File No. 861.00/3102, 3151

The Minister in Norway ( Schmedeman ) to the Secretary of State

[Telegram]

1290, 1297. The following English translation of a note in Russian handed by the Russian Commissariat for Foreign Affairs to the Norwegian Legation at Petrograd was telegraphed by that Legation [Page 449] to the Foreign Office under date of October 26 with the request it be forwarded to this Legation for transmission to President Wilson:1

In your address to the Congress of the United States of America on the 18th [8th] of January, point 6, you expressed the deep sympathy which you felt towards Russia, which at that moment was facing the necessity of carrying on negotiations with the powerful German imperialism. You said that your program consisted in the clearing of all Russian territory and in an adjustment of all questions concerning Russia. You said that Russia should be guaranteed an absolutely effective assistance from the other nations in her effort to be able to take an independent decision concerning her own political development and her national policy. This would assure her a hearty welcome from the social union of free nations, whatever the form of government that she may elect for herself would be. You would also give Russia every kind of support that would answer to her wishes. You added that the relations assumed towards Russia by all great powers during the coming months would be the proof of their good feelings towards her, the proof of their comprehending of Russia’s needs, even when these might not be in accordance with their own interests, and also a proof of their wisdom and the disinterestedness of their sympathy.

The supreme struggle we had with German imperialism in Brest Litovsk apparently increased your sympathies towards Soviet Russia, since you sent your greetings to the Congress of Councils which ratified the Brest predatory peace under the threat of a German offensive, and assured it that Soviet Russia could depend on the support of America.

This was six months ago and the Russian people have had ample time to experience de facto the good feelings of your Government, the good feelings of your allies, the realization on the part of the Allies of Russia’s needs and the wisdom and the distinterestedness of their sympathy. These feelings have been expressed firstly through the fact that, with financial assistance on the part of your allies and with the diplomatic support of your Government, the conspiracy of the Czecho-Slovaks was organized on Russian territory, and to this conspiracy your Government showed every kind of assistance. During a certain period attempts were made to create a casus belli between the United States and Russia by spreading rumors about the German occupation of the Siberian railway. Your own officers, however, and after them the head of your Red Cross Mission, Colonel Robins., could convince themselves of the libelousness of these rumors. The Czecho-Slovak movement was organized under the pretext of protecting these unfortunate misguided individuals from being delivered into the hands of Germany and Austria. You can, however, learn among other things from the open letter of Captain Sadoul, member of the [Page 450] French military mission, how much this lacked any actual foundation. The Czecho-Slovaks had not left Russia at the beginning of the year only because the French Government had not given them any ships for their use. For several months we waited in vain for Allies to grant them a possibility for leaving the country; apparently their presence in Russia was more desirable for these Governments than their departure to France to take part in the war on the French frontier. Ultimate events have made clear to us the motives. The best proof of the true character of the Czecho-Slovak revolt is the fact that, having occupied the Siberian railway, they did not profit by this means of departure, but at the order of the Governments of the Allied Powers, who were directing them, preferred to become the basis of Russian counter-revolution. This counter-revolutionary revolt which has made all transport of food and naphtha on the Volga impossible, which has cut off all the peasants and workmen of Russia from the bread and other supplies of Siberia, and which has exposed these peasants and workmen to hunger. [Beginning of section 2.] This is the first fruit which the workmen and peasants of Russia have reaped from your Government and the Governments of your allies. This is the result of your promises given in the beginning of the year. And then the Russian people were made subject to the offensive of Allied troops, including American, in the north. Russian territory has been invaded without cause or declaration of war. Russian towns and villages have been occupied, Soviet officials have been executed, and acts of violence have been directed towards the peaceful Russian population.

You have given promise, [Mr.] President, to offer Russia your assistance in her aim of taking an independent decision concerning her own political development and her national policy. Actually, however, this assistance has found expression in the attempts made in Archangel, Murmansk and the Far East by Czecho-Slovak troops, and later on your allies, to impose by force on the Russian people the power of the subjugators, the exploiting classes, the supremacy of which classes was overthrown in October of last year. The Russian people, instead of an assistance in the independent expression of their will, which was promised to them, [Mr.] President, in your declarations, have met with a revival of the Russian counter-revolution which had already become a corpse, and attempts to establish in a predatory way [its] sanguinary supremacy over the Russian Nation.

You had also promised the Russian people, [Mr.] President, to offer your support in their struggle for independence. Actually, however, when the Russian Nation was struggling on the southern front with counter-revolution which had sold itself to German imperialism and threatened their independence, when on the western front the Russian people were using all their forces in their effort to organize a defense of their territory, they were compelled to move their troops to the east against the Czecho-Slovaks who were bringing back the [old] yoke and subjugation, and to the south against the intruders in the shape of your troops and those of your allies and the counter-revolution organized by them.

[Page 451]

The touching story [touchstone] of the relations between the United States and Russia has not given quite the results which could be expected from your address to Congress, [Mr.] President. But we have reason not to be entirely displeased with these results, for the violence of the counter-revolution in the east and in the north has opened the eyes of the workmen and peasants of Russia as to the aims of the Russian counter-revolution and of [its] foreign assistants. Through this experience has been carried the iron will for the protection of the freedom acquired by the revolution for the protection of the land that the latter has given to the peasants, the factories that it has given to the workmen. After the fall of Kasan, Simbirsk, Sysran, Tamopa [Samara], you must have realized, [Mr.] President, what results the actual suppressions of your promises of the 18th [8th] of January have had for us. What we have gone through has assisted us in creating a disciplined, united Red Army which grows daily, renews [its] strength and power and learns to defend the Revolution. Your relations to us, shown by your Government’s actions, have not been capable of annihilating us. [They have] helped us to become stronger than we were a few months ago, and the international negotiations on general peace which you propose now find us vital and strong and allow us to express in the name of Russia our consent to take part in them. As an interlude [prerequisite] for the armistice during which the peace negotiations are to begin, you have placed on Germany the condition of withdrawing troops from the occupied territory. We argue [are ready, Mr.] President, to conclude an armistice on these conditions and beg you to inform us [as to] when you, [Mr.] President, and your allies intend to withdraw your troops from Murmansk, Archangel, and Siberia. You will not consent, [Mr.] President, to an armistice [unless] Germany, in withdrawing the troops, will indulge in [abstain from] violence and robbery, etc. We presume that this means as well that you and your allies will order the Czecho-Slovaks to return us that part of our gold fund that they robbed us of in Kasan, that you will forbid them during their compelled withdrawal in which we will assist them, without awaiting your orders, to continue their predatory actions and the violence they inflicted on the workmen and the peasants up to now.

As regards your further conditions of peace, namely, that the governments concluding peace must be the representatives of the will of the people, our Government, as you know, answers to it fully. Our Government expresses the will of the councils of the workmen, peasants, and Red Army deputies which represent at least 80 per cent of the Russian people, which cannot be said, [Mr.] President, of your Government. But in the name of humanity and peace we do not place as the condition of general peace negotiations that all the participating nations should be represented by councils of people’s commissars, elected at congresses of councils of workmen’s, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies. We know that this form of governing nations will soon become a general form and that only general peace will protect nations from the threat of intrusion and will give them the liberty of dealing with the form of government and the gangs which have thrust humanity into this international slaughter, and will naturally express their will.

[Page 452]

Though consenting to participate at present in negotiations even with such governments which do not express yet the will of the people, we, on our side, would like to learn in detail from you, [Mr.] President, in what character you figure to yourself the union of nations which according to you ought to crown the work of peace. You demand the independence of Poland, Belgium, freedom for the people of Austria-Hungary. Presumably you mean that at first the people will have to come to the decision of their future development for themselves and then join in a union of nations. But strangely enough you do not mention in your demands the freedom of Ireland, Egypt, India, or even the Philippines, and we would deeply regret if [these] nations would be deprived of the possibility to participate with us [in] the organization of a union of nations through their freely-elected representatives. We would like to learn too, [Mr.] President, before starting negotiations concerning the creation of the union of nations, how you figure to yourself the solution of the many questions of economic nature which have a profound importance for the work of the future peace. You do not mention the war expenses which will be spread with their whole abnormal weight on the people if the union of nations will not abolish the payment of war loans to the capitalists of all the world. You know as well as we do, [Mr.] President, that this war is the result of the policy of all capitalistic governments, that the governments all over the world competed in their mutual armament, that all governing groups of civilized nations participated in this predatory policy, and that therefore it would be highly unjust if the people who have paid for this policy withthe blood of millions, having settled accounts at the expense of an [economic] disaster, should pay a tribute to the groups actually responsible for this policy that has led them to ruin. We propose therefore, [Mr.] President, that the union of nations should be based on the refusal of payment of war loans. As regards the restoration of the territories ruined by the war, we find it just that all nations should participate in assisting unfortunate Belgium, Poland, Serbia; and, as exhausted as Russia may appear, she is ready on her side to do her utmost to assist them, and she expects that American capital which has not suffered from the war but acquired many a million of profit will on its side come to the assistance of these nations.

But the union of nations has got not only to settle the present war, it has got to render further wars impossible. You cannot ignore, [Mr.] President, that the capitalists of your country intend to continue the policy of requiring superprofit in China and Siberia and that, fearing the competition of the Japanese capitalists, they prepare a military power which enables them to offer resistance to any measures undertaken by Japan. You are undoubtedly aware of similar plans on the side of capitalist governing circles in other countries in relation to other territories and other nations. Knowing this you cannot refrain from agreeing with us that we cannot leave factories, banks, mines in the hands of private individuals who always use the great means of the industry created by the people in order to export the products and the capital to foreign countries and in return for these favors obtain a superprofit, which involves the countries [through] their struggles [in] imperialistic wars. We propose, [Page 453] therefore, [Mr.] President, that expropriation of the capitalists of all the world should be made the basis of the union of nations. In your country, [Mr.] President, banks and industry are in the hands of such a small group of capitalists that, according to the statement of your personal friend, Colonel Robins, it would be sufficient to arrest twenty leaders of the capitalistic group and deliver into the hands of the people all that, by means of the methods usual to the capitalists’ world, they have concentrated in their hands and in that way abolish the chief source of new wars. If you consent to this, [Mr.] President, if in that manner the sources of wars will be settled with for the future, there is no doubt that there will be no difficulty in breaking down all economic barriers and that all nations finding themselves in possession of all means of industry will be intensely interested in the exchange of what they need. The matter will then be confined to an exchange of what they need. The matter will then be an exchange of products between nations according to their capacity of production, and the union of nations will become a union of mutual support of the working classes. It will [not] be a difficult matter for them to diminish the military forces to the limits necessary for interior safety. We know well that the grasping class of capitalists will try to create this interior danger just as now the great Russian landowners, Russian capitalists, with the support of American, English and French armed forces try to withdraw factories from the workmen and land from the peasants. But if American workmen, led by the idea of a union of nations, will break the resistance of American capitalists in the same way as we have broken the resistance of Russian capitalists, in that case neither German capitalists nor any other capitalists will present a sufficiently serious danger for a victorious labor class; and it will be sufficient then if any member of society, working six hours at the factory, will learn to use arms during two hours a day for several months, and then the whole nation will know how to deal with the interior danger.

As it is, [Mr.] President, in spite of having experienced what your promises mean, we have nevertheless accepted the basis of your proposals concerning an international peace and a union of nations, but we strive to deepen your proposals in order that the results should not contradict your promises as it happened with your support of Russia. We have tried to formulate your proposals concerning a union of nations so precisely that a union of nations should not become a union of capitalistic nations. If you do not agree with us in detail, [Mr.] President, we shall not protest against an open discussion of your peace proposals as is stated in the first point of your peace program. We will find a way of agreeing in detail as long as you accept the basis of our proposals.

There is another possibility. We have had to deal with the President of the Archangel and Siberian invasion, we have also had to deal with the President [omission]. What if the [real President turns out to be the director of the] policy of the capitalistic American Government? What if the American Government should prove to be the Government of American limited companies, American industrial, commercial and railway trusts, American banks, in one word, the Government of American capitalists? And what if the proposals issuing from such a government concerning the creation [Page 454] of a union of nations should lead only to thrusting new chains [on] the people, organizing an international trust for the exploitation of helpless workmen? In this case, [Mr.] President, you will be incapable of answering our questions and we will say to the workmen of all the countries: “Beware! Millions of your fellow brothers are still shedding their blood in this war, thrown against one another by the [bourgeoisie] of all the countries, and leaders of capital are already appearing to hasten to come to a final arrangement in order to crush those remaining alive, when they will demand an answer from those who are responsible for the war.”

However, [Mr.] President, as we by no means wish to fight with America even if [your] Government is not yet replaced by a soviet of people’s commissars and your place is not occupied by Eugene Debs who is still kept in prison; as we do not want to fight with England, although the cabinet of Mr. Lloyd George is not yet replaced by a council of people’s commissars with [Maclean] at head; or with France, although Clemenceau’s Government is not yet replaced by a Labor government of [Merrheim]; in the same way as we concluded peace with an Imperial German Government with the Emperor William II at the head—towards whom you are not better disposed than we—we propose to discuss together with your allies all the following questions and give us clear, precise, businesslike answers: Do the Governments of America, England, and France intend to stop shedding the blood of the Russian citizens if the Russian people consent to pay ransom? In that case what payment do the Governments of America, England and France expect from the Russian people? Do they demand concessions, delivery of railways on certain conditions, mines, gold mines, etc.? Or territorial concessions, part of Siberia or the Caucasus, the Murman coast? We expect you, [Mr.] President, to declare decidedly what are your demands and those of your allies. We also should like to know whether the alliance between your Government and those of the other Allied Powers has the character of a union which could be compared to a limited company for the reception of dividends [from] Russia; or does your Government and the other Governments of the Allied Powers put up separate demands, and what are these?

It would interest us particularly to know, what do your French allies demand in exchange for the milliards of roubles with which Paris bankers [subsidized] the subjugators of Russia, the enemy of their own people, the criminal [Czarist] Government? You are aware as well as your French allies, that the Russian Nation is exhausted by the war and not yet capable of profiting by the efforts of the people’s Soviet authorities which are endeavoring to augment the national economy. You therefore know that Russia will not be enabled to pay fully to the French bankers the milliards spent for the nation’s ruin by the Government of the Czar even if you and your allies succeed in invading all the territory of Russia which our heroic revolutionary Red Army will not allow. We therefore put you the following questions: Do your French allies consent to a payment in part, and if so, in what measure, and do they foresee that their demands will lead to similar ones on the part of all other creditors of the shameful Government of the Czar overthrown by the people?

[Page 455]

We cannot admit that your Government and that of your allies should not have got a ready answer on this question at the moment when your and their troops attempt to advance on our territory with the evident aim of invading our country. The Russian people represented by the national Red Army are keeping guard on their territory and fight splendidly against your invasion and the advance of your allies. But your Government and the Governments of the other Allied Powers have undoubtedly prepared plans according to which you are shedding the blood of your soldiers. We wait for you to state clearly and decidedly all your demands. If our questions remain unanswered we will then presume that we are not mistaken in supposing that your Government and the Governments of your allies expect from the Russian Nation a payment with Russia’s natural wealth as well as a monetary one and also territorial concessions. We will announce to the Russian people and the working classes of other countries that the absence of an answer on your part will be already a silent answer [assent]. The Russian people will realize that the demands of your Government and [those] of your allies are so limitless and heavy that you cannot present them to the Russian Government.

Schmedeman
  1. This translation is very inaccurate, but is printed here with only verbal corrections of the telegraphic text, based on comparison with the one later received as enclosure to the Minister’s despatch No. 1033 of Nov. 2, 1918 (File No. 861.00/3393), because the original in Russian did not arrive until Dec. 11, 1918.