Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/11
Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Tuesday, January 21, 1919, at 10 Hours 30
America, United States of
- President Wilson.
- Mr. It. Lansing.
- Mr. A. H. Frazier.
- Col. U. S. Grant.
- Mr. L. Harrison.
- The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, Prime Minister.
- The Rt Hon. A. J. Balfour, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
- Lieut-Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B., Secretary, War Cabinet.
- Mr. H. Norman.
- Capt. E. Abraham.
- M. Clemenceau, President of the Council and Minister for War.
- M. Pichon, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
- M. Dutasta.
- M. Berthelot
- Capt. A. Portier.
- Signor Orlando, President of the Council.
- His Excellency Baron Sonnino, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
- Count Aldrovandi.
- Major A. Jones.
- Baron Makino.
- His Excellency M. Matsui.
- M. Saburi.
- America, United States of
Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.
M. de Scavenius, Danish Minister in Russia, also attended by invitation.
1. Social Forces Backing Bolshevism M. Clemenceau said that he would ask M. de Scavenius, the Danish Minister in Russia, to make a statement concerning Bolshevism.
M. de Scavenius said that in Russia there were two classes—one Bolshevik, and one opposed to Bolshevism. He would begin by describing the former. When the Bolsheviks overthrew Kerensky1 they had behind them the soldiers and most of the peasants and workmen; the soldiers backed them because they wanted peace at any price, the peasants because they wanted land, the workmen because they desired privileges for themselves. At the present time the original soldiers had been demobilized and had become peasants. The peasants were neither Bolshevik, Socialist, nor Monarchist. All they desired was land. They now had it. Their present requirement was order, which would enable them to cultivate their holdings.
As to the workmen: there was among workmen a considerable amount of discontent. Though they had become the privileged class, [Page 635] they were in straits for food, and felt that Bolshevism had not kept its promises. Consequently it might safely be said that the Bolsheviks could only depend on about half the workmen of Russia, whose total numbers might be put at 2,000,000.
2. The Red Army The nucleus of the Red Army was composed of foreigners—Letts, Hungarians, Germans, and Chinese. Some Russians, no doubt, had been collected by Trotsky around this nucleus, but the best fighting elements in the force were foreigners, especially the Hungarians and the Chinese.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired how many Chinese there might be in the Red Army.
M. de Scavenius estimated their number at 20,000 or 30,000. He explained that before the revolution half a million Chinese had been brought into Russia to supply the deficiency of labour on the land. After the revolution these men were out of work, and had taken service to avoid famine. He himself had been for a time in charge of Chinese interests in Russia. He had tried to keep these people out of the Red Army, but the Chinese Government had not sent him enough money to maintain them; for instance, they had sent him 10,000 roubles to support 6,000 Chinese in Petrograd alone. Consequently, he had been unable to save them from enlistment in the Red Army. He thought that the Red Army numbered in all about 300,-000 men. A vast number of these men were not Bolshevik in sentiment at all, but men who had either enlisted for the same reasons as the Chinese, or had been forced into the ranks. He had seen the mobilization in Petrograd. Many of the men enrolled were bourgeois. The Red Army, therefore, was not a serious force, except when considered in relation to the famished and disarmed population of Russia itself.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether the Red Army had not fought the forces of Denikin and Kolchak.
M. de Scavenius replied that they had encountered those forces, but Denikin had been able to check them, and if Denikin’s troops had not for some months made any advance, the reason was that the Cossacks were only willing to defend their own country and not ready to go further north. This applied likewise to Krasnoff’s2 Cossacks.
3. Revolutionary Socialists At the time when the Bolsheviks overthrew the Government of Kerensky, the Constituent Assembly was almost solely composed of Revolutionary Socialists. That party, however, lost socialists prestige, and finally disappeared, because it showed itself incapable of defending Kerensky or saving the Constituent [Page 636] Assembly. It had failed to raise an army in the Urals. When Kazan was besieged by the Bolsheviks only 2,000 volunteers and one regiment of Czecho-Slovaks opposed them; the latter were ordered to retire, and the town was defended for two days by 2,000 volunteers only. The [defenders of?] Samara also bolted.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether the Revolutionary Socialists were Savinkoff’s party.
M. de Scavenius said that Savinkoff at that time belonged to that party. He had since joined a new party called the Radical Republicans, who had taken the place of the Revolutionary Socialists. This party was chiefly recruited in Siberia and the Urals. The peasants in Siberia were more advanced than those in Great Russia. They had been Revolutionary Socialists, but were now Radical Republicans. Before the fall of Kazan the Revolutionary Socialists were supreme at the Conference of Ufa which represented the united Governments of Omsk, Ufa, and Samara. After the fall of Samara this party was discredited, and Kolchak was able to bring off his coup d’état. Since that time the party had disappeared, and Kolchak’s Government contained no Revolutionary Socialists.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired what Kolchak’s opinions were.
M. de Scavenius said that Kolchak had been an admiral and an explorer. He called himself a Republican, though some people doubted whether he really held Republican views. After overturning the Government at Harbin he had proceeded to repeat the achievement at Omsk.
Mr. Lloyd George asked who were the men associated with him since the overthrow of the Revolutionary Socialists.
M. de Scavenius said that they were Radical Republicans. He had the support of Savinkoff, who all his life had been a Revolutionary Socialist. The Kolchak Government was in relations with that of Ekaterinodar in the Kuban district. Both these Governments were represented in Paris by M. Sazonoff.
5. Monarchists The Monarchists were recruited from the upper middle classes, the landed proprietors and the officers. They were especially strong in Southern Russia. The Radical Republicans were inclined to come to terms with them, and did not fear them because the troops on which they relied were chiefly Cossacks whose local institutions had always approximated rather to Republicanism. The Monarchists, on their side, were also willing to work with the Radical Republicans, as they did not wish at present to raise the question of regime.[Page 637]
6. Anti-Bolshevik Forces The military forces at the disposal of the adversaries of Bolshevism were:—
- The voluntary army of Denikin, which on paper numbered 80,000 men, but in reality hardly amounted to more than 50,000 as a fighting force.
- The Cossacks of Krasnoff, amounting to 50,000 or 60,000.
- The Siberian Army, with Czecho-Slovaks, nominally 250,000 men, with a fighting force of about 100,000.
In all perhaps 200,000 or 210,000 fighting men at the outside.
The Ukrainian Army had never existed except on paper. Petliura3 had encountered no resistance, and had easily turned out the Hetman, who had fled.
7. Intervention Those people in Allied Countries who opposed intervention in Russia did so on the ground that it was impossible to send to Russia troops tired after four years of war, and also impossible for democratically governed countries to help to suppress a democracy. The answer to these objections was that intervention must be carried out by volunteer troops, and that Bolshevism was not a democracy. A movement which had suppressed Parliamentary Government and the right of free speech and meeting could not be called a democracy. If intervention was undertaken, it must be undertaken at once. The longer it was delayed the more Russians would be forced by famine to enlist in the Red Army. So long as Bolshevism remained in power, anarchy and ruin would increase, and, finding no resistance, the Bolshevik bands would devastate wider and wider regions.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether M. de Scavenius advocated immediate intervention.
M. de Scavenius replied in the affirmative. Intervention would already be a more difficult matter than it would have been three months ago, because, whereas at that time the Baltic provinces and the Ukraine were free from Bolshevism, the former were now under Bolshevik domination, and the latter under that of Petliura, whose troops were largely Bolsheviks. The Polish situation was also worse, the Bolsheviks having taken Vilna and being on their way to Warsaw. Meanwhile, Lenin and his supporters were exploiting the patriotism of the lower middle classes by saying that the Allies were Imperialists who wanted to turn Russia into a colony and restore the Monarchy; in fact, that their aims were indistinguishable from those of the Germans. To counteract this propaganda the Allies could reply that their only object in intervening was to permit the convocation [Page 638] of a Constituent Assembly, in order that Russia might be in a position to decide her own fate. The Russians were, in fact, complaining that their right to do this had been taken from them by a violent minority. It was also to be remembered that a famine was absolutely certain to occur in the present year, the peasants having refused to sow more than enough grain for their own requirements, because the Soviet Government had sent all over the country battalions of Red Guards with orders to requisition existing stocks. It would be a great mistake to intervene by means of small forces, as had hitherto been attempted, because, as in the case of the Germans, the troops sent would become contaminated with Bolshevism in a few months. The proper policy was to destroy the centres of Bolshevism by capturing Petrograd and Moscow. To accomplish this troops should enter Russia from Finland, which would be easy, because the port of Helsingfors was free from ice, while the Finnish Government would be glad to send troops against Petrograd in order to prevent the spread of Bolshevism into their country. To enlist the aid of the Finnish Government it would, however, be necessary for the Allies to recognize them. By this means from 30,000 to 40,000 troops could quickly be moved to Petrograd. Meanwhile the Allied troops at Archangel and Murmansk could advance to Vologda and Zvanka respectively, join the Czechs, and thus ensure the supply of the Siberian force. There were 100,000 good troops in Poland, but they were without arms or uniforms. He understood that the Poles were sending a Mission to Paris to ask for these. The Polish troops should be sent against Moscow via Vilna and Smolensk. Denikin’s volunteer army would also march on Moscow through Kursk if they knew that they were assured of the support of foreign troops.
Mr. Lloyd Geoege asked whether M. de Scavenius meant to convey that Russian troops could not be depended upon without the support of foreign armies.
M. de Scavenius replied that this was his opinion. Without making any claim to military knowledge, he had explained to the best of his ability the methods by which he thought intervention should be undertaken. He thought that a stiffening of 100,000, or at the utmost 150,000, volunteers from the Allied countries would be sufficient to reinforce the Russian armies he had already enumerated, and to ensure success.
M. Clemenceau said that he had understood from M. de Scavenius’ remarks that Denikin’s forces were unwilling to go to Moscow.
M. de Scavenius said that this would be the case if they felt that they had to do all the fighting.[Page 639]
8. Propaganda M. de Scavenius said that he had been asked to make some observations on the subject of Bolshevik propaganda. The Bolshevik doctrine implied a declaration of war on all constituted governments, because Bolshevism in Russia could not survive unless the rest of the world was Bolshevised. They had reduced propaganda to a fine art. The chief propagandist was Radek—a former Austrian subject. This man was a genius at propaganda. He had formed in Moscow an International Confederation with representatives of all the nations of Europe, and even of some in Asia. There was, for instance, a French group of about twenty persons. It published in Moscow a newspaper called “The Third International,” and issued pamphlets which were smuggled into France through Switzerland, and especially through Belgium. There were English and American groups working on the same lines. The English group paid particular attention to India, which they regarded as the most vulnerable part of the British Empire. A delegation of Hindus had been specially coached and sent back to India with proclamations. A school of Indian languages had been set up in Moscow for the benefit of special agitators. The English group was also busy with Ireland, which they regarded as good soil for Bolshevism because of the feeling against landowners existing there.
Mr. Lloyd George observed that this was little to the credit of their judgment. Nearly all land in Ireland was in the hands of peasants. If all Bolshevik propaganda fell as far short of the mark as this he was not afraid of it.
9. Bolshevism in Germany M. de Scavenius said that the subject could be well studied in Germany. The old Imperial Government had not been afraid of Bolshevism, which it had regarded as a disease only attacking conquered peoples. It had neglected Bolshevik propaganda in the conviction that Germany was invincible. Radek had made no concealment of his work in Germany. In conversation with M. de Scavenius he had told him that he employed 400 agitators in Germany with the greatest success. The result had justified his boast.
Mr. Lloyd George observed that the Bolsheviks in Germany had nevertheless suffered a severe defeat.
M. de Scavenius was of opinion that this defeat was not a final one. The German revolution was following the course of the Russian revolution step by step. It was now at the stage that Russia had reached in July, 1917, when the Bolsheviks were defeated by Kerensky. He was convinced that Scheidemann and Ebert had no real support.[Page 640]
Mr. Lloyd George asked M. de Scavenius whether he did not think that it was impossible to compare a population in which 80 per cent were illiterate, as in Russia, with a highly educated population such as that of Germany.
M. de Scavenius did not attribute much importance to that consideration. He thought that the habit of expecting orders, so ingrainec in the German people was of greater moment. It was always tin case that 4 or 5 per cent, of the population led the way. The rest were a mere flock always ready to be driven. It was a matter of general surprise that a nation which had fought so well for four years, and, before the war, had had so high a reputation for organisation, should have collapsed so suddenly and so completely. The explanation of this was that their leading classes had been largely de stroyed but their place would, in time, be taken by another small percentage of energetic men. These, he believed, would be Bolsheviks If so, their first act would be to form a close alliance with the Bolsheviks in Russia. In that event, it would be difficult to obtain a real peace in the world, or to impose on the world the decisions o: this Conference. There would be a great German and Russian arm] ready to fight the Allies everywhere. There would be a flood o: propaganda, all the more to be feared inasmuch as the Germans were better organisers than the Russians. Bolshevism, he believed, was world danger. He therefore advocated its speedy destruction.
M. Clemenceau asked for information about the situation in the Ukraine.
10. Ukraine M. de Soavenius said that Petliura had conquered almost all the Ukraine because he had encountered no resistance, the Hetman’s army existing only on paper. Petliura was in the neighborhood of Kieff as much as two months ago, and could have entered it had he wished. He had told the local Danish Consul that the Allies, who had refused to recognize him, would now be obliged to do so, and were, in fact, already in unofficial negotiations with him Bolsheviks tolerated Petliura because the troops supporting him were largely Bolshevik. The result of his rule had been identical with that of Bolshevik rule in Great Russia. Proprietors had been expelled from their estates, and acts of violence had been committed. Petliura represented the national movement. He reproached the Hetman witl the intention of merging the Ukraine in Russia. He desired autonomy for the Ukraine, although he would be willing to join a Russian Federation on some such terms as Bavaria in the German Confederation.
Mr. Lloyd George said that, before putting any question to M. d Scavenius, he would like to express, on behalf of the British Government, [Page 641] his gratitude to him for his active protection of British subjects in Russia, and most particularly for saving the body of a particularly brave public servant—Captain Cromie—from the outrages of the mob.
M. Clemenceau, speaking on behalf of France, said that he wished to associate himself with Mr. Lloyd George’s words.
Mr. Lloyd Geokge asked M. de Scavenius when he had left Petrograd.
M. de Scavenius replied that he was last in Petrograd on the 15th of December. Since then he had received reports as late as the 29th December; and he promised to furnish certain extracts from Russian newspapers of about that date, which contained violent abuse of the Allies.
Mr. Lloyd George asked whether conscription was working at the time when M. de Scavenius left Petrograd.
M. de Scavenius said that it had begun at that time. There had been three mobilisations in Petrograd. 13,000 soldiers had been raised there, but owing to lack of food had been removed elsewhere.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired what the effect of capturing Moscow would be.
M. de Scavenius replied that Bolshevism would cease to exist. He did not suggest that the Constituent Assembly could be called together at once, but the elements, at present helpless, would gather round the Allies, and in time would call forth the Constituent Assembly.
Mr. Lloyd George said that this amounted to the setting up of a provisional government by the Allies.
M. de Scavenius agreed that this would be necessary, but it need not be apparent. In a few weeks the parties would be able to meet, talk over the situation, and set up a government.
Mr. Lloyd George presumed that the election would be by universal suffrage, and asked what M. de Scavenius would propose to do if the Bolsheviks obtained a majority.
M. de Scavenius replied that such a result was impossible; but that, if it came, it must of course be accepted.
Mr. Balfour asked whether M. de Scavenius assumed that if the Allies appeared in Moscow they would be able to gather round them an effective Russian force. As a matter of fact, a similar experiment had already been tried, for instance in Siberia and at Archangel, which were areas of considerable extent. In both instances, the moment when foreign support had been withdrawn the native forces had dissolved. The Russians appeared incapable of forming an independent force, and could only lean on foreign troops.[Page 642]
M. de Scavenius said that the mistake hitherto committed had been that of employing too small forces.
Mr. Lloyd George said that the British Government had recently received a report that the Mensheviks and the Revolutionary Socialists had been driven by Allied intervention to act with the Bolsheviks.
M. de Scavenius said that, as he had before remarked, the Bolsheviks were appealing to the patriotism of the lower middle class, and persuading them that the Allies were Imperialists who intended to exploit Russia as the Germans had done. Such propaganda as this would have the effect to which Mr. Lloyd George had alluded.
M. de Scavenius then withdrew.
11. Message From the King of Montenegro to His People President Wilson said that he wished to draw attention to the request made to him by the King of Montenegro. The King of Montenegro wished to send by telegraph a message to his people. The message was in the following terms:
“To my people—
I implore you to return quietly to your homes and not to combat with arms the forces which are seeking to obtain control of our country. I have received the highest assurances that early and ample opportunity will be given to the people of Montenegro to decide upon the political form of their future government.
And by this decision, so far as it concerns me, I will gladly abide.
President Wilson enquired whether there was any sufficient reason for stopping this message.
(It was generally agreed that there was none, and that the message should be forwarded. The French Government undertook to do this.)
12. Assistance to the Poles President Wilson read a letter addressed to him by M. Paderewski. The letter concluded by suggesting that the Allies should send a collective Note to the Ukrainian Directorate at Kieff ordering them to withdraw from Galicia and to cease interference in Polish territory. He further suggested that an Allied Commission be sent to Warsaw to gauge the situation, and that the Polish Government be supplied with artillery and German rifle ammunition.
Mr. Lloyd George questioned whether it was safe to admit that Galicia was Polish territory. Any summons to Kieff should be accompanied by a similar summons to the Poles to abstain from entering disputed territory such as Eastern Galicia.
(It was agreed that a French translation of this letter should be made, and that it should be discussed at the afternoon meeting.)[Page 643]
(It was agreed that this letter should also be translated and discussed at the afternoon meeting.)
14. German Submarines Mr. Lloyd George said that there was a small matter which he wished to bring to the notice of the meeting. The British Government had at their disposal a number of German submarines. It had been suggested that these submarines should be sunk, but the Controller of the Ministry of Shipping and the Director of Contracts had been consulted, and all agreed that the ex-German submarines had considerable commercial value. The Director of Contracts considered he could dispose of forty or fifty within a month, the condition of sale being that they would be broken up and the proceeds of the sale divided amongst the Allies on a scale to be subsequently settled. It was, therefore, suggested that all surrendered submarines in excess of eighty be disposed of by sale on these conditions.
(It was agreed that this course should be followed.)
- Alexander F. Kerensky, Prime Minister of Russia, July to November 1917.↩
- Gen. Peter Nikolaevich Krasnoff, ataman of the Don Cossacks.↩
- Simon Petliura, leader of the nationalists in the Ukraine.↩
- William H. Buckler, special assistant in the Embassy in Great Britain; for his mission, see Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, pp. 15–18.↩
- M. M. Litvinov, Assistant Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs.↩
- For text of this report as received by the Commission to Negotiate Peace, see telegram No. 116 from the Chargé in Denmark, January 18, 1919, 11 p.m., Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, p. 15.↩
- Not found in Department files. For extracts, see ibid., pp. 138–139.↩
- For text of this report as received by the Commission to Negotiate Peace, see telegram No. 118 from the Chargé in Denmark, January 19, 1919, 6 p.m., Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, p. 17.↩
- Major Allen Wardwell in May 1918 succeeded Col. Raymond Robins as head of the American Red Cross Commission to Russia.↩