Max Shachtman

The Price of Recognition

The Diplomacy of Stalin and the Diplomacy of Lenin – a Contrast

Elimination of C.I. Rubber-Stamped

The Washington Agreement in the Light of Soviet History

(November 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 53, 25 November 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A storm of controversy has broken around the recognition of the Soviet Union by the government of the United States. Watery liberals disdain to discuss the question: who was victorious in the negotiations? But the representatives of the big bourgeoisie on the one side, and the proletarian revolutionists on the other, both conscious of the fact that in every skirmish of the class war there is a victor and a vanquished, are far from, unconcerned with an evaluation of the discussions between Litvinov and Roosevelt which ended in normal diplomatic relations being established between the two republics.

The Propaganda Pledge

The controversy centers around the last three articles in the communication addressed to Roosevelt by the Russian emissary on November 16, 1933. Let it be said right at the outset that with few exceptions, the whole American press in this country has correctly estimated them in their true light. The outstanding exception is the official purveyor of Stalinist apologetics, the Daily Worker, which, after a significant silence for days, broke out into voluminous daily explanations of the Litvinov documents.

“Every single one of these articles,” writes the editor on November 21, “in some form or other, has been part of the numerous recognition pacts that the Soviet government has signed during the last ten years with the leading powers of Europe. Far from being ‘concessions’ forced from a reluctant Soviet Government, the Soviet Government was willing and offered to sign such articles with all capitalist countries.”

The Stalinist mamelukes are deliberately lying! It is not by chance that they reproduced the articles in question without direct comment or elucidation. It is not by an oversight that they have failed to reproduce a single one of the “numerous recognition pacts” as proof that it contains articles similar to the ones offered the United States by Maxim Litvinov.

Before examining the articles themselves, let us quote a bourgeois comment which directly contradicts the Daily Worker and is only typical of the reaction of the whole bourgeois press.

“The bargain Mr. Roosevelt drove with Litvinov is the talk of diplomats everywhere,” writes Paul Mallon, the Washington correspondent of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (11-23-1933). “Neither France nor Britain has as good an agreement with Russia as we have. It really marks the first time Russia has ever given in to the world powers. Our officials believe it will lead to the abandonment of the American section of the Comintern. That means the Comintern will be advocating world revolution everywhere except in the United States. It does not matter much because that outfit has been more or less passive for several years.”

Drawing the Balance Sheet

The bourgeoisie is deeply concerned with drawing up a balance sheet under what was given and what was received. The proletariat should be equally interested.

Article 3 of the Litvinov note to Roosevelt pledges the Soviet Union:

“Not to permit the formation or residence on its territory of any organisation or group – which makes claim to be the government of, or makes attempts upon the territorial integrity of, the United States, its territories or possessions; not to form, subsidize, support or permit on its territory military organizations or groups having the aim of armed struggle against the United States, its territories or possessions, and to prevent any recruiting on behalf of such organizations and groups.”

Article 4 of the same note makes the significance of the Litvinov capitulation even more obvious:

“Not to permit the formation or residence on its territory of any organization or group – and to prevent the activity on its territory of any organization or group, or of representatives or officials of any organization or group – which has as an aim the overthrow of, or bringing about by force of a change in, the political or social order of the whole or any part of the United States, its territories or possessions.”

In these undertakings, the Stalin regime pledges itself to something which it has never previously yielded to a bourgeois government:

The formal suppression or expulsion from the Soviet Union of the Third International, or any other revolutionary organization not strictly limited in its objects to Russia. This is precisely how Roosevelt understands the two articles, this is how Litvinov really understands them, this is how the bourgeois press has universally construed them, for the simple reason that no other interpretation is conceivable.

And because this is how every Communist worker in the country has understood the terms of the recognition agreement, the Daily Worker has engaged in a campaign of befuddlement, deceit and falsehood which has exceeded all bounds which it has thus far reached in its polychrome career. Without the slightest attempt at analyzing the text, or of proving its absolutely untenable assertion, it dismisses the perfectly obvious with the declaration that the capitalist press “... know that every attempt to claim that Article 4 of the Litvinov pact applies to the Communist International will meet with defeat.” (11-21-1933.)

Is it possible that the editor really believes his readers to be so naive or stupid as to accept this bald affirmation as it stands, or is it merely his way of proving that he is worthy of his hire? To whom and what does Article 4 apply, if not to the Communist International? What “organization or group” has been formed or is now resident in the Soviet Union “having the aim of armed struggle against the United States, its territories or possessions”? What organization is engaged in activity on the territory of the Soviet Union “which has as an aim the overthrow of, or bringing about by force of a change in, the political or social order of the whole or any part of the United States, its territories or possessions”?

To Whom Does It Apply?

Do these words of the pact – which we assume were written for some more serious purpose than the advancement of the consumption of paper and ink in the United States – perhaps apply to the Intourist? Or the Methodist church in Leningrad? Or the Moscow office of the General Electric Company? We permit ourselves to doubt it, however much our skepticism may perplex the editor of the Daily Worker to whom it is all so clear, clearer, we have no doubt, than he is ready to write.

We ask the pardon of the reader for repeating the tragically obvious: The terms of the pact are anything but ambiguous. There is and has been one and only one “organization or group” on the territory of the Soviet Union which answers to the description: the Communist International. Litvinov has pledged the Soviet government to expel the International from its borders. And in doing so, he has given formal and, so to speak, organizational acknowledgement to a process of political liquidation of the Communist International which has been going on under Stalinist rule for ten years and which is not initiated but only crowned by the latest act of perfidy at Washington.

The pact does not only pledge Russia to the suppression of the Comintern. (We say suppression advisedly, for it is not really an expulsion. Can the seat of the Comintern be transferred to Berlin? or perhaps to Tokyo, or perhaps to ... Washington?) It means that the American Communist Party and its representatives in the Executive Committee of the Comintern are henceforth non-grata with the Soviet Government, and may not take up residence upon its territory. It means that a group of revolutionary Filipino nationalists striving for the independence of the Islands, driven from their land by American imperialism like the Russian revolutionists were driven from the Empire by Czarism – cannot find asylum in the fatherland of the workers of the world ... For, impudent rogues that they are, they have designs “upon the territorial integrity of the United States, its territories or possessions”. It means that if another Bill Haywood were to seek the hospitality of the Soviet Union, it would be granted him – if at all – only on condition that he refrain from conducting any political agitation or activity. It means leaving the American Communist Party in the lurch even more callously and openly than was done to the German Communist Party in the crucial days of Hitler’s progress. It means – we cannot repeat it often enough – the suppression of the Communist International by the Stalinist regime at the demand of the American bourgeoisie.

A Lie of the Daily Worker

But such demands have been made in the past, many times, by various bourgeois governments, it is said. Yes, many times and’ by many governments. That is true. And, adds the Daily Worker, “every single one of these articles, in some form or another, has been part of the numerous recognition pacts that the Soviet government has signed during the last ten years with the leading powers of Europe.” This claim we have labelled above for what it is: a lie.

What the Soviet government has signed, and what it has agreed to commit itself to since its first began relations with capitalist governments is a simple and unambiguous undertaking: that the Soviet government pledges itself not to carry on any “subversive propaganda” in the country with which it establishes diplomatic relations, if a reciprocal engagement is under-taken. This is quite understandable, this is correct, and warranted by the relationship of forces. It is the kind of a concession which is perfectly legitimate and required by the situation in which the Soviet republic, as a socialist state in a capitalist encirclement, finds itself. No serious revolutionist will ever lodge a complaint against such a concession, any more than he will oppose concessions to the enemy in principle. He will understand that it is given not because Russia has ceased to be revolutionary, but because the workers in the capitalist countries have not yet become revolutionary, i.e., are not yet prepared to seize power.

That is one thing. Quite a different thing is the question of the Communist International, founded as a voluntary, independent world party of Communism, with sections in every country, to which the workers of Russia and their government, from its inception, have granted hospitality and complete freedom of action. (Just as, let us add, capitalist governments have granted hospitality to the international Red Cross which has not refrained from carrying on reactionary, and even counter-revolutionary activity in other lands!) On this score, far from being “willing and offering to sign such articles” as would trade away the life of the Comintern for diplomatic recognition and credits, the Soviet government has been more than “reluctant” – it has categorically rejected the demands of the world bourgeoisie.

Two Instances

Let us take two instances out of a hundred, not culled from the latest Litvinov-Stalin epoch, but from a preceding period.

In 1922, the bourgeoisie of Europe gathered in conference at Genoa, with a Russian delegation present for the first time headed not by a respectable Stalinist diplomat, but by Christian Rakovsky. At Genoa, the bourgeoisie of Europe put forward as a condition for admitting Russia into their community of nations the same demand as was put by Roosevelt and accepted by M. Litvinov, alias Stalin. From the official documentary compilation The Soviet Union and Peace (page 97), we extract the following section of the reply made by the Russian delegation on May 11, 1922, to the memorandum submitted by eight capitalist delegations:

“Giving new scope to this Cannes condition, the memorandum demands that Russia should ‘suppress upon her territory all attempts to aid revolutionary movements in other countries’. If, however, by this formula the memorandum means to forbid the activities of political parties, or organizations of workers, the Russian delegation cannot accept such a prohibition unless the activities in question transgress the laws of the country.”

In other words: Gentlemen, we are ready to make certain concessions, but hands off the Communist International!

Three years later, on May 20, 1925, Zinoviev, speaking before the party fraction of the Third Soviet Congress of the Soviets, jeered out of court the insolent demand renewed by the bourgeoisie for the suppression of the Comintern:

“We have heard a statement made in the English press and confirmed today (although it is partly denied) to the effect that the British government is endeavoring to create a united front against the U.S.S.R. in connection with the demand for the expulsion of the Comintern from Moscow. The Executive Committee of the Communist International, as we know, is not averse to a change of headquarters under certain conditions. Indeed, what is the good of sitting all the time in Moscow? To judge by the frame of mind of the Executive Committee of the C.I., it apparently would not be averse to setting up its tent in London. But I think that in any case such a decision should be taken by the Comintern independently of the bare-faced demands of the capitalist governments. When they put forward that demand during the famine period they received from the Soviet government the reply they deserved. Now that affairs with the Soviet government one more favorable there can be no doubt as to the reply to their insolent demand they would receive from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics if they decided to advance such.” (G. Zinoviev, Russia’s Path to Communism, page 22)

(Recognition by the United States, declare the Stalinist liars, has been forced by the strengthened position of the Soviet Union. For the moment, let us accept the validity of this contention. How, then, does it happen that in a situation more favorable to it, the Soviet Union is compelled not only to make an enormous, impermissible concession, but a concession such as it announced it would not make eight years ago, in 1925, and would not even make years before that, in those cruel famine days when Russia’s back was to the wall and nobody ventured to say if it could hold out for any length of time?)

Or, if one does not want to accept as a measure of policy the attitude of the Soviets towards the Genoa and British demands, there are more than enough “purely American” precedents by which to go.

When he stepped on to American soil, Litvinov expressed the “keen sense of the privilege that is mine in being the first official representative to bring greetings to the American people from the peoples of the Soviet Union”. Both Litvinov and his American bourgeois audience knew that this statement was gratuitously false. The truth is that Litvinov had a predecessor as official Soviet representative to the United States.

In April 1918, Ludwig C.A.K. Martens was appointed, in a document signed for the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Soviets by Chicherin as its representative in this country, seeking to establish normal relations with the United States. Martens was not received with the official pomp and ceremony that attended Litvinov’s arrival – he was only greeted by a mass meeting of the revolutionary workers of New York who came by the thousands to the largest available hall. He was not received by the president and the secretary of state. Quite the contrary. He was hunted and persecuted; his office was raided; he was hailed before investigation committees; he was finally deported from this country as an undesirable alien.

Like Litvinov, he also answered the question of what the Soviet government would do about the Communist International and “propaganda in the United States”. But not in the same way. More exactly, in just the opposite way. In the New York socialist Call of May Day 1919, the representative of the Soviet government wrote:

“The attitude of the workers of the world towards the Russian workers’ revolution has proved that the spirit of international solidarity of workers is not dead ... It also proved that the International is not dead. It is resurrecting in the Third International in new glory. Long live the Third International.

In a Statement by L. Martens, Representative of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic, Before the Sub-Committee of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate on “Soviet government propaganda”, he declared boldly:

”The government of the United States has also been a party to attacks against the Russian Soviet Government, including invasion of Russian soil without a declaration of war and aggressive action against the military forces of Soviet Russia ... Being confident that the peoples of other nations were not responsible for these policies, and that they permitted these activities only because they were not acquainted with the real situation, the workers of Russia appealed to the peoples in various countries urging them to put an end to these attacks. Appeals of this nature have been defensive measures in the war imposed on Soviet Russia by outside forces ... Propaganda has been carried on by the Soviet government among the armies of the foreign governments which invaded Russia.” (Soviet Russia, 2-14-1920).

Two Epochs

It becomes a little clearer why, therefore, on December 15, 1920, secretary of Labor W.W. Wilson issued an order which concluded:

“It is therefore decided that Ludwig C.A.K. Martens is an alien, a citizen of Russia, and that he entertains a belief in and is a member of or affiliated with an organization (i.e., the Third International. – M.S.) that entertains a belief in, teaches or advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States, and the Commissioner General of Immigration is directed to take the said Ludwig C.A.K. Martens into custody and deport him to Russia at the expense of the Government of the United States.”

Litvinov and Martens! These are not merely two different individuals. They symbolize two different epochs. The hounded and deported Bolshevik represented the Soviet republic in the epoch of revolutionary internationalism. The feted and loudly-praised diplomat represents the Stalinist epoch of national socialism, of capitulation, of the surrender of the world revolution and the very foundations of the Russian workers’ state.

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