APPEAL TO THE WORKERS OF EUROPE, AMERICA, AND JAPAN
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Appeal to the workers of Europe, America, and Japan
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Between Sept. 1st and Sept. 7th, 1920, the First Congress of the Peoples of the East met in Baku, capital of Soviet Azerbaijan. Some two thousand delegates from more than twenty Asian peoples convened there, to discuss and define with the Bolshevik leaders and delegates of the Western proletariat a common strategy against imperialism and for world revolution. The Baku Congress was a highlight of the revolutionary period opened up by the October Revolution. Once more, it stressed, for the national and anti-colonial revolutions, the necessity of a «double-revolution» strategy (thus with the reaffirmation of the working class's leading role), as the keystone which would really unite the struggles of the peoples of the East to those of the proletarians of the West - a keystone that, within in a few years (with the bloody tragedy of the 1927 Chinese Revolution), Stalinism would proceed to dismantle.
Among the many, thrilling documents of the Baku Congress, we chose this «Appeal» for its relevance today - a document out of the past, which passionately speaks to the present.
Appeal to the Workers of Europe, America, and Japan (Baku, 1920)
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Workers of Britain, America, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, and other countries! Hear the representatives of millions of toilers of the East. Listen to the voice of sorrow, speaking to you from the enslaved countries of Asia and Africa, from Turkey, Persia, China, Egypt, Afghanistan, Bukhara, and Kiva.
For many years, for many decades we have been silent. You did not hear our voice. No one told you of us, of how we live, how we suffer under the rule of those who are your masters too.
Your masters, the European and American factory owners, merchants, generals, and officials, broke into the peace of our villages and towns, plundered us for centuries, took from us what our work in the past had created, and sent all this off to Europe to embellish their lives, their homes, with the labor of our hands and of our ancient culture. They turned us into slaves.
Where preciously we had to pay tribute to our own rich men, to the landlords, slave owners, sultans, emirs, khans, and maharajas, now the whip of the European slave owners was also laid across our backs. We were forced to labor on the plantations of the European capitalists. Sweat poured from our brow so that they might obtain rice, tea, sugar, tobacco, and rubber at a cheap rate. Our children were born and died in bondage. If it suited the interests of your bosses and ours, they parted child from mother, wife from husband, and drove them from one country to another.
To you they said that they were bringing European knowledge and science to our countries. But what they brought in fact was opium and vodka, so that when sorrow welled up in the heart of the Asian and African slaves, they would more easily forget their intolerable life and would not dare to lift their chained hands against their enslaver.
Your bosses, the European capitalists, supported our own enslavers, making them their guard dogs to watch over us. But when the whip of the local ruler was not enough, they sent in white soldiers, they sent in cannon. They destroyed the independence of our countries, subjecting us to their laws and their governors and making slaves of us in the full sense of the word. The aim of their colonial rule, they told us, was to train us for future independence. But they fought with every means against the spread of knowledge among us toilers of the East. Prisons and barracks for us they had in number, but they did not build schools where the children of Asia might learn what the white men had discovered that was great and good. They looked on us as an inferior race; they forbade us to sit in the same railway carriage that white men traveled in; they forbade us to live in the same neighborhood as white people or to eat at the same table with them.
You did not see our wounds; you did not hear our songs of sorrow; you believed your own oppressors when they said we were not people but cattle. You, who are servants to the capitalists, saw us as your own servants. In America you protested when Chinese and Japanese peasants, evicted by your capitalists from their villages, came to your country in search of a crust of bread. You did not approach us in a fraternal way in order to teach us how to fight along with you for the common cause of emancipation. Instead, you denounced us for our ignorance, you shut us out of your lives, you excluded us from your unions.
We heard that you had founded Socialist parties, that you had formed an international workers' association. But for us these parties and this International had only words. We did not see its representatives come among us when the British shot us down in the streets of Indian cities, when united forces of the European capitalists shot at us in Peking, when in the Philippines our demand for bread was answered by the American capitalists with the voice of their rifles. And those of us whose hearts were athirst for the unity of the working people around the world stood on the threshold of your International, looking through the grille, and saw that although in words you accepted us as equals, in fact we were for you people of inferior race.
Six years ago the great slaughter began. The capitalists around the world quarrelled among themselves as to which of them should have the most slaves, which of them should grab the most land in Asia and Africa. You, the workers of Europe and America, saw this war of robbers and murderers as your own war, a war for the independence of your countries, even though you did not own the tiniest scrap of these countries, even though the land you soaked with your sweat belonged not to you but to your exploiters, your bosses.
You helped your factory owners and bankers force us to take part in this war, a war against you and against us. The bayonets of European soldiers forced Moroccan and Algerian peasants to die of bullets, cold, and disease on the battlefields of Flanders, Normandy, and Champagne. They forced the peasants of India to die in the sands of Mesopotamia and Arabia, and the fellahin to carry out hard labor in the wilderness for the British expeditionary force fighting against the Turks. They made Indian peasants into pack camels carrying shells on their backs for the white soldiers in Mesopotamia. For the gold of the European capitalists, Chinese and Annamite [Vietnamese] workers were sold to Russia and France, to dig under a hurricane of fire the trenches in which you were to die, and to toil to the point of exhaustion in arms factories, making the shells that killed you.
Our blood and sweat merged with yours in a single stream. But even on the field of battle, dying in the dead of night, yearning for his homeland, the colored man was not seen as your brother but regarded as a savage slave, whose death, caused no one to sigh or shed a tear. But in our homes beyond the seas, women wept for their fallen husbands, and children wept for their fallen fathers, the breadwinners.
The war is over. Now your masters and ours, who waged this war under the banner of justice and democracy, the banner of emancipation for the oppressed peoples, have thrown off the mask. The cities of India are ruled by the bayonet, the saber, and the machine gun. In Amritsar the British General Dyer shot down peaceful Indian citizens with machine guns and jeeringly ordered them to crawl on their bellies. But in the British Parliament not one workers' MP got up to demand that this murderer be sent to the gallows.
In Mesopotamia the British capitalists keep eight thousand Indian soldiers, brothers of the victims of Amritsar in order to tighten their grip on the oil of Mosul. In Smyrna Greek soldiers hired by the British capitalists slaughter the Turks. For £2 million Persia's freedom has been sold to the British government, so as to make that country a stronghold of British capital
against the Persian and Russian working people. In Algeria, Tunisia, and Annam the absolute power of French generals prevails, just as before the war. In northern China and in Korea Japanese gendarmes and officers are in charge, shooting and hanging anyone who dares even think of freedom. From the blood of the Asian and African workers and peasants shed in this war has grown not a tree of liberty but a gallows for those who fight for it.
But through the creaking of the gallows, through the groans of those suffering under the whip, we hear new cries. We hear the voice of the workers risen arms in hand against their enslavers. We hear the roar of the cannon of the Russian workers' and peasants' Red Army, created by workers and peasants of Russia who have risen in revolt. We hear that they have overcome the Russian capitalists and landlords, and in our hearts grows a great joy, a confidence that the humiliated and insulted working people will be able to summon up sufficient strength to put an end to the rule of bondage and establish the reign of labor and freedom.
Through the roar of the guns in the just war waged by the Russian workers and peasants, we hear your voice, the voice of the workers of German, Austria, and Hungary. We hear that you too have taken up arms, that you too have raised your hands against your enslavers. And although we are aware you have not yet vanquished your foe, we are confident that victory will be yours.
From the cities of Italy we hear the voice of hundreds of thousands of workers who are confronting the bayonets of the Italian capitalist bandits. We hear the voices of French workers from behind the bars of the prisons where they have been thrown by the government of the French rich, who fear their great wrath and tremble at the flame burning in their hearts. We have heard the sound of the rising sea of the British workers, a sea whose waves beat against the cliffs on which stands the stronghold of British capitalism, strangler of the peoples, robber of the world, destroyer of peaceful lives.
With profound joy, with profound inspiration we listen to these sounds, and the belief grows within us that the day is close when our torments will cease, when our struggle will be united with yours. We believe that you will not fight for your victory, your liberation, alone. We believe that you will not cast off the chains from your hands and feet while leaving them on ours. We believe that you will discard like a dirty shirt all the contempt toward the toilers of the East instilled in you by our masters, who are striving to set the white workers against the colored ones and to get the white workers' aid in the business of their oppression.
Only a common victory of the workers of Europe and America and the toiling masses of Asia and Africa will bring liberation to all who have until now toiled for the happiness of the wealthy few. If you were to free yourselves alone, leaving us in slavery and bondage, you yourselves would fall the next day into the same bondage. For in order to keep us in chains and in prison, you would have to form packs of prison bloodhounds to guard us in the East and in the South. You would have to raise armies to keep us under an iron heel. You would have to give power over us to your generals and governors. And once they had tasted the sweetness of the idle life lived at the expense of our labor and learned how to hold generations of colored toilers in bondage, they would soon turn their bayonets against you --and the wealth accumulated in Asia and Africa would be used to thrust you back into your previous slavery.
If you were to forget us now, you would pay dearly for that mistake; you would have cause to remember our chains when you felt chains on your own hands. You cannot free yourselves unless you help us in our struggle for liberation. The wealth of our countries is, in the hands of the capitalists, a means of enslaving you. So long as the British capitalist can freely exploit Indian, Egyptian, and Turkish peasants, so long as he can rob them, so long as he can force them to serve in the British army, he will always have wealth enough and executioners enough to subdue the British workers. Without our revolt there can be no victory for the British workers over the British capitalists, for the world proletariat over world capital.
And just as you cannot rest power from the hands of the capitalists without unity with us, so you are not in a position to maintain power without this unity. The capitalist countries of Europe do not produce enough grain and raw materials to provide food, clothing, and footwear for their workers. Our countries, the countries of the East and of Africa, are rich in grain and raw materials. Without these supplies, the workers of Europe would die of starvation after their victory. They will be able to obtain these supplies by uniting with the toilers of Africa and Asia, by helping the toiling masses of Aflica and Asia and thus inspiring them with confidence and love.
Such unity between ourselves and you will bring, invincible strength. We will be able to feed and clothe each other. We will be able to help each other with armies of warriors fired with the single idea of common liberation.
We have been summoned to this common struggle by the Third, Communist International. It has broken with the rotten past of the Second International, which is stained with your blood and ours and disgraced by its servility to imperialism, its betrayal of the interests of the toiling masses around the world. The Communist International gave us the slogan of a common holy war against the capitalists. What is more, it summoned us to a congress in Baku, where workers from Russia, Turkey and Persia, and Tatar workers labored for many decades for the capitalists while at the same time learning how to struggle together against their oppressors.
Here in Baku, on the borders between Europe and Asia, we representatives of tens of millions of peasants and workers of Asia and Africa in revolt showed the world our wounds, showed the world the marks of the whip on our backs and the traces left by chains on our feet and hands. And we raised our daggers, revolvers, and swords and swore before the world that we would use these weapons not to fight each other but to fight the capitalists.
Deeply convinced that you, the workers of Europe and Asia, will unite with us under the banner of the Communist International for common struggle, for a common victory, for a new life together based on fraternal aid between all toilers, we have formed here a Council for Propaganda and Action. Under the guidance of the Communist International, a union of our elder brothers in revolutionary struggle, this council sets the goal of rousing the working masses of all colors, organizing them, and leading them to the attack against the fortress of slavery.
Workers of Britain, America, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, and other countries! Listen to the representatives of the millions of the peoples of the East in revolt, who have taken an oath to rise up and help you in your fight, and who look for fraternal aid from you in their fight. Disregarding centuries of bondage and enslavement, we turn to you with faith in your fraternal feelings, with confidence that your victory will mean the liberation of mankind, without distinction of color, religion, or nationality. May confidence be awakened in you as well that ours is a struggle for a new and better life, for the development of the peoples of the East on the same foundations of labor and fraternity, on which you want to build your life. May you hear the thunder with which tens and hundreds of millions of working people in Asia and Africa respond to our oath. And may this crashing be answered by the thunderclaps of your fight for the common liberation of all the toilers!
Long live the unity of the workers of all countries with the laboring masses of Asia and Africa! Long live the world revolution of all the oppressed!
Long live victory over the world of oppression, exploitation, and violence! Long live the Communist International!
G. Zinovev, chairman of the congress
Source: «Internationalist Papers», n. 6, May 1997
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