Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Fourth International, May 1943


Terence Phelan

What the Peacemakers Did to Europe


Source: Fourth International, Vol.IV No.5, May 1943, pp.141-146.
Transcription: Daniel Gaido.
Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of three articles by Terence Phelan on the Versailles Peace. They are an answer to the current claim that American participation in a league of nations would have saved the world; that, unfortunately, as Vice-President Wallace puts it, Americans “were not willing to give up certain of their international rights and to shoulder certain international duties.” Comrade Phelan’s articles puncture this pseudo-internationalist demagogy by documentary evidence that the US, in the Supreme Allied War Council and at the Peace Conference, so thoroughly laid the foundations for the resultant crises, fascism, and war, that its entry or non-entry into a league of nations would have made no significant difference. The first article, Woodrow Wilson and Bolshevism, in our April issue, demonstrated that the main preoccupation of the Paris Peace Conference was to crush the young Soviet Republic.

Winston Churchill frankly summarized the feelings of the Peace Conference delegates as they took their seats on the revolutionary volcano:

“When the great organizations of this world are strained beyond the breaking Point, their structure often collapses at all points simultaneously…[In Germany] the faithful armies were beaten at the front and demoralized from the rear. The proud, efficient Navy mutinied. Revolution exploded in the most disciplined and docile of states ...

“Such a spectacle appalls mankind; and a knell rang in the ears of the victors, even in their hour of triumph." [1]

The direst tolling of that knell, as we have seen, had reached their ears from the new Soviet Union. But closely rivaling it were the clangorous reverberations that Churchill heard from across the Rhine. Even before the Armistice, the alert Colonel House was alarmed: on October 30, 1918, he cabled Wilson concerning a conversation with Clemenceau:

“I pointed out the danger of bringing about a state of Bolshevism in Germany if the terms of the armistice were made too stiff, and the consequent danger to England, France, and Italy ...” [2]

The German rulers were identically worried. House again reported during the Armistice negotiations:

“I, have just seen Foch who has given me a procès-verbal [of the interview with the German delegates, who]…say that they will be overwhelmed by Bolshevism if we do not help them resist it, and that afterward we shall be invaded by the same plague.” [3]

We have already described [4] how the German workers and soldiers, their courage galvanized by the Soviet October put an end to Kaiserism and made their bid for socialism; and how the leaders of the Social Democratic Party helped the capitalists strangle the German revolution. In that strangulation, the Allies played a major part. The savage Allied interventions against the Soviet Union had already demonstrated to what extent German capitalism could rely on the aid of its erstwhile enemies to smash a workers’ revolt; simultaneously the Social Democratic leaders held the workers back with the cry: “If we made a revolution, the Entente will move in to crush it!” As early as October 18, 1918, a Manifesto of the Executive Committee of the Social Democratic Party had warned that revolution “would only…stimulate the lust of conquest by our enemies” – this being precisely that revolution, beginning November 9, which was to raise these gentry to governmental power. Once in power, of course, they became more reactionary than ever. When the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils (Soviets) were discussing the form of government to be created – whether the Soviets should keep the power or turn it over (as they fatally did) to a Constituent Assembly – the Supreme Allied War Council made a sharp declaration that it would not “negotiate with the representatives of any one class” – i.e. with a government of workers’ soviets. The Social Democratic leaders sang the same tune. Thus Scheidemann, at the November 19, 1918, meeting of the Berlin Councils, appealing for the Constituent Assembly, warned that

“The Entente would not recognize a [proletarian] dictatorship nor would it lift the ‘hunger blockade’ for such a government. If Russian aid were invoked by the revolutionists, German unity would collapse and the Entente would occupy Berlin before the Soviets could assist the German proletariat.” [5]

And Cohen-Reuss, on the third day of the National Congress of German Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, threatened:

“The Entente will occupy this city if Germany does not develop order. Bjorn Bjornson has just informed me that the French minister in Christiana has said within the last few days: ‘Things are favorable to us in Berlin; if conditions continue thus, we will be there in four weeks.’” [6]

Today “democratic” bourgeois opinion likes to bluster, “We were too soft with the Germans; we should have marched straight to Berlin.” Big talk – and empty. The real reason the Allies left the strangling of the socialist revolution so largely in the hands of the Social Democrats instead of “marching to Berlin” was not that they were too soft,” but that they were afraid to move. This is admitted by the authoritative Temperley, semi-official British historian of the Peace Conference [7]:

“The German troops had been contaminated with Bolshevist propaganda during the occupation of Russia. It might be equally dangerous for Entente troops to occupy revolutionary Germany.” [Our italics.]

And Churchill confirms this, when he says, concerning those British troops of occupation that were sent into Germany: “Stringent and reiterated orders against ‘Fraternization’ were required.” [8] Churchill should know. He was then supervising the repression of mutinies among the about-to-be-demobilized British troops in England.

Food as a Political Weapon

In sum, Germany presented the Allies with the same problem as Russia, save that in the one the socialist revolution was an accomplished fact, in the other an imminent and nightmarish probability. Among the Allied leaders there was the same unanimous agreement on ends; the same differences of opinion about methods. Should the blockade, for example, be lifted before Germany signed the Versailles Treaty? Temperley admits that

“the fear that complete anarchy might break out unless measures were taken by the Allies led to the insertion in the Armistice Agreement of 11th November 1918 of Article XXVI, which was to the effect that, although the blockade would continue to be maintained in principle, the Allies would permit the provisioning of Germany to the extent that would be considered necessary.” [9]

But although, as Churchill relates, the British occupying authorities began to warn that the blockade was driving the Germans to revolt, the Big Four – Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Orlando – could not make up their minds. The starving German people became pawns in a greedy struggle between the Allied and German bourgeoisie. On December 13, 1918, when the Armistice was extended to January 17, the Allied imperialists, though frightened lest starvation incite Bolshevism, made it a condition for the sending of food into Germany that the Germans turn over merchant shipping. The German capitalists refused, and hunger continued. Not until March 13 was an agreement reached. One of its conditions specified

“that no part of these consignments should be distributed to unemployed persons who by their own fault or choice fail to obtain work.” [10]

Temperley confirms our suspicions of the purpose:

“This clause was inserted mainly with a view to assisting the German Government to check the spread of internal disorders inside Germany ...” [11]

That the clause worked is stated by Lutz:

“It is significant that soon after the first food ship arrived, the political situation made a decided change and since that time has steadily improved…the menace of Bolshevism and the danger of the spread of anarchy from Germany to the Allies were present as long as Germany remained unfed.” [12]

This is no personal theory of Lutz. The semi-official Temperley confirms:

“In point of fact, the situation in Germany was extremely dangerous throughout the winter months and in the early spring of 1919, owing to the sporadic outbreaks of Spartacism all over the country, which threatened to develop into Bolshevism. The British and American policy was to strengthen the hands of the existing German government, and to enable it to restore law and order. It may safely be said that it was largely owing to the efforts of the British Military Authorities and the excellent information they possessed as to the real state of Germany, that food supplies were sent into Germany as early as April – probably just in time to save the country from anarchy and possibly Europe from a serious catastrophe.” [13]

It is hardly necessary to warn the reader that when these pious hypocrites speak of “anarchy,” “catastrophe,” “plague,” etc., they mean the heroic efforts of the German workers to end the murderous anarchy of capitalist war and starvation, and replace it by planned socialism, peace, and plenty. What they mean by “law and order” one figure will suffice to show: in the first nine months of 1919 the Social Democrat Noske’s bloodhounds slaughtered over 15,000 protesting workers, causing Winston Churchill to become positively lyrical over this new German hero. Meanwhile, the Allied blockade caused German infant mortality to treble in the three months following the Armistice.

The Allied and German capitalists stood solidly together against the German workers. During the Ruhr general strike of April 1919, Lutz reveals:

“Announcing the arrival of food shipments from the Allies, the [German] government stated that, acting under instructions from the Allies, it would give nothing to those who continued to strike.” [Our italics.]

This, then, is the factual basis on which has been erected the myth of Allied “humanitarianism” in feeding the defeated enemy.

The Allies were determined to impose as crushing a “peace” as possible. But they feared that to weaken their German imperialist rivals too much would render them too weak to stop a German socialist revolution. The question reached a crisis with Lloyd George’s famous memorandum of March 25, 1919, whose most germane sections deserve quotation:

“The greatest danger that I see in the present situation is that Germany may throw in her lot with Bolshevism and place her resources, her brains, her vast organizing Power at the disposal of the revolutionary fanatics whose dream it is to conquer the world for Bolshevism by force of arms. This danger is no mere chimera. The present government in Germany is weak; it has no prestige; its authority is challenged; it lingers merely because there is no alternative but the Spartacists [communists], and Germany is not ready for Spartacism as yet. But the argument which the Spartacists are using with great effect at this very time is that they alone can save Germany from the intolerable conditions which have been bequeathed her by the war. They offer to free the German people from indebtedness to the Allies and indebtedness to their own richer classes. They offer them complete control of their own affairs and the prospect of a new heaven and earth. It is true that the price will be heavy. There will be two or three years of anarchy, perhaps bloodshed, but at the end the land will remain, the people will remain, the greater part of the houses and the factories will remain, and the railways and the roads will remain, and Germany, having thrown off her burdens, will be able to make a fresh start.

“If Germany goes over to the Spartacists it is inevitable that she should throw in her lot with the Russian Bolsheviks. Once that happens all Eastern Europe will be swept into the orbit of the Bolshevik revolution and within a year we may witness the spectacle of nearly three hundred million people organized into a vast Red army under German instructors and German generals equipped with German cannon and German machine guns and prepared for a renewal of the attack on Western Europe. This is a prospect which no one can face with equanimity. Yet the news which came from Hungary yesterday shows only too clearly that this danger is no fantasy. And what are the reasons alleged for this decision? They are mainly the belief that large numbers of Magyars are to be handed over to the control of others. If we are wise, we shall offer to Germany a peace, which, while just, will be preferable for all sensible men to the alternative of Bolshevism.”

Clemenceau, who was pursuing a bitterly vengeful policy toward Germany, turned the Lloyd George memorandum over to Andre Tardieu for answering, and that frivolous but sinister figure on the 31st flung back a French counter-memo wherein he insists that the so-called “succession states” are the surest method for preventing a successful German revolution:

“Mr. Lloyd George’s Note fears that if the territorial conditions imposed on Germany are too severe, it will give an impetus to Bolshevism. Is it not to be feared that this would be precisely the result of the action suggested?

“The Conference has decided to call to life a certain number of new states. Can it without committing an injustice sacrifice them out of regard for Germany by imposing on them unacceptable frontiers? If these peoples – notably Poland and Bohemia – have so far restricted Bolshevism, they have done so by the development of national spirit. If we do violence to this sentiment, they will become the prey of Bolshevism and the only barrier now existing between Russian Bolshevism will be broken down.

“The result will be…a Confederation of Central and Eastern Europe under the leadership of Bolshevist Germany ...” [14]

Again, as in the case of the Soviet Union, the Allies agreed on aims, differed on methods.

Why Germany Retained Arms

Concerning German disarmament, the Big Four similarly split. Clemenceau and Tardieu were terrified at the continued size of the German military apparatus, which Tardieu estimated was still nearly a million men by the end of 1919. Lloyd George and Wilson, on the other hand, insisted that German capitalism had to have its bloodhounds if a socialist revolution was to be prevented. Germany was limited to a Reichswehr of 100,000 men. But the Reichswehr, though it never fell below 200,000, was deemed insufficient. Temperley later explained:

“The active intervention of the Reichswehr has so far suppressed all revolutionary movements, but it is claimed that, if riots and revolutions took place simultaneously in different districts, the force ordained by the Peace Treaty would not be sufficient to quell disorder, especially if a portion of the troops had to be employed on the eastern frontier to guard against Bolshevist invasion.” [15]

So the Allies allowed German capitalism to form other “special” services. There was, for example, the Sicherheitspolizei (“security police,” now the heart of Hitler’s Gestapo), formed specifically, as Temperley informs us, “in the event of the Reichswehr proving unreliable as the result of political propaganda from the extreme Left.” [16]

There were the Einwohnerwehren and the Zeitfreiwillige (temporary volunteers), which, Temperley openly admits, “were all formed for the maintenance of order and as a guarantee against Spartacist outbreaks.” [17] There was an organization called the

Technische Nothilfe, or Emergency Technical Corps, for the purpose of intervening when works of vital importance to the general community…are closed down during strikes.” [18]

And there were the various Freikorps – White Guard volunteer units – each more notorious than the other, such as the Division Lettow, the Reinhardt Brigade, the Luettwitz Corps, the Huelsen Free Corps, the Berlin Guard Cavalry Rifle Division, the German Defense Division, the Land Rifle Company, the Potsdam Free Corps – whose anti-labor savagery trained Hitler’s future lieutenants. Temperley is quite frank about the composition of these Freikorps:

“The only reliable force was a voluntary organization of the debris of the Imperial army, by officers who were avowed reactionaries.” [19]

When, at the end of May 1919; Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, presenting the German counter-proposals to the Treaty terms, objected to cutting down arms and armed forces too much because the government needed them for reasons of “internal security,” Tardieu noted: “Some, out of fear of Bolshevism, urged concessions, either in the time limit of execution or on stated figures.” [20] Churchill was busy destroying German arms: “In all 40,000 cannon were blown to pieces,” he writes of his frenzied labors, “and all other military materials destroyed in like proportions.” For, haunted by the nightmare of revolution, the Allies were destroying German arms lest they fall into the hands of a socialist Germany. But, despite the jeremiads of the short-sighted Tardieu, they saw to it that the Reichswehr, Sicherheitspolizei, Einwohnerwehren, Zeitfreiwillige, and the various Freikorps were kept well supplied with arms.

Nor were their fears groundless. Fresh in their memories was the Kiel mutiny of November 2, 1918, which had immediately set up soviets, followed by soviets at Hamburg, Luebeck, Leipzig, and Dresden, and finally throughout Germany. Communist uprisings had occurred in the Rhineland, Westphalia, the Hanseatic cities, Thuringia, Saxony, and numerous East Prussian and Bavarian industrial centers. The Allies had seen with what difficulty the Social Democratic fakers had got the Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils to vote away their soviet power to a bourgeois Constituent Assembly. They had seen Berlin in the hands of the Spartacists. In April short-lived Soviet regimes were set up in Brunswick and Bavaria, and the movement began to spread northward. A Red army was created in Bavaria to face Hoffman and Noske advancing with Prussian troops. The Allies, while supporting the Social Democratic regime, feared it would prove a parallel to Kerensky’s, and hence also threw their weight to the most reactionary capitalists and Junkers. With Germany completely disarmed, the counter-revolutionary killers of the Freikorps could not have ranged through the Reich; an extreme Rightist dictatorship could not have been set up on the ruins of the soviet republic in Bavaria. Hence the Allies had to leave arms in the hands of Hitler’s forerunners.

That the hastily finished peace treaty was not even worse than it was, the German capitalists owed to precisely the revolutionary workers whom they were shooting down. The establishment of the Bavarian Soviet panicked Colonel House, who urged all speed before Germany, and all Europe, exploded: “Better,” he cried, “an unsatisfactory settlement in April than the same sort of settlement in June!” Wilson, too, was frightened by the German events and pushed hard for sufficient leniency so that the German capitalists could put over the treaty on the German masses. Said House:

“If it had not been for Wilson the peace would have been infinitely worse. In fact it would have been so bad that the Germans would have gone home the minute they read it.” [Our italics.]

They very nearly did go home. When the terms were finally received in Germany on May 8, 1919, indignant crowds of thousands massed before the American Military Mission, crying out hour after hour: “Where are our Fourteen Points? Where is Wilson’s peace? Where is your peace of justice?” [21] The Allies on May 17 reacted by holding a hurried meeting of the Supreme Economic Council to prepare all necessary measures for complete restoration of the blockade; and on June 17 sent a sharp note threatening starvation if Germany refused the peace – of which even the cautious Lutz says: “The oppressive conditions of peace imposed upon the German Republic in 1919 are unparalleled in European history.”

Against the ruinous Treaty terms the coalition government (9 Social Democrats, 3 Democrats, 3 Center members) was putting up a despairing resistance; yet “the only possible alternative,” a government of the Independent Socialists, who were for signing without more ado, “would have involved the disbanding of the Reichswehr” and the Freikorps by an Independent Socialist government “and produced general chaos [read socialist revolution] in the interior.” [22] Finally, however, after a few face-saving concessions, the coalition cabinet signed.

The effect of the peace on Germany was summarized at the National Assembly on May 12, during the discussion on ratification, by Fehrenbach:

“However, the German women in the future will also bear children, and these children, who will grow up in bondage, will be able to double their fists to break their slave chains, and to absterge the disgrace which rests on Germany.” [23]

The Allies had laid the foundation for Hitler and the Second World War.

The Allies Destroy Hungary’s Soviets

Freeing the oppressed minorities of the Habsburg empire had been one of the war’s most popular slogans. Point X of Wilson’s Fourteen Points had stated:

“The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development.”

And two important articles of the Military Convention between the Allies and Hungary signed on November 13, 1918, had guaranteed:

“17 – The Allies shall not interfere with the internal administration of affairs in Hungary.

“18 – Hostilities between Hungary and the Allies are at an end.”

Such were the promises; let us examine the performance.

The revolution of October 30, 1918, set Hungary up as an independent democratic state – precisely what the Allies had claimed to be fighting to accomplish. Yet in January of 1919 Rumania sent an army, reinforced with French Senegalese and advised by the notorious French general, Franchet d’Esperey, to occupy Hungary as far as the Tisza line determined in the Allied Secret Treaty of 1916. The Czechs simultaneously advanced from the north. All the protests of the liberal government of Premier Karolyi (who had supported the Allies during the war) were rejected by Franchet d’Esperey with brutal contempt; and the arms which the Hungarians, in accordance with the armistice terms, surrendered to be destroyed, he passed along to the invading Czechs, Rumanians, and Serbs. [24] When the invasion was an accomplished fact, the Supreme Council at Paris on February 21, 19194 intervened to bless the Rumanian grab by setting up a “temporary” line of demarcation with a neutral zone at about the point the Franco-Rumanian advance had reached. On March 20, the French Lieutenant-Colonel Vix informed Karolyi that still further Magyar territories were to be sliced off the new democratic Hungary. Karolyi, threatened simultaneously with a communist upsurge within the country, decided in despair that only a Social-Democratic cabinet could save Hungarian capitalism, and on March 21 resigned to make way for it. But so great was the communist strength at the Social Democrats had to invite the communists and Hungary was proclaimed a socialist soviet state whose real chief was Bela Kun.

Foch proposed immediate attack by the Czechs and Rumanians while in Constantinople the French military established a strangling food blockade. What especially terrified the Allies was that Moscow by March 26 had prepared to send the Red Army to Soviet Hungary’s aid. The plan was to divert the Rumanians by a direct attack on Bessarabia (which the Rumanians had stolen from the Soviets), and to drive a column direct through Bukovina to Hungary. But the White Russian army of Kolchak, with heavy Allied support, started its major drive into the Volga region, and the Russian Soviets, fighting for life, had to abandon the plan. Holding their breaths in fear, the Supreme Council in early April rushed a “soft cop” mission under General Smuts to try to parley with Soviet Hungary. But, the mission a failure, “hard cop" Franchet d’Esperey renewed the Franco-Rumanian invasion.

The Hungarian Red Army, however, proved a different adversary from the shattered troops of Karolyi. Early in May it sent the Czech army, where revolts were now constant, reeling back out of Hungary; and itself poured into Slovakia. The Slovakians rose to aid their deliverers, and a Slovakian Socialist Soviet Republic was proclaimed. The Allies were again half-paralyzed for fear of making a bad matter worse. Says Temperley:

“Although the Council of Four actually gave instructions for a plan to be drawn up for combined action against Bela Kun (a plan which was worked out by the Military Representatives at Versailles and approved by Marshal Foch about the middle of June), no action was taken, in spite of the fact that Hungary was completely surrounded by French, Serbian, Rumanian, Czecho-Slovak and Italian troops. Moreover, Bela Kun and Lenin were in close communication at this time, a fact which was frequently exposed and emphasized by the General Staff, as the connection between Russian and Hungarian Bolsheviks was fraught with serious risks to the peace of Europe.” [25]

While they abandoned open British-French military intervention, they still secretly urged on the various invaders already in the field. Above all they used food as a weapon. How important that weapon was, Temperley evaluates:

“It may be contended that the stability of all the provisional Governments established or seeking to establish themselves during the early months of 1919 consisted entirely in the measure of their ability to provide food for their people. In these circumstances, with the Bolshevist peril looming large in the East, even hand-to-mouth relief was of the utmost importance and value.” [26]

Hoover’s field agent, Gregory, managed the food campaign. The pitiless and cynical steps by which he undermined Soviet Hungary have already been shown in revealing detail by C. Charles in these pages. [27]

Meanwhile, the double-dealing Allies pretended to seek a peaceful settlement with Bela Kun, sending a note on June 8 asking him to cease his offensive against the Czechs and inviting him to Paris; and they hastened to reassure him by publishing the new definitive Hungarian boundaries with Czechoslovakia. Bela Kun was taken in by these moves: he stopped the advance and withdrew behind the line. The peacemakers’ real intentions were revealed, however, on July 17, when Franchet d’Esperey, acting – as Temperley [28] admits – on instructions from Paris, demanded that the Kun government resign, otherwise military action would be renewed. Bela Kun countered on the 20th with an offensive that broke through to a depth of 15 to 35 kilometers. But the Allied blockade had had its effects; and the Soviet government had been weakened from within by the Social Democrats. A victorious Franco-Rumanian counter-attack rolled the Hungarians back, and occupied Budapest early in August; Bela Kun fled.

On August 1, the Soviets were replaced by a Social Democratic government under Julius Peidl; but reactionary Hungarian officers, aided by the Franco-Rumanians, pushed it over, and set up a cabinet under Stephan Friederich, an extreme nationalist-clerical anti-Semite. The terrified Social Democrats, who had thought their desertion of Bela Kun would be rewarded, now pleaded with the Allies to hold off the Whites and restore a democratic capitalist government. But Sir George Clerk, plenipotentiary representative of the Supreme Allied Council, preferred the White gang, and set up a new government under Huszar, in which the real power was Admiral Horthy. Its first act was to massacre 1,000 Red militiamen who had laid down their arms under the laws of war; it next burned 15,000 books of the University library; and then settled down to a White terror which for sheer sadism has few equals. Between 5,000 and 9,000 – not only Communists, but Social Democrats, liberals, and Jews of all parties – were raped, mutilated, and butchered, in one of the most repulsive orgies in history.

The Allies were proud of their work. Rose Wilder Lane, the effusively laudatory biographer of Hoover, summarizes:

“It was Herbert Hoover in Paris and his man Captain Gregory on the ground who made the counterrevolution in Budapest, made it with their tremendous power of food control and a skilful handling of the political situation. Bela Kun and the soviets fell; Vienna was held in a firm grip with American relief and American soldiers; Czecho-Slovakia stood firm, and Europe was kept from communism.” [29]

Horthy, the Allies’ choice, hastened to put into effect laws restoring flogging, canceling land subdivision, abolishing all civil rights, instituting concentration camps, establishing a super-censorship, forcing serfdom on miners, and encouraging pogroms; he even attempted to introduce universal compulsory labor. The French were closely involved in the terror: a French military tribunal operated steadily, sending over 600 Hungarian militiamen to Morocco and Algeria (whence they were not freed till 1921), and others to the “Devil’s Island” of French Guiana.

Affairs thus arranged, an Inter-Allied Military Mission arrived from Paris to survey the Allies’ handiwork. Its instructions from the Supreme Council end with the statement

“That these Powers have not the least desire to interfere in the interior affairs of the Hungarian nation concerning the choice of their government ...” [30]

Thus – having destroyed two democratic and one soviet regime, and having firmly established the reactionary Horthy regime which lasted to this day to become Hitler’s ally – thus did the Allies make Hungary safe for democracy.

And Elsewhere

The Big Four conceived Poland as the keystone of the cordon sanitaire system, the buffer between a Russian gone Bolshevist and a Germany which threatened to follow. Such a state could be nothing but reactionary; and one of its first actions was to embark on an orgy of pogroms.

Hoover’s American Relief Association, pushed by the Peace Conference, and with funds provided by Congress, distributed in Poland between February and August 1919 more than $50,000,000 in food. That it was intended specifically to darn off advancing communism, there is official admission:

“General Tasker H. Bliss and Secretary of War Baker insisted that such aid was essential to check the spread of Bolshevism and save civilization.” [31]

Despite pressure of the Big Four to strike while the Soviet Union was weakest, Poland held off during the most critical time of the civil war – not from any lack of anti-communism, but in the knowledge that complete White victory would mean demands for the reincorporation of Poland into Imperial Russia.

When, however, the Whites had been sufficiently weakened, the Polish reactionaries were only too happy to carry out Paris’ wishes, and deliberately rejected the most generous peace offers by the Bolsheviks. The Polish army drove deep into the Ukraine, backed by US food and war supplies and a loan of $50,000,000 floated with State Department approval. The French sent arms and military advisors; and when the victoriously counter-attacking Red Army crossed the Curzon Line into Poland, the British also rushed arms and warned that the British fleet would force the Baltic if the Red Army did not withdraw. It was, indeed, only the world working class, with its slogan of “Hands Off Russia!,” which saved the Soviet Union, Czech workers blocked munition trains in transit to Poland; Danzig sailors and longshoremen struck, so that unwilling British troops had to be used under military discipline to unload Poland-bound munitions; and in England itself, the whole official labor movement, creating a “Council of Action,” warned of revolution if the government persisted in aiding the Poles. But Pilsudsky got enough to throw back the Red Army and win the Riga Treaty.

Walter Liggett, in The Rise of Herbert Hoover, reports that more than $100,000,000 worth of US army supplies were turned over to the Polish army, and that Senator Reed on January 4, 1921, charged, proofs in hand, that $40,000,000 of the Congressional relief fund “was spent to keep the Polish army in the field.” Liggett adds that of the $23,000,000 raised by popular subscription specifically “for the suffering children” of the central powers, the greater part was spent on the Polish war against the USSR.

In the Baltic states, the Allies used German troops, at first regulars, then Freikorps. On December 23, 1918, the USSR recognized the Soviet Republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. In the last-named, recognition was premature; but in Latvia the local soviets won control, while Lithuania was divided. The Allies allowed German General von der Goltz to capture Riga on May 28, 1919 – and to slaughter several thousand Lettish men, women and children on suspicion of Bolshevism. Once the communist menace was slightly eased, the British, who had their own designs on the Baltic states, made really serious efforts to dislodge von der Goltz. It was not until December 1919 that he could be got to comply; yet as late as October the British were very happy to utilize his 20,000 troops as rear guard while their new White hope, Yudenich, reinforced with British tanks and crews, made his major drive against Red Petrograd. Basing themselves on their policy of self-determination of nationalities, the Russian Bolsheviks recognized an independent bourgeois state in the former Russian province of Finland on December 31, 1917. But the new Finnish government invited in the Kaiser’s troops. The Finnish workers reacted with a general strike which on January 27, 1918, toppled the White government and established a socialist government. The Finnish Whites, under Czarist General Mannerheim, appealed for German aid, and in the Brest-Litovsk Treaty the Germans forced withdrawal of the Russian Soviet troops quartered in Finland.

On March 3, 1918, Mannerheim proclaimed,

“at the request of the Finnish Government, units of the powerful and victorious German army disembarked on Finnish soil to expel the Bolshevik monsters.” [32]

Mannerheim celebrated his victory over the Finnish workers and peasants by jailing 150,000 of them; he slaughtered 15,000 outright, while another 15,000 died in confinement. The Allies recognized Butcher Mannerheim’s pro-German government. As soon as the Armistice permitted, Hoover rushed aid in abundance – aid which Hoover himself admitted “enabled the Finnish government to survive.” That reactionary government has continued unchanged to this day. The same Butcher Mannerheim whom American support enabled to survive has once more invited in the Germans, and it is from Finnish airfields that the Nazi dive-bombers and torpedo-planes take off to murder American merchant seamen in the convoys to Murmansk and Archangel.

Basing themselves on Wilson’s bogus principle of self-determination of nationalities, all Germans, from extreme left to extreme right, wanted German-speaking Austria in the Reich, as did the majority of the Austrians themselves. Austria’s National Assembly voted for it in November 1918; and Germany’s Weimar constitution specifically provided, in article 61, the method by which Austria should receive full representation should she join the Reich. But the peacemakers sent Germany an ultimatum to repeal article 61 within 15 days. The Allies created the monstrosity of an Austria stripped of Austrians. Czechoslovakia alone was given territories embracing 3,000,000 Austrians (it will be remembered what use Hitler made of the Sudeten problem in destroying Czechoslovakia). The wretched Austria set up by the Allies was economically a totally unviable state, with a capital city of 2,000,000 inhabitants based on a hinterland of only 4,000,000. Vienna was held, as we have seen, by “American relief and American soldiers” against the probability of communist revolution; and finally was launched on its wobbling course, which, after unvarying misery and repeated convulsions, brought it to clerical-fascism. The logical end product of the Allied policy of denying Austria the right to unite with democratic Germany was: Anschluss with Hitler.

Indeed, there was no country of continental Europe which, as a result of the peacemakers’ efforts, did not become explosive with old and new imperialisms, gnawed with irredentism, riven with oppressed nationalities, and strangled in frontiers. Such attempts to escape from this strangulation as the Austrian-German union or the efforts of the Balkan States to form a customs federation the Allies forbade, keeping all Europe Balkanized.

In their own revolting colonies, the Allied imperialists tied tighter the noose of repression. Of the state of the British colonies and troops, Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the General Staff, wrote in January 1919:

“We are sitting on the top of a mine which may go up at any minute. Ireland to-night has telegraphed for some more tanks and machine guns and is evidently anxious about the state of the country ...

“I emphasized the urgency of the situation, pointing out that unless we carried out our proposals we should lose not only our army of the Rhine, but our garrisons at home, in Ireland, Gibraltar, Malta, India, etc. and that even now we dare not give an unpopular order to the troops, and discipline was a thing of the past. Douglas Haig said that by February 15 we would have no army in France.” [33]

Thus terrified and jittery, the Allies hastily cobbled together their peace. What they themselves really thought of it is well indicated by Charles Seymour, admirer of Wilson and one of the most serious historians of the Peace Conference, in his Woodrow Wilson and the War:

“It was no peace of reconciliation…The place of the Chinese at the treaty table was empty; for them it was no peace of justice that gave Shantung to the Japanese, and they would not sign. The South African delegate, General Smuts, could not sign without explaining the balance of considerations which led him to sanction an international document containing so many flaws.

“It was not, indeed, the complete peace of justice which Wilson had premised and which, at times, he has since implied he believed it to be. Belgians complained that they had not been given the left bank of the Scheldt; Frenchmen were incensed because their frontier had not been protected; Italians were embittered by the refusal to approve their claims on the Adriatic; radical leaders, the world over, were frank in their expression of disappointment at the failure to inaugurate a new social order. The acquiescence in Japanese demands for Kiau-Chau was clearly dictated by expediency rather than by justice. Austria, reduced in size and bereft of material resources, was cut off from the sea and refused the possibility of joining with Germany. The nationalistic ambitions of the Rumanians, of the Yugoslavs, of the (Czechoslovaks, and of the Poles were aroused to such an extent that conflicts could hardly be avoided. Hungary, deprived of the rim of subject nationalities, looked forward to reclaiming her sovereignty over them. The Ruthenians complained of Polish domination. Further to the east lay the great unsettled problem of Russia.” [34]

The “war to make the world safe for democracy” thus ended in a peace whereby the Allies directly imposed regimes of the most extreme reaction in half Europe, and laid the foundations for their swift rise in the other half. The “war to end war” thus ended in a peace whereby the Allies rendered absolutely inevitable – unless the socialist revolution should intervene – a second and even more catastrophic imperialist explosion.

Top of page


1. The World Crisis, London 1927, vol.IV, p.540. Our italics.

2. Intimate Papers of Colonel House, vol.IV, The Ending of the War, pp.118-9.

3. [Idem., p.139.]

4. Fourth International, February 1943, p.40.

5. Ralph Haswell Lutz: The German Revolution, 1918-1919, Stanford 1922, p.75.

6. Idem, p.87.

7. H.W.V. Temperley, ed.: A History of the Peace Conference of Paris, 6 vol., London 1920: Vol.II, p. 445. All subsequent references to Temperley are to this work.

8. Op. cit., vol.V, p.65.

9. Vol.I, p.313.

10. Lutz, op. cit., p.116.

11. Vol.I, p.318.

12. op. cit., p.119.

13. Vol.II, p.115.

14. Andre Tardieu: The Truth About the Treaty, English translation, Indianapolis 1921, p.117.

15. Vol.II, p.461.

16. Idem., p.462.

17. Idem., p.132.

18. Idem., p.462.

19. Idem., p.443.

20. Op. cit., p.142.

21. Lutz, op. cit., p.14.

22. Temperley, Vol.II, p.445.

23. Lutz, op. cit., p. 148.

24. cf. Dauphin Meunier: La commune hongroise et les anarchistes, Paris 1926.

25. Vol.IV, p.160.

26. Vol.I, p.308.

27. The Imperialist Strategy of Food, Fourth International, January 1943.

28. Vol.I, p.356

29. The Making of Herbert Hoover, p.353.

30. Harry Hill Bandholtz: An Undiplomatic Diary, New York 1933, p.369. This US general was a member of the mission.

31. Frederick L. Schuman: American Policy Toward Russia Since 1917, New York 1928, p.176.

32. Fischer, p.90.

33. Fischer, p.163.

34. Charles Seymour, Woodrow Wilson and the War, pp.320-22.

Top of page

Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 26.8.2008