Bad news from Vienna and environs: serious strike movement, due to the reduction of the flour rations and the tardy progress of the Brest negotiations. The weakness of the Vienna Ministry seems to be past all understanding. I have telegraphed to Vienna that I hope in time to secure some supplies from the Ukraine, if only we can manage to keep matters quiet at home for the next few weeks, and I have begged the gentlemen in question to do their utmost not to wreck the peace here. On the same day, in the evening, I telegraphed to Dr. von Seidler, the Prime Minister: See more
"I very greatly regret my inability to counteract the effect of all the errors made by those entrusted with the food resources. Germany declares categorically that it is unable to help us, having insufficient for itself. Had your Excellency or your department called attention to the state of things in time, it might still have been possible to procure supplies from Roumania. As things are now, I can see no other way than that of brute force, by requisitioning Hungarian grain for the time being, and forwarding it to Austria, until the Roumanian, and it is to be hoped also Ukrainian, supplies can come to hand."
Despairing appeals from Vienna for food supplies. Would I apply at once to Berlin for aid, otherwise disaster imminent. I replied to General Landwehr as follows:
“Dr. Kühlmann is telegraphing to Berlin, but has little hope of success. The only hope now is for His Majesty to do as I have advised, and send an urgent wire at once to Kaiser Wilhelm. On my return I propose to put before His Majesty my point of view, that it is impossible to carry on the foreign policy if the food question at home is allowed to come to such a state as now. Only a few weeks back your Excellency declared most positively that we could hold out till the new harvest.” See more
At the same time I wired the Emperor:
“Telegrams arriving show the situation becoming critical for us. Regarding question of food, we can only avoid collapse on two conditions: first, that Germany helps us temporarily, second, that we use this respite to set in order our machinery of food supply, which is at present beneath contempt, and to gain possession of the stocks still existing in Hungary.
I have just explained the entire situation to Dr. Kühlmann, and he is telegraphing to Berlin. He, however, is not at all sanguine, as Germany is itself in straitened circumstances. I think the only way to secure any success from this step would be for Your Majesty to send at once, through military means, a Hughes telegram to Kaiser Wilhelm direct, urgently entreating him to intervene himself, and by securing us a supply of grain prevent the outbreak of revolution, which would otherwise be inevitable. I must, however, emphatically point out that the commencement of unrest among our people at home will have rendered conclusion of peace here absolutely impossible. As soon as the Russian representatives perceive that we ourselves are on the point of revolution, they will not make peace at all, since their entire speculation is based on this factor.”
I had a letter today from one of our mayors at home, calling my attention to the fact that disaster due to lack of foodstuffs is now imminent. I immediately telegraphed the Emperor as follows: See more
“I have just received a letter from Statthalter N.N. which justifies all the fears I have constantly repeated to Your Majesty, and shows that in the question of food supply we are on the very verge of a catastrophe. The situation arising out of the carelessness and incapacity of the Ministers is terrible, and I fear it is already too late to check the total collapse which is to be expected in the next few weeks. My informant writes: "Only small quantities are now being received from Hungary, from Roumania only 10,000 wagons of maize; this gives then a decrease of at least 30,000 wagons of grain, without which we must infallibly perish. On learning the state of affairs, I went to the Prime Minister to speak with him about it. I told him, as is the case, that in a few weeks our war industries, our railway traffic, would be at a standstill, the provisioning of the army would be impossible, it must break down, and that would mean the collapse of Austria and therewith also of Hungary. To each of these points he answered yes, that is so, and added that all was being done to alter the state of affairs, especially as regards the Hungarian deliveries. But no one, not even His Majesty, has been able to get anything done. We can only hope that some deus ex machina may intervene to save us from the worst.”
I then pointed out that the only way of meeting the situation would be to secure temporary assistance from Germany, and then to requisition by force the stocks that were doubtless still available in Hungary; finally, I begged the Emperor to inform the Austrian Prime Minister of my telegram.
Adler told me at Vienna that Trotski had his library, by which he set great store, somewhere in Vienna, with a Herr Bauer, I fancy. I told Trotski that I would arrange to have the books forwarded to him, if he cared about it. I then recommended to his consideration certain prisoners of war, as L. K. and W., all of whom are said to have been very badly treated. Trotski noted the point, declared that he was strongly opposed to ill-treatment of prisoners of war, and promised to look into the matter; he wished to point out, however, that in so doing he was not in the least influenced by the thought of his library; he would in any case have considered my request. He would be glad to have the books.
The sitting has just taken place. Trotsky made a great and, in its way, really fine speech, calculated for the whole of Europe, in which he gave way entirely. He accepts, he says, the German-Austria 'ultimatum,' and will remain in Brest-Litovsk, as he will not give us the satisfaction of being able to blame Russia for the continuance of the war. See more
In the evening I had another long talk with Kühlmann and Hoffmann, in the course of which the General and the Secretary of State came to high words between themselves. Hoffmann, elated at the success of our ultimatum to Russia, wished to go on in the same fashion and 'give the Russians another touch of the whip.' Kühlmann and I took the opposite view, and insisted that proceedings should be commenced quietly, confining ourselves to the matters in hand, clearing up point by point as we went on, and putting all doubtful questions aside. Once we had got so far, in clearing up things generally, we could then take that which remained together, and possibly get telegraphic instructions from the two Emperors for dealing therewith. This is undoubtedly the surest way to avoid disaster and a fresh breach.
A new conflict has cropped up with the Ukrainians. They now demand recognition of their independence, and declare they will leave if this is not conceded.
Acting on the principle that attack is the best defense, we had determined not to let the Russian Foreign Minister speak at all, but to go at him at once with our ultimatum. Trotsky had prepared a long speech, and the effect of our attack was such that he at once appealed for adjournment, urging that the altered state of affairs called for new resolutions. See more
The removal of the conference to Stockholm would have meant the end of matters for us, for it would have been utterly impossible to keep the Bolsheviks of all countries from putting in an appearance therе, and the very thing we had endeavoured with the utmost of our power to avoid from the start—to have the reins torn from our hands and these elements take the lead—would infallibly have taken place. We must now wait to see what tomorrow brings: either a victory or the final termination of the negotiations.
Trotsky is undoubtedly an interesting, clever fellow, and a very dangerous adversary. He is quite exceptionally gifted as a speaker, with a swiftness and adroitness in retort which I have rarely seen, and has, moreover, all the insolent boldness of his race.
This forenoon, all the Russians arrived, under the leadership of Trotski. They at once sent a message asking to be excused for not appearing at meals with the rest for the future. At other times also we see nothing of them. The wind seems to be in a very different quarter now from what it was See more
. The German officer who accompanied the Russian delegation from Dunaburg, Captain Baron Lamezan, gave us some interesting details as to this. In the first place, he declared that the trenches in front of Dunaburg are entirely deserted, and save for an outpost or so there were no Russians there at all; also, that at many stations delegates were waiting for the deputation to pass, in order to demand that peace should be made. Trotski had throughout answered them with [Pg 233]polite and careful speeches, but grew ever more and more depressed. Baron Lamezan had the impression that the Russians were altogether desperate now, having no choice save between going back with a bad peace or with no peace at all; in either case with the same result: that they would be swept away. Kühlmann said: 'Ils n'ont que le choix à quelle sauce ils se feront manger.' I answered: 'Tout comme chez nous.'
"A wire has just come in reporting demonstrations in Budapest against Germany. The windows of the German Consulate were broken, a clear indication of the state of feeling which would arise if the peace were to be lost through our demands.
Today we had the first discussions with the Ukrainian delegates, all of whom were present except the leader. The Ukrainians are very different from the Russian delegates. See more
Far less revolutionary, and with far more interest in their own country, less in the progress of Socialism generally. They do not really care about Russia at all, but think only of the Ukraine, and their efforts are solely directed towards attaining their own independence as soon as possible. Whether that independence is to be complete and international, or only as within the bounds of a Russian federative state, they do not seem quite to know themselves.
Evidently, the very intelligent Ukrainian delegates intended to use us as a springboard from which they themselves could spring upon the Bolsheviks. Their idea was that we should acknowledge their independence, and then, with this as a fait accompli, they could face the Bolsheviks and force them to recognise their equal standing and treat with them on that basis. Our line of policy, however, must be either to bring over the Ukrainians to our peace basis, or else to drive a wedge between them and the Petersburgers. As to their desire for independence, we declared ourselves willing to recognise this, provided the Ukrainians on their part would agree to the following three points: 1. The negotiations to be concluded at Brest-Litovsk and not at Stockholm. 2. Recognition of the former political frontier between Austria-Hungary and Ukraine. 3. Non-interference of any one state in the internal affairs of another. Characteristically enough, no answer has yet been received to this proposal!
At seven this morning a few of us went out shooting with Prince Leopold of Bavaria. We went for a distance of 20 to 30 kilometres by train, and then in open automobiles to a magnificent primeval forest extending over two to three hundred square kilometres. Weather very cold, but fine, much snow, and pleasant company. See more
From the point of view of sport, it was poorer than one could have expected. One of the Prince's aides stuck a pig, another shot two hares, and that was all. Back at 6 P.M.
On the way, at 6 P.M., I received, at a station, the following telegram, in code, from Baron Gautsch, who had remained at Brest:
"Russian delegation received following telegram from Petersburg this morning: To General Hoffmann. The Government of the Russian Republic considers it necessary to carry on the further negotiations on neutral ground and proposes removing to Stockholm." See more
We talked over the reply to the Petersburg telegram, declining a conference in Stockholm, and further tactics to be followed in case of need. We agreed that if the Russians did not come, we must declare the armistice at an end, and chance what the Petersburgers would say to that.
On this point Kühlmann and I were entirely agreed. Nevertheless, the feeling, both in our party and in that of the Germans, was not a little depressed. Certainly, if the Russians do break off negotiations, it will place us in a very unpleasant position. The only way to save the situation is by acting quickly and energetically with the Ukrainian delegation, and we, therefore, commenced this work on the afternoon of the same day. There is thus at least a hope that we may be able to arrive at positive results with them within reasonable time.
From the 29th to the morning of the 3rd I was in Vienna. Two long audiences with the Emperor gave me the opportunity of telling him what had passed at Brest. He fully approves, of course, the point of view that peace must be made, if at all possible. See more
I have dispatched a trustworthy agent to the outer provinces in order to ascertain the exact state of feeling there. He reports that all are against the Bolsheviks except the Bolsheviks themselves. Th entire body of citizens, peasants—in a word, everyone with any possessions at all—trembles at the thought of these red robbers, and wishes to go over to Germany. The terrorism of Lenin is said to be indescribable, and in Petersburg all are absolutely longing for the entry of the German troops to deliver them.
Joffe told me about the Tsar and his family, and the state of things said to exist there. He spoke with great respect of Nicolai Nicolaievitch as a thorough man, full of energy and courage, one to be respected even as an enemy. The Tsar, on the other hand, he considered cowardly, false, and despicable. See more
It was a proof of the incapacity of the bourgeois that they had tolerated such a Tsar. Monarchs were all of them more or less degenerate; he could not understand how anyone could accept a form of government which involved the risk of having a degenerate ruler. I answered him as to this, that a monarchy had first of all one advantage, that there was at least one place in the state beyond the sphere of personal ambition and intrigues, and as to degeneration, that was often a matter of opinion: there were also degenerates to be found among the uncrowned rulers of states.
This evening, before supper, Hoffmann informed the Russians of the German plans with regard to the outer provinces. The position is this: As long as the war in the West continues, the Germans cannot evacuate Courland and Lithuania, since, apart from the fact that they must be held as security for the general peace negotiations, these countries form part of the German munition establishment. See more
The railway material, the factories, and, most of all, the grain are indispensable as long as the war lasts. That they cannot now withdraw from there at once is clear enough.
If peace is signed, then the self-determination of the people in the occupied territory will decide. But here arises the great difficulty: how this right of self-determination is to be exercised. The Russians naturally do not want the vote to be taken while the German bayonets are still in the country, and the Germans reply that the unexampled terrorism of the Bolsheviks would falsify any election result, since the 'bourgeois,' according to Bolshevist ideas, are not human beings at all.
My idea of having the proceedings controlled by a neutral Power was not altogether acceptable to anyone. During the war, no neutral Power would undertake the task, and the German occupation could not be allowed to last until the ultimate end. In point of fact, both sides are afraid of terrorisation by the opposing party, and each wishes to apply the same itself.
I am reading some memoirs from the French Revolution. A most appropriate reading at the present time, in view of what is happening in Russia and may perhaps come throughout Europe. See more
There were no Bolsheviks then, but men who tyrannised the world under the battle-cry of freedom were to be found in Paris then as well as now in St. Petersburg. Charlotte Corday said: 'It was not a man, but a wild beast I killed.' These Bolsheviks in their turn will disappear, and who can say if there will be a Corday ready for Trotsky?
Arrived at Brest a few minutes past five. At the station were the Chief of Staff, General Hoffmann, with some ten of his suite, also the emissary Rosenberg and Merey with my party. I greeted them on the platform, and after a few words Merey went into the train with me to tell me what had happened during the past few days. On the whole, Merey takes a not unfavourable view of the situation, and believes that, unless something unforeseen crops up, we should succeed within a reasonable time in arranging matters satisfactorily. See more
At six o'clock I went to pay my visit to General Hoffmann; he gave me some interesting details as to the mentality of the Russian delegates, and the nature of the armistice he had so fortunately concluded. I had the impression that the General combined expert knowledge and energy with a good deal of calm and ability, but also not a little Prussian brutality, whereby he had succeeded in persuading the Russians, despite opposition at first, to agree to very favourable terms of truce. A little later, as arranged, Prince Leopold of Bavaria came in, and I had some talk with him on matters of no importance.
We then went to dinner, all together, including the whole staff of nearly 100 persons. The dinner presented one of the most remarkable pictures ever seen. The Prince of Bavaria presided. Next to the Prince sat the leader of the Russian delegation, a Jew called Joffe, recently liberated from Siberia; then came the generals and the other delegates. Apart from this Joffe, the most striking personality in the delegation is the brother-in-law of the Russian Foreign Minister, Trotski, a man named Kameneff, who, likewise liberated from prison during the Revolution, now plays a prominent part. The third delegate is Madame Bizenko, a woman with a comprehensive past. Her husband is a minor official; she herself took an early part in the revolutionary movement. Twelve years ago she murdered General Sacharow, the governor of some Russian city, who had been condemned to death by the Socialists for his energy. She appeared before the general with a petition, holding a revolver under her petticoat. When the general began to read she fired four bullets into his body, killing him on the spot. She was sent to Siberia, where she lived for twelve years, at first in solitary confinement, afterwards under somewhat easier conditions; she also owes her freedom to the Revolution. This remarkable woman learned French and German in Siberia well enough to read them, though she cannot speak them, not knowing how the words should be pronounced. She is the type of the educated Russian proletariat. Extremely quiet and reserved, with a curious determined set of the mouth, and eyes that flare up passionately at times. All that is taking place around her here she seems to regard with indifference. Only when mention is made of the great principles of the International Revolution does she suddenly awake, her whole expression alters; she reminds one of a beast of prey seeing its victim at hand and preparing to fall upon it and rend it.
After dinner I had my first long conversation with Hr. Joffe. His whole theory is based on the idea of establishing the right of self-determination of peoples on the broadest basis throughout the world, and trusting to the peoples thus freed to continue in mutual love. Joffe does not deny that the process would involve civil war throughout the world to begin with, but he believes that such a war, as realising the ideals of humanity, would be justified, and its end worth all it would cost. I contented myself with telling him that he must let Russia give proof that Bolshevism was the way to a happier age; when he had shown this to be so, the rest of the world would be won over to his ideals. But until his theory had been proved by example he would hardly succeed in convincing people generally to adopt his views. We were ready to conclude a general peace without indemnities or annexations, and were thoroughly agreed to leave the development of affairs in Russia thereafter to the judgment of the Russian Government itself. We should also be willing to learn something from Russia, and if his revolution succeeded he would force Europe to follow him, whether we would or not. But meanwhile there was a great deal of scepticism about, and I pointed out to him that we should not ourselves undertake any imitation of the Russian methods, and did not wish for any interference with our own internal affairs: this we must strictly forbid. If he persisted in endeavouring to carry out this Utopian plan of grafting his ideas on ourselves, he had better go back home by the next train, for there could be no question of making peace. Hr. Joffe looked at me in astonishment with his soft eyes, was silent for a while, and then, in a kindly, almost imploring tone that I shall never forget, he said: Still, I hope we may yet be able to raise the revolution in your country too.
We shall hardly need any assistance from the good Joffe, I fancy, in bringing about a revolution among ourselves; the people will manage that, if the Entente persist in refusing to come to terms.
They are strange creatures, these Bolsheviks. They talk of freedom and the reconciliation of the peoples of the world, of peace and unity, and withal they are said to be the most cruel tyrants history has ever known. They are simply exterminating the bourgeoisie, and their arguments are machine guns and the gallows. My talk to-day with Joffe has shown me that these people are not honest, and in falsity surpass all that cunning diplomacy has been accused of, for to oppress decent citizens in this fashion and then talk at the same time of the universal blessing of freedom—it is sheer lying.