Alfred Rosmer

A Day in Moscow

Source: The Communist Review, July 1922, Vol. 3, No. 3.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Translator: H.C.S.C.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). 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.

THE snow had blocked our train, and it had now become certain that we should not reach the Windau station before three or four o’clock in the morning. This was altogether unexpected, for we had already arranged quite a programme as to what we were going to do; nevertheless, we made the best of it, and passed one more night in the train, instead of in bed, lying on the seats.

The train stopped. One is semi-conscious even when half asleep, and we became aware of the sound of voices talking, curiously noticeable in the stillness after the continuous rumble of the journey. What was it all about? But already our carriage is besieged by a lively group of Russian comrades accompanied by Boris Souvarine. Our representative and our friends had even wished to meet the train to receive us, and it was a pleasant surprise to us, and increased the happiness we felt in being once again in Moscow, the “Holy City,” so to speak, to revolutionaries of every country. Our luggage is quickly collected together, and we start off at once for the International Headquarters.

It was impossible to separate immediately, there was so much to talk about, so many questions to put on so many subjects, the famine, the new political moves. And the friends we had left, where were they now? Still at Moscow, or dispersed all over the great country?

Nevertheless, one has to get some time for a bit of sleep—not much! As soon as the breakfast bell strikes we are up and ready, for we know that round the long table we shall meet all our friends. Here is Nin, whom I saw a few months ago in Germany, already mixed up in Berlin affairs, and sent over here by Ebert’s police after already having been some time in quod. Here is Andreytchin, happy, exuberant, as he always is, unless he is ill. Then, this is Haywood, the big giant, now become quite a Russian, and in high spirits over the installation very shortly of a strong contingent of American workmen in the Kousnetz Basin, in Siberia, where they will work the mines and factories. Later an we shall find the little French colony.

But at 12 o’clock there was a meeting of the International Communist Bureau, to which we had been summoned. Our comrades are a little uneasy here as to the position of the French Party. The incidents which passed at the Marseilles Congress show that the Party is passing through a crisis a solution to which must quickly be found.

The Communist International has changed its quarters; it has left the swagger mansion—but ugly enough!—of the old German Embassy, which was far away and badly accommodated, and has installed itself just by the entrance to the Kremlin.

Zinovief was, of course, there, with all the members of the Bureau. Trotsky had also come. The discussion was a long one, for the clearest fact about the state of the French Party is that things are not at all clear! Confusion always reigns, even in the Managing Committee. One generally blames the four who resigned at Marseilles, their action is disapproved of, but the political reason which caused it is, of course, quite understood, and the desire to make a public demonstration of slipping over to the Right and show the danger to all.

At five o’clock we had an hour for dinner, but we had to return to the Kremlin, where the Central Executive Committee of Pan-Russia Soviets was holding a very important meeting on the subject of the Genoa Conference, arranging as to whom should form the delegation.

When we arrived at the Sverdlof Hall, where the meeting was to take place, it was already packed. The Committee consists of four hundred members, and there certainly were not many absentees. The public occupied the upper gallery, and on the platform, which was the ordinary stage, were the officials; in the centre Kalinin, the President, whose shrewd and intelligent face of a working-farmer is familiar to us.

Tchitcherine made his report. He explained the whole affair, its origin, the difficulties in the way, the efforts at sabotage directed by Poincaré, who has mobilised the faithful Bénés and the Little Entente. What is one to expect from Genoa? Not much, certainly, not too much. Soviet Russia has been summoned. It will go, not as though conquered, but conscious of the strength it represents; it will discuss the propositions put before it, but will give away nothing it considers intangible.

There was perfect silence, as is always the case here in the big assemblies, and there was great attention, and so even the voice of Tchitcherine, which is very weak for this hall, could be distinctly heard everywhere.

Then the discussion began. Sosnovsky, editor of Pravda, did not seem to feel very reassured. He spoke his fears; the great capitalist powers seeking to re-establish their economic conditions with the object of pillaging Russia: while they were talking Peace, their mercenaries were preparing war; the delegation ought to have very strict instructions.

An old farmer (paysan) followed him; his son had been killed in the struggle against Denikin; and now they had got to repay the money the French capitalists had lent the Tsar to crush the Revolution of 1905, and then these same capitalists who backed up all the attempts of the counter-revolutionists are directly responsible for all the devastations. The thing is not possible!

Then a working man of Petrograd calls attention to the point voted in many factories asking instantly that Lenin should not take part in the delegation, but remain in Russia. Italy is over-run by the Fascisti, who pillage, kill, and burn, backed indirectly by the bourgeoisie and the Government. Why wasn’t the conference held in Moscow, where the security of everyone would be guaranteed, and where there was no ministerial crisis, since the bourgeoisie in Italy is unable to form a ministry? And he also asked that there should be a representative of the Red Army in the delegation.

Kamenef, the Generalissimo, a pleasant-faced man with a moustache, asked permission to speak to make a declaration. It was not necessary, he said, that any special representative of the Red Army should go to Genoa. The Red Army used the same organs as the proletarian State. The comrades who would be selected to form the delegation would represent the whole of Soviet Russia.

Tchitcherine replied. Then the delegation was formed. Lenin was to lead it. Tchitcherine would hold full powers in the absence of Lenin, and would be assisted by Litvinoff, Krassin, Joffe, Rakovsky. It would be a formidable set. They should be well able to defend Soviet Russia before the agents of world imperialism.

In the evening Lozovsky had called together the syndicalist section of the congress of the peoples of the Far East who have been stopping here for the last two weeks. The congress had brought together about 150 delegates, the syndicalists consisting of about 50, including Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and also a delegation from Java.

Lozovsky gave a summary of the general situation of the international workers’ movement, and indicated what he considered to be the best methods of working; the members of the different delegations would speak in turn on the questions that were of especial interest to them. Then the questions would be grouped and debated upon.

There was the difficulty of languages. But it is not so formidable as it appears. English is the common language of all these peoples. In each delegation at least one comrade speaks English, and can translate.

First of all, it was the Chinese turn. A railwayman spoke first, then a metal-worker, a printer, a member of the Union of General Workers of Honan. Then came the Koreans and the Japanese.

The question which came up most often was that of organisation. In all these countries the syndicates are still, in general—there are exceptions—in a primitive state. Delegates asked that they should be pointed out the practical means of consolidating their organisations. A lot of questions were asked also concerning tactics; how to defend wages, how to assure the protection of women and children employed in the factories. The committees from the factories spoke; they were asked what they were and what they did.

During these discussions one learnt an interesting fact. In Korea the syndicates include Korean workers as well as the Japanese workers. The national claim of independence, which is very acute there, thus passes to a secondary consideration.

On the whole, the questions which interest the workers of the Far East are the same as those which interest us. The only difference is that their movement is still in the early stages of formation as regards organisation, but it is already able of putting forward its demands and defending them energetically with the strike.

This finished the day’s work. Each problem raised would be dealt with in the meetings to follow.

Our first day had been very full. Was that anything exceptional? Certainly not. Each day brings with it its crowd of questions, studies, information and particulars of all descriptions, some connected with Soviet Russia, others with the East, or with regard to the international situation. Everything is becoming clearer and finding its exact place, and the outlook is widening.

What one sees does not resemble descriptions of Utopian cities. It is something larger and more definite; it is the creative effort working hard in full swing. One feels the revolution “in the making,” forging ahead; over numerous and enormous difficulties a new world is forming; it has not sprung up, nor will it spring up all in a moment; it is being built bit by bit, at the price of the highest sacrifices. Everyone dimly feels all this, even the old bourgeoisie. But one does not quite understand that the first condition is to fully and unreservedly devote oneself to the Revolution.