‘The Ukraina as an Object of the International Counter Revolution’ by Michael Pavlovitch (Tomsky) from Communist International. No. 11-12. June-July, 1920.

Polish dictator Josef Pilsudski.
‘The Ukraina as an Object of the International Counter Revolution’ by Michael Pavlovitch (Tomsky) from Communist International. No. 11-12. June-July, 1920.

I. The Ukrainian Hypnosis.

The world’s war of 1914 -1918, which has ruined scores of millions of human lives and destroyed colossal wealth accumulated during decades of peaceful work, was fought on one hand for the possession of the sources of raw material, of foods and fuel, and on the other hand for the big rail and sea routes giving access to the places rich in these raw materials and fuel.

The Ukraina with its unlimited natural riches, its remarkable geographical position on the highway from western Europe to the Caucasus, the Caucasian mineral riches and enormous stores of petroleum— which has such a growing value in the economic life of all nations — and further on to Turkestan with its cotton fields, to Persia arid the whole of Central Asia — this Ukraina has necessarily become an object of a strong concupiscence by all the imperialistic states.

The day after the Brest peace had been signed the German imperialists threw their troops, not into the Soviet or Central Russia, not in the direction of Moscow or Petrograd, but into the Ukraina. When German diplomacy tried to sow discord between Soviet Russia and the Ukraina, its object was to weaken the Ukraina and so prepare a direct or indirect opportunity of annexing it and of chaining it to the triumphal car of German imperialism.

When in November, 1918, the German revolution had overthrown the throne of the Hohenzollerns, and the German army of occupation had turned homewards, new conquerors arrived to take the place of the annexationists in spiked helmets.


After the fall of the Hohenzollerns and the defeat of Germany, the Ukraina became an object of the rapacity and annexationist plans of the French and English capitalists. While Krasnov and Skoropadsky were the agents of German imperialism, busy enforcing German Supremacy in the Ukraina and on the Don river, Denikin and Wrangel were, on the contrary, instruments serving the aggressive plans of Anglo-French imperialism in regard to the Ukraina. After having taken Kharkov and Tsaritzin and having given the famous order to his troops to move on to Moscow, Denikin, as we all know well, did not take the direct way to the chief capital of Russia. He turned in the direction of the Ukraina and started taking Ukrainian towns, Ekaterinoslav, Poltava, Kiev. Not before the end of September, three months after the above-mentioned order to the troops, did he begin his operations in the direction of Voronezh and Kursk. Denikin was evidently in a hurry to seize the Ukraina, for the benefit and by the orders of his high command, the English and the French bourgeoisie. But the three months he wasted in conquering Ukrainian towns on the left and the right banks, weakened his forces, and hastened his undoing in the struggle against his formidable enemy, Soviet Russia.

After the defeat of Denikin the Ukraina seemed to be saved from the grasping clutches of West European imperialism. But there comes now a new pretender to take the place of reactionary Cossack troops and officers with gilt shoulder straps — aristocratic Poland, the Polish “pans“, who now want the Ukraina.

Pilsudsky’s manifesto shows the cards of the ruling classes of Poland. It does not leave any doubts as to the real aims of aristocratic Poland in the war against the two federated republics. Her aim is to occupy the Ukraina with Polish troops, and to take possession of the country.

And we see again that instead of taking the direct way to Moscow through Smolensk, and of offering fight to the formidable enemy on the area of the Soviet Russia, the troops of aristocratic Poland take the way which was that of Charles XII, of the Germans and of Denikin. Such is the power of attraction exercised by the Ukraina, such is the Ukrainian hypnosis taking hold of all the adversaries of the Soviet power, and blinding their reason. Now what makes the Ukraina an object of such ardent desire on the part of the rapacious capi- talists, and what is the cause of the Ukrainian hypnosis, irresistible to all the adversaries of the Soviet power?

2. The Part played by the Former Russian Empire in the Economic Life of the World.

In the period preceding the World War, the former Russian Empire with a population of 200 millions of inhabitants, with its immense territory occupying over one-seventh of our globe, with its inexhaustible natural riches, agricultural products, timber, flax etc., played a colossal part in the economic life of the world. This part did not look so prominent as it was, being hidden by the financial form of trading (exchange of goods). The enormous value of the Russian export, its great importance in the world market, was somehow masked by the insignificant traffic prices of our export. Russian goods were exported in a raw unmanufactured state, and were in consequence very low priced; the total Russian export expressed in roubles, francs and pounds sterling was extremely low, if compared with its real value in the economic life of the world. And on the contrary many goods reimported in to Russia in a manufactured shape, such as goods made of Russian wood, Russian hides, Russian minerals and so on, were sold at ten, sometimes a hundred times higher prices than those they fetched in a raw state.


The former empire of the Tsars is one of the richest countries in the world, not only on account of its natural treasures but—and this is of foremost importance—because it possesses the first elements of production: cotton, the base of all textile industry; coal and iron, indispensable to start work in the factories; and finally, the chief foodstuffs necessary for the nourishment of the human body: grain, meat, sugar, fat and salt. Germany, for instance, has now no cotton whatever and very little coal, iron and grain. If she goes on living under a capitalist regime, she is doomed to perish, to die off, to degenerate. She is threatened by a worse fate than Spain, which was a flourishing industrial country in former times, and has now become one of the poorest countries. As a capitalist state Germany cannot exist any longer, unless she retake Alsace-Lorraine and the Saar basin from France and reoccupy the Ukraina—that is to say, after a new world war; and such a war would prove a more senseless and risky adventure than the war of 1914—1918. Even France and England, in spite of their enormous acquisitions of territory, are unable to hold out much longer without support from the Ukraina and Soviet Russia—with her north so rich in woods, with her Turkestan rich in cotton, the Caucasus and its oil, etc. There is only one capitalist country in the world which is in a position to do with- out the riches of the Ukraina and Soviet Russia. But this country—the United States— lies on another continent. The United States has grain, and coal, and iron and even cotton, everything in sufficient quantities, and the American bourgeoisie is therefore less interested than the French and the English in the overthrow of the Soviet power in Russia and in the Ukraina.

The day after the world war ended, and an enormous universal shortage began to be felt in the most indispensable foodstuffs, such as grain, meat, sugar, and further, in raw materials—in Russian flax, coal, minerals, timber, hides, oil etc., the sudden withdrawal of such a source as the former Russian empire came as a dreadful blow to all capitalist States.

Orphans of the May, 1920 anti-Jewish pogroms, housed at the Children’s Home in Kiev.

During the four years of the war men have literally shot into the air milliards of tons of iron, coal, cotton, grain, hides, used up exclusively for military needs. This was all due to the exploiters, and now when the international bourgeoisie is in sore need of exploiting Tsarist Russia, definitely to make it her colony, this proves to be impossible.

Those European economists who know there is no possible return to the former economic slavery of Russia to the west European States, know also that armed resistance against the Russian Federative Soviet Republic must necessarily be abandoned. These bourgeois economists and politicians see that the only means to save western Europe from economic ruin, from starvation and shortage of materials, is to resume relations with Russia.

The resolution carried by the London conference called to consider means for the struggle against hunger, says in the part relating to the Russian question: The Conference considers that there can be no restoration of the world’s industry unless Russia is given a possibility of economic recovery, and of putting her enormous stores of raw material and foodstuffs at the disposal of other countries. And the first step towards this end, by the foreign States, is to give up all interference by force, whether open or masked, into Russian affairs. But a considerable number of the statesmen in the bourgeois countries are as yet unwilling to abandon armed intervention into the affairs of Russia. The Polish adventure proves it very clearly.

French troops occupy Odessa, 1919.

3. The Natural Riches of the Ukraina, her Part in the World’s Economic Life before the War.

The Ukraina occupied a comparatively small area within the bounds of the former Russian Empire. It amounted to only 14.3% of European Russia without Poland, Kovno, Grodno, Vilna, Kurland and Archangel governments. But as compared with the west European States, the Ukraina, with her 45 millions of acres, is a rather large State, only little smaller than Germany, France, and Spain, who have an area of 46 to 50 millions of acres. Occupying but 14.3% of the territory of European Russia, the Ukraina played already before the war a colossal part in foreign trade, in the export of the chief articles of Russian commerce. It was the Ukraina which exported nearly the whole amount of wheat, barley, rye, flour, cattle, spirits, sugar, salt, and many other articles, which used to flow out every year before the war from the Russia of the Tsars. In regard to the production of sugar, the importance of the Ukrainian sugar industry may be judged from the fact that out of the total number of the sugar works which existed in Russia in 1914-1918, 294 brown and white sugar works, 199 were situated in the Ukraina.

The part Ukrainian corn used to play in the provisioning of the west European countries is well known. Ukrainian rye went to Germany, Ukranian wheat to England, and partly to Italy.

The Ukraina produced chiefly cereals, and more particularly wheat and barley. According to the statistics of import and export, the average clear overproduction in the nine Ukrainian provinces during the five years 1909 -1913 amounted to 180,000,000 poods of wheat, and 211,000,000 poods of barley. Next comes rye with an overproduction of 32,000,000 poods, and behind it oats with an overproduction of 9,000,000 poods. On the whole the average overproduction of the four chief cereals during five years amounted to the enormous quantity of 432 millions of poods. The growing development of agriculture in the Ukraina will obviously increase in a considerable measure the productive capacity of her fertile soil, and the Ukraina will be able to yield an enormous overproduction of cereals to provide for other countries.

German troops occupy Kiev, 1918.

Along with the cereals the Ukraina used to export cattle, but only in far smaller quantities. According to the railway statistics the clear export from the nine Ukrainian provinces amounted on the average during the three years 1912 -1914 to 231,000 heads, or about six million poods. It is quite evident that with a system of intensive cattle-breeding the Ukraina will be able to increase her export of cattle too.

A very important item of Ukrainian industrial life just before the war was the sugar industry. During the campaigns of 1913 -1914 there were in the Ukraine about 200 brown and white sugar works, and they produced during the five years 1911-1914 on the average 67 million poods a year.

The production of spirit in the nine Ukraninan provinces during the five years 1909 -1914 was on the average 80 millions of pails of spirit; out of this quantity only 61% went for home use. The remainder was exported into Great Russia, the Caucasus and abroad.

Greek soldiers occupying Odessa, 1919.

On the eve of the war the Ukraina was the chief provider of eggs for the world’s market. Eggs were exported every year in thousands of cars.

Even this brief account of the Ukrainian export trade of agricultural products before the war shows how important the question of exploiting the Ukraina and, if necessary, forcibly carrying off her corn, cattle, etc. into the west European countries, was to become after the several years of war resulting in world impoverishment and world starvation, which began to be more and more felt in the whole of Europe. No wonder that immediately after the Brest peace, the German imperialists moved their troops, not against the enemy, not against Russia, but against the “friendly“ Ukraina. As Bakovsky mentioned in his report of May 18, 1920, to the Fourth All-Russian congress of Soviets, the Ukraina of Petlura, according to the treaty concluded between the Ukrainian People’s Republic on the one side and Germany and Austria on the other, was to provide before June 1919, 75 million poods of corn, 11 million poods livestock, 30,000 sheep, 2 million fowls, 40,000 poods of fats, 2 1/2, thousand cars of eggs, 2 1/2, million poods of sugar, 20 million liters of spirit, etc.

The problem of Ukrainian coal and iron has been of the greatest importance in our civil war. The Donetz Basin, which ranks foremost among the productive centres of Russia and the Ukraina, on account of its being the richest in coal and iron, served as a base for our native counter-revolution as well as the International one. All the Krasnovs, Denikins, Kaledins and their West European masters were dreaming of tearing the Donetz Basin away from Russia and the Ukraina, thereby to manacle the two Soviet Republics with the chains of starvation and cold, to stop all railway traffic in Russia and the Ukraina, to bring to a halt the whole economic life of the country, to provoke an uprising of the population, mad with hunger and cold, against the Soviet power. On the other hand, foreign capital was far too much interested in the Donetz Basin to surrender it, without a fight, to the Soviet Republics, and lose the colossal profits the European: capitalists were drawing from the exploitation of the Donetz Basin.

Austro-Hungarian troops enter the Ukrainian city of Kamianets-Podilskyi, 1918.

It is well know that the day after the Brest peace had been signed, imperialistic Germany began trying to seize the Donetz Basin. The German imperialistic press had innumerable columns describing the riches of the Donetz Basin, enumerating the quantities of coal, metals, minerals, the German capitalists and the German army would be able to draw out of this region for the benefit of German industry.

When the German troops had been forced to quit the Donetz Basin it became the object of predatory designs on the part of the Entente powers.

As regards the Donetz coal and iron, if it is true that before the war our coal and iron had been exported abroad only in very small quantities, this is still more important for international imperialism and counter revolution. The Donetz coal and iron were the magnet drawing to the Donetz Basin enormous sums of European capital. English, French and Belgian business men put enormous sums into the metallurgic enterprises and coal-mines of the Donetz Basin, and the whole metallurgic and coal industry of the Donetz Basin was actually, up to the October revolution, in the hands of Anglo-Franco-Belgian capital. On the eve of the war, in 1914, out of 3600 coke ovens in the coal pits of the Donetz Basin, with a production of 175 million poods, 3100 ovens producing 153 millions poods of coke were the property of companies formed exclusively with foreign capital. In the metallurgic industry foreign capital also reigned supreme. The famous “Prodamet“, in whose hands were concentrated 80%, of the whole metal production, was chiefly a syndicate of Belgian and French capitalists, and its central board had its seat in Paris.

The foreign capitalists had placed enormous sums not only in the pits, the factories and coal mines of the Donetz Basin, but also in such concerns as city trams, electric plants, railways and other industrial enterprises of the Ukraine, and did not mean to give up their profits with- out a fight. After the Germans had left the Ukraina, Petlura, who had sold the Ukraine before to Wilhelm II, took himself to Odessa to the French Consul General d’Anselm, to arrange for a new treaty selling the Ukraine once more to the French. According to this treaty all the railways and customs receipts of the Ukraina were to go to France, into the hands of the French Stock Exchange.

Imperialistic England was not so much interested in the Ukraina, in the conquest of the coal and metallurgic zone of the Donetz Basin, or in many concessions of Ukranian railroads, customs, electric plants etc. She wanted to get hold of the Ukrainian corn. The influential English paper “The Daily Telegraph“ wrote last year in August, at the time of Denikin’s advance: “Crops are good in the Ukraina and could satisfy the needs of the whole of Europe, if sufficient labour is added‘‘. Comrade Sokolnikov quotes from the White Book the very significant words of one of the English agents reporting to Balfour: Europe will experience a serious shortage of foodstuffs until the fields of Russia are sufficiently made use of, for Russia, the chief store-house of Europe, can provide for the whole of Europe by her corn export“.

British troops occupying Odessa’s port, 1920.

These considerations, supplemented by the facts we have mentioned above on the Ukrainian export before the war, give a sufficient explanation why the capitalist states want to abolish by all means the Soviet power in the Ukraina, and make the Ukraina a slave of the international capitalist market. The very same facts make it clear why in starting a campaign against the two sister republics, Russia and the Ukraina, International Capitalism throws each. time its chief military forces into the Ukraina. The desperate economic state of the whole capitalist world, the absolute necessity to get as soon as possible, today and not tomorrow, a million poods more of corn, sugar, salt, etc., such is the reason for the feverish haste of the Germans, Denikin, and the Poles to first capture the Ukraina.

Such is the reason for the Ukrainian hypnosis making itself so intensely felt in all the military enemies of the Soviet power. History knows many cases when during the war correct strategical plans and considerations have been sacrificed to political motives, to dynastic interests, and this has compromised the fate of the campaign. In this case the keen physical want, the immediate need of the Ukrainian sack of flour, the Ukrainian bag of white sugar, fall as a heavy weight on the military scales, and make the strategists leading the campaign against the Soviet Republic choose, for their way of advance toward Moscow, not the shortest route, but one leading necessarily through Kiev and other Ukrainian towns.

The ECCI published the magazine ‘Communist International’ edited by Zinoviev and Karl Radek from 1919 until 1926 irregularly in German, French, Russian, and English. Unlike, Inprecorr, CI contained long-form articles by the leading figures of the International as well as proceedings, statements, and notices of the Comintern. No complete run of Communist International is available in English. Both were largely published outside of Soviet territory, with Communist International printed in London, to facilitate distribution and both were major contributors to the Communist press in the U.S. Communist International and Inprecorr are an invaluable English-language source on the history of the Communist International and its sections.

PDF of full issue: https://archive.org/download/communist-international-no.-1-17-1919-may-1921/Communist%20international%20no%2011-13%201920.pdf

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