None of the incidents or dialogue in The Great Conspiracy has been invented by the authors. The material has been drawn from various documentary sources which are indicated in the text or listed in the Bibliographical Notes.
THE two and a half years of bloody intervention and civil war had been responsible for the death through battle, starvation or disease of some 7,000,000 Russian men, women and children. The material losses to the country were later estimated by the Soviet Government at $60,000,000,000, a sum far in excess of the Czarist debt to the Allies. No reparations were paid by the invaders.
Few official figures were given of the cost to the Allied taxpayers of the war against Russia. According to a memorandum issued by Winston Churchill on September 15, 1919, Great Britain to that date had spent nearly £100,000,000 sterling and France between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 on General Denikin alone. The British campaign in the north cost £18,000,000. The Japanese admitted the expenditure of 900,000,000 yen on the maintenance of their 70,000 troops in Siberia.
What were the motives behind this futile and costly undeclared war?
The White generals were frankly fighting for the restoration of their own Great Russia, for their landed estates, their profits, their class privileges and their epaulettes. There were a few sincere nationalists among them, but the White Armies were overwhelmingly dominated by reactionaries who were the prototypes of the fascist officers and adventurers who were later to emerge in Central Europe.
The war aims of the Allies in Russia were less clear.
The intervention was finally presented to the world by Allied spokesmen, in so far as its motives were publicized at all, as a political crusade against Bolshevism.
Actually, "anti-Bolshevism" played a secondary role. Such factors as north Russian timber, Donetz coal, Siberian gold and Caucasian oil carried more weight. There were also such large scale imperialist interests as the British plan for a Trams-Caucasian Federation which would seal off India from Russia and make possible exclusive British domination of the oil fields of the Near East; the Japanese plan for the conquest and colonization of Siberia; the French plan to gain control in the Donetz and Black Sea areas; and the ambitious long-range German plan to seize the Baltic States and the Ukraine.
One of the very first acts of the Soviet Government on its assumption of power had been to nationalize the great economic trusts of the Czarist Empire. Russian mines, mills, factories, railroads, oil wells and all other large-scale industrial enterprises were declared to be the state property of the Soviet people. The Soviet Government also repudiated the foreign debts incurred by the Czarist regime, partly on the grounds that the monies had been advanced as a deliberate means of aiding Czarism to suppress the popular revolution.(1)
The Czarist Empire, for all its outward show of wealth and power, had actually been a semi-colony of Anglo-French and German financial interests. The French financial stake in Czarism amounted to the sum of 17,591,000,000 francs. Anglo-French interests controlled no less than 72 per cent of Russian coal, iron and steel, and 50 per cent of Russian oil. Annually, several hundreds of millions of francs and pounds in dividends, profits and interest were drawn from the labor of the Russian workers and peasants by foreign interests allied with the Czar.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, the London Stock Exchange Year Book of 1919 recorded under the heading "Russian Accounts": "Interest due, 1918, and since in arrears."
British member of Parliament, Lieutenant Colonel Cecil L'Estrange Malone, told the House of Commons during a somewhat heated debate on Allied policy in Russia in 1920: -
There are groups of people and individuals in this country who have money and shares in Russia, and they are the people who are working, scheming and intriguing to overthrow the Bolshevik regime. . . . Under the old regime, it was possible to get ten or twenty per cent out of exploiting the Russian workers and peasants, but under socialism it will not be possible to get anything at all probably, and we find that nearly every great interest to this country in some way or another is connected with Soviet Russia.
The Russian Year Book for 1918, the speaker went on, had estimated combined British and French investments in Russia at approximately £1,600,000,000 sterling, or close to $8,000,000,000.
"When we talk about . . . Marshal Foch and the French people being opposed to peace with Russia," said Colonel Malone, "we do not mean the French democracy, and we do not mean the French peasants or workers, but the French stockholders. Let us be quite clear about that. We mean the people whose ill-earned savings constitute the £1,600,000,000 which have been sunk in Russia."
There was the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company, whose Russian interests had included the Ural Caspian Oil Company, the North Caucasian Oilfield, the New Schibareff Petroleum Company and many other oil concerns; there was the great British arms trust of Metro-Vickers which, together with the French Schneider-Creusot and the German Krupp, had virtually controlled the Czarist munitions industry; there were the big banking houses of Britain and France: the Hoares, Baring Brothers, Hambros, Crédit Lyonnais, Société Generale, Rothschilds and Comptoir National d'Escompte de Paris, all of which had invested huge sums in the Czarist regime. . . .
"All these big interests," Colonel Malone informed the House of Commons, "are interwoven with one another. They are all interested in keeping the war going with Russia. . . . Behind these interests and behind the financiers who sit on the other side of the House are the newspapers and the other influences which go to make up public opinion in this country."
Some Allied spokesmen were quite frank as to their motives in supporting the White Armies in Russia.
Sir Francis Baker, the European manager of Vickers and chairman of the Executive Committee of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, addressed a banquet of the British Russia Club attended by leading industrialists and politicians in London in 1919 with these words: -
We wish success to Admiral Kolchak and General Denikin, and I think I cannot do better than raise my glass and ask you all to drink to the health of Admiral Kolchak, General Denikin and General Yudenitch!
Russia is a great country. You all know, because you are intimately connected with it in your business, what the potentialities of Russia are, whether it be from the point or view of manufacture or the point of view of mineral wealth, or any other thing, because Russia has everything. . . .
As Anglo-French troops and munitions poured into Siberia, the Bulletin of the British Federation of Industries, the most powerful association of British industrialists, exclaimed in print: -
Siberia, the most gigantic prize offered to the civilized world since the discovery of the Americas!
As Allied troops drove into the Caucasus and occupied Baku, the British business journal The Near East declared: -
In oil Baku is incomparable. . . . Baku is greater than any other oil city in the world. If oil is king, Baku is its throne!
As the Allied-supported White Army of General Denikin swarmed into the Don coal basin, Messrs. R. Martens and Co., Ltd., the great British coal combine, announced in their trade publication Russia: -
Russia possesses investigated coal reserves second only to the United States. According to the estimate published by the international Geological Congress, she possesses in the Donetz basin (where General Denikin is operating) more than three times the reserves of anthracite of Great Britain and nearly twice the amount at the disposal of the United States.
And finally the Japan Salesman summed up: -
Russia, with her 180,000,000 of people, with her fertile soil stretching from Central Europe across Asia to the shores of the Pacific and from the Arctic down to the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea . . . market possibilities such as even the most optimistic dared not dream of. . . . Russia, potentially and actually - the granary, the fishery, the lumber-yard, the coal, gold, silver and platinum mine of the world!
The Anglo-French and Japanese invaders were attracted by the rich prizes that awaited the conqueror of Russia. American motives, however, were mixed. Traditional American foreign policy, as expressed by Woodrow Wilson and by the War Department, demanded friendship with Russia as a potential ally and counterbalance to German and Japanese Imperialism. American investments in Czarism had been small: but, on the advice of the State Department, several hundreds of millions of American dollars had been subsequently poured into Russia to prop up the shaky Kerensky regime. The State Department continued to support Kerensky, and even to subsidize his "Russian Embassy" in Washington for several years after the Bolshevik Revolution. Certain officials in the State Department co-operated with the White generals and the Anglo-French and Japanese interventionists.
The most notable American to identify himself with the anti-Soviet war was Herbert Hoover, the future President of the United States, who at that time was the American Food Administrator.
A former mining engineer employed by British concerns, prior to the First World War, Herbert Hoover had become a successful entrepreneur in the field of Russian oil wells and mines. The corrupt Czarist regime swarmed with high officials and land owning aristocrats ready to barter their country's wealth and labor power in return for foreign bribes or a share in the spoils. Hoover had begun his speculation in Russian oil as far back as 1909 when the wells at Maikop were first opened. Within a year, he had floated and secured a major interest in no less than eleven Russian oil companies: -
Maikop Neftyanoi Syndicate
Maikop Shirvansky Oil Company
Maikop Apsheron Oil Company
Maikop and General Petroleum Trust
Maikop Oil and Petroleum Products
Maikop Areas Oil Company
Maikop Valley Oil Company
Maikop Mutual Oil Company
Maikop Hadijensky Syndicate
Maikop New Producers Company
Amalgamated Maikop Oilfields
By 1912, the former mining engineer was associated with the fatuous British multimillionaire, Leslie Urquhart, in three new companies which had been set up to exploit timber and mineral concessions in the Urals and Siberia. Hoover and Urquhart then floated the Russo-Asiatic Corporation and made a deal with two Czarist banks whereby this Corporation would handle all mining prospects in those areas. Russo-Asiatic shares rose from $16.25 in 1913 to $47.50 in 1914. That same year the Corporation obtained three new profitable concessions from the Czarist regime which comprised: -
2,500,000 acres of land, including vast timberlands, and waterpower; estimated gold, copper, silver and zinc reserves of 7,262,000 tons;
12 developed mines; 2 copper smelters; 20 sawmills;
250 miles of railroad;
2 steamships and 29 barges;
blast furnaces, rolling mills, sulphuric acid plants, gold refineries; huge coal reserves.
The total value of these properties was estimated at $1,000,000,000.
After the Bolshevik Revolution all the concessions were abrogated and the mines confiscated by the Soviet Government. A claim for $282,000,000 for damage to properties and loss of probable annual profits was filed with the British Government the following year by Russo-Asiatic Consolidated, a new cartel which Hoover and his partners had formed to take over and protect their Russian interests.
"Bolshevism," said Herbert Hoover at the Paris Peace Conference, "is worse than war!"
He was to remain one of the world's bitterest foes of the Soviet Government for the rest of his life. It is a fact, whatever his personal motive may have been, that American food sustained the White armies in Russia and fed the storm troops of the most reactionary regimes in Europe which were engaged in suppressing the upsurge of democracy after the First World War. Thus American relief became a weapon against the peoples' movements in Europe.(2)
"The whole of American policy during the liquidation of the Armistice was to contribute everything it could to prevent Europe from going Bolshevik or being overrun by their armies," Hoover later declared in a letter to Oswald Garrison Villard on August 17, 1921. His definition of "Bolshevism" coincided with that of Foch, Pétain, Knox, Reilly and Tanaka. As Secretary of Commerce, as President of the United States, and subsequently as a leader of the isolationist wing of the Republican Party, he fought untiringly to prevent the establishment of friendly commercial and diplomatic relations between America and America's most powerful ally against world fascism, the Soviet Union.
The armed intervention failed in Russia not only because of the unprecedented solidarity and heroism of the Soviet peoples who were fighting to defend their new-won freedom, but also because of the strong support given the young Soviet Republic by the democratic peoples throughout the world. In France, England and the United States, an aroused public opinion had vigorously opposed the sending of men, arms, food and money to the anti-Soviet armies in Russia. "Hands Off Russia!" committees were formed. Workers struck and soldiers mutinied against the interventionist policies of the General Staffs. Democratic statesmen, journalists, educators and many businessmen protested against the undeclared and unprovoked attack on Soviet Russia.
Sir Henry Wilson, British Chief of Staff, frankly acknowledged the lack of public support of the Allied interventionist policy. On December 1, 1919, in the official British Blue Book, the Chief of Staff wrote: -
The difficulties of the Entente in formulating a Russian policy have, indeed, proved insurmountable, since in no Allied country has there been a sufficient weight of public opinion to justify armed intervention against the Bolsheviks on a decisive scale, with the inevitable result that military operations have lacked cohesion and purpose.
The victory of the Red Army over its enemies thus represented at the same time an international victory for the democratic peoples of all countries.
A final reason for the failure of the intervention was the lack of unity among the invaders. The instigators of the intervention represented a coalition of world reaction, but it was a coalition without genuine co-operation. Imperialist rivalries rended the imperialist coalition. The British feared French ambitions in the Black Sea and German ambitions in the Baltic area. The Americans Remove hard returnfound it necessary to frustrate Japanese aims in Siberia. The White generals quarreled among themselves over the spoils. The war of intervention, begun in secrecy and dishonesty, ended in shameful disaster.
Its legacy of hatred and mistrust was to poison the atmosphere of Europe for the next quarter of a century.
(1) After the terrible anti-Semitic pogroms perpetrated in 1906 by the Black Hundreds in connivance with the Czarist secret police, Anatole France vehemently denounced those French financiers who continued to make loans to the Czar's regime. "Let our fellow citizens at last have ears to hear," declared the famous French author. "They are warned; a very evil day may come for them, if they lend money again to the Russian Government, in order that it may shoot, hang, massacre pillage at will, and kill all liberty and civilization throughout the length of its immense unhappy empire. Citizens of France, give no more money for new cruelties and follies; give no more milliards for the martyrdom of countless peoples." But the French financiers did not heed Anatole France's passionate plea. They continued to invest millions in Czarism.
(2) Until August 1921, Herbert Hoover's activities as Food Relief Administrator were directed toward giving direct aid to the White Russian armies and withholding all supplies from the Soviets. Hundreds of thousands starved in Soviet territory. When, finally, Hoover was compelled to bow to American public pressure and send some food to the Soviets, he continued - according to a statement by a Near East Relief official in the New York World in April 1922 - to "interfere with the collection of funds for famine-stricken Russia." In February 1922, when Hoover was Secretary of Commerce, the New York Globe made this editorial comment: "Bureaucrats centered throughout the Department of Justice, the Department of State and the Department of Commerce for purposes of publicity are carrying on a private war with the Bolshevist Government. . . . Washington propaganda has grown to menacing proportions. . . . Messrs. Hughes and Hoover and Dougherty will do well to clean their houses before public irritation reaches too high a point. The American people will not long endure a presumptuous bureaucracy which for its own wretched purposes is willing to let millions of innocent people die."