[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
Daily Express April 11th 1933 Page 12
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BY GARETH JONES
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FOR years young men in Britain have been bewildered. The capitalist system seems to be on the brink of a precipice. Nationalists have run rampant in all countries, waving their banners of cheap patriotism.
Everywhere the cry has been, ‘‘Put up more tariffs,’’ and the world became tariff mad. "Pile up your armament" shriek others and the armies of the world mount in size and attacking power.
Men have lost their jobs in every town and village in Britain. Seeing this many young men have said, “There is something radically wrong. Perhaps we can learn from the Soviet Union.’’ I was myself one of those millions who thought that Russia might have a lesson to offer.
Being a Liberal, I had no patience with the Diehards, and was not bound by traditional ways of conservative thinking.
The idealism of the Bolsheviks impressed me before I went to Russia. Here was a country where the rulers sought to build an industry for the benefit of the workers. Equality was in time to rule and classes were to disappear. The injustice of capitalism were to be no more. Education was to be spread to the humblest peasant, and everything was to exist for the good of the masses.
The courage of the Bolsheviks impressed me. They tackled their difficulties like men. They sought to build vast cities where once there were bare steppes. They planned the great factories in the world. They wished to do things and not stand idle without a plan as in England.
The internationalism of the Bolsheviks impressed me. They set aside all petty prejudices between races. They abhorred pogrom. They gave rights to the smaller nations to speak their own languages. They were not guilty of the narrow nationalisms of post-war days.
Then I went to Russia.
There I had every chance to see the real situation, for I traveled alone, walked through villages and towns, and slept in peasant homes. The Soviet Foreign Officials were on every occasion, courteous, and spared no trouble in their efforts to help me. I liked personally most of the Bolsheviks I knew. Lenin’s widow, for example, was one of the finest women I have met, and she commands my deep respect. I was able to go about freely without hindrance.
What did I find? All was not black. Much work was being done to care for the working class children in the towns. Many new houses for working class people had been built in Moscow. The problem of the homeless boy had in 1930 and 1931 been tackled with vigour. The art galleries and the museums were a among the finest that exist.
IN industry also the Russians were building rapidly. I saw the torrents pouring through the Dnieprstroy dam. The motorcar factory in Nijni-Novgorod went up with a speed of which even the British Ministry of Munitions during the war would have been proud.
The Kharkoff tractor factory was also an achievement about which the Bolsheviks might rightly boast.
On the human side, the Bolsheviks had some admirable features. Many of them showed in 1930 and 1931 great enthusiasm and heroic self-sacrifice. In foreign affairs I was and still am impressed by the policy of peace which the Soviet Government is carrying on. Soviet Russia will never attack.
Such is the credit side. What of the debit side?
THERE is first the rapid way in which the standard of living has fallen; 1930 was a bad year, but now it seems even prosperous compared with the spring of 1933. Famine stalks the land. Surely the building of vast factories is no compensation for hunger.
There is the savage class warfare, which is no literary slogan, but a real programme of terror.
Class warfare has led to the crushing of millions of innocent people whose only sin was that they were not of working class parentage. It has led to domination by the Ogpu and to visitations of torture.
It has led to justice, which should be above class, becoming a weapon of the Communist Party to crush those who are not of working-class origin. “Art is a weapon of class warfare” was the notice over an art gallery in Moscow. Every thing is subordinated to class warfare. The oppression of religion, which is no myth but a definite fact, is another black mark to be put against the Soviet régime.
Hypocrisy has been bred to a greater extent than ever. Communists dare not criticise the policy of the party, and, though they know that famine is there and that the Five Year Plan has wrecked the country, they still speak of its glorious achievement and of the way in which they have raised the standard of living. But the idealism of 1930 and 1931 has disappeared.
FEAR has become the dominant motive of action. The party member fears that he will be turned out of the party. The peasant fears that he will die of hunger. The worker fears that he will lose his bread card. The professor fears that he will be accused of counter-revolutionary propaganda in his lectures. The town dweller fears that he will be refused a passport. The engineer fears that he will be accused of sabotage.
But the greatest crime of which the Soviet régime is guilty is the destruction of the peasantry. Six or seven millions of the better-off peasants have been sent away from their homes to exile. The treatment of the other peasants is has been equally cruel. Their land and livestock taken away from them, they have been condemned to the status of landless serfs.
The noose is getting tighter and tighter round the neck of the Russian peasant, and exile and starvation hover round him. But by destroying the Russian peasant the Bolsheviks are destroying Russia and this mad policy will be their nemesis.
What then is the lesson of Soviet Russia?
It is that a State cannot live upon the doctrine of class warfare and that the ideas we have in Britain of personal freedom and of the rights of each individual man are not so far wrong and must be defended at all costs.
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