‘Five Years of Red Diplomacy’ by Georg Tchitcherin from International Press Correspondence. Vol. 2 No. 115. December 19, 1922.

At the signing of the Soviet-Iran treaty in 1921.

What can be the diplomacy of a revolution? What kind of revolutionary is a diplomat? And what diplomat is a revolutionary? The comrade with, perhaps, the most difficult job of any Bolshevik was the enigma, Georg Chicherin. Tasked with an impossibility; peace between the Soviets and imperialism, Chicherin and the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs looked first to the East for respite. Crafting treaties with Iran, Turkey, Mongolia, and China in the first years of the Revolution as it parlayed with Empires at Brest, Genoa, and Lausanne. Chicherin’s diplomacy provided, in the face of nearly overwhelming obstacles, a way for the Soviet Union to survive while at the same time not blunting the Revolution’s call to the workers and oppressed of those countries; the forces who could truly come to the aid of the Soviets by making their own revolutions. A feat in revolutionary history not easily, or often, accomplished. Here is comrade Chicherin explaining how it was done. And still, an enigma.

‘Five Years of Red Diplomacy’ by Georg Tchitcherin from International Press Correspondence. Vol. 2 No. 115. December 19, 1922.

Long before the world war, when I was living in Paris and was a member of a section of the Socialist Party, a great wave of anti-semitism and enmity towards Russian emigrants began to rise. The Russian emigrants were persecuted in various ways. When I spoke of this in our section, and said that the Socialist Party should take energetic measures against it, and should take the Russian emigrants under its protection, I encountered a strong feeling of enmity among many of my hearers. Some of them even approved of the system of expelling foreign emigrants from the country. The purest nationalism hung out the sign of Guesdeism, Hervéism, and other extremist slogans, thus concealing its actual tendency. I expressed my feelnig against this, and began to speak of how French capital, and indeed the capital of the most developed countries, was helping Tsarism to exploit the Russian working masses in the most barbaric manner. The profits from this exploitation were being enjoyed by the whole of France, and crumbs of the gains were being picked up by those classes from which the Guesdeists and Hervéisis drew their origin. I spoke of the comparative prosperity which I saw all around me, and of the fact that this was purchased at the price of untold suffering for the Russian working people. I was interrupted by interjections: “You are a nationalist”. “If I am a nationalist”, I replied, “I am a nationalist of the oppressed, a nationalist of the working people of Russia, exploited by world capital; you, however, are nationalists of the capitalist exploiters.”

The labor movement pursues entirely different courses in highly developed and in backward countries. In states based on exploitation, world capital is supported by a satiated labor aristocracy and by a corrupt labor bureaucracy. The social patriotism of the world war period only brought to light the tendencies already completely developed in the labor movement. We know the theory of the social patriots – that capital and labor in every country have common interests, and must hold together in combatting other countries. This is the clear outline of the theory followed by that powerful labor aristocracy upon which the rule of capital is based in highly developed countries. While in states founded on exploitation, the labor aristocracy is the greater obstacle to the revolutionary movement, and while in the exploited colonial countries the only movements towards emancipation visible at present are national movements, the situation in Russia – placed between these two categories – was such that it was possible for the proletariat to seize power and to create a republic of the workers and peasants.

The history of the last five years shows us that exploiters and exploited, capitalist and colonial countries, have arrived at a new phase of the struggle. The international antagonisms of the present period can be classified under three categories:

  1. International struggle between capital and labor,
  2. International conflicts among the great, powers, and
  3. increasing acuteness of the struggle between the great industrial countries and the colonies.
Chicherin fourth from right at the Brest negotiations.

When the workers and peasants of Russia rose against the ruling class of their own country, they soon realized that their first enemy is world capital. Tsarism was merely a servant of world capital, and the weak Russian bourgeoisie merely a fig-leaf. The historical significance of the February Revolution lies in the fact that the workers of Russia fully realized that no real democracy was possible in a bourgeois Russia subject to world capital in our epoch of economic world relations, and that pseudo-democracy merely serves to veil the dominance of world capital and of the highly developed exploiter states.

After Entente capital had banished German capital from Russia, it utilized the war for carrying out a far-reaching and systematic enslavement of Russia. The workers and peasants of Russia, who had to sacrifice their lives for the Entente, when Kerensky surrendered unconditionally to the Entente, speedily learned from bitter experience that Entente capital was their lord. The November Revolution thus signifies not alone the overthrow of the Russian ruling class, but a rebellion against the dominance of world capital.

Chicherin leaves the Grand Hotel de Genoa, where Soviet diplomats lived, April 1922

The above-named three categories of international antagonisms seldom appear singly. They are in close contact at every step, utilize one another, and are even often forced by objective events to reinforce one another. The international aims of the working class demand the political and economic defense of the Russian workers’ and peasants’ state against the attacks of the Entente governments. The conflicts between the great powers took the form of a world war between two coalitions at the time of the establishment of the Soviet Republic. In recent years these conflicts have found expression in the form of ever-growing Anglo-French, Japanese-American, Anglo-American, and other antagonisms. In both cases the great powers fighting against one another also continued to combat the Soviet state, and vied with one another, or even united, in the attempt to strangle the Soviet Republic. We may say, in general, that the phases of the history of the contemporary world, apart from the struggle between capital and labor, are episodes in the history of the scramble for the colonies. The struggle between the leading capitalist great powers revolves around the question as to whose turn it is to subject an oppressed people and transform it into a colony. Thus Germany became a victim of this struggle, and this was no accidental occurrence, no result of individual errors, but merely a symptom of the fact that in the sphere of finance capital, England is the ruling world centre, the head of world capital. Under no circumstances was it possible for Germany to be victorious over England. The former Central European Alliance is transformed into oppressed and exploited countries, and the present economic situation of Germany is only a step in the direction of its further economic subjugation.

At the Lausanne conference.

The history of the last five years shows two diametrically opposed movements: a striving towards the strengthening of the world domination of the powerful Entente centres and towards a gradual strangling of the weaker nations, but at the same time a strong emancipation movement among the oppressed countries, the struggle for freedom among the peoples of the East, and the ever-growing spirit of revolt against the dictatorship of the strong among the oppressed peoples. The entanglement of these two diametrically opposed processes is one of the main causes of the complexity of our contemporary history. In the ruling countries themselves we see simultaneously a movement towards strengthening the rule of the reactionary oligarchical classes, and the contrary striving of the oppressed middle strata and petty bourgeois masses, seeking salvation in pacifist slogans and in the founding of democratic parties.

Even in earlier days Russia occupied a special position between purely industrial centres on the one hand, and purely colonial countries on the other, and now, after the establishment of the workers’ and peasants’ power, this is more the case than formerly. During the first period of our existence we were in the claws of imperialist Germany. In the Russian question two tendencies combatted one another in Berlin. Ludendorffs war regime wanted to crush Russia by force of arms, to make a second Ukraine of it. Ludendorff did not want to abandon his offensive permanently. Our tactics consisted in an attempt to play off the interests of German industry and German commerce against the war regime. To Stresemann and other far-seeing and influential bourgeois politicians we said: You will gain nothing by the transformation of Russia into a second Ukraine. That would only lead to constant insurgent struggles against you, to constant combats with underground organizations; industry and commerce would not be able to develop, and you would make a desert of Russia without gaining any advantage whatever for yourselves. Just the opposite road, the road of an understanding with us, is the only one which can enable Russia to recuperate economically, and can lead to economic advantages for you. These arguments did not fail to take effect, and the magnates of German industry and commerce strove to bring about a peaceful agreement with Russia, in opposition to the war regime.

Chicherin and diplomats with the Red Army.

The Entente never lost sight of the prospects of Russia’s development for a moment; the struggle for economic rule in Russia signified the struggle for world rule; the advantage of the Entente compared with Germany consisted in the fact that the Russian bourgeoisie was allied to it, with the exception of a few insignificant pro-German elements. The Entente made use of the so-called Democracy, of the S.R.s, etc., who were and remain its agents. During the first period after the Brest-Litovsk peace, England’s tactics towards Russia were still peaceful. But after the risings in Czecho-Slovakia, England passed abruptly to the tactics of organizing internal uprisings, conspiracies, and then to the sending of military expeditions. Some days after the historical interview of Noulens, who expressed his views on the pending intervention, I had a lengthy conference with the chief of the French war commission, Lavergne. I said to him: You demand that we take up arms again, which would mean nothing else than our immediate ruin, and the immediate occupation of the whole of Russia by German troops. Is that of any advantage to you? Lavergne replied that the powerful German offensive on the French front placed France in so precarious a position, that a delay of a few months was impossible, and that for France’s salvation some measure was necessary by which the German troops could be removed from the French front. These lamentations of Lavergne were not sincere. We are truly aware that the leaders of French politics regarded the restoration of the German-Russian front as exceedingly desirable, but not from such considerations as those expressed to me by Lavergne, but because the leading Entente circles were desirous of withdrawing Russia from the feared economic influence of Germany, so that the latter would, remain open for the exploitation policy of the Entente. The struggle between the coalitions for the exploitation of Russia was the primary cause of the intervention.

Representatives of the Soviet and German sides in Rapallo, April 1922. Walter Rathenau (second from left), Leonid Krasin, Georgy Chicherin and Adolf Ioffe.

During the second period of our existence we were in the claws of the Entente. Within the Entente the same two antagonistic tendencies were revealed as those which we were confronted with in Germany before: Churchill, with France at his back, corresponded to the German Ludendorff, while Lloyd George took the place of Stresemann and the other German representatives of industry and commerce. The history of this period is not one of mere substitution of the first system by the second, but shows the intermittent domination of first one and then the other system. The intervention was indeed a war waged by the Entente against Russia with the aid of the betrayers of Russia, and Churchill’s methods were essentially the same as the methods of the Germans in the Ukraine. The most respected represents live of the industrial circles interested in Russia, Urquhart, supported Churchill at that time, and aided the tactics of military dictatorship; under Koltchak he endeavoured to restore his economic domination by force of arms. But Siberia related the example of Ukraina. Lloyd George’s opposing system provided a program for the peaceful penetration into Russia, and for obtaining economic dominance in a peaceful manner. The program submitted to us in April 1919 by Bullit demands that we leave the occupied territories to the White Guards, that is, that we deliver these territories into the hands of the Entente for unlimited exploitation. The second demand was that of the acknowledgement of debts, synonymous with a peaceful seizure of power by Entente capitalists in Soviet Russia itself.

During the period following this, the victory of Lloyd George’s system over that of Churchill runs parallel with the growth of the emancipation movement among the Eastern peoples. Lloyd George’s tactics of approach to Soviet Russia were not only an endeavour towards the peaceful penetration of capital into Russia, but were at the same time an attempt at compromise against the Eastern nations. In both respects the tactics suffered defeat. After Lloyd George’s victory over Churchill in England the antagonisms between these two systems took the form of antagonism between English and French politics.

Chicherin and his deputy M.M. Litvinov on the way to the Genoa Conference. Berlin, 1922.

The English policy of peaceful penetration found its clearest expression in the resolutions of Cannes on a world consortium (with London as the capital city) for the purpose of reconstructing Russia. Under reconstruction we must naturally understand the transformation of Russia into a field for exploitation. The resolutions of Cannes on the consortium were only a clear symptom of that policy which was adopted towards us in the daily struggle, especially in Germany. The program of Stinnes, consisted in the creation of a common international capitalist front for the exploitation of Russia, and the utilization of Germany for rendering the requisite technical services to the international capitalist alliance. The Rapallo Treaty was the result of a continuous and complicated struggle for an independent economic co-operation of Russia and Germany outside the lines of the international capitalist front.

In Genoa the program of peaceful capitalist penetration reached its highest point. The conference at Genoa was a most complicated phenomenon. Here the leading role was played by the growing bourgeois pacifism, of Which much will certainly be heard in the near future. At Genoa the Entente governments spoke much on European reconstruction, although very little was actually done in the interests of this reconstruction.

Soviet delegation at Genoa.

The main question of the Genoa conference was whether the independent economic development of Russia would be carried out with the aid of foreign capital but without capitulation, or whether foreign capital would succeed in subjugating Russia. The Russian delegation was assailed by the very finest arts of diplomata coquetry. As Satan showed Jesus all the riches of the earth, which were to be his if he would deliver himself up to Satan – in the same way the most alluring prospects were opened out before us, if only we would acknowledge capital as our lord. We may fairly say that the fundamental question of Russian policy was expressed with the utmost clearness at Genoa: subjection to capital, or independent development with the aid of capital. Expressed more exactly; an agreement, but no yoke. For this reason the formal basis of the whole activity of the Russian Genoa delegation was formed by the Cannes resolution on the equal rights of the two opposed economic systems. The new workers’ and peasants’ state, originating between the highly developed countries of Western Europa and the oppressed countries of the East, was now firmly established, and presented itself in Genoa as an independent great world power. The new period of its life already begun may be designated as a period of “active politics”. Many interviews and conversations with political and economic personalities of many countries, which I had the opportunity of holding in Berlin, enabled me to convince myself personally as to the high degree in which Soviet Russia has already become an independent world power. At the present time, now that the emancipation movement among the peoples of the East grows from day to day, now that the oppressed and exploited peoples of the West are also defending or regaining their means of existence in daily struggles, now that in the most highly developed ruling states live increased strength of reactionary oligarchy is accompanied by increased pacifist opposition, Soviet Russia, employing foreign capital as it does for purposes of its own independent economic development, but not subject to capital, has become one of the central factors of the complex world relations.

With Christian Rakovsky at the Soviet’s French Embassy.

Soviet Russia is striving to secure its frontiers, its coasts and the passages to its coasts, its straits, its commerce, so that its economic relations with all countries may be developed. But it is striving for something else as well: one of the most important factors in the play of world forces, Soviet Russia, as an independent political power, seeks friendship with all peoples, and is at the same time ready to enter into compromises and separate agreements with any country. Agreements but no yoke, that is its watchword. World capital must stand on the threshold of Russia; within the country itself the working masses conduct their own economics and work out their own future.

International Press Correspondence, widely known as”Inprecorr” was published by the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) regularly in German and English, occasionally in many other languages, beginning in 1921 and lasting in English until 1938. Inprecorr’s role was to supply translated articles to the English-speaking press of the International from the Comintern’s different sections, as well as news and statements from the ECCI. Many ‘Daily Worker’ and ‘Communist’ articles originated in Inprecorr, and it also published articles by American comrades for use in other countries. It was published at least weekly, and often thrice weekly.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/inprecor/1922/v02n115-dec-19-1922-Inprecor.pdf

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