Henrietta Roland-Holst

The Character of the Economic Aid
of the International Workers’ Relief

(7 June 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 43 [24], 7 June 1923, pp. 402–403.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The economic aid of the I.W.R. is the genuine offspring of the communist movement. It bears the stamp of this movement: it is at once, highly ideal and highly practical; it pursues ideal aims by the application of material means; it strives to attain great ends by the union and alliance of slight forces. It is founded not only on international co-operation on an extensive scale, but also on the cooperation of thousands of variously gifted and variously paid human beings. It needs ardent and clever propagandists, who understand how to arouse enthusiasm for the aims of the I.W.R. among the masses, and who are adepts at accentuating that side of their endeavors best corresponding to the national character and the peculiarity of the national movement. It needs good administrators, capable of completely controlling the complicated financial mechanism of an enterprise operating with the tiny contributions of innumerable participators. It needs good businessmen, capable of striking bargains, and of holding their own in the markets against the cunning and artifices of the capitalist commercial world. It needs experts, technicians, agricultural workers, engineers, each energetic and industrious in his own sphere, capable of initiative, and never discouraged by any difficulties.

The I.W.R. is a microcosm, a capitalist world on a small scale. All the various qualities and capabilities, required by the proletariat for the establishment of a socialist state of society, find scope within the I.W.R. Its efficiency is a living sign that society has entered on the stage of socialist development. As Russia is the first country in which the proletariat rules, it is fitting that the first phase of this socialist development should take the form of aid lent by the proletariats of all countries in the reconstruction of the production of Soviet Russia on socialist or semi-socialist principles.

On the surface, it might appear as if this relief only furthers socialist development in one single country, but in reality its result is the establishment and expansion of the beginning of the whole socialist system of production. At the present juncture, Russia is the representative of the young and and undeveloped socialist system of production, as England was at one time the representative country of young capitalism. Russia is the country from which the new state of society – the state of society founded in the new conditions of production, in the new organization of work – will spread over all countries and continents. The victory of socialism in Russia signifies the victory of socialism in general, the victory of the higher methods of production, of the higher forms of society, of the higher culture over the lower. As little as the capitalist system of production could be confined to one country, just as little will the socialist system be capable of being confined. A strengthening of the commencements of socialist methods of production in one land, especially in a country possessing Soviet Russia’s economic, political, and cultural significance, reacts immediately on all other countries. The form taken by this reaction cannot be predicted in advance. But it is perfectly plain that every uplift in the welfare and culture of the masses of the Russian people, such as must naturally follow on the extension of the socialist methods of production, must make a tremendous impression on the proletariats of all other countries, especially on the impoverished masses of Eastern and Central Europe. And this effect will be the greater in proportion to the amount of aid lent by the world proletariat to Russia, through the relief project, and in proportion as the world proletariat feels itself to be taking part in Russia’s uplift. The fact that a number of undertakings in Russia are collective property, conducted on socialist principles, calls the attention of the world proletariat back to Russia again and again, and keeps alive the consciousness that Soviet Russia’s fate is closely bound up with that of all proletariats.

Not only the political and cultural, but also the economic strengthening of Soviet Russia, is by no means an exclusively Russian, but on the contrary is an eminently international proletarian factor. Not so much because the increase in export of Russian corn, and the greater consuming powers of the Russian masses, revive the international markets and lead to a reduction in the price of bread. These effects of improved production are more likely to yield profit to the capitalist classes than to the proletariat. But the victory of principle involved in the expansion and establishment of the beginnings of socialist production – this victory would of course be to the exclusive advantage of the international proletariat. This victory would indeed be more decisive than even the most important political or military victory – and would be the means of rendering fruitful all victories obtained in the spheres of war or politics, and all the immeasurable sacrifices paid by the Russian and international proletariats for their cause. For all the battles which the proletariat fights on other fronts have this one ultimate object in view – victory on the battlefield of Labor. Indeed, it is possible that this victory – we mean the expansion and establishment of the beginnings of socialist production in Russia – should it be brought about with the cooperation of the international proletariat – might render all other battles superfluous, and spare the proletariat much bloodshed. It would probably put an end to the political scatteredness of the masses, for it would fill these masses with confidence in the speedy victory of their economic and cultural principles. It would perhaps even bring us many members from the ranks of the middle classes, the petty bourgeoisie and the intelligenzia, now in the throes of utter perplexity and vacillation. For as soon as actual facts exist, positive enough to convince these classes that the socialist system of production is capable of creating good conditions of existence for all who engage in work, and will give everyone the possibility of pleasurable and creative participation in culture, then they will long to escape from the dens of decaying and rotting capitalism.

When agitating for the economic aid to be lent by the I.W.R., these connections and prospects are to be particularly emphasized, that is, the greatest accentuation is to be hid on the revolutionary effect of this relief, on its communist core. Naturally, lying representations made by the bourgeois press can and must be combatted. Such representations have for their object, not only to prevent the working class from taking part in this loan of the I.W.R, but at the same time to undermine the faith of the working class in general, in Soviet Russia, in her economic development, and in the durability of the Soviet regime. It is thus effective to emphasize the reliable character of the I.W.R. loan as compared with the swindling enterprises of the capitalist states. The greatest care should, however, be taken not to work upon the saving instincts of the worker, to speculate on Its petty bourgeois tendencies, to arouse in him the hope that his participation in the I.W.R. loan might improve his personal position under capitalism. Not only would such a representation be untrue, for the savings of the individual worker are at best much too small for him to hope to improve his position to any noticeable extent by income from any bonds. And in the second place no socialist victories can be won by speculating on selfish feelings. Such victories can only be won by appealing independently to the disinterested feelings – the communal feeling, solidarity, social idealism. It is only by being able to lay continual emphasis on the revolutionary character of the economic aid of the I.W.R. – to accentuate revolutionary pride in the perfectly peaceful means which it employs in pursuance of Its object of converting capitalist systems of working into socialist – only if we are able to do this, shall we be able to awaken in the working class the self-sacrificing enthusiasm which we require for the further development of our undertaking. Perhaps we shall ourselves be astonished at the extent of the response to our appeal.

If we are successful in inducing the working masses of all countries actively to support the economic relief, which today still possesses a secondary propagandist character, then it will gain a really economic significance. Mixed undertakings will arise in Russia, where workers and employees of all countries will work together with Russians. These undertakings will spread and increase. They will render it possible for a small elite of the international proletariat to learn the control of production, and to exercise the new socialist workers’ discipline, even before it has won the final victory over the bourgeoisie./p>

Last updated on 20 October 2021