At the beginning of April the Japanese made a landing at Vladivostok. The subsequent intentions of the Japanese were not known. Consequently it could not be known whether the Czechoslovaks would be able to embark at Vladivostok. 1 In accordance with instructions from the government I held up the movement of the Czechoslovak echelons, and I explained to the representatives of the French military mission and also to representatives of the Czechoslovak National Council who had come to me, that the halting of the movement of the Czechoslovak echelons in no way represented a measure hostile to the Czechoslovaks but was motivated solely by the new political and strategic situation in the Far East. I proposed moreover to the representatives of the National Council, Messrs. Max and Cermak, to urge the British and French governments to officially declare their readiness to take the Czechoslovaks on their vessels at Archangel and Murmansk. For my part I committed myself to a definite date, to be established by means of negotiations, by which to transport the Czechoslovaks there. In spite of the fact that Messrs. Max and Cermak promised me they would obtain an official statement to this effect from the interested governments of Britain and France in the next few days, I received no such notification. In the course of a private exchange of views with Mr. Lockhart, the British plenipotentiary, I indicated to him the need for the British and French governments to make a specific decision with regard to the Czechoslovaks, as it was absolutely impossible to keep men in echelons for a period of months especially during summer time. Mr. Lockhart could give no reply and merely pointed out that the problem of available tonnage was very acute and he did not know whether the British government considered it feasible to send the necessary number of ships. Thus the question was left quite undefined not through any fault of the Soviet government but entirely as a result of on the one hand, the Japanese landing in V1adivostok and on the other the absence of any definite statements on the part of the governments of Britain and France.
From an interview given to Vyacheslav Neubert, a representative of the Czechoslovak Corps, 31st May 1918
The capture of Kazan! 2 How should we assess this gladdening event?
The internal class struggle in the Soviet Republic has become complicated and taken on the form of a drawn out and just war, owing to the fact that the resistance of the Russian bourgeoisie has been combined with the military intervention, invasion and incursion of foreign imperialism in the shape of the European-American landing and a network of conspiracies. For a start, having landed an expeditionary force of two to three thousand British and French at Murmansk and Archangel, the imperialist raiders had reckoned that broad masses of the people would start rallying to them. 3 They did not at all count upon the resistance of the revolution when they saw the harsh conditions of Russian workers. But the carrier of the revolution, the hungry proletariat of Moscow and Petrograd, said to them: ‘I’ve got two ounces to eat today and nothing tomorrow, but I can tighten my belt a bit more and say openly: I have taken power and I will never give that power up!’ So that no sooner had the imperialists encountered their first rebuff after their unexpected onslaught on Archangel, than cries went up throughout the bourgeois press of Britain and France that the whole undertaking in the North was an adventure.
From a speech in the Kazan theatre, 12th September 1918 (The Significance of the Capture of Kazan for the Course of the Civil War)
The revolution was not only temporarily deprived of Baku, but it also lost for ever many of its best sons. In September 1918, almost at the very time when Gegechkori4 was negotiating with Denikin, 5 twenty-six Bolsheviks. the leaders of the Baku proletariat, headed by Comrade Shaumyan, a member of the Central Committee of our party, and by Alexei Japaridze, were shot at a lonely Trans-caspian station.
You can get full information on this matter, Mr. Henderson, from your own General Thompson, the commander in this war of liberation: his agents acted as the executioners.
Thus neither Shaumyan nor Japaridze were in a position to hear about the jubiliation of Zhordania6 on the fall of Soviet Baku. But nevertheless, they took with them into the grave a burning hatred towards the Menshevik abettors of the executioners.
The manuscript of this book had been completed, when I received a new book by Vadim Chaikin, a Socialist-Revolutionary and member of the Constituent Assembly, entitled: A Contribution to the History of the Russian Revolution: The Execution of 26 Baku Commissars, and published by Grzebin, Moscow. This book, consisting mostly of documents of which the more important ones are reproduced in facsimile, narrates the story of the murder of 26 Baku commissars by order of the British military authorities, without the least pretence of a public trial. The direct practical organizer of the massacre was the chief of the British Military Mission at Ashkhabad, Reginald Teague-Jones. General Thompson was cognizant of the whole case, and Teague-Jones, as the evidence shows, acted with the consent of the gallant general. After the consummation of the slaying of 26 unarmed men at a station, where they had been taken under the pretence of exiling them to India, General Thompson aided the escape of one of the leading perpetrators of the crime, the hired scoundrel Druzhkin. The appeals of Vadim Chaikin, by no means a Bolshevik, but a Socialist-Revolutionary and a member of the Constituent Assembly, to the British General MaIcolm and to the British General Milne were left unheeded. On the contrary, all these gentlemen demonstrated their solidarity in aiding and abetting the crime and the criminals and in the fabrication of false statements.
This book shows with documentary evidence that Gegechkori, at the insistence of Chaikin, promised to prevent the escape of the criminal scoundrel Druzlikin from Georgia. Yet, in collusion with the British General Thompson, he gave Druzlikin every facility to escape from trial and justice. While the committees of Russian and Georgian Socialist-Revolutionaries and of the Russian Trans-caspian Mensheviks, after an investigation of all the facts of the case, signed a declaration testifying to the criminal manner in which the British military authorities had acted, the committee of the Georgian Mensheviks, although as the other Committees arriving at the same conclusion, refused to sign the document for fear of displeasing the British authorities. The telegraph officer of the Menshevik Georgian government refused to accept for transmission the telegrams of Vadim Chaikin which exposed the murderous activities of the British authorities. If nothing more were known about the Georgian Mensheviks except what is established by indisputable and irrefutable documents in Chaikin’s book, it would be quite sufficient to imprint for all time the brand of shame and dishonour upon these gentlemen, upon their ‘democracy’, their protectors and apologists.
We do not entertain the least hope that after the direct, exact, and irrefutable evidence furnished by Chaikin’s book, either Mr. Henderson, or Mr. MacDonald, or Mr. J.R. Clynes, Mr. Jimmy Sexton, or Mr. William Adamson, Mr. John Hodge, Mr. Frank Rose, Mr. C. W. Bowerman, Mr. Robert Young, or Mr. Benjamin Spoor will — as Labour M.P.s deem it now their duty to investigate the case frankly and honestly and make these representatives of Great Britain, who in Transcaucasia were so gloriously defending democracy, civilization, justice, religion and morality against Bolshevik barbarism, answerable for their conduct.
The international Mrs. Snowdens have denied the co-operation of the Georgian Mensheviks with the counter-revolutionary organizations and armies, basing this on the two following circumstances. First, that the Mensheviks themselves complained to the British socialists about the Entente, which had, so to speak, forced them to support the counter-revolution; second, that there was friction between Georgia and the Whites, which at that time assumed the character of armed conflict.
The British General Walker shook his fist in the face of the premier Zhordania, and threatened to close down immediately the central Menshevik organ, if it dared to publish a paragraph which might give umbrage to the Entente. A British lieutenant violently struck the table of the Georgian Attorney-General with his sword and demanded the immediate release of all those arrested people whom he, lieutenant by the grace of God, designated. Generally speaking, the British military authorities, according to the documents, conducted themselves even more insolently than the German. Of course, in such cases, Zhordania most respectfully mentioned Georgia’s semi-independence, and complained to MacDonald about the violation of Georgia’s semi-neutrality. This was necessitated by ordinary caution. When Denikin was robbing Georgia of the Sukhumi area, the Mensheviks complained about Denikin to General Walker. Now they complained about General Walker to Henderson — in both instances with the same success.
If these complaints and frictions had not occurred it would have simply meant that the Mensheviks did not differ in the least from Denikin. But this would be as erroneous as to say that Henderson did not differ in the least from Churchill. The range of petty-bourgeois vacillations during the revolutionary period extends from supporting the proletariat to a formal union with the landlords’ counter-revolution. The less the petty-bourgeois politicians are independent, the louder they talk of their complete independence and of their absolute neutrality. From this viewpoint it is very difficult to follow the history of the Mensheviks and the Right and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in the course of the revolution. They have never been neutral or independent. Their ‘neutrality’ has always been a critical point in the movement from the right to the left, or from the left to the right. In supporting the Bolsheviks (as did the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and the anarchists), or in supporting the Tsarist generals (as did the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks), the petty-bourgeois parties frequently took fright at the decisive moment of the impending victory of their ally, and even more frequently deserted him in the moment of his greatest peril. One must certainly admit that if, during the revolutionary period, the petty-bourgeois parties bear their share of all the drawbacks of defeat, they seldom benefit by the advantages of victory. After having consolidated its power with the help of ‘democracy’, the monarchist counter-revolution in the East (in the person of Kolchak), in the North and West (in the person of Yudenich, Miller and the British generals), and in the South (in the person of Denikin) always treated its aiders and abettors with the utmost arrogance and severity.
From Between Red and White (1921)
Lloyd George not long ago stated that it was dangerous to take the offensive against our country for, as a result of an offensive, peasant millions would rally around Soviet power to safeguard their country with all their might. The American President Wilson according to newspaper reports now considers the offensive of Messrs. ‘Allies’ against Archangel was a mistake. After our capture of Shenkursk there followed the demoralization of British and American soldiers who abandoned their positions by withdrawing into Archangel. There was open unrest in Murmansk. 7 On the Odessa Front, according to available information, French troops are demanding to be sent home and the black colonial troops cannot endure the climate and have already been withdrawn to their country. 8 Wilson and Lloyd George are beginning to realize that they have made a mistake …
From a report in the Hall of Columns, Moscow, 24th February 1919 (At the Fronts)
The commander of the British troops in Western Transcaucasia, General Forester Walker, on January 4th, 1919, explained to Zhordania, both orally and in writing, that the enemy of the Entente in the Caucasus is ‘Bolshevism, which the Great Powers have resolved to destroy wherever and whenever it should make its appearance. In connection with this, a fortnight afterwards, Zliordania declared to the British General Milne: ‘General Walker … proved to be the first person that understood the state of affairs in our country.’ General Milne himself summarized his agreement with Zhordania in the following manner: ‘You and we have common foes — they are the Germans and the Bolsheviks.’ All these circumstances together furnished of course, the most favourable conditions for the fullest liberty of action’ for the Bolsheviks.
On February 18th, General Walker gives the following order, No. 99/6, to the Georgian government: ‘All Bolsheviks entering Georgia must be imprisoned only in the Mskhet (the jail of Tbilisi), and put under a strong guard.’ The reference is to those Bolsheviks who were seeking refuge from Denikin. But, already, on February 25th, in Order No. 99/9, Walker wrote: ‘Arising out of the conversation I had on the 20th inst., with his Excellency M. Zhordania, I have come to the conclusion that it will be necessary in the future to prevent the entrance of Bolsheviks into Georgia by the main road.’9 The imprisonment of the Bolshevik refugees in the Mskliet at least preserved their lives for a time. Walker had ‘come to the conclusion’ that it was best to bar their way of escape, thus throwing them back into the hands of Denikin’s executioners. If Arthur Henderson has a few moments to spare from his labours in exposing the cruelties of the Soviet Government, and from his Brotherhood services, 10 he should have an exchange of views with Forester Walker upon this subject.
From Between Red and White (1921)
We were menaced by the claws of Anglo-French imperialism and there was a moment when these claws seemed to threaten to crush us in a deadly embrace. After their victory over Germany there was no limit to the omnipotence of the British and the French. Moreover the German bourgeoisie itself, including Hindenburg, readily entered the service of France and Britain to put down the Bolsheviks. I have here some recent German papers where it is openly stated in a number of leading articles: ‘In the West (i.e., on the frontier between Germany and France) iron and concrete walls and fortresses are being erected the walls of the old national hatred between France and Germany are being put up. But all this is insignificant compared to the abyss that separates us in the East. We must somehow or other come to an agreement with France, but with the Bolsheviks and Soviet power — never. Theirs is a different world order, they deny — and they say this openly -’they deny the whole basis of economic life and private property.’ And let us add ourselves, the order on which most holy profits are based. The struggle against Britain and France, the old forts of Belfort and Verdun, is insignificant compared to the hatred we inspire in unified European capital. Such is the admission of the German bourgeoisie, crushed down, humiliated, plundered but which even now, while reeling under the boot of the French and British bourgeoisie, says: ‘but all the same you are closer and more kindred to me than that horrible Soviet communist republic.’ That’s the feeling they harbour towards us in Germany, France, Britain and everywhere else.
You can of course say that when Britain and France proposed a trip to the Prinkipo Islands, Soviet power agreed to such a trip and it agreed then as it had done at Brest-Litovsk because we were ready to seize any opportunity to stand down our front, win an armistice and a respite, and lighten the burden on our Red Army and all the working people. 11 It stands to reason that we would have gone to the Prinkipo Islands as we went to Brest-Litovsk, not out of sympathy, respect or trust for Clemenceau, Lloyd George and that old transatlantic Tartufflan hypocrite Wilson, no comrades, on that score Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Wilson, like the Holienzollerns and Habsburgs before them, are not for a single minute mistaken, for they know that we harbour the same feelings for them as they do for us. We are joined to them by an intimate hatred, an intimate mortal enmity, and any agreement with them will only be dictated by cold calculation and form by its very nature a temporary armistice, after which the struggle will inevitably break out again with renewed force.
It had seemed before that they were strangling us; then they offered us the Prinkipo Islands and then they stopped talking about them. Why? Because Kolchak, Denikin, Krasnov and Mannerheim in Finland declared to the imperialist stock exchange, ‘give us a time limit, give us two or three more spring months: Soviet power will be strangled and you will not need to negotiate with it on the Prinkipo Islands.’ To this Lloyd George replied: ‘you made that promise a long time ago. First of all Milyukov did, then Kerensky, Skoropadsky in the Ukraine, and then Krasnov; now Krasnov has fled from Rostov and Bogaevsky has replaced him, you all made that promise. Kolchak promised America long ago. We shall no longer give you assistance with troops; our position in the north and the south is becoming worse and worse.’ Then Kolchak, Denikin and the others answered: ‘We ask you and beg you to give us just a little while longer to finish off Soviet power. But don’t have talks with them, don’t strengthen their position. We are preparing a wide offensive for the spring.’
And so they had their offensive — that spring offensive — and we are now surviving it. Throughout the winter the allies gave money and shells. They did not give manpower as they were afraid of getting too mixed up in our affairs and getting bogged down in our Soviet plain, for they realized from Germany’s experience that the imperialists’ troops enter our Russia under the tricolour of imperialism and violence, but the same troops leave Soviet Russia under the red banner of communism.
They agreed to provide arms, money, rifles and pieces of silver but they withdrew their soldiers.
In France the leading newspaper, Temps and the paper of the same name, The Times, in Britain, openly say that the French troops are being withdrawn from Odessa because ‘since the occupation of Nikolaev and Kherson’ . . . the position of the expeditionary force in Odessa has been ‘critical’. They talk about this quite frankly in the European press. I have a telegram here received today or yesterday dealing with the position of the allied armies in the north of Russia — I do not know whether it was published in the press: ‘America, radio from Paris for Canada. The involuntary anxiety gripping British circles concerning the grave risk of destruction threatening the Archangel expedition only confirms the opinion of the American military expressed many months ago. Stark new facts have been added namely: the mutiny of Finnish troops in Archangel.’
The Americans and British had mobilized or rather attracted round themselves Finnish forces when German forces were occupying Finland, as the British presented themselves as Finnish liberators from German imperialism. Now the American wireless reports publicly from Paris on the mutiny of Finnish soldiers incorporated in the Anglo-American army on our northern shore: ‘The mutiny of Finnish troops threatens to cut off the only road for our soldiers, and the Bolsheviks’ concentration of warships on the Dvina and the Vaga indicates their readiness for an attack … Men from Canada form the main part of the detachment in this area. Official figures admit that there is not the slightest hope of reinforcing their effectives before a Bolshevik assault.’
The London Daily Mail says in a leading article: ‘responsibility for this danger … rests upon the Allies. . The eyes of the whole world are upon them. if they should fall into the hands of that enemy their fate baffles description’ and so on and so forth. This of course is a blatant lie. If they fall into our hands we shall treat them as we treated those hundreds and now possibly thousands of French, British and Americans who were captured by us in the Ukraine and the north. We sat them on school benches and gave them teachers, French and English communists, and they were most successful.
Not long ago a bourgeois M. P. asked the Naval Minister whether it was true that some Englishman called Price was conducting criminal Bolshevik agitation on the Murmansk coast, and whether it was true that there had been an uprising in a British battalion which then had to be withdrawn. The British Naval Minister was forced to confirm that yes, this Price had previously been a correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, a British democratic newspaper, became a communist at a school here, set out from Moscow for the north and there conducted agitation with great success, and that there was an uprising of more than one battalion there and that these troops had to be brought back home … 12
From a speech to the Samara Provincial Executive Committee of the R. C. P. and trade union representatives, 6th April 1919. (The Eastern Front)
… Anglo-French imperialism is still not only alive but dangerous.
For our part we are ready to repeat Brest-Litovsk negotiations with new Anglo-French partners; history has shown that we did not emerge the loser from the first Brest. But for precisely this reason the bourgeois classes of the Entente, after all their hesitations, waverings and pondering, finally rejected negotiations with the government of the Bolsheviks. In this refusal there is an extremely valuable historical admission, both of the correctness of our policy at Brest-Litovsk and of our increased strength. German imperialism had entered negotiations with us because it hoped to settle us with ease. Anglo-French imperialism does not trust itself and thus fears us. Although history required a Brest stage in order to overthrow Austro-German imperialism, this does not in any way mean that the Anglo-French plunderers will, by avoiding a Brest, avoid their downfall. History is resourceful and it has at its disposal many methods and means, while we are not dogmatic and will gladly accept the downfall of our enemies, irrespective of the torm in which it crashes down on their heads.
From ‘The Brest Stage’: foreward (dated 1st August 1919) to Protocols of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Talks: volume I (1920)
Churchill does not rank among those politicians whose words should be taken for the genuine article. But for the impolite and numbskulled petty-bourgeois rabble to which Churchill speaks, the figure of ‘fourteen states’ entering the battle against Russia must make a big impression. Critically-thinking workers of Great Britain will say that it appears that the affairs of victorious British imperialism cannot be in a very brilliant state, if the champion of capitalist violence has to boast noisily about the number of his small — militarily speaking, insignificant — allies in the struggle against the Red Army, Kolchak would be immeasurably more pleased with fourteen divisions than fourteen geographical terms.
That the artificially installed bourgeois governments of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and so on are hostile to Soviet Power we had no doubt, as we have had no doubt that sooner or later the working class of these countries will settle accounts with their bourgeoisie as soon as the proletariat of Britain and France put a rein on the violence of Entente imperialism against small and weak nations.
Ambitions of conquest are wholly and totally alien to Soviet policy, which is clear to any sane person who is informed as to the objects and tasks of Soviet power and the whole past of the party that guides the life of our country. That is why the order was given to our forces operating on our Western Front not to cross the frontiers of the little states which had announced their secession from the former Tsarist empire. But this does not of course mean that subsequent attempts by Finland and Estonia upon Petrograd will go unpunished.
If you believe Churchill (and that is not obligatory) then the hesitations of the Finnish and Estonian bourgeoisies have been now resolved in favour of a military invasion. Without doubt such a decision (if it was made) would have been aided by our retreat on the Western Front and Denikin’s temporary successes.
As you know we had regarded the Western Front as of third-rate importance in comparison with the Eastern and Southern Fronts. Now after we have moved our Kolchak Front some six hundred miles eastwards and are advancing further every day, and when we have halted Denikin’s onslaught and gone over to a victorious offensive along the whole Southern Front, we are in a position to pay adequate attention to the Western Front. All the necessary measures have been taken so that even without any kind warning from Churchill we would not have been caught off guard.
As previously we have no motives for launching hostile operations against Finland and Estonia. But we do know full well that the lines which have been laid down by Churchill and others for an offensive against Petrograd lead in the opposite direction to Helsinki and Tallin. You can rest assured that our Red soldiers can find that road.
With regard to Churchill’s generous promise: in the event of the failure of the offensive by fourteen states against Soviet power, we for our part have not the slightest doubt that, following the inevitable collapse of a new onslaught on Soviet Russia, absolutely friendly relations will be established between the latter on the one hand, and Britain, France and their allies on the other. One can, however, assume that such a lesson will not pass without effect on Great Britain’s internal life. By that time, the British proletariat will have given Churchill and his friends and allies sufficient free time to draw a comparison between his current policy and the behaviour of the Dickensian character who tried to keep back the waves with a broom.
An interview dated 29th August 1919 first published in 1926 in Works: Volume 17 Part 2.
Further to my report of August I consider it essential to raise the following points.
The Truce between Afghanistan and Britain may, according to certain evidence, wholly rebound against us. 13 According to reports from our people in Turkestan, Britain is actively at work uniting Persia, Bukhara, Khiva and Afghanistan against Soviet Turkestan. It would be incredible if she were not to do so. Britain is now attempting to form a chain of States to the East just as she did on our Western Borders. The above work offers in turn far fewer difficulties than there are in the West, The whole question now is who will be first in the race.
Our successful advance on Turkestan and the destruction of Kolchak’s Southern Army create conditions in which we can come first in the race. But from this it follows that while conducting an entirely correct policy of biding our time, tactical adjustment, avoiding engagement, and concession in the West, we must switch to a policy of resolute and dynamic action in the East.
We can forthwith thwart Britain’s efforts to rally the Asian States against us by setting up a major military base in Turkestan, for which there are already adequate elements. A feasible line of direction for a thrust needs to be immediately selected and one out of the chain of States which Britain is ranging against us confronted with immediate attack, presented with an ultimatum to conclude a peace treaty, and made to comply with our bidding or subjected to attack.
From this there follow: 1. the need to send someone to Turkestan armed with exceptionally broad powers and furnished with instructions that would provide a guarantee that the comrade in question would not take to sidestepping the issue in the East with the already traditional defensive evasiveness that is forced on us in the West. 2. that the Military Revolutionary Council of the Republic should be instructed to concentrate in Turkestan the material wherewithal and personnel for our launching a possible offensive from Turkestan southwards.
A letter to the Central Committee of the R.C.P. dated 20th September 1919. It was first published in The Trotsky Papers edited by J.Meijer and published by the International Institute for Social History by whose kind permission it is here reproduced.
For us the most secure position has been created on the Northern Front, where there are now no large-scale military operations but only minor and partial clashes. This can be explained by the international situation that has developed, the internal difficulties of British imperialism and the British command’s withdrawal of forces from Archangel and Baku which can be considered as final. 14
Churchill, who not so long ago spoke of fourteen powers preparing an offensive against Soviet Russia, speaks now not only of the withdrawal of British forces from the Russian North but also that Britain must grant asylum to the Archangel White Guard ‘Chaikovskyites’ whom she had led into temptation. 15
On this front two roads are possible: either the enemy win reinforce themselves along a narrower front and replace regular British units by volunteer White Guard units, or Archangel will be evacuated even before the onset of winter. But these are essentially two stages of one and the same path.
From a speech to the all-city conference of the Moscow organizations of the R.C.P. 24th September 1919
24th October 1919/No. 159/Detskoe Selo (formerly Tsarskoe)
Red Warriors! On all fronts you are encountering the hostile machinations of Britain. Counter-revolutionary forces are firing on .you from British artillery. In the dumps at Shenkursk and Onega16 and on the Southern and Western Fronts you are finding supplies of British manufacture. Prisoners that you have taken wear British uniforms. Women and children of Archangel and Astrakhan are being killed by British pilots using British dynamite. British vessels bombard our coastline. British gold sows depravity by corrupting dishonest elements on the front and in the rear. British wireless lies and slanders our workers’ and peasants’ Russia day in and day out and attempts to poison the whole world with its lies.
Soldiers! Sailors! Your hearts have on many occasions overflowed with hate for predatory, lying, hypocritical bloody Britain. And your hate is just and sacred. It will multiply your energies in the struggle against the enemy tenfold.
Yet even now at the moment of our ferocious battles against Britain’s hireling Yudenich17 I demand of you: never forget that two Britains exist. Alongside the Britain of profit, violence, corruption and bloodthirstiness there exists the Britain of labour, intellectual might, and great ideals of international solidarity. Against us fights arrogant and dishonest stock-exchange Britain. Labouring people’s Britain is behind us. We firmly believe that the latter will soon raise itself to its full height and put a strait-jacket on the criminals who are currently leading plots against the toiling masses of Russia. Driven on by this unshakeable confidence let us shout in the fire and smoke of the struggle: Death to the plunderers of imperialism! Long live workers’ and labouring people’s Britain!
Pravda and Izvestia, 25th October 1919
The advantages that the bourgeois counter-revolution had in the struggle against us came down to the fact that they were guaranteed, absolutely everything necessary, and of course on the technical side, they had greater possibilities than we had. Who transported those, legions from Archangel? The British Navy of course. Tanks came into’, Yudenich’s hands. Who brought these tanks? Britain. Who drove these tanks? British specialists trained in military science. Who bombarded Krasnaya Gorka18 with heavy artillery? British vessels and monitors armed with 15-inch guns — the last word in naval artillery technique, only introduced in 1916. Our sailors defended Krasnaya Gorka under fire from those terrible shells. I have in my hands a wireless communiquŽ stating that Krasnaya Gorka must be taken today or tomorrow, and there is a communiquŽ stating that Kronstadt had fallen under the blows from British monitors. They thought that our sailors could not withstand bombardment from 15-inch artillery, but our sailors held out and Krasnaya Gorka and Kronstadt are more firmly in our hands than ever before.
Let me repeat: they had prepared for this campaign, they had awaited this decisive moment. In the first days of October, even before Yudenich’s thrust against Yamburg, 19 one of the bourgeois papers wrote that Yudenich’s offensive against Petrograd was imminent in a few days and it would be decisive — this did not reach us at the time for we received the newspaper late. Obviously the British newspaper had given away a military secret, but they were so impatient to promise and propose the toppling of Soviet power that they did this even when it meant damaging their own military interests. British imperialists of the Churchill type had tied their fate too closely to the fate of intervention, and the desperate bourgeoisie put pressure on Churchill and said: ‘you have squandered over two thousand million francs on the campaigns of the Russian bourgeoisie — and that is merely the military expenditure of British imperialism — this expenditure has brought us nothing except the strengthening of the military might of the Russian Red Army’. He, Churchill answered: ‘just wait a bit, another week or two or three and General Yudenich will do what that deceitful Kolchak didn’t do and Denikin couldn’t manage. He will take Petrograd and in Petrograd his first job will be to form a mighty army for an offensive deep into Russia.’ A Swedish paper had spoken of this plan before the start of the campaign: a short decisive blow at Petrograd, the seizure of Petrograd, securing bases, regrouping and then a thrust from Petrograd to Moscow. Everything had been carefully planned.
Certainly Britain had wanted the thrust to come simultaneously from two sides, from Estonia and from Finland. And throughout October the whole British Press was goading on Finland: for example the British newspaper The Times wrote in its leading article about ‘the moral duty’ of Finland to take part in a robber campaign and that this would raise her international prestige. 20 Mighty Britain, in whose hands lie all favours and all retribution, applied the whole force of concrete threats and bribes in order to involve Finland in an adventure in support of Yudenich. Finland. all the while hesitated and wavered and she has not to date made up her mind, and the explanation of this indecision we find in the Finnish bourgeois press. I have here the most interesting evidence of the growth and rebirth of the communist movement in Finland. This is what the paper Karjala says: ‘Until recently, Bolshevik newspapers have been distributed here underground, the publications coming from Petrograd, but over the last months our own workers’ press has taken on a purely Bolshevik tone. There are a whole number of legal publications which would directly and openly threaten us with revolution in the event of an offensive against Soviet Russia.’
From a report to the Central Executive Committee, 7th November, 1919
This evening’s radio brought us a document which we have long awaited, a document which expresses the attitude of the Entene imperialists towards the Soviet government. You will know that over the last weeks and even months the governments of the Entente countries have been discussing the question of their attitude towards the Soviet government. They came to the conclusion that this attitude must be changed and that Soviet Russia could not be squashed by the military force of Kolchak, Yudenich an Denikin. Millerand, a one-time socialist, the successor to the French prime minister Clemenceau and an advocate of a ruthless armed struggle against Soviet Russia, appeared to tend towards the viewpoint of the British prime minister Lloyd George who has come to the conclusion that a deal with the Soviet government is necessary … I shall read you this literary work written in the intricate language of bourgeois diplomacy which, it was said long ago, possesses language designed to conceal or distort its original thoughts. This what the memorandum says: The Allied powers have come to an agreement regarding the following points: If the states which hay been formed on the frontiers of Soviet Russia — i.e. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, whose independence is recognized de facto (i.e. in practice) by the Allied powers ask the latter (i.e., Britain and France) what their policy should be’ relation to Soviet Russia, then the Allied governments will reply that they cannot take on the responsibility of advising them to continue a war whose outcome could damage their vital interests in the extreme.
That is the intricate beginning to an intricate document. Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Nitti21 and other, lesser ones who are with them say: if Poland, if Latvia and if Finland ask us how they should act with regard to Soviet Russia, then we Britain, France, Italy now are unable to give the advice: go to war! No, now we will say to them: don’t go to war, for a war will threaten your vital interests.
What a turnabout, in the name of heaven! Britain and France did not make war on us, they gave ‘advice’ to Denikin, Kolchak, Yudenich, the Estonians, White Latvia, the White Finns and the White Rumanians, saying to them: we advise you to rob Soviet Russia of Bessarabia; they said to Yudenich, Denikin and Kolchak: we advise you to put down the workers and peasants. And in order that the advice was not too ‘lean’ they spiced it up with money, artillery, machine-guns and all the necessary war supplies. It was no secret to any of us — the British minister Churchill spoke about this for all to hear — that Britain was mobilizing fourteen nations against us. He stated as much: ‘fourteen nations under Britain’s leadership are at present in action against Soviet Russia. Now not a trace of this talk is left. Of course Britain neither mobilized, armed nor incited anyone against us but merely gave advice. Now she gives different advice: she says that war against Soviet Russia can damage their vital interests, i.e. the Red Army has become sufficiently powerful for the stock merchants of all countries to realize that a war by Poland against us would mark the death of the Polish landlord, the death of the Polish bourgeoisie and consequently great damage to the interests of the ruling class.
Thus the Anglo-French stock exchange says: don’t make war! we all try to approach the matter from another angle. `Which angle? The document states further on: ‘The Allied powers cannot, in view of (their) past experiences, enter into diplomatic relations with the government of the Soviets until they can be certain that the Bolshevik outrages have ended and the Moscow government feels prepared to make its conduct conform to the conduct of all civilized governments.’
Isn’t that good? They are telling us: we will not enter diplomatic relations with the Soviet government because it has bad manners, a bad character and a bad education. But if it was like us, diplomats of ,Britain and France, if it corrected itself in that direction and drew ‘closer to the methods of the governments of the ‘civilized’ nations, we would enter diplomatic relations with it. Thus they are looking at us both ways: at present we won’t enter into relations with you, but if you correct yourself in the course of time, have a wash and comb your hair, then we will enter into relations with you.
We are grateful for the kindness. So they recommend that we make our conduct conform to the conduct of all civilized governments. Here it should be said that the experiences that Britain and France had here in Russia were very unpleasant. Many of you have probably forgotten these experiences. We had a British representative here. I must admit I’ve forgotten his name, although in his time he often visited the Commissariat for War. 22 This gentleman, (we cannot say ‘character’ for we must be polite, as they demand of us) this gentleman organized nothing less than a conspiracy (in which the former S.R, Savinkov played first fiddle) which had the aim of destroying bridges, cutting railway lines, staging an Insurrection in the Kremlin and killing Lenin and other officials of Soviet power. They were acting in accordance with the methods of civilized nations but we were acting like barbarians: we caught them red-handed with all their papers giving precise and detailed documentary evidence. In Petrograd one of the agents of this criminal band (I beg you not to record the phrase ‘criminal band’ for Lloyd George might be offended) at the moment of, arrest one of the agents of this band put up armed resistance and was killed in the hotel were he was living …
They have suggested that the British and Swiss governments found themselves compelled to expel the representatives of the Soviet government from their territory because they abused their privileges. Thus Litvinov who was in London as a semi-official envoy of the Soviet government maintained open contact with revolutionary working class organizations, for which he was deported.
But let me repeat: these gentlemen are silent about the fact that their own representatives here in our country tossed out gold right and, left to organizers of counter-revolutionary mutinies.
But we can reconcile ourselves to that. It is still not so long ago that first the German and then the Anglo-French imperialists promised, not only promised but actually prepared to crush us. This was a little more serious than Churchill’s chatter about fourteen armies being mobilized against us or Britain’s intention to crown Kolchak. This was a little more serious than the phrase about us having ‘bad manners’. Of course they would have come to like us more if we were nice and black. But we are red. Won’t you deign to prefer us nice and red? For we are not going to change our colour.
From a speech in Ekaterinburg, 28th February 1920 (The General Position of the Republic and the Tasks of the First Labour Army)
The Western Front forms a passive front. Standing against us there are little states which had split off from the former Tsarist empire. They now form vassals of the Entente: Britain and France. At, the present moment they reflect all the fluctuations in our military successes on the one hand, and the policies of Britain, France and to some extent America on the other. You all recall how Estonia offered us peace talks and while our peace delegation was preparing to set out (that was at the beginning of October), Estonian forces made a thrust for Petrograd. Now after they have been thrown back and we are drawing close to Narva, they are holding armistice negotiations. Latvia, Poland and Finland are conducting basically the same policy with slight variations. We are, of course, as ready today as we were at the beginning of October to meet them in any negotiations. You will know that Comrade Litvinov has just left for negotiations which could take on a very great importance. In Copenhagen he met a British trade unionist, O’Grady by name. This British social-chauvinist, who is playing the role of an agent of the imperialist government, is at the same time a trade unionist, the leader of a workers’ organization. He is thus a most suitable man for the British government, for on the one hand he is an agent of the government, and on the other a workers’ leader whose words can be disowned on the grounds that he did not say them as a representative of the British government. So Britain has found a suitable person. The talks must deal only with the question of hostages and prisoners of war, i.e. not a matter of primary political importance. It is clear however that in embarking on these negotiations Britain is pursuing some other object, for she has so far regarded the fate of the hostages quite calmly yet now she suddenly begins to be interested in this question. Lloyd George’s statement, now familiar to you, replaced Churchill’s statement.
Churchill represents the extreme, rabid wing of the British imperialists. He spoke of the fourteen countries that Britain was mobilizing against us and predicted the inevitable fall of Petrograd in a week or two. After Yudenich had faltered he also stated that a new factor would soon appear which would upset the balance at Petrograd. This factor remains as yet a secret of Churchill but his speech was highly typical in the period of our tough military position. Now Churchill seems to have fallen silent while the sly old fox Lloyd George takes over, making two or three extremely expressive statements to the effect that he maintains his old opinion or conviction that Soviet power cannot be crushed by force of arms. We shall not inquire how this ties up with the whole past policy of the government headed by Lloyd George, but he has now put it before the British parliament; moreover, in the last statement to reach us, he said that Denikin had seized tens of thousands of square miles but was still unable to create a proper state- administration. This is, as it were, an open dethronement, not only of Kolchak but also of Denikin, a refusal to place a stake on his card. Lloyd George’s statement has for us, of course, a colossal importance. The watershed in British imperialism’s policy is at this moment reflected in the behaviour of the little states which live on our western fringe. To be sure they intend no good towards us, but they are in themselves incapable of great ill.
From a report to the 16th Moscow Provincial Conference of the Russian Communist Party, 25th March, 1920 (The Party Faced with New Economic Tasks)
In his speech in the House of Commons on 29th May, Bonar Law justified the aid that Britain is giving to Poland by referring in passing to a message from Comrade Trotsky to French soldiers which said: ‘We can watch this temporary advance of the feeble Polish troops without being too alarmed; when we have finished with Denikin and the day is near we will throw ourselves on that front with overwhelming reserves’. Seeing in these words a threat to Poland’s independence, the government of Great Britain bound itself by a commitment to assist her and is now fulfilling that commitment.
I have not written any letters to French soldiers, but a phrase similar to one quoted by Mr. Bonar Law was contained in my letter to Comrade Loriot, a leader of the French communists. 23 The letter was written on 1st September last year during the period of Denikin’s closest approach to Moscow. The threat from Yudenich’s quarter was no reason for the unhindered movement of White Guard Polish forces into areas which in no way could be allocated to Poland. French comrades, like honest workers throughout the world, were at that time anxiously watching the development of military operations on our west and south-west. In my letter I explained that the operations by the Polish forces could not have a decisive importance, that the main enemy was Denikin and that after his rout we could switch sufficient reserves to the western front to safeguard the Soviet Republic from an onslaught by White Guard Poland. To see in those words the proclamation of a future offensive by us against Poland is trebly absurd. First, these sort of intentions are not being announced in the press, yet my letter had been printed in Kommunisticheskii Internatsional No. 5 on page 511; secondly a statement of this kind would in no event be addressed to French communists; thirdly it would run counter to the whole policy of Soviet power.
Mr. Bonar Law would very likely have been clear about this had he taken the trouble to think, but there is no cause for him to take such an exercise. Like all countries Britain is today divided into two parts: the honest majority of the people which wants peace with Russia, wants to understand the whole dishonesty and villainy of Poland’s assault upon her and the support given by the Entente, and a predatory minority which approves and supports any ill caused to the Russian people dictated by whatever motives. As the policy of intervention rests upon this minority, Mr. Bonar Law has no need to be over-scrupulous in his choice of arguments.
Izvestia, 13th June 1920.
1 It seems to me that it would be essential to find out at once whether Curzon’s24 ultimatum is known in Britain and what the reaction of the press is to it. In general to sound out, so far as this is possible through Klyshko, Rothstein25 and others, the attitude to the ultimatum in government and opposition circles. 2) Qua answer we might adopt, as it seems to me, the following fundamentals: a) Poland is an independent state, whose inviolability we have never encroached on. We agree to accept the mediation of Britain and to guarantee the inviolability of the frontier of Poland as it is projected by the Allies, without finally predetermining the question of these frontiers, since this is a question of the self-determination if nations. b) As for the Crimea: we reject the intervention of Great Britain on the basis, of the fundamental premises put forward by the government of Lloyd George and accepted by us: obligatory non-intervention in internal affairs. The Crimea is not an independent state.
We could permit the intervention of Britain in questions of the Crimea only on a basis of reciprocity: that is on the the basis of our putting forward demands in relation to Ireland. To this question must be added the fact that Ireland represents a nation, while in no case do Wrangel’s26 White Guards constitute any specific nationality. c) The week that we have at our disposal must be used to give effect to the old decree of the Politburo of the Central Committee on the subject of acquainting the working masses with the policy of Great Britain in relation to the Crimea. Even people like Rosmer, 27 for instance, who know what the rule of Britain is like, are greatly impressed by a straightforward account of the facts of British policy ‘in relation to the Crimea.
d) It must be stipulated, in one form or another, that we do accept the mediation of Britain: of Britain, that is, and not of the League of Nations; that we agree to negotiations in London, but demand for our delegates the same rights as the delegates of all free, independent countries have: that is, the right to give interviews, to contact whoever they choose, etc., etc. c) It seems to me that a refusal on our part to accept British intervention in our internal affairs is an absolute must. This refusal cannot give rise to major complications, since there is virtually no chalice of rousing up anyone or anything against us on this score, especially so provided that we agree at the same time to accept mediation with regard to Poland. f) It is essential to commence negotiations with Rumania at the same time. g) In view of the fact that it may prove inconvenient to modify or revoke the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars on questions of the ultimatum, it seems essential to call an emergency session of the Central Executive Committee, or even a Congress of Soviets.
A letter to members of the Politburo dated 13th July 1920, first published in The Trotsky Papers edited by J. Meijer and published by the International Institute for Social History, by whose kind permission it is here reproduced.
1. The Czechoslovaks were prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian Army who were being formed into a legion to fight on the Allied side. The officers were bourgeois nationalists hostile to Austrian rule but also to Bolshevism The terms of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty required the legion to be disbanded.
2. The recapture of Kazan from the Whites and Czechoslovaks on 19th September 1918 was the first victory of the newly formed Red Army and marked a turning point in the Civil War. Kazan is some 600 miles east of Moscow.
3. British forces landed at Murmansk on the Arctic Sea at the end of June 1918 ostensibly to forestall a German advance front Finland to the coast; a combined Anglo-French landing took place at Archangel at the beginning of August, while American reinforcements arrived at both ports.
4. Georgian Foreign Minister from May 1918 to February 1921. Menshevik.
5. Organiser and commander of counter-revolutionary Volunteer Army in South Russia, 1918-1920.
6. Georgian Prime Minister from May 1918 to February 1921.
7. During February and March 1919, a number of British, French, American and Canadian companies refused to go up to the line on the Northern Front.
8. Some 40,000 French troops landed at Odessa and other Black Sea ports between December 1918 and April 1919. The operations were co-ordinated with those of Denikin’s Volunteer Army and at first clashed with the forces of the Ukrainian nationalists (the Directorate). Serious mutinies occurred in both the French Army and Navy in the early part of 1919.
9. British forces entered Georgia in December 1918 following the collapse of the Turkish and then German forces. They withdrew towards the end of 1919. The Georgian republic became in this period an involuntary agency of British imperialist policy in Transcaucasia.
10. Henderson was a Methodist and not a member of the Brotherhood Church.
11. On 22nd January 1919 United States President Wilson invited the belligerent parties in Russia to a conference on the Prinkipo Islands near Constantinople. The Soviet government agreed to attend but the various White Guard regimes declined.
12. In the House of Commons on 20th February 1919 a British Foreign Office spokesman confirmed that M. Phillips Price had been editing a Bolshevik newspaper, The Call, which was spread among British troops in the Murman territory (North Russia) and incited them to revolt.
13. The truce was signed on 8th August 1919 following fighting on the Indian border since May. As a result Britain conceded recognition of Afghanistan’s complete independence.
14. British forces finally evacuated North Russia in October 1919 and Baku in November 1919.
15. The British occupying forces had installed Chaikovsky, formerly a Socialist-Revolutionary, as head of a puppet ‘National Government of the North’ at Archangel in 1918.
16. Towns recaptured from the British and White forces on the Northern Front during 1919.
17. Commander of the counter-revolutionary White Army in the Baltic area of Russia, which was poised to take Petrograd in August and September 1919.
18. Fortress on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland west of Petrograd.
19. Now Kingisepp near the Russian -Estonian border.
20. `Finland and the Bolsheviks’, The Times, 24th October 1919.
21. Italian Prime Minister, from June 1919 to June 1920.
22. `A Letter to Our French Comrades’ in The First Five Years of the Communist International, Volume 1 (New Park Publications, 1973).
23. Leading supporter of the Communist International in the French trade unions, and a founder of the French Communist Party.
24. This refers to Curzon’s note of 11th July 1920, which was discussed by the Central Committee on 16th July. Chicherin’s reply, which was dated 17th July, largely embodied Trotsky’s suggestions. See Extract 58 for details of the Curzon note. The 1920 Curzon note, loosely referred to as an ‘ultimatum’ by Trotsky, should not be confused with the 1923 Curzon Ultimatum dealt with in Extracts 73-75.
25. Klyshko and Rothstein were Russian communists who had emigrated to Britain in 1907 and 1891 respectively. In 1920 Klyshko was a member of a Soviet trade delegation to Britain. Rothstein was a founder member of the British Communist Party.
26. White Guard leader who re-grouped the remnants of Denikin’s defeated Volunteer Army in the Crimean Peninsula, and with substantial aid from Britain and France, attacked Soviet Russia from the south. His army was defeated by the end of 1920.