Eugen Varga


The Contract Between the Russo-Asiatica
and Soviet Russia

(15 September 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 79, 15 September 1922, pp. 590–591.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A few days ago a contract has been concluded in Berlin, between Soviet Russia and the Russo-Asiatica. The stir it produced in the press of France, England and Russia is best proof of its importance. Some facts are necessary for a clear under standing of the situation.

The Russo-Asiatica was one of the largest foreign capitalist enterprises in Russia. Its head, Mr. L. Urquhart is one of the most powerful industrials and financiers of England. As every true capitalist, he had first hoped to regain his confiscated property in Soviet Russia by force of arms. He was the leader of that very influential Association of English capitalists who had suffered property losses through the Russian Revolution. This Association had been conducting for years a savage campaign against Soviet Russia, through the press, on the political field, and by financial and material support of Koltchak. The fact that after a year of lengthy negotiations this contract has been concluded with Urquhart proves, first of all, that the English capitalists have given up their hope of overthrowing the Soviet Regime in Russia. This has greater international significance than even the formal diplomatic recognition of Soviet Russia.

The form of the contract is itself of great importance. After the various capitalist groups trying to obtain concessions in Soviet Russia had long attempted to secure for their Russian possessions the advantage of extra-territoriality, just as their enterprises in Turkey and other half-sovereign states possess, the Urquhart contract represents the recognition of Soviet Russia’s sovereignty so far as its inner government is concerned. The enterprise is subject to the decisions of the Russian courts, in all differences with the Soviet Government or Russian private enterprises. The same applies to conflicts arising from the application oi labor laws. Arbitration is provided for only in the case that any difference of opinion arises between Soviet Russia and the Urquhart enterprise as to the basic interpretation of the contract. We see then, that all the rights of the Russian proletariat, won by the Revolution, are protected.

The principle that nationalized property will not be returned to its former owners is also fully maintained in the contract, the former property is let to its owners for a period not exceeding 99 years. The Soviet Government retains the right to withdraw the concession after a given time, and under conditions provided for in the contract. The enterprise pays 7½% of its gross production as rent in kind. Since this is the first concession of its kind, and since it is expected that the Urquhart contract will be followed by many more, the Soviet Government has agreed to finance partly the necessary reparations; partly in cash and partly in Treasury notes, redeemable in 15 years.

The economic importance of the contract must not be underestimated. Before the war, this corporation employed about fifty thousand workers; it exploited very large copper and gold mines, owned its own forests and agricultural establishments. As the contract provides for the development of production to the pre-war level, the share of the Government cannot fail to be very large. More important than the financial advantages, is the fact that the resumption of production will enlarge the ranks of the Russian proletariat which has been very much thinned down by the industrial ruin following the War and the Revolution. The industrial proletariat of the Ural which had left the production centers and returned to the land, will again be united in large industrial enterprises. The basic support of the proletarian dictatorship, the industrial proletariat, living in large industrial centers, will thereby grow in size and strength.

But the true importance of the contract lies in the fact that Urquhart’s example will surely be followed by a number of English, French, Belgian, and perhaps German industrials. After the conferences of Genoa and The Hague had proved that the bourgeoisie as a class could come to no agreement with Soviet Russia on an international scale, nothing remained to Russia and to the individual capitalists but the possibility of individual contracts. The Urquhart contract is the first of a long series which will bring to Russia the indispensable means of production she could not obtain through international state credits.

The enemies of the Communists, the Mensheviki of all countries, will surely take advantage of this opportunity to accuse the Bolsheviki of re-establishing capitalism and capitalist rule in Russia. It suffices to point to the articles of the contract to nail this preposterous lie.

Our short sketch proves sufficiently that all the victories of the Proletarian Revolution have been maintained. But to those proletarians who are devoted body and soul to the cause of the Revolution, and who are pained to see capitalists allowed in Russia at all, we will say: It is not the Russian comrades who are responsible for this, but the proletarian masses outside of Russia. Had the proletarian movement outside of Russia been strong enough to wrench the power from its capitalist class, nothing could have brought more happiness to the Russian Communists than to obtain the means of production they need from the French, English or German proletariat, instead of from the capitalists of those countries.

The Russian proletariat has been fighting alone for five years. It has made sacrifices for the cause of the Revolution which were not believed possible. In order to be able to exist at all, it must now obtain from the rest of the world the means of production. And since the proletariat of Europe is incapable of furnishing them, it must necessarily turn to the capitalists. Every proletarian must and will understand this.

Last updated on 1 September 2020