Pyotr Ivanovich Stuchka

Questions to Vandervelde & the Second International

Source: The Communist Review, September 1922, Vol. 3, No. 5.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
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.

ON your way through Riga—so the papers say—you paid a are members of the Second International. They, in confriendly visit to the Section of Government Socialists, who sequence, emphasised the fact that the position which you and they, take is quite identical. But at the same time you visited, also in a friendly way, the Opposition Social Democrats, who belong to the 2½ International and whom you rightly reassured that no serious differences exist between them and yourself. You are a man who takes a sensitive attitude towards such as generally stand in need of defence. Now the Minister for justice in the reactionary government is the “Socialist” Holtzman, who is a member of the Second International. You, in your turn, also held such a post in Belgium. I shall therefore be honoured by your reply to the following questions, which are a matter of anxiety not only to myself but also to others.

1. A telegram in to-day’s papers states that forty political prisoners— “subjects” of Latvia—were taken from the central prison in Riga (over which the Minister of justice has authority) and were sent, as suspects of Communism, to the Soviet frontier without either their relatives or the representatives of the Soviet having been informed upon the subject. You may possibly be ignorant of the import of such a proceeding. Suffice it to say that this peculiarly democratic method is the way to get rid of communists. On reaching the frontier—the Russian frontier authorities had not been informed of the matter—they were exhorted to “fly to their paradise,” viz., into Soviet Russia. And the exhortation was emphasised by accompanying shots. In such a fashion many Lettish communists, without being tried, have been killed “during flight:” The last instances were last year on the eve of the present coalition coming into being, when two working men were killed. The telegram referred to above mentions no details as to the number of victims in the present case. The Minister of justice, a comrade of yours, in the International, refuses to give any explanation. What I wish to know is whether all your fellow jurists in the Second International look upon this method as a particularly human way of getting rid of political opponents. And do you yourself consider this to be a purely legal act or a political one?

2. A central trade union bureau which united all the Riga proletarian trade unions existed in Riga. You may be able to estimate their strength by the simple fact that their candidates to the Riga town election on the 22nd March last secured 17,500 votes—nearly one-sixth of the votes cast. And this was achieved without any agitation, since the democratic government does not permit trade unions to publish even a weekly paper of their own. The president of the bureau was a member of the Constituent Assembly, the left-wing Menshevik, Derman. Now this is what happened. In a way that cannot be explained counterfeit money came into the cash office of the Famine Relief Committee connected with the bureau. Counterfeit money circulates so extensively in Riga at the present time that, according to newspaper reports, a purchaser of a ticket for the theatre, when he offers to pay 500 roubles (10 francs) is asked to show his passport. And so, on the proposal of your professional and international comrade, the Minister of Justice Holtzman, arrests were made, and not only was the inviolable member of the Constituent Assembly taken, but 32 members of the central bureau of trade unions were also arrested. And immediately afterwards the entire administrative body of the transport workers union was arrested—and they are all under arrest up to the present hour. “The Village Labourer,” the paper of the Right Wing Socialists (Second International) comments on the arrest in this way: “It is said that Derman is innocent and that legal proceedings will show this.” Still, the arrest remains in force, and will so remain right up to the moment of the coming parliamentary elections in four months’ time. Now you have been in consultation with your friends in Riga. This crying incident took place just on the eve of your arrival there. How could they, therefore, avoid discussing with you such a great and “purely legal” affair, since both you and themselves are representatives of the same International? I trust you will not decline to, state your opinions publicly about the conduct and principles of your junior professional and International colleague.

3. From the year 1919 the Lettish Government has been punishing Lettish working men, not by the hundred but by the thousand. The method of punishment, up to the present coalition, has been that of shooting. It is due to your comrade in the International that in his period hanging has been substituted for shooting. Is this reform due solely to the initiative of Citizen Holtzman, or does he act in that way on the initiative of the Second International, and will this method be used in the case of court sentences only, or also in cases of “flight,” opposition, etc.?

4. While I am familiar with the history of the Second International, I have not noticed among its “merits” one phenomenon—that of anti-semitism. But in recent times your Riga branches have been openly preaching anti-semitism through the lips of their leaders. For example, the Minister of Statistics, Skuenek—a comrade of yours in the International—proves by statistical figures the necessity for a pogrom of Jews (vide The Voice of Labour—Golos Truda No. 6). Further, the “Black Hundred” paper of the Peasants’ Union— “The Free Land,” Svobodnaya Zemlia No. 173—writes upon the subject in the following way:—

The extension of the anti-Jewish front by our social democrat minority in the person of Skuenek should be welcomed. But good wishes are obviously of small avail in this connection. The time has arrived when the most radical measures should be taken.”

There is no need for me to cite further passages, since you, surely, have a Lettish translator who can supply any further details you may wish. The point that interests us is just this. Is this what your companions in the International are doing of their own free will and at their own risk, or is all this brought forward, both with the baiting of Soviet Russia, and with the watchword of a united front, as a preparation for the Hague Conference?

5. One more final question. When in Riga you specially emphasised the fact that you also stood near to the present social democratic party of Latvia, though it is a member of the 2½ International. Will you, therefore, or your comrades of the 2½ International, express your opinion on the following subject. The Central Committee of the Social Democratic Party of Latvia has recently decided to undertake a stronger agitation for the recapture of those trade unions which have moved away from their influence in a leftward direction. Soon afterwards, as it happened before, arrests followed. The Riga central bureau, the administrative body of the transport workers’ union, and other trade union workers were arrested. During the arrests special attention was paid to the names of those workers who were “Left,” and these names have repeatedly been referred to in the social democratic newspapers. From the purely socialist legal point of view does this appear to you to be a mere coincidence or is there some casual connection in this matter