Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Russia in 1919 by Arthur Ransome

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

would be a nuisance to us, no more. If you wish to know
the attitude of the Trades Unions, you should look at the
Trades Union Congress which wholly supported us, and
gave a very different picture of affairs. They know
well that in all questions of labour, the trades unions have
the decisive voice. I told you that the unions send a
majority of the members of the College which controls the
work of this Commissariat. I should have added that the
three most important departments-the department for
safeguarding labour, the department for distributing labour,
and that for regulating wages-are entirely controlled by the

"How do politics affect the Commissariat?"

"Not at all. Politics do not count with us, just because we
are directly controlled by the Unions, and not, by any
political party. Mensheviks, Maximalists and others have
worked and are working in the Commissariat. Of course if
a man were opposed to the revolution as a whole we should
not have him here, because he would be working against us
instead of helping."

I asked whether he thought the trade unions would ever
disappear in the Soviet organizations. He thought not. On
the contrary, they had grown steadily throughout the
revolution. He told me that one great change had been
made in them. Trade unions have been merged
together into industrial unions, to prevent conflict
between individual sections of one industry. Thus
boilermakers and smiths do not have separate unions, but
are united in the metal-workers' union. This unification
has its effect on reforms and changes. An increase in
wages, for example, is simultaneous all over Russia. The
price of living varies very considerably in different parts of
the country, there being as great differences between the
climates of different parts as there are between the countries
of Europe. Consequently a uniform absolute increase
would be grossly unfair to some and grossly favourable to
others. The increase is therefore proportional to the cost of
living. Moscow is taken as a norm of 100, and when a new
minimum wage is established for Moscow other districts
increase their minimum wage proportionately. A table for
this has been worked out, whereby in comparison with 100
for Moscow, Petrograd is set down as 120, Voronezh or
Kursk as 70, and so on.

We spoke of the new programme of the Communists,
rough drafts of which were being printed in the newspapers
for discussion, and he showed me his own suggestions
in so far as the programme concerned labour. He wished
the programme to include, among other aims, the further
mechanization of production, particularly the mechanization
of all unpleasant and dirty processes, improved sanitary
inspection, shortening of the working day in employments
harmful to health, forbidding women with child to do any
but very light work, and none at all for eight weeks before
giving birth and for eight weeks afterwards, forbidding
overtime, and so on. "We have already gone far beyond
our old programme, and our new one steps far ahead of us.
Russia is the first country in the world where all workers
have a fortnight's holiday in the year, and workers in
dangerous or unhealthy occupations have a month's."

I said, "Yes, but don't you find that there is a very long way
between the passing of a law and its realization?"

Schmidt laughed and replied: "In some things certainly,
yes. For example, we are against all overtime, but, in the
present state of Russia we should be sacrificing to a theory
the good of the revolution as a whole if we did not allow
and encourage overtime in transport repairs. Similarly,
until things are further developed than they are now, we
should be criminal slaves to theory if we did not, in some
cases, allow lads under sixteen years old to be in the
factories when we have not yet been able to provide the
necessary schools where we would wish them to be. But
the programme is there, and as fast as it can be realized we
are realizing it."


February 28th.

At the Commissariat of Public Education I showed
Professor Pokrovsky a copy of The German-Bolshevik
Conspiracy, published in America, containing documents
supposed to prove that the German General Staff arranged
the November Revolution, and that the Bolsheviks were no
more than German agents. The weak point about the
documents is that the most important of them have no
reason for existence except to prove that there was such a
conspiracy. These are the documents bought by Mr.
Sisson. I was interested to see what Pokrovsky would say
of them. He looked through them, and while saying that he
had seen forged documents better done, pointed as evidence
to the third of them which ends with the alleged signatures
of Zalkind, Polivanov, Mekhinoshin and Joffe. He
observed that whoever forged the things knew a good
deal, but did not know quite enough, because these persons,
described as "plenipotentiaries of the Council of Peoples'
Commissars," though all actually in the service of the
Soviet Government, could not all, at that time, have been
what they were said to be. Polivanov, for example, was a
very minor official. Joffe, on the other: hand, was indeed a
person of some importance. The putting of the names in
that order was almost as funny as if they had produced a
document signed by Lenin and the Commandant of the
Kremlin, putting the latter first.

Pokrovsky told me a good deal about the organization of
this Commissariat, as Lunacharsky, the actual head of it,
was away in Petrograd. The routine work is run by a
College of nine members appointed by the Council of
People's Commissars. The Commissar of Education
himself is appointed by the All-Russian Executive
Committee. Besides this, there is a Grand College which
meets rarely for the settlement of important questions. In it
are representatives of the Trades Unions, the
Workers' Co-operatives, the Teachers' Union, various
Commissariats such as that for affairs of Nationality, and
other public organizations. He also gave me then and at a
later date a number of figures illustrating the work that has
been done since the revolution. Thus whereas there used to
be six universities there are now sixteen, most of the new
universities having been opened on the initiative of the local
Soviets, as at Astrakhan, Nijni, Kostroma, Tambov,
Smolensk and other places. New polytechnics are being
founded. At Ivano-Vosnesensk the new polytechnic is
opened and that at Briansk is being prepared. The number
of students in the universities has increased enormously
though not to the same proportion as the number of
universities, partly because the difficulties of food supply
keep many students out of the towns, and partly because of
the newness of some of the universities which are only now
gathering their students about them. All education is free.
In August last a decree was passed abolishing preliminary
examinations for persons wishing to become students. It
was considered that very many people who could attend the
lectures with profit to themselves had been prevented
by the war or by pre-revolution conditions from acquiring
the sort of knowledge that could be tested by examination.
It was also believed that no one would willingly listen to
lectures that were of no use to him. They hoped to get as
many working men into the universities as possible. Since
the passing of that decree the number of students at
Moscow University, for example, has more than doubled.
It is interesting to notice that of the new students a greater
number are studying in the faculties of science and history
and philosophy than in those of medicine or law. Schools
are being unified on a new basis in which labour plays a
great part. I frankly admit I do not understand, and I gather
that many teachers have also failed to understand, how this
is done. Crafts of all kinds take a big place in the scheme.
The schools are divided into two classes-one for children
from seven to twelve years old, and one for those aged
from thirteen to seventeen. A milliard roubles has been
assigned to feeding children in the schools, and those who
most need them are supplied with clothes and footgear.
Then there are many classes for working men,
designed to give the worker a general scientific knowledge
of his own trade and so prevent him from being merely a
machine carrying out a single uncomprehended process.
Thus a boiler-maker can attend a course on mechanical
engineering, an electrical worker a course on electricity,
and the best agricultural experts are being employed to give
similar lectures to the peasants. The workmen crowd to
these courses. One course, for example, is attended by a
thousand men in spite of the appalling cold of the lecture
rooms. The hands of the science professors, so Pokrovsky
told me, are frostbitten from touching the icy metal of their
instruments during demonstrations.

The following figures represent roughly the growth in the
number of libraries. In October, 1917, there were 23
libraries in Petrograd, 30 in Moscow. Today there are 49
in Petrograd and 85 in Moscow, besides a hundred book
distributing centres. A similar growth in the number of
libraries has taken place in the country districts. In
Ousolsky ouezd, for example, there are now 73 village
libraries, 35 larger libraries and 500 hut libraries or
reading rooms. In Moscow educational institutions, not
including schools, have increased from 369 to 1,357.

There are special departments for the circulation of printed
matter, and they really have developed a remarkable
organization. I was shown over their headquarters on the
Tverskaya, and saw huge maps of Russia with all the
distributing centres marked with reference numbers so that
it was possible to tell in a moment what number of any new
publication should be sent to each. Every post office is a
distributing centre to which is sent a certain number of all
publications, periodical and other. The local Soviets ask
through the post offices for such quantities as are required,
so that the supply can be closely regulated by the demand.
The book-selling kiosks send in reports of the sale of the
various newspapers, etc., to eliminate the waste of
over-production, a very important matter in a country faced
simultaneously by a vigorous demand for printed matter
and an extreme scarcity of paper.

It would be interesting to have statistics to illustrate the
character of the literature in demand. One thing can be
said at once. No one reads sentimental romances. As is
natural in a period of tremendous political upheaval
pamphlets sell by the thousand, speeches of Lenin and
Trotsky are only equalled in popularity by Demian Biedny's
more or less political poetry. Pamphlets and books on
Marx, on the war, and particularly on certain phases of the
revolution, on different aspects of economic reconstruction,
simply written explanations of laws or policies vanish
almost as soon as they are put on the stalls. The reading of
this kind has been something prodigious during the
revolution. A great deal of poetry is read, and much is
written. It is amusing to find in a red-hot revolutionary
paper serious articles and letters by well-meaning persons
advising would-be proletarian poets to stick to Pushkin
and Lermontov. There is much excited controversy both in
magazine and pamphlet form as to the distinguishing marks
of the new proletarian art which is expected to come out of
the revolution and no doubt will come, though not in the
form expected. But the Communists cannot be accused of
being unfaithful to the Russian classics. Even Radek,
a foreign fosterchild and an adopted Russian, took Gogol as
well as Shakespeare with him when he went to annoy
General Hoffmann at Brest. The Soviet Government has
earned the gratitude of many Russians who dislike it for
everything else it has done by the resolute way in which it
has brought the Russian classics into the bookshops.
Books that were out of print and unobtainable, like
Kliutchevsky's "Courses in Russian History," have been
reprinted from the stereotypes and set afloat again at most
reasonable prices. I was also able to buy a book of his
which I have long wanted, his "Foreigners' Accounts of the
Muscovite State," which had also fallen out of print. In the
same way the Government has reprinted, and sells at fixed
low prices that may not be raised by retailers, the works of
Koltzov, Nikitin, Krylov, Saltykov-Shtchedrin, Chekhov,
Goncharov, Uspensky, Tchernyshevsky, Pomyalovsky and
others. It is issuing Chukovsky's edition of Nekrasov,
reprints of Tolstoy, Dostoievsky and Turgenev, and books
by Professor Timiriazev, Karl Pearson and others of a
scientific character, besides the complete works of
Lenin's old rival, Plekhanov. It is true that most of
this work is simply done by reprinting from old
stereotypes, but the point is that the books are there, and the
sale for them is very large.

Among the other experts on the subject of the Soviet's
educational work I consulted two friends, a little boy,
Glyeb, who sturdily calls himself a Cadet though three of
his sisters work in Soviet institutions, and an old and very
wise porter. Glyeb says that during the winter they had no
heating, so that they sat in school in their coats, and only
sat for a very short time, because of the great cold. He told
me, however, that they gave him a good dinner there every
day, and that lessons would be all right as soon as the
weather got warmer. He showed me a pair of felt boots
which had been given him at the school. The old porter
summed up the similar experience of his sons. "Yes," he
said, "they go there, sing the Marseillaise twice through,
have dinner and come home." I then took these expert
criticisms to Pokrovsky who said, "It is perfectly true. We
have not enough transport to feed the armies, let alone
bringing food and warmth for ourselves.

And if, under these conditions, we forced children to
go through all their lessons we should have corpses to
teach, not children. But by making them come for their
meals we do two things, keep them alive, and keep them in
the habit of coming, so that when the warm weather comes
we can do better."


At Sukhanov's suggestion I went, to see Professor
Timiriazev, the greatest Russian Darwinian, well-known to
many scientific men in this country, a foreign member of
the Royal Society, a Doctor of Cambridge University and a
Bolshevik. He is about eighty years old. His left arm is
paralysed, and, as he said, he can only work at his desk and
not be out and about to help as he would wish. A
venerable old savant, he was sitting writing with a green
dressing gown about him, for his little flat was very cold.
On the walls were portraits of Darwin, Newton and Gilbert,
besides portraits of contemporary men of science whom he
had known. English books were everywhere. He gave me,
two copies of his last scientific book and his latest portrait
to take to two of his friends in England.

He lives with his wife and son. I asked if his son were also a Bolshevik.

"Of course," he replied.

He then read me a letter he had written protesting against
intervention. He spoke of his old love for England and for
the English people. Then, speaking of the veil of lies
drawn between Soviet Russia and the rest of the world, he
broke down altogether, and bent his head to hide his tears.

"I suffer doubly," he said, after excusing himself for the
weakness of a very old man. "I suffer as a Russian, and, if
I may say so, I suffer as an Englishman. I have English
blood in my veins. My mother, you see, looks quite
English," pointing to a daguerreotype on the wall, "and my
grandmother was actually English. I suffer as an
Englishman when I see the country that I love misled by
lies, and I suffer as a Russian because those lies concern
the country to which I belong, and the ideas which I am
proud to hold."

The old man rose with difficulty, for he, like every one else
in Moscow, is half starved. He showed me his Byron, his
Shakespeare, his Encyclopaedia Britannica, his English
diplomas. He pointed to the portraits on the wall. "If I
could but let them know the truth," he said, "those friends
of mine in England, they would protest against actions
which are unworthy of the England we have loved


At this point the chronological arrangement of my book,
already weak, breaks down altogether. So far I have set
down, almost day by day, things seen and heard which
seemed to me characteristic and clear illustration of the
mentality of the Communists, of the work that has been
done or that they are trying to do, and of the general state of
affairs. I spent the whole of my time in ceaseless
investigation, talking now with this man, now with that,
until at the end of a month I was so tired (besides being
permanently hungry) that I began to fear rather than to seek
new experiences and impressions. The last two weeks of
my stay were spent, not in visiting Commissariats, but in
collecting masses of printed material, in talking with my
friends of the opposition parties, and, while it was in
progress, visiting daily the Conference in the Kremlin
which, in the end, definitely announced itself as the
Third International. I have considered it best to treat of that
Conference more or less as a whole, and am therefore
compelled to disregard chronology altogether in putting
down on paper, the results of some of my talks with the
opposition. Some of these took place on the same days as
my visits to the Kremlin conference, and during those days
I was also partly engaged in getting to see the British
prisoners in the Butyrka prison, in which I eventually
succeeded. This is my excuse for the inadequacy of my
account of the conference, an inadequacy which I regret the
more as I was the only non-Communist who was able to
be there at all.


No man likes being hungry. No man likes being cold.
Everybody in Moscow, as in Petrograd, is both hungry and
cold. There is consequently very general and very bitter
discontent. This is of course increased, not lessened, by the
discipline introduced into the factories and the heavy
burden of the army, although the one is intended to hasten
the end of hunger and cold and the other for the defence of
the revolution. The Communists, as the party in power,
naturally bear the blame and are the objects of the
discontent, which will certainly within a short time be
turned upon any other government that may succeed them.
That government must introduce sterner discipline rather
than weaker, and the transport and other difficulties of the
country will remain the same, unless increased by the
disorder of a new upheaval and the active or passive
resistance of many who are convinced revolutionaries
or will become so in answer to repression.

The Communists believe that to let power slip from their
hands at this moment would be treachery to the revolution.
And, in the face of the advancing forces of the Allies and
Kolchak many of the leaders of the opposition are inclined
to agree with them, and temporarily to submit to what they
undoubtedly consider rank tyranny. A position has been
reached after these eighteen months not unlike that reached
by the English Parliament party in 1643. I am reminded of
a passage in Guizot, which is so illuminating that I make no
apology for quoting it in full:--

"The party had been in the ascendant for three years:
whether it had or had not, in church and state,
accomplished its designs, it was at all events by its aid and
concurrence that, for three years, public affairs had been
conducted; this alone was sufficient to make many people
weary of it; it was made responsible for the many evils
already endured, for the many hopes frustrated; it was
denounced as being no less addicted to persecution than the
bishops, no less arbitrary than the king:]196]its
inconsistencies, its weaknesses, were recalled with
bitterness; and, independently of this, even without factions
or interested views, from the mere progress of events and
opinions, there was felt a secret need of new principles and
new rulers."

New rulers are advancing on Moscow from Siberia, but I
do not think that they claim that they are bringing with
them new principles. Though the masses may want new
principles, and might for a moment submit to a
reintroduction of very old principles in desperate hope of
less hunger and less cold, no one but a lunatic could
imagine that they would for very long willingly submit to
them. In the face of the danger that they may be forced to
submit not to new principles but to very old ones, the
non-Communist leaders are unwilling to use to the full the
discontent that exists. Hunger and cold are a good enough
basis of agitation for anyone desirous of overturning any
existing government. But the Left Social Revolutionaries,
led by the hysterical but flamingly honest Spiridonova, are
alone in having no scruples or hesitation in the matter, the
more responsible parties fearing the anarchy and
consequent weakening of the revolution that would
result from any violent change.


The Left Social Revolutionaries want something so much
like anarchy that they have nothing to fear in a collapse of
the present system. They are for a partisan army, not a
regular army. They are against the employment of officers
who served under the old regime. They are against the
employment of responsible technicians and commercial
experts in the factories. They believe that officers and
experts alike, being ex-bourgeois, must be enemies of the
people, insidiously engineering reaction. They are opposed
to any agreement with the Allies, exactly as they were
opposed to any agreement with the Germans. I heard them
describe the Communists as "the bourgeois gendarmes of
the Entente," on the ground that having offered concessions
they would be keeping order in Russia for the benefit of
Allied capital. They blew up Mirbach, and would no doubt
try to blow up any successors he might have. Not wanting
a regular army (a low bourgeois weapon) they would welcome
occupation in order that they, with bees in their bonnets
and bombs in their hands, might go about revolting against it.

I did not see Spiridonova, because on February 11, the very
day when I had an appointment with her, the Communists
arrested her, on the ground that her agitation was dangerous
and anarchist in tendency, fomenting discontent without a
programme for its satisfaction. Having a great respect for
her honesty, they were hard put to it to know what to do
with her, and she was finally sentenced to be sent for a year
to a home for neurasthenics, "where she would be able to
read and write and recover her normality." That the
Communists were right in fearing this agitation was proved
by the troubles in Petrograd, where the workmen in some
of the factories struck, and passed Left Social
Revolutionary resolutions which, so far from showing that
they were awaiting reaction and General Judenitch, showed
simply that they were discontented and prepared to move to
the left.


The second main group of opposition is dominated by the
Mensheviks . Their chief leaders are Martov and Dan. Of
these two, Martov is by far the cleverer, Dan the more
garrulous, being often led away by his own volubility into
agitation of a kind not approved by his friends. Both are
men of very considerable courage. Both are Jews.

The Mensheviks would like the reintroduction of
capitalists, of course much chastened by experience, and
properly controlled by themselves. Unlike Spiridonova and
her romantic supporters they approved of Chicherin's offer
of peace and concessions to the Allies (see page 44). They
have even issued an appeal that the Allies should come to
an agreement with "Lenin's Government." As may be
gathered from their choice of a name for the Soviet
Government, they are extremely hostile to it, but they fear
worse things, and are consequently a little shy of exploiting
as they easily could the dislike of the people for hunger and
cold. They fear that agitation on these lines might well
result in anarchy, which would leave the revolution
temporarily defenceless against Kolchak, Denikin,
Judenitch or any other armed reactionary. Their
non-Communist enemies say of the Mensheviks:
"They have no constructive programme; they would
like a bourgeois government back again, in order
that they might be in opposition to it, on the left"

On March 2nd, I went to an election meeting of workers
and officials of the Moscow Co-operatives. It was
beastly cold in the hall of the University where the
meeting was held, and my nose froze as well as my feet.
Speakers were announced from the Communists,
Internationalists, Mensheviks, and Right
Social Revolutionaries. The last-named did not arrive.
The Presidium was for the most part non-Communist,
and the meeting was about equally divided for and
against the Communists. A Communist led
off with a very bad speech on the general European
situation and to the effect that there was no salvation for
Russia except by the way she was going. Lozovsky, the
old Internationalist, spoke next, supporting the Bolsheviks'
general policy but criticizing their suppression of the
press. Then came Dan, the Menshevik, to hear whom I had
come. He is a little, sanguine man, who gets very hot as he
speaks. He conducted an attack on the whole Bolshevik
position combined with a declaration that so long as they
are attacked from without he is prepared to support them.
The gist of his speech was: 1. He was in favour of fighting
Kolchak. 2. But the Bolshevik policy with regard to the peasants will,
since as the army grows it must contain more and more
peasants, end in the creation of an army with
counter-revolutionary sympathies. 3. He objected to the
Bolshevik criticism of the Berne, delegation (see page 156)
on very curious grounds, saying that though Thomas,
Henderson, etc., backed their own Imperialists during the
war, all that was now over, and that union with them would
help, not hinder, revolution in England and France. 4. He
pointed out that "All power to the Soviets" now means "All
power to the Bolsheviks," and said that he wished that the
Soviets should actually have all power instead of merely
supporting the Bolshevik bureaucracy. He was asked for
his own programme, but said he had not time to give
it. I watched the applause carefully. General
dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs was obvious,
but it was also obvious that no party would have a chance
that admitted its aim was extinction of the Soviets (which
Dan's ultimate aim certainly is, or at least the changing of
them into non-political industrial organizations) or that was not
prepared to fight against reaction from without.

I went to see Sukhanov (the friend of Gorky and Martov,
though his political opinions do not precisely agree with
those of either), partly to get the proofs of his first volume
of reminiscences of the revolution, partly to hear what he
had to say. I found him muffled up in a dressing gown or
overcoat in an unheated flat, sitting down to tea with no
sugar, very little bread, a little sausage and a surprising
scrap of butter, brought in, I suppose, from the country by a
friend. Nikitsky, a Menshevik, was also there, a hopeless
figure, prophesying the rotting of the whole system and of
the revolution. Sukhanov asked me if I had noticed the
disappearance of all spoons (there are now none, but
wooden spoons in the Metropole) as a symbol of the
falling to pieces of the revolution. I told him that though I
had not lived in Russia thirty years or more, as he had, I
had yet lived there long enough and had, before the
revolution, sufficient experience in the loss of fishing
tackle, not to be surprised that Russian peasants, even
delegates, when able, as in such a moment of convulsion as
the revolution, stole spoons if only as souvenirs to show
that they had really been to Moscow.

We talked, of course, of their attitude towards the
Bolsheviks. Both work in Soviet institutions. Sukhanov
(Nikitsky agreeing) believed that if the Bolsheviks came
further to meet the other parties, Mensheviks, etc.,
"Kolchak and Denikin would commit suicide and your
Lloyd George would give up all thought of intervention." I
asked, What if they should be told to hold a Constituent
Assembly or submit to a continuance of the blockade?
Sukhanov said, "Such a Constituent Assembly would be
impossible, and we should be against it." Of the Soviets,
one or other said, "We stand absolutely on the platform of
the Soviet Government now: but we think that such a form
cannot be permanent. We consider the Soviets perfect
instruments of class struggle, but not a perfect form of
government." I asked Sukhanov if he thought counter
revolution possible. He said "No," but admitted that there
was a danger lest the agitation of the Mensheviks or others
might set fire to the discontent of the masses against the
actual physical conditions, and end in pogroms destroying
Bolsheviks and Mensheviks alike. Their general theory
was that Russia was not so far developed that a Socialist
State was at present possible. They therefore wanted a state
in which private capital should exist, and in which factories
were not run by the state but by individual owners. They
believed that the peasants, with their instincts of small
property-holders, would eventually enforce something of
the kind, and that the end would be some form of
democratic Republic. These two were against the offering
of concessions to the Allies, on the ground that those under
consideration involved the handing over to the
concessionaires of the whole power in northern Russia-railways,
forests, the right to set up their own banks in the
towns served by the railway, with all that this implied.
Sukhanov was against concessions on principle, and
regretted that the Mensheviks were in favour of them.

I saw Martov at the offices of his newspaper, which had
just been suppressed on account of an article, which he
admitted was a little indiscreet, objecting to the upkeep of
the Red Army (see page 167). He pointed eloquently to the
seal on some of the doors, but told me that he had started a
new paper, of which he showed me the first number, and
told me that the demand for it was such that although he
had intended that it should be a weekly he now expected to
make it a daily. Martov said that he and his party were
against every form of intervention for the following
1. The continuation of hostilities, the need of an army and
of active defence were bound to intensify the least desirable
qualities of the revolution whereas an agreement, by
lessening the tension, would certainly lead to moderation of
Bolshevik Policy. 2. The needs of the army overwhelmed
every effort at restoring the economic life of the country.
He was further convinced that intervention of any kind
favoured reaction, even supposing that the Allies did not
wish this. "They cannot help themselves," he said,
"the forces that would support intervention must be
dominated by those of reaction, since all of the
non-reactionary parties are prepared to sink their
differences with the Bolsheviks, in order to defend the
revolution as a whole." He said he was convinced that
the Bolsheviks would either have to alter or
go. He read me, in illustration of this, a letter from a
peasant showing the unreadiness of the peasantry to go into
communes (compulsion in this matter has already been
discarded by the Central Government). "We took the land,"
wrote the peasant in some such words, "not much, just as
much as we could work, we ploughed it where it had not
been ploughed before, and now, if it is made into a
commune, other lazy fellows who have done nothing will
come in and profit by our work." Martov argued that life
itself, the needs of the country and the will of the peasant
masses, would lead to the changes he thinks desirable in the
Soviet regime.


The position of the Right Social Revolutionaries is a good
deal more complicated than that of the Mensheviks.
In their later declarations they are as far from their
romantic anarchist left wing as they are from their
romantic reactionary extreme right. They stand,
as they have always stood, for a Constituent Assembly, but
they have thrown over the idea of instituting a Constituent
Assembly by force. They have come into closer contact
with the Allies than any other party to the left of the Cadets.
By doing so, by associating themselves with the Czech
forces on the Volga and minor revolts of a reactionary
character inside Russia, they have pretty badly
compromised themselves. Their change of attitude towards
the Soviet Government must not be attributed to any change
in their own programme, but to the realization that the
forces which they imagined were supporting them were
actually being used to support something a great deal
further right. The Printers' Gazette, a non-Bolshevik
organ, printed one of their resolutions, one point of which
demands the overthrow of the reactionary governments
supported by the Allies or the Germans, and another
condemns every attempt to overthrow the Soviet
Government by force of arms, on the ground that such
an attempt would weaken the working class as a whole and
would be used by the reactionary groups for their own

Volsky is a Right Social Revolutionary, and was President
of that Conference of Members of the Constituent
Assembly from whose hands the Directorate which ruled in
Siberia received its authority and Admiral Kolchak his
command, his proper title being Commander of the Forces
of the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly
members were to have met on January 1st of this year, then
to retake authority from the Directorate and organize a
government on an All-Russian basis. But there was
continual friction between the Directorate and the
Conference of members of the Constituent Assembly, the
Directorate being more reactionary than they. In November
came Kolchak's coup d'=82tat, followed by a declaration
against him and an appeal for his overthrow issued by
members of the Constituent Assembly. Some were arrested
by a group of officers. A few are said to have been killed.
Kolchak, I think, has denied responsibility for this, and
probably was unaware of the intentions of the
reactionaries under his command. Others of the members
escaped to Ufa. On December 5th, 25 days before that
town was taken by the Bolsheviks, they announced their
intention of no longer opposing the Soviet Government in
the field. After the capture of the town by the Soviet
troops, negotiations were begun between the
representatives of the Conference of Members of the
Constituent Assembly, together with other Right Social
Revolutionaries, and representatives of the Soviet
Government, with a view to finding a basis for agreement.
The result of those negotiations was the resolution passed
by the Executive Committee on February 26th (see page
166). A delegation of the members came to Moscow, and
were quaintly housed in a huge room in the Metropole,
where they had put up beds all round the walls and big
tables in the middle of the room for their deliberations. It
was in this room that I saw Volsky first, and afterwards in
my own.

I asked him what exactly had brought him and all that he
represented over from the side of Kolchak and the Allies to
the side of the Soviet Government. He looked me
straight in the face, and said: "I'll tell you. We were
convinced by many facts that the policy of the Allied
representatives in Siberia was directed not to strengthening
the Constituent Assembly against the Bolsheviks and the
Germans, but simply to strengthening the reactionary forces
behind our backs."

He also complained: "All through last summer we were
holding that front with the Czechs, being told that there
were two divisions of Germans advancing to attack us, and
we now know that there were no German troops in Russia
at all."

He criticized the Bolsheviks for being better makers of
programmes than organizers. They offered free electricity,
and presently had to admit that soon there would be no
electricity for lack of fuel. They did not sufficiently base
their policy on the study of actual possibilities. "But that
they are really fighting against a bourgeois dictatorship is
clear to us. We are, therefore, prepared to help them in
every possible way."

He said, further: "Intervention of any kind
will prolong the regime of the Bolsheviks by
compelling us to drop opposition to the Soviet Government,
although we do not like it, and to support it because it is
defending the revolution."

With regard to help given to individual groups or
governments fighting against Soviet Russia, Volsky said
that they saw no difference between such intervention and
intervention in the form of sending troops.

I asked what he thought would happen. He answered in
almost the same words as those used by Martov, that life
itself would compel the Bolsheviks to alter their policy or
to go. Sooner or later the peasants would make their will
felt, and they were against the bourgeoisie and against the
Bolsheviks. No bourgeois reaction could win permanently
against the Soviet, because it could have nothing to offer,
no idea for which people would fight. If by any chance
Kolchak, Denikin and Co. were to win, they would have to
kill in tens of thousands where the Bolsheviks have had to
kill in hundreds, and the result would be the complete ruin
and the collapse of Russia in anarchy. "Has not the
Ukraine been enough to teach the Allies that even six
months' occupation of non-Bolshevik territory
by half a million troops has merely the effect of
turning the population into Bolsheviks?"


March 3rd.

One day near the end of February, Bucharin, hearing that I
meant to leave quite soon, said rather mysteriously, "Wait a
few days longer, because something of international
importance is going to happen which will certainly be of
interest for your history." That was the only hint I got of
the preparation of the Third International. Bucharin refused
to say more. On March 3rd Reinstein looked in about nine
in the morning and said he had got me a guest's ticket for
the conference in the Kremlin, and wondered why I had not
been there the day before, when it had opened. I told him I
knew nothing whatever about it; Litvinov and Karakhan,
whom I had seen quite recently, had never mentioned it,
and guessing that this must be the secret at which Bucharin
had hinted, I supposed that they had purposely kept
silence. I therefore rang up Litvinov, and asked if they
had had any reason against my going. He said that he had
thought it would not interest me. So I went. The
Conference was still a secret. There was nothing about it in
the morning papers.

The meeting was in a smallish room, with a dais at one end,
in the old Courts of Justice built in the time of Catherine the
Second, who would certainly have turned in her grave if
she had known the use to which it was being put. Two
very smart soldiers of the Red Army were guarding the
doors. The whole room, including the floor, was decorated
in red. There were banners with "Long Live the Third
International" inscribed upon them in many languages. The
Presidium was on the raised dais at the end of the room,
Lenin sitting in the middle behind a long red-covered table
with Albrecht, a young German Spartacist, on the right and
Platten, the Swiss, on the left. The auditorium sloped down
to the foot of the dais. Chairs were arranged on each side
of an alleyway down the middle, and the four or five front
rows had little tables for convenience in writing.
Everybody of importance was there; Trotzky,
Zinoviev, Kamenev, Chichern, Bucharin, Karakhan,
Litvinov, Vorovsky, Steklov, Rakovsky, representing here
the Balkan Socialist Party, Skripnik, representing the
Ukraine. Then there were Stang (Norwegian Left
Socialists), Grimlund (Swedish Left), Sadoul (France),
Finberg (British Socialist Party), Reinstein (American
Socialist Labour Party), a Turk, a German-Austrian,
a Chinese, and so on. Business was conducted and
speeches were made in all languages, though
where possible German was used, because more of the
foreigners knew German than knew French. This was
unlucky for me.

When I got there people were making reports about the
situation in the different countries. Finberg spoke in
English, Rakovsky in French, Sadoul also. Skripnik, who,
being asked, refused to talk German and said he would
speak in either Ukrainian or Russia, and to most people's
relief chose the latter, made several interesting points about
the new revolution in the Ukraine. The killing of the
leaders under the Skoropadsky regime had made no
difference to the movement, and town after town was
falling after internal revolt. (This was before they had
Kiev and, of course, long before they had taken Odessa,
both of which gains they confidently prophesied.) The
sharp lesson of German occupation had taught the
Ukrainian Social Revolutionaries what their experiences
during the last fifteen months had taught the Russian, and
all parties were working together.

But the real interest of the gathering was in its attitude
towards the Berne conference. Many letters had been
received from members of that conference, Longuet for
example, wishing that the Communists had been
represented there, and the view taken at Moscow was that
the left wing at Berne was feeling uncomfortable at sitting
down with Scheidemann and Company; let them definitely
break with them, finish with the Second International and
join the Third. It was clear that this gathering in the
Kremlin was meant as the nucleus of a new International
opposed to that which had split into national groups, each
supporting its own government in the prosecution of the
war. That was the leit motif of the whole affair.

Trotsky, in a leather coat, military breeches and
gaiters, with a fur hat with the sign of the Red Army in
front, was looking very well, but a strange figure for those
who had known him as one of the greatest
anti-militarists in Europe. Lenin sat quietly listening,
speaking when necessary in almost every European
language with astonishing ease. Balabanova talked about
Italy and seemed happy at last, even in Soviet Russia, to be
once more in a "secret meeting." It was really an
extraordinary affair and, in spite of some childishness, I
could not help realizing that I was present at something that
will go down in the histories of socialism, much like that
other strange meeting convened in London in 1848.

The vital figures of the conference, not counting Platten,
whom I do not know and on whom I can express no
opinion, were Lenin and the young German, Albrecht, who,
fired no doubt by the events actually taking place in his
country, spoke with brain and character. The German
Austrian also seemed a real man. Rakovsky, Skripnik, and
Sirola the Finn really represented something. But there was
a make-believe side to the whole affair, in which the
English Left Socialists were represented by Finberg, and
the Americans by Reinstein, neither of whom had or was
likely to have any means of communicating with his

March 4th.

In the Kremlin they were discussing the programme on
which the new International was to stand. This is, of
course, dictatorship of the proletariat and all that that
implies. I heard, Lenin make a long speech, the main point
of which was to show that Kautsky and his supporters at
Berne were now condemning the very tactics which they
had praised in 1906. When I was leaving the Kremlin I met
Sirola walking in the square outside the building without a
hat, without a coat, in a cold so intense that I was putting
snow on my nose to prevent frostbite. I exclaimed. Sirola
smiled his ingenuous smile. "It is March," he said, "Spring
is coming."

March 5th.

Today all secrecy was dropped, a little prematurely, I
fancy, for when I got to the Kremlin I found that the first
note of opposition had been struck by the man who least of
all was expected to strike it. Albrecht, the young German,
had opposed the immediate founding of the Third
International, on the double ground that not all nations were
properly represented and that it might make difficulties for
the political parties concerned in their own countries.
Every one was against him. Rakovsky pointed out that the
same objections could have been raised against the
founding of the First International by Marx in London. The
German-Austrian combated Albrecht's second point.
Other people said that the different parties concerned had
long ago definitely broken with the Second International.
Albrecht was in a minority of one. It was decided therefore
that this conference was actually the Third International.
Platten announced the decision, and the "International" was
sung in a dozen languages at once. Then Albrecht stood
up, a little red in the face, and said that he, of course,
recognized the decision and would announce it in Germany.

March 6th.

The conference in the Kremlin ended with the usual singing
and a photograph. Some time before the end, when
Trotsky had just finished speaking and had left the tribune,
there was a squeal of protest from the photographer who
had just trained his apparatus. Some one remarked "The
Dictatorship of the Photographer," and, amid general
laughter, Trotsky had to return to the tribune and stand
silent while the unabashed photographer took two pictures.
The founding of the Third International had been
proclaimed in the morning papers, and an extraordinary
meeting in the Great Theatre announced for the evening. I
got to the theatre at about five, and had difficulty in getting
in, though I had a special ticket as a correspondent. There
were queues outside all the doors. The Moscow Soviet was
there, the Executive Committee, representatives of the
Trades Unions and the Factory Committees, etc. The huge
theatre and the platform were crammed, people standing in
the aisles and even packed close together in the wings of
the stage. Kamenev opened the meeting by a solemn
announcement of the founding of the Third
International in the Kremlin. There was a roar of applause
from the audience, which rose and sang the "International"
in a way that I have never heard it sung since the
All-Russian Assembly when the news came of the strikes in
Germany during the Brest negotiations. Kamenev then
spoke of those who had died on the way, mentioning
Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg, and the whole theatre
stood again while the orchestra played, "You fell as
victims." Then Lenin spoke. If I had ever thought that
Lenin was losing his personal popularity, I got my answer
now. It was a long time before he could speak at all,
everybody standing and drowning his attempts to speak
with roar after roar of applause. It was an extraordinary,
overwhelming scene, tier after tier crammed with workmen,
the parterre filled, the whole platform and the wings. A
knot of workwomen were close to me, and they almost
fought to see him, and shouted as if each one were
determined that he should hear her in particular. He spoke
as usual, in the simplest way, emphasizing the fact that the
revolutionary struggle everywhere was forced to use the
Soviet forms. "We declare our solidarity with
the aims of the Sovietists," he read from an Italian
paper, and added, "and that was when they did not
know what our aims were, and before we had an
established programme ourselves." Albrecht made
a very long reasoned speech for Spartacus, which
was translated by Trotsky. Guilbeau, seemingly a mere
child, spoke of the socialist movement in France. Steklov
was translating him when I left. You must remember that I
had had nearly two years of such meetings, and am not a
Russian. When I got outside the theatre, I found at each
door a disappointed crowd that had been unable to get in.

The proceedings finished up next day with a review in the
Red Square and a general holiday.

If the Berne delegates had come, as they were expected,
they would have been told by the Communists that they
were welcome visitors, but that they were not regarded as
representing the International. There would then have
ensued a lively battle over each one of the delegates, the
Mensheviks urging him to stick to Berne, and the
Communists urging him to express allegiance to the
Kremlin. There would have been demonstrations and
counter-demonstrations, and altogether I am very sorry
that it did not happen and that I was not there to see.


I went to see Lenin the day after the Review in the Red
Square, and the general holiday in honour of the Third
International. The first thing he said was: "I am afraid that
the Jingoes in England and France will make use of
yesterday's doings as an excuse for further action against
us. They will say 'How can we leave them in peace when
they set about setting the world on fire?' To that I would
answer, 'We are at war, Messieurs! And just as during
your war you tried to make revolution in Germany, and
Germany did make trouble in Ireland and India, so we,
while we are at war with you, adopt the measures that are
open to us. We have told you we are willing to make

He spoke of Chicherin's last note, and said they based all
their hopes on it. Balfour had said somewhere, "Let the fire
burn itself out." That it would not do. But the quickest
way of restoring good conditions in Russia was, of course,
peace and agreement with the Allies. "I am sure we could
come to terms, if they want to come to terms at all.
England and America would be willing, perhaps, if their
hands were not tied by France. But intervention in the
large sense can now hardly be. They must have learnt that
Russia could never be governed as India is governed, and
that sending troops here is the same thing as sending them
to a Communist University."

I said something about the general hostility to their
propaganda noticeable in foreign countries.

Lenin. "Tell them to build a Chinese wall round each of
their countries. They have their customs-officers, their
frontiers, their coast-guards. They can expel any
Bolsheviks they wish. Revolution does not depend on
propaganda. If the conditions of revolution are not there no
sort of propaganda will either hasten or impede it. The war
has brought about those conditions in all countries, and I
am convinced that if Russia today were to be swallowed up
by the sea, were to cease to exist altogether, the revolution
in the rest of Europe would go on. Put Russia under
water for twenty years, and you would not affect by a
shilling or an hour a week the demand, of the
shop-stewards in England."

I told him, what I have told most of them many times, that I
did not believe there would be a revolution in England.

Lenin. "We have a saying that a man may have typhoid
while still on his legs. Twenty, maybe thirty years ago I had
abortive typhoid, and was going about with it,
had had it some days before it knocked me over. Well,
England and France and Italy have caught the disease
already. England may seem to you to be untouched, but the
microbe is already there."

I said that just as his typhoid was abortive typhoid, so the
disturbances in England to which he alluded might well be
abortive revolution, and come to nothing. I told him the
vague, disconnected character of the strikes and the
generally liberal as opposed to socialist character of the
movement, so far as it was political at all, reminded me of
what I had heard of 1905 in Russia and not at all of
1917, and that I was sure it would settle down.

Lenin. "Yes, that is possible. It is, perhaps, an educative
period, in which the English workmen will come to realize
their political needs, and turn from liberalism to Socialism.
Socialism is certainly weak in England. Your socialist
movements, your socialist parties . . . when I was in
England I zealously attended everything I could, and for a
country with so large an industrial population they were
pitiable, pitiable . . . a handful at a street corner . . . a
meeting in a drawing room . . . a school class . . . pitiable.
But you must remember one great difference between
Russia of 1905 and England of to-day. Our first Soviet in
Russia was made during the revolution. Your
shop-stewards committees have been in existence
long before. They are without programme, without
direction, but the opposition they will meet will force
a programme upon them."

Speaking of the expected visit of the Berne delegation, he
asked me if I knew MacDonald, whose name had been
substituted for that of Henderson in later telegrams
announcing their coming. He ,said: "I am very glad
MacDonald is coming instead of Henderson. Of course
MacDonald is not a Marxist in any sense of the word, but
he is at least interested in theory, and can therefore be
trusted to do his best to understand what is happening here.
More than that we do not ask."

We then talked a little on a subject that interests me very
much, namely, the way in which insensibly, quite apart
from war, the Communist theories are being modified in the
difficult process of their translation into practice. We
talked of the changes in "workers' control," which is now a
very different thing from the wild committee business that
at first made work almost impossible. We talked then of
the antipathy of the peasants to compulsory communism,
and how that idea also had been considerably whittled
away. I asked him what were going to be the relations
between the Communists of the towns and the
property-loving peasants, and whether there was
not great danger of antipathy between them, and said
I regretted leaving too soon to see the elasticity of
the Communist theories tested by the inevitable
pressure of the peasantry.

Lenin said that in Russia there was a pretty sharp
distinction between the rich peasants and the poor. "The
only opposition we have here in Russia is directly or
indirectly due to the rich peasants. The poor, as soon as
they are liberated from the political domination of the rich,
are on our side and are in an enormous majority."

I said that would not be so in the Ukraine, where property
among the peasants is much more equally distributed.

Lenin. "No. And there, in the Ukraine, you will certainly
see our policy modified. Civil war, whatever happens, is
likely to be more bitter in the Ukraine than elsewhere,
because there the instinct of property has been further
developed in the peasantry, and the minority and majority
will be more equal."

He asked me if I meant to return, saying that I could go
down to Kiev to watch the revolution there as I had
watched it in Moscow. I said I should be very sorry to
think that this was my last visit to the country which I
love only second to my own. He laughed, and paid me the
compliment of saying that, "although English," I had more
or less succeeded in understanding what they were at, and
that he should be pleased to see me again.


March 15th.

There is nothing to record about the last few days of my
visit, fully occupied as they were with the collection and
packing of printed material and preparations for departure.
I left with the two Americans, Messrs. Bullitt and Steffens,
who had come to Moscow some days previously, and
travelled up in the train with Bill Shatov, the Commandant
of Petrograd, who is not a Bolshevik but a fervent admirer
of Prince Kropotkin, for the distribution of whose works in
Russia he has probably done as much as any man. Shatov
was an emigr=82 in New York, returned to Russia, brought
law and order into the chaos of the Petrograd-Moscow
railway, never lost a chance of doing a good turn to an
American, and with his level-headedness and practical
sense became one of the hardest worked servants of the
Soviet, although, as he said, the moment people
stopped attacking them he would be the first to pull down
the Bolsheviks. He went into the occupied provinces
during the German evacuation of them, to buy arms and
ammunition from the German soldiers. Prices, he said, ran
low. You could buy rifles for a mark each, field guns for
150 marks, and a field wireless station for 500. He had
then been made Commandant of Petrograd, although there
had been some talk of setting him to reorganize transport.
Asked how long he thought the Soviet Government could
hold but, he replied, "We can afford to starve another year
for the sake of the Revolution."

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest