W. Elliot’s article in The Times, Sept. 27th, 1924Posted: June 23, 2013
Letters to the editor
GEORGIA AND THE SOVIETS
Ministerial Verdicts Recalled
To the Editor of the Times
It is the luck of the Soviets that when to all appearance they have almost succeeded in their plan, and secured from the present British government a promise, however conditional, of money and power and another lease of life, that a crime of theirs should so inopportunely arise to confront them.
For crime it was—the murder of the little Caucasus state of Georgia; and by the irony of chance our authority for this statement is the present Prime Minister of Great Britain who, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is to-day commending to us a Treaty, and even a loan, for the same savage junta who are cynically repeating in 1924 the very brutalities which Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Phillip Snowden denounced so scathingly from 1921 to 1923.
It was in 1920 that the Georgian Government invited the whole world, and the Socialist world in particular, to come to the Caucasus and see how well she was governed. Her political independence had been recognized by the Soviet Russia in May. That autumn the Government formed by the Social Democratic Party sent out its invitations, and amongst the British delegates who responded and took the great journey were Mr. Tom Shaw, now Labour Minister, and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary.
Hear, then, from the strictest gospellers of the Socialist faith the blessings passed on the little State: “It was to the strains of “l’Internationale.” and under the gaze of portraits of Karl Marx, that we disembarked at Batum,” writes Mr. MacDonald in the Labour Leader in October, 1920. “We felt immediately at home. The B.L.P. is as well known at Tiflis as in Glasgow, and better appreciated by the Georgian government than by some of its own groups.”
This and all that follows had been obtained by the very latest constitutional methods. The elections were conducted according to the best formulae of Proportional Representation, and 102 Social Democrats had been returned in Parliament of 130
The big landowners have been dispossessed; the forests, railways, and mines nationalized… The foundations of nationalization without bureaucracy have been laid… The Socialism of Georgia is as complete as that of Russia or elsewhere.
And Mr. MacDonald ringingly concludes:–“There exist no more solid barrier against Bolshevism to-day than the Socialist Government of Georgia. (The Nation, October 16th, 1920).
And so, and so. The burden of the Press campaign delivered that autumn was to insist upon the immediate recognition of this Georgian Government as the ruler de jure of the Georgian State. And it was done. Full recognition was granted by Great Britain in January 1921. The next step claimed was the admission of Georgia into the League of Nations. But Georgia was not allowed to exist long enough. The Soviets, who today need our money so much, needed the oil of Baku more. It was in February, 1921, when the ink was scarcely dry on some of these eloquent articles, that the blow fell.
The Red Armies crossed the Georgian frontier without declaration of war, menacing the country with pillage and massacre. Denials were issued from Moscow which succeeded for the moment in sufficiently bamboozling the Internationalist Socialist Conference then sitting at Vienna (end of February, 1921) to prevent the indignant protests from that body for which the Georgians had confidently hoped. The Labour Party, however, telegraphed its “profound regret” at “the news of the invasion of the Independent Socialist State of Georgia” and later stated, at Brighton. “its conviction that elections free from all military pressure would be permitted to the Georgian people.”
The Russians, however, had got what they wanted. In June, 1921, accordingly, they abolished Georgian control of foreign trade and set up a single Foreign Trade Department for Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Even after the invasion protests did not die away all at once. In June 1921, Mr. MacDonald commented most acidly upon the situation in his weekly article in Forward.
“Georgia to-day is government by a Revolutionary Committee, nominated by the Council of Commissaries set up by the army of invasion towards the end of February last. They have destroyed every vestige of representative government, including municipal councils and trade union organizations, like the Tiflis Soviet, which I saw in working operation.
Every Socialist who is still alive is “suspect.” In Batum, Kutais and Poti there are 1,000 in goal for being Socialist or trade unionists. Freedom of Press and speech does not exist.
This is the kind of crime that finds both apologists and defenders amongst our “Left” in this country. To the Socialist it must be a crime a wanton piece of military aggression, something which he must do everything he can to undo.”
Even so recently as last year, Mr. Snowden in the House of Commons asked the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs:
“If he is aware of the executions and persecutions of the Georgian people which are being carried out by the Bolshevist Government, which has invaded Georgia and overthrown the democratic Government of that country, &c.: and whether, in view of the recognition of the independence of Georgia by the Allied Governments and the League of Nations, the British Government can take any action by diplomatic methods to influence the Moscow Government to stop its present action in Georgia.”
Mr. Ronald McDeill, admitting the accuracy of the facts, pleaded the uselessness of attempting to influence the Soviet Government by diplomatic methods when unaccompanied by pressure, such as in this case the British Government had no means of exercising. Mr. Snowden, however, almost envisaging the present situation went on:
“Should the question of the recognition of the Soviet Government arise, will the British Government, in considering the matter, insist, in the conditions of recognition, that the independence of these States should be recognized? (My italics) (Hansard, 17/7/23.)
Words, words, words, apparently. And so, too, the uncompromising declaration of our present Foreign Secretary in the Contemporary Review of February, 1921:
“There are rumors in the Near East of a restoration of Imperial Russia, of returning Azerbaijan and Georgia to that sovereignty, of placing Armenia under that sovereignty. The stupidity of these designs, from our point of view (which is also the point of view of peace and security), is so manifest that one can adamantly believe that our Foreign Minister could do other than reject them as sons phrase.”
Only a fortnight ago at Geneva, with the renewed insurrection in the Caucasus, the unhappy problem arose again. Again it was met with words. A pious resolution recommended, we are told, to the Assembly by Mrs. MacDonald and Herriot, urging the League to “Watch” the situation, and to take any opportunity of restoring peace, was tabled. Even that promptly evoked the accustomed snarl from Moscow that this sort of thing was an intolerable interference with its internal affairs.
But—the case is altered, in that this very Government of Moscow is now knocking at our doors for capital to pursue its many enterprises, among which no doubt, the renewed subjugation of its neighbor states takes a prominent place. Is it credible, is it conceivable, that the campaign for the granting of this money is to be led by men so firmly convinced of the iniquity of the acts which it will be used to foster as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Labour, and the Prime Minister and Secretary for Foreign Affairs!
I am, &c.,
WALTER ELLIOT. (MP for Glasgow Kelvingrove)