Continuing with this post by Dmitry Lyskov, who has been writing great pieces in VZGLIAD about the Russian Revolution(s) and ensuing Civil War.
Where we left off yesterday,we saw that ordinary Russian peasants did not always “get” the foreign policy aims or methods of the Romanov dynasty. Nor were they able to grasp the cunning dynastic schemes nor the geo-political brilliance behind all of this Marching and Dying. It’s one thing for a, say, Ivan Susanin to pledge his “Life For the Tsar” when Poles are invading your native village and threatening your children. Quite another to die for the dynastic glory of the English monarchy. So, these peasants didn’t understand why Russia had to go to war against Japan, or why it later had to align with England/France against Germany. But they’re just dumb peasants, after all. What about the noble and intelligent Russian working class? Whether they knew it or not, or liked it or not (!), the Russian proletariat belonged to an international entity known as the “international proletariat”. Whose political representatives and leaders consisted of the various socialist parties, mainly the parties of the Second International.
European socialists, being highly intelligent men and women, could clearly see what was going to happen, years before it did. In 1907, at the Seventh Congress of the Second International, 884 representatives from 25 nations gathered in the beautiful city of Stuttgart, Germany, to write important resolutions, including ones involving women’s suffrage (in favor of), and colonialism (against). The delegates passed a resolution which nobly attempted to prevent the bloodshed of the future imperialist war, which they all foresaw with Nostradamus-like clarity.
All the delegates, not just the Russian ones, had a very clear idea, that the slaughter to come was to be a purely imperialist war, that is to say, a war launched by very narrow segments of the ruling classes, including Big Capital, for purely mercenary ends: Dynastic intrigues, the right to plunder colonies, scrapping like dogs over new markets for capitalist exploitation. Nothing in any of this had even the tiniest earmark of a just or defensive war; nor any ends that could be supported by the toiling masses. Most prescient of all, the delegates defined exactly how socialists should behave if and when the war broke out: “If war should break out regardless [of our attempts to prevent it], then [the workers of the participating nations, along with their representatives] must actively call for the soonest possible end to it, and to strive, with all their strength, to take advantage of the ensuing economic and political crisis, to awake the masses, and to hasten the fall of capitalist rule over the masses.”
In other words, the Socialist International would do all in its power to prevent the war; but if and when the war broke out nonetheless, they would at least use it to their advantage, to hasten the socialist revolution. An act of true prophecy: the Oracle of Delphi could not have done a better job!
All of the Russian delegates to the Stuttgart Congress voted unanimously “DA” to the above resolution. The Russian delegation consisted mostly of the Social-Democrats, whose leader was Georgy Plekhanov, along with his loyal apprentice, V.I. Lenin; but there were also at least a couple of Socialist-Revolutionaries there (or former “Land and Freedom” party, representing the Russian peasantry). A quick google could not find me a complete list of the Russian delegation, but the following individuals are mentioned in various sources:
Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich (for the Russian Social-Democrats)
Plekhanov, Georgy Valentinovich (ditto)
Martov/Tsederbaum, Juliy Osipovich (ditto)
Lunacharsky, Anatoly Vasilievich (ditto)
Litvinov, Maxim Maximovich (ditto)
Rubanovich, Ilya Adolfovich (Socialist-Revolutionary)
Of the above, a special shout-out should go to Maxim Litvinov. born with the hilarious Jewish name Meir Henoch Wallach-Finkenstein. Of all the delegates, I believe he lived the longest thereafter, dying only in 1951! Litvinov survived not only WWI but WWII as well, not to mention the Stalin purges, and even outlived many of the Western figures involved in both wars, with whom he had dealings, as a Soviet diplomat!
[What follows is cribbed mostly from wiki, except for the judginess and moral outrage]:
Finkelstein was born into a Lithuanian-Jewish banking family in Białystok (now Poland, but in those days part of the Russian Empire). He joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (SDLP) in 1898. The party was illegal at that time, so it was common for members to adopt aliases, and also might as well Russify their names, while they were at it; hence, Meir Finkelstein became Maxim Litvinov. Litvinov joined the Bolshevic faction of the party as early as 1903. He experienced everything in life that a Bolshevik could, including prison time and exile. Most of his exile involved wasting away in that hell-hole London, where he married Ivy Low, the daughter of a Jewish university professor, Walter Low, who was a close friend of the writer H.G. Wells! During his stint in London, Litvinov at one time (that same year as the Stuttgart Congress, 1907) shared a rented house with Joseph Stalin; and also apparently worked with Stalin as the bag-man on several bank robberies. This tender friendship and camaraderie with Stalin may explain why Litvinov was not purged in the mid-1930’s, like most of the Old Bolsheviks were. (Although he came close, in 1939, as we shall see.) It also proves that Stalin was not the anti-Semite that some people accuse him of, since he did indeed have several close Jewish friends. Litvinov could even be said to have been a member of Stalin’s inner circle. Until he fell out of favor with Tsar Djugashvili.
A Veteran Diplomat
Litvinov is best known in his role as a veteran and highly seasoned Soviet diplomat. Living in London as he did, when the October Revolution broke out, Litvinov was a natural choice to be the Soviet of Peoples Commissars unofficial Ambassador to Great Britain. For many years subsequently, Litvinov represented the Soviet Union in many nations, and at many international conferences. In 1930 he was promoted to People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Litvinov was known as a “moderate” in international affairs, pursuing excellent diplomacy even with noted class enemies such as the English and French governments. In the early 1930’s the Soviet Union still preserved (this was to change during the Spanish Civil War) a division of labor between the Comintern (The Communist International, aka The Third International) and the Foreign Office. As the leader of the latter, Litvinov knew his place in the scheme of things, and did a good job, as best he might.
In 1933 Litvinov achieved an amazing diplomatic victory: Official recognition by the United States of America! Well, everyone knows that President FDR was a secret commie, as was later proved by Senator Joseph McCarthy!
According to wiki: “[President] Franklin D. Roosevelt sent comedian Harpo Marx to the Soviet Union as a good-will ambassador, and Litvinov and Marx became friends and even performed a routine on stage together.” One would give a fortune to see what kind of vaudevillian shtick those two clowns came up with, but, alas, as far as I know, those films or tapes have been lost to posterity!
In May 1939 an ever-more paranoid Stalin began to suspect his old bank-robbing buddy of disloyalty. Hitler may have also had something to do with this, as he didn’t like dealing with Jews, yet he craved a temporary pact with the Soviet Union. Hitler could envision a “Molotov-Ribbentrop” deal, but not a “Finkelstein-Ribbentrop” deal. But Litvinov had an enemy closer to hand, and far more dangerous, than Hitler: Vyacheslav Molotov. We all know, and have had the misfortune, to work with these Iagos of the Office Place: Back-stabbers, gossips, ferocious cliquists. Suckers-up to the boss. Otherwise known as “Kiss Up, Kick Down” (KUKD) kind of guys and gals! OFFICE POLITICS, in other words.
So, Litvinov was summarily fired, replaced with Vyacheslav Molotov. To add to his humiliation, NKVD troops surrounded the home of the old revolutionary and cut his telephone lines. Several of Litvinov’s aides were arrested and tortured, apparently in an attempt to get kompromat on their boss. Molotov, an ethnically pure Russian who benefited at Finkelstein’s expense, was said to have expressed horror at the number of Jews he found working in the Foreign Office, and “thank God” they are being purged out! Later, after Litvinov’s death, Molotov was to write, unsympathetically, that Litvinov was “not a bad diplomat — a good one” but also “quite an opportunist” who “greatly sympathized with Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. Litvinov remained among the living [in the Great Purge] only by chance,” Molotov declared. As opposed to Molotov himself, who knew how to stab a fellow office worker, twist in the knife, and then climb the corporate ladder on the backs of his victims! As expertly as any Iago, using the weak point of the boss’s personality to gain some unfair advantage for self.
On the bright side, Litvinov survived this horrible ordeal. Although kicked out of the inner circle, he got to stay alive, and even received a new (plum!) job as Ambassador to the United States. If that Ambassador gig hadn’t worked out, he probably could have done Broadway tours with the Marx Brothers. The old diplomat died in 1951, most likely of a heart attack, after a long and productive life. They say that revolutions, like tigers, eat their young; and yet Litvinov was able to travel a long road from that Stuttgart Congress way back in 1907!
[to be continued]