[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Manchester Guardian, May 8th 1933.
The Peasants in Russia
To the Editor of the Manchester Guardian,
Sir, - In a series of articles published in the “Manchester Guardian” on March 25, 27 and 28, your correspondent described his visit to the North Caucusus and the Ukraine and summed up his impressions as follows:- “To say that there is famine is to say much less than the truth…The fields are neglected and full of weeds; no cattle are to be seen anywhere; and few horses; only the military and the G.P.U. are well fed, the rest of the population obviously starving, obviously terrorised.”
Attempts have been made in your columns to discredit the views of your correspondent. The “Moscow Daily News” has written on him an article entitled “When is a Lie not a Lie?” May I as a liberal-minded man who has devoted four years of university life to the study of the Russian language and history, and who visited about 20 different villages in the Ukraine, the Black Earth district and the Moscow region, as recently as March of this year, fully confirm his conclusions, and congratulate him on having been the first journalist to have informed Britain of the true situation of Russian agriculture?
The villages which I visited alone on foot were by no means in the hardest-hit parts of Russia, but in almost every village, the bread supply had run out two months earlier, the potatoes were almost exhausted, and there was not enough coarse beet, which was formerly used as cattle fodder, but has now become a staple food of the population, to last until the next harvest. Many cottages had not even cattle fodder, and the peasants assured me that the occupants of those cottages were dying of hunger. In each village I received the same information – namely that many were dying of the famine and that about four-fifths of the cattle and the horses had perished. One phrase was repeated until it had a sad monotony in my mind, and that was: “Vse Pukhili” (all are swollen, i.e. from Hunger), and one word was drummed into my memory by every talk. That word was “golod” – i.e., “hunger” or “famine”. Nor shall I forget the swollen stomachs of the children in the cottages in which I slept.
Communists will reply that these conclusions are based on talks with malevolent “kulaks,” who are counter-revolutionary. If that is so, I can only say that almost every Russian peasant must be a kulak, for the unanimity of the peasants’ hatred of the Bolsheviks was one of the most striking features of this visit to the Soviet Union. On previous visits to Russia I have also been deeply impressed by the passionate opposition of the peasantry to the Communists.
Your correspondent’s views were fully confirmed by my visits to the villages but by the most reliable official foreign representatives in the Soviet Union. Moreover one has only to speak to hundreds of peasant-beggars, who have been driven by hunger from many parts of Russia into the towns, to find confirmation of your correspondent’s statements.
As a liberal and a pacifist, I wish that something could be done to relieve the suffering of the peasants in Russia, which, according to foreign observers and to the peasants themselves, is worse than in 1921. Already efforts are being made to succour many of the German colonists, whose letters to their fellow countrymen are tragic. These letters, some of which I have seen, contain such passages as the following:- “We have not had for one and a half weeks anything except salt and water in our stomachs, and our family consists of nine souls.” From the Volga district we read: “I went out to seek him and I went out to feed him, but I couldn’t find him. One cannot get lost on the road. It is marked by human bodies... There is nobody left among all our friends who has anything left… Your brother’s four children died of hunger.” The Evangelical Church in Germany is helping, and those who wish to assist are advised to write to the committee, “Bruder in Not” (Brothers in Need), Berlin N24, Monbijouplatz 2.
I hope that fellow liberals who boil at any injustices in Germany or Italy or Poland will express just one word of sympathy with the millions of peasants who are victims of persecution and famine in the Soviet Union.
Reform Club, Pall Mall, London.
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