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Boris Souvarine

Help for Russia

Famine and Counter-Revolution

(2 October 1921)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. I No. 4, 1 November 1921, pp. 34–35.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The famine, which burdens the Russian people with overwhelming privations and suffering, has revived the oft frustrated hopes of the Russian and international counter-revolutionists, and has stimulated their secret and open activity against the power of the Soviets. There is nothing astonishing in that. It was inevitable that, in the struggle to the death carried on by the reactionary world coalition against the Russian revolution, the reaction should use all arms, and exploit without hesitation, scruple or reserve every opportunity that presented itself to deal a new blow to the Soviet regime. The Moscow government harbored no illusions in regard to this when it announced to the world the tragic news describing the situation of the regions watered by the Volga. It was constantly on its guard and it knew how to ward off the blows aimed against it by the counter-revolutionists of the interior and exterior.

The People’s Commissar for Public Health, Semaschko, in an article in Pravda, reprinted by the whole international communist press, has set out the contrast between the respective methods employed by the two Russian regimes which had to face great catastrophic famines. Czarism, in 1891, left the famine-stricken to perish, ringing them around in a zone of silence, censoring their despairing appeals and paralyzing all initiatives for help. Sovietism, in 1921, put forth its greatest efforts in aid for the famished by giving the maximum of publicity to exact information on the drought and all its consequences, by calling forth, through its frank exposure of the truth, efforts for relief corresponding to the immense needs of the victims, and finally by turning the activity of all its institutions toward relief work.

The enemies of the Soviet regime have not understood the meaning or the import of this method of the Russian communists, of this method which without reserve lays bare the wounds from which Russia bleeds, in order to strike the imagination of the masses and obtain from them active solidarity. They have, according to their custom, judged their adversaries by their own way of reacting. They believed that the government which so loudly proclaimed the horrors of the situation was a disabled government, because, for them, to govern is to lie. They considered as a sign of feebleness and a symptom of an approaching end that which in reality is a sign of power of self confidence, of confidence in the creative resources of the masses. They have thought, “The Bolsheviki confess, therefore they are lost”, forgetting that the Bolsheviki, during the four years that they have been directing the Russian proletarian government, have never stopped “confessing”, that is to say, looking facts in the face, nor have ever deceived themselves as to the obstacles which encumber their road, and have never dissimulated the difficulties of their task. They believed that the hour of reaction was about to strike and their conspirative, terroristic and bellicose zeal set to work with redoubled fury.

But events have shown once more to what extent they have wrongly estimated the true situation, underestimated the vitality of the Soviet regime, and overestimated their own capacity for intervention. The Russian People does not dream of making its government responsible for the clearness of the sky and the heat of the sun’s rays. In vain does the white and yellow press of Europe attribute to Lenin and Trotzky the responsibility for natural calamities, meteorological phenomena and atmospheric conditions, just as the French whites, after the Empire, attributed to Voltaire and to Rousseau everything that troubled their restored order The peasant of the banks of the Volga knows that Lenin and Trotzky would be unable, even if they so desired, to dry up the soil on a surface of millions of dessatines and to cut in the ground gashes which attain an arshine in depth. The Russian peasant does not read the Cause Commune nor the Populaire nor the Journal des Debats; this is really a pity because this reading would confirm him in his disgust with the “Whites”. Instead of “Forming bands of famished millions heading for Moscow” (sic), a thing which would not moisten the ground nor revive the burnt grain, the peasants apply themselves to utilising the seeds sent by the productive provinces to the provinces turned into a desert. The less courageous, that is to say more exactly the most resigned, those most inclined towards oriental fatalism, await an unknown aid, that of Heaven or that of men; but the latter is insufficient, whereas the former intervenes only in the form of death. Hunger causes open hands to stretch out; it does not lift either clenched fist or menacing arms, regardless of what the champions of Russian “democracy”, who too often take their wishes for reality, may think or wish.

It is the strange destiny of the Russian Communists not to be able to utter truthful words without the reactionaries finding therein an occasion for making a mistake as to their meaning; without finding therein matter for consolation, for rejoicing, for deceiving themselves by false interpretations, without their drawing therefrom encouragement to go on with their endeavour at destruction, their cruel work of war against Russian progress incarnated in Bolshevism. Every time that the Soviet government, in the course of the wars which have been imposed upon it during four years, has proposed peace, its enemies have interpreted that as a sign of distress instead of the expression of the Communists’ wish to arrest a deplorable flow of blood, futile destruction, the squandering of human forces and material wealth, and to utilise, instead, Russia’s capacities for work, in creative and productive activity. In this manner, through this peculiar phenomena of repercussion, every peace proposal issued by the People’s Commissaries has provoked in the reactionary camp a recrudescence of the passion for war. In the same way the appeals to the civilized world for aid to the famished, have awakened the longings for armed intervention, which for some months had been dormant. The counter-revolution, hoping to introduce, under the banner of the Red Cross, a host of spies and of allied officials, of all kinds into the beleaguered nation, made its preparations for a siege. It has made them in vain.

The Soviet government keeps watch; the Red Army keeps watch; the Tche-Ka keeps watch ... The inquiry commissions proposed by bourgeois, governmental philanthropy, that is to say, the commissions of espionage and sabotage, hare been turned down with disgust. The conspiracies and machinations of the Whites are vigorously suppressed. The provocative menacings of the Poles and of others are calmly answered. The Soviet Power remains intact, is rather strengthened than lessened by the new misfortunes which have overtaken Russia. The counter-revolution ought to change its tone.

In particular, the dissolution of the Pan-Russian Commission for Aid to the Famine-Stricken is of a kind to make the Whites realize the depth of their illusions and the extent of their error. Because the communist government is always ready to accept or even to encourage the collaboration of the conquered bourgeoisie in work useful to the commonwealth, because it has tried the experiment of using bourgeois intelligence and culture in social service devoid of any political character, the enemies of Bolshevism, in their incurable blindness, have seen in its action a first step towards abdication! The Pan-Russian Committee seemed to them the real de facto government in Russia – the Official Power of tomorrow. The newspapers and different agencies of the Russian counter-revolutionary parties at Paris, Berlin, London, Riga, Helsingfors and elsewhere have spread over the world a deluge of false news, of absurdities, of information sprung from the pure imagination of their slaves of the pen and possessing nothing in common with reality. The bourgeois and petty-bourgeois press of all countries has echoed these fantasies.

“Are they going towards a reconciliation of all parties?” wrote M. André Pievre, “specialist” in Russian affairs in the Populaire (what would he have written if he were not a “specialist”?), thus already forecasting the “reconciliation” of exploiters and exploited, that is to say the submission of the latter to the former. And the same (Populaire of August 10) “specialist” had already seen “THE DAY WHEN THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE WOULD CHASE FROM THE KREMLIN the present leaders.

In the Petit Parisien Madame Louise Weiss presented Kichkin’s speech at Moscow as having sounded like the words uttered under two other circumstances, on the eve of the fall of the Czar and of Kerensky’s regime ... we quote only the comments retaining an appearance of seriousness, neglecting the buffooneries of the most enraged counter-revolutionaries. One move of the “phantom of a government” has sufficed to render the Pan-Russian Commission merely a memory and to annihilate all the hopes of the counter-revolutionaries.

The lesson has not discouraged the liars, who have overreached themselves in order to turn to account the dissolution of the Pan-Russian Committee as they always try to turn everything like this to account. Thus, M. André Pierre, already quoted, has announced in an indignant tone, rather thinly disguised, the threatening execution of Kichkin, Prokopovitch and Kouskova knowing well that these three plotters are in excellent health, awaiting their appearance before a revolutionary tribunal, which is besides rather lenient. The dirtiest of the White’s sheets have decreed in reprisal the condemning to death of twenty millions of famine-stricken human beings.

These are but manifestations of powerless rage. The gentlemen of the counter-revolution will have to reconcile themselves to this idea ... that the Soviet Republic is alive and unconquered and that it will celebrate in the near future its fourth anniversary.

Moscow, October 2nd

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