The Socialist Sixth of the World - Hewlett Johnson

Foreword, Acknowledgement and Thanks, Preface


I regret that this book was not written and published six months earlier. Had that been the case I might have hoped that it would perhaps have served some part, however small, in helping our own country to understand .Russia, and, by understanding, to have brought nearer the possibility of Anglo-Russian friendship. With Russian, friendship, consummated in a pact for collective security, we should now be spared the terrible tragedy that confronts us. It was, however, not to be. Greater forces were fashioning our destiny. And yet the need for Anglo-Soviet co-operation is not less but far greater today. And it is with, that aim that I offer this book to the British public now, in the hope that it may help to shorten the bitterness and suffering which this war is bound to bring.

I know only too well the deep-rooted hostility and prejudice that exist among certain strata of our people towards Russia. I would beg them to lay those feelings aside for a brief space while they examine what, this book as to say, so that perhaps a fairer picture and a deeper understanding may take possession of their minds.

The book was ready for the printer and the final proofs corrected just prior to the outbreak of the war. During the .enforced delay in its publication, I have re-read it in the light of our present situation. Apart from the Epilogue there is little I would add to or subtract from it, though had it been written today the style would doubtless have been less leisurely.

Because, however, of what has happened in the last two months, I would invite the reader to turn to the Epilogue first and familiarize himself with the brief account it contains of the Soviet’s struggle for peace during the twenty-two years of its existence. If this book should serve to prevent one day, or one fraction of a day, of unnecessary bloodshed and slaughter by helping to ease the passage of those changes that I believe are necessary in our life, and which are bound at length to come, then it will more than have fulfilled any aims or hopes I may have entertained concerning it.


The lights and side-lights relative to any study of the Soviet Union are too numerous to enable me to offer individual thanks to persons in the U.S.S.R., or out of it, who have helped me ; and to the writers of books, journals, or monographs which have assisted or stimulated me in One way or another in the preparation of this book. If here I mention the names, in alphabetical order, of some authors upon whom I have drawn, either for scientific information or for stimulating modes of presentation, it is naturally not that I value them in the order thus presented or that my debt is confined to these alone. Far from it. Let this selection then suffice.

Batsell, W. R., "Soviet Rule in Russia"; Brontman, L., "On the Top of thd World"; Coates, W. P. and Z. K., "From Tsardom to the Stalin Constitution"; Crowther, J. G., "Science in the Soviet Union", "Soviet Science"; Fleming, R. M. "S Soil and Civilization in Russia"; Friedman, E. M., "Russia in Transition"; Frolov, Y. P., "Pavlov and His School"; Haines, A. J., "Health Work in Soviet Russia"; Hecker, J. F., "Moscow Dialogues", I The Communist Answer to the World’s Needs", "Religion and Communism"; Hubbard, L. E., "Soviet Money and Finance"; Kantorovich, V., "Soviet Sakhalin"; King, Beatrice, "Changing Man: The Education System of the U.S.S.R."; Lee, H., "Twenty Years After"; Litvinov, Maxim, "Against Aggression"; Macartney, C. A., "National States and National Minorities"; Pritt, D. N., "Light on Moscow"; Sloan, P., "Russia Without Illusions", "Soviet Democracy"; Ward, H. F., "In Place of Profit"; Webb, S. and B., "Soviet Communism : A New Civilization?" also the Postscript "Soviet Communism : A New Civilization" (without the Question Mark). "U.S.S.R, in Construction".

My main debt, as to literature, after the comprehensive and constructive books — such as those by Mr. and Mrs. Webb — is due to reports, scientific monographs, and the mass of ephemeral but extremely valuable literature which daily pours out of Russia itself, with details descriptions of various cultural achievements and of actual workings of mines and oilfields, cillective farms and factories, together with statistics of fulfilment of Five-Year Plans, so much of it self-illuminating and self-checking when examined over a sufficient stretch of years.

I would acknowledge also my debt to the London Library of the Society of Cultural Relations with the U.S.S.R. for the help they have constantly given me.

Chiefly would I thank Mr. A. T. D’Eye of Balliol College, Oxford, who has placed at my disposal his time and his knowledge, not only of the Soviet Union, but also of economics and political theory, and of constitutional history and practice in general. His criticisms, advice, suggestions, and information have proved invaluable, and placed me under a debt I can never repay

Chiefly too, I would thank my wile, not only for her acute and commonsense criticism and suggestions, but also for the maps and little human sketches which point the moral and adorn the tale where the tale may be dull or the moral obscure. And I thank my secretary, Mrs. Crowe, for her accuracy and her unfailing willingness at all hours of day and night to type and retype manuscripts and manage papers.


1. The aim of this book can be stated briefly. It attempts to explain in simple non-technical terms a great experiment in a new order of society. Its appearance today is the less inopportune, because suspicion still exists on both sides between two great peoples. The need for wider understanding is paramount.

2. The experiment which is being worked out on a sixth of the earth’s surface is founded on a new organization of economic life, based on clearly denned principles which are thoroughly understood and gladly accepted. These principles, now on trial, differ as far as east from west from our own competitive system of every man for himself and devil take the hindermost, with the profit-making motive as the chief incentive; men being used as means and not ends, with all the consequential exploitation of the mass of the people that inevitably follows.

Our system lacks moral basis. It is only justified on the grounds that no alternative exists. It gives rise, when Christian men and women accept it and acquiesce in it, to that fatal divergence between principles and practice of Christian people, which is so damning to religion, and which found its sternest critic in Christ Himself. The gap between Sunday, with its sermons on brotherhood, cooperation, seeking of others’ good, and Monday, with its competitive rivalries, its veiled warfares, its concentration upon acquisition, its determination to build up one’s own security, becomes so wide that many of the better men and women of today remain outside the Churches altogether. Hypocrites they will not be. The young especially, with their modern passion for sincerity, are in open revolt.

Such is the moral aspect of contemporary economic society. Its scientific aspect is the wholly irrational wastage of wealth, the artificially induced shortage, the poverty amidst plenty, which is as patently foolish as it is grossly immoral. Frustration of science is the counterpart of denial of morals.

Folly culminates in wastage of human material. Stunted and narrow lives are the result. The upshot is pitiful and dangerous on a twofold count. It thwarts the individual by denying to him the thrill and satisfaction of a developing human life. It robs society by leaving uncultivated and unutilized whole ranges of potential ability.

Slumps and booms, unemployment and mis-employment, the dole and the multi-millionaire, the scales weighted for financiers and against the workers, frustrate society and produce strains and stresses whose logical conclusion is war.

3. In opposition to this view of the organization of economic life is that of the Soviet Union, where cooperation replaces competitive chaos and a Plan succeeds the riot of disorder. The emphasis is different. The community rather than the self-seeking individual stands in the centre of the picture. The welfare of the whole and of each individual within it replaces, as the ruling factor, the welfare of a select class or classes. The elimination of the profit-seeking motive makes room for the higher motive of service. The rational organization of production and distribution of wealth welcomes science as an ally and transfers the emphasis from scarcity to abundance.

4. A new attitude towards human life is the natural counterpart of the new economic morality. Individuals, all individuals, become ends as well as means. The development of the human potentialities of each individual receives fullest opportunity and encouragement, and leads to a new humanism. The mass of the people are inspired to play a creative role in life, and culture receives a fresh stimulation. The cultural heritage of the past is treasured and reverenced and becomes the spring-board for the future. Provided that no war intervenes to wreck the growth, the removal of economic shortage, and the substitution of plan for chaos, promise to open up new avenues of freedom, liberty, and creative personality.

5. The method of this book is as simple as its aim. The author is not so vain as to imagine that his own experiences in life are unique, or that the problems which life propounds to him are felt by him alone. As he states them he feels that he is merely putting perhaps into clearer words what many others feel and experience. The personal biography with which the book opens, whilst endeavouring to do this, may serve the further useful purpose of providing a picture of the personal bias from which no book is free. The autobiographical section will at least explain the interest in economic and social affairs, and the unashamed sympathy with the “underdog”; whilst the story of the technical training may give some guarantee of a reasonably sound judgement in technical matters. In case some should feel that this technical training has led to undue emphasis, or emphasis in too great detail, upon the economic aspects of the new order, it is well to remember that without such an economic basis the new order would rest on insecure foundations. Only on a sound base can a noble edifice arise.

The reader, however, if he so wishes, may skip the economic section in Book III and proceed, without break in continuity, to the more human aspects of the new order in Book IV.

6. It is the moral impulse of the new order, indeed, and its human consequences, which constitute the greatest attraction and present the widest appeal. The sections which deal with these therefore form the longest and most important sections of the book.

Of any system we may appropriately ask, as the primary question, either from the moral or scientific point of view, How does this affect the life of the mother and child? How, that is, does it affect life at its very source and in its most impressionable stages? From that preliminary question, we may proceed through appropriate stages to inquire how it affects, the community as a whole, and the relation of community with community, nation with nation, race with race. Finally, we may ask what hope it holds out for a harmonious international system. These human consequences and values are to the writer indissolubly bound up with Christian religion and tradition. The final chapter examines this connection and explains why, alike from a Christian, a scientific, and a technical point of view, he finds absorbing interest and much encouragement in the Soviet experiment.

7. Finally, there is need to guard against a too rosy and optimistic view of life in the Soviet Union. My own approach in this book is from the sympathetic side. I ask in the first place for a sympathetic understanding of the problem. I lay stress on the successes and the good things of the experiment. There are shadows as well as lights a/id I am well, and oftentimes painfully, aware of them’ But if I have said Jess of the defects or lack of success, it is chiefly because other writers have already (and with over-emphasis) done the task for me and because I feel that this over-emphasis and concentration upon defects whilst ignoring the massive moral and material achievements, accounts for the unsympathetic attitude of many who should, and if they knew more would, welcome the experiment and learn from it — an attitude not only unfortunate for themselves, but productive in many respects of the very shadows we deplore.

With sympathy and understanding at the outset, civil war on the great scale in the early years of the Revolution might have been prevented, and the war of intervention on which England spent a hundred million pounds averted.

Unfortunately, from the very first our popular view of the Soviet experiment has been, as many come slowly to recognize sadly warped. An antagonism has beer, which erects a definite barrier against the the Soviet side as well as ours.

Mutual distrust and suspicion still exist. This book seeks to remove them and replace them with an attitude of tolerance and sympathy. As is so psychologically true in our dealings with children or individuals in general, so also with the Soviet order; it is by seeing what is good, and welcoming it, that we shall be more likely to change what is bad, both in ourselves, and in our friends of the U.S.S.R.

I would particularly stress the cautions outlined in this final section of the Preface.

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