[The following two articles by the Tatar Bolshevik Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev appeared in the official journal of the Narkomnats, Zhizn’ Natsional’nostei (Life of the Nationalities), in three parts in 1919, though only the latter two are reproduced here. In them, Sultan-Galiev criticizes the focus of the Comintern on the West, and further warns that a social revolution in the East must thoroughly break the national bourgeoisie, lest they unite with their former colonial masters to put down the social revolution. Sultan-Galiev is credited as one of the earliest thinkers in the strain of thought which would coalesce into the general trend of modern Third-Worldism, as well as the originator of the idea of a colonial international meant to exert power over the former colonial countries. These articles are reproduced from Appendix A of the English edition of A. Bennigsen and S. Enders Wimbush’s Muslim National Communism in the Soviet Union, 1979. Galiev was arrested and expelled from the party in 1923 for supposed anti-Soviet and “bourgeois nationalist” tendencies, and finally re-arrested in 1939 under the same charges and shot in 1940. As always, the following is provided for the purposes of study and discussion.]
“If a revolution succeeds in England, the proletariat will continue oppressing the colonies and pursuing the policy of the existing bourgeois government; for it is interested in the exploitation of these colonies. In order to prevent the oppression of the toiler of the East we must unite the Muslim masses in a communist movement that will be our own and autonomous.”
M. Sultan-Galiev, 9th Conference of the Tatar Obkom, 1923.
“Old Russia, still alive under the mask of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, cannot last forever. Soviet Russia is a transitory phenomenon. The hegemony of the Russian people over other nations necessarily must be replaced by the dictatorship of these same nations over the Russians.”
M. Sultan-Galiev, cited by Tobolev, Kontrrevolutsiyon, p.14, quoted in Bennigsen, 1979.
The Social Revolution and the East II.
Zhizn’ Natsional’nostei, 39(47), 1919.
The Soviet system, as an expression of communism, is the antithesis of the bourgeois-capitalist state. These two systems cannot peacefully coexist side by side. They can tolerate one another only temporarily, until one side having obtained a preponderance of forces, however slight, will inevitably attack the weaker one.
By virtue of the basic law of the development of the socialist revolution, it was necessary that the Russian Revolution, from its very first days would develop into a worldwide revolution; otherwise the Soviets in Russia would have become only a small oasis in the raging sea of imperialism, risking obliteration each minute by the waterspout of the worldwide imperialist bacchanalia.
The leaders of the October Revolution understood this situation perfectly well and tried to channel it in the direction of the international current. And it could not have been otherwise, or the socialist revolution in Russia would have lost all its inner meaning.
But in a tactical sense this process of the development of the revolution was directed incorrectly. It appeared correct in some of its outward manifestations (the Spartikist moment in Germany, the Hungarian Revolution, and so on) but in its totality it had a one-sided character. This one-sidedness consisted in the fact that almost all the attention of the leaders was turned toward the West. The task of turning the October Revolution into an international socialist one was understood as the transmission of the mechanical energy of the Russian Revolution to the West, that is, to the part of the world where the contradiction of the class interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie appeared most sharply and openly and where, for this reason, there seemed to exist a relatively solid basis for the success of the class revolution.
Because of the ignorance of the East and because of the fear it inspired, the idea of the participation of the east in the international revolution was systematically rejected.
It is true that the West European states, including their ally America, appear to be the countries where all the material and “moral” forces of international imperialism are concentrated, and it would seem that their territories are destined to become the chief battlefield in the war against imperialism. But in no way can we confidently say that there is enough strength in the Western proletariat to overthrow the Western bourgeoisie. This bourgeoisie is international and worldwide, and its overthrow demands a concentration of all the revolutionary will and all the revolutionary energy of the entire international proletariat, including the proletariat of the East.
In attacking international imperialism only with the West European proletariat, we leave it full freedom of action and maneuver in the East. As long as international imperialism, represented by the Entente, dominates the East, where it is the absolute master of all natural wealth, then so long is it guaranteed of a successful outcome in all its clashes in the economic field with the working masses of the home countries, for it can always “shut their mouths” by satisfying their economic demands.
Our hopeless expectations of revolutionary aid from the West in the course of the last two years of the revolution in Russia eloquently confirm this thesis.
But even if the West European worker succeeds in obtaining a victory over his bourgeoisie, he would still inevitably collide with the East, because as a last resort, the west European bourgeoisie, following the example of its friend in distress, the russian bourgeoisie, would concentrate all its forces in its “outlying districts,” and first of all in the East. It would not hesitate, in the course of suppressing the socialist revolution in Western Europe, to utilize the ancient national and class hatred of the East towards the West, which is always alive in the breast of the East towards Western Europe as the bearer of the imperialist yoke, and it would launch a campaign of blacks against Europe.
The Social Revolution and the East III.
Zhizn’ Natsional’nostei, 42(50), 1919.
Examining the East from the socioeconomic point of view, we see that almost all of it is the object of exploitation by west European capital. It is the chief source of material for European industry, and in this respect it constitutes highly inflammatory revolutionary material.
If it were possible to compute the degree of exploitation of the East by Western capital, and in this connection, its indirect participation in the emergence of the power of the European and American bourgeoisie which have exploited it and continue to exploit it, then we would see that a lion’s share of the material and spiritual wealth of the “whites” has been stolen from the East, and built at the expense of the blood and sweat of hundreds of millions of laboring masses of “natives” of all colors and races.
It was necessary for tens of millions of aborigines of America and Africa to perish and for the rich culture of the Incas to be completely obliterated from the face of the earth in order that contemporary “freedom-loving” America, with her “cosmopolitan culture” of “progress and technology” might be formed. The proud skyscrapers of Chicago, New York, and other cities are built on the bones of the “redskins” and the Negroes tortured by inhuman plantation owners and on the smoking ruins of the destroyed cities of the Incas.
Christopher Columbus! How his name speaks to the hearts of the European imperialists. It was he who “opened” the road to the European plunderers in America, England, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany; all of them participated equally in the plundering, the destruction, and the devastation of “native” America, erecting at her expense their capitalistic cities and their bourgeois culture. The invasions of Europe by Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, and the other Mongol princes, in all the cruelty of their devastating strength, pale before what the Europeans have done in this America discovered by them.
The thesis expressed in the beginning of this article is strikingly confirmed by the entire subsequent development of Western European imperialism when, having plundered “native” America, and having sated itself with her, it turned its attention to the East, with India as its main goal, which, almost from the first days of the appearance of the European imperialism, has not ceased to arouse in it a feeling of greed.
The entire history of the Crusades and all the long series of later bourgeois imperialistic wars in the east represent a carefully calculated policy of economic enslavement of the East by west european feudalists and their descendents, and this policy has finally been crowned with an almost total success.
If we would examine the relations between the West European countries and the East during the last phase, that is, in the beginning of the imperialistic world War, we would see that the East was squeezed and convulsively writhing in the clutches of international capital.
All Asia and all Africa were divided by europe into “spheres of influence,” with only formal and fictional acceptance of the “independence” of some of the more outstanding states such as China, Persia, and Turkey.
The great imperialist war was the last stage in this policy, the stage where international imperialism, sensing its imminent demise, declared war on itself.
Today the victory of the Entente over Germany has provided a temporary solution to the Eastern Question—Entente rule being imposed on the East.
Already today, although the situation is not yet completely clear, the contradictory interests in the East of the basic components of the “Holy Alliance” are beginning to be visible, and sooner or later a serious confrontation is bound to occur between the powerful imperialist states, all competing for first place in the piratic “League of Nations.”
We must never forget that, if on the one hand the East as a whole is completely enslaved by the West, on the other hand its own national bourgeoisie applies a no less heavy “internal” pressure on the laboring masses of the east.
We ought not for a minute forget the fact that the development of the international socialist revolution in the east must in no case limit itself only to the overthrow of the power of Western imperialism, but must go further. After this first stage, a second stage must be reached. This second stage is the complex question of overthrowing the Oriental clerical-feudal bourgeoisie, which pretends to be liberal, but which in reality is brutally despotic and which is capable, for the sake of its own selfish interests, to instantly change its stance toward its former foreign adversaries.
We must always remember one thing: the East on the whole is the chief source of nourishment of international capitalism. In the event of a worldwide socialist civil war, this is a factor extremely favorable to us and extremely unfavorable to the international imperialists. Deprived of the East, and cut off from India, Afghanistan, Persia, and its other Asian and African colonies, Western European imperialism will wither and die a natural death.
But at the same time the East is the cradle of despotism, and we are not in the least safe from the possibility that, after the overthrow of Western European imperialism, an Eastern imperialism will emerge, which is for the time being still under the heavy pressure of its European colleague. There is no guarantee against the possibility that the feudal lords of China, India, Persia, or Turkey, having liberated themselves with our help, will not unite with imperialist Japan and even with some other European imperialism, and will not organize a campaign against their “liberators” in order to save themselves by this means from the contagion of “bolshevism.”