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The Inside Story of the Peace Conference By Emile Joseph Dillon Characters: 14324

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The Allies, then, might have solved the Bolshevist problem by making up their minds which of the two alternative politics-war against, or tolerance of, Bolshevism-they preferred, and by taking suitable action in good time. If they had handled the Russian tangle with skill and repaid a great sacrifice with a small one before it was yet too late, they might have hoped to harvest in abundant fruits in the fullness of time. But they belonged to the class of the undecided, whose members continually suffer from the absence of a middle word between yes and no, connoting what is neither positive nor negative. They let the opportunity slip. Not only did they withhold timely succor to either side, but they visited some of the most loyal Russians in western Europe with the utmost rigor of coercion laws. They hounded them down as enemies. They cooped them up in cages as though they were Teuton enemies. They encircled them with barbed wire. They kept many of them hungry and thirsty, deprived them of life's necessaries for days, and in some cases reduced the discontented-and who in their place would not be discontented?-to pick their food in dustbins among garbage and refuse. I have seen officers and men in France who had shed their blood joyfully for the Entente cause gradually converted to Bolshevism by the misdeeds of the Allied authorities. In whose interests? With what helpful results?

I watched the development of anti-Ententism among those Russians with painful interest, and in favorable conditions for observation, and I say without hesitation that rancor against the Allies burns as vehemently and intensely among the anti-Bolshevists as among their adversaries. "My country as a whole is bitterly hostile to her former allies," exclaimed an eminent Russian, "for as soon as she had rendered them inestimable services, at the cost of her political existence, they turned their backs upon her as though her agony were no affair of theirs. To-day the nation is divided on many issues. Dissensions and quarrels have riven and shattered it into shreds. But in one respect Russia is still united-in the vehemence of her sentiment toward the Allies, who first drained her life-blood and then abandoned her prostrate body to beasts of prey. Some part of the hatred engendered might have been mitigated if representatives of the provisional Russian government had been admitted to the Conference. A statesman would have insisted upon opening at least this little safety-valve. It would have helped and could not have harmed the Allies. It would have bound the Russians to them. For Russia's delegates, the men sent or empowered by Kolchak and his colleagues to represent them, would have been the exponents of a helpless community hovering between life and death. They could and would have gone far toward conciliating the world-dictators, to whose least palatable decisions they might have hesitated to offer unbending opposition. And this acquiescence, however provisional, would have tended to relieve the Allies of a sensible part of their load of responsibility. It would also have linked the Russians, loosely, perhaps, but perceptibly, to the Western Powers. It would have imparted a settled Ententophil direction to Kolchak's policy, and communicated it to the nation. In short, it might have dispelled some of the storm-clouds that are gathering in the east of Europe."

But the Allies, true to their wont of drifting, put off all decisive action, and let things slip and slide, for the Germans to put in order. There were no Russians, therefore, at the Conference, and there lies no obligation on any political group or party in the anarchist Slav state to hold to the Allies. But it would be an error to imagine that they have a white sheet of paper on which to trace their line of action and write the names of France and Britain as their future friends. They are filled with angry disgust against these two ex-Allies, and of the two the feeling against France is especially intense.[287]

It is a truism to repeat in a different form what Messrs. Lloyd George and Wilson repeatedly affirmed, but apparently without realizing what they said: that the peace which they regard as the crowning work of their lives deserves such value as it may possess from the assumption that Russia, when she recovers from her cataleptic fit, will be the ally of the Powers that have dismembered her. If this postulate should prove erroneous, Germany may form an anti-Allied league of a large number of nations which it would be invidious to enumerate here. But it is manifest that this consummation would imperil Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Jugoslavia, and sweep away the last vestiges of the peace settlement. And although it would be rash to make a forecast of the policy which new Russia will strike out, it would be impolitic to blink the conclusions toward which recent events significantly point.

In April a Russian statesman said to me: "The Allied delegates are unconsciously thrusting from them the only means by which they can still render peace durable and a fellowship of the nations possible. Unwittingly they are augmenting the forces of Bolshevism and raising political enemies against themselves. Consider how they are behaving toward us. Recently a number of Russian prisoners escaped from Germany to Holland, whereupon the Allied representatives packed them off by force and against their will to Dantzig, to be conveyed thence to Libau, where they have become recruits of the Bolshevist Red Guards. Those men might have been usefully employed in the Allied countries, to whose cause they were devoted, but so exasperated were they at their forcible removal to Libau that many of them declared that they would join the Bolshevist forces.

"Even our official representatives are seemingly included in the category of suspects. Our Minister in Peking was refused the right of sending ciphered telegrams and our chargé d'affaires in a European capital suffered the same deprivation, while the Bolshevist envoy enjoyed this diplomatic privilege. A councilor of embassy in one Allied country was refused a passport visa for another until he declared that if the refusal were upheld he would return a high order which for extraordinary services he had received from the government whose embassy was vetoing his visa. On the national festival of a certain Allied country the chargé d'affaires of Russia was the only member of the diplomatic corps who received no official invitation."

One day in January, when a crowd had gathered on the Quai d'Orsay, watching the delegates from the various countries-British, American, Italian, Japanese, Rumanian, etc.-enter the stately palace to safeguard the interests of their respective countries and legislate for the human race, a Russian officer passed, accompanied by an illiterate soldier who had seen hard service first under the Grand Duke Nicholas, and then in a Russian brigade in France. The soldier gazed wistfully at the palace, then, turning to the officer, asked, "Are they letting any of our people in there?" The officer answered, evasively: "They are thinking it over. Perh

aps they will." Whereupon his attendant blurted out: "Thinking it over! What thinking is wanted? Did we not fight for them till we were mowed down like grass? Did not millions of Russian bodies cover the fields, the roads, and the camps? Did we not face the German great guns with only bayonets and sticks? Have we done too little for them? What more could we have done to be allowed in there with the others? I fought since the war began, and was twice wounded. My five brothers were called up at the same time as myself, and all five have been killed, and now the Russians are not wanted! The door is shut in our faces...."

Sooner or later Russian anarchy, like that of China, will come to an end, and the leaders charged with the reconstitution of the country, if men of knowledge, patriotism, and character, will adopt a program conducive to the well-being of the nation. To what extent, one may ask, is its welfare compatible with the status quo in eastern Europe, which the Allies, distracted by conflicting principles and fitful impulse, left or created and hope to perpetuate by means of a parchment instrument?

The zeal with which the French authorities went to work to prevent the growth of Bolshevism in their country, especially among the Russians there, is beyond dispute. Unhappily it proved inefficacious. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that it defeated its object and produced the contrary effect. For attention was so completely absorbed by the aim that no consideration remained over for the means of attaining it. A few concrete examples will bring this home to the reader. The following narratives emanate from an eminent Russian, who is devoted to the Allies.

There were scores of thousands of Russian troops in France. Most of them fought valiantly, others half-heartedly, and a few refused to fight at all. But instead of making distinctions the French authorities, moved by the instinct of self-preservation, and preferring prevention to cure, tarred them all with the same brush. "Give a dog a bad name and hang him," says the proverb, and it was exemplified in the case of the Russians, who soon came to be regarded as a tertium quid between enemies of public order and suspicious neutrals. They were profoundly mistrusted. Their officers were deprived of their authority over their own men and placed under the command of excellent French officers, who cannot be blamed for not understanding the temper of the Slavs nor for rubbing them against the grain. The privates, seeing their superiors virtually degraded, concluded that they had forfeited their claim to respect, and treated them accordingly. That gave the death-blow to discipline. The officers, most of whom were devoted heart and soul to the cause of the Allies, with which they had fondly identified their own, lost heart. After various attempts to get themselves reinstated, their feelings toward the nation, which was nowise to blame for the excessive zeal of its public servants, underwent a radical change. Blazing indignation consumed whatever affection they had originally nurtured for the French, and in many cases also for the other Allies, and they went home to communicate their animus to their countrymen. The soldiers, who now began to be taunted and vilipended as Boches, threw all discipline to the winds and, feeling every hand raised against them, resolved to raise their hands against every man. These were the beginnings of the process of "bolshevization."

This anti-Russian spirit grew intenser as time lapsed. Thousands of Russian soldiers were sent out to work for private employers, not by the War Ministry, but by the Ministry of Agriculture, under whom they were placed. They were fed and paid a wage which under normal circumstances should have contented them, for it was more than they used to receive in pre-war days in their own country. But the circumstances were not normal. Side by side with them worked Frenchmen, many of whom were unable physically to compete with the sturdy peasants from Perm and Vyatka. And when propagandists pointed out to them that the French worker was paid 100 per cent. more, they brooded over the inequality and labeled it as they were told. For overwork, too, the rate of pay was still more unequal. One result of this differential treatment was the estrangement of the two races as represented by the two classes of workmen, and the growth of mutual dislike. But there was another. When they learned, as they did in time, that the employer was selling the produce of their labor at a profit of 400 and 500 per cent., they had no hesitation about repeating the formulas suggested to them by socialist propagandists: "We are working for bloodsuckers. The bourgeois must be exterminated." In this way bitterness against the Allies and hatred of the capitalists were inculcated in tens of thousands of Russians who a few months before were honest, simple-minded peasants and well-disciplined soldiers. Many of these men, when they returned to their country, joined the Red Guards of Bolshevism with spontaneous ardor. They needed no pressing.

There was one young officer of the Guards, in particular, named G--, who belonged to a very good family and was an exceptionally cultured gentleman. Music was his recreation, and he was a virtuoso on the violin. In the war he had distinguished himself first on the Russian front and then on the French. He had given of his best, for he was grievously wounded, had his left hand paralyzed, and lost his power of playing the violin forever. He received a high decoration from the French government. For the English nation he professed and displayed great affection, and in particular he revered King George, perhaps because of his physical resemblance to the Tsar. And when King George was to visit Paris he rejoiced exceedingly at the prospect of seeing him. Orders were issued for the troops to come out and line the principal routes along which the monarch would pass. The French naturally had the best places, but the Place de l'étoile was reserved for the Allied forces. G--, delighted, went to his superior officer and inquired where the Russians were to stand. The general did not know, but promised to ascertain. Accordingly he put the question to the French commander, who replied: "Russian troops? There is no place for any Russian troops." With tears in his eyes G-- recounted this episode, adding: "We, who fought and bled, and lost our lives or were crippled, had to swallow this humiliation, while Poles and Czechoslovaks, who had only just arrived from America in their brand-new uniforms, and had never been under fire, had places allotted to them in the pageant. Is that fair to the troops without whose exploits there would have been no Polish or Czechoslovak officers, no French victory, no triumphal entry of King George V into Paris?"


[287] It is right to say that during the summer months a considerable section of the anti-Bolshevists modified their view of Britain's policy, and expressed gratitude for the aid bestowed on Kolchak, Denikin, and Yudenitch, without which their armies would have collapsed.

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