Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East

Appeal from the Congress

Appeal of the Congress of the Peoples of the East to the Workers of Europe, America and Japan:

Workers of Britain, America, France, Italy, japan, Germany and other countries! Hear the representatives of millions of toilers of the East! Listen to the sorrowful voice that speaks to you from the enslaved countries of Asia and Africa, from Turkey, Persia, China, Egypt, Afghanistan, Bukhara and Khiva! We have been silent for many years, for many decades. You have not heard our voice and no-one had told you of us, how we live, how we suffer under the rule of those who were also your masters. Your masters, the European and American factory owners, merchants, generals and officials, broke into our peaceful villages and towns, plundered us for centuries, took from us what our labour had created and sent all this off to Europe, so as to embellish their lives, embellish their homes, with the work of our hands, of our ancient culture. They made slaves of us.

While we had previously had to pay tribute to our own rich men, to the landlords, slaveowners, sultans, emirs, khans and maharajas, now the whip of the European slaveowners was also laid across our backs. We were forced to labour on the plantations of the European capitalists. Our sweat was poured out so that they might obtain at a cheap rate the rice, tea, sugar, tobacco and rubber they wanted. Our children were born and died in bondage. If it suited the interests of your bosses and ours, they parted child from mother, wife from husband, and drove them from one country to another. They told you that they were spreading European knowledge and science in our countries, but in fact what they spread was opium and vodka, so that the Asian and African slave, when sorrow welled up in his heart, might more easily forget his intolerable life, and would not dare to lift his chained hands against his enslaver.

Your bosses, the European capitalists, supported our own enslavers and made them their guard dogs to watch over us. But when the whip of the local ruler was not enough, they sent in guns and destroyed the independence of our countries, subjecting us to their laws and their governors, making slaves of us in the full sense of the word. They said that the aim of their colonial rule was to train us for future independence, but they fought against nothing so hard as against the spread of knowledge among us toilers of the East. They had prisons and barracks enough for us, but they did not build schools in which the children of Asia might learn what the white men had discovered that was great and good. They looked upon us as inferior races, they forbade us to sit in the same railway carriage that white men travelled in, they forbade us to live in the same quarters as white people, or to eat at the same table with them.

You have not seen our wounds, you have not heard our songs of sorrow and complaint, you believed your own oppressors when they said we were not people but cattle. You, who were dogs to the capitalists, saw us as your own dogs. You protested in America when Chinese and Japanese peasants, evicted by your capitalists from their villages, came to your country in search of a crust of bread. Instead of approaching them in a fraternal way in order to teach them how to fight along with you for the common cause of emancipation, you denounced us for our ignorance, you shut us out of your lives, you did not let us join your unions. We heard that you had founded Socialist parties, that you had formed an international workers’ association, but these parties and this International had only words for us: we did not see its representatives come amongst us when the British shot us down in the streets of Indian cities, when the united forces of the European capitalists shot at us in Peking, when in the Philippines our demand for bread was answered by the American capitalists with lead. And those of us whose hearts were athirst for the unity of the working people of the whole world stood on the threshold of your International and looked through the grille, and saw that although in words you accepted us as equals, in fact we were for you people of inferior race.

Six years ago the great slaughter began. The capitalists of the whole world quarrelled amongst themselves as to which of them should have most slaves, which of them should grab most land in Asia and Africa. You, the workers of Europe and America, saw this robbers’ war as your own war, a war for the independence of your countries, although you owned no part of these countries, although the land which you soaked in your sweat belonged not to you but to your exploiters, your bosses. You helped your factory-owners and bankers to force us to take part in this war, which was a war against you and against us. The bayonets of European soldiers forced Moroccan and Algerian peasants to die on the battlefields of Flanders, Normandy and Champagne, from bullets, cold and disease, they forced the peasants of India to die in the sands of Mesopotamia and Arabia, and the fellahin to carry out hard labour in the wilderness for the British expeditionary force fighting against the Turks. They make Indian peasants act as pack-camels carrying shells on their backs for the white soldiers in Mesopotamia. For the gold of the European capitalists Chinese and Annamite workers were sold to Russia and France, to dig trenches under a hurricane of fire, the trenches in which you died, and to toil to the point of exhaustion in arms factories, making shells that killed you.

Our blood and sweat merged in a single stream with yours, but even on the field of battle, dying in the dead of night, yearning for his homeland, the coloured man was not seen as your brother, but regarded as a savage slave, whose death caused no-one to sigh or shed a tear. But in our homes, beyond the rivers, seas and mountains, the wives of our fallen husbands and the children of our fallen fathers, the breadwinners, wept for those they had lost.

The war is over and now your masters and ours, who waged this war under the banner of justice and democracy, the banner of emancipation for the oppressed peoples, have thrown off the mask. In the cities of India the bayonet, the sabre and the machine-gun rule. In Amritsar your General Dyer was able to shoot down peaceful Indian citizens with machine-guns, and order them to crawl on their bellies. But in the British Parliament not one workers’ M. P. got up to demand that this murderer be sent to the gallows.

In Mesopotamia the British capitalists keep 8,000 Indian soldiers, brothers of the victims of Amritsar, and force them to subdue the Arabs, so that the Arab people may be deprived of their only wealth, the petroleum of Mosul. In Smyrna. Greek soldiers who have been hired by the British capitalists run berserk, massacring Turks. In Southern Anatolia the French bayonet rules. In Syria the jackboot of a French general has kicked over the newly-erected edifice of Syrian independence. For two million pounds sterling the British Government has bought the freedom of Persia from a handful of Persian traitors, so as to make that country a stronghold of British capital against the Persian and Russian working people. In Algeria, Tripoli and Annam. the absolute power of French generals prevails, just as before the war. In Northern China and in Korea Japanese gendarmes and officers are in charge, shooting and hanging anybody who dares so much as think of freedom. Out of the blood of the Asian and African workers and peasants shed in this war has grown not a tree of liberty but gallows for those who fight for liberty.

But through the creaking of the gallows, through the groans of those suffering under the whip, we hear new cries, we hear the voice of the workers who have risen arms in hand against their enslavers, we hear the roar of the cannon of the Russian workers’ and peasants’ Red Army, created by the workers and peasants of Russia who have risen in revolt. We hear that they have overcome the Russian capitalists and landlords, and in our hearts grows a great joy, a feeling of certainty that the humiliated and insulted working people are able to find sufficient strength in their breasts to put an end to the rule of bondage and establish the reign of labour and freedom.

We hear, through the roar of the guns in this just war which is being waged by the Russian workers and peasants, your voice, the voice of the workers of Germany, Austria and Hungary. We hear that you too have taken up arms, that you too have raised your hands against your enslavers. And although we know that your enemies have as yet been victorious over you, we are confident that the ultimate victory will be yours. We hear from the cities of Italy the voice of hundreds of thousands of workers who are confronting the bayonets of the Italian capitalist bandits.

We hear the voices of the French workers from behind the bars of the prisons into which they have been thrown by the government of the French rich, who fear their great wrath and tremble at the flame burning in their hearts. Our ears have been reached by the sound of the waves of the rising sea of the British workers, beating against the cliffs on which stands the stronghold of British capitalism, that strangler of the peoples, that world-robber, that destroyer of peaceful lives! With profound joy, with profound inspiration we listen to these sounds, and there grows within us the belief that the day will soon come when our torments will cease, when our struggle will be united with yours. We believe that you will not fight for your own victory, your own liberation, alone. We believe that you will not cast off the chains from your own hands and feet while leaving them on ours. We believe that you will discard, like a dirty shirt, all that contempt with which our masters filled you towards the toilers of the East, striving to set the white workers against the coloured ones in order to be able the better to oppress both. Only a common victory of the workers of Europe and America and the toiling masses of Asia and Africa will bring liberation to all who have been hitherto working to make life better for a handful of rich men. If you were to free yourselves alone, leaving us in slavery and bondage, you yourselves would fall the next day into that same slavery and bondage, for, in order to keep us in chains and in prison, you would have to form, in the East and in the South, forces of prison warders and packs of bloodhounds to guard us, you would have to raise armies to keep us under an iron heel, you would have to give power over us to your generals and governors, and they, having tasted the sweetness of life without work, at the expense of our labour, and having learnt how to hold generations of coloured toilers in bondage, would soon turn their bayonets against you, and the wealth accumulated in Asia and Africa would be used to thrust you back into your previous slavery. If you were to forget us now you would have to pay for that mistake, you would have cause to remember our chains when you felt chains on your own hands. You cannot free yourselves without helping us in our struggle for liberation. The wealth of our countries is, in the hands of the capitalists, a means of enslaving you. So long as the British capitalist can freely exploit Indian, Egyptian and Turkish peasants, so long as he can rob them, so long as he can force them to serve in the British army, he will always have wealth enough, and executioners enough, to subdue the British workers. Without our revolt there can be no victory for the world proletariat over world capital. And just as you cannot wrest power from the hands of the capitalists without unity with us, so we are not in a position to hold this power in our hands unless we have unity with you. The capitalist countries of Europe do not produce enough corn and raw materials to provide food, clothing and footwear for their workers. Our countries, the countries of the East and of Africa, are rich in corn and in raw materials. This corn and these raw materials, without which the workers would die of starvation after their victory, they will be able to obtain if they are united with the toilers of Africa and Asia, if, by helping the toiling masses of Africa and Asia, they inspire the latter with confidence and love.

Unity between ourselves and you will signify invincible strength. We shall be able to feed and clothe each other, we shall be able to help each other with armies of warriors fired with the single idea of common liberation.

To this common struggle we have been summoned by the Third, Communist International, which has broken with the rotten past of the Second International — that International stained with our blood and yours, disgraced by its servility to imperialism, its betrayal of the interests of the toiling masses of the whole world. The Communist International has not only given us the slogan of a common holy war against the capitalists, but also summoned us to a congress in Baku, where workers from Russia, Turkey and Persia, and Tatar workers, worked for many decades for the capitalists while at the same time learning how to struggle together against their oppressors. Here in Baku, on the borders of Europe and Asia, we representatives of tens of millions of peasants and workers of Asia and Africa in revolt showed the world our wounds, showed the world the marks of the whip on our backs, the traces left by the chains on our feet and hands. And we raised our daggers, revolvers and swords and swore before the world that we would use these weapons not to fight each other but to fight the capitalists. Believing profoundly that you, the workers of Europe and Asia, will unite with us under the banner of the Communist International for common struggle, for a common victory, for a new life in common, based on fraternal aid between all toilers, we have formed here a Council for Propaganda and Agitation [sic], which, under the guidance of the Communist International, that union of our elder brothers in revolutionary struggle, will rouse the working masses of all colours, organise them and lead them to the attack on the fortress of slavery.

Workers of Britain, America, France, Italy, japan, Germany and other countries! Listen to the voice of the representatives of the millions of the peoples of the East in revolt, who are telling you of their oath to rise up and help you in your fight, and who look for fraternal aid from you in our fight. Notwithstanding the centuries of bondage and enslavement, we turn to you with the faith in your fraternal feelings, with confidence that your victory will mean the liberation of mankind, without distinction of colour, religion or nationality. Repay this confidence of ours in you with confidence that our struggle is not a struggle of darkness and obscurantism, but a struggle for a new and better life, for the development of the peoples of the East on the same foundations of labour and fraternity on which you want to build your life. May your ears be reached by the thunder with which tens and hundreds of millions of working people in Asia and Africa are responding to our oath, and may this thunder meet with response in the thunderclaps of our fight for the common liberation of all the toilers.

Long live the unity of the workers of all countries with the labouring masses of Asia and Africa! Long live the world revolution of all the oppressed!

Long live victory over the world of oppression, exploitation and violence! Long live the Communist International!

Chairman of the Congress:
G. Zinoviev Secretary: Ostrovsky

(Kommunistichesky Internatsional, no. 15, December 20, 1920.)