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´╗┐Title: The Crisis in Russia
Author: Ransome, Arthur, 1884-1967
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Crisis in Russia" ***

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By Arthur Ransome

               TO WILLIAM PETERS
               OF ABERDEEN


THE characteristic of a revolutionary country is that change is a
quicker process there than elsewhere. As the revolution recedes into
the past the process of change slackens speed. Russia is no longer the
dizzying kaleidoscope that it was in 1917. No longer does it change
visibly from week to week as it changed in 19l8. Already, to get a clear
vision of the direction in which it is changing, it is necessary to
visit it at intervals of six months, and quite useless to tap the
political barometer several times a day as once upon a time one used to
do.... But it is still changing very fast. My journal of "Russia in
1919," while giving as I believe a fairly accurate picture of the state
of affairs in February and March of 1919, pictures a very different
stage in the development of the revolution from that which would be
found by observers today.

The prolonged state of crisis in which the country has been kept by
external war, while strengthening the ruling party by rallying even
their enemies to their support, has had the other effects that a
national crisis always has on the internal politics of a country.
Methods of government which in normal times would no doubt be softened
or disguised by ceremonial usage are used nakedly and justified
by necessity. We have seen the same thing in belligerent and
non-revolutionary countries, and, for the impartial student, it has been
interesting to observe that, when this test of crisis is applied, the
actual governmental machine in every country looks very much like that
in every other. They wave different flags to stimulate enthusiasm and
to justify submission. But that is all. Under the stress of war,
"constitutional safeguards" go by the board "for the public good," in
Moscow as elsewhere. Under that stress it becomes clear that, in spite
of its novel constitution, Russia is governed much as other countries
are governed, the real directive power lying in the hands of a
comparatively small body which is able by hook or crook to infect with
its conscious will a population largely indifferent and inert. A visitor
to Moscow to-day would find much of the constitutional machinery that
was in full working order in the spring of 1919 now falling into rust
and disrepair. He would not be able once a week or so to attend All-Russian
Executive and hear discussions in this parliament of the questions of
the day. No one tries to shirk the fact that the Executive Committee has
fallen into desuetude, from which, when the stress slackens enough to
permit ceremonial that has not an immediate agitational value, it may
some day be revived. The bulk of its members have been at the front or
here and there about the country wrestling with the economic problem,
and their work is more useful than their chatter. Thus brutally is the
thing stated. The continued stress has made the muscles, the actual
works, of the revolution more visible than formerly. The working of the
machine is not only seen more clearly, but is also more frankly stated
(perhaps simply because they too see it now more clearly), by the
leaders themselves.

I want in this book to describe the working of the machine as I now see
it. But it is not only the machine which is more nakedly visible than
it was. The stress to which it is being subjected has also not so much
changed its character as become easier of analysis. At least, I seem to
myself to see it differently. In the earlier days it seemed quite simply
the struggle between a revolutionary and non-revolutionary countries. I
now think that that struggle is a foolish, unnecessary, lunatic incident
which disguised from us the existence of a far more serious struggle, in
which the revolutionary and non-revolutionary governments are fighting
on the same side. They fight without cooperation, and throw insults
and bullets at each other in the middle of the struggle, but they are
fighting for the same thing. They are fighting the same enemy.
Their quarrel with each other is for both parties merely a harassing
accompaniment of the struggle to which all Europe is committed, for the
salvage of what is left of European civilization.

The threat of a complete collapse of civilization is more imminent in
Russia than elsewhere. But it is clear enough in Poland, it cannot be
disregarded in Germany, there is no doubt of its existence in Italy,
France is conscious of it; it is only in England and America that this
threat is not among the waking nightmares of everybody. Unless the
struggle, which has hitherto been going against us, takes a turn for the
better, we shall presently be quite unable to ignore it ourselves.

I have tried to state the position in Russia today: on the one hand to
describe the crisis itself, the threat which is forcing these people to
an extreme of effort, and on the other hand to describe the organization
that is facing that threat; on the one hand to set down what are the
main characteristics of the crisis, on the other hand to show how the
comparatively small body of persons actually supplying the Russian
people with its directives set about the stupendous task of moving that
vast inert mass, not along the path of least resistance, but along a
path which, while alike unpleasant and extremely difficult, does seem to
them to promise some sort of eventual escape.

No book is entirely objective, so I do not in the least mind stating my
own reason for writing this one (which has taken time that I should have
liked to spend on other and very different things). Knowledge of this
reason will permit the reader to make allowances for such bias I have
been unable to avoid, and so, by judicious reading, to make my book
perhaps nearly as objective as I should myself wish it to be.

It has been said that when two armies face each other across a battle
front and engage in mutual slaughter, they may be considered as a single
army engaged in suicide. Now it seems to me that when countries, each
one severally doing its best to arrest its private economic ruin, do
their utmost to accelerate the economic ruin of each other, we are
witnessing something very like the suicide of civilization itself. There
are people in both camps who believe that armed and economic conflict
between revolutionary and non-revolutionary Europe, or if you like
between Capitalism and Communism, is inevitable. These people, in both
camps, are doing their best to make it inevitable. Sturdy pessimists, in
Moscow no less than in London and Paris, they go so far as to say "the
sooner the better," and by all means in their power try to precipitate
a conflict. Now the main effort in Russia to-day, the struggle which
absorbs the chief attention of all but the few Communist Churchills and
Communist Millerands who, blind to all else, demand an immediate pitched
battle over the prostrate body of civilization, is directed to finding
a way for Russia herself out of the crisis, the severity of which can
hardly be realized by people who have not visited the country again and
again, and to bringing her as quickly as possible into a state in which
she can export her raw materials and import the manufactured goods of
which she stands in need. I believe that this struggle is ours as well
as Russia's, though we to whom the threat is less imminent, are less
desperately engaged. Victory or defeat in this struggle in Russia, or
anywhere else on the world's surface, is victory or defeat for every
one. The purpose of my book is to make that clear. For, bearing that in
mind, I cannot but think that every honest man, of whatever parity,
who cares more for humanity than for politics, must do his utmost
to postpone the conflict which a few extremists on each side of the
barricades so fanatically desire. If that conflict is indeed inevitable,
its consequences will be less devastating to a Europe cured of her
wounds than to a Europe scarcely, even by the most hopeful, to be
described as convalescent. But the conflict may not be inevitable after
all. No man not purblind but sees that Communist Europe is changing no
less than Capitalist Europe. If we succeed in postponing the struggle
long enough, we may well succeed in postponing it until the war-like on
both sides look in vain for the reasons of their bellicosity.


 The Shortage of Things
 The Shortage of Men
 The Communist Dictatorship
 A Conference at Jaroslavl
 The Trade Unions
 The Propaganda Trains
 Industrial Conscription
 What the Communists Are Trying to do in Russia
 Rykov on Economic plans and on the Transformation of the Communist Party

     ***I am indebted to the editor of the "Manchester Guardian"
     for permission to make use in some of the chapters of this
     book of material which has appeared in his paper.



Nothing can be more futile than to describe conditions in Russia as a
sort of divine punishment for revolution, or indeed to describe them at
all without emphasizing the fact that the crisis in Russia is part of
the crisis in Europe, and has been in the main brought about like the
revolution itself, by the same forces that have caused, for example, the
crisis in Germany or the crisis in Austria.

No country in Europe is capable of complete economic independence. In
spite of her huge variety of natural resources, the Russian organism
seemed in 1914 to have been built up on the generous assumption that
with Europe at least the country was to be permanently at peace, or
at the lost to engage in military squabbles which could be reckoned
in months, and would keep up the prestige of the autocracy without
seriously hampering imports and exports. Almost every country in Europe,
with the exception of England, was better fitted to stand alone, was
less completely specialized in a single branch of production. England,
fortunately for herself, was not isolated during the war, and will not
become isolated unless the development of the crisis abroad deprives
her of her markets. England produces practically no food, but
great quantities of coal, steel and manufactured goods. Isolate her
absolutely, and she will not only starve, but will stop producing
manufactured goods, steel and coal, because those who usually produce
these things will be getting nothing for their labor except money which
they will be unable to use to buy dinners, because there will be no
dinners to buy. That supposititious case is a precise parallel to what
has happened in Russia. Russia produced practically no manufactured
goods (70 per cent. of her machinery she received from abroad), but
great quantities of food. The blockade isolated her. By the blockade I
do not mean merely the childish stupidity committed by ourselves, but
the blockade, steadily increasing in strictness, which began in August,
1914, and has been unnecessarily prolonged by our stupidity. The war,
even while for Russia it was not nominally a blockade, was so actually.
The use of tonnage was perforce restricted to the transport of the
necessaries of war, and these were narrowly defined as shells, guns and
so on, things which do not tend to improve a country economically, but
rather the reverse. The imports from Sweden through Finland were no sort
of make-weight for the loss of Poland and Germany.

The war meant that Russia's ordinary imports practically ceased. It
meant a strain on Russia, comparable to that which would have been put
on England if the German submarine campaign had succeeded in putting
an end to our imports of food from the Americas. From the moment of the
Declaration of War, Russia was in the position of one "holding out," of
a city standing a siege without a water supply, for her imports were so
necessary to her economy that they may justly be considered as essential
irrigation. There could be no question for her of improvement, of
strengthening. She was faced with the fact until the war should end
she had to do with what she had, and that the things she had formerly
counted on importing would be replaced by guns and shells, to be used,
as it turned out, in battering Russian property that happened to be in
enemy hands. She even learned that she had to develop gun-making and
shell-making at home, at the expense of those other industries which to
some small extent might have helped her to keep going. And, just as in
England such a state of affairs would lead to a cessation of the output
of iron and coal in which England is rich, so in Russia, in spite of her
corn lands, it led to a shortage of food.

The Russian peasant formerly produced food, for which he was paid in
money. With that money, formerly, he was able to clothe himself, to buy
the tools of his labor, and further, though no doubt he never observed
the fact, to pay for the engines and wagons that took his food to
market. A huge percentage of the clothes and the tools and the engines
and the wagons and the rails came from abroad, and even those factories
in Russia which were capable of producing such things were, in many
essentials, themselves dependent upon imports. Russian towns began to
be hungry in 1915. In October of that year the Empress reported to
the Emperor that the shrewd Rasputin had seen in a vision that it was
necessary to bring wagons with flour, butter and sugar from Siberia,
and proposed that for three days nothing else should be done. Then
there would be no strikes. "He blesses you for the arrangement of
these trains." In 1916 the peasants were burying their bread instead of
bringing it to market. In the autumn of 1916 I remember telling certain
most incredulous members of the English Government that there would be
a most serious food shortage in Russia in the near future. In 1917 came
the upheaval of the revolution, in 1918 peace, but for Russia, civil
war and the continuance of the blockade. By July, 1919, the rarity of
manufactured goods was such that it was possible two hundred miles south
of Moscow to obtain ten eggs for a box of matches, and the rarity of
goods requiring distant transport became such that in November, 1919, in
Western Russia, the peasants would sell me nothing for money, whereas
my neighbor in the train bought all he wanted in exchange for small
quantities of salt.

It was not even as if, in vital matters, Russia started the war in a
satisfactory condition. The most vital of all questions in a country
of huge distances must necessarily be that of transport. It is no
exaggeration to say that only by fantastic efforts was Russian transport
able to save its face and cover its worst deficiencies even before the
war began. The extra strain put upon it by the transport of troops
and the maintenance of the armies exposed its weakness, and with each
succeeding week of war, although in 1916 and 1917 Russia did receive
775 locomotives from abroad, Russian transport went from bad to worse,
making inevitable a creeping paralysis of Russian economic life, during
the latter already acute stages of which the revolutionaries succeeded
to the disease that had crippled their precursors.

In 1914 Russia had in all 20,057 locomotives, of which 15,047 burnt
coal, 4,072 burnt oil and 938 wood. But that figure of twenty thousand
was more impressive for a Government official, who had his own reasons
for desiring to be impressed, than for a practical railway engineer,
since of that number over five thousand engines were more than twenty
years old, over two thousand were more than thirty years old, fifteen
hundred were more than forty years old, and 147 patriarchs had passed
their fiftieth birthday. Of the whole twenty thousand only 7,108 were
under ten years of age. That was six years ago. In the meantime Russia
has been able to make in quantities decreasing during the last five
years by 40 and 50 per cent. annually, 2,990 new locomotives. In 1914 of
the locomotives then in Russia about 17,000 were in working condition.
In 1915 there were, in spite of 800 new ones, only 16,500. In 1916 the
number of healthy locomotives was slightly higher, owing partly to
the manufacture of 903 at home in the preceding year and partly to the
arrival of 400 from abroad. In 1917 in spite of the arrival of a further
small contingent the number sank to between 15,000 and 16,000. Early
in 1918 the Germans in the Ukraine and elsewhere captured 3,000.
Others were lost in the early stages of the civil war. The number of
locomotives fell from 14,519 in January to 8,457 in April, after which
the artificially instigated revolt of the Czecho-Slovaks made possible
the fostering of civil war on a large scale, and the number fell swiftly
to 4,679 in December. In 1919 the numbers varied less markedly, but
the decline continued, and in December last year 4,141 engines were
in working order. In January this year the number was 3,969, rising
slightly in February, when the number was 4,019. A calculation was made
before the war that in the best possible conditions the maximum Russian
output of engines could be not more than 1,800 annually. At this rate
in ten years the Russians could restore their collection of engines
to something like adequate numbers. Today, thirty years would be an
inadequate estimate, for some factories, like the Votkinsky, have been
purposely ruined by the Whites, in others the lathes and other machinery
for building and repairing locomotives are worn out, many of the skilled
engineers were killed in the war with Germany, many others in defending
the revolution, and it will be long before it will be possible to
restore to the workmen or to the factories the favorable material
conditions of 1912-13. Thus the main fact in the present crisis is that
Russia possesses one-fifth of the number of locomotives which in
1914 was just sufficient to maintain her railway system in a state of
efficiency which to English observers at that time was a joke. For six
years she has been unable to import the necessary machinery for making
engines or repairing them. Further, coal and oil have been, until
recently, cut off by the civil war. The coal mines are left, after
the civil war, in such a condition that no considerable output may be
expected from them in the near future. Thus, even those engines which
exist have had their efficiency lessened by being adapted in a rough and
ready manner for burning wood fuel instead of that for which they were

Let us now examine the combined effect of ruined transport and the six
years' blockade on Russian life in town and country. First of all was
cut off the import of manufactured goods from abroad. That has had
a cumulative effect completed, as it were, and rounded off by the
breakdown of transport. By making it impossible to bring food, fuel
and raw material to the factories, the wreck of transport makes it
impossible for Russian industry to produce even that modicum which
it contributed to the general supply of manufactured goods which the
Russian peasant was accustomed to receive in exchange for his production
of food. On the whole the peasant himself eats rather more than he did
before the war. But he has no matches, no salt, no clothes, no boots, no
tools. The Communists are trying to put an end to illiteracy in Russia,
and in the villages the most frequent excuse for keeping children from
school is a request to come and see them, when they will be found, as I
have seen them myself, playing naked about the stove, without boots
or anything but a shirt, if that, in which to go and learn to read and
write. Clothes and such things as matches are, however, of less vital
importance than tools, the lack of which is steadily reducing Russia's
actual power of food production. Before the war Russia needed from
abroad huge quantities of agricultural implements, not only machines,
but simple things like axes, sickles, scythes. In 1915 her own
production of these things had fallen to 15.1 per cent. of her already
inadequate peacetime output. In 1917 it had fallen to 2.1 per cent. The
Soviet Government is making efforts to raise it, and is planning
new factories exclusively for the making of these things. But, with
transport in such a condition, a new factory means merely a new demand
for material and fuel which there are neither engines nor wagons to
bring. Meanwhile, all over Russia, spades are worn out, men are plowing
with burnt staves instead of with plowshares, scratching the surface of
the ground, and instead of harrowing with a steel-spiked harrow of
some weight, are brushing the ground with light constructions of wooden
spikes bound together with wattles.

The actual agricultural productive powers of Russia are consequently
sinking. But things are no better if we turn from the rye and corn lands
to the forests. Saws are worn out. Axes are worn out. Even apart from
that, the shortage of transport affects the production of wood fuel,
lack of which reacts on transport and on the factories and so on in a
circle from which nothing but a large import of engines and wagons will
provide an outlet. Timber can be floated down the rivers. Yes, but it
must be brought to the rivers. Surely horses can do that. Yes, but,
horses must be fed, and oats do not grow in the forests. For example,
this spring (1920) the best organized timber production was in Perm
Government. There sixteen thousand horses have been mobilized for
the work, but further development is impossible for lack of forage. A
telegram bitterly reports, "Two trains of oats from Ekaterinburg are
expected day by day. If the oats arrive in time a considerable success
will be possible." And if the oats do not arrive in time? Besides, not
horses alone require to be fed. The men who cut the wood cannot do it
on empty stomachs. And again rises a cry for trains, that do not arrive,
for food that exists somewhere, but not in the forest where men work.
The general effect of the wreck of transport on food is stated as
follows: Less than 12 per cent. of the oats required, less than 5 per
cent. of the bread and salt required for really efficient working, were
brought to the forests. Nonetheless three times as much wood has been
prepared as the available transport has removed.

The towns suffer from lack of transport, and from the combined effect
on the country of their productive weakness and of the loss of their old
position as centres through which the country received its imports from
abroad. Townsfolk and factory workers lack food, fuel, raw materials and
much else that in a civilized State is considered a necessary of life.
Thus, ten million poods of fish were caught last year, but there were
no means of bringing them from the fisheries to the great industrial
centres where they were most needed. Townsfolk are starving, and in
winter, cold. People living in rooms in a flat, complete strangers to
each other, by general agreement bring all their beds into the kitchen.
In the kitchen soup is made once a day. There is a little warmth there
beside the natural warmth of several human beings in a small room. There
it is possible to sleep. During the whole of last winter, in the case I
have in mind, there were no means of heating the other rooms, where the
temperature was almost always far below freezing point. It is difficult
to make the conditions real except by individual examples. The lack of
medicines, due directly to the blockade, seems to have small effect on
the imagination when simply stated as such. Perhaps people will
realize what it means when instead of talking of the wounded undergoing
operations without anesthetics I record the case of an acquaintance, a
Bolshevik, working in a Government office, who suffered last summer
from a slight derangement of the stomach due to improper and inadequate
feeding. His doctor prescribed a medicine, and nearly a dozen different
apothecaries were unable to make up the prescription for lack of one or
several of the simple ingredients required. Soap has become an article
so rare (in Russia as in Germany during the blockade and the war there
is a terrible absence of fats) that for the present it is to be treated
as a means of safeguarding labor, to be given to the workmen for washing
after and during their work, and in preference to miners, chemical,
medical and sanitary workers, for whose efficiency and health it is
essential. The proper washing of underclothes is impossible. To induce
the population of Moscow to go to the baths during the typhus epidemic,
it was sufficient bribe to promise to each person beside the free bath
a free scrap of soap. Houses are falling into disrepair for want of
plaster, paint and tools. Nor is it possible to substitute one thing for
another, for Russia's industries all suffer alike from their dependence
on the West, as well as from the inadequacy of the transport to bring to
factories the material they need. People remind each other that during
the war the Germans, when similarly hard put to it for clothes,
made paper dresses, table-cloths, etc. In Russia the nets used in
paper-making are worn out. At last, in April, 1920 (so Lenin told me),
there seemed to be a hope of getting new ones from abroad. But the
condition of the paper industry is typical of all, in a country which,
it should not be forgotten, could be in a position to supply wood-pulp
for other countries besides itself. The factories are able to produce
only sixty per cent. of demands that have previously, by the strictest
scrutiny, been reduced to a minimum before they are made. The reasons,
apart from the lack of nets and cloths, are summed up in absence of
food, forage and finally labor. Even when wood is brought by river the
trouble is not yet overcome. The horses are dead and eaten or starved
and weak. Factories have to cease working so that the workmen,
themselves underfed, can drag the wood from the barges to the mills.
It may well be imagined what the effect of hunger, cold, and the
disheartenment consequent on such conditions of work and the seeming
hopelessness of the position have on the productivity of labor, the
fall in which reacts on all the industries, on transport, on the general
situation and so again on itself.

Mr. J. M. Keynes, writing with Central Europe in his mind (he is, I
think, as ignorant of Russia as I am of Germany), says: "What then is
our picture of Europe? A country population able to support life on the
fruits of its own agricultural production, but without the accustomed
surplus for the towns, and also (as a result of the lack of imported
materials, and so of variety and amount in the salable manufactures of
the towns) without the usual incentives to market food in exchange for
other wares; an industrial population unable to keep its strength for
lack of food, unable to earn a livelihood for lack of materials, and so
unable to make good by imports from abroad the failure of productivity
at home."

Russia is an emphasized engraving, in which every line of that picture
is bitten in with repeated washes of acid. Several new lines, however,
are added to the drawing, for in Russia the processes at work elsewhere
have gone further than in the rest of Europe, and it is possible to see
dimly, in faint outline, the new stage of decay which is threatened.
The struggle to arrest decay is the real crisis of the revolution, of
Russia, and, not impossibly, of Europe. For each country that develops
to the end in this direction is a country lost to the economic comity of
Europe. And, as one country follows another over the brink, so will
the remaining countries be faced by conditions of increasingly narrow
self-dependence, in fact by the very conditions which in Russia, so far,
have received their clearest, most forcible illustration.


In the preceding chapter I wrote of Russia's many wants, and of the
processes visibly at work, tending to make her condition worse and not
better. But I wrote of things, not of people. I wrote of the shortage of
this and of that, but not of the most serious of all shortages, which,
while itself largely due to those already discussed, daily intensifies
them, and points the way to that further stage of decay which is
threatened in the near future in Russia, and, in the more distant future
in Europe. I did not write of the shortage deterioration of labor.

Shortage of labor is not peculiar to Russia. It is among the postwar
phenomena common to all countries. The war and its accompanying eases
have cost Europe, including Russia, an enormous number of able-bodied
men. Many millions of others have lost the habit of regular work. German
industrialists complain that they cannot get labor, and that when they
get it, it is not productive. I heard complaints on the same subject in
England. But just as the economic crisis, due in the first instance to
the war and the isolation it imposed, has gone further in Russia than
elsewhere, so the shortage of labor, at present a handicap, an annoyance
in more fortunate countries, is in Russia perhaps the greatest of the
national dangers. Shortage of labor cannot be measured simply by the
decreasing numbers of the workmen. If it takes two workmen as long to do
a particular job in 1920 as it took one man to do it in 1914, then, even
if the number of workman has remained the same, the actual supply of
labor has been halved. And in Russia the situation is worse than that.
For example, in the group of State metal-working factories, those, in
fact which may be considered as the weapon with which Russia is trying
to cut her way out of her transport difficulties, apart from the fact
that there were in 1916 81,600 workmen, whereas in 1920 there are only
42,500, labor has deteriorated in the most appalling manner. In 1916 in
these factories 92 per cent. of the nominal working hours were actually
kept; in 1920 work goes on during only 60 per cent. of the nominal
hours. It is estimated that the labor of a single workman produces now
only one quarter of what it produced in 1916. To take another example,
also from workmen engaged in transport, that is to say, in the most
important of all work at the present time: in the Moscow junction of the
Moscow Kazan Railway, between November 1st and February 29th (1920),
292 workmen and clerks missed 12,048 working days, being absent, on
in average, forty days per man in the four months. In Moscow
passenger-station on this line, 22 workmen missed in November 106 days,
in December 273, in January 338, and in February 380; in an appalling
crescendo further illustrated by the wagon department, where 28 workmen
missed in November 104 days and in February 500. In November workmen
absented themselves for single days. In February the same workmen were
absent for the greater part of the month. The invariable excuse was
illness. Many cases of illness there undoubtedly were, since this period
was the worst of the typhus epidemic, but besides illness, and besides
mere obvious idleness which no doubt accounts for a certain proportion
of illegitimate holidays, there is another explanation which goes nearer
the root of the matter. Much of the time filched from the State was in
all probability spent in expeditions in search of food. In Petrograd,
the Council of Public Economy complain that there is a tendency to turn
the eight-hour day into a four-hour day. Attempts are being made to
arrest this tendency by making an additional food allowance conditional
on the actual fulfilment of working days. In the Donetz coal basin, the
monthly output per man was in 1914 750 poods, in 1916 615 poods, in 1919
240 poods (figures taken from Ekaterinoslav Government), and in 1920
the output per man is estimated at being something near 220 poods. In the
shale mines on the Volga, where food conditions are comparatively good,
productivity is comparatively high. Thus in a small mine near Simbirsk
there are 230 workmen, of' whom 50 to 60 are skilled. The output for the
unskilled is 28.9 poods in a shift, for the skilled 68.3. But even there
25 per cent. of the workmen are regular absentees, and actually the mine
works only 17 or 18 days in a month, that is, 70 per cent. of the normal
number of working days. The remaining 30 per cent. of normal working
time is spent by the workmen in getting food. Another small mine in the
same district is worked entirely by unskilled labor, the workers being
peasants from the neighboring villages. In this mine the productivity
per man is less, but all the men work full time. They do not have to
waste time in securing food, because, being local peasants, they are
supplied by their own villages and families. In Moscow and Petrograd
food is far more difficult to secure, more time is wasted on that
hopeless task; even with that waste of time, the workman is not properly
fed, and it cannot be wondered at that his productivity is low.

Something, no doubt, is due to the natural character of the Russians,
which led Trotsky to define man as an animal distinguished by laziness.
Russians are certainly lazy, and probably owe to their climate their
remarkable incapacity for prolonged effort. The Russian climate is such
that over large areas of Russia the Russian peasant is accustomed, and
has been accustomed for hundreds of years, to perform prodigies of
labor during two short periods of sowing and harvest, and to spend the
immensely long and monotonous winter in a hibernation like that of the
snake or the dormouse. There is a much greater difference between a
Russian workman's normal output and that of which he is capable for a
short time if he sets himself to it, than there is between the normal
and exceptional output of an Englishman, whose temperate climate has
not taught him to regard a great part of the year as a period of mere
waiting for and resting from the extraordinary effort of a few weeks.

     * Given any particular motive, any particular enthusiasm, or
     visible, desirable object, even the hungry Russian workmen
     of to-day are capable of sudden and temporary increase of
     output. The "Saturdayings" (see p. 119) provide endless
     illustrations of this.  They had something in the character
     of a picnic, they were novel, they were out of the routine,
     and the productivity of labor during a "Saturdaying" was
     invariably higher than on a weekday.  For example, there is
     a shortage of paper for cigarettes.  People roll cigarettes
     in old newspapers.  It occurred to the Central Committee of
     the Papermakers' Union to organize a "Sundaying" with the
     object of sending cigarette paper to the soldiers in the Red
     Army. Six factories took part.  Here is a table showing the
     output of these factories during the "Sundaying" and the
     average weekday output.  The figures are in poods.

                                Made on      Average week
     Factory               the Sunday     Day Output


But this uneven working temperament was characteristic of the Russian
before the war as well as now. It has been said that the revolution
removed the stimulus to labor, and left the Russian laziness to have its
way. In the first period of the revolution that may have been true.
It is becoming day by day less true. The fundamental reasons of low
productivity will not be found in any sudden or unusual efflorescence
of idleness, but in economic conditions which cannot but reduce the
productivity of idle and industrious alike. Insufficient feeding is
one such reason. The proportion of working time consumed in foraging
is another. But the whole of my first chapter may be taken as a compact
mass of reasons why the Russians at the present time should not work
with anything like a normal productivity. It is said that bad workmen
complain of their tools, but even good ones become disheartened if
compelled to work with makeshifts, mended tools, on a stock of materials
that runs out from one day to the next, in factories where the machinery
may come at any moment to a standstill from lack of fuel. There would
thus be a shortage of labor in Russia, even if the numbers of workmen
were the same today as they were before the war. Unfortunately that is
not so. Turning from the question of low productivity per man to that
of absolute shortage of men: the example given at the beginning of
this chapter, showing that in the most important group of factories the
number of workmen has fallen 50 per cent. is by no means exceptional.
Walking through the passages of what used to be the Club of the Nobles,
and is now the house of the Trades Unions during the recent Trades Union
Congress in Moscow, I observed among a number of pictorial diagrams
on the walls, one in particular illustrating the rise and fall of the
working population of Moscow during a number of years. Each year was
represented by the picture of a factory with a chimney which rose and
fell with the population. From that diagram I took the figures for 1913,
1918 and 1919. These figures should be constantly borne in mind by any
one who wishes to realize how catastrophic the shortage of labor in
Russia actually is, and to judge how sweeping may be the changes in the
social configuration of the country if that shortage continues to
increase. Here are the figures:

     Workmen in Moscow in 1913............159,344
     Workmen in Moscow in 1918...........157,282
     Workmen in Moscow in 1919............105,210

That is to say, that one-third of the workmen of Moscow ceased to
live there, or ceased to be workmen, in the course of a single year.
A similar phenomenon is observable in each one of the big industrial

What has become of those workmen?

A partial explanation is obvious. The main impulse of the revolution
came from the town workers. Of these, the metal workers were the most
decided, and those who most freely joined the Red Guard in the early and
the Red Army in the later days of the revolution. Many, in those early
days, when there was more enthusiasm than discipline, when there were
hardly any experienced officers, and those without much authority, were
slaughtered during the German advance of 1918. The first mobilizations,
when conscription was introduced, were among the workers in the great
industrial districts. The troops from Petrograd and Moscow, exclusively
workmen's regiments, have suffered more than any other during the civil
war, being the most dependable and being thrown, like the guards of old
time, into the worst place at any serious crisis. Many thousands of them
have died for the sake of the revolution which, were they living,
they would be hard put to it to save. (The special shortage of skilled
workers is also partially to be explained by the indiscriminate
mobilizations of 1914-15, when great numbers of the most valuable
engineers and other skilled workers were thrown into the front line, and
it was not until their loss was already felt that the Tsar's Government
in this matter came belatedly to its senses.)

But these explanations are only partial. The more general answer to
the question, What has become of the workmen? lies in the very economic
crisis which their absence accentuates. Russia is unlike England, where
starvation of the towns would be practically starvation of the whole
island. In Russia, if a man is hungry, he has only to walk far enough
and he will come to a place where there is plenty to eat. Almost every
Russian worker retains in some form or other connection with a village,
where, if he returns, he will not be an entire stranger, but at worst a
poor relation, and quite possibly an honored guest. It is not surprising
that many thousands have "returned to the land" in this way.

Further, if a workman retains his connection, both with a distant
village and with a town, he can keep himself and his family fat and
prosperous by ceasing to be a workman, and, instead, traveling on the
buffers or the roof of a railway wagon, and bringing back with him sacks
of flour and potatoes for sale in the town at fantastic prices. Thereby
he is lost to productive labor, and his uncomfortable but adventurous
life becomes directly harmful, tending to increase the strain on
transport, since it is obviously more economical to transport a thousand
sacks than to transport a thousand sacks with an idle workman attached
to each sack. Further, his activities actually make it more difficult
for the town population to get food. By keeping open for the village the
possibility of selling at fantastic prices, he lessens the readiness
of the peasants to part with their flour at the lower prices of the
Government. Nor is it as if his activities benefited the working
population. The food he brings in goes for the most part to those who
have plenty of money or have things to exchange for it. And honest
men in Russia to-day have not much money, and those who have things to
exchange are not as a rule workmen. The theory of this man's harmfulness
is, I know, open to argument, but the practice at least is exactly as
I have stated it, and is obviously attractive to the individual who
prefers adventure on a full stomach to useful work on an empty. Setting
aside the theory with its latent quarrel between Free Trade and State
control, we can still recognize that each workman engaged in these
pursuits has become an unproductive middleman, one of that very
parasitic species which the revolutionaries had hoped to make
unnecessary. It is bad from the revolutionary point of view if a workman
is so employed, but it is no less bad from the point of view of people
who do not care twopence about the revolution one way or the other, but
do care about getting Russia on her feet again and out of her economic
crisis. It is bad enough if an unskilled workman is so employed. It is
far worse if a skilled workman finds he can do better for himself as
a "food speculator" than by the exercise of his legitimate craft. From
mines, from every kind of factory come complaints of the decreasing
proportion of skilled to unskilled workmen. The superior intelligence
of the skilled worker offers him definite advantages should he engage in
these pursuits, and his actual skill gives him other advantages in the
villages. He can leave his factory and go to the village, there on
the spot to ply his trade or variations of it, when as a handy man,
repairing tools, etc., he will make an easy living and by lessening
the dependence of the village on the town do as much as the "food
speculator" in worsening the conditions of the workman he has left

And with that we come to the general changes in the social geography
of Russia which are threatened if the processes now at work continue
unchecked. The relations between town and village are the fundamental
problem of the revolution. Town and countryside are in sharp
contradiction daily intensified by the inability of the towns to supply
the country's needs. The town may be considered as a single productive
organism, with feelers stretching into the country, and actual outposts
there in the form of agricultural enterprises taking their directives
from the centre and working as definite parts of the State organism.
All round this town organism, in all its interstices, it too, with its
feelers in the form of "food speculators," is the anarchic chaos of the
country, consisting of a myriad independent units, regulated by no plan,
without a brain centre of any kind. Either the organized town will
hold its own against and gradually dominate and systematize the country
chaos, or that chaos little by little will engulf the town organism.
Every workman who leaves the town automatically places himself on the
side of the country in that struggle. And when a town like Moscow loses
a third of its working population in a year, it is impossible not to
see that, so far, the struggle is going in favor of that huge chaotic,
unconscious but immensely powerful countryside. There is even a danger
that the town may become divided against itself. Just as scarcity of
food leads to food speculation, so the shortage of labor is making
possible a sort of speculation in labor. The urgent need of labor has
led to a resurrection of the methods of the direct recruiting of
workmen in the villages by the agents of particular factories, who by
exceptional terms succeed in getting workmen where the Government organs
fail. And, of course, this recruiting is not confined to the villages.
Those enterprises which are situated in the corn districts are naturally
able to offer better conditions, for the sake of which workmen are ready
to leave their jobs and skilled workmen to do unskilled work, and the
result can only be a drainage of good workmen away from the hungry
central industrial districts where they are most of all needed.

Summing up the facts collected in this chapter and in the first on
the lack of things and the lack of men, I think the economic crisis in
Russia may be fairly stated as follows: Owing to the appalling condition
of Russian transport, and owing to the fact that since 1914 Russia has
been practically in a state of blockade, the towns have lost their power
of supplying, either as middlemen or as producers, the simplest needs
of the villages. Partly owing to this, partly again because of the
condition of transport, the towns are not receiving the necessaries of
life in sufficient quantities. The result of this is a serious fall in
the productivity of labor, and a steady flow of skilled and unskilled
workmen from the towns towards the villages, and from employments the
exercise of which tends to assist the towns in recovering their old
position as essential sources of supply to employments that tend to
have the opposite effect. If this continues unchecked, it will make
impossible the regeneration of Russian industry, and will result in
the increasing independence of the villages, which will tend to become
entirely self-supporting communities, tilling the ground in a less and
less efficient manner, with ruder tools, with less and less incentive to
produce more than is wanted for the needs of the village itself. Russia,
in these circumstances, may sink into something very like barbarism, for
with the decay of the economic importance of the towns would decay
also their authority, and free-booting on a small and large scale would
become profitable and not very dangerous. It would be possible, no
doubt, for foreigners to trade with the Russians as with the natives of
the cannibal islands, bartering looking-glasses and cheap tools, but,
should such a state of things come to be, it would mean long years of
colonization, with all the new possibilities and risks involved in the
subjugation of a free people, before Western Europe could count once
more on getting a considerable portion of its food from Russian corn

That is the position, those the natural tendencies at work. But opposed
to these tendencies are the united efforts of the Communists and of
those who, leaving the question of Communism discreetly aside, work with
them for the sake of preventing such collapse of Russian civilization.
They recognize the existence of every one of the tendencies I have
described, but they are convinced that every one of these tendencies
will be arrested. They believe that the country will not conquer the
town but the reverse. So far from expecting the unproductive stagnation
described in the last paragraph, they think of Russia as of the natural
food supply of Europe, which the Communists among them believe will, in
course of time, be made up for "Working Men's Republics" (though, for
the sake of their own Republic, they are not inclined to postpone trade
with Europe until that epoch arrives). At the very time when spades and
sickles are wearing out or worn out, these men are determined that
the food output of Russia shall sooner or later be increased by the
introduction of better methods of agriculture and farming on a larger
scale. We are witnessing in Russia the first stages of a titanic
struggle, with on one side all the forces of nature leading apparently
to an inevitable collapse of civilization, and on the other side nothing
but the incalculable force of human will.


How is that will expressed? What is the organization welded by adversity
which, in this crisis, supersedes even the Soviet Constitution, and
stands between this people and chaos?

It is a commonplace to say that Russia is ruled, driven if you like,
cold, starving as she is, to effort after effort by the dictatorship of
a party. It is a commonplace alike in the mouths of those who wish to
make the continued existence of that organization impossible and in the
mouths of the Communists themselves. At the second congress of the Third
International, Trotsky remarked. "A party as such, in the course of the
development of a revolution, becomes identical with the revolution."
Lenin, on the same occasion, replying to a critic who said that he
differed from, the Communists in his understanding of what was meant by
the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, said, "He says that we understand
by the words 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' what is actually the
dictatorship of its determined and conscious minority. And that is the
fact." Later he asked, "What is this minority? It may be called a party.
If this minority is actually conscious, if it is able to draw the masses
after it, if it shows itself capable of replying to every question on
the agenda list of the political day, it actually constitutes a party."
And Trotsky again, on the same occasion, illustrated the relative
positions of the Soviet Constitution and the Communist Party when he
said, "And today, now that we have received an offer of peace from the
Polish Government, who decides the question? Whither are the workers to
turn? We have our Council of People's Commissaries, of course, but that,
too, must be under a certain control. Whose control? The control of the
working class as a formless chaotic mass? No. The Central Committee of
the party is called together to discuss and decide the question. And
when we have to wage war, to form new divisions, to find the best
elements for them-to whom do we turn? To the party, to the Central
Committee. And it gives directives to the local committees, 'Send
Communists to the front.' The case is precisely the same with the
Agrarian question, with that of supply, and with all other questions

No one denies these facts, but their mere statement is quite inadequate
to explain what is being done in Russia and how it is being done. I
do not think it would be a waste of time to set down as briefly
as possible, without the comments of praise or blame that would be
inevitable from one primarily interested in the problem from the
Capitalist or Communist point of view what, from observation and
inquiry, I believe to be the main framework of the organization whereby
that dictatorship of the party works.

The Soviet Constitution is not so much moribund as in abeyance. The
Executive Committee, for example, which used to meet once a week or even
oftener, now meets on the rarest occasions. Criticism on this account
was met with the reply that the members of the Executive Committee, for
example, which used to meet once a week or even oftener, now meets on
the rarest occasions. Criticism on this account was met with the reply
that the members of the Executive Committee were busy on the front and
in various parts of Russia. As a matter of fact, the work which that
Committee used to do is now done by Central Committee of the Bolshevik
Party, so that the bulk of the 150 members of the Central Executive are
actually free for other work, a saving of something like 130 men. This
does not involve any very great change, but merely an economy in the use
of men. In the old days, as I well remember, the opening of a session of
the Executive Committee was invariably late, the reason being that the
various parties composing it had not yet finished their preliminary and
private discussions. There is now an overwhelming Communist majority
in the Executive Committee, as elsewhere. I think it may be regarded
as proved that these majorities are not always legitimately obtained.
Non-Communist delegates do undoubtedly find every kind of difficulty put
in their way by the rather Jesuitical adherents of the faith. But, no
matter how these majorities are obtained, the result is that when the
Communist Party has made up its mind on any subject, it is so certain
of being able to carry its point that the calling together of the
All-Russian Executive Committee is merely a theatrical demonstration of
the fact that it can do what it likes. When it does meet, the Communists
allow the microscopical opposition great liberty of speech, listen
quietly, cheer ironically, and vote like one man, proving on every
occasion that the meeting of the Executive Committee was the idlest
of forms, intended rather to satisfy purists than for purposes of
discussion, since the real discussion has all taken place beforehand
among the Communists themselves. Something like this must happen with
every representative assembly at which a single party has a great
preponderance and a rigid internal discipline. The real interest is in
the discussion inside the Party Committees.

This state of affairs would probably be more actively resented if the
people were capable of resenting anything but their own hunger, or of
fearing anything but a general collapse which would turn that hunger
into starvation. It must be remembered that the urgency of the
economic crisis has driven political questions into the background. The
Communists (compare Rykov's remarks on this subject, p. 175) believe
that this is the natural result of social revolution. They think that
political parties will disappear altogether and that people will band
together, not for the victory of one of several contending political
parties, but solely for economic cooperation or joint enterprise in
art or science. In support of this they point to the number of their
opponents who have become Communists, and to the still greater number
of non-Communists who are loyally working with them for the economic
reconstruction of the country. I do not agree with the Communists in
this, nor yet with their opponents, who attribute the death of political
discussion to fear of the Extraordinary Commission. I think that both
the Communists and their opponents underestimate the influence of the
economic ruin that affects everybody. The latter particularly, feeling
that in some way they must justify themselves to politically minded
foreign visitors, seek an excuse for their apathy in the one institution
that is almost universally unpopular. I have many non-Communist friends
in Russia, but have never detected the least restraint that could be
attributed to fear of anybody in their criticisms of the Communist
regime. The fear existed alike among Communists and non-Communists,
but it was like the fear of people walking about in a particularly bad
thunderstorm. The activities and arrests of the Extraordinary Commission
are so haphazard, often so utterly illogical, that it is quite idle for
any one to say to himself that by following any given line of conduct
he will avoid molestation. Also, there is something in the Russian
character which makes any prohibition of discussion almost an invitation
to discuss. I have never met a Russian who could be prevented from
saying whatever he liked whenever he liked, by any threats or dangers
whatsoever. The only way to prevent a Russian from talking is to cut out
his tongue. The real reason for the apathy is that, for the moment, for
almost everybody political questions are of infinitesimal importance in
comparison with questions of food and warmth. The ferment of political
discussion that filled the first years of the revolution has died away,
and people talk about little but what they are able to get for dinner,
or what somebody else his been able to get. I, like other foreign
visitors coming to Russia after feeding up in other countries, am all
agog to make people talk. But the sort of questions which interest me,
with my full-fed stomach, are brushed aside almost fretfully by men who
have been more or less hungry for two or three years on end.

I find, instead of an urgent desire to alter this or that at once,
to-morrow, in the political complexion of the country, a general desire
to do the best that can be done with things as they are, a general fear
of further upheaval of any kind, in fact a general acquiescence in
the present state of affairs politically, in the hope of altering the
present state of affairs economically. And this is entirely natural.
Everybody, Communists included, rails bitterly at the inefficiencies of
the present system, but everybody, Anti-Communists included, admits that
there is nothing whatever capable of taking its place. Its failure is
highly undesirable, not because it itself is good, but because such
failure would be preceded or followed by a breakdown of all existing
organizations. Food distribution, inadequate as it now is, would come to
an end. The innumerable non-political committees, which are rather like
Boards of Directors controlling the Timber, Fur, Fishery, Steel, Matches
or other Trusts (since the nationalized industries can be so considered)
would collapse, and with them would collapse not only yet one more hope
of keeping a breath of life in Russian industry, but also the
actual livelihoods of a great number of people, both Communists and
non-Communists. I do not think it is realized out-side Russia how large
a proportion of the educated classes have become civil servants of one
kind or another. It is a rare thing when a whole family has left
Russia, and many of the most embittered partisans of war on Russia have
relations inside Russia who have long ago found places under the new
system, and consequently fear its collapse as much as any one. One case
occurs to me in which a father was an important minister in one of the
various White Governments which have received Allied support, while his
son inside Russia was doing pretty well as a responsible official under
the Communists. Now in the event of a violent change, the Communists
would be outlaws with a price on every head, and those who have worked
with them, being Russians, know their fellow countrymen well enough to
be pretty well convinced that the mere fact that they are without cards
of the membership of the Communist Party, would not save them in the
orgy of slaughter that would follow any such collapse.

People may think that I underestimate the importance of, the
Extraordinary Commission. I am perfectly aware that without this police
force with its spies, its prisons and its troops, the difficulties of
the Dictatorship would be increased by every kind of disorder, and the
chaos, which I fear may come, would have begun long ago. I believe, too,
that the overgrown power of the Extraordinary Commission, and the
cure that must sooner or later be applied to it, may, as in the French
Revolution, bring about the collapse of the whole system. The Commission
depends for its strength on the fear of something else. I have seen it
weaken when there was a hope of general peace. I have seen it tighten
its grip in the presence of attacks from without and attempted
assassination within. It is dreaded by everybody; not even Communists
are safe from it; but it does not suffice to explain the Dictatorship,
and is actually entirely irrelevant to the most important process of
that Dictatorship, namely, the adoption of a single idea, a single
argument, by the whole of a very large body of men. The whole power of
the Extraordinary Commission does not affect in the slightest degree
discussions inside the Communist Party, and those discussions are the
simple fact distinguishing the Communist Dictatorship from any of the
other dictatorships by which it may be supplanted.

There are 600,000 members of the Communist Party (611,978 on April
2, 1920). There are nineteen members of the Central Committee of that
party. There are, I believe, five who, when they agree, can usually sway
the remaining fourteen. There is no need to wonder how these fourteen
can be argued into acceptance of the views of the still smaller inner
ring, but the process of persuading the six hundred thousand of the
desirability of, for example, such measures as those involved in
industrial conscription which, at first sight, was certainly repugnant
to most of them, is the main secret of the Dictatorship, and is not in
any way affected by the existence of the Extraordinary Commission.

Thus the actual government of Russia at the present time may be not
unfairly considered as a small group inside the Central Committee of the
Communist Party. This small group is able to persuade the majority of
the remaining members of that Committee. The Committee then sets about
persuading the majority of the party. In the case of important measures
the process is elaborate. The Committee issues a statement of its
case, and the party newspapers the Pravda and its affiliated organs are
deluged with its discussion. When this discussion has had time to spread
through the country, congresses of Communists meet in the provincial
centres, and members of the Central Committee go down to these
conferences to defend the "theses" which the Committee has issued. These
provincial congresses, exclusively Communist, send their delegates of
an All-Russian Congress. There the "theses" of the Central Committee
get altered, confirmed, or, in the case of an obviously unpersuaded
and large opposition in the party, are referred back or in other ways
shelved. Then the delegates, even those who have been in opposition at
the congress, go back to the country pledged to defend the position of
the majority. This sometimes has curious results. For example, I heard
Communist Trades Unionists fiercely arguing against certain clauses in
the theses on industrial conscription at a Communist Congress at the
Kremlin; less than a week afterwards I heard these same men defending
precisely these clauses at a Trades Union Congress over the way, they
loyally abiding by the collective opinion of their fellow Communists
and subject to particularly uncomfortable heckling from people who
vociferously reminded them (since the Communist debates had been
published) that they were now defending what, a few days before, they
had vehemently attacked.

The great strength of the Communist Party is comparable to the strength
of the Jesuits, who, similarly, put themselves and their opinions at the
disposal of the body politic of their fellow members. Until a decision
had been made, a Communist is perfectly free to do his best to prevent
it being made, to urge alterations in it, or to supply a rival decision,
but once it has been made he will support it without changing his
private opinion. In all mixed congresses, rather than break the party
discipline, he will give his vote for it, speak in favor of it, and use
against its adversaries the very arguments that have been used against
himself. He has his share in electing the local Communist Committee,
and, indirectly, in electing the all-powerful Central Committee of the
party, and he binds himself to do at any moment in his life exactly what
these Committees decide for him. These Committees decide the use that is
to be made of the lives, not only of the rank and file of the party, but
also of their own members. Even a member of the Central Committee does
not escape. He may be voted by his fellow members into leaving a job
he likes and taking up another he detests in which they think his
particular talents will better serve the party aims. To become a member
of the Communist Party involves a kind of intellectual abdication, or,
to put it differently, a readiness at any moment to place the collective
wisdom of the party's Committee above one's individual instincts or
ideas. You may influence its decisions, you may even get it to endorse
your own, but Lenin himself, if he were to fail on any occasion to
obtain the agreement of a majority in the Central Committee, would have
to do precisely what the Committee should tell him. Lenin's opinion
carries great weight because he is Lenin, but it carries less weight
than that of the Central Committee, of which he forms a nineteenth
part. On the other hand, the opinion of Lenin and a very small group of
outstanding figures is supported by great prestige inside the Committee,
and that of the Committee is supported by overwhelming prestige among
the rank and file. The result is that this small group is nearly always
sure of being able to use the whole vote of 600,000 Communists, in the
realization of its decisions.

Now 600,000 men and women acting on the instructions of a highly
centralized directive, all the important decisions of which have been
thrashed out and re-thrashed until they have general support within the
party; 600,000 men and women prepared, not only to vote in support of
these decisions, but with a carefully fostered readiness to sacrifice
their lives for them if necessary; 600,000 men and women who are
persuaded that by their way alone is humanity to be saved; who are
persuaded (to put it as cynically and unsympathetically as possible)
that the noblest death one can die is in carrying out a decision of the
Central Committee; such a body, even in a country such as Russia, is an
enormously strong embodiment of human will, an instrument of struggle
capable of working something very like miracles. It can be and is
controlled like an army in battle. It can mobilize its members, 10 per
cent. of them, 50 per cent., the local Committees choosing them, and
send them to the front when the front is in danger, or to the railways
and repair shops when it is decided that the weakest point is that of
transport. If its only task were to fight those organizations of loosely
knit and only momentarily united interests which are opposed to
it, those jerry-built alliances of Reactionaries with Liberals,
United-Indivisible-Russians with Ukrainians, Agrarians with
Sugar-Refiners, Monarchists with Republicans, that task would long ago
have been finished. But it has to fight something infinitely stronger
than these in fighting the economic ruin of Russia, which, if it is too
strong, too powerful to be arrested by the Communists, would make
short work of those who are without any such fanatic single-minded and
perfectly disciplined organization.


I have already suggested that although the small Central Committee of
the Communist Party does invariably get its own way, there are essential
differences between this Dictatorship and the dictatorship of, for
example, a General. The main difference is that whereas the General
merely writes an order about which most people hear for the first time
only when it is promulgated, the Central Committee prepares the way
for its dictation by a most elaborate series of discussions and counter
discussions throughout the country, whereby it wins the bulk of the
Communist Party to its opinion, after which it proceeds through local
and general congresses to do the same with the Trades Unions. This done,
a further series of propaganda meetings among the people actually to be
affected smooths the way for the introduction of whatever new measure
is being carried through at the moment. All this talk, besides lessening
the amount of physical force necessary in carrying out a decision, must
also avoid, at least in part, the deadening effect that would be caused
by mere compulsory obedience to the unexplained orders of a military
dictator. Of the reality of the Communist Dictatorship I have no sort
of doubt. But its methods are such as tend towards the awakening of a
political consciousness which, if and when normal conditions-of feeding
and peace, for example-are attained, will make dictatorship of any kind
almost impossible.

To illustrate these methods of the Dictatorship, I cannot do better than
copy into this book some pages of my diary written in March of this year
when I was present at one of the provincial conferences which were held
in preparation of the All-Russian Communist Conference at the end of the

At seven in the evening Radek called for me and took me to the Jaroslavl
station, where we met Larin, whom I had known in 1918. An old Menshevik,
he was the originator and most urgent supporter of the decree annulling
the foreign debts. He is a very ill man, partially paralyzed, having to
use both hands even to get food to his mouth or to turn over the leaves
of a book. In spite of this he is one of the hardest workers in Russia,
and although his obstinacy, his hatred of compromise, and a sort of
mixed originality and perverseness keep him almost permanently at
loggerheads with the Central Committee, he retains everybody's respect
because of the real heroism with which he conquers physical disabilities
which long ago would have overwhelmed a less unbreakable spirit. Both
Radek and Larin were going to the Communist Conference at Jaroslavl
which was to consider the new theses of the Central Committee of the
party with regard to Industrial Conscription. Radek was going to defend
the position of the Central Committee, Larin to defend his own. Both
are old friends. As Radek said to me, he intended to destroy Larin's
position, but not, if he could help it, prevent Larin being nominated
among the Jaroslavl delegates to All-Russian Conference which was in
preparation. Larin, whose work keeps him continually traveling, has his
own car, specially arranged so that his uninterrupted labor shall have
as little effect as possible on his dangerously frail body. Radek and I
traveled in one of the special cars of the Central Executive Committee,
of which he is a member.

The car seemed very clean, but, as an additional precaution, we began
by rubbing turpentine on our necks and wrists and angles for the
discouragement of lice, now generally known as "Semashki" from the name
of Semashko, the Commissar of Public Health, who wages unceasing war
for their destruction as the carriers of typhus germs. I rubbed the
turpentine so energetically into my neck that it burnt like a collar of
fire, and for a long time I was unable to get to sleep.

In the morning Radek, the two conductors who had charge of the wagons
and I sat down together to breakfast and had a very merry meal, they
providing cheese and bread and I a tin of corned beef providently sent
out from home by the Manchester Guardian. We cooked up some coffee on
a little spirit stove, which, in a neat basket together with plates,
knives, forks, etc. (now almost unobtainable in Russia) had been
a parting present from the German Spartacists to Radek when he was
released from prison in Berlin and allowed to leave Germany.

The morning was bright and clear, and we had an excellent view of
Jaroslavl when we drove from the station to the town, which is a mile or
so off the line of the railway. The sun poured down on the white snow,
on the barges still frozen into the Volga River, and on the gilt and
painted domes and cupolas of the town. Many of the buildings had been
destroyed during the rising artificially provoked in July, 1918, and its
subsequent suppression. More damage was done then than was necessary,
because the town was recaptured by troops which had been deserted by
most of their officers, and therefore hammered away with artillery
without any very definite plan of attack. The more important of the
damaged buildings, such as the waterworks and the power station, have
been repaired, the tramway was working, and, after Moscow, the town
seemed clean, but plenty of ruins remained as memorials of that wanton
and unjustifiable piece of folly which, it was supposed, would be the
signal for a general rising.

We drove to the Hotel Bristol, now the headquarters of the Jaroslavl
Executive Committee, where Rostopchin, the president, discussed with
Larin and Radek the programme arranged for the conference. It was then
proposed that we should have something to eat, when a very curious state
of affairs (and one extremely Russian) was revealed. Rostopchin admitted
that the commissariat arrangements of the Soviet and its Executive
Committee were very bad. But in the center of the town there is a
nunnery which was very badly damaged during the bombardment and is now
used as a sort of prison or concentration camp for a Labor Regiment.
Peasants from the surrounding country who have refused to give up their
proper contribution of corn, or leave otherwise disobeyed the laws, are,
for punishment, lodged here, and made to expiate their sins by work.
It so happens, Rostopchin explained, that the officer in charge of the
prison feeding arrangements is a very energetic fellow, who had served
in the old army in a similar capacity, and the meals served out to
the prisoners are so much better than those produced in the Soviet
headquarters, that the members of the Executive Committee make a
practice of walking over to the prison to dine. They invited us to
do the same. Larin did not feel up to the walk, so he remained in the
Soviet House to eat an inferior meal, while Radek and I, with Rostopchin
and three other members of the local committee walked round to the
prison. The bell tower of the old nunnery had been half shot away by
artillery, and is in such a precarious condition that it is proposed
to pull it down. But on passing under it we came into a wide courtyard
surrounded by two-story whitewashed buildings that seemed scarcely to
have suffered at all. We found the refectory in one of these buildings.
It was astonishingly clean. There were wooden tables, of course without
cloths, and each man had a wooden spoon and a hunk of bread. A great
bowl of really excellent soup was put down in the middle of table, and
we fell to hungrily enough. I made more mess on the table than any one
else, because it requires considerable practice to convey almost boiling
soup from a distant bowl to one's mouth without spilling it in a shallow
wooden spoon four inches in diameter, and, having got it to one's mouth,
to get any of it in without slopping over on either side. The regular
diners there seemed to find no difficulty in it at all. One of the
prisoners who mopped up after my disasters said I had better join them
for a week, when I should find it quite easy. The soup bowl was followed
by a fry of potatoes, quantities of which are grown in the district. For
dealing with these I found the wooden spoon quite efficient. After that
we had glasses of some sort of substitute for tea.

The Conference was held in the town theatre. There was a hint of comedy
in the fact that the orchestra was playing the prelude to some very
cheerful opera before the curtain rang up. Radek characteristically
remarked that such music should be followed by something more
sensational than a conference, proposed to me that we should form a
tableau to illustrate the new peaceful policy of England with regard to
Russia. As it was a party conference, I had really no right to be
there, but Radek had arranged with Rostopchin that I should come in with
himself, and be allowed to sit in the wings at the side of the stage.
On the stage were Rostopchin, Radek, Larin and various members of the
Communist Party Committee in the district. Everything was ready, but the
orchestra went on with its jig music on the other side of the curtain.
A message was sent to them. The music stopped with a jerk. The curtain
rose, disclosing a crowded auditorium. Everybody stood up, both on the
stage and in the theater, and sang, accompanied by the orchestra, first
the "Internationale" and then the song for those who had died for the
revolution. Then except for two or three politically minded musicians,
the orchestra vanished away and the Conference began.

Unlike many of the meetings and conferences at which I have been present
in Russia, this Jaroslavl Conference seemed to me to include practically
none but men and women who either were or had been actual manual
workers. I looked over row after row of faces in the theatre, and could
only find two faces which I thought might be Jewish, and none that
obviously belonged to the "intelligentsia." I found on inquiry that only
three of the Communists present, excluding Radek and Larin, were old
exiled and imprisoned revolutionaries of the educated class. Of these,
two were on the platform. All the rest were from the working class. The
great majority of them, of course, had joined the Communists in 1917,
but a dozen or so had been in the party as long as the first Russian
revolution of 1905.

Radek, who was tremendously cheered (his long imprisonment in Germany,
during which time few in Russia thought that they would see him
alive again, has made him something of a popular hero) made a long,
interesting and pugnacious speech setting out the grounds on which the
Central Committee base their ideas about Industrial Conscription.
These ideas are embodied in the series of theses issued by the Central
Committee in January (see p. 134). Larin, who was very tired after the
journey and patently conscious that Radek was a formidable opponent,
made a speech setting out his reasons for differing with the Central
Committee, and proposed an ingenious resolution, which, while expressing
approval of the general position of the Committee, included four
supplementary modifications which, as a matter of fact, nullified that
position altogether. It was then about ten at night, and the Conference
adjourned. We drove round to the prison in sledges, and by way of supper
had some more soup and potatoes, and so back to the railway station to
sleep in the cars.

Next day the Conference opened about noon, when there was a long
discussion of the points at issue. Workman after workman came to the
platform and gave his view. Some of the speeches were a little naive, as
when one soldier said that Comrades Lenin and Trotsky had often before
pointed out difficult roads, and that whenever they had been followed
they had shown the way to victory, and that therefore, though there was
much in the Central Committee's theses that was hard to digest, he was
for giving them complete support, confident that, as Comrades Lenin and
Trotsky were in favor of them, they were likely to be right this time,
as so often heretofore. But for the most part the speeches were directly
concerned with the problem under discussion, and showed a political
consciousness which would have been almost incredible three years ago.
The Red Army served as a text for many, who said that the methods which
had produced that army and its victories over the Whites had been proved
successful and should be used to produce a Red Army of Labor and similar
victories on the bloodless front against economic disaster. Nobody
seemed to question the main idea of compulsory labor. The contest
that aroused real bitterness was between the methods of individual and
collegiate command. The new proposals lead eventually towards individual
command, and fears were expressed lest this should mean putting
summary powers into the hands of bourgeois specialists, thus nullifying
"workers' control". In reply, it was pointed out that individual command
had proved necessary in the army and had resulted in victory for the
revolution. The question was not between specialists and no specialists.
Everybody knew that specialists were necessary. The question was how to
get the most out of them. Effective political control had secured that
bourgeois specialists, old officers, led to victory the army of the Red
Republic. The same result could be secured in the factories in the same
way. It was pointed out that in one year they had succeeded in training
32,000 Red Commanders, that is to say, officers from the working class
itself, and that it was not Utopian to hope and work for a similar
output of workmen specialists, technically trained, and therefore
themselves qualified for individual command in the factories. Meanwhile
there was nothing against the employment of Political Commissars in
the factories as formerly in the regiments, to control in other than
technical matters the doings of the specialists. On the other hand,
it was said that the appointment of Commissars would tend to make
Communists unpopular, since inevitably in many cases they would have
to support the specialists against the workmen, and that the collegiate
system made the workmen feel that they were actually the masters, and so
gave possibilities of enthusiastic work not otherwise obtainable. This
last point was hotly challenged. It was said that collegiate control
meant little in effect, except waste of time and efficiency, because at
worst work was delayed by disputes and at best the workmen members
of the college merely countersigned the orders decided upon by the
specialists. The enthusiastic work was said to be a fairy story. If it
were really to be found then there would be no need for a conference to
discover how to get it.

The most serious opposition, or at least the most serious argument put
forward, for there was less opposition than actual discussion, came from
some of the representatives of the Trade Unionists. A good deal was said
about the position of the Trades Unions in a Socialist State. There was
general recognition that since the Trade Unions themselves controlled
the conditions of labor and wages, the whole of their old work of
organizing strikes against capitalists had ceased to have any meaning,
since to strike now would be to strike against their own decisions.
At the same time, certain tendencies to Syndicalism were still in
existence, tendencies which might well lead to conflict between
different unions, so that, for example, the match makers or the metal
worker, might wish to strike a bargain with the State, as of one country
with another, and this might easily lead to a complete collapse of the
socialist system.

The one thing on which the speakers were in complete agreement was the
absolute need of an effort in industry equal to, if not greater than,
the effort made in the army. I thought it significant that in many
of the speeches the importance of this effort was urged as the only
possible means of retaining the support of the peasants. There was a
tacit recognition that the Conference represented town workers only.
Larin, who had belonged to the old school which had grown up with
its eyes on the industrial countries of the West and believed that
revolution could be brought about by the town workers alone, that it
was exclusively their affair, and that all else was of minor importance,
unguardedly spoke of the peasant as "our neighbor." In Javoslavl,
country and town are too near to allow the main problem of the
revolution to be thus easily dismissed. It was instantly pointed out
that the relation was much more intimate, and that, even if it were only
"neighborly," peace could not long be preserved if it were continually
necessary for one neighbor to steal the chickens of the other. These
town workers of a district for the most part agricultural were very sure
that the most urgent of all tasks was to raise industry to the point
at which the town would really be able to supply the village with its

Larin and Radek severally summed up and made final attacks on each
other's positions, after which Radek's resolution approving the theses
of the Central Committee was passed almost unanimously. Larin's four
amendments received 1, 3, 7 and 1 vote apiece. This result was received
with cheering throughout the theater, and showed the importance of such
Conferences in smoothing the way of the Dictatorship, since it had
been quite obvious when the discussion began that a very much larger
proportion of the delegates than finally voted for his resolution
had been more or less in sympathy with Larin in his opposition to the
Central Committee.

There followed elections to the Party Conference in Moscow. Rostopchin,
the president, read a list which had been submitted by the various
ouyezds in the Jaroslavl Government. They were to send to Moscow fifteen
delegates with the right to vote, together with another fifteen with
the right to speak but not to vote. Larin, who had done much work in the
district, was mentioned as one of the fifteen voting delegates, but he
stood up and said that as the Conference had so clearly expressed
its disagreement with his views, he thought it better to withdraw his
candidature. Rostopchin put it to the Conference that although they
disagreed with Larin, yet it would be as well that he should have the
opportunity of stating his views at the All-Russian Conference, so that
discussion there should be as final and as many-sided as possible.
The Conference expressed its agreement with this. Larin withdrew
his withdrawal, and was presently elected. The main object of these
conferences in unifying opinion and in arming Communists with argument
for the defence of this unified opinion a mong the masses was again
illustrated when the Conference, in leaving it to the ouyezds to choose
for themselves the non-voting delegates urged them to select wherever
possible people who would have the widest opportunities of explaining
on their return to the district whatever results might be reached in

It was now pretty late in the evening, and after another very
satisfactory visit to the prison we drove back to the station. Larin,
who was very disheartened, realizing that he had lost much support in
the course of the discussion, settled down to work, and buried himself
in a mass of statistics. I prepared to go to bed, but we had hardly got
into the car when there was a tap at the door and a couple of railwaymen
came in. They explained that a few hundred yards away along the line a
concert and entertainment arranged by the Jaroslavl railwaymen was going
on, and that their committee, hearing that Radek was at the station, had
sent them to ask him to come over and say a few words to them if he were
not too tired.

"Come along," said Radek, and we walked in the dark along the railway
lines to a big one-story wooden shanty, where an electric lamp lit a
great placard, "Railwaymen's Reading Room." We went into a packed hall.
Every seat was occupied by railway workers and their wives and children.
The gangways on either side were full of those who had not found room on
the benches. We wriggled and pushed our way through this crowd, who were
watching a play staged and acted by the railwaymen themselves, to a side
door, through which we climbed up into the wings, and slid across the
stage behind the scenery into a tiny dressing-room. Here Radek was laid
hold of by the Master of the Ceremonies, who, it seemed, was also part
editor of a railwaymen's newspaper, and made to give a long account of
the present situation of Soviet Russia's Foreign Affairs. The little box
of a room filled to a solid mass as policemen, generals and ladies of
the old regime threw off their costumes, and, in their working clothes,
plain signalmen and engine-drivers, pressed round to listen. When the
act ended, one of the railwaymen went to the front of the stage and
announced that Radek, who had lately come back after imprisonment in
Germany for the cause of revolution, was going to talk to them about
the general state of affairs. I saw Radek grin at this forecast of his
speech. I understood why, when he began to speak. He led off by a direct
and furious onslaught on the railway workers in general, demanding
work, work and more work, telling them that as the Red Army had been
the vanguard of the revolution hitherto, and had starved and fought and
given lives to save those at home from Denikin and Kolchak, so now it
was the turn of the railway workers on whose efforts not only the Red
Army but also the whole future of Russia depended. He addressed himself
to the women, telling them in very bad Russian that unless their men
worked superhumanly they would see their babies die from starvation next
winter. I saw women nudge their husbands as they listened. Instead
of giving them a pleasant, interesting sketch of the international
position, which, no doubt, was what they had expected, he took the
opportunity to tell them exactly how things stood at home. And the
amazing thing was that they seemed to be pleased. They listened with
extreme attention, wanted to turn out some one who had a sneezing fit
at the far end of the hall, and nearly lifted the roof off with cheering
when Radek had done. I wondered what sort of reception a man would have
who in another country interrupted a play to hammer home truths about
the need of work into an audience of working men who had gathered solely
for the purpose of legitimate recreation. It was not as if he sugared
the medicine he gave them. His speech was nothing but demands for
discipline and work, coupled with prophecy of disaster in case work and
discipline failed. It was delivered like all his speeches, with a strong
Polish accent and a steady succession of mistakes in grammar.

As we walked home along the railway lines, half a dozen of the
railwaymen pressed around Radek, and almost fought with each other as to
who should walk next to him. And Radek entirely happy, delighted at his
success in giving them a bombshell instead of a bouquet, with one stout
fellow on one arm, another on the other, two or three more listening in
front and behind, continued rubbing it into them until we reached our
wagon, when, after a general handshaking, they disappeared into the


Trade Unions in Russia are in a different position from that which is
common to all other Trades Unions in the world. In other countries the
Trades Unions are a force with whose opposition the Government must
reckon. In Russia the Government reckons not on the possible opposition
of the Trades Unions, but on their help for realizing its most difficult
measures, and for undermining and overwhelming any opposition which
those measures may encounter. The Trades Unions in Russia, instead of
being an organization outside the State protecting the interests of
a class against the governing class, have become a part of the State
organization. Since, during the present period of the revolution the
backbone of the State organization is the Communist Party, the
Trade Unions have come to be practically an extension of the party
organization. This, of course, would be indignantly denied both by
Trade Unionists and Communists. Still, in the preface to the All-Russian
Trades Union Reports for 1919, Glebov, one of the best-known Trade Union
leaders whom I remember in the spring of last year objecting to the use
of bourgeois specialists in their proper places, admits as much in the
following muddleheaded statement:--

"The base of the proletarian dictatorship is the Communist Party, which
in general directs all the political and economic work of the State,
leaning, first of all, on the Soviets as on the more revolutionary form
of dictatorship of the proletariat, and secondly on the Trades Unions,
as organizations which economically unite the proletariat of factory and
workshop as the vanguard of the revolution, and as organizations of the
new socialistic construction of the State. Thus the Trade Unions must
be considered as a base of the Soviet State, as an organic form
complementary to the other forms of the Proletariat Dictatorship." These
two elaborate sentences constitute an admission of what I have just

Trades Unionists of other countries must regard the fate of their
Russian colleagues with horror or with satisfaction, according to their
views of events in Russia taken as a whole. If they do not believe
that there has been a social revolution in Russia, they must regard
the present position of the Russian Trades Unions as the reward of a
complete defeat of Trade Unionism, in which a Capitalist government has
been able to lay violent hands on the organization which was protecting
the workers against it. If, on the other hand, they believe that there
has been a social revolution, so that the class organized in Trades
Unions is now, identical with the governing, class (of employers, etc.)
against which the unions once struggled, then they must regard the
present position as a natural and satisfactory result of victory.

When I was in Moscow in the spring of this year the Russian Trades
Unions received a telegram from the Trades Union Congress at Amsterdam,
a telegram which admirably illustrated the impossibility of separating
judgment of the present position of the Unions from judgments of the
Russian revolution as a whole. It encouraged the Unions "in their
struggle" and promised support in that struggle. The Communists
immediately asked "What struggle? Against the capitalist system in
Russia which does not exist? Or against capitalist systems outside
Russia?" They said that either the telegram meant this latter only, or
it meant that its writers did not believe that there had been a social
revolution in Russia. The point is arguable. If one believes that
revolution is an impossibility, one can reason from that belief and say
that in spite of certain upheavals in Russia the fundamental arrangement
of society is the same there as in other countries, so that the position
of the Trade Unions there must be the same, and, as in other countries
they must be still engaged in augmenting the dinners of their members at
the expense of the dinners of the capitalists which, in the long run
(if that were possible) they would abolish. If, on the other hand,
one believes that social revolution has actually occurred, to speak of
Trades Unions continuing the struggle in which they conquered something
like three years ago, is to urge them to a sterile fanaticism which has
been neatly described by Professor Santayana as a redoubling of your
effort when you have forgotten your aim.

It 's probably true that the "aim" of the Trades Unions was more clearly
defined in Russia than elsewhere. In England during the greater part of
their history the Trades Unions have not been in conscious opposition
to the State. In Russia this position was forced on the Trades Unions
almost before they had time to get to work. They were born, so to speak,
with red flags in their hands. They grew up under circumstances of
extreme difficulty and persecution. From 1905 on they were in decided
opposition to the existing system, and were revolutionary rather than
merely mitigatory organizations.

Before 1905 they were little more than associations for mutual help,
very weak, spending most of their energies in self-preservation from the
police, and hiding their character as class organizations by electing
more or less Liberal managers and employers as "honorary members." 1905,
however, settled their revolutionary character. In September of that
year there was a Conference at Moscow, where it was decided to call
an All-Russian Trades Union Congress. Reaction in Russia made this
impossible, and the most they could do was to have another small
Conference in February, 1906, which, however, defined their object as
that of creating a general Trade Union Movement organized on All-Russian
lines. The temper of the Trades Unions then, and the condition of the
country at that time, may be judged from the fact that although they
were merely working for the right to form Unions, the right to strike,
etc., they passed the following significant resolution: "Neither from
the present Government nor from the future State Duma can be expected
realization of freedom of coalition. This Conference considers the
legalization of the Trades Unions under present conditions absolutely
impossible." The Conference was right. For twelve years after that there
were no Trades Unions Conferences in Russia. Not until June, 1917, three
months after the March Revolution, was the third Trade Union Conference
able to meet. This Conference reaffirmed the revolutionary character of
the Russian Trades Unions.

At that time the dominant party in the Soviets was that of the
Mensheviks, who were opposed to the formation of a Soviet Government,
and were supporting the provisional Cabinet of Kerensky. The Trades
Unions were actually at that time more revolutionary than the Soviets.
This third Conference passed several resolutions, which show clearly
enough that the present position of the Unions has not been brought
about by any violence of the Communists from without, but was definitely
promised by tendencies inside the Unions at a time when the Communists
were probably the least authoritative party in Russia. This Conference
of June, 1917, resolved that the Trades Unions should not only "remain
militant class organizations... but... should support the activities of
the Soviets of soldiers and deputies." They thus clearly showed on which
side they stood in the struggle then proceeding. Nor was this all. They
also, though the Mensheviks were still the dominant party, resolved
on that system of internal organizations and grouping, which has
been actually realized under the Communists. I quote again from the
resolution of this Conference:

"The evolution of the economic struggle demands from the workers
such forms of professional organization as, basing themselves on
the connection between various groups of workers in the process of
production, should unite within a general organization, and under
general leadership, as large masses of workers as possible occupied
in enterprises of the same kind, or in similar professions. With this
object the workers should organize themselves professionally, not by
shops or trades, but by productions, so that all the workers of a given
enterprise should belong to one Union, even if they belong to different
professions and even different productions." That which was then no
more than a design is now an accurate description of Trades Union
organization in Russia. Further, much that at present surprises the
foreign inquirer was planned and considered desirable then, before the
Communists had won a majority either in the Unions or in the Soviet.
Thus this same third Conference resolved that "in the interests of
greater efficiency and success in the economic struggle, a professional
organization should be built on the principle of democratic centralism,
assuring to every member a share in the affairs of the organization and,
at the same time, obtaining unity in the leadership of the struggle."
Finally "Unity in the direction (leadership) of the economic struggle
demands unity in the exchequer of the Trades Unions."

The point that I wish to make in thus illustrating the pre-Communist
tendencies of the Russian Trades Unions is not simply that if their
present position is undesirable they have only themselves to thank for
it, but that in Russia the Trades Union movement before the October
Revolution was working in the direction of such a revolution, that the
events of October represented something like a Trade Union victory,
so that the present position of the Unions as part of the organization
defending that victory, as part of the system of government set up by
that revolution, is logical and was to be expected. I have illustrated
this from resolutions, because these give statements in words easily
comparable with what has come to pass. It would be equally easy to point
to deeds instead of words if we need more forcible though less accurate

Thus, at the time of the Moscow Congress the Soviets, then Mensheviks,
who were represented at the Congress (the object of the Congress was to
whip up support for the Coalition Government) were against strikes
of protest. The Trades Unions took a point of view nearer that of
the Bolsheviks, and the strikes in Moscow took place in spite of the
Soviets. After the Kornilov affair, when the Mensheviks were still
struggling for coalition with the bourgeois parties, the Trades Unions
quite definitely took the Bolshevik standpoint. At the so-called
Democratic Conference, intended as a sort of life belt for the sinking
Provisional Government, only eight of the Trades Union delegates voted
for a continuance of the coalition, whereas seventy three voted against.

This consciously revolutionary character throughout their much shorter
existence has distinguished Russian from, for example, English Trades
Unions. It has set their course for them.

In October, 1917, they got the revolution for which they had been asking
since March. Since then, one Congress after another has illustrated
the natural and inevitable development of Trades Unions inside a
revolutionary State which, like most if not all revolutionary States, is
attacked simultaneously by hostile armies from without and by economic
paralysis from within. The excited and lighthearted Trades Unionists
of three years ago, who believed that the mere decreeing of "workers'
control" would bring all difficulties automatically to an end, are now
unrecognizable. We have seen illusion after illusion scraped from them
by the pumice-stone of experience, while the appalling state of the
industries which they now largely control, and the ruin of the country
in which they attained that control, have forced them to alter their
immediate aims to meet immediate dangers, and have accelerated the
process of adaptation made inevitable by their victory.

The process of adaptation has had the natural result of producing new
internal cleavages. Change after change in their programme and theory
of the Russian Trades Unionists has been due to the pressure of life
itself, to the urgency of struggling against the worsening of conditions
already almost unbearable. It is perfectly natural that those Unions
which hold back from adaptation and resent the changes are precisely
those which, like that of the printers, are not intimately concerned in
any productive process, are consequently outside the central struggle,
and, while feeling the discomforts of change, do not feel its need.

The opposition inside the productive Trades Unions is of two kinds.
There is the opposition, which is of merely psychological interest, of
old Trades Union leaders who have always thought of themselves as in
opposition to the Government, and feel themselves like watches without
mainsprings in their new role of Government supporters. These are men
in whom a natural intellectual stiffness makes difficult the complete
change of front which was the logical result of the revolution for which
they had been working. But beside that there is a much more interesting
opposition based on political considerations. The Menshevik standpoint
is one of disbelief in the permanence of the revolution, or rather in
the permanence of the victory of the town workers. They point to the
divergence in interests between the town and country populations,
and are convinced that sooner or later the peasants will alter the
government to suit themselves, when, once more, it will be a government
against which the town workers will have to defend their interests. The
Mensheviks object to the identification of the Trades Unions with the
Government apparatus on the ground that when this change, which they
expect comes about, the Trade Union movement will be so far emasculated
as to be incapable of defending the town workers against the peasants
who will then be the ruling class. Thus they attack the present Trades
Union leaders for being directly influenced by the Government in fixing
the rate of wages, on the ground that this establishes a precedent from
which, when the change comes, it will be difficult to break away. The
Communists answer them by insisting that it is to everybody's interest
to pull Russia through the crisis, and that if the Trades Unions were
for such academic reasons to insist on their complete independence
instead of in every possible way collaborating with the Government, they
would be not only increasing the difficulties of the revolution in
its economic crisis, but actually hastening that change which the
Mensheviks, though they regard it as inevitable, cannot be supposed
to desire. This Menshevik opposition is strongest in the Ukraine. Its
strength may be judged from the figures of the Congress in Moscow
this spring when, of 1,300 delegates, over 1,000 were Communists or
sympathizers with them; 63 were Mensheviks and 200 were non-party, the
bulk of whom, I fancy, on this point would agree with the Mensheviks.

But apart from opposition to the "stratification" of the Trades Unions,
there is a cleavage cutting across the Communist Party itself and
uniting in opinion, though not in voting, the Mensheviks and a section
of their Communist opponents. This cleavage is over the question of
"workers' control." Most of those who, before the revolution, looked
forward to the "workers' control", thought of it as meaning that the
actual workers in a given factory would themselves control that factory,
just as a board of directors controls a factory under the ordinary
capitalist system. The Communists, I think, even today admit the
ultimate desirability of this, but insist that the important question is
not who shall give the orders, but in whose interest the orders shall
be given. I have nowhere found this matter properly thrashed out, though
feeling upon it is extremely strong. Everybody whom I asked about it
began at once to address me as if I were a public meeting, so that I
found it extremely difficult to get from either side a statement not
free from electioneering bias. I think, however, that it may be fairly
said that all but a few lunatics have abandoned the ideas of 1917, which
resulted in the workmen in a factory deposing any technical expert or
manager whose orders were in the least irksome to them. These ideas
and the miseries and unfairness they caused, the stoppages of work, the
managers sewn up in sacks, ducked in ponds and trundled in wheelbarrows,
have taken their places as curiosities of history. The change in these
ideas has been gradual. The first step was the recognition that the
State as a whole was interested in the efficiency of each factory, and,
therefore, that the workmen of each factory had no right to arrange
things with no thought except for themselves. The Committee idea was
still strong, and the difficulty was got over by assuring that the
technical staff should be represented on the Committee, and that the
casting vote between workers and technical experts or managers should
belong to the central economic organ of the State. The next stage was
when the management of a workshop was given a so called "collegiate"
character, the workmen appointing representatives to share the
responsibility of the "bourgeois specialist." The bitter controversy now
going on concerns the seemingly inevitable transition to a later stage
in which, for all practical purposes, the bourgeois specialist will be
responsible solely to the State. Many Communists, including some of
the best known, while recognizing the need of greater efficiency if
the revolution is to survive at all, regard this step as definitely
retrograde and likely in the long run to make the revolution not worth
preserving. [*]

     * Thus Rykov, President of the Supreme Council of Public
     Economy: "There is a possibility of so constructing a State
     that in it there will be a ruling caste consisting chiefly
     of administrative engineers, technicians, etc.; that is, we
     should get a form of State economy based on a small group of
     a ruling caste whose privilege in this case would be the
     management of the workers and peasants." That criticism of
     individual control, from a communist, goes a good deal
     further than most of the criticism from people avowedly in
     opposition.] The enormous importance attached by everybody
     to this question of individual or collegiate control, may
     be judged from the fact that at every conference I attended,
     and every discussion to which I listened, this point, which
     might seem of minor importance, completely overshadowed the
     question of industrial conscription which, at least inside
     the Communist Party, seemed generally taken for granted. It
     may be taken now as certain that the majority of the
     Communists are in favor of individual control. They say that
     the object of "workers' control" before the revolution was
     to ensure that factories should be run in the interests of
     workers as well of employers. In Russia now there are no
     employers other than the State as a whole, which is
     exclusively made up of employees. (I am stating now the view
     of the majority at the last Trades Union Congress at which I
     was present, April, 1920.) They say that "workers' control"
     exists in a larger and more efficient manner than was
     suggested by the old pre-revolutionary statements on that
     question. Further, they say that if workers' control ought
     to be identified with Trade Union control, the Trades Unions
     are certainly supreme in all those matters with which they
     have chiefly concerned themselves, since they dominate the
     Commissariat of Labor, are very largely represented on the
     Supreme Council of Public Economy, and fix the rates of pay
     for their own members. [*]

     * The wages of workmen are decided by the Trades Unions, who
     draw up "tariffs" for the whole country, basing their
     calculations on three criteria: (I) The price of food in the
     open market in the district where a workman is employed,
     (2)the price of food supplied by the State on the card
     system, (3)the quality of the workman. This last is decided
     by a special section of the Factory Committee, which in each
     factory is an organ of the Trades Union.]

The enormous Communist majority, together with the fact that however
much they may quarrel with each other inside the party, the Communists
will go to almost any length to avoid breaking the party discipline,
means that at present the resolutions of Trades Union Congresses
will not be different from those of Communists Congresses on the same
subjects. Consequently, the questions which really agitate the members,
the actual cleavages inside that Communist majority, are comparatively
invisible at a Trades Union Congress. They are fought over with great
bitterness, but they are not fought over in the Hall of the Unions-once
the Club of the Nobility, with on its walls on Congress days the hammer
and spanner of the engineers, the pestle and trowel of the builders, and
so on-but in the Communist Congresses in the Kremlin and throughout
the country. And, in the problem with which in this book we are mainly
concerned, neither the regular business of the Unions nor their internal
squabbles affects the cardinal fact that in the present crisis the
Trades Unions are chiefly important as part of that organization of
human will with which the Communists are attempting to arrest the steady
progress of Russia's economic ruin. Putting it brutally, so as to offend
Trades Unionists and Communists alike, they are an important part of the
Communist system of internal propaganda, and their whole organization
acts as a gigantic megaphone through which the Communist Party makes
known its fears, its hopes and its decisions to the great masses of the
industrial workers.


When I crossed the Russian front in October, 1919, the first thing I
noticed in peasants' cottages, in the villages, in the little town where
I took the railway to Moscow, in every railway station along the line,
was the elaborate pictorial propaganda concerned with the war. There
were posters showing Denizen standing straddle over Russia's coal, while
the factory chimneys were smokeless and the engines idle in the yards,
with the simplest wording to show why it was necessary to beat Denizen
in order to get coal; there were posters illustrating the treatment
of the peasants by the Whites; posters against desertion, posters
illustrating the Russian struggle against the rest of the world, showing
a workman, a peasant, a sailor and a soldier fighting in self-defence
against an enormous Capitalistic Hydra. There were also-and this I took
as a sign of what might be-posters encouraging the sowing of corn, and
posters explaining in simple pictures improved methods of agriculture.
Our own recruiting propaganda during the war, good as that was, was
never developed to such a point of excellence, and knowing the general
slowness with which the Russian centre reacts on its periphery, I
was amazed not only at the actual posters, but at their efficient
distribution thus far from Moscow.

I have had an opportunity of seeing two of the propaganda trains, the
object of which is to reduce the size of Russia politically by bringing
Moscow to the front and to the out of the way districts, and so to
lessen the difficulty of obtaining that general unity of purpose which
it is the object of propaganda to produce. The fact that there is some
hope that in the near future the whole of this apparatus may be turned
over to the propaganda of industry makes it perhaps worth while to
describe these trains in detail.

Russia, for purposes of this internal propaganda, is divided into
five sections, and each section has its own train, prepared for the
particular political needs of the section it serves, bearing its own
name, carrying its regular crew-a propaganda unit, as corporate as the
crew of a ship. The five trains at present in existence are the "Lenin,"
the "Sverdlov," the "October Revolution," the "Red East," which is now
in Turkestan, and the "Red Cossack," which, ready to start for Rostov
and the Don, was standing, in the sidings at the Kursk station, together
with the "Lenin," returned for refitting and painting.

Burov, the organizer of these trains, a ruddy, enthusiastic little
man in patched leather coat and breeches, took a party of foreigners-a
Swede, a Norwegian, two Czechs, a German and myself to visit his trains,
together with Radek, in the hope that Radek would induce Lenin to visit
them, in which case Lenin would be kinematographed for the delight of
the villagers, and possibly the Central Committee would, if Lenin were
interested, lend them more lively support.

We walked along the "Lenin" first, at Burov's special request. Burov,
it seems, has only recently escaped from what he considered a bitter
affliction due to the Department of Proletarian Culture, who, in the
beginning, for the decoration of his trains, had delivered him bound
hand and foot to a number of Futurists. For that reason he wanted us to
see the "Lenin" first, in order that we might compare it with the result
of his emancipation, the "Red Cossack," painted when the artists "had
been brought under proper control." The "Lenin" had been painted a year
and a half ago, when, as fading hoarding in the streets of Moscow still
testify, revolutionary art was dominated by the Futurist movement. Every
carriage is decorated with most striking but not very comprehensible
pictures in the brightest colors, and the proletariat was called upon to
enjoy what the pre-revolutionary artistic public had for the most part
failed to understand. Its pictures are "art for art's sake," and cannot
have done more than astonish, and perhaps terrify, the peasants and
the workmen of the country towns who had the luck to see them. The "Red
Cossack" is quite different. As Burov put it with deep satisfaction,
"At first we were in the artists' hands, and now the artists are in
our hands," a sentence suggesting the most horrible possibilities of
official art under socialism, although, of course, bad art flourishes
pretty well even under other systems.

I inquired exactly how Burov and his friends kept the artists in the
right way, and received the fullest explanation. The political section
of the organization works out the main idea and aim for each picture,
which covers the whole side of a wagon. This idea is then submitted to a
"collective" of artists, who are jointly responsible for its realization
in paint. The artists compete with each other for a prize which is
awarded for the best design, the judges being the artists themselves. It
is the art of the poster, art with a purpose of the most definite kind.
The result is sometimes amusing, interesting, startling, but, whatever
else it does, hammers home a plain idea.

Thus the picture on the side of one wagon is divided into two sections.
On the left is a representation of the peasants and workmen of the
Soviet Republic. Under it are the words, "Let us not find ourselves
again..." and then, in gigantic lettering under the right-hand section
of the picture, "... in the HEAVEN OF THE WHITES." This heaven is shown
by an epauletted officer hitting a soldier in the face, as was done in
the Tsar's army and in at least one army of the counter revolutionaries,
and workmen tied to stakes, as was done by the Whites in certain towns
in the south. Then another wagon illustrating the methods of Tsardom,
with a State vodka shop selling its wares to wretched folk, who, when
drunk on the State vodka, are flogged by the State police. Then there
is a wagon showing the different Cossacks-of the Don, Terek, Kuban,
Ural-riding in pairs. The Cossack infantry is represented on the other
side of this wagon. On another wagon is a very jolly picture of Stenka
Razin in his boat with little old-fashioned brass cannon, rowing up the
river. Underneath is written the words: "I attack only the rich, with
the poor I divide everything." On one side are the poor folk running
from their huts to join him, on the other the rich folk firing at him
from their castle. One wagon is treated purely decoratively, with a
broad effective characteristically South Russian design, framing a
huge inscription to the effect that the Cossacks need not fear that
the Soviet Republic will interfere with their religion, since under its
regime every man is to be free to believe exactly what he likes. Then
there is an entertaining wagon, showing Kolchak sitting inside a fence
in Siberia with a Red soldier on guard, Judenitch sitting in a little
circle with a sign-post to show it is Esthonia, and Denikin running at
full speed to the asylum indicated by another sign-post on which is the
crescent of the Turkish Empire. Another lively picture shows the young
Cossack girls learning to read, with a most realistic old Cossack woman
telling them they had better not. But there is no point in describing
every wagon. There are sixteen wagons in the "Red Cossack," and every
one is painted all over on both sides.

The internal arrangements of the train are a sufficient proof that
Russians are capable of organization if they set their minds to it.
We went through it, wagon by wagon. One wagon contains a wireless
telegraphy station capable of receiving news from such distant stations
as those of Carnarvon or Lyons. Another is fitted up as a newspaper
office, with a mechanical press capable of printing an edition of
fifteen thousand daily, so that the district served by the train,
however out of the way, gets its news simultaneously with Moscow, many
days sometimes before the belated Izvestia or Pravda finds its way to
them. And with its latest news it gets its latest propaganda, and in
order to get the one it cannot help getting the other. Next door to that
there is a kinematograph wagon, with benches to seat about one hundred
and fifty persons. But indoor performances are only given to children,
who must come during the daytime, or in summer when the evenings are too
light to permit an open air performance. In the ordinary way, at night,
a great screen is fixed up in the open. There is a special hole cut in
the side of the wagon, and through this the kinematograph throws its
picture on the great screen outside, so that several thousands can see
it at once. The enthusiastic Burov insisted on working through a couple
of films for us, showing the Communists boy scouts in their country
camps, children's meetings in Petrograd, and the big demonstrations
of last year in honor of the Third International. He was extremely
disappointed that Radek, being in a hurry, refused to wait for a
performance of "The Father and his Son," a drama which, he assured us
with tears in his eyes, was so thrilling that we should not regret being
late for our appointments if we stayed to witness it. Another wagon is
fitted up as an electric power-station, lighting the train, working the
kinematograph and the printing machine, etc. Then there is a clean little
kitchen and dining-room, where, before being kinematographed-a horrible
experience when one is first quite seriously begged (of course by Burov)
to assume an expression of intelligent interest--we had soup, a plate of
meat and cabbage, and tea. Then there is a wagon bookshop, where, while
customers buy books, a gramophone sings the revolutionary songs of
Demian Bledny, or speaks with the eloquence of Trotsky or the logic of
Lenin. Other wagons are the living-rooms of the personnel, divided up
according to their duties-political, military, instructional, and so
forth. For the train has not merely an agitational purpose. It carries
with it a staff to give advice to local authorities, to explain what
has not been understood, and so in every way to bring the ideas of the
Centre quickly to the backwoods of the Republic. It works also in the
opposite direction, helping to make the voice of the backwoods heard
at Moscow. This is illustrated by a painted pillar-box on one of the
wagons, with a slot for letters, labelled, "For Complaints of Every
Kind." Anybody anywhere who has grievance, thinks he is being unfairly
treated, or has a suggestion to make, can speak with the Centre in
this way. When the train is on a voyage telegrams announce its
arrival beforehand, so that the local Soviets can make full use of
its advantages, arranging meetings, kinematograph shows, lectures.
It arrives, this amazing picture train, and proceeds to publish and
distribute its newspapers, sell its books (the bookshop, they tell me,
is literally stormed at every stopping place), send books and posters
for forty versts on either side of the line with the motor-cars which it
carries with it, and enliven the population with its kinematograph.

I doubt if a more effective instrument of propaganda has ever been
devised. And in considering the question whether or no the Russians will
be able after organizing their military defence to tackle with similar
comparative success the much more difficult problem of industrial
rebirth, the existence of such instruments, the use of such propaganda
is a factor not to be neglected. In the spring of this year, when the
civil war seemed to be ending, when there was a general belief that
the Poles would accept the peace that Russia offered (they ignored this
offer, advanced, took Kiev, were driven back to Warsaw, advanced again,
and finally agreed to terms which they could have had in March without
bloodshed any kind), two of these propaganda trains were already being
repainted with a new purpose. It was hoped that in the near future all
five trains would be explaining not the need to fight but the need to
work. Undoubtedly, at the first possible moment, the whole machinery of
agitation, of posters, of broadsheets and of trains, will be turned over
to the task of explaining the Government's plans for reconstruction,
and the need for extraordinary concentration, now on transport, now on
something else, that these plans involve.


So much for the organization, with its Communist Party, its system of
meetings and counter-meetings, its adapted Trades Unions, its infinitely
various propaganda, which is doing its best to make headway against
ruin. I want now to describe however briefly, the methods it has adopted
in tackling the worst of all Russia's problems-the non-productivity and
absolute shortage of labor.

I find a sort of analogy between these methods and those which we used
in England in tackling the similar cumulative problem of finding men for
war. Just as we did not proceed at once to conscription, but began by
a great propaganda of voluntary effort, so the Communists, faced with
a need at least equally vital, did not turn at once to industrial
conscription. It was understood from the beginning that the Communists
themselves were to set an example of hard work, and I dare say a
considerable proportion of them did so. Every factory had its little
Communist Committee, which was supposed to leaven the factory with
enthusiasm, just as similar groups of Communists drafted into the armies
in moments of extreme danger did, on more than one occasion, as the
non-Communist Commander-in-Chief admits, turn a rout into a stand and
snatch victory from what looked perilously like defeat. But this was
not enough, arrears of work accumulated, enthusiasm waned, productivity
decreased, and some new move was obviously necessary. This first move in
the direction of industrial conscription, although no one perceived its
tendency at the time, was the inauguration of what have become known as

Early in 1919 the Central Committee of the Communist Party put out a
circular letter, calling upon the Communists "to work revolutionally,"
to emulate in the rear the heroism of their brothers on the front,
pointing out that nothing but the most determined efforts and an
increase in the productivity of labor would enable Russia to win through
her difficulties of transport, etc. Kolchak, to quote from English
newspapers, was it "sweeping on to Moscow," and the situation was pretty
threatening. As a direct result of this letter, on May 7th, a meeting
of Communists in the sub-district of the Moscow-Kazan railway passed
a resolution that, in view of the imminent danger to the Republic,
Communists and their sympathizers should give up an hour a day of their
leisure, and, lumping these hours together, do every Saturday six hours
of manual labor; and, further, that these Communist "Saturdayings"
should be continued "until complete victory over Kolchak should be
assured." That decision of a local committee was the actual beginning of
a movement which spread all over Russia, and though the complete victory
over Kolchak was long ago obtained, is likely to continue so long as
Soviet Russia is threatened by any one else.

The decision was put into effect on May 10th, when the first Communist
"Saturdaying" in Russia took place on the Moscow-Kazan railway. The
Commissar of the railway, Communist clerks from the offices, and every
one else who wished to help, marched to work, 182 in all, and put in
1,012 hours of manual labor, in which they finished the repairs of four
locomotives and sixteen wagons and loaded and unloaded 9,300 poods of
engine and wagon parts and material. It was found that the productivity
of labor in loading and unloading shown on this occasion was about 270
per cent. of the normal, and a similar superiority of effort was shown
in the other kinds of work. This example was immediately copied on other
railways. The Alexandrovsk railway had its first "Saturdaying" on May
17th. Ninety-eight persons worked for five hours, and here also did
two or three times as much is the usual amount of work done in the
same number of working hours under ordinary circumstances. One of the
workmen, in giving an account of the performance, wrote: "The Comrades
explain this by saying that in ordinary times the work was dull and they
were sick of it, whereas this occasion they were working willingly and
with excitement. But now it will be shameful in ordinary hours to do
less than in the Communist 'Saturdaying.'" The hope implied in this last
sentence has not been realized.

In Pravda of June 7th there is an article describing one of these early
"Saturdayings," which gives a clear picture of the infectious character
of the proceedings, telling how people who came out of curiosity to
look on found themselves joining in the work, and how a soldier with an
accordion after staring for a long time open-mouthed at these
lunatics working on a Saturday afternoon put up a tune for them on his
instrument, and, delighted by their delight, played on while the workers
all sang together.

The idea of the "Saturdayings" spread quickly from railways to
factories, and by the middle of the summer reports of similar efforts
were coming from all over Russia. Then Lenin became interested, seeing
in these "Saturdayings" not only a special effort in the face of common
danger, but an actual beginning of Communism and a sign that Socialism
could bring about a greater productivity of labor than could be obtained
under Capitalism. He wrote: "This is a work of great difficulty and
requiring much time, but it has begun, and that is the main thing. If
in hungry Moscow in the summer of 1919 hungry workmen who have lived
through the difficult four years of the Imperialistic war, and then the
year and a half of the still more difficult civil war, have been able to
begin this great work, what will not be its further development when we
conquer in the civil war and win peace." He sees in it a promise of
work being done not for the sake of individual gain, but because of a
recognition that such work is necessary for the general good, and in all
he wrote and spoke about it he emphasized the fact that people worked
better and harder when working thus than under any of the conditions
(piece-work, premiums for good work, etc.) imposed by the revolution
in its desperate attempts to raise the productivity of labor. For this
reason alone, he wrote, the first "Saturdaying" on the Moscow-Kazan
railway was an event of historical significance, and not for Russia

Whether Lenin was right or wrong in so thinking, "Saturdayings" became a
regular institution, like Dorcas meetings in Victorian England, like the
thousands of collective working parties instituted in England during the
war with Germany. It remains to be seen how long they will continue,
and if they will survive peace when that comes. At present the most
interesting point about them is the large proportion of non-Communists
who take an enthusiastic part in them. In many cases not more than ten
per cent. of Communists are concerned, though they take the initiative in
organizing the parties and in finding the work to be done. The movement
spread like fire in dry grass, like the craze for roller-skating swept
over England some years ago, and efforts were made to control it, so
that the fullest use might be made of it. In Moscow it was found
worth while to set up a special Bureau for "Saturdayings." Hospitals,
railways, factories, or any other concerns working for the public good,
notify this bureau that they need the sort of work a "Saturdaying"
provides. The bureau informs the local Communists where their services
are required, and thus there is a minimum of wasted energy. The local
Communists arrange the "Saturdayings," and any one else joins in who
wants. These "Saturdayings" are a hardship to none because they are
voluntary, except for members of the Communist Party, who are considered
to have broken the party discipline if they refrain. But they can avoid
the "Saturdayings" if they wish to by leaving the party. Indeed, Lenin
points, out that the "Saturdayings" are likely to assist in clearing out
of the party those elements which joined it with the hope of personal
gain. He points out that the privileges of a Communists now consist in
doing more work than other people in the rear, and, on the front, in
having the certainty of being killed when other folk are merely taken

The following are a few examples of the sort of work done in the
"Saturdayings." Briansk hospitals were improperly heated because of
lack of the local transport necessary to bring them wood. The Communists
organized a "Saturdaying," in which 900 persons took part, including
military specialists (officers of the old army serving in the new),
soldiers, a chief of staff, workmen and women. Having no horses, they
harnessed themselves to sledges in groups of ten, and brought in the
wood required. At Nijni 800 persons spent their Saturday afternoon in
unloading barges. In the Basman district of Moscow there was a gigantic
"Saturdaying" and "Sundaying" in which 2,000 persons (in this case all
but a little over 500 being Communists) worked in the heavy artillery
shops, shifting materials, cleaning tramlines for bringing in fuel, etc.
Then there was a "Saturdaying" the main object of which was a
general autumn cleaning of the hospitals for the wounded. One form of
"Saturdaying" for women is going to the hospitals, talking with the
wounded and writing letters for them, mending their clothes, washing
sheets, etc. The majority of "Saturdayings" at present are concerned
with transport work and with getting and shifting wood, because at
the moment these are the chief difficulties. I have talked to many
"Saturdayers," Communist and non-Communist, and all alike spoke of these
Saturday afternoons of as kind of picnic. On the other hand, I have met
Communists who were accustomed to use every kind off ingenuity to find
excuses not to take part in them and yet to preserve the good opinion of
their local committee.

But even if the whole of the Communist Party did actually indulge in
a working picnic once a week, it would not suffice to meet Russia's
tremendous needs. And, as I pointed out in the chapter specially devoted
to the shortage of labor, the most serious need at present is to keep
skilled workers at their jobs instead of letting them drift away into
non-productive labor. No amount of Saturday picnics could do that, and
it was obvious long ago that some other means, would have to be devised.


The general principle of industrial conscription recognized by the
Russian Constitution, section ii, chapter v, paragraph 18, which reads:
"The Russian Socialist Federate Soviet Republic recognizes that work is
an obligation on every citizen of the Republic," and proclaims, "He who
does not work shall not eat." It is, however, one thing to proclaim such
a principle and quite another to put it into action.

On December 17, 1919, the moment it became clear that there was a real
possibility that the civil war was drawing to an end, Trotsky allowed
the Pravda to print a memorandum of his, consisting of "theses" or
reasoned notes about industrial conscription and the militia system.
He points out that a Socialist State demands a general plan for the
utilization of all the resources of a country, including its human
energy. At the same time, "in the present economic chaos in which are
mingled the broken fragments of the past and the beginnings of the
future," a sudden jump to a complete centralized economy of the country
as a whole is impossible. Local initiative, local effort must not
be sacrificed for the sake of a plan. At the same time industrial
conscription is necessary for complete socialization. It cannot be
regardless of individuality like military conscription. He suggests a
subdivision of the State into territorial productive districts which
should coincide with the territorial districts of the militia system
which shall replace the regular army. Registration of labor necessary.
Necessary also to coordinate military and industrial registration. At
demobilization the cadres of regiments, divisions, etc., should form
the fundamental cadres of the militia. Instruction to this end should
be included in the courses for workers and peasants who are training to
become officers in every district. Transition to the militia system must
be carefully and gradually accomplished so as not for a moment to leave
the Republic defenseless. While not losing sight of these ultimate aims,
it is necessary to decide on immediate needs and to ascertain exactly
what amount of labor is necessary for their limited realization. He
suggests the registration of skilled labor in the army. He suggests that
a Commission under general direction of the Council of Public Economy
should work out a preliminary plan and then hand it over to the War
Department, so that means should be worked out for using the military
apparatus for this new industrial purpose.

Trotsky's twenty-four theses or notes must have been written in odd
moments, now here now there, on the way from one front to another. They
do not form a connected whole. Contradictions jostle each other, and
it is quite clear that Trotsky himself had no very definite plan in his
head. But his notes annoyed and stimulated so many other people that
they did perhaps precisely the work they were intended to do. Pravada
printed them with a note from the editor inviting discussion. The
Ekonomitcheskaya Jizn printed letter after letter from workmen,
officials and others, attacking, approving and bringing new suggestions.
Larin, Semashko, Pyatakov, Bucharin all took a hand in the discussion.
Larin saw in the proposals the beginning of the end of the revolution,
being convinced that authority would pass from the democracy of the
workers into the hands of the specialists. Rykov fell upon them with
sturdy blows on behalf of the Trades Unions. All, however, agreed on the
one point--that something of the sort was necessary. On December 27th
a Commission for studying the question of industrial conscription was
formed under the presidency of Trotsky. This Commission included the
People's Commissars, or Ministers, of Labor, Ways of Communication,
Supply, Agriculture, War, and the Presidents of the Central Council of
the Trades Unions and of the Supreme Council of Public Economy. They
compiled a list of the principal questions before them, and invited
anybody interested to bring them suggestions and material for

But the discussion was not limited to the newspapers or to this
Commission. The question was discussed in Soviets and Conferences of
every kind all over the country. Thus, on January 1st an All-Russian
Conference of local "departments for the registration and distribution
of labor," after prolonged argument, contributed their views. They
pointed out (1) the need of bringing to work numbers of persons who
instead of doing the skilled labor for which they were qualified were
engaged in petty profiteering, etc.; (2) that there evaporation of
skilled labor into unproductive speculation could at least be checked
by the introduction of labor books, which would give some sort of
registration of each citizen's work; (3) that workmen can be brought
back from the villages only for enterprises which are supplied with
provisions or are situated in districts where there is plenty. ("The
opinion that, in the absence of these preliminary conditions, it will be
possible to draw workmen from the villages by measures of compulsion or
mobilization is profoundly mistaken.") (4) that there should be a census
of labor and that the Trades Unions should be invited to protect the
interests of the conscripted. Finally, this Conference approved the idea
of using the already existing military organization for carrying out a
labor census of the Red Army, and for the turning over to labor of parts
of the army during demobilization, but opposed the idea of giving the
military organization the work of labor registration and industrial
conscription in general.

On January 22, 1920, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, after
prolonged discussion of Trotsky's rough memorandum, finally adopted
and published a new edition of the "theses," expanded, altered, almost
unrecognizable, a reasoned body of theory entirely different from
the bundle of arrows loosed at a venture by Trotsky. They definitely
accepted the principle of industrial conscription, pointing out the
immediate reasons for it in the fact that Russia cannot look for much
help from without and must somehow or other help herself.

Long before the All-Russian Congress of the Communist Party approved the
theses of the Committee, one form of industrial conscription was already
being tested at work. Very early in January, when the discussion on the
subject was at its height, the Soviet of the Third Army addressed itself
to the Council of Defense of the Republic with an invitation to make use
of this army (which at least for the moment had finished its military
task) and to experiment with it as a labor army. The Council of Defense
agreed. Representatives of the Commissariats of Supply, Agriculture,
Ways and Communications, Labor and the Supreme Council of Public Economy
were sent to assist the Army Soviet. The army was proudly re-named "The
First Revolutionary Army of Labor," and began to issue communiques
"from the Labor front," precisely like the communiques of an army in the
field. I translate as a curiosity the first communique issued by a Labor
Army's Soviet:

"Wood prepared in the districts of Ishim, Karatulskaya, Omutinskaya,
Zavodoutovskaya, Yalutorovska, Iushaly, Kamuishlovo, Turinsk, Altynai,
Oshtchenkovo, Shadrinsk, 10,180 cubic sazhins. Working days, 52,651.
Taken to the railway stations, 5,334 cubic sazhins. Working days on
transport, 22,840. One hundred carpenters detailed for the Kizelovsk
mines. One hundred carpenters detailed for the bridge at Ufa. One
engineer specialist detailed to the Government Council of Public Economy
for repairing the mills of Chelyabinsk Government. One instructor
accountant detailed for auditing the accounts of the economic
organizations of Kamuishlov. Repair of locomotives proceeding in the
works at Ekaterinburg. January 20, 1920, midnight."

The Labor Army's Soviet received a report on the state of the district
covered by the army with regard to supply and needed work. By the end of
January it had already carried out a labor census of the army, and found
that it included over 50,000 laborers, of whom a considerable number
were skilled. It decided on a general plan of work in reestablishing
industry in the Urals, which suffered severely during the Kolchak regime
and the ebb and flow of the civil war, and was considering a suggestion
of one of its members that if the scheme worked well the army should be
increased to 300,000 men by way of mobilization.

On January 23rd the Council of Defense of the Republic, encouraged
to proceed further, decided to make use of the Reserve Army for the
improvement of railway transport on the Moscow-Kazan railway, one of
the chief arteries between eastern food districts and Moscow. The main
object is to be the reestablishment of through traffic between Moscow
and Ekaterinburg and the repair of the Kazan-Ekaterinburg line, which
particularly suffered during the war. An attempt was to be made to
rebuild the bridge over the Kama River before the ice melts. The
Commander of the Reserve Army was appointed Commissar of the eastern
part of the Moscow-Kazan railway, retaining his position as Commander
of the Army. With a view of coordination between the Army Soviet and the
railway authorities, a member of the Soviet was also appointed Commissar
of the railway. On January 25th it was announced that a similar
experiment was being made in the Ukraine. A month before the ice broke
the first train actually crossed the Kama River by the rebuilt bridge.

By April of this year the organization of industrial conscription had
gone far beyond the original labor armies. A decree of February 5th had
created a Chief Labor Committee, consisting of five members, Serebryakov
and Danilov, from the Commissariat of War; Vasiliev, from the
Commissariat of the Interior; Anikst, from the Commissariat of Labor;
Dzerzhinsky, from the Commissariat of Internal Affairs. Dzerzhinsky was
President, and his appointment was possibly made in the hope that the
reputation he had won as President of the Extraordinary Committee for
Fighting Counter-Revolution would frighten people into taking this
Committee seriously. Throughout the country in each government or
province similar committees, called "Troikas," were created, each of
three members, one from the Commissariat of War, one from the Department
of Labor, one from the Department of Management, in each case from
the local Commissariats and Departments attached to the local Soviet.
Representatives of the Central Statistical Office and its local organs
had a right to be present at the meeting of these committees of three,
or "Troikas," but had not the right to vote. An organization or a
factory requiring labor, was to apply to the Labor Department of the
local Soviet. This Department was supposed to do its best to satisfy
demands upon it by voluntary methods first. If these proved insufficient
they were to apply to the local "Troika," or Labor Conscription
Committee. If this found that its resources also were insufficient, it
was to refer back the request to the Labor Department of the Soviet,
which was then to apply to its corresponding Department in the
Government Soviet, which again, first voluntarily and then through the
Government Committee of Labor Conscription, was to try to satisfy the
demands. I fancy the object of this arrangement was to prevent local
"Troikas" from referring to Government "Troikas," and so directly to
Dzerzhinsky's Central Committee. If they had been able to do this there
would obviously have been danger lest a new network of independent and
powerful organizations should be formed. Experience with the overgrown
and insuppressible Committees for Fighting Counter-Revolution had taught
people how serious such a development might be.

Such was the main outline of the scheme for conscripting labor. A
similar scheme was prepared for superintending and safeguarding labor
when conscripted. In every factory of over 1,000 workmen, clerks, etc.,
there was formed a Commission (to distinguish it from the Committee) of
Industrial Conscription. Smaller factories shared such Commissions
or were joined for the purpose to larger factories near by. These
Commissions were to be under the direct control of a Factory Committee,
thereby preventing squabbles between conscripted and non-conscripted
labor. They were to be elected for six months, but their members could
be withdrawn and replaced by the Factory Committee with the approval of
the local "Troika." These Commissions, like the "Troikas," consisted
of three members: (1) from the management of the factory, (2) from the
Factory Committee, (3) from the Executive Committee of the workers. (It
was suggested in the directions that one of these should be from the
group which "has been organizing 'Saturdayings,' that is to say that he
or she should be a Communist.) The payment of conscripted workers was
to be by production, with prizes for specially good work. Specially bad
work was also foreseen in the detailed scheme of possible punishments.
Offenders were to be brought before the "People's Court" (equivalent
to the ordinary Civil Court), or, in the case of repeated or very bad
offenses, were to be brought before the far more dreaded Revolutionary
Tribunals. Six categories of possible offenses were placed upon the new

     (1)Avoiding registration, absenteeism, or desertion.
     (2)The preparation of false documents or the use of such.
     (3)Officials giving false information to facilitate these crimes.
     (4)Purposeful damage of instruments or material.
     (5)Uneconomical or careless work.
     (6)(Probably the most serious of all: Instigation to any of
     these actions.

The "Troikas" have the right to deal administratively with the less
important crimes by deprival of freedom for not more than two weeks.
No one can be brought to trial except by the Committee for Industrial
Conscription on the initiative of the responsible director of work, and
with the approval either of the local labor inspection authorities or
with that of the local Executive Committee.

No one with the slightest knowledge of Russia will suppose for a moment
that this elaborate mechanism sprang suddenly into existence when
the decree was signed. On the contrary, all stages of industrial
conscription exist simultaneously even today, and it would be possible
by going from one part of Russia to another to collect a series of
specimens of industrial conscription at every stage of evolution, just
as one can collect all stages of man from a baboon to a company director
or a Communist. Some of the more primitive kinds of conscription were
not among the least successful. For example, at the time (in the spring
of the year) when the Russians still hoped that the Poles would be
content with the huge area of non-Polish territory they had already
seized, the army on the western front was without any elaborate system
of decrees being turned into a labor army. The work done was at first
ordinary country work, mainly woodcutting. They tried to collaborate
with the local "Troikas," sending help when these Committees asked
for it. This, however, proved unsatisfactory, so, disregarding the
"Troikas," they organized things for themselves in the whole area
immediately behind the front. They divided up the forests into definite
districts, and they worked these with soldiers and with deserters.
Gradually their work developed, and they built themselves narrow-gauge
railways for the transport of the wood. Then they needed wagons and
locomotives, and of course immediately found themselves at loggerheads
with the railway authorities. Finally, they struck a bargain with
the railwaymen, and were allowed to take broken-down wagons which the
railway people were not in a position to mend. Using such skilled labor
as they had, they mended such wagons as were given them, and later made
a practice of going to the railway yards and in inspecting "sick" wagons
for themselves, taking out any that they thought had a chance even
of temporary convalescence. Incidentally they caused great scandal
by finding in the Smolensk sidings among the locomotives and wagons
supposed to be sick six good locomotives and seventy perfectly healthy
wagons. Then they began to improve the feeding of their army by sending
the wood they had cut, in the trains they had mended, to people who
wanted wood and could give them provisions. One such train went to
Turkestan and back from the army near Smolensk. Their work continually
increased, and since they had to remember that they were an army and
not merely a sort of nomadic factory, they began themselves to mobilize,
exclusively for purposes of work, sections of the civil population.
I asked Unshlicht, who had much to do with this organization, if the
peasants came willingly. He said, "Not very," but added that they did
not mind when they found that they got well fed and were given packets
of salt as prizes for good work. "The peasants," he said, "do not
grumble against the Government when it shows the sort of common
sense that they themselves can understand. We found that when we said
definitely how many carts and men a village must provide, and used them
without delay for a definite purpose, they were perfectly satisfied and
considered it right and proper. In every case, however, when they saw
people being mobilized and sent thither without obvious purpose or
result, they became hostile at once." I asked Unshlicht how it was that
their army still contained skilled workmen when one of the objects of
industrial conscription was to get the skilled workmen back into the
factories. He said: "We have an accurate census of the army, and when we
get asked for skilled workmen for such and such a factory, they go there
knowing that they still belong to the army."

That, of course, is the army point of view, and indicates one of the
main squabbles which industrial conscription has produced. Trotsky would
like the various armies to turn into units of a territorial militia, and
at the same time to be an important part of the labor organization
of each district. His opponents do not regard the labor armies as a
permanent manifestation, and many have gone so far as to say that
the productivity of labor in one of these armies is lower than among
ordinary workmen. Both sides produce figures on this point, and Trotsky
goes so far as to say that if his opponents are right, then not only
are labor armies damned, but also the whole principle of industrial
conscription. "If compulsory labor-independently of social condition-is
unproductive, that is a condemnation not of the labor armies, but of
industrial conscription in general, and with it of the whole Soviet
system, the further development of which is unthinkable except on a
basis of universal industrial conscription."

But, of course, the question of the permanence of the labor armies is
not so important as the question of getting the skilled workers back
to the factories. The comparative success or failure of soldiers or
mobilized peasants in cutting wood is quite irrelevant to this recovery
of the vanished workmen. And that recovery will take time, and will be
entirely useless unless it is possible to feed these workers when they
have been collected. There have already been several attempts, not
wholly successful, to collect the straying workers of particular
industries. Thus, after the freeing of the oil-wells from the Whites,
there was a general mobilization of naphtha workers. Many of these had
bolted on or after the arrival of Krasnov or Denikin and gone far into
Central Russia, settling where they could. So months passed before the
Red Army definitely pushed the area of civil war beyond the oil-wells,
that many of these refugees had taken new root and were unwilling to
return. I believe, that in spite of the mobilization, the oil-wells
are still short of men. In the coal districts also, which have passed
through similar experiences, the proportion of skilled to unskilled
labor is very much smaller than it was before the war. There have also
been two mobilizations of railway workers, and these, I think, may be
partly responsible for the undoubted improvement noticeable during
the year, although this is partly at least due to other things beside
conscription. In the first place Trotsky carried with him into the
Commissariat of Transport the same ferocious energy that he has shown in
the Commissariat of War, together with the prestige that he had gained
there. Further, he was well able in the councils of the Republic to
defend the needs of his particular Commissariat against those of all
others. He was, for example able to persuade the Communist Party to
treat the transport crisis precisely as they had treated each crisis
on the front-that is to say, to mobilize great numbers of professed
Communists to meet it, giving them in this case the especial task of
getting engines mended and, somehow or other, of keeping trains on the

But neither the bridges mended and the wood cut by the labor armies,
nor the improvement in transport, are any final proof of the success of
industrial conscription. Industrial conscription in the proper sense
of the words is impossible until a Government knows what it has to
conscript. A beginning was made early this year by the introduction of
labor books, showing what work people were doing and where, and serving
as a kind of industrial passports. But in April this year these had not
yet become general in Moscow although the less unwieldy population of
Petrograd was already supplied with them. It will be long even if it is
possible at all, before any considerable proportion of the people not
living in these two cities are registered in this way. A more useful
step was taken at the end of August, in a general census throughout
Russia. There has been no Russian census since 1897. There was to have
been another about the time the war began. It was postponed for obvious
reasons. If the Communists carry through the census with even moderate
success (they will of course have to meet every kind of evasion), they
will at least get some of the information without which industrial
conscription on a national scale must be little more than a farce.
The census should show them where the skilled workers are. Industrial
conscription should enable them to collect them and put them at their
own skilled work. Then if, besides transplanting them, they are able to
feed them, it will be possible to judge of the success or failure of a
scheme which in most countries would bring a Government toppling to the

"In most countries"; yes, but then the economic crisis has gone
further in Russia than in most countries. There is talk of introducing
industrial conscription (one year's service) in Germany, where things
have not gone nearly so far. And perhaps industrial conscription, like
Communism itself, becomes a thing of desperate hope only in a country
actually face to face with ruin. I remember saying to Trotsky, when
talking of possible opposition, that I, as an Englishman, with the
tendencies to practical anarchism belonging to my race, should certainly
object most strongly if I were mobilized and set to work in a particular
factory, and might even want to work in some other factory just for the
sake of not doing what I was forced to do. Trotsky replied: "You would
now. But you would not if you had been through a revolution, and seen
your country in such a state that only the united, concentrated effort
of everybody could possibly reestablish it. That is the position here.
Everybody knows the position and that there is no other way."


We come now to the Communist plans for reconstruction. We have seen, in
the first two chapters, something of the appalling paralysis which is
the most striking factor in the economic problem to-day. We have seen
how Russia is suffering from a lack of things and from a lack of labor,
how these two shortages react on each other, and how nothing but a vast
improvement in transport can again set in motion what was one of the
great food-producing machines of the world. We have also seen something
of the political organization which, with far wider ambitions before
it, is at present struggling to prevent temporary paralysis from turning
into permanent atrophy. We have seen that it consists of a political
party so far dominant that the Trades Unions and all that is articulate
in the country may be considered as part of a machinery of propaganda,
for getting those things done which that political party considers
should be done. In a country fighting, literally, for its life, no man
can call his soul his own, and we have seen how this fact-a fact that
has become obvious again and again in the history of the world, whenever
a nation has had its back to the wall-is expressed in Russia in terms
of industrial conscription; in measures, that is to say, which would be
impossible in any country not reduced to such extremities; in measures
which may prove to be the inevitable accompaniment of national crisis,
when such crisis is economic rather than military. Let us now see what
the Russians, with that machinery at their disposal are trying to do.

It is obvious that since this machinery is dominated by a political
party, it will be impossible to understand the Russian plans, without
understanding that particular political party's estimate of the
situation in general. It is obvious that the Communist plans for Russia
must be largely affected by their view of Europe as a whole. This view
is gloomy in the extreme. The Communists believe that Europe is steadily
shaking itself to pieces. They believe that this process has already
gone so far that, even given good will on the part of European
Governments, the manufacturers of Western countries are already
incapable of supplying them with all the things which Russia was
importing before the war, still less make up the enormous arrears which
have resulted from six years of blockade. They do not agree with M.
Clemenceau that "revolution is a disease attacking defeated countries
only." Or, to put it as I have heard it stated in Moscow, they believe
that President Wilson's aspiration towards a peace in which should be
neither conqueror nor conquered has been at least partially realized in
the sense that every country ended the struggle economically defeated,
with the possible exception of America, whose signature, after all, is
still to be ratified. They believe that even in seemingly prosperous
countries the seeds of economic disaster are already fertilized. They
think that the demands of labor will become greater and more difficult
to fulfill until at last they become incompatible with a continuance of
the capitalist system. They think that strike after strike, irrespective
of whether it is successful or not, will gradually widen the cracks
and flaws already apparent in the damaged economic structure of Western
Europe. They believe that conflicting interests will involve our nations
in new national wars, and that each of these will deepen the cleavage
between capital and labor. They think that even if exhaustion makes
mutual warfare on a large scale impossible, these conflicting interests
will produce such economic conflicts, such refusals of cooperation, as
will turn exhaustion to despair. They believe, to put it briefly, that
Russia has passed through the worst stages of a process to which
every country in Europe will be submitted in turn by its desperate and
embittered inhabitants. We may disagree with them, but we shall not
understand them if we refuse to take that belief into account. If, as
they imagine, the next five years are to be years of disturbance and
growing resolution, Russia will get very little from abroad. If, for
example, there is to be a serious struggle in England, Russia will get
practically nothing. They not only believe that these things are
going to be, but make the logical deductions as to the effect of such
disturbances on their own chances of importing what they need. For
example, Lenin said to me that "the shock of revolution in England would
ensure the final defeat of capitalism," but he said at the same time
that it would be felt at once throughout the world and cause such
reverberations as would paralyze industry everywhere. And that is why,
although Russia is an agricultural country, the Communist plans for her
reconstruction are concerned first of all not with agriculture, but with
industry. In their schemes for the future of the world, Russia's part is
that of a gigantic farm, but in their schemes for the immediate future
of Russia, their eyes are fixed continually on the nearer object of
making her so far self-supporting that, even if Western Europe is
unable to help them, they may be able to crawl out of their economic
difficulties, as Krassin put it to me before he left Moscow, "if
necessary on all fours, but somehow or other, crawl out."

Some idea of the larger ambitions of the Communists with regard to the
development of Russia are given in a conversation with Rykov, which
follows this chapter. The most important characteristic of them is that
they are ambitions which cannot but find an echo in Russians of any
kind, quite regardless of their political convictions. The old anomalies
of Russian industry, for example, the distances of the industrial
districts from their sources of fuel and raw material are to be done
away with. These anomalies were largely due to historical accidents,
such as the caprice of Peter the Great, and not to any economic reasons.
The revolution, destructive as it has been, has at least cleaned the
slate and made it possible, if it is possible to rebuild at all, to
rebuild Russia on foundations laid by common sense. It may be said
that the Communists are merely doing flamboyantly and with a lot of
flag-waving, what any other Russian Government would be doing in their
place. And without the flamboyance and the flag-waving, it is doubtful
whether in an exhausted country, it would be possible to get anything
done at all. The result of this is that in their work of economic
reconstruction the Communists get the support of most of the best
engineers and other technicians in the country, men who take no interest
whatsoever in the ideas of Karl Marx, but have a professional interest
in doing the best they can with their knowledge, and a patriotic
satisfaction in using that knowledge for Russia. These men, caring not
at all about Communism, want to make Russia once more a comfortably
habitable place, no matter under what Government. Their attitude is
precisely comparable to that of the officers of the old army who have
contributed so much to the success of the new. These officers were not
Communists, but they disliked civil war, and fought to put an end of it.
As Sergei Kamenev, the Commander-in-Chief, and not a Communist, said
to me, "I have not looked on the civil war as on a struggle between two
political ideas, for the Whites have no definite idea. I have considered
it simply as a struggle between the Russian Government and a number of
mutineers." Precisely so do these "bourgeois" technicians now working
throughout Russia regard the task before them. It will be small
satisfaction to them if famine makes the position of any Government
impossible. For them the struggle is quite simply a struggle between
Russia and the economic forces tending towards a complete collapse of

The Communists have thus practically the whole intelligence of the
country to help them in their task of reconstruction, or of salvage.
But the educated classes alone cannot save a nation. Muscle is wanted
besides brain, and the great bulk of those who can provide muscle
are difficult to move to enthusiasm by any broad schemes of economic
rearrangement that do not promise immediate improvement in their own
material conditions. Industrial conscription cannot be enforced
in Russia unless there is among the conscripted themselves an
understanding, although a resentful understanding, of its necessity. The
Russians have not got an army of Martians to enforce effort on an alien
people. The army and the people are one. "We are bound to admit," says
Trotsky, "that no wide industrial mobilization will succeed, if we do
not capture all that is honorable, spiritual in the peasant working
masses in explaining our plan." And the plan that he referred to was
not the grandiose (but obviously sensible) plan for the eventual
electrification of all Russia, but a programme of the struggle before
them in actually getting their feet clear of the morass of industrial
decay in which they are at present involved. Such a programme has
actually been decided upon-a programme the definite object of which
is to reconcile the workers to work not simply hand to mouth, each for
himself, but to concentrate first on those labors which will eventually
bring their reward in making other labors easier and improving the
position as a whole.

Early this year a comparatively unknown Bolshevik called Gusev, to whom
nobody had attributed any particular intelligence, wrote, while busy on
the staff of an army on the southeast front, which was at the time being
used partly as a labor army, a pamphlet which has had an extraordinary
influence in getting such a programme drawn up. The pamphlet is based
on Gusev's personal observation both of a labor army at work and of
the attitude of the peasant towards industrial conscription. It was
extremely frank, and contained so much that might have been used by
hostile critics, that it was not published in the ordinary way but
printed at the army press on the Caucasian front and issued exclusively
to members of the Communist Party. I got hold of a copy of this
pamphlet through a friend. It is called "Urgent Questions of Economic
Construction." Gusev sets out in detail the sort of opposition he had
met, and says: "The Anarchists, Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks
have a clear, simple economic plan which the great masses can
understand: 'Go about your own business and work freely for yourself in
your own place.' They have a criticism of labor mobilizations equally
clear for the masses. They say to them, 'They are putting Simeon in
Peter's place, and Peter in Simeon's. They are sending the men of
Saratov to dig the ground in the Government of Stavropol, and the
Stavropol men to the Saratov Government for the same purpose.' Then
besides that there is 'nonparty' criticism:

"'When it is time to sow they will be shifting muck, and when it is time
to reap they will be told to cut timber.' That is a particularly clear
expression of the peasants' disbelief in our ability to draw up a proper
economic plan. This belief is clearly at the bottom of such questions
as, 'Comrade Gusev, have you ever done any plowing?' or 'Comrade Orator,
do you know anything about peasant work?' Disbelief in the townsman who
understands nothing about peasants is natural to the peasant, and we
shall have to conquer it, to get through it, to get rid of it by showing
the peasant, with a clear plan in our hands that he can understand, that
we are not altogether fools in this matter and that we understand more
than he does." He then sets out the argument which he himself had found
successful in persuading the peasants to do things the reward for which
would not be obvious the moment they were done. He says, "I compared our
State economy to a colossal building with scores of stories and tens of
thousands of rooms. The whole building has been half smashed; in places
the roof has tumbled down, the beams have rotted, the ceilings are
tumbling, the drains and water pipes are burst; the stoves are falling
to pieces, the partitions are shattered, and, finally, the walls
and foundations are unsafe and the whole building is threatened with
collapse. I asked, how, must one set about the repair of this building?
With what kind of economic plan? To this question the inhabitants of
different stories, and even of different rooms on one and the same story
will reply variously. Those who live on the top floor will shout that
the rafters are rotten and the roof falling; that it is impossible to
live, there any longer, and that it is immediately necessary, first of
all, to put up new beams and to repair the roof. And from their point of
view they will be perfectly right. Certainly it is not possible to live
any longer on that floor. Certainly the repair of the roof is necessary.
The inhabitants of one of the lower stories in which the water pipes
have burst will cry out that it is impossible to live without water, and
therefore, first of all, the water pipes must be mended. And they, from
their point of view, will be perfectly right, since it certainly is
impossible to live without water. The inhabitants of the floor where the
stoves have fallen to pieces will insist on an immediate mending of the
stoves, since they and their children are dying of cold because there is
nothing on which they can heat up water or boil kasha for the children;
and they, too, will be quite right. But in spite of all these just
demands, which arrive in thousands from all sides, it is impossible to
forget the most important of all, that the foundation is shattered and
that the building is threatened with a collapse which will bury all
the inhabitants of the house together, and that, therefore, the only
immediate task is the strengthening of the foundation and the walls.
Extraordinary firmness, extraordinary courage is necessary, not only not
to listen to the cries and groans of old men, women, children and
sick, coming from every floor, but also to decide on taking from the
inhabitants of all floors the instruments and materials necessary for
the strengthening of the foundations and walls, and to force them to
leave their corners and hearths, which they are doing the best they can
to make habitable, in order to drive them to work on the strengthening
of the walls and foundations."

Gusev's main idea was that the Communists were asking new sacrifices
from a weary and exhausted people, that without such sacrifices these
people would presently find themselves in even worse conditions, and
that, to persuade them to make the effort necessary to save themselves,
it was necessary to have a perfectly clear and easily understandable
plan which could be dinned into the whole nation and silence the
criticism of all possible opponents. Copies of his little book came to
Moscow. Lenin read it and caused excruciating jealousy in the minds
of several other Communists, who had also been trying to find the
philosopher's stone that should turn discouragement into hope, by
singling out Gusev for his special praise and insisting that his plans
should be fully discussed at the Supreme Council in the Kremlin. Trotsky
followed Lenin's lead, and in the end a general programme for Russian
reconstruction was drawn up, differing only slightly from that which
Gusev had proposed. I give this scheme in Trotsky's words, because they
are a little fuller than those of others, and knowledge of this plan
will explain not only what the Communists are trying to do in Russia,
but what they would like to get from us today and what they will want to
get tomorrow. Trotsky says:--

"The fundamental task at this moment is improvement in the condition of
our transport, prevention of its further deterioration and preparation
of the most elementary stores of food, raw material and fuel. The whole
of the first period of our reconstruction will be completely occupied in
the concentration of labor on the solution of these problems, which is a
condition of further progress.

"The second period (it will be difficult to say now whether it will
be measured in months or years, since that depends on many factors
beginning with the international situation and ending with the unanimity
or the lack of it in our own party) will be a period occupied in the
building of machines in the interest of transport, and the getting of
raw materials and provisions.

"The third period will be occupied in building machinery, with a view to
the production of articles in general demand, and, finally, the fourth
period will be that in which we are able to produce these articles."

Does it not occur, even to the most casual reader, that there is very
little politics in that program, and that, no matter what kind of
Government should be in Russia, it would have to endorse that programme
word for word? I would ask any who doubt this to turn again to my first
two chapters describing the nature of the economic crisis in Russia, and
to remind themselves how, not only the lack of things but the lack of
men, is intimately connected with the lack of transport, which keeps
laborers ill fed, factories ill supplied with material, and in this way
keeps the towns incapable of supplying the needs of the country, with
the result that the country is most unwilling to supply the needs of
the town. No Russian Government unwilling to allow Russia to subside
definitely to a lower level of civilization can do otherwise than to
concentrate upon the improvement of transport. Labor in Russia must be
used first of all for that, in order to increase its own productivity.
And, if purchase of help from abroad is to be allowed, Russia must
"control" the outflow of her limited assets, so that, by healing
transport first of all, she may increase her power of making new assets.
She must spend in such a way as eventually to increase her power of
spending. She must prevent the frittering away of her small purse on
things which, profitable to the vendor and doubtless desirable by the
purchaser, satisfy only individual needs and do not raise the producing
power of the community as a whole.


Alexei Rykov, the President of the Supreme Council of Public Economy, is
one of the hardest worked men in Russia, and the only time I was able to
have a long talk with him (although more than once he snatched moments
to answer particular questions) was on a holiday, when the old Siberian
Hotel, now the offices of the Council, was deserted, and I walked
through empty corridors until I found the President and his secretary at
work as usual.

After telling of the building of the new railway from Alexandrovsk
Gai to the Emba, the prospects of developing the oil industry in that
district, the relative values of those deposits and of those at Baku,
and the possible decreasing significance of Baku in Russian industry
generally, we passed to broader perspectives. I asked him what he
thought of the relations between agriculture and industry in Russia, and
supposed that he did not imagine that Russia would ever become a great
industrial country. His answer was characteristic of the tremendous
hopes that nerve these people in their almost impossible task, and I
set it down as nearly as I can in his own words. For him, of course, the
economic problem was the first, and he spoke of it as the director of
a huge trust might have spoken. But, as he passed on to talk of what he
thought would result from the Communist method of tackling that problem,
and spoke of the eventual disappearance of political parties, I felt I
was trying to read a kind of palimpsest of the Economist and

News from Nowhere, or listening to a strange compound of William Morris
and, for example, Sir Eric Geddes. He said: "We may have to wait a
long time before the inevitable arrives and there is a Supreme Economic
Council dealing with Europe as with a single economic whole. If that
should come about we should, of course, from the very nature of our
country, be called upon in the first place to provide food for Europe,
and we should hope enormously to improve our agriculture, working on
a larger and larger scale, using mechanical plows and tractors, which
would be supplied us by the West. But in the meantime we have to face
the fact that events may cause us to be, for all practical purposes, in
a state of blockade for perhaps a score of years, and, so far as we
can, we must be ready to depend on ourselves alone. For example, we want
mechanical plows which could be procured abroad. We have had to start
making them ourselves. The first electric plow made in Russia and used
in Russia started work last year, and this year we shall have a number
of such plows made in our country, not because it is economic so to make
them, but because we could get them in no other way. In so far as is
possible, we shall have to make ourselves self-supporting, so as
somehow or other to get along even if the blockade, formal or perhaps
willy-nilly (imposed by the inability of the West to supply us), compels
us to postpone cooperation with the rest of Europe. Every day of such
postponement is one in which the resources of Europe are not being used
in the most efficient manner to supply the needs not only of our own
country but of all."

I referred to what he had told me last year about the intended
electrification of Moscow by a station using turf fuel.

"That," he said, "is one of the plans which, in spite of the war, has
gone a very long way towards completion. We have built the station in
the Ryezan Government, on the Shadul peat mosses, about 110 versts from
Moscow. Before the end of May that station should be actually at work.
(It was completed, opened and partially destroyed by a gigantic fire.)
Another station at Kashira in the Tula Government (on the Oka), using
the small coal produced in the Moscow coalfields, will be at work
before the autumn. This year similar stations are being built at
Ivano-Voznesensk and at Nijni-Novgorod. Also, with a view to making the
most economic use of what we already possess, we have finished both
in Petrograd and in Moscow a general unification of all the private
power-stations, which now supply their current to a single main cable.
Similar unification is nearly finished at Tula and at Kostroma. The big
water-power station on the rapids of the Volkhov is finished in so far
as land construction goes, but we can proceed no further until we have
obtained the turbines, which we hope to get from abroad. As you know, we
are basing our plans in general on the assumption that in course of time
we shall supply the whole of Russian industry with electricity, of which
we also hope to make great use in agriculture. That, of course, will
take a great number of years."

[Nothing could have been much more artificial than the industrial
geography of old Russia. The caprice of history had planted great
industrial centers literally at the greatest possible distance from the
sources of their raw materials. There was Moscow bringing its coal from
Donetz, and Petrograd, still further away, having to eke out a living by
importing coal from England. The difficulty of transport alone must
have forced the Russians to consider how they could do away with such
anomalies. Their main idea is that the transport of coal in a modern
State is an almost inexcusable barbarism. They have set themselves,
these ragged engineers, working in rooms which they can hardly keep
above freezing-point and walking home through the snow in boots without
soles, no less a task than the electrification of the whole of Russia.
There is a State Committee presided over by an extraordinary optimist
called Krzhizhanovsky, entrusted by the Supreme Council of Public
Economy and Commissariat of Agriculture with the working out of a
general plan. This Committee includes, besides a number of well-known
practical engineers, Professors Latsinsky, Klassen, Dreier, Alexandrov,
Tcharnovsky, Dend and Pavlov. They are investigating the water power
available in different districts in Russia, the possibilities of using
turf, and a dozen similar questions including, perhaps not the least
important, investigation to discover where they can do most with least
dependence on help from abroad.]

Considering the question of the import of machinery from abroad, I asked
him whether in existing conditions of transport Russia was actually in a
position to export the raw materials with which alone the Russians could
hope to buy what they want. He said:

"Actually we have in hand about two million poods (a pood is a little
over thirty-six English pounds) of flax, and any quantity of light
leather (goat, etc.), but the main districts where we have raw material
for ourselves or for export are far away. Hides, for example, we have in
great quantities in Siberia, in the districts of Orenburg and the Ural
River and in Tashkent. I have myself made the suggestion that we should
offer to sell this stuff where it is, that is to say not delivered at a
seaport, and that the buyers should provide their own trains, which we
should eventually buy from them with the raw material itself, so that
after a certain number of journeys the trains should become ours. In
the same districts we have any quantity of wool, and in some of these
districts corn. We cannot, in the present condition of our transport,
even get this corn for ourselves. In the same way we have great
quantities of rice in Turkestan, and actually are being offered rice
from Sweden, because we cannot transport our own. Then we have over a
million poods of copper, ready for export on the same conditions. But
it is clear that if the Western countries are unable to help in the
transport, they cannot expect to get raw materials from us."

I asked about platinum. He laughed.

"That is a different matter. In platinum we have a world monopoly, and
can consequently afford to wait. Diamonds and gold, they can have as
much as they want of such rubbish; but platinum is different, and we
are in no hurry to part with it. But diamonds and gold ornaments, the
jewelry of the Tsars, we are ready to give to any king in Europe who
fancies them, if he can give us some less ornamental but more useful
locomotives instead."

I asked if Kolchak had damaged the platinum mines. He replied, "Not at
all. On the contrary, he was promising platinum to everybody who wanted
it, and he set the mines going, so we arrived to find them in good
condition, with a considerable yield of platinum ready for use."

(I am inclined to think that in spite of Rykov's rather intransigent
attitude on the question, the Russians would none the less be willing to
export platinum, if only on account of the fact in comparison with its
great value it requires little transport, and so would make possible for
them an immediate bargain with some of the machinery they most urgently

Finally we talked of the growing importance of the Council of Public
Economy. Rykov was of opinion that it would eventually become the centre
of the whole State organism, "it and Trades Unions organizing the actual
producers in each branch."

"Then you think that as your further plans develop, with the creation
of more and more industrial centres, with special productive populations
concentrated round them, the Councils of the Trades Unions will tend to
become identical with the Soviets elected in the same districts by the
same industrial units?"

"Precisely," said Rykov, "and in that way the Soviets, useful during the
period of transition as an instrument of struggle and dictatorship, will
be merged with the Unions." (One

important factor, as Lenin pointed out when considering the same
question, is here left out of count, namely the political development of
the enormous agricultural as opposed to industrial population.)

"But if this merging of political Soviets with productive Unions occurs,
the questions that concern people will cease to be political questions,
but will be purely questions of economics."

"Certainly. And we shall see the disappearance of political parties.
That process is already apparent. In the present huge Trade Union
Conference there are only sixty Mensheviks. The Communists are
swallowing one party after another. Those who were not drawn over to us
during the period of struggle are now joining us during the process of
construction, and we find that our differences now are not political at
all, but concerned only with the practical details of construction." He
illustrated this by pointing out the present constitution of the Supreme
Council of Public Economy. There are under it fifty-three Departments or
Centres (Textile, Soap, Wool, Timber, Flax, etc.), each controlled by
a "College" of three or more persons. There are 232 members of these
Colleges or Boards in all, and of them 83 are workmen, 79 are
engineers, 1 was an ex-director, 50 were from the clerical staff, and 19
unclassified. Politically 115 were Communists, 105 were "non-party," and
12 were of non-Communist parties. He continued, "Further, in swallowing
the other parties, the Communists themselves will cease to exist as a
political party. Think only that youths coming to their manhood during
this year in Russia and in the future will not be able to confirm from
their own experience the reasoning of Karl Marx, because they will have
had no experience of a capitalist country. What can they make of
the class struggle? The class struggle here is already over, and the
distinctions of class have already gone altogether. In the old days,
members of our party were men who had read, or tried to read, Marx's
"Capital," who knew the "Communist Manifesto" by heart, and were
occupied in continual criticism of the basis of capitalist society. Look
at the new members of our party. Marx is quite unnecessary to them. They
join us, not for struggle in the interests of an oppressed class, but
simply because they understand our aims in constructive work. And, as
this process continues, we old social democrats shall disappear, and our
places will be filled by people of entirely different character grown up
under entirely new conditions."


Rykov's prophecies of the disappearance of Political parties may be
falsified by a development of that very non-partyism on which he bases
them. It is true that the parties openly hostile to the Communists
in Russia have practically disappeared. Many old-time Mensheviks have
joined the Communist Party. Here and there in the country may be found
a Social Revolutionary stronghold. Here and there in the Ukraine the
Mensheviks retain a footing, but I doubt whether either of these parties
has in it the vitality to make itself once again a serious political
factor. There is, however, a movement which, in the long run, may alter
Russia's political complexion. More and more delegates to Soviets
or Congresses of all kinds are explicitly described as "Non-party."
Non-partyism is perhaps a sign of revolt against rigid discipline of
any kind. Now and then, of course, a clever Menshevik or Social
Revolutionary, by trimming his sails carefully to the wind, gets himself
elected on a non-party ticket. 'When this happens there is usually
a great hullabaloo as soon as he declares himself. A section of his
electors agitates for his recall and presently some one else is elected
in his stead. But non-partyism is much more than a mere cloak of
invisibility for enemies or conditional supporters of the Communists. I
know of considerable country districts which, in the face of every kind
of agitation, insist on returning exclusively non-party delegates. The
local Soviets in these districts are also non-party, and they elect
usually a local Bolshevik to some responsible post to act as it were as
a buffer between themselves and the central authority. They manage local
affairs in their own way, and, through the use of tact on both sides,
avoid falling foul of the more rigid doctrinaires in Moscow.

Eager reactionaries outside Russia will no doubt point to non-partyism
as a symptom of friendship for themselves. It is nothing of the sort.
On all questions of the defense of the Republic the non-party voting is
invariably solid with that of the Communists. The non-party men do not
want Denikin. They do not want Baron Wrangel. They have never heard of
Professor Struhve. They do not particularly like the Communists.
They principally want to be left alone, and they principally fear any
enforced continuation of war of any kind. If, in the course of time,
they come to have a definite political programme, I think it not
impossible that they may turn into a new kind of constitutional
democrat. That does not mean that they will have any use for M. Milukov
or for a monarch with whom M. Milukov might be ready to supply them.
The Constitution for which they will work will be that very Soviet
Constitution which is now in abeyance, and the democracy which they
associate with it will be that form of democracy which were it to be
accurately observed in the present state of Russia, that Constitution
would provide. The capitalist in Russia has long ago earned the position
in which, according to the Constitution, he has a right to vote,
since he has long ago ceased to be a capitalist. Supposing the Soviet
Constitution were today to be literally applied, it would be found
that practically no class except the priests would be excluded from
the franchise. And when this agitation swells in volume, it will be
an agitation extremely difficult to resist, supposing Russia to be at
peace, so that there will be no valid excuse with which to meet it.
These new constitutional democrats will be in the position of saying to
the Communists, "Give us, without change, that very Constitution which
you yourselves drew up." I think they will find many friends inside the
Communist Party, particularly among those Communists who are also Trade
Unionists. I heard something very like the arguments of this new variety
of constitutional democrat in the Kremlin itself at an All-Russian
Conference of the Communist Party. A workman, Sapronov, turned suddenly
aside in a speech on quite another matter, and said with great violence
that the present system was in danger of running to seed and turning
into oligarchy, if not autocracy. Until the moment when he put his
listeners against him by a personal attack on Lenin, there was no doubt
that he had with him the sympathies of quite a considerable section of
an exclusively Communist audience.

Given peace, given an approximate return to normal conditions,
non-partyism may well profoundly modify the activities of the
Communists. It would certainly be strong enough to prevent the rasher
spirits among them from jeopardizing peace or from risking Russia's
chance of convalescence for the sake of promoting in any way the growth
of revolution abroad. Of course, so long as it is perfectly obvious that
Soviet Russia is attacked, no serious growth of non-partyism is to be
expected, but it is obvious that any act of aggression on the part of
the Soviet Government, once Russia had attained peace-which she has not
known since 1914-would provide just the basis of angry discontent which
might divide even the disciplined ranks of the Communists and give
non-partyism an active, instead of a comparatively passive, backing
throughout the country.

Non-partyism is already the peasants' way of expressing their aloofness
from the revolution and, at the same time, their readiness to defend
that revolution against anybody who attacks it from outside. Lenin,
talking to me about the general attitude of the peasants, said: "Hegel
wrote 'What is the People? The people is that part of the nation which
does not know what it wants.' That is a good description of the Russian
peasantry at the present time, and it applies equally well to your
Arthur Hendersons and Sidney Webbs in England, and to all other
people like yourself who want incompatible things. The peasantry are
individualists, but they support us. We have, in some degree, to
thank Kolchak and Denikin for that. They are in favor of the Soviet
Government, but hanker after Free Trade, not understanding that the
two things are self-contradictory. Of course, if they were a united
political force they could swamp us, but they are disunited both in
their interests and geographically. The interests of the poorer and
middle class peasants are in contradiction to those of the rich peasant
farmer who employs laborers. The poorer and middle class see that we
support them against the rich peasant, and also see that he is ready
to support what is obviously not in their interests." I said, "If State
agriculture in Russia comes to be on a larger scale, will there not be
a sort of proletarianization of the peasants so that, in the long run,
their interests will come to be more or less identical with those of the
workers in other than agricultural industry!" He replied, "Something in
that direction is being done, but it will have to be done very carefully
and must take a very long time. When we are getting many thousands of
tractors from abroad, then something of the sort would become possible."
Finally I asked him point blank, "Did he think they would pull through
far enough economically to be able to satisfy the needs of the peasantry
before that same peasantry had organized a real political opposition
that should overwhelm them!" Lenin laughed. "If I could answer that
question," he said, "I could answer everything, for on the answer to
that question everything depends. I think we can. Yes, I think we can.
But I do not know that we can."

Non-partyism may well be the protoplasmic stage of the future political
opposition of the peasants.


I have done my best to indicate the essential facts in Russia's problem
today, and to describe the organization and methods with which she is
attempting its solution. I can give no opinion as to whether by these
means the Russians will succeed in finding their way out of the quagmire
of industrial ruin in which they are involved. I can only say that they
are unlikely to find their way out by any other means. I think this is
instinctively felt in Russia. Not otherwise would it have been possible
for the existing organization, battling with one hand to save the towns
front starvation, to destroy with the other the various forces clothed
and armed by Western Europe, which have attempted its undoing. The mere
fact of continued war has, of course, made progress in the solution of
the economic problem almost impossible, but the fact that the economic
problem was unsolved, must have made war impossible, if it were not that
the instinct of the people was definitely against Russian or foreign
invaders. Consider for one moment the military position.

Although the enthusiasm for the Polish war began to subside (even among
the Communists) as soon as the Poles had been driven back from Kiev to
their own frontiers, although the Poles are occupying an enormous area
of non-Polish territory, although the Communists have had to conclude
with Poland a peace obviously unstable, the military position of Soviet
Russia is infinitely better this time than it was in 1918 or 1919. In
1918 the Ukraine was held by German troops and the district east of the
Ukraine was in the hands of General Krasnov, the author of a flattering
letter to the Kaiser. In the northwest the Germans were at Pskov,
Vitebsk and Mohilev. We ourselves were at Murmansk and Archangel. In the
east, the front which became known as that of Kolchak, was on the
Volga. Soviet Russia was a little hungry island with every prospect of
submersion. A year later the Germans had vanished, the flatterers of the
Kaiser had joined hands with those who were temporarily flattering the
Allies, Yudenitch's troops were within sight of Petrograd, Denikin was
at Orel, almost within striking distance of Moscow; there had been a
stampede of desertion from the Red Army. There was danger that Finland
might strike at any moment. Although in the east Kolchak had been swept
over the Urals to his ultimate disaster, the situation of Soviet Russia
seemed even more desperate than in the year before. What is the position
today! Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland are at peace with
Russia. The Polish peace brings comparative quiet to the western front,
although the Poles, keeping the letter rather than the spirit of their
agreement, have given Balahovitch the opportunity of establishing
himself in Minsk, where, it is said, that the pogroms of unlucky Jews
show that he has learnt nothing since his ejection from Pskov.

Balahovitch's force is not important in itself, but its existence will
make it easy to start the war afresh along the whole new frontier of
Poland, and that frontier shuts into Poland so large an anti-Polish
population, that a moment may still come when desperate Polish statesmen
may again choose war as the least of many threatening evils. Still,
for the moment, Russia's western frontier is comparatively quiet. Her
northern frontier is again the Arctic Sea. Her eastern frontier is in
the neighborhood of the Pacific. The Ukraine is disorderly, but occupied
by no enemy; the only front on which serious fighting is proceeding is
the small semi-circle north of the Crimea. There Denikin's successor,
supported by the French but exultantly described by a German
conservative newspaper as a "German baron in Cherkass uniform," is
holding the Crimea and a territory slightly larger than the peninsula
on the main land. Only to the immense efficiency of anti-Bolshevik
propaganda can be ascribed the opinion, common in England but comic to
any one who takes the trouble to look at a map, that Soviet Russia is on
the eve of military collapse.

In any case it is easy in a revolution to magnify the influence of
military events on internal affairs. In the first place, no one who
has not actually crossed the Russian front during the period of active
operations can well realize how different are the revolutionary wars
from that which ended in 1918. Advance on a broad front no longer
means that a belt of men in touch with each other has moved definitely
forward. It means that there have been a series of forward movements
at widely separated, and with the very haziest of mutual, connections.
There will be violent fighting for a village or a railway station or the
passage of a river. Small hostile groups will engage in mortal combat to
decide the possession of a desirable hut in which to sleep, but, except
at these rare points of actual contact, the number of prisoners is far
in excess of the number of casualties. Parties on each side will be
perfectly ignorant of events to right or left of them, ignorant even of
their gains and losses. Last year I ran into Whites in a village which
the Reds had assured me was strongly held by themselves, and these
same Whites refused to believe that the village where I had spent the
preceding night was in the possession of the Reds. It is largely an
affair of scouting parties, of patrols dodging each other through the
forest tracks, of swift raids, of sudden conviction (often entirely
erroneous) on the part of one side or the other, that it or the enemy
has been "encircled." The actual number of combatants to a mile of front
is infinitely less than during the German war. Further, since an immense
proportion of these combatants on both sides have no wish to fight at
all, being without patriotic or political convictions and very badly fed
and clothed, and since it is more profitable to desert than to be
taken prisoner, desertion in bulk is not uncommon, and the deserters,
hurriedly enrolled to fight on the other side, indignantly re-desert
when opportunity offers. In this way the armies of Denikin and Yudenitch
swelled like mushrooms and decayed with similar rapidity. Military
events of this kind, however spectacular they may seem abroad, do not
have the political effect that might be expected. I was in Moscow at the
worst moment of the crisis in 1919 when practically everybody outside
the Government believed that Petrograd had already fallen, and I could
not but realize that the Government was stronger then than it had been
in February of the same year, when it had a series of victories and
peace with the Allies seemed for a moment to be in sight. A sort of fate
seems to impel the Whites to neutralize with extraordinary rapidity any
good will for themelves which they may find among the population.
This is true of both sides, but seems to affect the Whites especially.
Although General Baron Wrangel does indeed seem to have striven more
successfully than his predecessors not to set the population against him
and to preserve the loyalty of his army, it may be said with absolute
certainty that any large success on his part would bring crowding to
his banner the same crowd of stupid reactionary officers who brought
to nothing any mild desire for moderation that may have been felt by
General Denikin. If the area he controls increases, his power of
control over his subordinates will decrease, and the forces that led to
Denikin's collapse will be set in motion in his case also. [*]

     * On the day on which I send this book to the printers news
     comes of Wrangel's collapse and flight.  I leave standing
     what I have written concerning him, since it will apply to
     any successor he may have.  Each general who has stepped
     into Kolchak's shoes has eventually had to run away in them,
     and always for the same reasons. It may be taken almost as
     an axiom that the history of great country is that of its
     centre, not of its periphery. The main course of English
     history throughout the troubled seventeenth and eighteenth
     centuries was never deflected from London.  French history
     did not desert Paris, to make a new start at Toulon or at
     Quiberon Bay. And only a fanatic could suppose that Russian
     history would run away from Moscow, to begin again in a
     semi-Tartar peninsula in the Black Sea.  Moscow changes
     continually, and may so change as to make easy the return of
     the "refugees." Some have already returned.  But the
     refugees will not return as conquerors.  Should a Russian
     Napoleon (an unlikely figure, even in spite of our efforts)
     appear, he will not throw away the invaluable asset of a
     revolutionary war-cry.  He will have to fight some one, or
     he will not be a Napoleon.  And whom will he fight but the
     very people who, by keeping up the friction, have rubbed
     Aladdin's ring so hard and so long that a Djinn, by no means
     kindly disposed towards them, bursts forth at last to avenge
     the breaking of his sleep?

And, of course, should hostilities flare up again on the Polish
frontier, should the lions and lambs and jackals and eagles of Kossack,
Russian, Ukrainian and Polish nationalists temporarily join forces, no
miracles of diplomacy will keep them from coming to blows. For all these
reasons a military collapse of the Soviet Government at the present
time, even a concerted military advance of its enemies, is unlikely.

It is undoubtedly true that the food situation in the towns is likely to
be worse this winter than it has yet been. Forcible attempts to get food
from the peasantry will increase the existing hostility between town and
country. There has been a very bad harvest in Russia. The bringing of
food from Siberia or the Kuban (if military activities do not make that
impossible) will impose an almost intolerable strain on the inadequate
transport. Yet I think internal collapse unlikely. It may be said almost
with certainty that Governments do not collapse until there is no one
left to defend them. That moment had arrived in the case of the Tsar. It
had arrived in the case of Kerensky. It has not arrived in the case
of the Soviet Government for certain obvious reasons. For one thing,
a collapse of the Soviet Government at the present time would be
disconcerting, if not disastrous, to its more respectable enemies.
It would, of course, open the way to a practically unopposed military
advance, but at the same time it would present its enemies with enormous
territory, which would overwhelm the organizing powers which they have
shown again and again to be quite inadequate to much smaller tasks. Nor
would collapse of the present Government turn a bad harvest into a
good one. Such a collapse would mean the breakdown of all existing
organizations, and would intensify the horrors of famine for every town
dweller. Consequently, though the desperation of hunger and resentment
against inevitable requisitions may breed riots and revolts here and
there throughout the country, the men who, in other circumstances, might
coordinate such events, will refrain from doing anything of the sort.
I do not say that collapse is impossible. I do say that it would be
extremely undesirable from the point of view of almost everybody
in Russia. Collapse of the present Government would mean at best a
reproduction of the circumstances of 1917, with the difference that no
intervention from without would be necessary to stimulate indiscriminate
slaughter within. I say "at best" because I think it more likely that
collapse would be followed by a period of actual chaos. Any Government
that followed the Communists would be faced by the same economic
problem, and would have to choose between imposing measures very like
those of the Communists and allowing Russia to subside into a new area
for colonization. There are people who look upon this as a natural, even
a desirable, result of the revolution. They forget that the Russians
have never been a subject race, that they have immense powers of
passive resistance, that they respond very readily to any idea that they
understand, and that the idea of revolt against foreigners is difficult
not to understand. Any country that takes advantage of the Russian
people in a moment of helplessness will find, sooner or later, first
that it has united Russia against it, and secondly that it has given all
Russians a single and undesirable view of the history of the last
three years. There will not be a Russian who will not believe that the
artificial incubation of civil war within the frontiers of old Russia
was not deliberately undertaken by Western Europe with the object of so
far weakening Russia as to make her exploitation easy. Those who look
with equanimity even on this prospect forget that the creation in Europe
of a new area for colonization, a knocking out of one of the sovereign
nations, will create a vacuum, and that the effort to fill this vacuum
will set at loggerheads nations at present friendly and so produce a
struggle which may well do for Western Europe what Western Europe will
have done for Russia.

It is of course possible that in some such way the Russian Revolution
may prove to be no more than the last desperate gesture of a stricken
civilization. My point is that if that is so, civilization in Russia
will not die without infecting us with its disease. It seems to me that
our own civilization is ill already, slightly demented perhaps, and
liable, like a man in delirium, to do things which tend to aggravate
the malady. I think that the whole of the Russian war, waged directly
or indirectly by Western Europe, is an example of this sort of dementia,
but I cannot help believing that sanity will reassert itself in time.
At the present moment, to use a modification of Gusev's metaphor, Europe
may be compared to a burning house and the Governments of Europe to fire
brigades, each one engaged in trying to salve a wing or a room of the
building. It seems a pity that these fire brigades should be fighting
each other, and forgetting the fire in their resentment of the fact that
some of them wear red uniforms and some wear blue. Any single room to
which the fire gains complete control increases the danger of the whole
building, and I hope that before the roof falls in the firemen will come
to their senses.

But turning from grim recognition of the danger, and from speculations
as to the chance of the Russian Government collapsing, and as to the
changes in it that time may bring, let us consider what is likely to
happen supposing it does not collapse. I have already said that I think
collapse unlikely. Do the Russians show any signs of being able to carry
out their programme, or has the fire gone so far during the quarrelling
of the firemen as to make that task impossible?

I think that there is still a hope. There is as yet no sign of a general
improvement in Russia, nor is such an improvement possible until the
Russians have at least carried out the first stage of their programme.
It would even not be surprising if things in general were to continue to
go to the bad during the carrying out of that first stage. Shortages of
food, of men, of tools, of materials, are so acute that they have had
to choose those factories which are absolutely indispensable for the
carrying out of this stage, and make of them "shock" factories, like the
"shock" troops of the war, giving them equipment over and above their
rightful share of the impoverished stock, feeding their workmen even at
the cost of letting others go hungry. That means that other factories
suffer. No matter, say the Russians, if only that first stage makes
progress. Consequently, the only test that can be fairly applied is that
of transport. Are they or are they not gaining on ruin in the matter of
wagons and engines! Here are the figures of wagon repairs in the seven
chief repairing shops up to the month of June:

     December 1919............475 wagons were repaired.
     January 1920.............656

After elaborate investigation last year, Trotsky, as temporary Commissar
of Transport, put out an order explaining that the railways, to keep up
their present condition, must repair roughly 800 engines every month.
During the first six months of 1920 they fulfilled this task in the
following percentages:

     January..................32 per cent

I think that is a proof that, supposing normal relations existed between
Russia and ourselves, the Russian would be able to tackle the first
stage of the problem that lies before them, and would lie before them
whatever their Government might be. Unfortunately there is no proof that
this steady improvement can be continued, except under conditions of
trade with Western Europe. There are Russians who think they can pull
through without us, and, remembering the miracles of which man is
capable when his back is to the wall, it would be rash to say that this
is impossible. But other Russians point out gloomily that they have been
using certain parts taken from dead engines (engines past repair) in
order to mend sick engines. They are now coming to the mending, not of
sick engines merely, but of engines on which post-mortems have already
been held. They are actually mending engines, parts of which have
already been taken out and used for the mending of other engines. There
are consequently abnormal demands for such things as shafts and piston
rings. They are particularly short of Babbitt metal and boiler tubes. In
normal times the average number of new tubes wanted for each engine put
through the repair shops was 25 (10 to 15 for engines used in the more
northerly districts, and 30 to 40 for engines in the south where the
water is not so good). This number must now be taken as much higher,
because during recent years tubes have not been regularly renewed.
Further, the railways have been widely making use of tubes taken from
dead engines, that is to say, tubes already worn. Putting things at
their very best, assuming that the average demand for tubes per engine
will be that of normal times, then, if 1,000 engines are to be repaired
monthly, 150,000 tubes will be wanted every six months. Now on the
15th of June the total stock of tubes ready for use was 58,000, and the
railways could not expect to get more than another 13,000 in the
near future. Unless the factories are able to do better (and their
improvement depends on improvement in transport), railway repairs must
again deteriorate, since the main source of materials for it in Russia,
namely the dead engines, will presently be exhausted.

On this there is only one thing to be said. If, whether because we do
not trade with them, or from some other cause, the Russians are unable
to proceed even in this first stage of their programme, it means an
indefinite postponement of the moment when Russia will be able to export
anything, and, consequently, that when at last we learn that we need
Russia as a market, she will be a market willing to receive gifts, but
unable to pay for anything at all. And that is a state of affairs a
great deal more serious to ourselves than to the Russians, who can,
after all, live by wandering about their country and scratching the
ground, whereas we depend on the sale of our manufactured goods for the
possibility of buying the food we cannot grow ourselves. If the Russians
fail, their failure will affect not us alone. It will, by depriving her
of a market, lessen Germany's power of recuperation, and consequently
her power of fulfilling her engagements. What, then, is to happen to
France? And, if we are to lose our market in Russia, and find very
much weakened markets in Germany and France, we shall be faced with an
ever-increasing burden of unemployment, with the growth, in fact, of the
very conditions in which alone we shall ourselves be unable to recover
from the war. In such conditions, upheaval in England would be possible,
and, for the dispassionate observer, there is a strange irony in the
fact that the Communists desire that upheaval, and, at the same time,
desire a rebirth of the Russian market which would tend to make that
upheaval unlikely, while those who most fear upheaval are precisely
those who urge us, by making recovery in Russia impossible, to improve
the chances of collapse at home. The peasants in Russia are not alone in
wanting incompatible things.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Crisis in Russia" ***

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