The Socialist Sixth of the World - Hewlett Johnson
1 The New Experiment
2 Tsarist Background
3 The Programme and the Plan
4 The Drama of Socialist Planning
5 The Summons to Science
6 Our Heritage
7 "Spread Wheat North; Industry East"
From this tottering capitalistic world of storm and stress, where ancient pillars of society collapse, where morals are outraged, where science is balked, production impeded, and poverty unchecked, we turn at last to the Soviet world.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which is the correct, though for English readers the less familiar title than Russia, extends over two-thirds of Asia and the major part of eastern Europe, and possesses the largest continuous territory in the world. The Soviet Union covers a sixth of the earth's surface the Socialist sixth with fourteen seas of three oceans, the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific, washing its shores. Northwards its territory extends to within 621 miles of the Pole; southwards it approaches the equator more nearly than Gibraltar. Its climate ranges from arctic to sub-tropical: a land of polar bears and tigers; arctic moss, date palms, and bamboo thickets.
With insignificant exceptions the Soviet Union possesses every natural resource that industry demands: iron, coal, cotton; more than half the world's total oil supply, and mineral wealth as great in quantity as it is varied in kind.
This world island, as Sir Halford Mackinder once picturesquely described it, is self-sufficient; its potential wealth in rapid process of realization.
Providence surely planned Russia as the stage for the first socialist civilization. The whole world presents no setting so apt for an experiment whose success must at first inevitably ring it around with enemies.
The socialist sixth of the earth has passed the experimental stage. We are in a better position each year to appraise it. The order of Soviet society is far from perfect. In many directions the Soviet Union has a long way yet to go. Difficulties in the beginning were inevitable. The size of the Union made them appear insuperable. Naturally the new order lies open to criticism in a hundred minor points. But the major achievements of the past twenty-one years are so great, and the progress during the past five years, when at last the regime has been completely socialized, is so colossal, that no longer can the outer world afford to ignore what is happening. Evils which in other lands frustrate science and make a mock of Christian morality melt away as the new socialist civilization of the East replaces the plutocratic order and dominance of the West.
In the Soviet Union all factories, mines, railways and shipping, land and trading organizations, are the property of the people as a whole. The economic and social life of the country is planned in the public interest. Complete equality enables citizens, irrespective of their race or nationality, to participate in governing the State according to their ability. Complete equality of sexes, "equal pay for equal work", is a fundamental law. Equal opportunity for education is provided universally, the school-leaving age is in process of being raised to seventeen, and payment is made to students at universities. Work is provided for all; unemployment is non-existent; economic crises have ceased, prices steadily fall and wages rise. The maximum working day is eight hours, the average day under seven. All workers receive a paid holiday of at least two weeks a year. Free medical attention is provided for all: workers receive wages while sick, as though they were at work. Women receive a prolonged leave of absence with full pay when off work both before and after childbirth. No citizen profits anything from the manufacture of arms. The Soviet Union stands for democracy, peace, and the right of nations to self-determination.
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The Russian programme gripped me from its earliest formulation. Majestic in range, practical in detail, scientific in form, Christian in spirit, it has embarked on a task never yet attempted by modern or ancient State. It is a programme which thinks, not in terms of a privileged class, but in terms of each individual soul; not in terms of profit for the few, but in terms of service for all; deliberately bent on organizing the whole of life over a sixth of the earth's surface, so that a twelfth of the world's population may eventually share, each according to his need.
The thing is stupendous, and as applied to the concrete situation of life wholly new. It had been a matter of dreams for idealists, never a basis of government for statesmen. It constitutes a Magna Carta for the poor, lifting an entire people on to a higher plane of life, with a higher standard of living. At best, previously, a ladder had been let down by which the favoured few of a "lower order" might climb to privileged places amongst the privileged classes. Never before had the public as a whole been regarded on an equal basis. Production of commodities and rendering of services had been conducted or permitted, not with a view to the ascertained needs of a whole community, but as a means of profit to possessors of land and implements; resulting in poverty for some, opulence for others, and general confusion and inefficiency for all.
The Russian programme, on the contrary, embraces the community as a whole in one general plan, taking into account the requirements, in a union of 170,000,000 souls, of each individual, through successive stages of life, as infant, as adolescent, as adult; in the sunshine of health and strength and in the shadows of sickness and old age. The needs of multitudes of men and women of divers nations for profitable work, alternating with adequate rest and recreation, provided with suitable working conditions as producers, and satisfaction of requirement as consumers, are now to be met by a plan scientific in formulation and comprehensive in scope.
The Soviet plan stands in vivid contrast to the planless world of capitalism, where supply of need is left to chance, where if I possess money I can buy; if not, I must continue in unrelieved want. Where private persons, or groups of persons controlling large capital resources, set men working, as they have the power to do, at jobs which provide luxuries for the few, but render thereby more scarce and costly the necessities of life for the many. Where, yet again, if in the resulting confusion I am left without money and without work, then I and hundreds of thousands in similar plight are condemned to starve in inactivity, unless saved by an inadequate and humiliating dole. And where, even with money, I never can be quite sure, in the general planless-ness, that I can get my real and essential needs supplied, or supplied in the most appropriate way. I must just take my chance amongst the millions of unorganized individuals each spending his income in his own casual way.
Service for all according to essential need, however, demands an elaboration of organization from which the most highly civilized and industrialized community might well shrink. It demands, on the one hand, a sufficiency of maternity homes; infant and junior schools and colleges; teachers, professors, inventors, and research students, with scope for the training of youth in the arts of production and organization adequate to keep them all at work when trained. It demands, on the other hand, such an elaboration of productive and distributive organization as will bring to every individual a constant flow of goods and services embracing the whole range of personal needs, from housing, food, clothes, and transit, to music, art, literature, and all cultural activities.
No less daring and no less intricate than that was the plan which from the early years of the Revolution Russia's new rulers began in its elements to formulate; and the stage for its execution was a land where an archaic and feudal system of agriculture had only at the eleventh hour permitted industrial organization to take root in certain places and on a scale totally disproportionate to the extent of Russian territory. In agriculture, industry, and education Russia lingered a hundred years behind the Western States.
No land, no people and no period could at first sight seem to the onlookers less propitious as a setting for this, the world's greatest experiment, even if we view that experiment in its most rudimentary initial conception. And the highly elaborated form of the plan which now lies before us was a matter of growth, the result of long years of trial and error: the completed plan, obviously, did not spring fully formed at once into the minds of leaders or community. Even in its most elementary form, however, it demanded a competent industrial organization and an adequate industrial output. The Russia of 1917 had neither. She offered to her new rulers every kind of hindrance and no encouragement at all: such scanty industrial organizations as she already possessed lying shattered, first by a war for which she was never prepared, and then by a civil war, which had brought alien armies to trample her fields and wreck her factories.
The Tsarist Russia which the new rulers inherited was overwhelmingly agricultural and had spread its net of empire over Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Russian Poland, and Bessarabia, in addition to all the eastern and southern States now included in the Soviet Union, and 80 per cent, of the entire population, even so late as 1928, were engaged directly or indirectly on the land and were faring ill. The proportion was greater in earlier years. The soil, particularly in central and south-eastern Russia, the Caucasus, and Turkestan, was as rich as most in Europe, and in the Black Earth Region is probably the finest in the world, but its agricultural yield was tragically low. Russia was still the land of the wooden plough, the sickle, and the scythe; half the ploughs in 1913 were hooked ploughs, scratching the surface in place of turning the clod. Russian methods of cultivation were mediaeval. Only on the lands of the rich peasants and the large estates was there any vestige of modern machinery.
In the main the unit of cultivation was, as in China, too small for economic purposes : 138,000,000 acres out of 263,000,000 distributed among 16,000,000 peasant households, giving to each an average holding of eight or nine acres, severed as often as not into strips here and strips there, as in the manorial economy of fifteenth-century England. Peasant individualism made agricultural mechanization impossible.
Artificial manures were practically unknown : the "Russian Year Book" of 1914 estimates that each acre of cultivated land received, on a yearly average, one-sixth of a pound's weight of phosphoric acid, against Belgium's 21 pounds.
Labouring under this triple handicap, the average yield per acre of the rich Russian soil was a third of the English or German, and a quarter of the Danish, yield. The plight of the peasant, was pitiful. With difficulty he survived. Like a man submerged in a duck-pond up to the lips, the slightest ripple of misfortune served to drown him. A drought and droughts were common a blight, a fire and fires among wooden houses were the peasants' fiercest foe sent him forth a wretched outcast begging his bread from house to house.
The state of the Tsarist peasant and his village has been described by many writers. Here, for example, are the words of Mr. Maurice Hindus, who, on returning from America to the village of his birth, speaks of the village beauty of his youth, now grown at thirty-five years of age into an old woman, seven of her nine children dead and another sickening: "It could not be otherwise", he added, "so long as the people lived in ill-smelling, un-ventilated one-room huts, and shared these with their pigs and chickens and calves." "So long too as mothers seldom bathed their babies, and fed them, with unwashed fingers or through artificial nipples made of dirty linen, their own chewings of black bread and potato or the inevitable kasha", or gruel. His village, in pre-revolution days, possessed no schoolhouse: few villagers could even sign their name.
Where houses in country places clustered into small towns, the loveliest spots were degraded by filth and confusion : "Tuapse", says Mr. Stephen Graham, and this time I quote from a noted British admirer of the Tsarist regime, "is beautiful from a distance, but when you get into it 'tis the most untidy place that ever was called a health resort; a confusion of little streets and bad shops, dirty coffee houses, fruit barrows, and dust. Even the sea, which a mile away is jewel-like and gleaming, is stirred up and refuse strewn."
If the backwardness of the country was accidental, mainly due to inertia, the backwardness of the larger towns was deliberate. Tsarist rulers dreaded the rise of a manufacturing middle class. Enterprise was fettered. Though Russia's coal deposits were amongst the richest in the world, her output of coal in 1913 was one twenty-seventh of that in the U.S.A. Such industry as existed was entrusted in large measure to foreigners. Foreign capitalists mined the ores, acquiring as concessions from the Tsarist Government tracts of land rich in minerals. French and Belgian capitalists had control of the Donbas coal- and iron-mines; British and French of the Baku oil-wells; the control of textile and other mills and factories being shared among French, British, and German capitalists alike.
The lot of the worker was desperately hard; his hours long and wages low. Extremely low wages cannot mean anything but an extremely low level of life. It is stated that in 1912 the average yearly wage for an industrial worker was 255 rubles; for a worker in a sugar refinery 106. A ten- to twelve-hour day was normal.
Factory conditions were disgraceful. Men and women alike spent the long hours of the working day in buildings badly designed, badly lit, badly ventilated, and always overcrowded. Sanitation was almost non-existent.
Homes were worse than factories. An investigation in 1898, reported by the Moscow City Council, covering 16,478 lodgings in Moscow, show that 17 per cent, of the population were living under inhuman conditions :
"The stairs which led down to the dens which the people inhabited are covered with all kinds of filth, the dens themselves are almost filled with dirty boards, upon which there is equally foul bedding, and in the corners there is only dirt. The smell is heavy and close. There is hardly any light, because the dens are half underground and little light obtains entrance through the dirty windows. Beneath the window it is absolutely dark; the walls are damp and covered with mould."
Only one degree less vile than the cellars were the insanitary wooden shacks on the outskirts of the towns.
Such conditions in country and town, coupled with the inadequacy of the medical service, both in numbers, quality, and equipment, amply account for a death rate of 29-4 per thousand, mounting in the case of infants to 32.7.
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It is not hostile critics who throw the most damning light upon conditions in Tsarist Russia. It is from Russia's own Year Book of 1914 that we learn that "in 1912, out of 1,063 towns and urban settlements with a population exceeding 10,000 (the number of urban settlements was 182), only 219 possessed an organized water supply, making 20-6 per cent, of the whole number". And it is from Mr. Stephen Graham, who says " his ideal is Holy Russia, the foundation of which is the peasantry, whose framework is the Church and whose head the Tsar", that we learn most of the squalor of the peasantry and the malarial filth of towns on the lovely Black-Sea Riviera. It is Stephen Graham who assures us that not all the skill, courage, brutality, and diplomacy of officials could stem the threatening consequences of intolerable conditions of labour: that an army of adipose bribe-taking officials and engineers and myriads of the upper class batten on the public funds: or that the two maimed cathedrals' of Rostov were scamped by the building contractors. It was Stephen Graham who said : " There is no such thing as a municipal conscience in Russia", and adds: "Is it not futile that Professor Metchnikov in Paris spends his energies trying to discover a diet that will prolong old age, whilst Moscow students are gasping for a decent sewer that would add a dozen years to their youth ?"
Another witness shall be the Russian playwright, Tchehov, who describes society in the Rostov that was, and which contrasts so vividly with the Rostov that I now know, with its theatre which rivals the Town Hall at Stockholm and the Radio City in New York, as amongst the finest buildings of modern times, standing at the centre of its vigorous cultural life :
"I did not understand [Tchehov writes] what these sixty-five thousand people lived for and by. I knew that Kimry lived by boots, that Tula made samovars and guns, that Odessa was a sea-port, but what our town was, and what it did, I did not know. Great Dvoryansky Street and the two other smartest streets lived on the interest of capital, or on salaries received by officials from the public treasury; but what the other eight streets, which ran parallel for over two miles and vanished beyond the hills, lived upon, was always an insoluble riddle to me. And the way these people lived one is ashamed to describe! No garden, no theatre, no decent band: the public library and the club library were only visited by Jewish youths, so that the magazines and new books lay for months uncut; rich and well-educated people slept in close, stuffy bedrooms, on wooden bedsteads infested with bugs; their children were kept in revoltingly dirty rooms called nurseries, and the servants, even the old and respected ones, slept on the floor in the kitchen, covered with rags. On ordinary days the houses smelt of beetroot soup, and on fast days of sturgeon cooked in sunflower oil. The food was not good, and the drinking water was unwholesome. In the town council, at the governor's, at the head priest's, on all sides in private houses, people had been saying for years and years that our town had not a good and cheap water-supply, and that it was necessary to obtain a loan of two hundred thousand from the Treasury for laying on water; very rich people, of whom three dozen could have been counted up in our town, and who at times lost whole estates at cards, drank the polluted water too, and talked all their lives with great excitement of a loan for the water-supply and I did not understand that; it seemed to me it would have been simpler to take the two hundred thousand out of their own pockets and lay it out on that object.
"I did not know one honest man in the town. My father took bribes, and imagined that they were given him out of respect for his moral qualities; at the high school, in order to be moved up rapidly from class to class, the boys went to board with their teachers, who charged them exorbitant sums; the wife of the military commander took bribes from the recruits when they were called up before the board and even deigned to accept refreshments from them, and on one occasion could not get up from her knees in church because she was drunk; the doctors took bribes, too when the recruits came up for examination, and the town doctor and the veterinary surgeon levied a regular tax on the butchers' shops and the restaurants; at the district school they did a trade in certificates, qualifying for partial exemption from military service; the higher clergy took bribes from the humbler priests and from the church elders; at the Municipal, the Artisans', and all the other Boards every petitioner was pursued by a shout: `Don't forget your thanks!' and the petitioner would turn back to give sixpence or a shilling. And those who did not take bribes, such as the higher officials of the Department of Justice, were haughty, offered two fingers instead of shaking hands, were distinguished by the frigidity and narrowness of their judgments, spent a great deal of time over cards, drank to excess, married heiresses, and undoubtedly had a pernicious corrupting influence on those around them. It was only the girls who had still the fresh fragrance of moral purity; most of them had higher impulses, pure and honest hearts; but they had no understanding of life, and believed that bribes were given out of respect for moral qualities, and after they were married grew old quickly, let themselves go completely, and sank hopelessly in the mire of vulgar, petty, bourgeois existence."
If such was the condition of Tsarist Russia, the condition of Tsarist Asia passes all description.
In size the combined areas of European Asiatic Russia were staggeringly great. During the course of four hundred years Tsarist Russia had increased its territory at the rate of fifty square miles a day. Day by day that is, to put it concretely and dramatically, throughout the reigns of Tudors, Stuarts, Commonwealth, and Hanoveriansthis immense empire had been adding to its growth at the rate of a piece of land ten miles long by five miles wide; from 800,000 square miles in 1505 to 8,500,000 square miles in 1900.
The Tsarist empire had spread out across two continents, had embraced hundreds of different peoples and tribes, speaking a hundred and fifty different languages, and its history throughout all those centuries recorded one long series of conquests and subjugations of neighbouring peoples, whom it treated with supreme contempt, thrusting them back from economic advance, and, with the exception of the Bukhara Khanate, ruthlessly suppressing their native language and institutions.
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In such a land, then, and confronted with difficulties and handicaps so inconceivably great, a mere handful of leaders, with very slight practical experience, began the early stages of the world's greatest experiment. Could the scales have been loaded more heavily against them ?
Apparently they could and were. For added to the sheaf of inherited problems and hindrances were two more: the war and the civil war.
Russia had plunged into a war with Germany on the side of the Allies, for which she was equipped neither by the state of her army, despite all the lavish expenditure of English and French monies, nor by the state of her industry; and still less, as it was proved after the event, by the temper of her depressed masses. Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador at the Tsar's Court, had warned his home Government of Russian unrest, complaining that the Tsarist police preferred suppression of its symptoms to removal of its cause: he added that the German Ambassador predicted that the declaration of war would release revolution. Tsarist folly, however, made the gamble and plunged an unprepared people into a life-and-death struggle with the mightiest military Power in the world. Russian soldiers never lacked courage: all they lacked were rifles, artillery, ammunition, and food. Ill armed and starving, the troops manned the trenches, and after a series of bitter and colossal defeats Russia collapsed. Her officials riddled with corruption, her land robbed of its ablest workers, her railways congested and paralyzed, her population starving, Russia broke, and with the break an old order passed away for ever and a new order took the stage. The army sent to quell the riots joined the rioters. Revolution sprang spontaneously into life.
Amid the uncertainties of eight months of vacillation, with a Provisional Government struggling vainly to salvage what it could from the wreckage of the past, one party knew its own mind. Though in a minority, it was compact. It had a programme and a slogan. Before the cry "Bread, Peace, and the Land", Kerensky's Provisional Government fell, and on November 7th, 1917, the Bolsheviks were in power and Soviet Government began its rule.
From the very first, and quite naturally, the Soviet claim to power was bitterly contested. Attacked from without and from within, a period of four strenuous years of warfare lay still before the new rulers. Not without a desperate struggle would the capitalist world permit experiments towards fashioning a new order of society, which, if it succeeded, would endanger all they held most dear. Success of a planned plenty was bound to spell the doom of present unplanned chaos or future planned scarcity.
Little wonder that Russia found herself ringed around with enemies, nor that amongst the bitterest of these were her former allies. In face of a new menace, as the Russian revolution appeared to the Western world to be, the imperialist Powers which had just emerged from death grips with one another were now united in attacking what they chose to recognize as a common foe. Russia was invaded by Germany, England, France, U.S.A., Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Japan. Forced into battle on every front, north, south, east, and west, she emerged at length victorious indeed, but exhausted: her land ruined, her economy in a state of complete collapse; her fields overrun with soldiers and weeds, her mills and factories idle for lack of fuel and raw materials; her railways jammed with disabled locomotives, broken cars, and damaged trucks; her bridges blown up and railway tracks decayed. The flow of industrial production, always immature, now dwindled to a fifth of its pre-war volume. Agricultural production dropped to half the level of 1914: fields stood untilled and unsown; cattle were removed in one war or exterminated in another. The whole land was starving.
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The difficulties which confronted the new rulers of Russia in the formulation and execution of their plan have been emphasized advisedly. For it is against this background that Russian progress must be measured. The appalling backwardness of Tsarist Russia must be understood if the Russian achievement is to be estimated a right (and allowance made for the jolts along the road to it. It is against the Tsarist background of mediaeval agriculture, immature industry, and general illiteracy that Russia's growth must rightly be seen.
Travellers who measure Russia by the yardstick of Western countries are bound to err. To compare Russian farm buildings and Russian fields with Denmark's superb examples; to compare Moscow with London, Kiev with Edinburgh, or Odessa with Liverpool, gives a wholly false picture of Russia's achievement. The true comparison, of course, is between the Moscow of 1927 and the Moscow of 1917, or between the Moscow of 1937 and the Moscow of 1927. The nature, pace, and quality of growth form the proper elements of comparison. The very fact that today it has become possible to suggest at all, without grotesque absurdity, any comparison between Moscow and London, is in itself the measure of a notable change. Who would have dared the comparison in 1914?
Again, in our estimate of the achievements of the twenty-one years of Soviet rule, or of the five years during which the Soviet Union has established socialism, we shall do well to remember that not only was Russia handicapped with a mediaeval agriculture, but possessed as the human element for its modernization a peasantry the most ignorant, superstitious, and backward that Europe could show; a peasantry not only using the wooden plough, but wishing for no better; a peasantry capable of fighting burning thatch in a cottage conflagration with gallons of milk, through superstitious dread of using water for the purpose.
We must remember, too, that Russian industry lacked craftsmen and skilled technicians, and that her educational system lacked teachers. The absence of skilled human instruments in the rebuilding of Russia on modern lines was Russia's heaviest handicap. Soviet rulers had to start from scratch and feel their way, or force it, step by step.
It was vain to expect Utopia and blameless advance in Soviet Russia, however noble might be the goal at which she aimed. The Soviets inherited not only a Crippled and enfeebled industrial and agricultural order, and an inefficient population, they inherited also a tradition of brutality unsurpassed by any European country. The violence of the recoil is the measure of the previous oppression.
Nothing is more necessary than to distinguish between what is inherent in the new system and what is inherited from the old. For much of the past inheritance of Soviet Russia has nothing to do with the socialism she is practising. The extensive spy system of earlier, days (which is still unfortunately to a certain extent proceeding), the secret police, secret courts, and political executions were not inherent in Sovietdom: they were a hangover from the days of Tsardom. Soviet Russia imagined that the break with the past had been absolute. Not so easily, however, does a people liberate itself from its social past. Many ideas, customs; intolerances, and tolerances too, cling on unperceived by those who think that they live in days where all things are new.
It is our wisdom to recognize this and disentangle some things for praise and others for blame. Those of us who believe in absolute values will never be satisfied until the violation of these values ceases.
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I would add a final caution to the Russian traveller. Travelling with a blank mind is perhaps impossible; it is certainly dangerous to attempt- it. Profitable travel in Russia demands a mind well informed beforehand. Study of Russia in the process of growth makes a journey to Russia instructive; without it the journey may be gravely misleading.
Take the case of a young English railway enthusiast, travelling cursorily and hastily on the western fringe of Russian railways, comparing them with British lines ignorant of the existence of the modern condenser locomotives which are a triumph of Soviet engineering skill, or of the fact that the Trans-Siberian track has been doubled under the Soviet regime, and that from one wagon-works alone a mile and an eighth of super-modern wagons issues every working-day and upon the basis of his uninstructed observation contrasting the efficiency of capitalism with the inefficiency of socialism. Such a traveller, dependent wholly on what he sees and uninformed by study, will miss completely the point of social control of transit facilities.
I myself might readily have been a case in point, for in travelling from England, through Holland, Poland, and Russia to Moscow, I began the journey, as far as accommodation was concerned, with English railways, which were the best, and ended it with Russian, which were the worst. I suffered, indeed, no actual discomfort. The trains in Russia were punctual : the dining- and sleeping-cars gave me all I needed; my meals were excellent; but the rolling stock was, in some cases, a dozen years out of date. My young engineering friends, had they been with me, would have compared it most unfavourably with the Flying Scotsmen of British railways. Rightly so. But if on the basis of that comparison they had proceeded to condemn the Soviet system of regulated government-owned transit, they would have made a most grievous mistake, in that they would be leaving Out factors of supreme and deciding importance.
For Soviet Russia cares not the snap of a finger today what the judgement of the casual traveller may be; not at least to the extent of putting first-class dining-coaches on to the railways which link up with western Europe in order to impress the westerner. Some of its dining-coaches and some of its sleeping-cars rival our best. Some linger far behind us. Soviet Russia has, however, other and wider aims than petty rivalries, and only the study of its railway system and its development as a whole can reveal them. Soviet Russia strives with all its energies, and with wide success, to correct the lop-sided nature of its transport and productive system; to re-think it out and re-work it out as a whole, marking time in the west and advancing with astonishing rapidity eastward and southward. The Soviets are pioneering in a new world. It is idle to expect them to fuss about the comforts of an old order, either for themselves or for foreign visitors.
Soviet Russia aims at a balanced transport system, a balanced network of railroads, motor roads, air lines, and waterways, serving an equally balanced and far-extended industry. The uninstructed traveller knows nothing of all this: he may therefore form a judgement of Russia much further from the truth than the man who never leaves the British Museum. His eyes deceive him, for he sees the lesser half of the picture and takes it for the whole.
In its broad outlines planned production, which aims at the provision of consumable commodities, and the capital machinery which produce them, for the benefit, not of the few, but of all, giving to each freedom from exploitation, equal opportunity for work, leisure, education, and security, is capable of simple statement. Its outworking is the most complex and intricate scheme in the whole range of human enterprise.
The plan arose naturally and inevitably from the revolutionary leaders' determination to produce a "classless State". The idea of a "classless State" is the acorn from which the highly organized planned production of the present regime sprang. On its negative side, a "classless State" is one in which none is at liberty to employ the labour of others for his own enrichment. On its positive side it postulates a State where social needs are provided for all on an equalitarian basis. This was never intended to mean strict equality, save at the end of a very long process. It left freedom, for instance, for inequality of wage. The "classless State" implied a contribution of work from all, together with provision of a share for all in the communal production.
If, however, the needs of all are to be considered, it follows that production, as well as distribution, must be adjusted to supply those needs. The regulation of production must not be left to the whim of individual producers, nor to groups of producers. That was why the instruments of production must be vested in public, not private hands.
In a word, it is not the interest of the producers at all which must be considered first and foremost, but the interest of consumers. The consumers and their need are the pivot around which productive industry should and must revolve. Consumers must be consulted, and consumers' needs must be ascertained. In proportion to the relative importance and urgency of those needs, goods must be supplied. Data to gauge those needs must be collected and then weighed need against need.
When it has been determined in which order and to what extent the various needs are to be supplied, then orders can be issued to producers specifying what commodities and in what quantities goods shall be produced. In that way factory workers and groups of factory workers, peasants and groups of peasants, will know what, where, and when to produce. There will be no glut, because need has been gauged; no slump, no boom, no unemployment.
Putting it more precisely and concretely, though not with scientific exactitude, the method of estimating need in the earliest stages of the revolution was somewhat like this: Two things stood out as of paramount importance: national safety and the power to produce. The nation, we must recollect, was starting at scratch: industry had shrunk to an insignificant trickle, industrial plants were destroyed, fields laid waste. The nation was short of a host of commodities, but war supplies were pre-eminently needed.
A war on seven fronts was proceeding. If that war was lost, all was lost. The bulk of Russian industrial energy therefore must be turned, and turned immediately, to the provision of war supplies.
The second need was closely allied to the first. Soviet Russia must have capital goods. The Soviets, that is, must have the machinery essential for the manufacture of goods: machines to make armaments and railway stock and consumable goods. Russia, up till now, had been dependent on foreign countries for the supply of essential goods. This supply had, in the main, ceased. At any moment it might wholly cease. Russia must strain every nerve to make herself independent of foreign lands. And for provision of her capital goods Russia could not depend on foreign financial assistance. She must expand her own business, as it were, out of her own immediate savings. That involved prolonged and necessary hardship. There was bound to be a drastic tightening of the belt.
Yet, for all that, men cannot live by capital goods and armaments alone. Men cannot eat rolling-mills, blast-furnaces, and electric power-stations. Men need bread, meat, housing, clothing, schools, literature, and recreation. All the remaining energy and resources of the nation's economy, then, must be expended on the provision of these cultural and sustenance needs; which, however, were necessarily, in view of the two paramount needs of defence and capital goods, kept in' short supply.
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Such, in broad outline, was the plan, as it was formulated at the Supreme Economic Council of Public Economy, which was picturesquely described by Mr. Philips Price as "the first organ in the world for carrying out in practice the theory that each citizen is part of a great human family and has rights in that family, in so far as he performs duties to it".
In the plan lay the instrument destined to fashion a new order, not in Russia alone, but at length throughout all the world. The plan was built upon those moral foundations, as Mr. Price rightly perceives, which Christianity has always demanded: foundations which recognize that society is a family; that each member of society, as a child of the family, has a claim upon the family from his birth and youth upwards: but that in response each member has a duty as well as a privilege, and when he or she comes of age, can only claim the rights of the family whilst performing his or her share of the duty of the family. All must work. All must receive the fruits of work.
This vast family economy needs careful planning and faithful execution, as does every lesser family economy. Planning for family use lies at the root of both, and it would be hard indeed to imagine, or frame in simpler language, a scheme which better meets alike the demands of the Christian conscience and the dictates of a rational scientific order.
As such, the programme at least, claimed a warm welcome at the hands of Christians and scientists. Criticism as to the methods employed the rough trampling on human lives, the disregard of venerable and valuable traditions, and the intolerance of religious beliefs was valid and right, but the attempt itself demanded a welcome from those who had, for centuries, preached about and prayed for just such an order based on just such principles. Had a welcome been given to the principles, then the criticisms would have carried greater weight, and many of the things criticized would certainly never have occurred. Vastly different might the course of the Revolution have been if sympathy and understanding had taken the place of hostility and armed intervention. Nothing is better calculated to drive men to desperation than when, in attempting to carry out beneficial reform, they find the whole world aligned against them. The more especially so if amongst those so aligned they discover men who had preached the same ideal, but now dreaded its concrete realization.
Vested interests strengthened the hands of the opponents of the plan in Russia; and vested interests here and in other lands enabled men to blind the Church to what was taking place under their very eyes, forcing Churchmen to concentrate upon the elements which, though in their setting perhaps understandable, were the least creditable.
There is, of course, from one point of view much to be said for the fears felt by the vested interests and for the dread of the possessing classes. The immediate cost, if they look only on things and not primarily on persons, may be great. Only those, perhaps, whose scientific and humanistic vision is great enough to see the measure of the new amenities which will be available for all in an ultimately and indefinitely enriched community, could be expected to look favourably on the new experiment. And only those whose love for mankind was great enough to endure the risk of present hardship, in order to enable struggling humanity to rise to its feet, could be expected to welcome eagerly so revolutionary a plan as that which regarded society as a family in this extremely realistic and practical way.
But Christians were exactly those who should have had the vision and given the welcome. The failure to do so has been a grave disservice to religion in general, and to the Christian Church in particular. Christians have suffered themselves to be blinded by the outpourings of the threatened vested interests. They have been glad to believe the worst of Russia as they have the worst of Spain, and by so doing have encouraged and actively aided those forms of financial and armament capitalism which now, as in Germany, turn and rend them, and do so on the very grounds that the Church itself is responsible for the ridiculous doctrines of the value of personality and the brotherhood of man.
* * * * *
Certain advantages more than served to offset the difficulties with which Lenin and his comrades faced their task of building up a new civilization. First, the material potentialities of the Russian Empire were immense. This sixth of the earth's surface contained more than its sixth share of the earth's riches. The Soviet Union is, as we have already seen, the land of illimitable natural resources in the matter of raw materials and water-power; forests, mighty rivers, coal, oil, iron, and a host of other ores abound. Russia can be almost wholly self-contained.
Next in importance stands the defensive and strategic position of a land possessing an enormous and rapidly growing population, and ?o situated that if attacked it fights on interior lines. With the masses ranged behind them, and with developed industry and agriculture to supply their needs, the Soviet Union could, if need be, defy the world.
Another favourable factor, paradoxical as it may sound, is the fact that the riches of the U.S.S.R. fall readily into no man's lap. The development of Soviet resources calls for arduous and persistent toil. But it is not now, nor has it been formerly, in the lands with favoured climates and ready-made facilities that the noblest experiments in civilization succeed best, nor there that the finest people arise. Mr. Arnold Toynbee, in his "Studies in History", relates Mr. Huntingdon's story of the naked fireless savages who wandered northwards in the summer, there to be trapped when winter came. Some escaped, and returning home, resumed the old easy life. Others remained and braved it out, exercising the power of conscious invention, digging in the ground for shelter; gathering branches and leaves to make huts and warm beds, and wrapping themselves in the skins of the beasts they had slain. These were the savages to take the first steps towards civilization. These subsisted where they thought they were doomed. Adjusting themselves to a hard environment they grew and developed and left tropical mankind far behind in the face of life.
So has it been with civilizations in general. Areas of hidden possibilities, bleak, hard, and rude; areas where ingenuity, toil, and persistency are tested to the uttermost, and not the soft and easy lands, have given birth to great peoples. Egypt, with its fertile soil and never-failing Nile, suggests a paradise made ready for its earliest happy settlers. Not so. Pictures on ancient tombs depict another tale. Swamps and marshes inhabited by the boar, the crocodile, and hippopotamus confronted earliest Nile-land man. And between that wild and primitive scene and the peaceful fields of today lie centuries of toil. The basis of prosperity lay latent in marsh and revivifying river. Paradise lay on the far side of imagination, adventure, and toil.
Never for one moment did Lenin forget that fact and need. Russia's great bare lands, her trackless distances, and buried riches challenged the new rulers, and in that challenge supplied precisely the incentive demanded by the new experiment. For socialism, beyond all other orders, makes huge demands on character, not luck.
Finally there is a further potent psychological factor which few have perceived. Russia was the land where religion had taken a pessimistic view of life. Russian literature, also, though appealing only to the intelligentsia, had from first to last harked on the theme of the inevitability of suffering. We suffer in youth from our folly and in age from the imminence of death. We suffer from sickness and disease. We suffer from autocracy. We suffer from the very-structure of the universe. Russian literature is sad and pessimistic, and Russian religion increased the gloom, shunning happiness and preaching that inevitable suffering was the normal road to salvation.
Russia at heart panted for a gospel of happiness to counteract this pessimistic teaching and practice. Russia had been suffering for centuries from happiness-starvation, though the Russian peasantry had never wholly succumbed to pessimism and persisted in song and dance and a rough-and-ready enjoyment of life. And the strength of Lenin lay in the fact that he loathed and disbelieved in unhappiness ; and flung his whole being into the scales against it. Unhappiness was intolerable. Unhappiness was contrary to nature. Unhappiness was a cardinal sin. Human suffering and unhappiness called to him with a challenge from which he never shrank. Lenin was a militant optimist. Primary in all his thinking was the belief that suffering is not an essential and unavoidable element in life, but an abominable thing that can and must be swept away. The optimism of Lenin was the gospel for which Russia longed. He had the common people with him.
So central for all that Soviet Russia stands for is the significance of the Soviet plan that it demands a further section devoted to its genesis, its more developed forms its larger principles and ruling spirit.
Stand back and see the thing as a whole. To concentrate on blemishes, or on cruel modes of application in the tumult of revolution, is to miss the vital points, like men peering at petty faults in great mosaics.
To Lenin the principle of the classless society existed in clean-cut fashion. Not so the planned production for community consumption which was to give it concrete form. The clear-cut plan was slowly and painfully evolved, beginning when the earlier socialist experiments in "workers' control" of industry had failed. For fail they must, seeing that workers' control of production left unsolved the prior problems: what production did the community need, and what could it afford?
It is the needs of the community which must decide the activities of the producers. If, for example, the community as a whole lacks boots, it is futile to divert productive energy to making spats, however thorough might be "workers' control" in the spat industry.
To ascertain the needs of the community, however, demands an organization right outside the whole of industry itself; an organization which would voice directly, as the spokesman or representative of the whole community, what things the community had need of. And that involved a Plan.
Consequently, on December 5th, 1917, a body, called the Supreme Council of Public Economy, was appointed, with exceedingly wide powers, to produce general plans and estimates which should regulate the entire economic life-of the country. This Plan had its eye from first to last upon the needs of consumers; whether the army, which needed supplies; industry, which needed metals and machines; agriculture, which needed ploughs and tractors, or the common man, who needed bread, boots, and books.
The Plan demanded that every individual enterprise should pass under public control; that every source of raw material, with every acre of land, should pass into public ownership.
What might have been done by purchase, or by a system of extended compensation, was done by forcible seizure in Russia. But it was done. And foremost in the doing, as far as the land was concerned, were the richer peasants who were themselves to suffer severely when, at a later date, they forcibly resisted collectivization.
We may perhaps notice in passing that should the socialist experiment otherwise approve itself, say in England or America, it by no means follows that the method of expropriation pursued by the Soviets need be followed here. Not that expropriation, if made in the interests of the community as a whole, need be immoral. Tithe was recently expropriated from the clergy of the Church of England, and Canterbury suffered heavily. Yet Canterbury welcomed that expropriation as in the larger public interests. Expropriation, however, is not always necessary, nor always wise.
But to return. The Plan demanded, not only the ownership and control of all the resources of production, but also that the pace of production should be speeded up, in order that commodities of every kind might be available for distribution without delay.
To this end the workers needed the stimulus of a great vision and a great programme, and the genius of Lenin, perceiving this, provided the suggestion which developed at length into the Five-Year Plans.
Lenin's suggestion is contained in an interesting letter written to Krzhizhanovsky in 1920.
"Couldn't you", he wrote, " produce a plan (not a technical but a political scheme) which would be understood by the proletariat? For instance, in 10 years (or 5?) we shall build 20 (or 30 or 50?) power stations covering the country with a network of such stations, each with a radius of operation of say 400 versts (or 200 if we are unable to achieve more). . . . We need such a plan at once to give the masses a shining unimpeded prospect to work for : and in 10 (or 20?) years we shall electrify Russia, the whole of it, both industrial and agricultural."
Lenin knew the long and pinching years which lay before the Russian workers, and the need for hope in the future to tide them over the stringencies of the present.
Gauging the situation with uncanny accuracy, he laid soundly the plans that now mature. Through those early years Russia endured because she lived in the future. The glorious life-to-be would compensate her for the drab life-that-was. A new political system, a new freedom, a new emancipation for the individual, a new and speeded industrialism, and a new distribution of the produces of industry on a more equitable basis all these were fruits to be reaped in the future: and to accomplish these ends, and to overcome illiteracy and industrial inefficiency and the terrible economic losses to which they daily lead, the assets were, the zeal of the leaders, the stolid patience of the people and the stimulus of this magnificent plan.
It was for that purpose that Lenin had seized upon hi grandiose scheme of electrification His judgement was right. A Commission was appointed in 1921 to work out a plan for the electrification of the whole country the Goelro it was called and the State Planning Commission, commonly called Gosplan, was charged by decrees in 1921, 1022 and 1923 with working out the General Plan of all economic relationships. Concentrating on the objectives laid down by these plans, the people have steadily overcome the hardships of the earlier days and built up a magnificent industry.
Slowly the plan was formulated and fought its way through difficulties without and within. No external nation offered help. No external credits were available. Trotsky, with his followers, obstructed the scheme tooth and nail on the plea that socialism could never be erected in one country alone, nor could the U.S.S.R. rebuild its national economy unaided from without.
The initiation of the Plan, its adoption in 1928, and its subsequent establishment, involved a fight from the first and all along the line. And that may well account for the prolific use during these crucial years of war like slogans and military terms, "shock brigades", "socialized sector" "economic front". "If an economic process", we read in the Economic Survey of the State Bank of the U.S.S.R., "takes place that is not provided in the Plan, then the Bank is in the position to signal the breach in the sector of the planned front".
* * * * *
There is centred in a series of buildings in Moscow an organization unsurpassed in the world for the extent and importance of its operations. Its ramifications stretch on and on until they penetrate every corner of a sixth of the world's surface. No factory, no farm, no school, no theatre, no court of law, no hospital, no regiment escapes its scrutiny. By statutory law every public institution in every branch of activity throughout a union which embraces a twelfth of the human race must supply to that central office in Moscow complete data of their present and prospective needs and operations.
The mass of information that pours daily and hourly into those central offices is seized upon, sifted, sorted, and utilized by what is undoubtedly the largest staff of trained statisticians and technical experts in the world, served by thousands of clerks and assistants. (Of the competence of those statisticians even several years back Mr. Friedman, the American expert, says, "In general Russian statistics seem correct, and they check with each other during successive years and with related figures ".)
That office is no dead, cold, scientific, and heartless place of red tape and officialism; it is primarily concerned with the fate of men and women, boys, and girls. Every individual throughout the whole Soviet Union has his or her place among the figures that enter those doors. If he is able-bodied his name enters one series of figures, if sick or too old or too young to work, or if working in the house at home, or engaged on study, or employed with the fighting forces, his name or hers enters other appropriate series. In this way the experts learn the total number of active workers upon whom the country can depend for making things and rendering services.
Another set of essential data is the estimation of the needs of all those same multitudes for food, clothing, housing, education, health, or leisure, and of the people as a whole for defence and for capital production in the form of mines, railways, or machines.
These figures and others continually pour in. Every enterprise in the land, large or small, central or local, educational, cultural, or industrial, must make a return not only of what it has produced during the past year, or what it expects to produce during the ensuing year, but also what have been and are its requirements first in men and women operators and then in raw materials, in transport, or in credit facilities. Estimates accumulate as to what is being supplied or what is capable of being supplied for people to eat or wear or use.
All the transport, medical, and educational services, and other branches of activity, supply their figures, and after the whole have been digested, a bird's-eye view is taken, as it were, of what next year's output would be if every factory and farm were free and enabled to do exactly what each severally had estimated as possible.
That bird's-eye view gives the estimate of what could be done. But perhaps what could be done on the lines of this year might be inadvisable in view of altered national or social circumstances. A war might threaten. It might be necessary to divert more of the national energy into armaments. Expansion in a warlike direction might be possible without interfering with other output. The natural annual expansion which now takes place might permit more armaments without the production of less butter. On the other hand, it might not be possible. Or, yet again, it might be found safe now to let expansion in consumable commodities take place and provide a larger number of boots or gramophones, or build more maternity homes or holiday camps. That is a matter of high policy. Someone must decide.
The deciding bodies are the Politbureau and the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and they reach their decisions after prolonged and careful discussion with the heads of the principal departments of the Governmentthe People's Commissars, as they are called.
Decisions arrived at in this way are naturally based upon extremely complicated data and very varying considerations. It is no light thing to decide what amount of labour is available, the more so especially as the population grows with such rapidity, having increased during the past eighteen years by 35,910,000, a figure which exceeds the entire population of Poland. It is difficult to know in what state of technical efficiency the population of next year will be as compared with that of last year. The ultimate proposals will be the result of a highly complicated balance of forces. And the decisions will take the form of deciding how best the labour force can be allocated to this task or that to meet the estimated needs. In Russia the problem is less that of finding work than of finding labour.
These decisions are not absolute decisions. They are rather in the nature of authoritative suggestions from above. They are to be sent down and met with numerous proposals from below.
The complications in such a system are obvious, the difficulty of arriving at a balance of requirements and supplies enormous. A thousand requirements demand correct estimation. What are the needs of the aggregate of factories for fuel and power? What change in those needs will be caused by fresh provision of electric power, or by higher efficiency of power units? What are the transit requirements, and to what extent will these be modified, or may be modified, by the home production in any one locality, or several localities, of that which formerly came from abroad, or was produced in a single defined centre? In view of such problems as these, was it desirable that there should be a change in the local distribution of industry, or what labour will be displaced from country districts by the mechanization of agriculture, and how can that displaced labour be employed in the further development of this service or the production of that commodity ?
It will be seen at a glance with what meticulous care the estimates and forecasts must be made and how disastrous mistakes or wrong estimates must prove to be.
Gosplan at length submits the provisional plan, by various official channels, to all the enterprises and organizations concerned, and from which particulars had been collected.
The wheels are now reversed. Yesterday information came puking into the centre from every corner of the Union and from every factory and farm and school. Now the Plan, based on all that collected, assorted, and digested information, with the corrections due to considered needs of the national economy, goes pulsing back again, the requisition from every factory carefully set out, and set out in relation to the whole. The factory, the farm, the educational establishment is asked for its observations. Each is consulted.
This consultation is part of the determined policy of the Soviet Union. Each centre of activity, however small it may be, is caused to feel a full measure of personal responsibility. Perhaps the thing demanded is, in the judgement of the factory, too great, or too great unless the provision of raw material or essential parts is expedited. Or perhaps, and as often as not this happens, the estimate is too low. The factory may have developed some new and speedier process which promises an increase of output without an increase of labour, or by the elimination of that which is unessential, needs a lesser quantity of raw material.
These things are recorded and noted, and every suggestion is carefully weighed. So back again on its third journey goes the communication between centre and circumference. These local counterplans are all collected once more in the central offices and lead at length to the readjustment of the provisional Plan as a whole. A new balance is struck.
That balance constitutes the final Plan, which becomes authoritative for the next Five Years.
The successive Five-Year Plans are, awaited with, an eagerness unbelievable here. No financier ever hung on the declaration of the budget with half the zest that the common man in the Soviet Union awaits the publication of the Five-Year Plan. It constitutes the standard, the goal, the charter, the incentive, and the stimulus for millions of Soviet citizens.
The plan is working and advances. That is the primary fact. The precise results of planned production for community consumption will concern us in a later section of this book. We must pause here for a moment and pay a general tribute to the Plan as a plan.
Whilst in the rest of the world production has hardly increased at all since 1929, Soviet production has increased some four times in the intervening ten years.
In 1929 (the capitalist peak year) Soviet industrial production was 3-8 per cent, of the rest of the world. By 1932 (the capitalist slump) it was 11 per cent. By 1936 it rose to 15-2 per cent., which shows the steady Soviet advance to be even faster than the boom phase of the capitalist cycle. The Third Five-Year Plan is expected to provide for an industrial output reaching by 1942 nearly a third of the total capitalist world's output.
"The rate of capital development and improvement of labour efficiency in the U.S.S.R., and its long term plans for exploiting its vast natural resources, are such as to make it not an unreasonable prediction that within the next generation the Soviet Union will he as powerful, industrially, as the rest of the world put together. This is on the assumption that future capitalist production peaks are neither higher nor lower than the 1937 one, which itself barely exceeded the previous (1929) peak, despite re-armament."
These are the words of Mr. J. Miller who was in Moscow from May 1936 to October 1937, on a European travelling scholarship from Sheffield University, studying Soviet economic organization.
The plan works despite the overwhelming intricacy which is inseparable from it.
This primary fact that it works is the more significant in view of the chorus of abuse and scorn and mockery which greeted its first publication and has pursued it through all the early stages of its development.
The large English daily journals, aided by subservient economists, have announced with monotonous regularity the imminent collapse of the Plan, their notes of impending doom rising at times to ill-concealed exultation, when some dark moment had arrived, or some passing danger was magnified to the proportions of disaster by hostile journalists and critics.
"Planned production for community consumption was impossible" so we were told. Such planning was well enough in theory: it was bound to break down in practical application. Lenin, in attempting it, had attempted the impossible. Lenin and his fellow-leaders of Soviet Russia were doctrinaires, closet philosophers, fools, whose scanty experience in practical political affairs had dared to contrive, out of the blue, vast forms of social organization which had never yet been worked in any land, nor indeed had undergone previous or preliminary test. These schemes were the product of dreamers in exile Karl Marx, a German exile in England, and Vladimir Lenin, a Russian exile in London and Switzerland: foolish, dangerous men, passionately dedicated to a political doctrine, and contemptuous of the masses, tampering with the delicate social organism of the State, trying out on a vast scale an untested organization and hurling into a new form of communist society a people already a hundred years behind Europe in political and industrial maturity.
A Professor of industrial chemistry once said: "If you want a difficult job done, give it to the `damn' fool that doesn't know that it can't be done." Lenin was that " damn fool ".
Lenin and his comrades, they said, had so far been dealing with airy generalities,, living on plunder, or, like the camel, on its own fat. The day of their failure and defeat approached. They would meet their nemesis in the grandiose but wholly impracticable Plan they now projected.
Nothing, indeed, approaching the scale of that Plan had ever been attempted before. America, it is true, possessed immense industrial units, and it took the highest flights of her industrial organizing genius to conceive and operate them. But America's greatest units were child's play in comparison with the thing now attempted in Russia, the complications of American units were simplicity itself compared to the complicated ramifications that were involved in a plan designed to meet all the productive capacity and the whole range of needs of a union of 170,000,000 souls. "Nothing so foolish as the new Plan was ever conceived or could ever succeed. The dream of an idealist is a fatal base for a practical mode of life in industry, or agriculture, or political organization."
How often had we heard the same thing- before! When Christian idealists had asked that industry should be based on service, not profit, their plea was dismissed as an impracticable dream. When, in the interests of human life, it was demanded that industry should be planned to meet the needs of consumers, and not left to the whim or personal gain of men who happened to own the machines and the land, we were warned in scandalized tones that any attempt at such a change would wreck the delicate organism of industry and finance. And when science, angered at frustration, and sick of muddle, unemployment, boom, and slump, begged for a truly scientific planning of the plant its labours had created, it was told from the superior height of the City of London that the swing of the market provided the appropriate regulation, and was calculated nicely to meet, in the widest and freest manner conceivable, the innumerable individual needs of consumers. To tamper with this delicate machine, which no one quite understood, was the act of fools or criminals, and the whole power of the civilized world should combine to hinder them.
Anyway, we were now confidently assured by the capitalist hierarchy that the Plan fashioned by doctrinaire politicians and dreamy or violent revolutionaries would quickly prove the folly of the experiment.
Some of us were incredulous and waited on in confidence, believing alike that the scientific nature of the Plan and the moral nature of its inspiration would carry it through to successful completion; thankful that at last science and morality should be given a chance.
The threatened collapse never came. Lenin, like the "damn" fool in the Professor's tale, did not know that the experiment could not be done. He tried the Plan. And the Plan succeeded. The vast organization centred in Moscow, with its tidal wave of information and consultation flowing to and fro across a continent, setting the millions working with a will and in mighty unison, is proof of the success. Lenin and his disciple, Stalin had been willing to assay new methods and make new experiments, and the Russian people, with many stumbles and repeated hesitations, have persistently followed him, and now at length prove his apt pupils.
Russia is young. Literally and physically the Russia that matters today is young. Men and women in positions of authority are young. Young in years, but also young in spirit, and possessed of all the mental and moral qualities of youth. The Russian masses may be tactless like the young, they may be impracticable like the young, and at times even thoroughly cruel like the young. But also, like the young, they have unfettered imagination and flaming idealism, with a drive, a daring, a belief, and an enthusiasm which carry them over all difficulties and obstacles.
The Soviet Union sought and seeks the aid of science in every branch of human activity. No country in the world holds science in higher esteem or provides its scientists with better and more ample equipment.
This is natural and inevitable in a land where the conception of the role of science in the organization of society is new and different. In Western countries science is not regarded as a necessary part of social organization. Merchants, soldiers, lawyers, landed proprietors, or clergy have little understanding of the principles or practice of science. They distrust it or ignore it. Factory operatives join in the distrust: science for them is the source of wealth-producing and labour-saving machinery where others get the wealth and they the unemployment.
The root of the trouble lies to a great extent in the training of our politicians, and chiefly of our administrators, who are not supposed to require even a bowing acquaintance with science: the ancient classics, ancient and modern history and literature, with perhaps a modicum of economics, are deemed sufficient. This training teaches how men and affairs were managed in the past, and gives facility of speech on public platforms and skill on committees. It is excellent as far as it goes, but insufficient, especially for administrators, in view of the possibilities and achievements of modern science.
Western politicians and administrators do not, in theory at least, regard science and technology, as essential parts of social organization. They can imagine a satisfactory civilization without them. The fact of the inevitable and unrelieved drudgery involved in such civilization does not daunt them.
In practice, of course, politicians know that it is necessary to organize State departments for scientific research. Science has entered into contemporary conceptions of government in our Western societies. It has not permeated them. Where we encourage science, we do it with half a heart.
Tsarist Russia was many steps behind even the Western countries in its attitude to science. It had, indeed, its scientists and its Academy of Sciences, founded by Peter the Great about 1724, and could boast many famous names Mendeleev, Pavlov, Lomonosov, Karpinsky, and the like. Tsarist science, however, lacked financial support and evoked no popular enthusiasm. It was an elegant ornament and a private enthusiasm. Scientists worked on, pinched by the State and unheeded by the masses. Science was not fundamental in the Tsarist State.
Soviet social philosophy, on the other hand, finds its very roots in modern physical and biological investigation. A scientific mode of thought permeates the innermost consciousness of its rulers and percolates among the masses.
This different fundamental attitude to science naturally reveals itself in Government policy and practice. Industrial and agricultural problems are carefully considered in their relation to scientific possibilities and needs, and the appropriate research is concentrated on their solution. Hence the multitude of research stations which spring up side by side with industry and agriculture in industrial and agricultural centres.
There were 2,292 of these research institutes in the U.S.S.R. in 1938, as compared with 211 in 1918, and there are 41,000 research workers in institutes, schools, and colleges, of whom 4,000 operate in the Academy of Science alone. These numbers grow incessantly, together with the general growth in the level of the intelligentsia, which now amounts to 9,600,000 in a population of some 170,000,000.
Research in the Soviet Union is unified as well as extended. This marks a most important advance, avoiding the overlapping which duplicates work without duplicating results. The secrecy which refuses, for financial and competitive reasons, to pool inventions and discoveries, is likewise avoided, and gives place to an openness which makes knowledge acquired in one section of the field immediately available elsewhere. Science in the Soviet Union is co-ordinated from top to bottom, and all its results are pooled. Its tasks are wide and its encouragement is generous. The English chemist, G. C. Eltenton, declared, whilst he was studying the production of hydrogen carbons by ion guns, that he found opportunities for pure research wider than in England, where the majority of chemists are in the main restricted to immediate problems, and to problems selected by their masters and in the interest of special commercial enterprises.
Eltenton's experience is interesting. After work at Cambridge as a scientist, he found employment at the Cotton Research Institute in Manchester. He visited the Soviet Union with other scientists in 1931, and was impressed by the flourishing state of Soviet scientists. He saw the "tremendous enthusiasm of the young people entering scientific life", and was touched with the solicitude the Soviet State bestows on scientists.
The contrast on his return to England was too strong. He was in possession of a good job in England and was even advanced during the cotton troubles to a higher post and salary. "But," says he, "I wanted above all to serve science, not to be a holder of some sinecure that would ensure me a living." And he continues :
"I have been working here for three years, studying the influence of ions in chemical reactions. Here I have found my vocation at last. I work hard and am proud to hold the title of the best shock-brigadier in the institute. ... I take pleasure in the rapid progress of Soviet science, the marked rise in the quality of scientific work and the deepening interest of their subject matter. . . . My wife and children live with me. . . . Women have a better life of it here."
In the Soviet Union, again, science brings tangible benefits to all workers and disasters to none. Consequently, the people are at one with the administrators in the new enthusiasm. The whole community is eager for new knowledge and desires to keep in touch with its leading scientists. Scientific conferences, or the election of Academicians, vie with sport as front-page news, and speakers on science require the largest auditoriums when they address the public. Academician Keller says that 200,000 young-collective farmers used his "Plant Life" and his "What is Chemistry?"
At a recent competition, launched under the joint auspices of the Central Committee of the Young Communist League and the Academy of Sciences, more than 8,000 young workers in geology, chemistry, medicine, biology, and other sciences competed. 615 papers were selected for honourable mention, the highest award going to a twenty-nine-year-old Professor of Mathematics for an original and valuable piece of work. One man of thirty-four became Doctor of Geological Science and had 105 scientific papers to his credit.
This popular enthusiasm for science is fostered at the very pointthe village and peasant community where it has ever been most weak. The cottage laboratory movement spreads like a prairie fire. It is now common to find, as the normal equipment of a village community, a laboratory, where experiments in the vernalization of seed that is, the stimulation of development before planting and such-like work proceeds by specially trained members of the village community.
"Frustration of science" in the sense in which Professor P. M. S. Blackett uses the term is unknown in the Soviet Union. The cry "A moratorium on science" never arises in Russia, as in England or America: nor need it do so, since production is regulated and a glut is impossible so long as human need is still unsatisfied. Every man, woman, and child, therefore, in the Soviet Union, is interested in increasing the aggregate wealth which provides for the amenities, securities, and opportunities of life, and all the younger generation at least welcome science as the best instrument for achieving increased productivity.
It should be noticed with care that the Soviets have not created special sorts of science or scientific method. The Soviet scientist uses the same telescope, microscope, and spectroscope as the Western scientist. Soviet science differs in its relation to social life rather than in its technical methods or appliances. Among the Soviet people it is fundamental and encouraged with resolute enthusiasm; among capitalist peoples, after being tolerated with condescension, it is now frustrated without misgiving.
The intimate connection of science with Soviet State planning can be seen at a glance. The Plan knows that it has to feed, clothe, and house 170,000,000 of people at the present moment, and probably 300,000,000 in forty years time. The need for bread, meat, fats, suits, boots, baths, gramophones, or motor-cars will be enormous, and the Plan must provide for it.
The size of industry, agriculture, and machinery is calculated on the estimate of need. Machines require metals, railways, and motive power. Material resources will be in constant demand. Human resources, too. Hence the many research institutes directed by exceptional men within the structure of a planned research system and the deliberate quest for a development of the particular abilities of individual scientists.
The Soviets could not rely permanently upon foreign scientists and technicians, nor accept blindly the results of foreign experiment and practice.
Soviet engineering problems differ from ours and demand different solutions. Take an example from Soviet railways. The Soviet gauge is wide because land is cheap. Our gauge is narrow because land is dear. Trains are heavier, but traffic is less frequent in the Soviet Union than here. Consequently Soviet rails must stand a heavier blow at less frequent intervals, but need less general strength than ours. The constitution of Soviet rail steel must differ accordingly. That is a problem for Soviet research. It is one problem out of many. Hence the State Planning Commission equips each industry with its own research institute to solve its own routine problems.
There is an interesting tendency to go further. Rehbinder, for instance, the director of the Laboratory of Chemical Physics in Moscow, believes that the primary function of applied science is to create new industries, not to get production out of present difficulties. It must lead not follow. It must discover new possibilities.
In his own researches on surface chemistry Rehbinder seeks indications of new industries in his discovery of new phenomena. Rehbinder is an expert in the study of surface chemistry. Surface hardness vitally affects the strength of materials. The strength of glass increases ten times if the crevices of its surface are appropriately filled up. Theoretically, solids should possess an immense strength, which they lack in practice.
At the Leningrad Physico-Technical Institute Joffe does fine work in examining the root of this weakness. Explaining it, is a step towards removing it. Removing it may give humanity materials thousands of times stronger than those now in use, with revolutionary effects on architecture, industry, and the whole world of human construction.
Many illustrations may be gleaned in the later pages of this book of encouragement given to, and assistance received from, Soviet scientists, but as immediate illustration of these facts let me describe three interesting and outstanding instances, one in the industrial, another in the agricultural and horticultural spheres and a third in applied medicine.
In 1881 Professor Ramsay suggested a means by which, with immense economies and social benefits, coal could be turned into gas as it lay unhewn in the seams of the earth. But Ramsay was a lone scientist. The coal seams were in private ownership. Practical tests needed large expenditure. Success was uncertain. The owners would not take the risk. The Government was apathetic. Nothing was done.
Ramsay's ideas received on Soviet soil a welcome denied to them in the land of his birth. Lenin, "the dreamer", had said :
"Under socialism the application of Ramsay's method, through `liberating' the labour of millions of miners, and so on, will permit the reducing of working hours for everyone from eight hours, to say seven or even less than that ... will render conditions of work more hygienic, will relieve millions of workers of smoke, dust and dirt, will speed up the conversion of filthy abhorrent workshops into clean light laboratories worthy of man."
In this respect, as in so many others, nothing connected with actual life and with the material well-being and comfort of the workers was unimportant to the Soviet Union, and in 1931 the Central Committee of the Communist Party decided to make experiments. They did so, and by February 4th, 1938, gas from underground gasification had been supplied to the furnaces of a chemical coking plant and had begun to heat its boilers. The Gorlovka station in the Donbas, at present supplying 15,000 cubic metres of gas an hour, will double this output. A much larger plant at Lisishansk is designed to supply 100,000 cubic metres per hour. Underground gasification of coal has become a practical reality.
Reduced to its simplest form, the process is as follows. One shaft is driven along the upper side of the seam to be gasified and another along the lower side.
Air is conveyed from the upper passage to the lower at the face where the controlled fire consumes the coal, transforming it into gas. The combustible gases are drawn upwards and carried through pipes to the place desired.
The chief problems centre around the amount and composition of the air or air and oxygen to be admitted, in order, for example, to produce either "power" gas for firing boilers or "process" gas of high calorific value for manufacturing synthetic benzine and synthetic ammonia and for direct reduction of metals from ores without the use of a blast-furnace.
Mining and transport of coal are eliminated. Vast haulage plants are replaced by simpler and cheaper installations, and the cost of heat is reduced by half.
More important still is the effect on the lives of workers, freeing them from hard, dangerous work in the depths of the earth, and providing other useful branches of industrial production with a fresh army of workers. For no one in the Soviet Union is cast on the unemployed scrap-heap by labour-saving appliances.
Take next an instance of the enthusiastic use of science in agriculture and horticulture, arising from the Soviet Union's determination to increase and add to the richness of its plant life.
From the earliest years of Soviet rule, Soviet expeditions have been dispatched throughout the whole world, ransacking every land for new plants and new varieties of old plants.
These expeditions have visited, for example, within the Soviet Union itself, Armenia, Altai, Azerbaidjan, and the Pamirs: outside the Union they have travelled to Persia, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, India, Ceylon, Java, China, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentine, Uruguay, Brazil, Abyssinia, Eritrea, Egypt, and other places.
The President of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Science, Professor N. I. Vavilov, has been largely in charge of this botanical work.
Vavilov is a most remarkable man. His energy is inexhaustible. He sleeps little. He has iron nerves. A characteristic story is told of him. Once, when flying to Baku, his plane ran into a ninety-mile-an-hour gale, making a landing impossible. The airman flew for shelter to some neighbouring hills, and reached them with exhausted petrol supply. The plane had been flung about like a tossed leaf in autumn gales, but, whilst others thought of their last wills and testaments, Vavilov was seen to fall asleep in public. No form of useful activity or fruitful discussion presented itself. He utilized the time in slumber.
Under Vavilov's direction the science of botany has been approached for the first time in a really comprehensive manner, and the Soviet Union now possesses the world's richest collection of different plants. In number, variety, and exhaustive completeness it is unsurpassed. The sixty expeditions which have been dispatched have returned with 300,000 specimens of plants.
This vast collection has supplied information as to the frequency of different sorts of plants in different parts of the world. Some regions are found to possess more varieties than others. A natural inference follows. Any region which possesses the largest number of any particular species of plant has presumably had that species for the longest period of time. We may assume, therefore, that such a region is its natural and original home.
On this assumption soft wheat, rice, peas, lentils, broad beans, apricots, almonds, and other plants grew originally in south-west Asia, for they exist there in largest variety.
So oats, barley, and soya bean arose in south-east Asia; onions, peach, olive, and fig in the Mediterranean area; hard wheats in Abyssinia, and potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, and sunflower in South America and Mexico.
A chance handful of Abyssinian wheat will contain as many as fifty varieties, a number as great as all the known varieties of cultivated wheat in Tsarist Russia.
These lands of origin are thus the most promising ground for collecting specimens for experimental research, and from these lands the Soviet Union has steadily collected her material.
In a noble room in an old palace in Leningrad, called "The World's Wheat-safe", the Soviet Union has collected 30,000 varieties of wheat.
Immense attention is paid to wheat; for wheat is a staple food. To extend the areas of wheat cultivation farther north, or into regions ravaged by wheat disease, is to increase the food supply. For there is no burning of wheat in the Soviet Union. Increased production means increased riches for all.
Russian wheats have excellent qualities. But they can be improved by crossing them with suitable foreign varieties and ridding them of defects such as small grain, low yield, or susceptibility to fungus attack. Thus, for example, Abyssinian wheats are early. Some Transcaucasian wheats resist rust and mildew. Dutch wheats have large grain. Afghanistan wheats resist drought.
Intensive research proceeds, crossing and counter-crossing takes place in numerous farms and experimental stations throughout the Union.
One of the younger agronomists, as the scientific investigators are called, N. V. Tsitsin, set himself the task of crossing wheat with a hardy wild plant of the wheat family in order to procure a new variety capable of withstanding cold and drought. Stalin gave him practical personal encouragement with the words: "Go on with your experiments boldly: we shall give you every support." Tsitsin has at length produced a hardy annual wheat, not only yielding excellent harvests and capable of withstanding cold and drought, but at the same time immune from devastating wheat diseases.
In 1937, Nikolai Tsitsin, now President of the Academy of Agricultural Science, produced something more startling still a hardy perennial wheat, a wheat which needs no sowing, but comes up from the same root year by year like hay. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of such a discovery, though it may take time to reap the fruits of it. I happened to be in Russia with Professor Hanson, the American horticulturist, in the year he received sample seeds of the new variety.
His enthusiasm was as great as it was natural. He spoke much of the "Red Magic" of Soviet horticultural science. He and his father, the older Hanson, had an especial admiration for the work of the late Ivan Vladimirovitch Michurin, the Union's greatest horticulturist.
Michurin was the magician who could produce, it is said, raspberries over two inches long, currants as large as cherries, giant black gooseberries, seedless barberries, tangarines that remain unaffected by the frost, and peaches that will grow under natural conditions in regions where the thermometer will fall 40 degrees below zero. In the extreme north, in a latitude nearer the Pole than Iceland, you may stand in a field where the ripe grain touches your face.
When Michurin desired to keep snow off the grain-fields of northern lands, he grew a stunted form of cherry tree which was itself immune against the icy blasts. The fruit of this cherry, which is delicious, is picked without the aid of ladders.
Michurin crossed a strawberry with a raspberry and produced a strawberry which now grows on bushes. Apple hybrids were crossed with varieties of plum and cherry.
Michurin tamed wild plants and forced them to bear fruit in a cultivated state. His fragrant roses bloom on the shores of Arctic seas.
The Soviet Union grows vast quantities of mandarin oranges without pips, due entirely to the advice of plant scientists.
A final instance comes from the realm of medicine.
Crushed under a fallen tree-trunk on a remote mountain side a man lay bleeding to death. He had lost pints of blood.
His companions carried him back to the village.
Within an hour or two of his return a plane summoned by radio circled low overhead. A package supported by a small parachute descended, and the plane sped off without alighting.
The package contained bottled blood.
A life was saved.
In 1926 Moscow organized a special Institute of Blood Transfusion, the first of its kind in the world. Similar institutes have been opened in Leningrad, Kharkov, Odessa, Minsk, Kiev, Tbilisi, and Tashkent. There are now 830 district blood-transfusion stations as well.
The President of the International Congress on Blood Transfusions emphasized the fact that the Soviet Union occupies a leading position in the science of blood transfusion. It was Soviet scientists who first discovered how to keep blood for future use. Before that discovery blood transfusion was only practised by direct contact of giver and receiver. The Soviets sent the knowledge of their method to help the Spanish Republicans in their struggle against aggression.
And there is no lack of volunteers in the Soviet Union willing to give their blood. Tanya Barova was once saved by blood transfusion. Now she offers her own blood as a thank-offering. She is examined by seven doctors to see if her blood is healthy and she herself strong enough to sacrifice good blood.
Her blood is declared fit and a third or a half pint taken. Special nourishment restores her, and she comes again in six weeks time to repeat her offering. This blood-letting in no wise interferes with her normal work.
M. Krushinsky is Moscow's most famous blood-giver. He is a book-keeper and has given his blood 103 times in the last twelve years, nearly seven gallons in all. He is athletic and feels no ill effects from his sacrifice.
The Soviet Union is admirably equipped for applying science to production, since the land itself and all that it contains belong to the people. Its wealth can be explored and then exploited to the full.
The exploration began forthwith. But, in the meantime, the national work must proceed. Daily and hourly tasks awaited fulfilment. Industry and agriculture cannot halt. People must be fed, clothed, and housed: soldiers must receive ammunition. Such implements and modes of production as were inherited must be employed, even while better were being planned and fashioned. Nor could industry be redistributed immediately however illogical its present distribution might be; for the moment it must proceed in the places where it had been developed.
Whilst continuing, however, as they obviously must, along the lines of routine inherited from the past, the Soviet leaders took steps for future redistribution in three important directions :
1. They proceeded to make an inventory of all national wealth in raw materials and power possibilities.
2. They took immediate steps to create, out of the blue as it were, an educated and technically skilled proletariat.
3. They planned a redistribution of industry which should utilize national resources, save national charges, and enrich national life.
The second of these steps deals with education, and will concern us at a later stage. It is the first task and the last, the inventory of national wealth and the redistribution of industry, that concern us now.
An understanding of the nature and distribution of Soviet national wealth, and of the principles which guided the action of the Soviet leaders in the redistribution of the industry which exploited it, demands at least a general understanding of Soviet geography, and must be met.
Look at the map. The Ural mountains divide Soviet Europe from Soviet Asia.
Consider Soviet Europe first.
In its centre lies Moscow city, surrounded by the Moscow region. Moscow is the capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The capital also of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic.
North-west of Moscow lies the Kalinin Region, and farther to the north-west still lies the Leningrad Region. Meadows and forests, watered by rain from the Atlantic, are the physical features of this area; and, with access to the sea, and at the head of the Gulf of Finland, stands Leningrad, a fine old city of noble avenues and stone-built houses, bridges, and canals.
North of Leningrad, and running parallel with Finland, lies the Karelian Autonomous Republic, a land of lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and pine-covered rocks.
Northwards again, and this time beyond the Arctic Circle, lies the Kola Peninsula, a land of rounded mountains and stunted fir trees, a land jutting out into the Arctic Ocean and enclosing, on its north-eastern side, the White Sea:' the land of the Saami-Lapps, on whose northern shore lies the ice-free port of Murmansk, in a position of immense strategic importance in time of war.
Return now, on the map, to Moscow. To the northeast, this time, lies the Ivanov Industrial Region, the centre of her textile industry, the Manchester of Russia. Adjacent to it and still farther east is the Gorky Region. Northward again is the Kirov Region, and beyond that again are the Northern Regions, ending in the Arctic Ocean, and with Karelia and the Kola Peninsula enclosing the White Sea with its port of Archangel. Travelling along this route from Moscow up to the Arctic, one passes from the growing industrial towns to ploughlands interspersed with birch-woods and copses and then to impassable forests of conifers, these finally giving way to the stunted trees and mosses of the Arctic tundra.
Return yet again to Moscow and travel this time west towards Poland. Here are the Western Region and the White Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, with a milder climate and maples, oaks, and limes in place of conifers.
There remains the South.
Southwards from Moscow lies the Kursk Region, and eastwards of that the Voronezh Region, and then eastwards again the Kuibishev Region, and south of it the Saratov Region, both the latter running to the Volga River. This is the fertile black-soil plain, slightly undulating and almost treeless. Southwards stretch in endless monotony the flat, treeless steppes, split up into three regions: westward lies the Ukraine, ending at the frontiers of Poland and Rumania, east of the Ukraine, the Azov-Black Sea Region, and east of that again the Stalingrad Region, through which the Volga empties itself into the Caspian Sea.
Southward again lies the Crimean Peninsula, almost surrounded by the Black Sea, whose southern coast is sheltered from the north by a mountain range, a land of sun and grapes and cypresses.
Eastwards of the Crimea lie the plains of the Northern Caucasian Area, rising to mountains in the south and separated from the Transcaucasian Soviet Republics by a wall of high mountains stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian and dominated by the snow-capped Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. A lovely and varied region this, with its northern plains and southern forest-clad, snow-capped mountains; with its palms and vineyards and meadows sinking down to the shores of the Black Sea.
South-westwards again lies the Transcaucasian Republics of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, the land of the Georgians, Armenians, and Turks, subtropical in climate, with sun-parched lands and rocks alternating with marshes fed by daily deluges of rain.
Turn finally to the extreme east of Soviet Europe, where the wooded Ural Mountains divide it from Soviet Asia. Across these mountains sprawl the Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, and Orenburg Regions and the Bashkirian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic; immensely rich in minerals of vast variety.
* * * * *
East of the Urals stretches Soviet Asia, bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the Pacific, on the south by Persia, Afghanistan, Sinkiang, Mongolia and Manchukuo, and on the west by Soviet Europe.
Look now at the map of Soviet Asia.
Moving eastwards from the provinces of Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk, which stretch across the Urals, we enter the lowlands of Western Siberia, watered by the River Ob and its tributary, the Irtysh. Northwards of the line traversed by the Trans-Siberian Railway, Western Siberia adjoins the Obst-Irtysh Area, which runs to the Arctic Ocean, a land of marshes, and dense coniferous forests or taiga. Along the Trans-Siberian Railway runs the cultivated belt of black-soil ploughlands and birch woods. Southwards again lies the steppe, rising in the south-east to the slopes of the Altai Mountains.
South of the Urals and of the Western Siberian lowlands lies the immense Republic of Kazakhstan, inhabited by nomad tribes and their herds a treeless land with few rivers and frequent droughts.
Central Asia lies south of Kazakhstan and abuts the borders of Persia, Afghanistan, and Western China. The term Central Asia is the general name for the four Soviet Socialist Republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenia, Tadjikistan, Kirghiz, and the autonomous region of Kara-Kalpakia.
It is a land of yellow earth, dotted with giant poplars, of cloudless skies, hot sunshine, and scanty rain. A land also of the Kyzil Kum, the Black Sand Desert. A land demanding elaborate schemes of irrigation to conserve the waters that flow down from the ice and glaciers of the Pamirs and the Tien-Shan mountains.
Now move eastwards again from the lowlands of Western Siberia, and we pass into the mountain ranges of Eastern Siberia, and on beyond them to the Far Eastern Areas and the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic; an immense land rolling in steep, deep folds and traversed from south to north by the flooded waters of the Yenesei and Lena rivers, and then eastwards by the Amur.
This is a land of vast dimensions the Yakut Republic alone is equal in size to Europe of mighty rivers, boundless forests, and untold mineral resources, untouched as yet save in the ploughland regions adjacent to the Trans-Siberian railway, where industry increases.
In the Far Eastern Area the Soviet Union touches the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Its southern regions, in the plains through which the Amur and Ussuri wind their way to the Pacific Ocean, carry a large population. It is fertile land, bearing crops, such as rice, unlooked for so far north.
The northern half of the island of Sakhalin belongs to the Soviet Union, and beyond it lies Kamchatka, a mountainous and forest-clad peninsula, rich in oil, fish, and the fur of wild beasts.
Exploration of the natural resources of this vast land is no longer left to chance, nor to the adventurous spirit of isolated and heroic but ill-equipped and ill-rewarded scientists. Scientific discovery in the U.S.S.R. is as highly organized as any other important branch of scientific research. In the task of mapping rivers, lakes, seas, mountains, forests, plains, and deserts, or in the discovery of mineral wealth, the equipment of the Soviet expedition is both modern and complete; the aeroplane, the aero-sledge, the ice-breaker, and the motor-car replace or supplement the horse, the sleigh, and the small steam craft.
From the gloomy, forestless tundra of eternally frozen soil of the north to the sun-baked, storm-swept alps of Central Asia, the land is searched and scrutinized by geographers, geologists, mineralogists, chemists and engineers. Thousands of workers eagerly prospect for new sources of wealth, using all the resources of modern science, magnetometry, gravimetry, seismometry, and radiometry, as measurement by magnet, weight, earth tremor, or radiant energy is called.
Of all these explorative expeditions none have been more imposing, better equipped, or more widely advertised than those which sought to wrest their secrets from the Polar regions, and none can better illustrate the scientific thoroughness of Soviet exploration or the thrill of it.
Soviet Polar expeditions had behind them a purpose beyond mere adventure and difficult achievement. The Soviets had a practical interest in the North Pole. They wanted concrete knowledge of the weather in the Polar region, its fluctuations and seasonal changes. They wanted knowledge of the nature and direction of the currents and marine life in the Arctic Ocean and the laws governing the drift of ice in the Polar basin. Data of weather conditions in the Arctic permit longer weather forecasts in Europe and Asia and are of great importance to agriculture. Knowledge of the laws which regulate ice-drift and currents clears the way for navigation along the Northern Sea Route. Knowledge of magnetic deviation makes air navigation in northern latitudes easier and safer. The mapping of conditions at the Pole prepares the way for trans-Polar air lines between Europe and America the North Polar air route shortening the distance and avoiding the meteorological difficulties of the Atlantic Ocean. Polar expeditions were not snatch-victory-by-a-hazard affairs: they were organized over years and with astonishing care. From the external bright orange colour which facilitated the discovery of a lost plane in a white ice-field, to the frost-resisting and room-economy devices in the interior of the plane, with its powerful engines fed with water, oil, and petrol by hundreds of yards of piping punctuated with safety-cocks, regulating-valves, and exhaust-valves, every detail was a matter of prolonged investigation. Nothing was left to chance. The comfort and health of men making a long stay in Polar regions were a matter of special study, and an extraordinary variety of specially chosen foods was provided for a possible stay of eighteen months.
Food concentrates formed the main diet; and fifty carcasses of beef, 5,500 chickens, and three tons of vegetables were reduced to one ton of concentrated food.
Not every food suggestion, however, was adopted. Papanin, for example, one of the four who subsequently drifted from the Pole to Greenland, hinted to the Chief Navigating Officer, Spirin, that he would like to take a small live pig to the Pole, feed it on scraps, and then kill it during the Polar night.
"A small pig? But it will squeal, run about the aeroplane, and disturb our equilibrium!"
"Nothing of the kind, my good fellow; it's quite small," answered Papanin and departed.
Two hours later he returned with a boar weighing two hundred pounds. Papanin appeared slightly embarrassed by his companion's size.
"Get out!" roared the navigating officer. "You or the pig the machine can't possibly lift you both!"
The story of the final assault on the Pole from the air is as thrilling as Polar assaults have always been. Golovin went first in a scouting plane and kept in radio touch.
The main party at the base, waiting to take off, followed his progress with intense concentration. Dense clouds were met. Would the petrol hold out ? Barely.
When the plane was sixty miles from the Pole, Schmidt said, "Call them back, we must not risk their lives. But frame the wireless message in such a way that Golovin, if he is sure of getting back, may risk going on to the Pole."
Golovin, reading between the lines, continued his flight. At 16.32 the curt message arrived :
"Latitude 90 stop Pole under us stop but covered thick layer cloud stop failed pierce through stop laid return course stop Golovin;"
The first Soviet airmen had reached the North Pole in a Soviet plane.
Golovin, now dangerously short of petrol, returned. Cloud and fog baulked him. He flew by signals from Rudolf Land radio beacons. Here is his abbreviated story:
"We came down and flew under the clouds height, about 300 feet over the water. According to our calculations, there was very little petrol left.
"Suddenly we saw ice-covered cliffs ahead. We identified it by the chart it was Karl Alexander Land. So Rudolf Land was on our left. A few minutes later we saw the familiar outlines of the island.
"Without circling, I came full tilt to the landing-ground. The machine came to a stop on a steep slope running down to the sea. . . .
"The flight was over. . . ."
Golovin climbed down; went at once to the fuselage. With swollen hands he turned the tap of the petrol tank, and for a while gazed at the thin stream of petrol flowing from it.
"Yes, a near thing," he said.
Later, when the main party had reached the Pole and surmounted the hazard of landing, Professor Schmidt transmitted a wireless message to Moscow which becomes a classic, recording the planting of the first stable base for scientific research at the Pole :
"The first twenty-four hours of the Soviet polar station at the North Pole are over stop five tents have sprung up on the drifting ice-floe alongside the aeroplane stop two wireless masts erected with aerial connecting them stop weather observation hut put up comma theodolite standing on tripod for observations of height of sun and determination of our position and its changes with ice drift stop first meteorological reports reached Moscow according to schedule and were included in general weather report considerably increasing the information required to forecast weather stop here comparatively warm bracket minus 12 degrees bracket sun small near ground stop four members wintering party with crew of USSR N-170 unloaded and unpacked part of expedition equipment brought by this aeroplane comma mainly wireless station and scientific instruments stop further 8 tons including wind motor comma twelve months' supply and emergency reserve food fuel and winter tent on board three other aeroplanes ready to start from Rudolf Land with first summer weather stop all of us feel splendid stop after twenty-four hours uninterrupted work slept our fill in warm sleeping bags stop five men of Cheliuskin included in present group involuntarily hark back to life on drifting ice-floe stop we have now taken revenge on the elements for the loss of the Cheliuskin stop pleased to report that we have been able to carry out instructions of Comrade Stalin and to set up at the Pole a stable base for scientific research and aviation stop our thoughts are with our great country stop Schmidt."
That, and not mere adventure or record-breaking, was the object of the expedition.
Apart from storms, life in summer time at the Pole, where the sun never sets, contradicts our expectations in many ways. I glean these quotations at random.
It was warm and wonderfully cosy in the sleeping-bags. The tents, made of silk with double walls, gave excellent protection from the wind and plenty of marvellous fresh Arctic air. The light inside the tents was unusual. "The walls were of pink silk, so that our portable houses were always in a coquettish pink half-light, like the boudoirs of French duchesses described with such gusto by Alexander Dumas. . . ."
"We suddenly heard the song of a bird. It was a little Polar sparrow." Up to that time it had been assumed that there was no life at the Pole. On the ninth day Shirshov and Feodorov saw a water-bird fly past the camp.
The sounding of the depths of the Polar sea marked another dramatic moment. A crack in the ice-field was found. The water was dim, dark blue in colour, and exceptionally transparent. Bathymeters, or depth thermometers, were attached to the sounding-cable at distances of 300, 450, 600, 750 feet, and so on. Three thousand feet of cable were paid out and then hauled in. The first thermometers to reach the surface were eagerly scanned by Shirshov.
"How exasperating!" he exclaimed. "The thermometers are out of order."
The mercury at 900 feet read 0.62° centigrade, impossibly warm! At 1,500 feet, however, it read 0.48° centigrade. At 1,200 feet it recorded 0.77° centigrade, and that was the highest temperature. There could now be no mistake. At the centre of the Arctic was a layer of warm water. Not one of the world's scientists had ever suspected this warm submarine Polar river.
As the watchers gazed at the incoming cable they suddenly saw life in the water. Something moved. They made a grab, and out came a small crab, two inches long. The central Arctic waters, as well as the central Arctic air, were inhabited.
At length the time of parting came. Papanin and his three companions remained on the ice-floe for their long drift to the Greenland coast, and stood bare-headed as the planes left. A light mist covered the camp. On the flagstaff the dark red flag fluttered in the breeze. The plane rose, circled, saluted, and grew dim on its southbound course.
Schmidt had taken a silent farewell of the North Pole and the Arctic station created by his efforts, the successor and precursor of numerous other Polar stations on the islands and coasts of the Polar basin. Along the Northern Sea Route the cargo ships sail. In the words of Lomonosov :
Disdaining grim destiny, the Columbuses of Russia Will open a new path to the East amidst the ice."
The dream of the stout Elizabethan navigators comes true. The north-east passage to Cathay is born in our own prosaic twentieth century. Schmidt is in the line of all heroic men who sought it. Schmidt had forced a passage in 1932 and again in 1933. And now he had planted a scientific station at the Pole itself. Schmidt succeeds where others failed. But Schmidt had all the resources of science behind him and all the backing of a scientifically-minded socialist State.
There is a charming addendum to this story. In the kitchens at Moscow a cook read the daily bulletins and sighed. No adventure for him. No heroic deed. No plaudits. Just the daily round of cooking.
The May Day rejoicings came, and the cook joined others at the annual factory feast and "listened in" with the rest to the great moment when the honours lists were proclaimed. Suddenly he started, grew pale, grew red. His name had been announced. His name amongst those honoured for the Arctic expedition! The explanation followed. He, the Moscow cook, had taken an important part in preparing those concentrates of food upon which so much of the spirits and health of the explorers depended and to which the explorers themselves had given high praise.
Less dramatic but not less useful for the agricultural purposes of Central Asia, are the expeditions which chart the physical features and weather conditions of the gigantic snow-covered mountains which divide Soviet Central Asia from the Sinkiang province of China.
In well-nigh inaccessible regions on the "Roof of the World" must be studied the laws which enable accurate forecasts of weather change and water supply in the cottonfields on the plains at the foot of the mountain slopes, and now a glacier observatory has been built at a height of 14,100 feet to house scientific observers throughout the whole year.
And so the geological map of the Soviet grows apace as Soviet geologists penetrate all regions. The map reveals a structure of exceptional variety and provides a reasonable explanation of the numerous minerals which enrich the Union.
In its broad features the geological story can be simply told.
Picture a deep-sea depression, extending right across the territory comprised in the present Union, and filled with soft layers of clay, sand, and lime. Through these soft layers huge mountain folds of hard rock thrust themselves up, probably due to shrinkage of the earth and wrinkling of" its crust, as an orange wrinkles when it withers.
Rain, wind, sun, and frost play upon the uplifted soft layers and wear them away. The hardened and cracked earth-crust penetrates through in the form of mountains and crags.
This process gives rise to the high peaks and ranges of Tian Shan, the Altai Mountains, and the Urals, which latter are but the stumps of an earlier and greater range.
In other places the folds of the earth's crust sink and form deep depressions, such as that at Lake Baikal, the largest fresh-water lake in the world and more than 5,000 feet deep; or the Black Sea, 6,950 feet deep; or the Caspian Sea, 1,800 feet deep.
Now it is these thrust-up earth-crust mountains, these original rocks which had never previously seen the light of the sun, which were not the result of a former wearing down and re-deposit at the bottom of sea or lake, these igneous or erupted rocks, as they are called, which abound in valuable and useful minerals and make the Union the least dependent of all countries on foreign supplies. These erupted rocks, existing in such plenty in the Soviet Union, are the original storehouse of the earth's mineral supplies.
Every expedition adds its own peculiar trophies. Tin ore from North Land; asbestos from Novaya Zemlya; non-ferrous metals from Vaigach Island; coal from Franz-Josef Land; and oil and mica from the Taimir Peninsula. The bitter Arctic is forced to yield up its secrets and its wealth.
Alpine expeditions in the south add their quota to the list: gold, asbestos, mica, radium, bismuth, arsenic, beryl, and in particular fluorite, so useful in many processes and so indispensable to optic science.
Oil and coal naturally figure as chief objects of search. Borings proceed systematically from north to south and from east to west, with results which we shall describe in their proper places.
Most dramatic undoubtedly, however, of all the recent geological discoveries, have been those made in the Khibine mountain groups, in the hitherto barren and unproductive Kola Peninsula, far north of the Arctic Circle, and in a place marked by a "white space" on the old Russian maps.
Ten years ago a few Lapp families were the only inhabitants of this grand but desolate region. Today it becomes, to use the words of Professor G. W. Tyrrell, Senior Lecturer in Geology at Glasgow University, the scene of" one of the industrial wonders of the world".
From Kandalaksha, at the head of the White Sea, a railway line now leads over a plain with scattered, stunted pines, and rocks scored by glacial action. The line mounts up among high hills like the peaks of Skye or Arran, to the raw new town of Kirovsk with its 40,000 inhabitants.
The great Khibine massif of rocks, incredibly rich in apatite and nepheline, provides a larder of unparalleled magnitude for fertilizers, aluminium, glass, tannin, and a score of other useful raw materials. The apatite, which contains as much as 40 per cent, of phosphates and is invaluable as a fertilizer, is being mined at the rate of 2 million tons per annum, and a reserve of 2,000 million tons has been established.
The Khibine massif covers an area with a diameter roughly of 40 km. Other rich massifs lie near it.
Professor Tyrrell describes his visit to the great apatite mine created entirely by Russian energy and initiative :
"A mountain side has been blasted away to a height of 1,500 feet, exposing an enormous face of the shining white mineral cut back into four or five broad ledges. Up and down these workings we trailed by means of dizzy ladders of wooden stairs with handrails, but feeling no fatigue because of the sustained interest of the rock and mineral rarities we encountered on every hand. We were then taken through the underground workings, of which there are now over 20 miles, consisting of galleries seven feet high, electrically lit, and with electric haulage. These workings are on four communicating levels, with many inclined shafts down which the ore is tipped, we could not imagine where. However, we soon understood; for we were conducted down endless wooden stairs until we arrived at valley level, and here there was a great horseshoe-shaped concrete tunnel of such size that the ordinary railway engine and freight train could penetrate to the heart of the mountain. The trucks pass under automatic hoppers which load 400 tons in ten minutes. Fifteen of these trains shipping 6,000 tons of ore, are loaded every day, bringing the production to more than two million tons a year."
It is difficult to tear oneself away from Tyrrell's narrative, in which he describes, in the Arctic, in the Urals, in Central Asia, or in Siberia, the geological treasures revealed by the zeal of Soviet geologists and operated by the energy of Soviet industrialists.
The human element, never wanting in Russia, penetrates and enlivens the paragraphs of the Scottish scientist's description of his geological investigation. The Soviet child especially and understandably intrigues him.
"Near Kusadeevo Station [he writes] our train made an enforced stop close to a Pioneers' Camp for the children of railway workers, and in a few moments the train swarmed with a crowd of boys and girls in their uniforms of blue blouses and red scarves. Nothing would do but that the geological party should visit their camp. Of course we did so, and these jolly, laughing, unselfconscious children, with their half-dozen adult supervisors, immediately organized an impromptu entertainment for us, consisting of folk-dancing, songs, and a short dramatic piece, the music being supplied by a small boy with a large accordion. It was all a delightful, unstaged and unexpected treat which made a great impression on the party.
"Village children often accompanied us on our excursions, and collected the beautiful stones and minerals when they saw us doing so. I treasure the recollection of a little Karelian girl trudging back to the village with me over a two-mile long plank walk laid over a bog, with her apron full of large lumps of red garnet." Professor Tyrrell concludes by saying:
"I record it as my considered opinion that, provided the present lamentable phase of internal dissension passes [he writes at the period of the `trials'], and provided always that the threatened world war does not come, the U.S.S.R. is bound in a generation to become perhaps the richest and most prosperous country in the world."
Research in the Soviet Union is both general and specific. And nowhere in the world do theory and practice walk hand in hand so easily as in the Soviet Union.
A specific problem arose when the Kuznetz basin, at the foot of the Altai Mountains, was found to possess excellent coking coal. All that was needed for the production of cheap and excellent iron and steel and to build up a valuable metal centre in the far interior was iron ore to supplement the coking coal. Geologists had a definite task. They scoured the surrounding regions, and found ore in Western Siberia and at no impracticable distance from Kuznetz. A new centre of iron manufacture is the result, with subsidiary industries and a growing population.
Similarly, iron ore found in the Kola Peninsula, beyond the Arctic Circle, supplies iron necessary for Leningrad's machine-construction industry, giving immediate relief to the overburdened railways connecting the Ukraine with the North.
Abstract and general scientific questions occupy Soviet geologists, as they do in other lands. They do not, however, arise out of the blue, but as propounded, and brought to the surface, by practical requirements.
It may well be that owing to this stimulus Soviet geologists will advance to the first place in theory, as they already do in practice.
And even now the Soviet geologist makes full use of the unique opportunities presented by the territory of the Soviet Union for the study of the origins of organic life, especially in the earlier earth formations. For the U.S.S.R. in general, and Siberia in particular, possess abundant traces of early life embedded in its rocks and stones. It is even now asked, with some show of reason, as the result of these researches, whether ancient Asia is not the cradle of the earth's elementary forms of life, as it appears also to be the cradle of the higher forms of animal life and man.
Recently, from a geologist's point of view, but in a period long before even the most ancient records of human history, mammoths roamed in the cold marsh-lands of the glacial tundras. They became extinct. Their fossilized remains are now unearthed, and form in Leningrad an almost incredible exhibit, dug up in Siberia out of ice where they had been in cold storage for anything between 100,000 and 1 million years. The woolly hair, flesh, and entrails of this giant creature are still preserved, but the end of its trunk is gone. The discoverers had spent a day digging - out their treasure, and had not finished when night fell. They left the animal just as it had fallen long ages ago, with its head and trunk exposed. It is said that wolves came in the night and ate the end of the trunk.
We read of tinned beef of the Napoleonic wars still appearing fresh after the lapse of a century, but here was cold-storage meat fresh enough to eat after 100,000 years or more.
Nowhere and at no time has the economic map changed more rapidly, more fundamentally, or more reasonably than in the U.S.S.R. It is a change dictated neither by the hazard of fate, nor the selfishness of a group, nor the whim of an individual. Geography changes and population shifts under national direction and to meet national needs.
The industrial map of Tsarist Russia bore no relation whatsoever to the geological map, nor the map of raw materials to the map of population. Iron was not worked where iron ore occurred, nor was population thickest where raw materials were most abundant.
The Soviet Union has one map, not two. The industrial map coincides with the geological map. The map follows the Plan and graphically illustrates the new material prosperity, based upon the new scientific and moral foundations of a planned production for community consumption, where the word community embraces every individual to the farthest corner of the Union.
Twenty-one years have gone by since the Soviet Union took command: they have witnessed a redistribution of industry and agriculture from Poland to the Pacific and from the Arctic to Afghanistan.
In the days when private profit was the sole consideration, industry grew lop-sided. European Russia, which occupied but a small part of so vast an empire, monopolized the whole industrial development, leaving Asiatic Russia industrially inactive, her rich raw materials ruthlessly scraped off and borne away; her local handicrafts crippled or crushed, her artistic craftsmanship suppressed, and her population degraded and impoverished. Rich raw materials were bartered away for cheap coloured prints, to the ruin of hand-made and more lovely fabrics.
Nor did industry spread in any balanced way even in European Russia, or bear direct relation there to the needs of man or to the existence of raw materials.
Strictly confined, then, to certain centres, and those by no means the best suited to meet the national requirements, industry developed in but one-thirtieth part of Tsarist Russia. Elsewhere it was neglected.
To economic inefficiency we must add national peril.
Concentrated in St. Petersburg, Moscow, White Russia, Ivanov, and the Ukraine, Russia's vital services lay exposed to Germany, Austria Hungary, and other European states. Russia's eggs lay in one basket, and that basket perilously near feet that might jeopardize its safety. The danger was real. Russian industry in Tsarist days was as vulnerable to enemy attack as it was ineffective in meeting the needs of national economy.
The Soviet Union aimed at immediate and radical redistribution of industry. Railways and roads thrust out north, south, east, and west to the districts where raw material was found. Agriculture penetrated into lands hitherto neglected. Marshes were drained, deserts irrigated, forests removed, controlled or re-planted, and soil enriched. New industrial centres sprang into being over-night, operating local raw materials in local factories, driven by local power-plants, and spreading culture and newness of life to local inhabitants. Robbery and exploitation of Russia's colonies ceased.
Three principles regulated the new redistribution.
First, national economy demanded that raw materials should be worked into finished goods with a minimum of transport and operating costs. For example, the smelting of iron ore incurs less costs when local fuel and local power are employed than in furnaces 1,000 miles away, with aid of coal imported from another 1,000 miles.
Secondly, industry was safer when far removed from enemy troops, enemy planes, and enemy tanks, and when widely distributed. Concentrations of industry present peculiar dangers in time of war.
Thirdly, and by no means least important, distribution of industry to the seat of raw materials was a duty owing to the inhabitants in whose area the raw materials were found, providing them with profitable employment, education, culture, and security, and enriching the Soviet Union itself with competent citizens.
So industry moves east. The bare white spaces of yesterday's maps, void of towns, and untraversed by rail or road, denoted rural poverty, industrial stagnation, and lost opportunity. The roads, railroads, and towns which fill up the blank spaces in the maps of today tell of human industry, ample harvests, seized opportunities, and flourishing populations. Latent possibilities are discovered and exploited on one-sixth of the world's surface.
Every area is treated on its merits. And though Moscow and Leningrad had become centres of industry on political rather than economic grounds because they formed the old imperial centre rather than because they had natural facilities for manufacture it would be irrational for the Union to thrust them at once off the industrial map. From an absolute point of view these centres of industry continue to grow, though relatively they grow less quickly than industry in areas farther away. For though Leningrad is built on a swamp and Moscow on clay, the latter possesses her own inferior coal, which Soviet scientists enable her to use; and the former now has access to raw materials from the near north rather than from the distant south. Both towns enjoy abundant and profitable work at the finer type of goods, which demand higher grades of workmanship and are less dependent on local materials.
The centre is scientifically overhauled, the circumference created. Textile mills arise in Tadjikistan. Silk is woven in the Transcaucasus, copper worked in Kazakstan, chemicals in Tashkent. Machinery plants develop in Stalingrad, engineering sraps in Komsomolsk all of them remote from the old centres of activity.
Agriculture in Tsarist days was as ill equipped, ill planned, and unscientific as industry. Rotation of crops was little known and less practised. Artificial fertilizers were rare. Poor harvests were the inevitable consequence of poor seed and poor soil.
With the exception of cotton, agriculture had paid small attention to technical crops that is, to crops used for industrial purposes. Land already occupied was inadequately farmed. New land was frequently destroyed, for when the poverty of the peasant thrust him farther and farther to the East, on to free land and virgin soil in the search for food, he succeeded in ruining forests and ploughing up ancient grasslands, with results in dust-driven soil and rain-scoured ravines as disastrous as in the United States of America.
Even in European Russia agriculture was as unbalanced as it was inefficient. The black-soil belt lying across the land south of a line drawn east and west from
Kiev to Sverdlovsk, and called the "production" area, was a land of wheat-fields, and served as the nation's larder. The region lying north of the same line produced little and drew its food from the south. Grain-trucks blocked the railway lines.
None dreamt, in Tsarist days, that the parched deserts in the south, or the swamps and marshes and frozen lands in the north, might be made, by the skill of agricultural science, to carry heavy crops.
The Soviet Union, with a statesmanlike outlook upon the needs of the whole community, and using science as an instrument in developing the resources of its vast territory, has changed the agricultural map with extraordinary rapidity.
The correct allocation of the main branches of agriculture throughout the Soviet Union, and the concentration of special regions on special crops, which Stalin had advocated in 1930, has proceeded without intermission and without delay. Grain areas have been extended to-the east. Wheat has moved northwards. Cotton-fields are planted on the southern steppes; sugar-beet invades fresh regions, and flourishes in places that had never known it before; agricultural developments awaken and startle the far north, and new technical crops of many kinds are grown in new localities.
Rye, a poor grain, gives place to the richer wheat. Seeds are carefully selected and adapted to the special needs of special areas. Spring wheat moves north, and winter wheat takes the place of spring wheat on the southern steppes. The natural conditions of the various zones in the Union are exploited to the full. The old distinction between producing and consuming areas departs. Northern consuming regions grow food for themselves, freed from exclusive dependence on the south. Tractors tear down copses, drain swamps, and plough the clayey soil. Vegetables, flax, and wheat follow. An area as large as Denmark has been reclaimed from swamp and marsh, and Moscow has a larder on her doorstep.
The northern drift of agriculture is a romance in itself and one of the supreme triumphs of the Soviet agriculturist and horticulturist. In the extreme north, as we have seen, in a latitude nearer the pole than Iceland, the wheat-grain is made to yield its fruit in the brief summer season. Swift-growing, swift-ripening seeds, which make up in sunlight what they lose in sunheat, yield amazing harvests. Large fruit- and vegetable-farms are established in the Kola peninsula, which in weight of crops often surpass the record of southern areas.
In the east the newly established industries of coal, iron, oil, or machinery concentrate and increase the native population. Towns arise and grow, with inevitable repercussions on agriculture. Larger populations demand larger stores of meat, wheat, apples, and cabbages. Orchards, pastures, market-garden crops take their place upon the local map. Home-grown food saves transport. "Every region must institute its own agricultural industry so as to have its own vegetables, its own butter and milk, and in one degree or another its own grain and its own meat, if it wants to avoid getting into difficulties," said Stalin, and a decree recently promulgated, compelling all regions to produce an adequate supply of potatoes by 1939, shows that he seriously means what he says.
The total area sown with technical crops in the Soviet Union has increased almost two and a half times since 1913, cotton and sugar-beet recording the greatest advance and the widest dispersion.
Cotton is a technical crop of outstanding importance. Cotton is the White Gold of Central Asia. Cotton drove the Tsarist Government to extend its imperial power into Central Asia, to the lands of which it was said even in pre-revolutionary days that people " talk cotton, sing cotton, play cotton, work cotton, study cotton and dream cotton". The Tsarist Government seized, but did not expand, the cotton industry. Half the cotton used by Tsarist Russia still came from abroad.
No foreign cotton, however, need' enter the Soviet Union now. The U.S.S.R. grows its own supplies of a material without which it could neither clothe itself nor face war with any proper chance of success.
Tackling the problem with scientific thoroughness, the Soviets have enlarged the units of production and modernized its methods. Irrigation is overhauled. Petrol pumps displace the old camel, padding its monotonous way round and round the water-wheel. Clean concrete channels replace the old mud irrigation ditches and conserve the precious water. Seeds of new and tested quality are used in place of inferior varieties and raised in hot-beds for transplantation, with vastly improved crop results. When the cotton harvest is ripe, Soviet and American mechanical pickers sweep across the farms, sucking up the white fluffy flowers as they go.
Central Asia is the traditional home of cotton, and the Central Asian Republics of Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan account for half the annual supply. This large quota is possible, and may be expanded further, for several important reasons. These provinces, possessing the necessary supplies of water and hot sunshine, are the natural and admirable home of the cotton plant. Again, cotton is a crop of high economic value and capable of fetching good prices. In these circumstances the concentration of a large area on a single crop is more profitable than provision of supplementary crops for home consumption. The value of the crop pays for imported food- and other stuffs. Southern cotton travels north, and pays in return for the wheat and timber that travel south.
Furthermore, cotton is an excellent absorbent of labour. A ton of raw cotton probably represents more human labour than, any other agricultural product. Cotton supports a large and intelligent proletarian population in Central Asia, a fact of great importance from the Soviet angle.
Cotton spreads itself out. The cotton map expands. Cotton, in the hands of the Soviet Union, is no longer confined to the lands which have hitherto, on account of its demands for hot sunshine and abundant moisture, held the monopoly of its growth.
Soviet agriculturists have, as not the least important of their many achievements, succeeded in producing a drought-resisting cotton, and now utilize a long chain of dry but fertile lands stretching east and west right across European Russia from the borders of Rumania, through the prairies of the Ukraine, along the eastern shores of the sea of Azov, by the north shores of the Black Sea, and across the steppes of the northern Caucasus to the delta of the Volga and the Caspian Sea. Cotton has left its old haunts, and the snowy blossom fills the dreary steppes with busy farms and the hum of mills. The new area under cotton is nearly three-quarters as extensive as all the area under cotton in pre-revolutionary Russia.
Other plants besides cotton possess fibres appropriate for weaving. Rami, Kendiv, Kenaf, and string bark, all closely related to the cotton family, produce fibres of great strength and elasticity and will grow abundantly in Kirghizia, Kazakstan, and the northern Caucasus.
Nor is cotton the only crop which travels to new regions in the U.S.S.R. Rice is its rival.
Rice has a food value not less than that of wheat. Half China lives on rice. Japan lives on rice. Yet rice, like cotton, needs hot and irrigated lands. So at least the rice-growers had always thought.
Soviet scientists, however, never rely on what men had "always thought". They make experiments. They made experiments with rice. They planted rice in the swampy fields of the far east, where cotton will not grow, and reaped abundant harvests. They sowed rice in Kazakstan, on the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea, and in the Ukraine, where the climate is warm and the seed can be submerged for a hundred days after sowing. Again, they reaped abundant harvests. Growing in daring, they took the seed far beyond the northward limit that dogmatism had set as its ultimate bounds. They settled a problem which had long been academically argued, and settled it by the same method that Galileo employed to settle the discussion of the speed at which pound-weights of various substances would fall, that is, by the aid of an experiment. To the astonishment and delight of all, it was discovered that rice can survive frost and will ripen in the region of Moscow, which lies as far north as Dundee.
These experiments and discoveries promise further changes in the agricultural map of the Soviet Union, for the left bank of the Volga river, dry and barren today, will glow tomorrow when the Volga irrigation scheme is completed with the vivid young shoots of the rice-fields. An area the size of a county promises to yield 100,000 tons of food.
Rice is not an easy crop to cultivate, or was not until the Soviets came. Men sow rice by hand, walking almost waist deep in water. The mechanized wheat-drill drawn by horse or tractor is powerless in water. So rice was still sown by hand until the Soviet scientists made more experiments.
It is instructive to visit an up-to-date Soviet rice-farm now in the sowing season. While waiting, for the sower you hear a roar, and, like some huge bird with outstretched wings, a great plane swoops low and skims above the surface of the water, scattering seed as it goes. Rice on the larger farms is sown from the air and, when ripe, combine-harvesters deal with it as with wheat.
The U.S.S.R. sowed an area as large as Wales with rice in 1938.
Rubber is indispensable to the modern State. Our cars run on rubber. The mechanized army runs on rubber. Rubber has a thousand and one industrial uses. Rubber, no less than oil, is an apple of discard in the world of nations. The British Empire is rich in rubber. Together with Holland, which possessed 30 per cent, of the world's rubber plantations, England, which possesses 30 per cent., can dictate her terms to the world.
The Soviet Union lacked rubber plantations. "We will have our own caoutchouc," said Stalin; and they have it. Rubber-bearing plants the Tau-sagiz, the Kok-sagiz, and the Krim-sagiz have been discovered which grow wild in the U.S.S.R. and yield as much as 38 per cent, of pure rubber. In their cultivated state they grow with greater rapidity than in their wild state, producing rubber not inferior to the tropical varieties.
The same tale of advance might be told of the sugar beet, or of that wonderful soya bean which contains albumen of the same nourishing quality as the albumen of animals and is well called the milk of the earth, or of many another new or newly developed agricultural product.
1. The population of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on January 17th, 1939, was 170,467,168.
2. This should be compared with average annual wage of industrial workers in later years. In 1933 it had risen to 1,513 rubles (in the rubles of 1926-7) ; in 1938 to 3,447 rubles. The normal working day is now seven hours.
3. Increasingly it is the aim and tendency under, the new constitution that this function shall pass to the C.G.G. or Presidium of the Congress of Soviets, the new Soviet Parliament.
4. The increase in population from December 17th, 1926, to January 17th, 1939, rose from 147,000,000, to 170,126,000. The number of children born during the Five-Year Plans was 20 per cent, more than the total population of Roumania. And, while the birth rate rises at an unprecedented rate, mortality has declined 40 per cent, as compared with 1913.
5. Stalin makes a special appeal to collective farms to release one and a half million persons for industry during the third Five-Year Plan.