C. Racovsky

Relations between the Soviet Republics

Russia and Ukraina

Source: The Communist International, No. 11-12, June-July 1920, pp. 2321-2326 (2,334 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

A socialist revolution not only modifies the internal economic and political structure of states, but it causes a radical change in the external relations which have formerly existed between states.

The relations between Soviet states are essentially different from those between bourgeois states. The bourgeois state system and the proletarian one differ in their fundamental principles. The proletarian state system does not come under anyone of the classifications which, were drawn up by the jurists of the old world, beginning with Aristotle.

The general premise in all the old forms of government-aristocratic, democratic, absolute monarchic and constitutional-monarchic, republican; etc.—is the separateness, the reservedness of the state organism. The most democratic of all democratic republics makes a distinction between its own citizens and foreigners; in the most democratic republics foreigners are excluded from the political life of the country. Political life is the privilege of only a given national class, or at best of all citizens, but only of a given state.

On the contrary, one of the fundamental principles of the constitution of Soviet states, both in Russia and Ukraina, is a complete suppression of national privileges. Thus, for instance, article “B”, paragraph 20, of the Constitution of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic states; “Foreigners belonging to the working class and peasant-workers enjoy electoral rights”. Such a constitutional regulation is a complete revolution. It is quite incomprehensible to a bourgeois lawgiver accustomed to oppose his own country to the others, his own citizens to foreigners.

However, such a position results logically from the very substance of a proletarian state.

In what does the radical difference between a proletarian and a bourgeois state lie? In their different economic bases, which mutually exclude one another.

The bourgeois state, like all the preceding forms of state organisation, is based on the principle of private ownership of the land and the means of production. On this principle are based all the so-called civil rights which regulate the relations between private owners. A state in its entirety, with all its apparatus, military, administrative, economic and religious, also represents such a private property (though not individually) of the owner of the means of production—the whole class of proprietors, the ruling bourgeois-landowner or slave-owning class.

The object of every proprietor is to develop and increase his property. Competition is a means to this end. A result of the law of competition is the suppression, or at best a subordination, of the less rich and less skilfull to the proprietors disposing of larger means, a larger capital, a greater skill. The same law regulates the development of bourgeois states. They are similar competing organizations, and with the same characteristics of a suppression of the weaker states, or at best, their complete subordination to more powerful states. The bourgeois state order is characterised by the creation of such separate national states, struggling against each other.

Such states enter into trade agreements, postal, telegraphic and railway conventions; in accordance with the international situation, defensive and offensive alliances are concluded; but they all have a temporary, casual and incomplete character.

Such alliances cannot remove the deeply-rooted antagonisms existing between them, which are inherent in the whole capitalist order. As soon as the common danger or the mutual interest which unites them has disappeared, then the old struggle and enmity break out again with greater violence than before. The history of the coalition of the Powers of the Entente and their allies during and after the imperialistic war is characteristic in this respect.

Nationalism is the ideology of a bourgeois state order. Diplomatic intrigues, all kinds or spying, mutual deception are its ordinary methods. When in the manifesto of the First International Marx; speaking of the foreign po1icy of capitalist states, set against it a policy founded on the law of morality, he certainly did not mean that in a bourgeois society the Socialists should have set before them the Christian moral “Do unto others as you wish to be done unto you”. He pointed out to the proletariat that only the triumph of a proletarian revolution would be able to create the conditions of honest and openly frank relations between all nations.

In contrast to the bourgeois state order, that of the proletariat, while repudiating all private ownership of the means of production, renounces all private ownership of the territory of the state itself. In a Socialist country the guiding principle is not the interests of a particular exploiter, but those of the whole working class. The frontiers between Socialist states cease to have a political character, and become simply administrative limits. In the same way disappear the limits dividing the separate private industries, units of production limited only by the law of competition. Instead of a chaotic capitalist management, in which an increased production of goods and an intensive exploitation of the workers are followed by industrial crises and periods of unemployment, an organized nationalised production arises, developing nationally on a general state plan, and not only on a national, but on an international scale. The tendency of a Socialist Revolution is political and economic centralisation in the form of a temporary international federation. The formation of such a federation is naturally, not the work of a stroke of the pen; it is the result of a more or less lasting process of suppression of particularism, of all democratic and national prejudices, the result of mutual acquaintance and mutual adaptation.

The above principles, proclaimed by the First International of Workers, are the basis of the relations between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraina.

From the very first moment of the joint existence of these republics, Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraina established their economic and political relations on the lines of federation. Although during this first phase, which continued up to July 1919: both Republics had independent Commissariats in all the branches of state activity, a bond and a general plan of operations existed already between them.

In the course of time these treaty relations found expression in the formation of joint organs of administration.

In June 1919, the Central Executive Committee of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic passed a resolution regarding the necessity of uniting a whole series of Commissariats of both Republics, namely, War, Ways of Communication, Finance, Labour, Post and Telegraph and the Supreme Council of Public Economy. This resolution was confirmed by the Central Executive Committee of the Russian Soviet Republic. This year the 4th Congress of the Ukrainian Soviets of Workers and Peasants confirmed the resolutions of both Central Executive Committees by a modified resolution, which we are printing separately.

A detailed constitution of the federal organs, those uniting the Ukrainian and Russian Commissariats, has not yet been drawn up. The Russian Central Executive Committee, during its February session, appointed a commission which was to have drawn up the federal constitution. But unfortunately the detailing of the responsible members of this Commission for military and political work outside of Moscow has prevented it from proceeding to the execution of its appointed task, and the federal relations are determined in each case by direct agreements between both Governments.

A Similar agreement was drawn up in January of the present year with regard to the Ministry of War. Simultaneously with the uniting of the military establishments this agreement provides for the creation in the immediate future of cadres for the Ukrainian Red regiments, where the orders will be given in the Ukrainian language. For this purpose a school of Ukrainian Red commanders is provided for, and this is already carried into execution. In Kharkov they have proceeded already to organize a Central School of Red Commanders (Red elders). The agreement also provides for the creation of a military section of the Soviet of People’s Commissars of Ukraina, for the purpose of keeping in contact with the military and administrative apparatus of Ukraina, subordinated directly to the Revolutionary Military Soviet of the Republic, which is also the Revolutionary Military Soviet of the Federation of both countries.

The People’s Commissariats of Agriculture, Public Instruction, Interior, Social Welfare, Public Health, Provisioning, Worker-Peasant Inspection, the Extraordinary Commissions for the Struggle against Counter-revolution, are separate Commissariats in both Republics. The Ukrainian Soviet of People’s Commissars consists at present of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, and of representatives of all the united Commissariats.

This system of federal relations cannot be considered as final or perfect. We have not approached the question of federal relations dogmatically, because we never thought that the relations between states in general, and those between Soviet Republics in particular, might be created on the ground of abstract theory a priori.

A federal cooperation of the Soviet republics was dictated by necessity, and put into practice by the experience already obtained. The special conditions in which Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraina found themselves facilitated considerably the task of establishing close federal relations between them. The proletariat of both states was historically bound together in the past by the common struggle against Tsarism. Besides, Ukraina and Great Russia were united by their common interests in economic respects, After the October Revolution, Soviet Russia became the natural support for the struggle of the workers and peasants of Ukrainia against the Central Rada, the Austro-German occupation, the Hetmans, Denikin and now, lastly, the Poles.

The Ukrainian Worker-Peasant Revolution had naturally to fix its position in accordance with Soviet Russia, which was the only Soviet centre. The Communist movement in Ukraina and Russia was historically bound together in the past. The Bolshevik Party was organising the working classes within the limits of the whole Russian Empire. In Ukraina this task was facilitated by the fact that the greater majority of the proletariat in the towns consists of Russians.[1]

However the various petty bourgeois Socialist Parties, placing the national question in the first place, and sacrificing the social liberation of the working class, endeavoured, from the very first days of the revolution in Russia, ever since February 1917, to bring about dissension in the working class of Ukraina, setting up the Ukrainian workers, and especially the Ukrainian peasants, against the Russian workers, Ukraina against Russia. During the rule of the Provisional Government of Kerensky they disguised their nationalist policy under the mottoes of Federalisrn, because they saw in the Provisional Government a petty bourgeois power related to themselves. They were even willing to sacrifice their nationalism.

After the October Revolution these conciliatory nationalist parties openly advocated the complete separation of the Ukrainian working class and peasants from the Russian.

At the peace conference of Brest-Litovsk they went over definitely to the camp of Austrian-German Imperialism. From that moment the Ukrainian Social-nationalists definitely took their bearings from the West. i.e. from the Imperialist counter-revolution.

For two years and a half Ukraina became the theatre of a civil war, not only between the workers and peasants and the landowners and capitalists, but between the conscious part of the working class and peasantry and such unenlightened elements as followed the lead of the petty bourgeois Ukrainian National Socialist Parties, and practically helped the Russian and world counter-revolution. One may say that at present, the civil war in Ukraina in both its phases has come to an end. The proletariat has definitely vanquished not only the White Guard counter-revolution, but also the petty bourgeois nationalistic one. The Ukrainian National Socialist Parties are dissolved. Their best elements have gone over to the Ukrainian Communist Bolshevik Party, which at the present moment is the only true representative of the proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry of Ukraina.



1.  Note. In the theses elaborated by the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party regarding the relations between Russia and Ukraina, these regulations are stated in sections 8, 9, 10. We quote them here in full.

8. The independence of the Ukrainian working masses, the right to enjoy the fruits of their labours, the riches of Ukraina—lands, mines, factories. may be guaranteed to them only by a truly Worker-Peasant Government—the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic. All the efforts of the Ukrainian workers and peasants should be directed to the strengthening of the Socialist Soviet power. But the experience in Hungary, Bavaria and Ukraina herself has already shown that the counter-revolution can easily overcome all Soviet republics which, owing to the limited dimensions of their territory and population and in consequence of the absence of a sufficient1y organized military and civil apparatus and political experience—cannot organise a corresponding defense.

9. Of all the Soviet republics which have existed up to now, Soviet Russia alone has been able to resist victoriously the onslaughts of the international and the Russian counter-revolution and to deal decisive blows to her enemies. She alone possesses the geographical conditions and economic and political resources (an extensive territory, numerous population, great wealth, a many-millioned revolutionary industrial proletariat, an organised military, and civil apparatus, acquired political experience) which make of her an impregnable proletarian fortress against all attacks of international Imperialism. Every new Soviet Republic, guided by the instinct of self-preservation, seeks for aid and support from Soviet Russia. An active union with Soviet Russia is the revolutionary duty of every new Soviet state.

10. Besides the interest of defence, a close union between the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic and Soviet Russia is dictated by a whole series of reasons, arising from their common indissoluble historic fate. The Russian and Ukrainian workers and peasants have already been united by their struggle against the yoke of Tsarism and the Great Russian bourgeoisie. They are bound together by their language, their mixed population, and common economic interests. A separation between these two Soviet states is only an artificial process, which is in contradiction with all the past and future struggle of the Ukrainian and Russian workers and peasants. A complete separation between the states of Ukraina and Russia would lead inevitably to civil war in Ukraina, and to an increase of the economic crisis in Ukraina and Russia.