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Fourth International, April 1943


Terence Phelan

Woodrow Wilson and Bolshevism


Source: Fourth International, Vol.IV No.4, April 1943, pp.106-111.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


“If America had not turned her back upon the world ...” The Wilson Day speeches last December were built around this theme: that what “lost the peace” and started Europe on the path to fascism and the Second World War was the fact that America became “isolationist” and rejected Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations. The corollary theme is: this time a real world-wide organization of the United Nations will enforce democracy, outlaw war, and sprinkle benevolent pints of milk over a “better world.”

Any attempt to make these post-war aims specific, or to include lesser powers in the discussion, is countered in Washington and London by the cry of: “First let us win the war; then, the peace.” Much as, during the last war, Colonel House strongly advised Wilson against discussion of peace terms among all the Allies:

“If the Allies begin to discuss terms among themselves, they will soon hate one another worse than they do Germany and a situation will soon arise similar to that in the Balkan States after the Turkish War. It seems to me that the only thing to be considered at present is to beat Germany in the quickest way.” [1]

If these words have a familiar ring today, it is because the basic situations are so closely parallel.

The twofold thesis of the apologists for Woodrow Wilson can be fairly condensed as follows:

  1. One variant presents the League of Nations and the Versailles Treaty as quite different things, only the Treaty being vicious; another presents Wilson as not really liking the Treaty but believing the League would correct its inequities.
  2. If America had accepted its international responsibilities by joining the League, the chaotic and sanguinary consequences of Versailles could have been avoided.

In reality, of course, the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations are inseparable. The League was, and was universally understood to be, the instrumentality for enforcing and administering the Treaty. This is inherent in the fact that the Covenant is merely one of the Treaty’s articles. Wilson, speaking in New York on March 4, 1919, just before returning to Paris to complete the Treaty, particularly insisted on their inextricable fusion, emphasizing that the Covenant was a part of the Treaty, and “not only in it, but so many threads of the treaty tied to the covenant that you cannot dissect the covenant from the treaty without destroying the whole vital structure.” [2]

Far from denying US responsibility for the Treaty, Wilson, in a speech at Seattle, on September 15, 1919, claimed it:

“For the specifications of this treaty were American specifications, and we have got not only to be the architects, drawing up the specifications, but we have got to be the contractors, too.” [3]

Later, he hails “... the Treaty of Versailles. I am proud to speak for it.” [4] Again and again he calls Versailles “a people’s peace.” Dozens of other unequivocal Wilson statements give the lie to the efforts of Wilsonian apologists to separate Covenant from Treaty and whitewash Wilson of responsibility for the latter.

The “isolationist” rejection of the League of Nations by the US people in the “solemn referendum” of the 1920 presidential elections is only a muddy myth. Both candidates, Democratic Cox and Republican Harding, weaseled with mealy-mouthed generalities, the former apologetically for the League, the latter for “an association of nations.” Furthermore Harding accepted the Lodge bloc’s position, which was not, as is often ignorantly alleged, against the League, but for the League with certain reservations. Just as much as to any alleged popular “isolationist” sentiment against a league of nations, the Democratic defeat is attributable to: the electorate’s rejection of Wilson’s party for his plunge into the war immediately after winning his second election on the promise to stay out of it; his domestic anti-labor policies during the war; his intervention against the Soviet Union; and the vicious territorial provisions of the Treaty (quite apart from its League aspect) which wounded or enraged millions of foreign-born in the US – German, Ukrainian, Austrian, Hungarian, Balkan, etc., etc. Indeed, a rereading of Wilson’s late 1919 speeches in favor of the Treaty reveals that he devoted a very large proportion of his arguments to denying that “reparations” were “indemnities,” that the punishment of the German people was too severe, and defending the sell-out of China to Japan in the malodorous Shantung provisions.

But, more significantly, the entire question whether the US “turned its back on the world” is so much nonsense. The basic fact is that, by the time the US electorate had a chance to express any opinion, Wilson, first through Colonel House and the Allied Supreme War Council, then through his own actuation at the Peace Conference, had so completely settled the world’s hash that the consequences were inevitable. The main preoccupations of Wilson, as of the rest of the “Big Four;” were, not so much to “write the peace” as to

  1. crush the Soviet Union;
  2. head off a socialist revolution in defeated Germany;
  3. strangle Soviet Hungary;
  4. smash revolution and aid counter-revolution elsewhere;
  5. redivide the world according to the demands of the three most powerful imperialisms.

Wilson, as we shall see, often and seriously differed with the others on tactics and methods, but never on these basic aims. Let us take a careful look at what Wilson really did at Versailles.

Wilson as a Naive Idealist

But first it is essential to dissipate another secondary argument: that Wilson was an innocent idealist bamboozled by the wicked European diplomatikers – a myth sedulously fostered especially by Maynard Keynes. Wilson’s own evaluation, made in a speech at Des Moines on September 6, 1919, is first-hand evidence:

“Do not let me leave the impression on your minds that the representatives of America in Paris had to insist and force their principles upon the rest. That is not true. Those principles were accepted before we got over there, and the men I dealt with carried them out in absolute good faith; but they were our own principles ...” [5]

The myth of “idealist” Wilson and the wicked diplomatikers is postulated upon the contention that the Peace Conference was a battle of good and evil, a struggle between Wilson’s Fourteen Points and those secret treaties unsuspected by him whereby the European powers had prepared to re-carve the world. Wilsonian apologists cite his August 19, 1919, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the effect that he learned about the secret treaties “as a whole” only when he reached Paris. But Wilson was here employing a characteristically hypocritical quibble turning on the weasel words “on the whole.” It is now notorious that Arthur Balfour had often discussed the secret treaties with House, who had told Wilson; that in April 1917 Balfour, on a mission to discuss the terms of US entry into the war, conferred with House and Wilson, not only explaining the secret treaties in detail, but carefully going over with the President a map of Europe showing the resultant new frontiers. Those bourgeois apologists who admit Wilson’s guilty knowledge try to explain that there was no essential difference between Wilson’s concept of self-determination of nationalities and the secret treaties. When we see more of Wilson’s “idealism,” we shall find the statement quite true, but in a sinister and cynical sense. The elevated moral tone of these Wilson-Balfour conversations is indicated by the fact that, since a militarily weak democratic regime had in the February revolution replaced militaristic Czarism, neither Balfour nor Wilson saw any further reason to honor on behalf of Russian democracy the treaty commitments made with Czarism. This fact is the more ironic when it is remembered that it was precisely in the attempt to honor Czarist commitments (in the spring offensive, etc.) that the Kerensky regime risked (and lost) its head.

Furthermore, in view of his demagogic opposition to “annexations and indemnities,” it is revealing that Wilson not only accepted the essence of the territorial grabs in the secret treaties, but specifically agreed in advance to the Allied demand for indemnities, re-baptized “reparations.” [6]

Wilson preached the war as a crusade against “Kaiserism,” “militarism,” “Junkerdom,” etc. This is held by some to indicate his naïveté. In reality it indicates his hypocrisy. Just before Wilson had his famous breakdown, his raw and jangling nerves made him blurt some tactless truths. For example, in the St. Louis Coliseum on September 5, 1919, just twenty days before he was carried back to Washington in his private car, his irritation caused him to make a startlingly frank outburst:

“Why, my fellow citizens, is there any man here or any woman, let me say is there any child here, who does not know that the seed of wax in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry? The real reason that the war we have just finished took place was that Germany was afraid her commercial rivals were going to get the better of her, and the reason why some nations went into the war against Germany was that they thought Germany would get the advantage of them.” [7]

The Fourteen Points themselves, issued on January 8, 1918, on examination prove to have been, not a spontaneous “idealistic” invention, but an imperialist imitation of the propaganda the Soviets were pouring into the warring countries during the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations: Wilson wrote them when Edgar G. Sisson, Petrograd agent of the notorious Creel’s propaganda department, worried by Bolshevism’s progress cabled begging that Wilson “restate anti-imperialist war aims and democratic peace requisites of America ...” And when the reeling German government seized on them at the beginning of October 1918 as basis for an armistice, the “humanitarian” Wilson disingenuously delayed transmission of the German appeal to the Allies until the German front appeared sufficiently crumbled. Events inside Germany, however, jarred Wilson into precipitate action. Says Bemis:

“A frantic constitutional reformation of the German Government did not prevent the proclamation of a socialist republic in Berlin, but it induced President Wilson at least to transmit to the triumphing Allies the German request for an armistice ...” [8]

This, then, was the naive humanitarian who sailed for the Paris Peace Conference. In his stateroom on the George Washington, he made a statement of aims which nicely summarizes both his main preoccupation and his special method. As Dr. Isaiah Bowman, a member of the peace mission, cited Wilson in his notes, the President explained that

“The poison of Bolshevism was accepted because ‘It is a protest against the way in which the world has worked.’ It was to be our purpose at the Peace conference to fight for ‘a new order’ ...”

A “new order.” Even in this, his most famous phrase, history proves the wretched Hitler a plagiarist.

The Peace Conference

The October revolution ended World War I – not in a flash, but brought it to a grinding stop. The news of October produced mutinies and unrest in every army, strikes and demonstrations in every rear. The Allies – working through the Supreme War Council – by armed intervention and subsidization of White armies showed their conviction that they must at any cost destroy the force which threatened to snatch their victory from them by engulfing victors and vanquished alike in socialist revolution. The whole Treaty negotiations took place under the long shadow cast across Europe by the new workers’ state: fear lest it stabilize itself haunted the “peace-makers”; to crush it became their key problem.

The very choice of Paris reflects the fact. Colonel House later admitted:

“Wilson and I agreed that Switzerland was the best place for the Conference. But after reaching Paris, I found that Switzerland was threatened with Bolshevism, and it was decided that it was inadvisable to hold the Conference there.”

Only directly behind the massed bayonets of their own armies did these gentry feel even comparatively secure.

There is plenty of testimony to this fact. Said Ray Stannard Baker:

“The effect of the Russian problem on the Paris Conference was profound: Paris cannot be understood without Moscow. Without ever being represented in Paris at all, the Bolshevik and Bolshevism were powerful elements at every turn. Russia played a more vital part at Paris than Prussia.” [9]

Colonel House bears constant witness to the same fear. He speeded up the process of the Treaty “before, as he termed it, ‘the whole world was to drop into the abyss of Bolshevism’.” [10] And in his diary he wrote on March 22:

“Bolshevism is gaining ground everywhere. Hungary has just succumbed. We are sitting on an open powder magazine and some day a spark may ignite it.” [11]

Herbert Hoover, in the thick of things with his anti-Bolshevik food missions, confirms these judgments. Calmly summarizing US actions two years later, he categorically wrote that “the whole of American policies during the liquidation of the armistice was to contribute everything it could to prevent Europe from going Bolshevik ...” [12]

And on this fundamental point, as we shall observe, the British and French saw eye-to-eye with the Americans.

The Peace Conference opened on January 12, 1919, with plenipotentiaries of 27 nations. But to keep all but the most powerful from influencing decisions, there was immediately set up a Council of Ten. For the really serious skullduggery, even this was too public: the chief imperialisms set up a Council of Four, which won the nickname of the “Big Four” – Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Italy’s Vittorio Orlando. Japan made it a “Big Five” when her interests were immediately concerned. After Orlando left in a huff over Fiume, it became the “Big Three.” Meeting confidentially, with only one secretary, these representatives of the world’s greatest remaining imperialisms secretly [13] prepared the “peace” and ruled the very uneasy world.

Although the Bolsheviks, the day after they took power, had called for a conference to make a universal peace without annexations and indemnities, Soviet representatives were of course excluded from the Peace Conference, while Paris was crawling with White Russians. Kerenskian Ambassador to the US Boris Bakhmetiev set up Paris headquarters for them, drawing on the $325,500,000 credits the US had extended Russia under Kerensky. Point VI of Wilson’s Fourteen Points had been:

“The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.”

Within six months Wilson had implemented this homily by sending US troops to invade the Soviet Union. As the Radek-Chicherin note pointed out to Wilson, quoting his hypocritical assurance of “assistance”:

“... in reality this assistance expressed itself in the fact that the Czecho-Slovak troops and soon afterwards your own troops and those of your Allies attempted at Archangel, at Murmansk, in the Far East, to force upon the Russian people the government of the oppressors ...” [14]

The Soviet note went unanswered, unless the answer could be considered the 29th point in the armistice terms, which ordered that “all Russian war vessels of all descriptions seized by Germany are to be handed over to the Allies and the USA.”

At the time the Allied statesmen closeted themselves as the Big Four, they had already taken far-reaching actions against the USSR. Their pre-Armistice measures they had disguised as efforts to reestablish the Eastern Front against Germany, to prevent German seizure of Allied war material in Russian territory, to put down bands of armed German prisoners, to aid the Czechoslovak regiments in Russia to make their way round the world to the Western Front, etc. Hence the armistice and the end of the “German peril” should have meant the end of intervention. Instead, intervention and help to White armies was enormously stepped up. As early as December 12, 1917, the British had armed an anti-Soviet Estonian army. By December 23, the imperialists were ready (they thought) to slice the South Russian cake according to the following secret British-French document revealed by the Soviet government:

“1. The activity directed by France is to be developed north of the Black sea (against the enemy). The activity directed by England is to be developed southeast of the Black Sea (against the Turks). [15]

“2. Whereas General Alexeev at Novo-Cherkask has proposed the execution of a program envisaging the organization of an army intended to operate against the enemy, and where as France has adopted that program and allocated a credit of one hundred millions for this purpose and made Provision for the organization of inter-Allied control, the execution of the program shall be continued until new arrangements are made in concert with England.

“3. With this reservation, the zones of influence assigned to each government shall be as follows:

“The English zone: the Cossack territories, the territory of the Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia, Kurdistan.

“The French zone: Bessarabia, the Ukraine, the Crimea.

“4. The expenses shall be pooled and regulated by a centralizing inter-Allied organ.” [16]

A strictly business deal – and the Allies meant business. A strangling blockade, ever since the Bolsheviks took power, had been starving the Soviet masses, while food and arms poured in generous torrents to all the White armies. By mid-summer 1918, Wilson had allotted $5,000,000 for winter supplies to civilians in Allied-held Russian territory. He sent $5,000,000 (later increased to $8,000,000) to the counterrevolutionary Czechoslovak armies in central Siberia; and saw that they also received a further $5,000,000 from the War Trade Board. By mid-June 1918 the British and French had landed at Murmansk, followed by Americans, and advanced 150 miles toward Leningrad. On August 2, an Allied landing at Archangel overthrew the Soviet, established a bourgeois government, and also pushed south and west, In September 1918 arrived 4,700 US reinforcements. In Siberia, beginning in August 1918, by agreement among the US, Britain, France, Italy and Japan to throw in 7,000 men each, they seized Vladivostok and the railways for thousands of miles inward. (The Japanese, double-crossing their allies, slapped in 73,400 men, supporting Ataman Semenov while the others supported Admiral Kolchak.) The French landed at Odessa on December 17, 1918, having ordered the Germans to stay till just before their arrival, in an attempt to avoid a Bolshevik interregnum. Even earlier, on November 16, the joint British-White Russian (Denikin) fleet had taken Baku, with its flagship flying the US, British, French, and Czarist Russian ensigns. Britain, which finally had some 184,000 troops involved in North Russia alone, maintained crack staffs with most White leaders and poured out munitions without stint; its admitted total costs were over $460,893,000. Japan expended between $291,600,000 and $340,000,000. It must not be forgotten that decisions for these interventions, even those not involving US troops, were made by the Allied Supreme War Council, on which sat Wilson’s alter ego, Colonel House.

“Big” vs. “Little” Interventionists

The purpose, especially after the armistice, was nothing less than the total destruction of the young workers’ state. Wilson in public pronouncements at this point kept up a mealy-mouthed hypocrisy; but Clemenceau, more forthright, wrote in early December to General Franchet d’Esperey whose troops were invading the Ukraine:

“I hereby enclose a letter which presents a general plan for the economic isolation of Bolshevism in Russia with a view to provoking its fall.”

On December 21, he restated by telegram:

“The plan of action of the Allies is to realize simultaneously the economic encirclement of the Bolsheviks and the reorganization of order by Russian elements.”

The use of the word “economic” to describe armies conquering by fire-and sword must be attributed to the celebrated French quality of delicacy. Franchet d’Esperey was under no misapprehensions as to what Clemenceau meant.

Thus it was quite apparent that the Big Four, as they sat down in Paris, were quite in earnest about smashing the Soviet Union. The only differences of opinion concerned: the methods, and the heirs.

They began with a measure everyone could agree on: tightening the starvation blockade. [17] Under Allied pressure, the Scandinavian nations were forced to cut off even the tiny trickle of food they were letting filter into the USSR. The US government, unable formally to share in the blockade, which infringed international juridical rights for which the US had supposedly gone to war with Germany, took the effective parallel measure of refusing export licenses or clearance papers to ships leaving for Soviet-held ports. Allied warships pursued and drove back Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and other neutral vessels heading for Soviet harbors. Meanwhile the quantity of food being poured from the US through the Red Cross and Hoover to all White armies and the territories they had occupied was stepped up. [18] Then the Big Four settled down to business.

Dirty business, and difficult business. Fischer [19], unearthing from an obscure US Senate document the minutes of the first major discussion in the office of French Foreign Minister Pichon on January 16, 1919 among Wilson, Clemenceau and Pichon, Lloyd George and Balfour, and Sonnino, reveals these gentry’s main preoccupation:

“If they proposed to kill Bolshevism by the sword, answered Lloyd George, ‘the armies would mutiny…The mere idea of crushing Bolshevism by a military force is pure madness. Even admitting that it is done, who is to occupy Russia?’

“‘Kolchak and Denikin’ was the ready reply of his opponents. Churchill, Noulens, Foch, and the French and British military still put their trust in the anti-Bolshevik elements of Russia. But Lloyd George, with an instinct that explains much of his political success, already sensed the inferior quality of the Russian White leaders ...

“‘If a military enterprise were started against the Bolshevik,’ he declared, ‘that would make England Bolshevist, and there would be a Soviet in London.’ At the same meeting:

“‘President Wilson stated that he would not be surprised to find that the reason why British and United States troops would not be ready to enter Russia [sic: they had been there six months] to fight the Bolshevik was explained by the fact that the troops were not at all sure that if they put down Bolshevism they would not be bringing about a re-establishment of the ancient order.’

“The soldiers were thinking, and they were tired.”

To Paris from every quarter came news of “self-demobilizations” of armies, civilian rioting, spreading strikes. In every country workers were rising to protest Allied intervention against the Soviet Union:

“‘The Bolshevist danger is very great at, the present moment,’ said Clemenceau, according to the official summary of the Council of Ten’s deliberations at Paris on January 21. 1919. ‘Bolshevism was spreading. It had invaded the Baltic Provinces and Poland, and that very moment they received very bad news regarding its spread to Budapest and Vienna. Italy, also, was in danger. The danger was probably greater there than in France. If Bolshevism, after spreading in Germany, were to traverse Austria and Hungary and so reach Italy, Europe would be faced with a great danger. Therefore, something must be done against Bolshevism.’”

But what, and how?

The Allies were impeded, almost before they started, by the fact that, before they had dispossessed the Soviet people, they were wrangling about the division of the loot. The question of who was going to exploit re-conquered Russia was just as important as that of who was going to control Europe. Wilson had long resisted the joint occupation of Vladivostok and the Pacific Maritime Provinces, not certainly through lack of anti-Sovietism, but through excess of anti-Japanese imperialism: he foresaw that the Oriental rivals of US imperialism would not soon or easily be got out again. Despite their accord cited above, the British and French were already at loggerheads over the South Russia booty. The Japanese hindered Kolchak because he was a tool of the other Allies. The French supported Petlura against the predominantly British Denikin. And the mere mention of Russian petroleum was enough to set all the Allies at one another’s throats.

Nor could they get together on the degree and form of intervention. “As Baron Sonnino has implied, said Wilson at this same meeting, “they were all repelled by Bolshevism and for that reason they had placed armed men in opposition to them.” But – But – they needed only a mere 150,000 sure men to crush the hard-beset Bolsheviks. They had nominal control over armies of millions. But nowhere could they find those 150,000 men.

And with this we come to the real, not the fairy-tale, difference between Wilson and certain of the others. The “big” interventionists, led by the hysterically anti-Soviet Winston Churchill, who substituted for Lloyd George (who had worriedly rushed to England to try to head off a general strike), backed by Noulens and the Allied General Staffs, were for pouring men and munitions and money into the anti-Soviet struggle regardless of cost, even at the risk of European revolution – their theory being that the only way to stop Bolshevism’s spread was to wipe it out instantly at the fountain-head at Moscow. Clemenceau was for as much direct intervention as was not suicidal, plus plenty of aid to the White armies, and the isolation of the “infection” by the creation of a cordon sanitaire of anti-Soviet states around Soviet Russia – Poland and the corridor, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and anything in the way of Caucasian, Armenian, Ukrainian, and Far Eastern puppet-states they could pick up or set up. House and Wilson and (now he realized the gravity of the situation) Lloyd George were opposed to “big” intervention. Why? Because, says House,

“... any invasion of Russian territory would only strengthen the Bolshevists…A nation invariably rises to the defense of its government against a foreign invader.”

They were, of course, more than ready to decimate the entire Russian nation, if they could. But meanwhile, said Lloyd George in effect, we would be hanging from the lampposts in London and Paris.

Wilson’s Individual Policy

Wilson had seen this long before. He was already terrified for Europe and by the time he returned from the Peace Conference he was terrified for America. In a speech at Billings, Montana, on September 11, 1919, he cried:

“I speak of Russia. Have you seen no symptoms of the spread of that sort of chaotic spirit into other countries? If you had been across the sea with me you would know that the dread of every thoughtful man in Europe is that that distemper will spread to their countries…Have you heard nothing of the propaganda of that sort of belief in the United States? That poison is running through all the veins of the world, and we have made the methods of communication throughout the world such that all the veins of the world are open and the poison can circulate. The wireless throws it out upon the air. The cable whispers it underneath the sea. Men talk about it in little groups, men talk about it openly in great groups. There are apostles of Lenin in our own midst.” [20]

Wilson was haunted: day after day, in Kansas City, St. Paul, Bismarck, Coeur d’Alene, Minneapolis and Columbus, he hammered on the subject like a man possessed, pleading for the entry of the US into the League precisely to stop Bolshevism. But, more keenly attuned to popular sentiment, he feared that frontal attacks alone on the growing revolution would bring the whole tottering capitalist edifice crashing in ruins. When, on the Conference’s opening day, Generalissimo Foch had insisted that peace with Germany be made instantly so the Allies might embark on a gigantic anti-Bolshevik crusade, Wilson had demurred. Admitting that Bolshevism was a grave “social and political danger” he averred that “there was great doubt in his mind whether Bolshevism could be checked by arms.” Study of Wilson’s actions demonstrates conclusively that, from the time of the Fourteen Points on, he had a consistent policy: blockade, military intervention, help to White armies and their regions, on the one hand, balanced, on the other, by demagogic liberalism and hypocritical offers of peaceful coexistence with the workers’ state. Wilson never believed his own fairy tale that it was merely “agitators” who produced Bolshevism. Occasionally, as in a Minneapolis speech on September 9, 1919, he stated categorically:

“Blood has been spilled in rivers, the flower of the European nations has been destroyed, and at last the voiceless multitudes of men are awake, and they have made up their minds that rather than have this happen again, if the Governments cannot get together, they will destroy the Government.” [21]

And, five days earlier at Columbus, he described revolutions as the product of “a hot anger that could not be suppressed…Revolutions have come because men know that they have rights and that they are disregarded.” Wilson’s idea was: with one hand to strike every possible blow at the spreading revolution; with the other, to try to seduce the suffering peoples from revolution by the demagogic promises of a genuine solution of their problems within the framework of capitalism. In this he was more a realist than the “realists” like Churchill: his humanitarian liberal front was a surer weapon than tanks (whose simultaneous use he of course did not disdain). But he dialectically complemented precisely those mad-dog interventionists of the Churchill breed in a skillful division of labor: it was the old game of “hard cop, soft cop.”

The Soviet Foreign Commissariat had been indefatigably bombarding, first the Allied government (and Wilson in particular), then the Allied Supreme War Council, and finally the Peace Conference, with pleas for peace, aiming lees at those eminent gentlemen than at their suffering peoples. Wilson, sensitive to popular opinion, and worried by the obvious effects of the Soviet notes, seized on Litvinov’s Peace Appeal of Christmas Eve 1918 to suggest to the other powers that a truce be declared in Russia and all Russian factions send special delegates to the Peace Conference. The French blew up. Bolsheviks in Paris? – why, they would convert France and England to Bolshevism! [22]

But by January 21, 1919, it was becoming obvious even to some of the die-hards that frontal attack alone was insufficient. On the 12th Chicherin had again asked the US to “kindly name a place and time for opening of peace negotiations with our representatives.” So Wilson was commissioned to plan a meeting of all Russian factions, but at a good safe distance from Paris – say an Aegean island, or Prinkipo. Though it was voted to invite Soviet delegates, the invitation was “somehow” never transmitted. Yet of all the “Russian factions,” it was only the Soviet, hearing indirectly of the “invitation,” who rushed to accept it [23]; the Whites refused or ignored it. This did not prevent Wilson later from stating in an official communication to White general Admiral Kolchak that the Prinkipo proposal had “broken down through the refusal of the Soviet Government.” The basic idea of Balfour and Wilson had been that the Soviets would refuse, and that they could then cast the onus on the Bolsheviks. Wilson said the proposal would “bring about a marked reaction against Bolshevism.” When the Soviet proposals arrived, couched, not in windy diplomatic generalities, but in concrete and unhypocritical terms indicating that they knew just what the Allies were after, Lloyd George and Wilson took this frankness as an “insult.”

Wilson tried another device: on February 22nd (taking only Lloyd George into his confidence) he sent to Russia a secret mission under William C. Bullitt. The net idea was the freezing of all territorial divisions among the “Russian factions” as they stood, and the disarming of the Soviet troops, in return for food from the Allies. At the time Wilson sent Bullitt, it looked as though the Red Army was immovable. But by the time he returned, the Whites under Kolchak were driving victoriously to the Volga and ultimately toward Moscow. Whereupon Wilson dropped Bullitt and Lloyd George disowned him.

Kolchak had become the Allies’ White hope. To his armies the US poured immense quantities of Red Cross supplies, railway equipment, and war stores. US Shipping Board ships transported 260,000 rifles to him via Vladivostok. An Anglo-American syndicate (Baring Bros. of London; Kidder, Peabody and Company of Boston; the Guarantee Trust Company and National City Bank of New York) hastened to lend him $38,000,000. But he met the fate of all White hopes: he was soon hurled back, retreating from Trotsky’s Red Army toward the Urals through a “rear” of infuriated peasants.

Even then the Allies did not wholly lose hope. The statesmen at Paris ordered all consuls at Helsingfors, including the US, to support the Finnish government if it assisted Kolchak by a simultaneous attack on Petrograd. At another time, they put heavy pressure on Finland to assist a Yudenich attack on the same city. Under pretense that it was necessary to reinforce their expeditionary force in order to evacuate it safely (though the Reds offered them an armistice for the purpose), the British increased their strength at Murmansk; then, far from evacuating, they made a major drive to effect a junction.

The Soviet acceptance offered to recognize the debts of previous regimes, plus interest in the form of raw materials, to grant mining, lumbering and other concessions, and to discuss annexations of Russian territory by Entente Powers. [24] Implicit in this acceptance was de facto recognition of anti-Soviet Russian regimes. That is how far Lenin and Trotsky were prepared to go to gain a breathing spell with Kolchak.

From Siberia, forces were not withdrawn till April 1920, a year and a half after the armistice, and even then the Japanese stayed on. As tools, the Allies disdained no one, employing not only the commonest bandits like Petlura, but their “enemies”: the Armistice (arranged by House) and the Treaty (Wilson) had authorized the Germans to keep their armies in the Baltic Provinces of Russia, not to be withdrawn till “... the governments of the principal allied and associated Powers shall think suitable, having regard to the internal situation of those territories.” Says Fischer:

“The Ebert Cabinet in Berlin gladly served the Allies in this matter, and though it withdrew part of its tired [read: “infected”?] regular forces, it financed the irregular, volunteer battalions of von der Goltz.”

The memory of world imperialism’s desperate and all-sided efforts to destroy the first workers’ state is still fresh. Yet the bourgeoisie today tries to explain away, or simply to wipe out, this ineradicable memory. It is hard to find words to characterize the brassy cynicism of, for example, the editorial writer of the New York Times Topics of the Times column for March 25, who has the gall to declare, among other falsifications:

“But when in our past relations with Soviet Russia have the people or government of the United States, or for that matter of the Allies, double-crossed the USSR or tried to do so?

“... in a desperate move to reopen an eastern front against Germany, the Allies sent troops to Archangel and Murmansk. A second object was to prevent large stocks of war materials in those ports from falling into German hands. But very soon after, in July, 1918, the tide of war in the west turned in favor of the Allies. Final victory came in November, and the United States and Britain lost all interest in the Russian business ...

“Nothing can be more grotesque than the common notion that in 1918 the Allies intervened in Russia in a wanton attempt to strangle the infant USSR ...” (Our italics.)

It requires more than such airy falsifications of established fact to remove from Woodrow Wilson and his colleagues the historical responsibility for the shambles they made of Europe. The policy they showed toward the young Soviet Union they applied equally, as we shall show in a second article, to the rest of Europe. The measures they were logically compelled to take by their fundamental aim – the repression of the socialist revolution everywhere – dictated the mad map of post-war Europe, fertilized the soil for Mussolini and Hitler, and led undeviatingly to the Second World War in a generation. Once they had done their work at the “peace” conference, no league of capitalist nations or US entry into that league, no series of pacts, no “collective security,” no miracle, could have saved Europe. The only salvation for that shattered and tragic continent was and remains the Socialist United States of Europe. And it was precisely against that solution that the efforts of Wilson and his colleagues were indefatigably directed.

(This is the first of two articles by Terence Phelan; the second will appear in a subsequent number.)

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1. Quoted by Samuel Flagg Bemis, A Diplomatic History or the United States, New York 1936, p.611.

2. Published Papers of Woodrow Wilson: War and Peace, vol.I, p.451. Unless otherwise noted, all subsequent quotations from Wilson’s speeches and documents are taken from this work.

3. Vol.II, p.200.

4. Vol.II, p.385.

5. Vol.II, p.22.

6. See Wilson’s note, Further Armistice Terms, Vol.I, pp.291-2. A not uninteresting sidelight on his true attitude to indemnities is cast on pp.492 et seq. of vol.II where we find that Wilson years later vetoed a Congressional Resolution declaring the war with Germany at an end, precisely because the Resolution did not exact indemnities. And, lest it be supposed that Congress was a less greedy representative of US capitalism than the President, note that in the final settlement Congress “reserved to the US all rights which would have accrued to it by benefit of the Treaty of Versailles or by the European treaties of peace with the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.” The US of course demanded, and got, “occupation costs.”

7. Vol.I, p.637.

8. Op. Cit., p.622.

9. Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement: Written from his unpublished and personal material, New York, Vol.II, p.64.

10. Rose M. Stein: M-Day, New York 1936, p.128.

11. Ibid.

12. Louis Fischer: The Soviets in World Affairs – a History of Relations between the Soviet Union and the Rest of the World, 1930, p.174. All subsequent references to Fischer are to this two-volume work.

13. Wilson’s real opinions on “open covenants, openly arrived at” – one of his main slogans – win indicated by a most irritated cable he sent on June 7, 1919 to Senator G.M. Hitchcock urging investigation of “possession of text of treaty by unauthorized persons.” See Published Papers, etc., Vol.I, p.608.

14. Fischer, pp.147-8.

15. Note the terminology. On this date, France and England were formally at war with Turkey, whereas with Russia they were at least at peace, if not allies. Yet the Turks are called by name to distinguish them from the “enemy,” who are – the Russians!

16. Fischer, op. cit., p.836.

17. We regret that we cannot, on the subject of the blockade, give our readers the benefit of the really definitive work. In preparation by the famous Hoover War Library for many years, and announced for publication last winter, this work was suddenly found to have become stuck in the bindery, and the publishers, Stanford University, are unable to inform us when it can be persuaded to become unstuck.

18. For a thoroughgoing exposition of the role of food as a weapon during this entire period, see The Imperialist Strategy of Food, by C. Charles, in our January 1943 issue.

19. Fischer, pp.162 et seq.

20. Vol.II, pp.108-109.

21. Vol.II, p.69.

22. Baker, vol.I, p.166.

23. The Soviet acceptance offered to recognize the debts of previous regimes, plus interest in the form of raw materials, to grant mining, lumbering and other concessions, and to discuss annexations of Russian territory by Entente Powers. See Fischer, pp.167-168. Implicit in this acceptance was de facto recognition of anti-Soviet Russian regimes. That is how far Lenin and Trotsky were prepared to go to gain a breathing spell.

24. See Fischer, pp.167-168.

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