From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 28, 19 April 1922, pp. 209–210.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2018). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
From the very beginning, i.e., from the very moment when it was proposed, the Genoa Conference resounded in an unmistakable way in French political circles. Right then and there it led to the overthrow of Briand’s Cabinet and brought Poincaré, “Poincaré of the war”, the friend and the tool of Isvolsky, as the last hope of the Bloc National in the government.
In the field of Parliamentary politics, Mr. Briand is a virtuoso. Up to the very finest detail he commands the art of working over the stuff out of which deputies and senators are made, and his last excellent operation of taking over the government consisted in the division of the heterogenous mass of Bloc National into two parts.
As stupid and idiotic as this Bloc may be, it does not, however, consist exclusively of journalists and lawyers whose sole activity consists in waving the red flag of Bolshevism before the frightened bourgeoisie. It rather consists of men, industrials and businessmen who on account of their calling have a sharp eye for economic realities. These people also clearly recognized the danger of pursuing the absurd and criminal policy which the French government has been pursuing against Soviet Russia. They also pass resolution after resolution in their various Chambers of Commerce, demanding the resumption of trade relations with Soviet Russia. It was they who always supported Briand and who permitted him to draw the Bloc National further and further away from its original position, at the same time supporting the policy of Lloyd George through all sorts of sleight-of-hand tricks.
Nevertheless, the nationalistic temptation was still too great for the Genoa Conference and its program. Then there was another reason. The whole financial policy of France is based on the principle that Germany is to pay all war indemnities. The motto, “Germany should and must pay!” is not a mere election campaign slogan for the French government. Should Germany not pay, not make the tremendous payments fixed by the Reparations Commission, then the bankruptcy and the breakdown of France’s extensive imperialistic policy is assured – a policy adopted by France surrounded by its vassals, the small “liberated” nations of Central Europe.
Poincaré has come into power as the proponent of this policy. He also has displayed all his arts in the hope of preventing the Genoa Conference. It was no longer possible to come out openly against the Conference. But what did lie within the limits of possibility was the limitation of its program, its postponement and finally the systematic reduction of its significance. The first thing to be achieved was that Russia be admitted to the Conference only under the most rigid conditions, and only as a penitent, who confesses all his sins and recognizes the Czarist debts. Similarly the Treaty of Versailles had to be declared a “touch me not” and ruled out of the order of the day of the Genoa Conference.
Poincaré is in search of allies. France could no longer stay away from the Genoa Conference, but it retained the weapon of “choking” the terrible Conference. It therefore mobilized its Small Entente, sought support in England, firstly from the Northcliffe press which was raging against Lloyd George after it had itself recognized him as the savior of the country during the imperialistic world war and sung paeans of praise to him, secondly from Churchill’s clique which proposes that Soviet Russia be dealt with through Generals Ludendorff and Hoffmann, and thirdly from the ultra-reactionaries of the Morning Post, who want to cure England of its economic crisis by means of guns and tanks.
However, Poincaré’s success was only partial. The Washington Conference, in spite of having in its time been considered as a great French victory, is a definite defeat for French diplomacy. France went to Washington full of illusions and displayed a complete disregard for the international situation as well as for the conditions and aims of President Harding’s disarmament conference. There it developed its vicious program unhampered, in which it declared that it cannot reduce its army of 800,000, it also claimed the need of a large fleet, but mainly of a large number of submarines. The French proposals roused true contempt and lively conflicts Everywhere French imperialism was loudly and distinctly talked about, and in the eyes of those capitalists who came to realize that the bourgeoisie could divert the sad consequences of the imperialistic world war, and the revolutionary danger only if it could succeed in reconstructing the ruined economic household of the world, France appeared the only and greatest danger.
Under these circumstances Poincaré could not get very far with his machinations. He was compelled to submit to a comparatively short postponement of the Conference instead of the original demand for a three months postponement, and to attempt to limit the list of subjects to be discussed by coming to an understanding with Lloyd George. Thus France came to Genoa pursued by the ghost of reparations and Germany’s paying capacity, which completely dominates it. So great is France’s fear that Jean Herbette, an official journalist, wrote in the Temps of the 30th of March:
Should the reparations question come up in Genoa, or should new agreements be worked out, while the Reparations Commissions is still held back by an answer which is based upon disappointment, the French delegation will be compelled to come to Genoa with return tickets And it might perhaps even be better if it were to save travelling expenses altogether.
Were it only a question of ratifying the Peace Treaty of Versailles, such a gigantic conference as that called in Genoa, at which Soviet Russia and Germany will be represented for the first time and treated on the basis of absolute equality, would be totally superfluous. Already today the entire world with the exception of the French nationalists, knows very well that the world economic household can only be reconstructed if the Peace Treaty of Versailles and all the treaties that followed it are fundamentally changed and modified. For all these treaties are the miserable consequences of endless haggling and of compromises bitterly arrived at. They have split Europe in an insane manner, and with an absolute disregard for all economic demands. Out of Central Europe they have made a crippled and useless thing.
But France refuses to recognize this problem. “Germany should and must pay!” Only this and nothing else is it to give. France will therefore attempt to retain this uncompromising position. But how far will this policy lead it? This is the question which the Genoa Conference must answer. Yet France already show unrest and confusion.
Shortly after having appointed his delegation, Poincaré who is confused by his own statements, suddenly became hesitant about going to Genoa. He searched for prominent personages capable of representing him. But the French politicians are very sly. One after other refuses with a graceful wave of the hand and until now Poincaré has only been able to find miserable substitutes. And this is a mighty poor way of going to a conference.
Last updated on 5 May 2019