From nobody Wed Mar 29 14:10:53 2006
NNTP-Posting-Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2006 07:33:26 -0600
From: “cromwell” <>
Newsgroups: alt.politics.communism
Subject: The Allied Intervention in Russia.
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2006 14:35:59 +0100
Message-ID: <>

The Allied Intervention in Russia

By Geoff Steuart, 29 March 2006

When I was reviewing Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, I came across this piece of commentary on the allied intervention,

Neither in the closing year of World War I nor following the Armistance, were attempts made to rid Russia of the Bolsheviks. Until November 1918 the great powers were too busy fighting each other to worry about developments in remote Russia. Here and there, voices were raised that Bolshevism represented a mortal threat to Western civilization: there were especially loud in the German army, which had the most direct experience with Bolshevik propaganda and agitation. But even the Germans in the end subordinated concern with the possible long-term threat to considerations of immediate interest. Lenin was absolutely convinced that after making peace the belligerents would join forces and launch an international crusade against his regime. His fear proved groundless. Only the British intervened actively on the side of the anti-Bolshevik forces, and they did so in a half-hearted manner, largely at the initiative of one man, Winston Churchill.

Pipes, 607

In almost all it's detail, this statement is either superficial or just false to the core. Because it deserved a response in itself, I decided not to deal with it, within the confines of my orginal review and instead, decided to devote a seperate piece to it.

The Great Powers—Germany, Britain, France, America and Japan - were engaged, at one level or another, in the titanic slaughter that was WWI, but to conclude from this, that they were unconcerned with changes in ‘remote’ Russia, is a cynical fraud. For starters, in what sense was Russia ‘remote’? After all, it's armies had been fighting and dying on the Eastern front from the beginning of the war. And just how remote was Russia, from Japanese expansionism in Manchuria and the Far east, which was sounding alarm bells in Washington. It should be noted that British and French imperialism, which had been lobbying for Japanese intervention, began planning, merely weeks from the Bolshevik seizure of power—the British/French convention, which carved up South Russia, was signed and sealed by December 1917! In 1916, Lloyd George created the five/six member War Cabinet, which in contrast to the wider Cabinet which met once a week, dealt with international affairs, at least once a day. Discussion of the Russian situation was a frequent agenda item at this forum. The notion, that Britain was unconcerned with Russian affairs, is ridiculous.

And there was no lack of concern for the Bolsheviks, by the Wilson administration; on the day the Bolsheviks took power, Secretary of State Lansing was considering a dispatch from US Consul General in Russia, Maddlin Summers, in which Summers was casting about for alternatives to the Bolsheviks (Williams 33)

The New York Times reported a US Cabinet meeting on 9th November, “that US and it's allies would recognize and extend aid to anti-Bolsheviks” It then predicted, accurately as it turned out, that Vladivostock would be the main base for operations.” (Williams 33). Days later, Lansing appealed to the Russian people to “removed the difficulties that beset your path” (Williams 33/34). These anti-Bolshevik sentiments were so loud and fierce, that London was forced to request that the Americans tone it down and suppress such criticism in order to quell any “anti-allied feeling.”. (Williams 34) It is interesting therefore, that the US, who applied the breaks to intervention, decided “within five weeks of the day” that the Bolsheviks took power, that intervention was the appropriate policy (Williams 34). In short, the US was not out of step in its desire to rid Russia of the Bolsheviks, merely on who was to carry the task out.

But let us return across the Atlantic, to the British War Cabinet, where, on the 3rd December, 1917, a decision was taken to discuss it's war aims with a ‘decent’ Russian government (obviously not the Bolsheviks, whom they refused to recognize) and send a joint Anglo-French mission to Kalidin, with a guarantee of up to 10 million in credits (Kettle, Vol 1, 141). The Cabinet also instructed Lord Robert Cecil, to wire the British Mission at Jassy, Roumania, that British policy was to support “any responsible body” that would “actively” oppose the Bolshevik movement. (Kettle, Vol 1, 142)

The War Cabinet met again on the 7th December and discussed the Siberian situation, where it was decided that the Japanese should intervene in strength(Jackson 30). Only days later, the Japansese sent a warship to Vladivostok, a move which triggered a reciprical military response from the US, who sent their own warship.(Jackson 31). Japan was itching to get into Siberia and this had nothing to do with protecting allied supply dumps, the cover used by Britain, to legitimize it's invasion of Russia.

Siberia was important to Japan for a number of reasons. One of the reasons was that Japan wanted to create an independent Siberian state headed by a puppet regime loyal to the Japanese. (Leifheit)

Such a state would defend Japan's flank from an attack from Eastern Russia. Japan also lacked many natural resources and could obtain them from Siberia and penetrate the region, with it's own goods. The US goal in the region was very similiar.(Leifheit). The US and Japan were as much involved in a turf war, as Britain and France. As mentioned earlier, the Anglo-French convention(December 23rd, 1917), created spheres of influence in the Cossack areas and Caucasus to the British, and Bessarabia, Ukraine and Crimea to the French. This leads Michael Kettle, in his excellent history of the period, to conclude that,

All the evidence suggests that this Anglo-French convention was to be the beginning of the division of the whole Russian Empire into Allied spheres of influence, as had previously happened in China; and subsequent events indeed showed that the victory of ‘our friends'(ie the anti-bolshevik forces)in the Russian Civil war would undoubtedly have resulted in a fragmentation of the Russian state. (Vol 1, 173.)

Pipes claim is fantasy! But he goes further; he claims anti-Bolshevism was absent from Allied plans EVEN AFTER THE Armistice. Again the evidence proves this is pure fallacy. We can thanks Miles Hudson, for his thoroughly interesting study, which contains proclamations issued to British troops arriving in North Russia, from the military authorities.

There seems to be among the troops a very indistinct idea of what we are fighting for here in North Russia….We are up against Bolshevism, which means anarchy pure and simple….The power is in the hands of a few men, mostly Jews, who have succeeded in bringing the country to such a state that order is non-existent, the posts and railways do not run properly…Bolshevism is a disease, which, life consumption, kills it's victory and brings no good to anybody. (Hudson, 49–50)

Only weeks before the Armistice, when the defeat of Germany was certain and the British spy Sidney Reilly had failed to overthrow the Bolsheviks in a coup, ‘Lord Robert Cecil, and certain others in the War Cabinet, were evidently..dissatisfied”(Kettle Vol 2, 341), Cecil then provided what was effectively the smoking gun,

Personally, I doubt the possibility of establishing a democratic republic in Russia at present…To re-establish order in Russia will be a herculean task. No half-baked constitutionalism could possibly succeed in it. The only possible way out seems to be a provisional military government to be followed when order has been re-established by a constitutional assembly. Whether the military dictatorship, once in power, will be content to abdicate seems very doubtful—indeed, one may say it certainly will not, unless under the influence of the Western democracies. We should therefore aim at securing military chiefs whom we can trust, supporting them financially as well as by armed force and making ourselves indispensable to them—Alexeiev and Denikin seem the best combination available for the purpose… (Kettle, Vol 2, 342)

As well as Denikin and Alexeiev, found it's military dictator in the person of Admiral Kolchak, who seized power in a coup, a few days after the Armistice, and promptly butchered the remaining members of the Constituent assembly, an institution suppressed by the Bolsheviks and apparently lorded by the British.

If Pipes is to be believed, leaders in the major capitals of the world, were almost indifferent to Bolshevism, yet such a conclusion is at complete variance, with the historical evidence.

The open anti-Bolshevism of the US administration made the British so nervous, that they warned Wilson that any overt step taken against the Bolsheviks might only strengthen their determination to make peace…”Colonel Edward House, an advisor to President Wilson, agreed with this strategy. He told Wilson and Lansing on November 28th, 1917, that,

It is exceedingly important that such criticism should be suppressed. It will throw Russia into the lap of Germany if the Allies and ourselves express such views at this time (Williams 33).

Bolshevism was also a major theme in the Coupon election of November 1918. In the closing speech of that that campaign, Lloyd George claimed that the “Labour Party is being run by the extreme pacifist Bolshevik group”(Miliband 64). Hudson describes the reaction of the Allies, to the coming to power of the Bolsheviks as “almost total horror”(32). This entirely opposed view to Pipes, is shared by Civil war historical Bruce Lincoln,

There were no shortage of statesman in those days who hoped to bring down what Winston Churchill once called ‘the foul baboonery of Bolshevism.’ (Lincoln, 271)

Pipes contends that only Britain actively supported anti-bolshevism yet Jackson estimates that some 300 000 foreign troops, found themselves on Russian territory, by December 1918. If Pipes is right, one wonders just what these troops were doing. His position is not sustainable for the simple reason, that American forces in North Russia were under British command. By default, if Britain were actively involved in the anti-Bolshevik cause, so were the Americans. Likewise, British and American troops, were under Japanese command in Siberia, who were supporting the most reactionary of anti-Bolsheviks(Semenov—an excellent description of the activities of this brute, can be found in chapter 7 of Lincoln). There is also no doubt, that French forces were collaborating with anti-Bolshevik forces in South Russia.

If the Allies were ‘half-hearted’ in their intervention, the reasons for this had nothing to do with a desire to accommodate bolshevism, Pipes consciously skips over this. We should note, that 10 000 British policeman went on strike during August 1918, drawing this telling admission from Lloyd George, that Britain “was closer to Bolshevism that day than at any other time since.” (Claytoncramer)

This period witnessed a tremendous growth of militancy and dissatisfaction in the army, which sent shudders through the British govt, increasing it's fear of revolution. The triple alliance of Miners, Railway and Transport workers, demanding higher wages and shorter hours, in Feburary 1919, led to a desperate appeal by Lloyd George,

I feel bound to tell you that in our opinion we are at your mercy. The army is disaffected and can not be relied upon…In these circumstances, if you carry out your threat and strike then you will defeat us. (Claytoncramer)

It is obvious that the British state was emmersed in a crisis and that it lacked confidence in its own forces. It is not surprizing therefore, that we learn that in early 1919, the War office sent a secret circular to commanding officers in Britain, asking whether troops would assist in strike breaking or serve in Russia (Miliband 65). Four years of war, had embittered the working classes and soldiers. Cracks began to appear across all the interventionist forces and the British were no exception.

During February 1919, the Yorkshire Regiment, fighting in North Russia, refused to budge, when ordered to do so(Willett 45) and in August of that year, the Marine Battallion, which formed part of the North Russian Relief Force, witnessed the greater part of two companies, refuse to fight and return to camp(Jackson 181). There were also mutinees in the camps at Calais and Folkstone. Three thousand soldiers marched from Victoria station and occupied Horse Guards Parade. Sir Henry Wilson, Imperial Chief of Staff, doubted that troops could be found to disperse them.(Taylor 135). Willett concludes, that during 1919, “A major Allied concern was the mutinies of the French, British and Russians: by Februrary(1919 -GS), there was general discontent among almost all forces”(53).

If allied intervention was inadequate, half-heartedness had nothing to do with it. It was a complete lack of means arising from the internal opposition of the working class and the dissatisfaction of the army.

Pipes tabloid account continues with his mistaken belief that the intervention was largely the iniative of Winston Churchill. I have no desire to defend the record of Churchill, who sent thousands to their deaths, was open in his reactionary, anti-bolshevik aims and deceived the British public, over events in Russia. Yet as we have seen, the plans for intervention were well underway, within weeks of the Bolsheviks taking power and the landing of troops occured during the course of 1918. Churchill did not become a member of the War Cabinet until Dec 1918. This explains why Churchill stated in 1919, “So far I am not responsible for sending a single man to Russia.” (Gilbert 411)

Gilbert helps to illuminate Churchill's statement,

…by the end of December(1918—GS)there were more than 180 000 non-Russian troops within the frontiers of the former Tsarist Empire…..British troops had become involved in the civil war not only as advisers but as participants. Churchill had not been responsible in any way for these decisions.(405)

If any single individual was responsible for the Russian intervention, that person was Lord Robert Cecil, an arch anti-Bolshevik, who was Minister of Blockade and Deputy Foreign Secretary, in the Lloyd George administration. Cecil consistently argued for the British to rally and support those forces resisting the Bolsheviks. At the War Cabinet during Jan 1918, Cecil admitted that the introduction of Japanese into Siberia, for which the British had been lobbying, “would probably involve war with the Bolshevik Government and the we must be prepared to face.”(Kettle Vol 1 218)

It was Cecil who first raised the French proposal for ‘Sphere's of Interest’ in South Russia, after conversations with the French Ambassador and said at the War Cabinet, “We could hope for nothing from Trotsky, who was a Jew of the international type, and was soley out to smash Russia and to revenge himself, not only on the governing classes, but upon the peasants of Russia.”(Kettle Vol 1 165).

Cecil was sent by the War cabinet, along with Lord Milner to Paris, to negotiate the Anglo-French convention and presented it to the War Cabinet when completed. He also became Chairman of the Russian Committee, which had responsibility for all executive actions in the British zone, in Southern Russia.

Cecil agitated for non-recognition of the Bolsheviks and insisted that British troops accompany Japanese troops to Vladivostok since, “The British Government desired to obtain the control of the Siberian railway.”(Kettle Vol 1 215). It is for these reasons, that Kettle concludes that it was Lord Robert Cecil who was the really hawk on Russian policy.

An examination of all the factors involved in the allied intervention; the support for anti-bolshevik forces, committed to overthrowing the Bolsheviks; the use of personel on the ground—Reilly, Poole, Knox—who sort to overthrow the Bolsheviks; the publication and distribution of propoganda to troops, geared to the destruction of bolshevism, render the conclusion that no attempts were ‘made to rid Russia of the Bolsheviks', utterly incomprehensible.

Pipes serves an ideological purpose not historical; the whitewashing of Allied activities against the Russian revolution of October 1917. His bigger goal, is the santization of US and British imperialism and their shocking track record. Readers should beware!


Daniel A. Leifheit, Prelude to Intervention: The Decision of the United States and Japan to Intervene In Siberia, 1917-1918

Clayton Cramer,

A.J.P Taylor, English History 1914-1945, Oxford University Press, 1977.

Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War, Sphere Books, 1991.

Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life, Heinemann: London, 1991.

William Appleman Williams, American Intervention in Russia: 1917- 1920 in Containment and Revolution ed by David Horowitz, Anthony Blond Ltd, 1967.

Miles Hudson, Intervention in Russia 1918-1920: A Cautionary Tale, Leo Cooper, 2004.

Ralph Miliband, Parliamentary Socialism, Merlin Press, 1972.

Robert L Willett, Russian Sideshow: American's Undeclared War, Brassey's Inc, 2003.

Robert Jackson, At War With The Bolsheviks, Tandem, 1974.

Michael Kettle, The Allies and the Russian Collpase, Vol 1., Andre Deutsch Ltd, 1981.

Michael Kettle, The Road To Intervention, Vol 2., Routledge, 1988.