COMMISSARIAT OF LABOUR
This morning I went round to the Commissariat of Labour, to see Schmidt, the Commissar. Schmidt is a clean-shaven, intelligent young man, whose attention to business methods is reflected in his Commissariat, which, unlike that of Foreign Affairs, is extremely clean and very well organized. I told him I was particularly interested to hear what he could say in answer to the accusations made both by the Mensheviks and by the Extremists on the Left that control by the workers has become a dead letter, and that a time will come when the trades unions will move against the state organizations.
Schmidt answered: "Those accusations and suggestions are all very well for agitational purposes, but the first to laugh at them would be the trades unions themselves. This Commissariat, for example, which is the actual labour centre, is controlled directly by the unions. As Commissar of Labour, I was elected directly by the General Council of the Trades Unions. Of the College of nine members which controls the whole work of the Commissariat, five are elected directly by the General Council of the Trades Unions and four appointed by the Council of People's Commissaries, thus giving the Unions a decisive majority in all questions concerning labour. All nine are confirmed by the Council of People's Commissaries, representing the state as a whole, and the Commissar is confirmed by the All-Russian Executive Committee."
Of course control by the workers, as it was first introduced, led speedily to many absurdities and, much to the dissatisfaction of the extremer elements, has been considerably modified. It was realized that the workers in any particular factory might by considering only their own interests harm the community as a whole, and so, in the long run, themselves. The manner of its modification is an interesting example of the way in which, without the influence of tanks, aeroplanes or bayonets, the cruder ideas of communism are being modified by life. It was reasoned that since the factory was the property, not of the particular workmen who work in it, but of the community as a whole, the community as a whole should have a considerable voice in its management. And the effect of that reasoning has been to ensure that the technical specialist and the expert works manager are no longer at the caprice of a hastily called gathering of the workmen who may, without understanding them, happen to disapprove of some of their dispositions. Thus the economical, administrative council of a nationalized factory consists of representatives of the workmen and clerical staff, representatives of the higher technical and commercial staffs, the directors of the factory (who are appointed by the Central Direction of National Factories), representatives of the local council of trades unions, the Council of Public Economy, the local soviet, and the industrial union of the particular industry carried on in the factory, together with, a representative of the workers' co-operative society and a representative of the peasants' soviet of the district in which the factory is situated. In this council not more than half of the members may be representatives of the workmen and clerical staff of the factory. This council considers the internal order of the factory, complaints of any kind, and the material and moral conditions of work and so on. On questions of a technical character it has no right to do more than give advice.
The night before I saw Schmidt, little Finberg had come to my room for a game of chess in a very perturbed state of mind, having just come from a meeting of the union to which he belonged (the union of clerks, shop assistants and civil servants) where there had been a majority against the Bolsheviks after some fierce criticism over this particular question. Finberg had said that the ground basis of the discontent had been the lack of food, but that the outspoken criticism had taken the form, first, of protests against the offer of concessions in Chicherin's Note of February 4th, on the ground that concessions meant concessions to foreign capitalism and the formation in Russia of capitalist centres which would eventually spread; and second, that the Communists themselves, by their modifications of Workers' Control, were introducing State Capitalism instead of Socialism.
I mentioned this union to Schmidt, and asked him to explain its hostility. He laughed, and said: "Firstly, that union is not an industrial union at all, but includes precisely the people whose interests are not identical with those of the workmen. Secondly, it includes all the old civil servants who, as you remember, left the ministries at the November Revolution, in many cases taking the money with them. They came back in the end, but though no longer ready to work openly against the revolution as a whole, they retain much of their old dislike of us, and, as you see, the things they were objecting to last night were precisely the things which do not concern them in particular. Any other stick would be as good to them. They know well that if they were to go on strike now they 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 Unions."
"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."
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."
A BOLSHEVIK FELLOW OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY
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 together."
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
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 reasons: 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 RIGHT SOCIAL REVOLUTIONARIES
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 purposes.
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?"
THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL
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 constituents.
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."
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.
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.
LAST TALK WITH LENIN
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 peace.'"
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.
THE JOURNEY OUT
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."