pacifists only supported their government with great reluctance. During the war Britain helped France too energetically and France emerged the hegemon (the master of the situation) in Europe. Now whenever Britain attempts to intervene in European affairs, France doesn’t give a damn. We can see this in the case of the Ruhr. British diplomacy first protested and then gave in. An even more striking case was her policy in relation to Turkey. Britain declared Turkey to be an enemy of the human race. So what resulted? When Turkey (I mean Ankara) began to get to her feet, what could Britain do? She counterposed Greece to her. Turkey smashed Greece. In the end Britain left Constantinople and the Turks entered. Britain’s impotence on the continent was obvious.

Naturally the most avowed enemy of the German revolution will be none other than the British bourgeoisie. She has more than once previously formed a coalition against revolution, as for instance at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. But Britain’s arms are short. She is not a land power. She could only support France, if the latter took the path of intervention, by blockading German ports and delivering supplies and so on to the occupying armies.

a report to a conference of political workers in the Red Army and Navy, 21st October 1923.


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The foreign policy of the first Labour government

Of course we cannot demand we are resorting to violence, upon taking power in his hands MacDonald embarked on the construction of five new cruisers much from MacDonald: he is not a Bolshevik, he cannot take the bourgeoisie by the throat, he cannot take its banks. But in Britain, in democratic, advanced, cultured Britain, there exists to this day a monarchy. Couldn’t we at least demand from MacDonald as a leader of the Second International and a most influential Menshevik, that on coming to power he would take a broom and sweep the cobwebs out of his monarchy? But it seems that the Second International wages a struggle for democracy only as long as this struggle is directed against the dictatorship of the working class. But when it is a matter of sweeping out the old medieval trash and garbage, democracy ceases to be important.

In spite of his repeated declarations against war and his accusations that we are resorting to violence, upon taking power in his hands MacDonald embarked on the construction of five new cruisers. A tank-building programme is in full swing. The air force is developing rapidly. Yet if MacDonald had devoted himself to abolishing the monarchy, abolishing the House of Lords, and halting the construction of cruisers, he would make a great saving of millions of pounds which could be used for schools, workers’ housing, unemployment benefit and so on. . . .

Imagine, comrades, the talks that are to be held in London. What will our representatives say? Obviously they will talk about the riches of the USSR, the surplus of raw materials that we have, raw materials so vital to the British people. In Britain there is technical equipment and enormous capital funds. Our delegates will therefore propose the following agreement to the British: ‘Give us capital and we will pay for this with our raw materials, our natural resources — in ten years we shall both be ten to twenty times richer.’

Of course we would be able to come to an agreement with the British workers if there were people in the British government with backbone, character and will who were not afraid of the bellowing of the British bourgeoisie. Given these conditions we could conclude an excellent agreement with a British Labour government, and British workers would have good cheap bread and the peasants of Russia, Transcaucasia and Azerbaijan would have British machinery, manufactures and technical resources for the development of our handicrafts, industry and so on. Such an alliance would not be in any way unrealistic but is hampered by the fact that there is not a strong Communist Party in Britain.

Under the sway of the British Labour government are millions of oppressed Indians and Egyptians. The duty of an honest revolutionary party is to give the oppressed the right to self-determination. Does MacDonald do so? No. Through his administrators he is conducting a struggle against revolutionaries in India and thus his e has become one of the most hated to the colonial working masses.

What demands will MacDonald present? Curzon stated in the House of Lords that Britain’s recognition of the USSR would be a mistake unless Britain received her old debts from us. But these debts are £130 million for pre-war debts, £500 million for war debts and I think £150 or £180 million due to individual British citizens who suffered during the October revolution. I managed somehow to add up these figures and they come to about 10,000 million gold roubles.

We will completely refuse the demands of the British moneylenders for the settlement of old debts by the USSR. A business-like economic link with Great Britain must begin with a clean slate and the past has to be buried. If Britain demands compensation for the murder of the two spies, then we should present a counter-claim for the murder of the 26 Baku, commissars and for the destruction of our towns and villages carried out with the aid of British gold. We will not repay old debts, incurred before us. As early as 1905 we warned through the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies that we would not repay Tsarist debts. But if we received a loan from Britain signed by representatives of the trade unions of the USSR, then of course we shall repay these loans in full, for the prestige and honour of our workers’ and peasants’ country is very dear to us.

We need not speak about the firmness of MacDonald’s position for his party has compromised itself sufficiently in the eyes of the British workers: this will provide a powerful impulse to the development and growth of the Communist Party in Britain.

a speech to the Baku Soviet, 14th April 1924.

79 You ask whether the British press is correct to regard my Tbilisi speech

Briand2 as an attack on Britain, or rather on MacDonald. I do not know what you mean by an attack. MacDonald has repeatedly attacked the Soviet system and the tactics of the Communist Party. Only recently MacDonald stated as one of the leaders of the Second International that he had fought Moscow and had beaten Moscow. We reserve the same right of criticism of MacDonald’s policy as he reserves in regard to us.

It is well known that MacDonald and his party made bitter accusations against us over our policy in regard to Georgia. I have just returned from that country and I greatly regret that MacDonald is, in view of his past, deprived of the opportunity of visiting Georgia to be convinced on the spot of the mood of the workers and peasants. I doubt whether the mood of the workers and peasants of India or Egypt can be set alongside that reigning in Georgia and Azerbaijan. I permitted myself to express this view in Tbilisi and in Baku.


MacDonald has on various occasions sharply censured us for violating the methods of formal democracy. As a matter of fact we set the rule of the working class above formal democracy. But it did seem that we were right to expect that MacDonald and his party would set precisely such a democracy above all else. In our conception the existence of a monarchy and a House of Lords contradicts democracy. Although the real rule of the toilers is for us higher than formal democracy, we do consider formal democracy a step forward in comparison with the monarchy and the aristocracy. This too I permitted myself to observe in both speeches, in Tbilisi and Baku.

Allow me to put another question: does MacDonald’s criticism of the Soviet system and communist policy signify hostility to our Union?

The tempo and the forms in which the conflict between the Third and the Second Internationals will be resolved is a great historical question. I think that Mr. MacDonald is somewhat mistaken to say that he has beaten Moscow. He has beaten a great deal if he has beaten this last-born child. But I do not at all see why extremely serious and long-standing disagreements over the Soviet system, the revolutionary dictatorship, the British monarchy and the Church need prevent us establishing broad economic links of equal benefit to either side.

an interview with a representative of the International News Service, 18th April 1924.

Certainly our situation would be ten times, a hundred times easier if in Britain there was a revolutionary workers’ government. It would grant us, on the basis of a comradely business-like agreement, a very substantial credit. We should be immediately able to increase our production, flood the market with all kinds of goods for the peasants’ use, and in five years raise the level of our agriculture. What would that mean for Britain? It would mean abundant and cheap grain, timber, hides, flax and all kinds of raw material. The British people, the working people — that is to say nine-tenths of the total population of Britain — as also the people of the Soviet Union, would benefit to an extraordinary degree from such business-like co-operation, and we, comrades, would be able in a few years to rise to the summit of economic well-being, to a height from which we are still very, very distant. Alas, I do not believe that the present government of Britain, a Menshevik government, is capable of taking such a bold, decisive step.

No, we shall have to learn, for several years yet before the coming to real victory of the proletariat, in the main to stand on our own feet. This means that we shall advance, but slowly. We shall be frank with ourselves about this. And when the bourgeois newspapers ask us, and me in particular: ‘Suppose our ruling classes don’t grant you a loan -what will that mean? The collapse of Russia? The collapse of the Soviet power?’ — we shall answer them: ‘How can a gigantic country of 130 million people, who have been awakened for the first time by the revolution, where the young are learning to think critically — how can such a country collapse? A country with inexhaustible natural resources like ours cannot collapse and will not collapse.’

The bourgeois press of London, we are told by the latest news telegrams, quotes our speeches, in particular my own, as evidence that by our sharp criticism we wish to break off negotiations. That is a slander. An agreement with the British people will be a good thing for us and for the British people. But if the British bourgeoisie think that we shall say: ‘Help, we are collapsing!’ — if the British bourgeoisie think we shall agree to any conditions they care to impose, then the British bourgeoisie are wrong.

We have already raised ourselves the two or three first steps and have already shown ourselves and others that we are able to work, to advance the economy and culture of our country. And, if I could, I would say to the City, that centre of London, to its banks and bankers, to the MacDonald government, to all the ruling circles of Britain: here, take a look at these, our young generation, the flower of the working class. They are learning to work and to think. Our young generation has passed through the furnace of October, it has grown up in the great school of Lenin. We and our country, so rich in natural wealth, will not perish. With your aid we shall go forward faster, and that will be a great gain for you. Without you we shall go forward slower, but go forward we will, and the reign of labour will come to triumph in our country.

a speech on the fifth anniversary of The Communist Young Workers Home, 29 April 1924 (Young People, Study Politics!)

We can now see a further example — that of the government of the British trade unions, the government of the Labour Party, that is a government of the Amsterdam and the Second Internationals. And the ‘Amsterdam’ military budget of the British government? — I have worked it out, not a difficult job, since you only have to put together three parts: the army budget, the naval budget and the air force budget. In all it comes to £115 million which, translated into roubles, comes to 1, 150 million gold roubles. Not a scrap less it would appear, but in fact 10 to 15 million gold roubles more than last year, that is, more than the budget of the Conservative government of Britain, and some four if not five times more than our Soviet budget! When this budget was placed before the British parliament, there happened to be present some naive MPs of this same Labour Party who threw up their hands and asked how this could be linked with the puritan pacifism of the Labour Party? and there was a member of this same party, one Mr. Guest — I have not heard this surname before — who at that very moment nodding in the direction of Moscow, said (I have quoted this once already) ‘and what about Moscow’s militarism?’ Comrades, permit me to give you a quotation from an old speech of V1adimir llyich [Lenin]. He made it on just this very same question against our Mensheviks on 13th March 1919: ‘A certain Prussian monarch in the 18th century made a very wise remark: "If our soldiers understood what we are fighting for, then we would not be able to wage a single war more". The old Prussian monarch was no fool. But we are now in a position to say in comparing our situation with that of this monarch: ‘We can wage a war because the masses know what they are fighting for.’ And moreover: ‘there are some stupid people who howl about red militarism. Really, what a ghastly crime! The imperialists of the whole world fling themselves upon the Russian Republic to strangle it, and we set about creating an army which for the first time in history knows what it is fighting for and what it is making sacrifices for, and which is successfully resisting a numerically superior enemy, while each month brings nearer the resistance of the world revolution on a hitherto unseen scale. And they condemn this as red militarism! I repeat: either they are idiots not standing up to political analysis, or they are political knaves.’ And further on a few lines lower down, he says again still more sharply and bluntly: ‘We have a position where only the filthiest and lowest political crooks can utter strong words and accuse us of red militarism.’ V1adimir llyich liked to express himself simply, clearly and sharply. And so in London, we find a so-called Labour MP, who knows that it was not the Red Army which made a landing on the Thames but British forces which landed on the banks of the Northern Pechora and other rivers; who knows that British officers took part in the Yaroslavl uprising and in other bloody acts; we find a so-called Labour MP who, in answer to the reproach that it is you who are building five new cruisers and new minesweepers and it is you who are expanding the Curzon programme for light tanks and are enlarging your air force and navy endlessly, says: ‘But look, over there in Moscow, isn’t there some militarism being started up?’ It is not surprising if after these words you go to the quotation from Ilyich where it is said that only the dirtiest and lowest of political crooks can make this sort of accusation of red militarism.

a speech to the Moscow Soviet, 29th April 1924 (May Day in the East and West).


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Anglo-American rivalry and the growth of militarism

The basic world antagonism occurs along the line of the conflict of interests between the United States and Britain. Why? Because Britain is still the wealthiest and most powerful country, second only to the United States. It is America’s chief rival, the main obstacle on its path. If Britain should be squeezed, or undermined, or, all the more so, battered down, what would then remain? The United States will, of course, dispose easily of Japan. America holds all the trumps: finances and iron and oil, political advantages in relations with China, which is, after all, being ‘liberated’ from Japan. America is always liberating somebody, that’s her profession. [Laughter, applause.]

The main antagonism is between the United States and Britain. It is growing and approaching ever closer. The British bourgeoisie has not been feeling so well since the first years of Versailles. They know the value of ringing coin; they have had great experience in this connection. And they cannot have failed to notice that the dollar now outweighs the pound sterling. They know that this preponderance inescapably finds its expression in politics. The British bourgeoisie has completely demonstrated the power of the pound sterling in international politics, and it now senses that the era of the dollar is dawning. It seeks consolation, and tries to console itself with illusions, The most serious British newspapers say: ‘Yes, the Americans are very rich, but they remain, in the last analysis, provincials. They do not know the paths of world politics. We British have had far more experience. The Yankees need our advice and our leadership. And we British will guide these provincial relatives of ours, who have suddenly grown so rich on the paths of world politics; and naturally we shall retain the corresponding position, while collecting a fee in the bargain.’

There is, of course, a modicum of truth in this. I have already mentioned my doubts about the senatorial knowledge of European geography. I am sincerely uncertain about it. Yet in order to do big things in Europe, it does not hurt to possess a knowledge of European geography. But how difficult is it for a possessing class to learn the sciences? We know that it is not at all difficult for the bourgeoisie, grown quickly rich, to learn the sciences. The sons of the lapti-wearing Morozovs and Mamontovs

Briand 4 bear a striking resemblance to hereditary nobles. It is the oppressed class, the proletariat, that finds it difficult to rise, develop and conquer all the elements of culture. But for a possessing class, especially one so fabulously rich as the American bourgeoisie, this is not at all hard. They will find, train or buy specialists in all fields. The American is just beginning to take stock of his world importance, but is not yet fully cognizant of it. His American ‘consciousness’ still lags behind his American and world ‘being’. The whole question must be approached not from the standpoint of a cross section of the present-day situation but in its proper perspective. And this is a perspective not in terms of many long decades but rather in terms of a few brief years.

This Babylonian tower of American economic might must find its expression in everything, and it is already expressing itself, but not yet fully by far. What capitalist Europe has now at its disposal in world politics is the heritage of its former economic power, its old international influence which no longer corresponds to today’s material conditions. America has not yet learned to realize her power in life. That is true. But she is learning quickly, on the bones and flesh of Europe. America still needs Britain as a guide on the paths of world politics. But not for long.

We know how swiftly a possessing class, in its ascent, alters its character, its appearance and its methods of operation. Let us take, for example, the German bourgeoisie. Was it so long ago that the Germans were considered shy, blue-eyed dreamers, a people of ‘poets and thinkers’? A few decades of capitalist development transfigured the German bourgeoisie into the most aggressive armour-clad imperialist class. True, the settlement came very quickly. And the character of the German bourgeois again underwent a change. Today on the European arena, they are rapidly assimilating all the customs and usages of beaten curs.

The British bourgeoisie is more serious. Their character has been moulded in the course of centuries. Class self-esteem has entered into their blood and marrow, their nerves and bones. It will be much harder to knock the self-confidence of world rulers out of them. But the American will knock it out just the same, when he gets seriously down to business.

In vain does the British bourgeois console himself that he will serve as guide for the inexperienced American. Yes, there will be a transitional period. But the crux of the matter does not lie in the habits of diplomatic leadership but in actual power, existing capital and industry. And the United States, if we take its economy, from oats to big battleships of the latest type, occupies the first place. They product all the living necessities to the extent of one-half to two-thirds of what is produced by all mankind.

Oil, which now plays such an exceptional military and industrial role, totals in the United States two-thirds of the world output, and in 1923 it had even reached approximately 72 per cent. To be sure, they complain a lot about the threats of the exhaustion of their oil resources. In the initial post-war years, I confess I thought that these plaints were merely a pious cover for coming encroachments on foreign oil. But geologists actually do affirm that American oil at the current rate of consumption will, according to some, last twenty-five years, according to others, forty years. But in twenty-five or forty years, America with her industry and fleet will be able to take away oil from all the others ten times over again. [Laughter.] There is hardly any need for us, comrades, to spend sleepless nights over it. [Applause.]

The world position of the United States is expressed in figures which are irrefutable. Let me mention a few of the most important ones. The United States produces one-fourth of the world wheat crop; more than one-third of the oats; approximately three-fourths of the world maize crop; one-half of the world coal output; about one-half of the world’s iron ore; about 60 per cent of its pig iron; 60 per cent of the steel; 60 per cent of the copper; 47 per cent of the zinc. American railways constitute 36 per cent of the world railway network; its merchant navy, virtually non existent prior to the war, now comprises more than 25 per cent of the world tonnage; and, finally, the numbers of motor cars operating in the trans-Atlantic republic amounts to 84.4 per cent of the world total! While in the production of gold the United States occupies a relatively modest place (14 percent), thanks to its favourable trade balance, 44.2 per cent of the world’s gold reserve has collected in its vaults. The national income of the United States is two and a half times greater than the combined national incomes of Britain, France, Germany and Japan. These figures decide everything. They will cut a road for themselves on land, on sea and in the air.

What do these figures presage for Great Britain? Nothing good. They signify one thing: Britain will not escape the common lot of capitalist countries. America will place her on rations. Whether Lord Curzon likes it or not, he will have to accept rations. This is our 6ultimatistic’ message to him from here. But we must also add: When Britain’s position becomes such as to compel her openly to accept rations, this will not be performed directly by Lord Curzon — he will not be suitable, he is too unruly. No, this will be entrusted to a MacDonald. [Applause.] The self-esteem of the politicians of the British bourgeoisie is not such as to make them amenable to the transference of the greatest empire in the world to the meagre foundations of American rations. Required here will be the benign eloquence of MacDonald, Henderson and the Fabians in order to exert pressure on the British bourgeoisie and to convince the British workers: ‘Are we, then, actually to engage in war with America? No, we stand for peace, for agreements.’ And what does agreement with Uncle Sam, mean? The foregoing figures speak eloquently enough on this score. Accept rations. That’s the only agreement for you, there is no other. If you refuse, get ready for war.

Britain has up to now retreated step by step before America. Before our very eyes, it is still fresh in our memory, President Harding invited Britain, France and Japan to Washington and in the calmest way offered Britain — what? That Britain limit her fleet. No more, no less.

Yet before the war it was Britain’s doctrine that her navy must be more powerful than the combined fleets of the next two strongest naval powers. The United States has put an end to this, once and for all, In Washington, Harding began, as is customary, by invoking the ‘awakened consciousness of civilization,’ and he ended by telling Britain that she must accept rations. You will take five units; I will take (meanwhile) five units; France, three units; Japan, three units. Whence these proportions? Before the war the American fleet was much weaker than Britain’s. In the course of the war, it grew enormously. And therewith, whenever the British write with alarm concerning the American navy, the American naval writers reply by demanding: ‘What did we build our navy for? Why, it was to defend your British isles from the German submarines.’

That is why, mind you, they built their fleet. But it is useful for other purposes too. But why did the United States resort to this naval limitation programme at Washington? Not because they are unable to build warships fast enough, and the biggest battleships, at that. No, in this respect no one can match them. But it is not possible to create, train and educate the necessary cadres of sailors in a brief period. For this, time is required. Here is the source of the ten-year breathing space projected in Washington. In defending the programme limiting the construction of battleships, the American naval journals wrote: ‘If you so much as dare to balk at an agreement, we shall turn out warships like so many pancakes.’ The reply of the leading British naval periodical was approximately as follows: ‘We are ourselves in favour of pacifist agreements. Why do you keep threatening us?’

This already expresses the new psychology of ruling Britain. It is growing accustomed to the fact that it is necessary to submit to America, and that the most important thing is to demand . . . polite treatment. This is the most that the European bourgeoisie can expect from America on the morrow.

In the competition between Britain and the United States, only retreats are possible for Britain. At the price of these retreats, British capitalism buys the right to participate in the deals of American capitalism. Thus a coalition Anglo-American capitalism seemingly arises. Britain saves face, and does so not unprofitably, for Britain derives substantial profits from it. But it receives them at the price of retreating and clearing the way for America. The United States is strengthening her world positions; Britain’s are growing weaker.

Only the other day, Britain renounced the previously adopted plan of reinforcing Singapore. It is too bad we have no map here. Singapore and Hong Kong mark the most important high-ways of imperialism. Singapore is the key between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. It represents one of the most important bases of British policy in the Far East. But in the Pacific, Britain can conduct her policy either with Japan against America, or with America against Japan. Huge sums were appropriated for the fortification of Singapore. And MacDonald had to decide: with America against Japan or with Japan against America? And so, he renounced the fortification of Singapore.

This is not, of course, the last word of British imperialist policy. The question can come up again for a new decision. But at the given moment it is the beginning of Britain’s renunciation of an independent policy — or an alliance with Japan — in the Pacific. And who ordered Britain (yes, ordered!) to break the alliance with Japan? America. A formal ultimatum was issued: break the alliance with Japan. And Britain broke. Meanwhile, Britain is conceding and retreating.

But does this mean that this is how matters will proceed to the very end, and that war between them is excluded? In no case. On the contrary, at the cost of concessions today Britain is buying only redoubled difficulties on the morrow. Under the cover of collaboration, contradictions of unprecedented explosive power are accumulating. Things not only can but also must come to war, because it will be extremely difficult for Britain to move to a secondary position and to roll up her empire. At a certain point, she will be compelled to mobilize all her forces in order to resist with arms in hand. But in an open struggle, too, so far as it is possible to foresee, all the odds are on America’s side.

Britain is an island and America is likewise an island of a sort, but much larger. Britain is completely dependent in her day-to-day existence on countries beyond the ocean. But the American ‘insular’ continent contains everything that is necessary for existence and for the conduct of war. Britain has colonial possessions on many seas and America will ‘liberate’ them. Having begun the war with Britain, America will summon hundreds of millions of Indians to rise in defence of their inalienable national rights. The same summons will be issued to Egypt and Ireland — there is no lack of those who can be called upon to free themselves from the yoke of British capitalism. just as today America, in order to drain the living juices from Europe, comes to the fore draped in the toga of pacifism, so in the war with Britain she will step out as the great emancipator of the colonial peoples.

Mother history has made things easy for American capitalism: for every act of rapine, there is a liberating slogan ready at hand. With regard to China, it is the ‘Open Door’ policy! Japan seeks to dismember China and to subjugate certain provinces by military force, because there is no iron in Japan, no coal, no oil. These constitute three colossal minuses in Japan’s struggle with the United States. For this reason Japan seeks through seizure to assure herself of the riches of China. But the United States? It says: ‘Open Door in China.’

With regard to oceans, what does America have to say? ‘Freedom of the seas!’ This rings superbly. But what does it mean in action? It means: Get over to one side, Britain’s navy, make room for me! ‘Open Door in China’ means: Stand aside, Japan, and let me pass! It is essentially a question of economic seizures, of robberies. But because of the specific conditions of U. S. development, this travail appears at one time under the guise of pacifism, and at another, it almost assumes a liberating aspect.

Naturally, Britain, too, possesses great advantages which derive from her entire past history. First and foremost, she disposes of powerful bases of support and the strongest naval bases in the world. America doesn’t have that. But, in the first place, it is possible to create all this, secondly, it is possible to take all this away, piecemeal and by force, and thirdly and lastly, Britain’s bases are bound up with her colonial rule and are vulnerable for just this reason. America will find allies and helpers all over the world — the strongest power always finds them — and together with these allies, America will find the necessary bases.

If, at the present time, the United States binds Canada and Australia to herself through the slogan of defending the white race against the yellow — and in this way justifies her right to naval supremacy — then, on the. next stage, which may come very soon, these virtuous Presbyterians may announce that, in the last analysis, the yellow-skinned peoples are likewise created in God’s image and are consequently entitled to replace the colonial rule of Britain by the economic domination of America. In a war against Britain the United States would be in a highly favourable position, since it could from the very first day issue a summons to the Indians, the Egyptians and other colonial peoples to rise up, and could assist them with arms and supplies.

Britain will have to think ten times before deciding on war. But, in avoiding war, she will be compelled to retreat step by step under the pressure of American capitalism. The conduct of war requires the Lloyd Georges and the Churchills; the MacDonalds are required for the conduct of retreats without a battle.

What has been said about the. interrelations of the United States and Britain also applies, with corresponding changes and, so to speak, in miniature to Japan, and on a truly minute scale to France and other second-rate European powers. What is at stake in Europe? Alsace-Lorraine, the Ruhr, the Saar territory, Silesia, that is, some tiny area of land, some petty strips. In the meantime, America is drafting a plan to place everybody on rations.

In contrast to Britain, America is not preparing to create an American army, and American administration for the colonies including Europe. It will ‘allow’ them to preserve at home a reformist, pacifist, toothless order, with the assistance of the Social Democracy, with the help of the (French) Radicals and other middle-class parties and at the expense of their respective peoples. And it will extort from them blessings (up to a certain time) for not having violated their ‘independence.’ This is the plan of American capitalism and this is the programme on the basis of which the Second International is being resuscitated.

This American ‘pacifist’ programme of putting the whole world under her control is not at all a programme of peace. On the contrary, it is pregnant with wars and the greatest revolutionary paroxysms. Not for nothing does America continue to expand her fleet. She is busily engaged in building light and fast cruisers. And when Britain protests in a whisper, America replies: You must bear in mind that I not only have a five to five relationship with you, but also a five to three relationship with Japan, and the latter possesses an inordinate number of light cruisers which makes it necessary for me to restore a balance.

America chooses the largest multiplicand and then multiplies it by her Washington coefficient. And the others cannot vie with her, because, as the Americans themselves say, they can turn out warships like so many pancakes.

The perspective this offers is one of preparation for the greatest international dogfight, with both the Atlantic and the Pacific as the arena, provided, of course, the bourgeoisie is able to retain its world rule for any considerable length of time. For it is hard to conceive that the bourgeoisie of all countries will docilely withdraw to the background, and become converted into America’s vassals without putting up a fight; no, this is hardly likely. The contradictions are far too great; the appetites are far too insatiable; the urge to perpetuate ancient rule is far too potent; Britain’s habits of world rule are far too ingrained. There will inevitably be military collisions. The era of "pacifist" Arnericanism that seems to be opening up at this time is only laying the groundwork for new wars on an unprecedented scale and of unimaginable monstrosity.

a speech to the Society of Friends of the Physics and Mathematics Faculties, 28th July 1924 (Perspectives of World Development).

If we were to look for some elements of stability in the present unstable shaky era of historical development then possibly the only stable element is the uninterrupted, automatic growth of militarism. In Europe today we are observing a change of parliamentary regimes. Elections in Britain and forthcoming elections in Germany. MacDonald’s government was the first so-called Labour government in Britain. Who will replace it? Most likely the Conservatives, far less probably MacDonald will return. Let us not make guesses — that is not the object of the report I wish to make today — but one thing we can say without fear of error: whoever returns to power over the British Empire the automatic growth of militarism is assured. . ..

The United States was a non-militarist country until recently. An abrupt turning point came with the imperialist war. The United States intervened at the end of the war and they achieved what they needed in that war. i.e. they routed Germany at the end, which Britain, the chief obstacle in the USA’s path to world dominion did not desire. Britain needed a weakened but not a routed Germany — against France, but the United States needed a powerful France against Britain. . . .

Thus let me say there are processes of two kinds: basic and secondary; from the standpoint of policy we cannot avoid taking temporary processes into account too.

MacDonald appeared. It was no accident that he appeared either! We attempted to conclude a treaty with him but did not complete it — complications in MacDonald’s own career impeded that. Curzon has come back and we shall hold talks with Curzon as well. All these are processes of a secondary and tertiary nature but the basic one is the growth of contradictions, the frantic growth of militarism, the desperate situation of the productive forces and the preparation for a world bloodbath.

a speech to supply units of the Red Army, 25th October 1924 (The Growth of World Militarism and Our Military Tasks).

They have concluded an international ‘pact’ under which Britain has now become something of a Justice of the Peace for Europe. Britain must see that France does not upset Germany but so as Germany does not upset France. Britain represents a guarantor — again just a word like ‘pact’ — for the inviolability of frontiers. However less cautious diplomats now and again add that though this is a pact for peace it is for a peace only for civilized, democratic, pious states, and that this pact has an edge which is directed against that impious, undemocratic, un-peace loving state which is called the Soviet Union. When recently our press began with its characteristic impoliteness to denounce them, saying: you, Messrs. diplomats, are all hypocrites, for all your pact is a criminal deal in order in the first place to plunder the colonies, in the second to obtain American capital and in the third to oppose the Soviet Union, leading diplomats replied that it was in no way against the Soviet Union; for if she comes to her senses, takes a proper attitude to us, and is so good as to complain to the League of Nations, we will have a seat ready for her there, and so on.

But these gentlemen cannot add two and two together. For only just recently ministers of the Britain who was appointed to act as Europe’s Justice of the Peace, expressed their opinion about us very sharply. I have with me here some newspaper cuttings to this effect. Joynson-Hicks, the British Home Secretary, stated: ‘I cannot believe that British people (that is British workers) will let themselves be fooled by a foreign power whose only objective is the destruction of Great Britain.’ They unite with each other for peace and scream that there is a power whose only objective — just think! — is to destroy Great Britain. ‘In Moscow they are gunning for Britain’, Joynson-Hicks goes on, ‘as they have realized there that Britain is defending the freedom of the world’. Britain defending the freedom of the world! Let’s see, if we were to commission our State Publishing House to issue a twelve-page booklet, one copy for every literate person, we would catalogue how Britain over the centuries has defended the freedom of the world, how she ruined Spain and Portugal, how she made war on China, because the Chinese did not want to be poisoned with British opium, how she subdued and strangled India, how for centuries she forced Ireland to shed blood, how she strangled Egypt, how she supported the most reactionary Chinese Marshal, Chang Tso-lin against Chinese democracy, how in China at present she is forming with the aid of sterling a force for the Russian monarchist Nechaev to support Chinese monarchist reaction; how in Turkey she supports the reactionary Old Turks against national Turkish democracy and detaches Mosul where the large oil deposits are situated, and finally how she has been and still is operating in our country. Only a few days ago we read how our GPU uncovered an Anglo-Estonian spy plot led by the ex-Tsarist officer Frank, with the participation of the Russian monarchists and a central organization in Tallin and branches in Leningrad and other places. Ruling-class Britain, defending the freedom of the world! She has attracted and amassed the fierce hatred of the popular masses of both hemispheres. Yet this British bourgeoisie, dyed through and through and reared on the traditions of slave ownership, plunder and strangulation of whole peoples, in the words of one of its most die-hard operators, Hicks the Home Secretary states that a plot is being hatched in Moscow against Britain, the defender of peace!

Another minister whose name we know a little better, Churchill, stated that ‘world history entered a new period when the gang of inhuman plotters moved into the Kremlin.’ That history has entered a new period we agree but as regards the gang of plotters we shall remind Churchill about this at a suitable moment. We have good and firm memories. ‘In relation to Britain’ continues the minister, ‘these dark forces exhibit a special malevolence’. Let us say without equivocation: ruling-class Britain has organized a pact which by design must represent a gang of imperialist plotters against the freedom of the whole world for this is just what their ‘pact’ is when translated into straight language. They merely heap the blame on the Soviet Union for what the imperialists are guilty of. However Churchill suddenly spoke up with a wild tongue on the second day after the October revolution when both foreign and our own capitalists had not had time to bandage their wounds. We would have thought that eight years was long enough to get used to the fact, gentlemen! But no, their wounds are apparently still smarting today. A gang of plotters! The destruction of Great Britain! The British imperialists scream this not through strength but out of fear and hatred, gnashing their teeth and expressing themselves in virtual obscenities. But fortunately, the devil’s bark is worse … sorry, I mean Churchill’s, bark is worse than his bite (laughter).

From a speech to the Kislovodsk Soviet, 9th November 1925 (Eight Years: Results and Prospects).

The unexampled economic superiority of the United States, even independently of a conscious policy on the part of the American bourgeoisie, will no longer permit European capitalism to raise itself. American capitalism, in driving Europe more and more into a blind alley, will automatically drive her onto the road of revolution. In this is the most important key to the world situation.

This is revealed most graphically and incontestably in Britain’s situation. Britain’s trans-oceanic exports are cut into by America, Canada, Japan and by the industrial development of her own colonies. Suffice it to point out that on the textile market of India, a British colony, Japan is squeezing out Britain. And on the European market, every increase of sales of British merchandise cuts into the sales of Germany, France and vice versa. Most often it is vice versa. The exports of Germany and France hit those of Great Britain. The European market is not expanding. Within its narrow limits, shifts occur now to one side, now to another. To hope that the situation will change radically in favour of Europe is to hope for miracles. just as under the conditions of the domestic market, the bigger and more advanced enterprise is assured victory over the small or backward enterprise, so, in the conditions of the world market, the victory of the United States over Europe, that is first and foremost over Britain, is inevitable.

In 1925 Britain’s imports and exports reached respectively 111 percent and 76 percent of their pre-war levels. This implies an adverse trade balance of unprecedented proportions. The reduction in exports signifies an industrial crisis which strikes not at the secondary but at the basic branches of industry: coal, steel, shipbuilding, woollens, etc. Temporary and even considerable improvements are possible and even inevitable, but the basic line of decline is predetermined.

One becomes filled with justifiable contempt for the ‘statesmen’ of Britain who have retained all their old conformities so incompatible with the new conditions and who lack the most elementary understanding of the world situation and the inevitable consequences inherent in it. The reigning British politicians, Baldwin and Churchill, have recently favoured us again with their candour. At the end of last year, Churchill announced that he had twelve reasons (yes, he said that) for being in an optimistic mood. In the first place, a stabilized national currency. The British economist Keynes has called Churchill’s attention to the fact that this stabilization meant a maximum reduction of 10 per cent in the prices of merchandise exported, and consequently a corresponding increase in the adverse trade balance.

The second reason for being optimistic was the excellent price of rubber. Sad to say, Mr. Hoover’s twenty-nine questions have considerably reduced the rubberized optimism of Churchill. Thirdly, there was the decrease in the number of strikes. But let us wait on this score until the end of April when the collective contract of the miners comes up for consideration. Fourth reason for optimism — Locarno.93 From one hour to the next, there is no improvement. The AngloFrench conflict, far from diminishing, has intensified since Locarno.

Briand5 As touches Locarno let us wait, too; one counts one’s chickens when they are hatched. We refrain from enumerating the remaining reasons for optimism; on Wall Street the price they fetch is still dropping. It is interesting to note that The Times of London published an editorial on this same subject entitled: ‘Two Rays of Hope.’ The Times is more modest than Churchill; it has not twelve but only two rays of hope, and these too are x-rays, that is, rather problematical rays.

To the professional light-mindedness of Churchill, one can counterpose the more serious opinions of the Americans who make an appraisal of British economy from their own standpoint, and also the opinion of British industrialists themselves. Upon returning from Europe, Klein, the director of the U.S. Department of Commerce, made a report to industrialists which, notwithstanding its purely conventional tone of reassurance, lets the truth break through.

’From the economic point of view,’ he said, ‘the only gloomy spot, [abstraction evidently made from the situation of France and Italy as well as the relatively slow restoration of Germany] — the only gloomy spot, I say, is the United Kingdom. It seems to me that Britain is in a doubtful commercial position. I would not want to be too pessimistic because Britain is our best customer but a number of factors are developing in that country, which, it seems to me, must give rise to serious consideration. There exist in Britain formidable taxes, the reason for which, according to certain people, must be found in our thirst for money, not to say more. Still it is not entirely correct . . . The stock of tools of the coal industry is the same as a few dozen years ago, with the result that the cost of manual labour per ton is three or four times more than in the United States.’

And so forth and so on in the same vein.

Now, here is another comment. J. Harvey, American ex-ambassador in Europe, considered by the British as a ‘friend and well-wisher,’ which is in a sense true for he speaks, as a rule, sentimentally of the need of coming to Britain’s aid — this same J. Harvey recently published an article entitled: ‘The End of England’ (the title alone is priceless!), in which he comes to the conclusion that ‘British production has had its day. Hereafter the lot of Britain is to be an intermediate agent,’ that is to say, the sales clerk and bank teller of the United States. Such is the conclusion of a friend and well-wisher.

Let us now see what George Hunter, a great British shipbuilder, whose note to the government made a stir in the entire British press, has to say: ‘Has the Government’ [and the government, after all, is Churchill with his twelve reasons for optimism], he says, ‘a clear idea of the disastrous condition of British industry? Does it know that this condition, far from improving, is worsening progressively? The number of our unemployed and of our partially unemployed represents at the minimum 12.5 percent of the employed workers. Our trade balance is unfavourable. Our railroads and a large part of our industrial enterprises pay dividends out of their reserves or pay none at all. If that continues it is bankruptcy and ruin. There is no improvement in prospect.’

The coal industry is the keystone of British capitalism. At present it is completely dependent upon government subsidies. ‘We can,’ says Hunter, ‘subsidise the coal industry as much as we like; that will not prevent our industry generally from waning.’ But if subsidies stop, British industrialists could not continue to pay the wages they now pay; and that would provoke, beginning with the next May Day, a grandiose economic conflict.

Briand6 It is not hard to imagine what would be implied by a strike embracing not less than a million railwaymen and transport workers. Britain would enter into a period of greatest economic shocks. One must either continue to grant ruinous and hopeless subsidies, or resign oneself to a profound social conflict.

Churchill has twelve reasons for optimism, but the social statistics of Britain testify that the number of employed workers is decreasing, that the number of miners is decreasing, but that there is an increase in the number of restaurant employees, cabaret personnel and elements of the lumpen-proletarian type. At the expense of producers, the number of lackeys increases, and, by the way, these figures do not include the political lackeys and ministers who with servility implore the generosity of Americans.

Let us once again counterpose America and Britain. In America there is a growing aristocracy of labour which aids in the establishment of company unions; while in Britain, fallen from her supremacy of yesterday, there grow layers of lumpen-proletariat below. Revealed best of all in this juxtaposition and counterposition is the displacement of the world economic axis. And this displacement will continue to operate until the class axis of society is itself displaced, that is, until the proletarian revolution.

Mr. Baldwin, of course, demurs to this. Though Mr. Baldwin carries more weight than Churchill, he understands as little. At a gathering of industrialists, he outlined a means of getting out of the predicament — a Conservative prime minister always has patent remedies for all ailments. ‘It sometimes seems to me,’ he said, ‘that some of us have slept for at least six or seven years.’ Much longer! Mr. Baldwin himself has been asleep for at least fifty years, while others stayed up. ‘We will do well,’ continued the prime minister, ‘to be guided by the progress realized during this period by the progress realized during this period by the United States.’ It would indeed take a bit of trying to be guided by the ‘progress’ of the United States. In that country they dispose of a national wealth of 320 billion, 60 billion in the banks, an annual accumulation of 7 billion, while in Britain there is a deficit. Let us be guided a little! Let us try!

The two parties [capitalists and workers],’ continues Baldwin, ‘can learn much more at the school of the United States than in the study of the situation in Moscow.’ Mr. Baldwin should refrain from spitting into the Moscow well. We could teach him a few things. We know how to orient ourselves among facts, analyse world economy, forecast a thing or two, in particular the decline of capitalist Britain. But Mr. Baldwin cannot do it.

Churchill, the finance minister, also referred to Moscow. Without it, you can’t make a good speech nowadays. Churchill, you see, had read that morning a horrible speech by Mr. Tomsky, who is not a member of the House of Lords. He happens to be, as Mr. Churchill truthfully asserts, a man who occupies an extremely important post in the Soviet Republic. Mr. Tomsky spent his youth not at Oxford or at Cambridge with Mr. Churchill but in the Butirky Prison, here at Moscow. Nevertheless Mr. Churchill is obliged to speak of Mr. Tomsky. And, it must be admitted, he does not speak very kindly about Mr. Tomsky’s speech at the Trades Unions Congress at Scarborough. Mr. Tomsky did indeed make a speech there, and apparently not a bad one, judging from the impression it made on Mr. Churchill. The latter cited extracts from the speech which he characterized as ‘ramblings of a barbarian.’

’I estimate,’ he said, ‘that in this country we are capable of managing our own affairs without unwarrantable interference from outside.’ Mr. Churchill is a very proud man but he is wrong. His patron Baldwin says that one must learn at the school of the United States.

’We do not want to have a freshly laid crocodile egg for breakfast,’ continues Mr. Churchill. It is Tomsky, it seems, who laid a crocodile egg in Britain. Mr. Churchill does not like it; he prefers the politics of the ostrich that hides its head in the sand, and, as you know, both the ostrich and the crocodile propagate themselves in the same tropical colonies of Britain. Then Mr. Churchill gets really cocky: ‘I am not afraid of the Bolshevik revolution in this country. I do not criticize personalities.’ And so forth and so on. That does not prevent him from delivering a wild speech against Tomsky. So he is afraid, after all. He does not criticize the personality of Tomsky. God forbid, he merely calls him a crocodile.

’Great Britain is not Russia.’ Very true. ‘What use is there in introducing to the British workers the dull doctrine of Karl Marx and in making them sing the Intemationale out of tune?’ It is true that the British workers sometimes sing the Intemationale off-key, with music supplied by MacDonald, but they will learn to sing it without any false notes precisely from Moscow. In our opinion, despite all the twelve reasons for optimism, the economic situation of Britain brings nearer that hour when the British working class will sing the Intemationale at the top of their voices. Prepare your eardrums, Mr. Churchill! …

As touches the preparation of the disarmament conference, of exceptional interest is a semi-official article recently published in a British review and eloquently signed ‘Augur.’ Everything points to the fact that this Augur has close ties with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is generally well acquainted with what goes on behind the scenes. Under the banner of preparing the disarmament conference, the British Augur threatens us ‘with measures which will not be pacific measures.’ This amounts to a direct threat of war.

Who is threatening? Britain, who is losing her foreign markets; Britain, where unemployment prevails; Britain, where the lumpen-proletariat is growing; Britain, who has only a single optimist left, Winston Churchill — this Britain is threatening us with war in the present situation. Why? Under what pretext? Is it not because she wants to take it out on somebody else because of the affronts dealt her by America?

As for us, we do not want war. But if the British ruling classes wish to accelerate the birth pangs, if history wishes to deprive them of their reason before depriving them of power, it must, precisely now, push them over the steep slope of war. There will be incalculable suffering. But should the criminal madmen let loose a new war on Europe, those who will emerge victorious will not be Baldwin, nor Churchill, nor their American masters, but the revolutionary proletariat of Europe.

a speech delivered on 15th February 1926 and first published in Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn, 16th February 1926 (Two poles of the workers movement).


1 On 12th October 1923, amid economic collapse and the revolutionary upsurge of the working class throughout Germany, the Communist Party joined the social -democratic governments of the states of Saxony and Thuringia, partly in order to have access to state arsenals to arm the workers. On 21st October a conference of workers’ organisations was called at Chemnitz to organise a general strike against the impending invasion of Saxony by the Reichswehr. The proposal was defeated by the social-democrats and Brandler, the leader of the Communists, called off hastily made plans for a workers’ insurrection by armed detachments throughout Germany. On the 24th Reichswehr units under General Mueller entered Dresden, the capital of Saxony, and deposed the state government and disarmed the communist workers’ detachments.

2 See Extracts 103.

3 See Extract 78.

4 Rich Russian merchant families of peasant origin.

5 The ‘pact’ was signed at the Locarno Conference in October 1925 by France, Belgium and Germany and guaranteed by Britain and Italy. It confirmed Germany’s western frontiers and laid down the complete de-militarization of the Rhineland which had been occupied by Britain and France since the German surrender in 1918.

6 Trotsky’s prediction was accurate: the General Strike began on 4th May 1926.

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