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Vol. 74/No. 27      July 19, 2010

1920: Toilers of East call
for unity against exploiters
(Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from To See the Dawn, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for July. It contains the proceedings of the First Congress of the Peoples of the East, convened by the Communist International Sept. 1-7, 1920, in Baku, Azerbaijan. The meeting, with some 2,000 delegates from more than two dozen peoples of Asia, registered a new stage in the emancipation struggle of colonial and oppressed peoples and in the world struggle for socialism. This stage had been opened by the October 1917 revolution in Russia that established a revolutionary workers and peasants republic. The victory inspired toilers worldwide in the fight against imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation. Among the documents issued by the congress was “Appeal to the Workers of Europe, America, and Japan,” excerpts of which are printed below. Copyright © 1993 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted with permission.

Workers of Britain, America, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, and other countries! Hear the representatives of millions of toilers of the East. Listen to the voice of sorrow, speaking to you from the enslaved countries of Asia and Africa, from Turkey, Persia, China, Egypt, Afghanistan, Bukhara, and Khiva.

For many years, for many decades we have been silent. You did not hear our voice. No one told you of us, of how we live, how we suffer under the rule of those who are your masters too.

Your masters, the European and American factory owners, merchants, generals, and officials, broke into the peace of our villages and towns, plundered us for centuries, took from us what our work in the past had created, and sent all this off to Europe to embellish their lives, their homes, with the labor of our hands and of our ancient culture. They turned us into slaves.

Where previously we had to pay tribute to our own rich men, to the landlords, slave owners, sultans, emirs, khans, and maharajas, now the whip of the European slave owners was also laid across our backs. We were forced to labor on the plantations of the European capitalists. Sweat poured from our brow so that they might obtain rice, tea, sugar, tobacco, and rubber at a cheap rate. Our children were born and died in bondage. If it suited the interests of your bosses and ours, they parted child from mother, wife from husband, and drove them from one country to another.

To you they said that they were bringing European knowledge and science to our countries. But what they brought in fact was opium and vodka, so that when sorrow welled up in the heart of the Asian and African slaves, they would more easily forget their intolerable life and would not dare to lift their chained hands against their enslaver.

Your bosses, the European capitalists, supported our own enslavers, making them their guard dogs to watch over us. But when the whip of the local ruler was not enough, they sent in white soldiers, they sent in cannon. They destroyed the independence of our countries, subjecting us to their laws and their governors and making slaves of us in the full sense of the word. The aim of their colonial rule, they told us, was to train us for future independence. But they fought with every means against the spread of knowledge among us toilers of the East. Prisons and barracks for us they had in number, but they did not build schools where the children of Asia might learn what the white men had discovered that was great and good. They looked on us as an inferior race; they forbade us to sit in the same railway carriage that white men traveled in; they forbade us to live in the same neighborhood as white people or to eat at the same table with them… .

Only a common victory of the workers of Europe and America and the toiling masses of Asia and Africa will bring liberation to all who have until now toiled for the happiness of the wealthy few. If you were to free yourselves alone, leaving us in slavery and bondage, you yourselves would fall the next day into the same bondage. For in order to keep us in chains and in prison, you would have to form packs of prison bloodhounds to guard us in the East and in the South. You would have to raise armies to keep us under an iron heel. You would have to give power over us to your generals and governors. And once they had tasted the sweetness of the idle life lived at the expense of our labor and learned how to hold generations of colored toilers in bondage, they would soon turn their bayonets against you—and the wealth accumulated in Asia and Africa would be used to thrust you back into your previous slavery.

If you were to forget us now, you would pay dearly for that mistake; you would have cause to remember our chains when you felt chains on your own hands. You cannot free yourselves unless you help us in our struggle for liberation. The wealth of our countries is, in the hands of the capitalists, a means of enslaving you. So long as the British capitalist can freely exploit Indian, Egyptian, and Turkish peasants, so long as he can rob them, so long as he can force them to serve in the British army, he will always have wealth enough and executioners enough to subdue the British workers. Without our revolt there can be no victory for the British workers over the British capitalists, for the world proletariat over world capital.

And just as you cannot wrest power from the hands of the capitalists without unity with us, so you are not in a position to maintain power without this unity. The capitalist countries of Europe do not produce enough grain and raw materials to provide food, clothing, and footwear for their workers. Our countries, the countries of the East and of Africa, are rich in grain and raw materials. Without these supplies, the workers of Europe would die of starvation after their victory. They will be able to obtain these supplies by uniting with the toilers of Africa and Asia, by helping the toiling masses of Africa and Asia and thus inspiring them with confidence and love.

Such unity between ourselves and you will bring invincible strength. We will be able to feed and clothe each other; we will be able to help each other with armies of warriors fired with the single idea of common liberation.  
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