I ASK a favour of him who reads this bundle of stories, gathered together on the edge of Asia, in that mystic land of white nights in summer and long black days in winter, where events only heretofore dreamed or vaguely planned for future ages have suddenly come to be. I ask the reader to remember his tolerant mood when he sits himself down under his shaded lamp of an evening to read certain lovely old legends, to remember how deliberately he gets himself out of this world into another as unlike our own as the pale moon. He should recall that in reading ancient lore he does so with an open mind, calmly, never once throwing down his book and cursing because some ancient king has marched with all his gallant warriors into another country without so much as a passport from the State Department.
We have here in America an all too obvious and objectionable prejudice against Russia. And this, you will agree, is born of fear. In Russia something strange and foreboding has occurred, it threatens to undo our present civilisation and instinctively we fear change--for better or for worse. We hug our comforts, our old habits of life, our old values.... There are those among us who whisper that this change will mean darkness and chaos, there are those who claim it is but a golden light which, starting from a little flame, shall circle the earth and make it glow with happiness. All that is not for me to say. I am but a messenger who lays his notes before you, attempting to give you a picture of what I saw and what you would have seen if you had been with me.
In that half year of which I write 1 felt as if I were continually witnessing events which might properly come some centuries later. I was continually startled and surprised. And yet I should have been prepared for surprises. All of us have felt the deep undercurrents that are turning the course of the steady tide. The great war could not leave an unchanged world in its wake--certain movements of society were bound to be pushed forward, others retarded. I speak particularly of Socialism.
Socialism is here, whether we like it or not--just as woman suffrage is here--and it spreads with the years. In Russia the socialist state is an accomplished fact. We can never again call it an idle dream of long-haired philosophers. And if that growth has resembled the sudden upshooting of a mushroom, if it must fall because it is premature, it is nevertheless real and must have tremendous effect on all that follows. Everything considered, there is just as much reason to believe that the Soviet Republic of Russia will stand as that it will fall. The most significant fact is that it will not fall from inside pressure. Only outside, foreign, hostile intervention can destroy it.
On the grey horizon of human existence looms a great giant called Working Class Consciousness. He treads with thunderous step through all the countries of the world. There is no escape, we must go out and meet him. It all depends on us whether he will turn into a loathsome, ugly monster demanding human sacrifices or whether he shall be the saviour of mankind. We must use great foresight, patience, understanding.... We must somehow make an honest effort to understand what is happening in Russia.
And I who saw the dawn of a new world can only present my fragmentary and scattered evidence to you with a good deal of awe. I feel as one who went forth to gather pebbles and found pearls. ...