Mara July 1908

The Adversaries of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation

Source: Social Democrat, Vol. XII No. 7, July, 1908, pp.302-307, (2,662 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

In the March number of the “Social-Democrat” there appeared an article under the title “Socialism by the Sword,” by “Mousa,” a contributor to “Droschak,” the organ of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. This article is written in reply to mine under the same title, in which I endeavoured to show that the Droschakist Party was not a Socialist Party before its last convention, where the delegates decided to be called Socialists and to send a delegate to the International Socialist Congress for the first time in seventeen years, and adopted a new programme. I have made my point clear in saying that the very claim that the leaders make - that it was a Socialist organisation since its birth - is misleading their members, and makes us doubt their sincerity in endeavouring to convert them to Socialism, which they need very badly if they are to be called Socialists.

Mousa advances fresh criticism of my “puerile arguments” to justify my position, and does not hesitate at the same time to call me and other Socialists insinuators and calumniators. Unfortunately, being a wage worker, and, as such, subject to the whims of capitalism, I have not been able to see his article till recently. Now, although late, in order to do justice to myself and the principle I uphold, I ask for the publication of these lines to show to the readers of the “Social-Democrat” how “Mousa” has perverted my points and ignored some of them entirely.

“Mousa” in order to refute my statement that the Droschakist Party by its original programme was solely organised for the emancipation of Turkish Armenia and that its activities for the last seventeen years tended toward that aim, answers: “The Droschakist Party embraces both Turkish and Russian Armenia and for seventeen years it has inscribed the Socialist ideal on its programme, which it has propagated theoretically ever since because for any practical work for a ‘class struggle,’ in the modern sense of the word, the ground is entirely wanting in Turkey.” He forgets that this is their new programme adopted at their convention of 1907, and that in their report to the International Socialist Congress of 1907 there is a passage which reads as follows:

“Although bound by its original programme to work for the emancipation of Turkish Armenia, the party could not remain indifferent to this violent Russification which inflicted much suffering.” He ignored the fact that the party became active in Russia in 1903 to protest against the confiscation of the property of the Armenian Church by the Russian Government. He ignores that their original programme, the fourth edition of which was published as late as 1906, was simply formed for the emancipation of Turkish Armenia. I fail to see in it the word Socialism, but instead I read, on its third page, a pronouncement against it, calling it a visionary, Utopian dogma, with which the practical Droschakist Party cannot Co-operate, and thus leave aside the immediate demands of the people. Yes, the Droschakists have been so practical for the last 17 years that instead of organising the workers and propagating Socialism, they, standing, of course, for the interests of the whole Armenian nation, all classes combined, took into the party everybody whether he believed in the class struggle or not, so long as he wanted to work for the emancipation of Armenia. And to-day “Mousa” and his friends are at a loss whether they have to satisfy their pure and simple nationalist members, or the awakened proletarians whom they still misinform about Socialism.

I admit that “Droschak” had published some articles on Socialism, but that does not prove that the party was Socialist, since there are other bourgeois organs that are doing the same. I admit that Engels’ “Socialism from Utopia to Science” was translated and published by “Droschak” in 1902, but by the preface of the translation it will be seen that it was translated for the intellectual Droschakists, and really there were very few of their intellectuals who have read it, and it goes without saying none of their common members. But why does not “Mousa” mention the other books published by their party; books that gave vent to the race feeling against the other nationalities of Tmkey? Are they Socialist books too? If they are, then we must give another definition of Socialism.

“Mousa” - ignoring the facts that I brought forward in my previous article to show that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation consciously and unconsciously embittered the Armenians against the Mohammedans says: “Innumerable are the proclamations and appeals, in Turkish, Armenian and French, which the Droschakist Party has during 17 years addressed to the ‘Young Turks’ and the Mohammedan world (in Turkey and Russia); appeals for solidarity in the common struggle against the common enemy. Our attempts in this direction, after many checks, have just been crowned with great Success. The last congress of the parties organised for the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, which met last month in Paris, combined campaign of all sections against the tyranny of Abd-ul-Hamid.” Very true, indeed, the agreement of the revolutionary elements of the different nationalities of Turkey to work harmoniously against the common enemy, although defective in proletarian viewpoint, is a glorious achievement in itself and none rejoiced in it more than we Socialists, not even those who have opposed us for advocating it and proclaimed that the Turks were inherently criminal and incapable of any revolutionary ideas (vide “The Caucasian Vande’an” by M. Hovhannessian). Yes, once more history comes to prove the position of the Socialists that the differences of language, creed or colour may serve as tools for a while in the hands of the ruling class to keep the peoples, especially the proletariat, apart, but industrial conditions, which are the basis of every political movement, will, in spite of the external differences, unite the exploited class, who will not even heed the cries of nationalist oracles.

But let us not lose sight of the fact that this congress met in the beginning of 1908, after the International Socialist Congress wanted to test the Socialism of the Droschakists, while “Mousa” keeps silence about the Congress of the same forces assembled in Paris in 1902, which was disrupted because the Droschakist Party and Huntchakists would not give up the European intervention. He innocently thinks that I vainly suppose that with their demonstrations and campaigns they thought of vanquishing the Sultan. No, far from it; I wanted to show that their frantic efforts were made to bring about European intervention, just as he says; “We are, alas! only too conscious of the inferiority of our forces ..... We have reckoned on another factor, the European intervention.” You see, there is no catering for the other revolutionary forces in Turkey, but intervention of the European Powers. European Powers which either ordered the Sultan to massacre his subjects, or, by the blood of hundreds of thousands of Armenians, forced concessions from the Sultan only to advance their commercial, industrial, or territorial interests in Turkey. Here are the “allies of the Droschakist Party,” and they do not hesitate to proclaim it again after signing the manifesto of the Congress of Paris which condemns the nefarious policy of the Sultan for causing the disintegration of Turkey in the interests of the European Powers.

“Mousa” tries to refute also my statement that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation has done all it could to train its members to be indifferent towards the Labour movement by saying that in Turkey the conditions were unfavourable to awaken class-consciousness there, but they have created a most powerful organisation in Transcaucasia under the watchword, “The Socialisation of the Land.” If that is Socialism, the Droschakist Party could have easily done the same in Turkey, as there is plenty of land and numerous people who have been deprived of their land. But “Mousa,” being a contributor to “Droschak,” and representing the intellectual force of their party, ought to stop one minute and realise that by uttering those words he is giving himself away. The socialisation of the land alone is not Socialism, the dividing of the land, which he really means, is a petit bourgeois demand. The Single Taxers in the United States have the same demand, but are the most bigoted and retrogressive people one ever comes across. Supposing their party could not be actually Socialist in Turkey, what has it done to awaken the class-consciousness of its members for the last 14 years of its existence in the United States, industrially the most advanced country in the world. This is what concerns me most. If “Mousa” does not know, I will repeat again. Their organ “Hairenik” (Fatherland), their organiser and their party advised the Armenians to vote for the strong party, the Republican Party, in order to please them and to induce President Roosevelt to use his big stick to solve the Armenian question. They have advocated that Socialism is a hindrance to the cause of the Armenian revolution. The party has not even criticised their members for breaking strikes, who justified themselves by saying they had to send money to help the Armenian revolutionaries at home. Mr. “Mousa” has the privilege of finding out whether these are insinuations or not, through the Labour unions and the Socialist Party of America. If he proves that these are mere accusations, I am a calumniator then, and not till then.

Among other arguments, “Mousa” brings forward the following statement: “Our duty as Socialists imposed upon us the necessity of defending our national culture. Our opponents, who also call themselves Socialists, are completely indifferent to all the class-consciousness of its members for the last 14 years of its struggles for the defence of the imprescriptible rights of nationality.” This is the mildest of all expressions that tbe Droschakists have used up to this time to prejudice the people against the Socialists in calling them internationalists, universalists, traitors to their country, and what not. Truly, as one of the comrades said recently, addressing the Droschakists, the weapons they used against us are now being used against themselves by the other nationalist organisations and their own members. It is about time “Mousa” and his friends realised how hard it is to receive such bouquets. But let us see what he means by national culture and irnprescriptible rights to which the Socialists are indifferent. If he means the language, there is no Socialist on earth that tolerates any encroachment by anyone upon the freedom of speech, including language. Our comrades in Germany are tirelessly fighting the schemes of their Government to impose the German language upon the Polish population, but Socialists will not waste any energy to impose the national language upon those who, through industrial conditions, are either estranged or obliged to talk a commercial language; they will reserve their energy to fight the industrial system that is at the bottom of those evils. If he means the national church, the Socialists defend the right of freethought and opinion and oppose any State Church, which means religious persecution. They are truly indifferent towards the government of any church, because no church has been or will be the means of the emancipation of wage-slaves. If “Mousa” thinks that the Armenian Socialists are going to split hairs in discussing who shall or who shall not be elected at the head of the Armenian Church, he is utterly mistaken - they leave that to the Droschakists, knowing well that no organisation can claim to be Socialist and at the same time be a factor in perpetuating a mediaeval institution. If “Mousa” means the Fatherland, Socialists leave the question of territorial disputes to the capitalist and retrogressive petit bourgeois classes. The time has passed when the ruling class could fool the proletarians, in the name of country and national glory, to fight with each other. The Armenian Socialist is not going to fight a Russian or Turkish proletarian unless the latter, becoming a tool in the hands of his respective ruling class, threatens his life; in self-defence alone, the proletarian of one nationality will take arms against the proletarian of another nationality. On the other hand, Socialists maintain that wherever the working man is, regardless of his nationality, he has the right and duty to join hands with the other workers for the common fight against the common enemy. Working men have no country, and cannot have one even if they wish, while capitalism is on the throne. Socialists are national enough in organising the proletarians of their own nationality to hasten the unity of the workers of the world, which alone will be able to do away with classes and thus make tyranny impossible. Least of all are the Armenian Socialists indifferent to the sufferings of the Armenians, but, as all other Socialists, they are not going to be moved by the spirit of vengeance, Vengeance means perpetuation of race hatred, which, impairing the solidarity of the workers, retards their victory. On the other band, Socialists, without any sentimentalism, coolly and patiently work to bring harmony between two warring peoples, which is the best safeguard against any bloodshed.

“Mousa” asserts that in all the sanguinary and desperate struggles of the national defence the Droschakist Party has been alone, and it is due to this circumstance that they won tbe sympathy of the masses of tbe Armenian workers, and precisely this sympathy irritates their opponents and drives them to insinuations and calumnies. I am not going to speak on behalf of any nationalist organisation, but on behalf of the Armenian Socialists of Russia and America. I am not going to dispute “Mousa’s” assertion of the Droschakist Party being alone in all struggles, as it will take too much space, and I do not want to abuse the privilege that the editor of the “Social-Democrat” has given me. But I will say this, that Socialists are not so foolish as to become irritated by the popularity of any party, especially when they know that the popular party is doing everything to retain its popularity. The Republican Party in the United States is the most popular party, but that does not prove that it stands for the working class, and that the working men keep that party in power because they are conscious of their interests

Who are those Armenian Socialists, anyhow? Most of them have been formerly either members of the Droschakist or Huntchakist parties, who, seeing that the Nationalist movement is not a solution of the suffering of the Armenian people but a hindrance to the work of uniting the workers under the banner of Socialism, came out of the ranks of those parties and occupy themselves in organising the workers. To-day they appreciate the fact that the half-awakened proletarians in the ranks of the Droschakist caused the party to drift from its moorings, but they will not tire till those proletarians become fully conscious of their interests and steer their ship directly towards the harbour of Socialism instead of wandering round for the interests of the petit bourgeois members of the party. This may mean a great numerical loss to the party, something that “Mousa” and other leaders dared to see, and that is why they try to prove that they have been Socialists for seventeen years in order to keep the party intact, but you cannot stop the inevitable. And when the Armenian Revolutionary Federation is a purely Socialist organisation they will find their adversaries at their side fighting the common enemy, capitalism, that, supreme all over the world to-day, is exploiting the workers of the world, not excepting the mildest corner of the earth, and is upholding old, criminal governments and regimes, Czarisms and Sultanisms. Nothing but the downfall of capitalism and the coming of Socialism can wipe away the tears of all the oppressed and bring peace among the nations of the world.

Boston, Mass, June 20, 1908