Max Shachtman

60th Birthday of Rakovsky –
His Activities During War

(September 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 45, 30 September 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The sixtieth birthday of Christian Georgevitch Rakovsky (born September 1, 1873) brings to mind again some of the episodes in his life during that crucial period of the world war when the proletarian international was breaking through the sea of depression, treachery and slander like new life surging out of the primeval slime.

Christian Rakovsky was the inspiring leader of the modern socialist movement in Rumania. The labor movement as such took shape there only in 1905, under the direct influence of the Russian revolution, and it bore an almost exclusively economic character. “Later on,” writes one of the founders of the Rumanian Communist Party, Arbori-Ralli, “after the year 1907, when the government proceeded to mass deportations of Jewish, Hungarian and Transylvanian workers and banished the labor leader Rakovsky from the land, the movement took on a political coloring. In the spring of 1909, the arrest of Rakovsky on the border of Rumania, coinciding with the protest meeting on the occasion of Ferrer’s execution, produced the first significant collision between the working masses and the police.”

The representative of the Rumanian social democracy in the Bureau of the Second International up to the outbreak of the war, was comrade Rakovsky. His Bulgarian origin (the rabid bourgeois press always referred to him contemptuously as: the “Rumanian” Rakovsky), far from militating against his activity in Rumania, contributed to making him known as the most prominent internationalist in the Balkans, one of the leading proponents of the Balkan Federative Republic, the socialist who was equally at home in Bucharest, Sofia, Belgrade, Athens or Constantinople, Of all the members of the doomed Bureau, Rakovsky was perhaps the only one who remained a genuine Internationalist. The others flocks either to the standard of the Allies or of the Entente.

Delegate to Zimmerwald

The Rumanian party instantly took a position against the war and until the country was drawn into the European shambles, the party developed a systematic agitation against it. In February 1915 it was represented at the all-Balkan protest meeting against war organized in Sofia by the Bulgarian Left wing socialists (the “Narrows” inspired by Blagoiev, Kolarov and others). At a conference which took place there at the same time, the Rumanians joined with the Left wing Bulgarians and the Serbians under Lapchevitch to break conclusively with the Right wing Bulgarians (the “Broad-minded”). In July of the same year, finally, with representatives attending from Bulgaria, Greece and Rumania (the Serbs were prevented from sending a delegate because of the war conditions), the social patriots of Europe were decisively condemned and with them, the policy of the Second International. At the same period, the Rumanian socialists associated themselves openly with the Zimmerwald Commission and delegated comrade Rakovsky to attend the first conference at Zimmerwald.

At Zimmerwald, Rakovsky found himself side by side with his life long friend and comrade, Trotsky. At that time, as is known, both Rakovsky and Trotsky were still engaged in that sharp dispute with Lenin which marked many of the pre-October years of the evolution of Bolshevism. Internationalists to the core though they were they did not eye to eye with Lenin on all the burning problems of the day. Trotsky, in particular, exerted his efforts towards arriving at a solution which would not only produce a unanimous manifesto out of the Zimmerwald Conference but would leave the true Left wing the opportunity of maintaining close contact with the millions of confused anti-war socialist workers who had not yet found the revolutionary path. Rakovsky, like Lenin, Kolarov, Varsky, Lazzari and a score of others appended their names to the compromise manifesto of Zimmerwald drafted by Trotsky.

In France, the internationalists, who had to be sought with lanterns, enlisted the aid not only of Trotsky, but also of Rakovsky. His polemic with the chauvinist Charles Dumas, was published as a brochure both in Bucharest and Paris, and circulated clandestinely throughout France by the first internationalist group of Rosmer and Monatte. The French chauvinist press denounced him as the “grand chief of Austrian espionage in the Balkans”, just as Trotsky was denounced as “the principal agent of Rakovsky” before the war!

“Rakovsky,” wrote the Paris Matin at the end of 1917, “in order to establish a center of surveillance and propaganda, granted funds to Trotsky and the latter opened a little bookstore in Vienna where papers and pamphlets in the Slavic language were put on sale. All those of Russian birth living in Vienna would come together in this bookstore which rapidly became their habitual meeting place. They were not alone to come there: they encountered Serbians, Bulgarians, Macedonians ... A revolutionary circle, a laboratory of espionage, Trotsky’s bookshop was still another thing: a mouse-trap, coming out of which certain revolutionists could be picked up by the Russian police ...”

Elsewhere, Rakovsky was attacked by the gutter press of the French bourgeoisie (itself heavily subsidized by the Czar’s Foreign Office to support the Pan-Slavic policy in the Balkans) as the man “elected by Suedekum to assist in the Boche’s maneuver in Rumania”. (Perhaps it now becomes clear from what spiritual springs some zealous Stalinists have quaffed the inspiration for the attacks upon Trotsky and Rakovsky as agents of the Rumanian Siguranza, the Polish Schlyachta, etc., etc.!)

Rakovsky Imprisoned

On August 15, 1916 Rumania finally declared war on the Dual Monarchy. The last public anti-war meeting of the Rumanian socialists, scheduled for the same day, was surrounded by troops; the masses were dispersed by cavalry charges. Two weeks later, the daily paper of the party, which Rakovsky helped so generously to maintain, was suppressed by the government. Almost all the party members were called to the front. All the members of the Central Committee, with two exceptions, were instantly arrested. Rakovsky himself met with the same fate and was interned as a dangerous enemy of the state. The two members of the Committee who had remained at liberty, were then also arrested after having sent a written protest to Bratianu, the president of the ministerial council, against the imprisonment of Rakovsky. The party itself was driven into virtual illegality.

Rakovsky, “the valiant leader of the Rumanian social democracy”, as he was called by the attorney, Nicolau, remained imprisoned at Jassy for months. In March 1917, the proletariat of Rumania, despite the occupation of most of the country by the German troops, was brought to its feet again by the intoxicating news of the overthrow of the Czarist regime in Russia and the triumph of the insurrectionary masses. For the first time since war was declared, thousands of men and women appeared in half-spontaneous demonstrations on the streets, demanding bread and freedom. The Russian revolution was discussed on every hand and the outlawed socialists began to resume their activities. It seemed as if the release of Rakovsky would soon be effected. Russian Troops Release Rakovsky

The German forces of occupation became alarmed at the ferment in the masses. Meetings were forbidden. The May Day demonstrations, for which permission had first been obtained, were ordered called off by the German, officials. But to one part of Rumania, the May Day of international proletarian solidarity was celebrated nevertheless. The Russian revolutionary soldiers, stationed on the border which divided Rumania from the Ukraine, moved in upon Jassy, red flags at their head, and tore upon the prison doors which confined Rakovsky and his comrades. The internationalists were liberated and put at the head of a triumphal procession that went through the streets of the city.

Immediately thereafter, Rakovsky passed the frontier into turbulent Russia to put his magnificent talents at the disposal of Bolshevism and the proletarian revolution. A new epoch was commencing in his life.

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