Events in the Balkans and in Persia

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The political press in Russia and throughout Europe is preoccupied lately with the events in the Balkans. For a time a European war seemed dangerously close, and that danger has by no means been eliminated, though it is much more probable that the whole thing will end up in shouting and clamour and war will be avoided.

Let us take a glance at the nature of the crisis and the tasks it imposes on the workers’ party in Russia.

A powerful impetus to the political awakening of the Asian peoples was given by the Russo-Japanese War and the Russian revolution. But this awakening spread so slowly from one country to another that in Persia Russian counter revolution played and continues to play what amounts to a decisive role, while in Turkey the revolution was at once confronted with a counter-revolutionary coalition of the powers, Russia at their head. True, the general tone of the European press and of the diplomatic statements would appear to contradict this. If we are to believe these statements and the semi-official press, there is universal “sympathy” with regenerated Turkey, a universal desire to see her constitutional regime strengthened and developed, general praise for the “moderation” of the bourgeois Young Turks.

All these fine words, however, are typical of the base bourgeois hypocrisy of Europe’s ’present-day’ reactionary governments and present-day reactionary bourgeoisie. For the fact is that not a single European country calling itself a democracy, and not a single European bourgeois party professing to be democratic, progressive, Liberal, Radical, etc., has in any way demonstrated a genuine desire to promote the victory and consolidation of the Turkish revolution. On the contrary, they all fear its success, for the inevitable result of it would be, on the one hand, to foster the desire for autonomy and genuine democracy in all the Balkan nations and, on the other, ensure the victory of the Persian revolution, give fresh impetus to the democratic movement in Asia, intensify the struggle for independence in India, create free institutions along an immense stretch of Russia’s frontier—and, consequently, new conditions that would hamper the policy of Black-Hundred tsarism and facilitate the rise of the revolution in Russia, etc.

Essentially, what we see now going on in the Balkans, Turkey and Persia is a counter-revolutionary coalition of the European powers against the mounting tide of democracy in Asia. All the efforts of our governments, all the preaching of the “big” European papers, are aimed at glossing over this fact, misleading public opinion, covering up with hypocritical speeches and diplomatic hocus-pocus the counter revolutionary coalition of the so-called civilised nations of Europe against the nations of Asia, least civilised but most energetic in their striving for democracy. And the very essence of proletarian policy at this stage should be to tear the mask from. these bourgeois hypocrites and to reveal to the broadest masses of the people the reactionary character of the European governments who, out of fear of the proletarian struggle at home, are playing, and helping others play, the part of gendarme in relation to the revolution in Asia.

Europe has woven a dense web of intrigue around all the Turkish and Balkan events, and the man in the street is being hoodwinked by the diplomats, who try to divert public attention to trifles, secondary issues, individual aspects of present developments, in an effort to obscure the meaning of the process as a whole. In contrast to this, our task, the task of international Social-Democracy, should be to show the people how these developments are interconnected, to bring out their fundamental trend and underlying motives.

Rivalry among the capitalist powers, anxious to “bite off” as big a piece as they can and extend their possessions and colonies, coupled with fear of an independent democratic movement among the nations dependent on or “protected” by Europe—these are two mainsprings of all European policy. The Young Turks are praised for their moderation and restraint, i.e., the Turkish revolution is being praised because it is weak, because it is not rousing the popular masses to really independent action, because it is hostile to the proletarian struggle beginning in the Ottoman Empire—and at the same time the plunder of Turkey continues. The Young Turks are praised for making it possible to go on plundering Turkish possessions. They praise the Young Turks and continue a policy, the obvious purpose of which is to partition Turkey. In this connection the Social-Democratic Leipziger Volkszeitung made this very true and apt comment:

“In May 1791, far-sighted statesmen who were really concerned for the well-being of their country carried out a political reform in Poland. The King of Prussia and the Emperor of Austria praised the Constitution of May 3, saying it would ’bring prosperity to a neighbouring country’. The whole world extolled the Polish reformers for practising ’moderation’, unlike the terrible Jacobins of Paris.... On January 23, 1793, Prussia, Austria and Russia signed a treaty partitioning Poland!

“In August 1908, the Young Turks carried out their political reform with uncommon smoothness. The whole world praised them for practising such respectable ’moderation’, unlike the terrible socialists of Russia.... Now, in October 1908, we are witnessing a series of developments that presage the partition of Turkey.”

Indeed, it would be childish to believe the words of the diplomats and disregard their deeds, the collective action of the powers against revolutionary Turkey. The very fact that the present developments were preceded by meetings and conversations of the Foreign Ministers and I-leads of State of several countries, is enough to dispel this naive faith in diplomatic statements. In August and September, immediately after the Young Turk revolution and just before the Austrian and Bulgarian declarations, Mr. Izvolsky met King Edward and Premier Clemenceau of the French Republic in Karlsbad and Marienbad; the Austrian and Italian Foreign Ministers, von Aehrenthal and Tittoni, met in Salzburg; then came the meetings between Izvolsky and Aehrenthal in Buchloe on September 15; between Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria and Emperor Franz-Joseph in Budapest; Izvolsky’s meeting with von Schoen, the German Foreign Minister, and later with Tittoni and the King of Italy.

These facts speak for themselves. All the important points had been agreed upon before the Austrian and Bulgarian action secretly and directly, at personal meetings of kings and ministers, between the six powers: Russia, Austria, Germany, Italy, France and Britain. The subsequent controversy in the press as to whether Aehrenthal was speaking the truth when he stated that Italy, Germany and Russia had agreed to Austria’s annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was a farce from beginning to end, a sheer deception, that can fool only liberal philistines. The foreign policy directors of the European powers—the Izvolskys, Aehrenthals and the whole gang of crowned robbers and their ministers—purposely threw this bone to the press: go on bickering, gentlemen, over who cheated whom and who affront ed whom, whether Austria cheated Russia, or Bulgaria cheated Austria, etc., over who was the “first” to begin tearing up the Berlin Treaty,[1] over the different attitudes to the proposed conference of the powers, and so on and so forth. Please keep public attention preoccupied with these interesting and important—oh, very important!—questions. That is exactly what we need in order to conceal what really. matters, namely, that we have already come to a preliminary agreement on the main thing, i.e., action against the Young Turk revolution, further steps to partition Turkey, revision of the Dardanelles arrangement on one pretext or another, permission for Russia’s Black-Hundred tsar to strangle the Persian revolution. That is the crux of the matter; that is what we, the leaders of the reactionary bourgeoisie of all Europe, really need, and that is what we are doing. As for the liberal simpletons in the press and in parliament, they can spend their time debating how it all began, who said what, and in what guise the policy of colonial plunder and suppression of democratic movements is to be finally signed, sealed and presented to the world.

In each of the European Great Powers—with the exception of Austria, which for the time being is “satiated”— the liberal press is accusing its government of inadequate defence of its national interests. Everywhere the liberals present their country and their government as the most maladroit in “utilising” the situation, as having been fooled, etc. And that precisely is the policy of our Cadets too. They have long been saying that Austria’s successes make them “envious” (Mr. Milyukov’s own words). This policy of the liberal bourgeoisie in general, and that of our Cadets in particular, is the most revolting hypocrisy, the vilest betrayal of the genuine interests of progress and freedom. For it is a policy which, first, befuddles the democratic consciousness of the masses by hushing up the conspiracy of the reactionary governments. Secondly, it impels every country to follow a so-called active foreign policy, i.e., it sanctions the system of colonial robbery and interference by the powers in Balkan affairs, interference which is always reactionary. Thirdly, it plays directly into the hands of re action, interesting the people in how much “we” will receive, how much “we” will get out of the booty, how much “we” can bargain for “ourselves”. What the reactionary governments need most, at this juncture, is precisely the opportunity to plead that “public opinion” supports their territorial seizures, demands for “compensation”, etc. Look, they say, the press of my country accuses me of excessive generosity, of inadequate defence of the national interests, of being too pliable, and it threatens war. Consequently, my demands are most “modest and fair”, and must therefore he met in full!

The policy of the Russian Cadets, like that of the European liberal bourgeoisie, is one of subservience to the reactionary governments, defence of colonial aggrandisement and plunder, and interference in the affairs of other countries. The Cadet policy is especially harmful because it is being conducted under the “opposition” flag, and therefore misleads very many, wins the confidence of those who have no faith in the Russian Government and corrupts the masses. Therefore, our Duma deputies and all our Party organisations must bear in mind that we cannot make a single serious step forward in Social-Democratic propaganda and agitation about the Balkan events without revealing—from the Duma rostrum, in leaflets and at meetings—the connection between the reactionary policy of the autocracy and the hypocritical opposition of the Cadets. We shall never be able to explain to the people how harmful and reactionary the policy of the tsarist government is, unless we explain that Cadet foreign policy is essentially the same. We cannot combat chauvinism and the Black-Hundred spirit in foreign policy, unless we combat the phrase-mongering, the posing, the mental reservations and dodges of the Cadets.

Where concessions to the liberal-bourgeois point of view lead socialists will be seen from the following example. In the well-known opportunist journal Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist—???—Monthly), Max Schippel has this to say on the Balkan crisis: “Nearly all thinking party members would consider it a mistake if the view which was recently expressed once more in our Berlin Central Organ [Vorwärts] prevailed, the view that Germany has nothing to look for in either the present or future revolutions in the Balkans. Certainly, we should not strive for territorial acquisitions.... But there can be no doubt that the major realignments of the powers in this area, which is an important connecting link between Europe, the whole of Asia and part of Africa, have a direct bearing on our international position.... For the time being the reactionary Russian colossus is of no decisive importance.... We have no reason to see in Russia an enemy always and everywhere, as she was regarded by the democrats of the fifties” (5. 1319).

This silly liberal, parading as a socialist, has failed, to notice Russia’s reactionary intrigues behind her “solicitude” for the “Slav brothers”! By using the words “we” (meaning the German bourgeoisie), “our” position, etc., he has failed to notice either the blow dealt the Young Turk revolution, or Russia’s action against the Persian revolution!

Schippel’s statement appeared in the October. 22 issue of the journal. On October 18 (5), Novoye Vremya[2] published a vitriolic article alleging that the “anarchy in Tabriz has reached incredible dimensions” and the city has been “half destroyed and sacked by semi-savage revolutionaries”. In other words, the victory of the revolution over the Shah’s troops in Tabriz has immediately aroused the fury of the semi-official Russian journal. It describes Sattar Khan, leader of the Persian revolutionary forces, as the “Pugachov[3] of Aderbaijan” (Aderbaijan, or Azerbaijan, is the northern province - of Persia and, according to Reclus, accounts for nearly one-fifth of the total population; Tabriz is the capital of the province). “One is entitled to ask,” Novoye Vremya wrote, “whether Russia can endlessly tolerate these outrages, which are ruining our lucrative trade on the Persian frontier.... It should be borne in mind that all Eastern Transcaucasia and Aderbaijan are an ethnological whole.... Tatar semi-intellectuals in Transcaucasia, forgetting that they are Russian subjects, have displayed warm sympathy for the disturbances in Tabriz and are sending volunteers to that city... What is much more important for us is that Aderbaijan, which borders on Russia, should he pacified. Deplorable though it may be, circumstances might compel Russia, despite her strong desire not to interfere, to take this task upon herself.”

On October 20, the German Frankfurter Zeitung carried a dispatch from St. Petersburg that Russian occupation of Aderbaijan is contemplated by way of “compensation”. On October 24 (11), the same paper published a telegram from Tabriz: “Two days ago six battalions of Russian infantry, supported by cavalry and artillery, crossed the Persian frontier and are today expected in Tabriz.”

The Russian troops were crossing the Persian frontier on the very day when Max Schippel, slavishly repeating the assurances and the outcries of the liberal, and police press, was telling the German workers that Russia’s importance as a reactionary colossus was now a thing of the past, and that to regard Russia as an enemy under all circumstances would be a mistake!

There is to be a new massacre of Persian revolutionaries by the troops of Nicholas the Bloody. The unofficial Lyakhov is being followed by the official occupation of Aderbaijan, and the repetition in Asia of what Russia did in Europe in 1849, when Nicholas I sent his troops against the Hungarian revolution. At that time there were genuine democrats among the bourgeois parties of Europe, who were capable of fighting for freedom, and not only hypocritically talking about freedom, as all the bourgeois democrats do in our day. Russia had then to play the part of European gendarme against at any rate a few European countries. Today all the biggest European powers, not excluding the “democratic” republic of the “red” Clemenceau, mortally afraid as they are of any extension of democracy at home because it would benefit the proletariat, are helping Russia play the gendarme in Asia.

There cannot be the slightest doubt that “freedom of action” for Russia against the Persian revolution was part of the September reactionary conspiracy of Russia, Austria, Germany, Italy, France and Britain. Whether this was explicitly stated in some secret document (which may be published many years hence in a collection of historical materials) or whether it was only intimated by Izvolsky to his most obliging fellow-negotiators, or whether the latter “hinted” that they intended to pass from “occupation” to “annexation”, and that the Russians would perhaps like to pass from the Lyakhov policy to “occupation”, or whether some other arrangement was made—all that is not of the least importance. What is important is that, however in formal, the September counter-revolutionary conspiracy of the powers is a fact, the significance of which becomes increasingly clear with every passing day. It is a conspiracy against the proletariat and democracy. It is a conspiracy for directly suppressing the revolution in Asia, or at least for dealing it indirect blows. It is a conspiracy for the continuation of colonial plunder and territorial conquest in the Balkans today, in Persia tomorrow, maybe in Asia Minor and Egypt the day after, etc., etc.

Only the world proletarian revolution can overthrow this combined power of the crowned bandits and international capital. The urgent task of all socialist parties is to intensify agitation among the masses, unmask the diplomats of all countries at their tricks and bring out all the facts for the people to see—the facts revealing the infamous role of all the allied powers without exception—both as direct performers of the functions of the gendarme, and as his abettors, friends and financiers.

An extremely onerous, hut at the same time extremely noble and momentous task falls now to the Russian Social Democratic deputies in the Duma, where a statement by Izvolsky and a question by the Cadets and Octobrists are expected. The Social-Democratic deputies are members of a body that is a screen for the policy of the chief reactionary power, the chief plotter of counter-revolution, and they must find in themselves the courage and ability to tell the whole truth. At a time like this, the Social-Democratic deputies in the Black-Hundred Duma are people to whom much is given and of whom much is required. For apart from them there is no one in the Duma to voice the protest against tsarism from positions other than those of the Cadets and Octobrists. And a Cadet “protest”, at such times and in the present circumstances, is worse than no protest at all since it can be made only from amidst the self same capitalist wolf-pack, and on behalf of the selfsame wolfish policy.

Our Duma group and all our other Party organisations should therefore set to work at once. Agitation among the masses is now a hundredfold more important than in ordinary times. Three propositions should take first place in all our Party agitation. First, in contrast to the whole of the reactionary and liberal press—from the Black Hundreds to the Cadets—Social-Democrats should expose the diplomatic game of conferences, agreement of the powers, alliances with Britain against Austria, or with Austria against Germany, or any other. Our job is to reveal the fact that there exists a reactionary conspiracy of the powers, a conspiracy which the governments are doing everything they possibly can to conceal behind the farce of public negotiations. Our policy should be to denounce this diplomatic farce, bring the truth to the people, expose international anti-proletarian reaction! Secondly, we should reveal the real, as distinct from the asserted, results of this conspiracy, namely, the blow to the Turkish revolution, Russia’s assistance in strangling the Persian revolution, interference in the affairs of other nations, and violation of that fundamental democratic principle, the right of nations to self-determination. That right is championed by our programme and the programmes of all the Social-Democratic parties of the world. And there can be nothing more reactionary than the solicitude of the Austrians on the one hand, and the Russian Black Hundreds on the other, for their “Slav brothers”. This “solicitude” is being used to screen the vile intrigues that have long won Russia notoriety in the Balkans. This “solicitude” always boils down to encroachments on genuine democracy in one Balkan country or another. There is only one sincere way for the powers to show “solicitude” for the Balkan nations, and that, is to leave them alone, stop harassing them by foreign interference, stop putting spokes in the wheel of the Turkish revolution. But, of course, the working class cannot expect that kind of policy from the bourgeoisie.

All the bourgeois parties, including the most liberal and “democratic” in name, our Cadets included, support capitalist foreign policy. That is the third thing which the Social- Democrats must with special vigour bring to the knowledge of the people. For, to all intents and purposes, the liberals and Cadets stand for the present rivalry between the capitalist nations, differing with the Black Hundreds only as to the forms this should take, and insisting only on inter national agreements different from those upon which the government now relies. And this liberal struggle against one variety of bourgeois foreign policy in favour of another variety of that same policy, these liberal reproaches levelled at the government for lagging behind other countries (in rapine and intervention!) have the most corrupting effect on the masses. Down with all colonial policy, down with the whole policy of intervention and capitalist struggle for the conquest of foreign lands and foreign populations, for new privileges, new markets, control of the Straits, etc.! Social-Democrats do not subscribe to the stupid philistine utopia of “peaceful and just” capitalist progress. Their struggle is against the whole of capitalist society as such, in the knowledge that there is no other champion of peace and liberty in the world than the international revolutionary proletariat.

P. S. After this article had been sent to the press, the papers published a dispatch of the St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency denying the report about Russian troops having crossed the Persian border. The dispatch was published in the Frankfurter Zeitung of October 24, in the second morning edition. The third edition carried a report from Constantinople dated October 24, 10.50 p.m., stating that on the evening of the 24th news of the Russian troops crossing the Persian border had reached Constantinople. The foreign press, with the exception of the socialist papers, is so far silent on the Russian invasion of Persia.

To sum up: we are not yet in a position to learn the whole truth. At any rate, the “denials” emanating from the tsarist government anti the St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency arc not, of course, to be trusted. That Russia, with the knowledge of the powers, is fighting the Persian revolution with every means at her command, from intrigue to the sending of troops, is a fact. That her policy is to occupy Azerbaijan, is likewise beyond doubt. And if the troops have not yet crossed the border, then very probably all the preparations for them to do so have already been made. There is no smoke without fire.

  1. The Berlin Treaty—an agreement endorsed on July 13, 1878, by the Congress of representatives of the governments of Russia Britain, Austro-Hungary, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.
  2. Novoye Vremya (New Times)—a daily newspaper published in St. Petersburg from 1868 to October 1917. At first moderately liberal, it became in 1876 the mouthpiece of reactionary circles among the aristocracy and bureaucracy. It was opposed to the bourgeois-liberal as well as the revolutionary movement. From 1905 onwards it was an organ of the Black Hundreds. Lenin called it a specimen of the venal press.
  3. Pugachov, Yemelyan—leader of the peasant war in Russia in 1773-75.