Tom Mann, 1921
Source: British Bureau, Red International of Labour Unions, 3 Wellington Street, The Strand, London
First published: July 1921
Transcription and markup: Steve Painter
I was elected to visit the Moscow International Congress at a conference of London trade unionists, held in the Friars Hall, Blackfriars Road, London, on May 7, at which conference I presided. The conference was held in support of the principles of the Red Trade Union International.
I do not propose to follow the usual lines of presenting a detailed report of proceedings day by day, but shall put the case in what I think will be a more generally serviceable fashion by showing what Russia really is like now, in what way it materially differs from Russia of pre-Revolution days, and give reasons for conclusions drawn.
Under the old regime the population of Russia was about 175,000,000. As a consequence of the application of the principle of self-determination during the war and Revolution, the population of Soviet Russia is now about 130 million, and of this total more than 80 per cent, or 110 million, are peasants.
It is necessary to be clear-minded about this great preponderance of the peasants in numbers, and particularly so for Englishmen as in this country our peasant class is so small a percentage of the total as to be an almost negligible quantity, particularly so as they are much more of the proletarian class than of the peasant proprietor type.
Allowing for the children of the peasants as being more than half of the total, we may conclude that the working peasants of both sexes are roundly about 50 millions.
Of course, the peasants always have produced the foodstuffs, whether on the large farms owned by members of the old “nobility”, or as nominal or actual peasant proprietors. Serf or nominally free peasant, the landworker of Russia has ever been the plodding slave, producing an abundance of the best, but never permitted to share in its consumption. They produced about twenty million tons of wheat per year, but themselves ate the black bread made from rye, of which they produced rather more than they did wheat. The peasants were kept down to the meanest livelihood, and the large quantifies they produced of wheats, eggs and general produce were exported after the wants of the ruling class had been met. The finest of wheat, millions of eggs, chickens and other produce came to Britain, the produce of the Russian landworker. Those who produced them never had the opportunity to consume them, it was theirs to work, to cultivate, to gather, to look at, and to handle for their masters, but neither they nor their children might enjoy. Exploitation by landlords, and government tax gatherers, added more and more to the burden of the Russian toiler, so that on lands where the owners had modern methods of production, as on those of the peasants where very primitive forms of production only were in use, the toiler was the ill-fed beast of burden, always and everywhere.
The ordinary reader of novels has learned from writers of repute and reliability of the slavish conditions of the Russian mujik; sighs have gone up, expressions of despair have been uttered, sometimes bursts of righteous indignation have followed as a reader has learned of the awful domination and cruelty imposed upon such peasants as dared to be associated with any effort that aimed at any measure of release from this thralldom. Reader, the great miracle has actually been performed. The domination of the ruling class is no more. The peasants produce the food, and it is theirs; theirs to actually eat, to enjoy, to satisfy themselves, not occasionally but regularly. (Special limitations to this general statement, such as the famine, will be dealt with later.)
They may, and they do, eat the best of food, and plenty of it, the surplus is theirs to dispose of for equal value, of course after paying the comparatively light tax called for by the Soviet government.
Whoever may be reading this, whatever views you have held or do hold, this solid fact I’m submitting to you will surely arrest your attention and cause you to reflect. No matter what you have read, or what you have been told, or what you have imagined, this is solid fact (subject to modifications already referred to: that the peasant toilers, the landworkers, the agricultural labourers of Russia, with their children (for, of course, the conditions apply to all members), now produce and enjoy the fruits of their labour. And what has brought this prodigious change about? The Revolution of 1917, this and nothing but this.
Russia has difficulties; yes indeed, and very many. But I demand such attention to the fact here given that it shall never be lost sight of: that the peasant population of Russia never was free before the Revolution. They are now free. They never were well-fed. They now eat of the best, for they are the producers of the food, which by moral right, by (now) established custom, and by law they are entitled to enjoy, and the peasant population is, counting all ages, 110 million out of a total of l3O million.
I must at once deal with famine and its causes, deeply regretting the too-awful fact that famine does actually prevail over a considerable area some eight hundred miles in length and about five hundred at its widest part. In length the area runs from Kazan on the Volga, the capital city of Tartary, to Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga and the Caspian Sea. I was afforded facilities for seeing the famine area under conditions favourable to arriving at correct conclusions as to its nature and extent.
The president of Russia, Comrade Kalinin, with a staff of about fifty colleagues and assistants, set out for the famine and cholera area, armed with all the information at the disposal of the government, and with powers to call for prompt co-operation from any or all of the official bodies of the respective districts. This commission traveled by train, via Penza to Samara, the centre of the famine area, calling at towns on the way. At Samara, the scene was such as I had never seen in any degree. The large platform of the station was mainly occupied by groups of peasants who were awaiting an opportunity of being sent away to some better districts; outside the station every available spot was occupied by similar groups of refugees from villages.
On reaching a large square, it was seen to be literally covered by hundreds of groups of persons who had left their famine-stricken homes. Many had children, but on enquiry we learned that every morning the responsible local committee made a careful tour round amongst these refugees, and collected all the young children up to about 14 years of age, the daily average so collected being about two hundred. These are taken to a collecting house and are kept there for a few days. The children are fed after a fashion, but it is woefully deficient and indeed there was a deficiency of every comfort and of every reasonable necessary. The children are taken from the collecting houses to hospital, if necessary, or to a home which combines education with physical care; later they are taken to a better kind of home termed a colony. Some of these colonies are well placed, with, large gardens and grounds, and the improvement in the appearance of the children is easily noticed. But at the homes and the hospitals and the schools there is a serious lack of essentials, a serious lack of medicines, of school requisites, of clothing, of beds and bedding; nevertheless, all those in charge of the children are battling courageously and working lovingly and effectively.
I visited hospitals, homes and children’s colonies in company with others who were keen to see and to learn. We were present at the meeting of the Soviet that reported in detail as to the situation. We spent three days investigating in the immediate neighbourhood, talking to many of the victims of the famine conditions, watching the methods of the various agencies, endeavouring to cope with the same, and one’s heart sank as the eyes rested on little mites of weeds, grasses, and what is more like pumice stone in appearance than ordinary earth. It contains some fatty matter. All this is used to make bread, and the poor kiddies had to eat this or go without anything.
These famines occur periodically in parts of Russia. The present one covers an area three times as large as England. I continued the journey with the friends previously referred to, going down the river Volga from Samara to Astrakhan, calling at towns and villages on the way, and taking part in the activities at all of these places, so that I can speak correctly with regard to the situation. The number of persons living in the affected area was said to be fifteen million. One authority in Moscow put it as high as twenty-two million, but I think the lower figure was endorsed by the commission that I was with, which spent three weeks investigating the area. The suffering is acute, and many will surely die before assistance reaches them. Whatever views one may hold on politics or economics, warm-hearted men and women will readily help according to their ability. These people living in an area which has been devastated by war, having had many scores of thousands of cattle taken from them, and horses requisitioned by counter-revolutionaries, with a deficiency in seeds in consequence of the famine last year, provide reasons more than enough as to why the workers of the United Kingdom should now, without delay, help the workers of Russia.
I can vouch for the fact that the Soviet authorities, local and national, have been, and are now, giving the matter their most earnest and careful attention. The peasants in other parts of Russia more favourably situated, have helped and are now regularly helping their unfortunate comrades. What is wanted is 59 million poods of grain, nearly one million tons. This is the estimated requirement to enable them to tide over till the next harvest. I promised them when there that I would do my best to arrest the attention in Britain and to obtain help from the British workers.
I know efforts are being made and results are being obtained. I am glad of the efforts being made by the Communist and by the Daily Herald. I have no fancy scheme to propound, but I specially ask that those who have given something shall give again, and those who have not yet given anything shall commence at once to do so.
The Soviet government has had a task in collecting and transporting seed for the autumn sowing in the famine provinces. This had to be done by the middle of September to ensure the harvest in summer next year. Two-hundred and fifty thousand tons of seed were required, and towards this the government obtained and supplied from Russian sources alone 170,000 tons; then purchases were made in other countries, and by the middle of September the Soviet government had obtained and supplied from all sources 233,000 tons of seed to the famine area or within 17,000 tons of the estimated requirement for seed purposes for 1922.
The famine brought in its train, cholera, plague and scurvy. These, too, were grappled with and, as it seems to me, with surprising efficiency. Every care was taken as regards isolation of cases and systematic inoculations. When in Samara all of us comprising what I am calling the Kalinin Commission were inoculated, and bade comply with every precautionary measure. It was soon checked, then stopped. The appeals for additional medical stores are urgent, but there is no panic regarding cholera, the present requirements are to meet the work of general relief.
Other countries are helping to provide necessaries for the people of the famine area. Denmark sent to the value of two and a half million kroner (£120.000) to help the children of the Volga provinces. Norway is sending a first contribution of foodstuffs to the value of £23,000; Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, the United States, and even Persia and Austria have also sent considerable contributions. The most substantial help from any one country so far, is that of America, which has entered into a definite agreement with the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic, and has undertaken to feed approximately one million children and sick persons during the coming winter. The terms of the agreement show that the Soviet government “is anxious to facilitate the work of foreign relief organisations, giving guarantees that any supplies sent for the famine-stricken will not be diverted for any other purpose”.
When on my way home, in Petrograd I saw the lorries laden with the contents of one purpose. It was a mere trifle compared with that required, but it gave promise of greater things, and was a very cheering sight. The adults who have been compelled by the barrenness of the conditions consequent upon the burning by the sun of all vegetation, have been sent chiefly to Turkestan or Siberia, not as was formerly the case, to exile and to prison, but to get settled on areas much more promising than those they left. The following extract is from the new magazine, Russian Information and Review, published at Soviet House, Moorgate Street, London, dated October 1, 1921, pithily and officially gives the position re the famine:
A million tons of food are needed. The territory of the RSFSR used to produce before the war 67,000,000 tons of grain. In 1920 all of South Russia was in a state of disorganisation; the German armies which invaded the Ukraine in the winter of 1917-18 and the later invasions of the Poles, had stripped the country bare of stocks of grain, of horses, and had left agriculture in a chaotic condition. Further east the armies of Denikin and Wrangel had fought over some of the most prosperous grain-producing districts. The peasant farmers lacked the most essential implements, and all the products of the towns for Russian industry had been given over since 1914 to producing war material. Horses went lame for lack of shoes and nails, sledges had to be made of unshaped wood bound together with the roughest sort of rope made by peasants themselves instead of with iron bands. In the country along the Volga which did not suffer from civil war during 1920, the harvest was very bad owing to the partial drought in that year. It is estimated that the decrease in area sown reduced the harvest by nearly 20,000,000 tons. Owing to the decrease in the area sown and the drought which affected to some extent all the central provinces of Russia, the total harvest gathered was only about 34,000,000 tons in 1920.
The date given for the opening of the Red Trade Union International Congress was July 1, and the group with which I was traveling arrived in Moscow on that day. The Communist International Congress was holding its sessions at the time, and had been doing so for fully two weeks prior to our arrival, and continued for more than a week after.
The RTUI Congress opened proceedings on Sunday, July 8, at the Dom Siyosov, the First House of the Trade Unions. At the first session I participated in the proceedings, tendering greetings, etc. I was elected a member of the Congress Presidium, ie, one of seven or eight, each from a different country, to co-operate with the chairman of congress, and to act similar to a standing orders committee. This necessitated my keeping in close touch with the whole of the work of the congress, as frequently questions arose which necessitated special consideration on behalf of the presidium to facilitate the proceedings of congress. Usually there was a morning and an evening session of congress, commencing as a rule at about 10.30am, and not finishing till 10.30pm, and frequently special committees were also held till midnight and after. Moscow being quite lively till one or two o’clock in the morning.
The attendance at the RTUI Congress was good, three hundred and forty-two delegates from forty-two countries; the German contingent being exceptionally large. There were many subjects of great importance under discussion, and decisions were arrived at upon these. I suggest that all really interested in the same should obtain a copy of, the Resolutions and Decisions, arrived at by the RTUI Congress, as space at my disposal will not admit of me giving the same reasonable attention; also the pamphlet by J.T. Murphy, The Reds in Congress.
One point, however, must be dealt with here, and that is the clearly avowed aim and object of the RTUI, which is:
To organise the working mass in the whole world for the overthrow of capitalism, the emancipation of the toilers from oppression and exploitation, and the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth.
This is clear to all as to objective, and leaves no room for misunderstanding as to the kind of trade unionism the RTUI stands for. It is the frank recognition and declaration that capitalism must go; that the trade union movement must be definitely used for its overthrow, that to participate in ideas or behave in any manner that warrants the belief that any solution to the social problem can be found by the co-operation of the workers with the master class is itself a social crime, an offence against all experience and right tactics. The objective is revolutionary, aiming at a complete change in the economic basis of society, from ownership and control of industry by a capitalist profit-making class, to complete ownership and entire control by the workers in the common interest of all. There being no room for idlers, exploiters or parasites in a socialist or communist system of society.
The method pursued must be revolutionary also, never resting content with wage adjustments, regulation of working hours, or participation in shop control in conjunction with the capitalists; all wages questions, hours of work and kindred subjects are to be decided by the bearing such measures and tactics will have in the furtherance of the social revolution, in which alone can justice be found.
The position in England today is such that any man capable of thought should see that capitalism can never function in the real interests of the workers.
Today there are over two millions of workers in enforced idleness in this country, many of these receiving nothing whatever from the state or a trade union. The standard of life is about on a par with that wretched standard imposed by capitalism before the war and still the capitalist forces are engaged in still further lowering the standard, and this at a time when machine productivity exceeds everything ever known in the history of mankind.
It is interesting to note that the clear-cut revolutionary basis and objective were unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed.
Another matter of first-rate importance was the relation of the Red Trade Union International to the Third International, ie, to the Communist International. Here there was considerable divergence of opinion by sections of German, French, Italian and other delegates. The chief resolution called for harmonious relations between the Communist (Third) International and the RTUI, to the extent of delegates from one executive sitting on the executive of the other, as evidence of identity of aim and readiness for common action as occasion may require. To this procedure the syndicalists were in many cases opposed. They declared against any domination of the industrial by the political side of the movement, and argued that in their opinion it would amount to this if such proposed relationship obtained. I found myself in hearty sympathy with the contention that there must under no circumstances be any domination of the industrial by the political, but I was unable to agree that it would really amount to this. As one who has energetically championed syndicalism, ie, reliance upon industrial organisation to achieve our economic emancipation, and being entirely opposed to trusting any parliamentary institution with bringing about economic freedom for the workers, I was anxious to see a policy agreed upon that would suit the comrades of the Latin countries, and their colleagues elsewhere. I felt, however, bound to admit the genuineness of the declaration that the capitalist states must be destroyed, and that the Red Trade Unions must work for their destruction. Activity on the political field would never mean the attempt to reconstruct the capitalist state, but would aim at its entire abolition. Further, it must be admitted that the war, and the Russian Revolution itself, have so markedly chanced the situation that a readjustment of methods is desirable and necessary to meet the most modern stage of development, and we should not rigidly adhere to past policies for the sake of consistency when these no longer make for perfect solidarity.
It was interesting to find the Spanish delegates — themselves syndicalists — reasoning forcefully and tolerantly, but ever keeping solidarity of the working class in view as the vital essential. They emphatically declared in favour of the resolution for close relationship between the two internationals, and so did I. This was carried by a very large majority.
The dictatorship of the proletariat has been a fruitful cause of much discussion. The ordinary man in England is asked by a supporter of the present regime. “Why dictatorship by any section? Surely it must be a better state of society where all — as in England — have the right and the opportunity to decide the industrial, social and political conditions that shall prevail.” And the uninformed and muddle-headed workman replies: “Why yes, of course, it must be so.” Such persons are gulled by the supporters of the present system of society in believing that every worker in this country has freedom to influence the direction of affairs equal to that of the capitalist controller of industry, and although he may have been a member of a member of a co-operative store for quite as long a time, and have participated in municipal and parliamentary elections at every recurring opportunity, and although he finds himself one of the unemployed, still he does not see.
Although he and his family are not only on the verge of starvation, but actually deprived of life’s vital essentials, still he is lacking in the clearness of vision to understand, that he with his family, in common with the whole of the working class, is every hour of his life subjected to the complete domination and dictatorship of the master class, ie, of the bourgeoisie, of the owners and controllers of industry; and neither his union, nor co-operative society, nor municipal or parliamentary institution, is capable of doing the slightest thing to deliver him from this continuous dictatorship. The net result is he and his family are in abject poverty, and those who control industry, and kindly take the profits, can have, and do have , life’s necessaries in abundance, plus many comforts and luxuries, and are free from the economic worries with which he and his class are burdened.
What such a man lacks is the knowledge that the productive forces of this country and of the world are enormously greater than they ever were before in the world’s history.
That, as a consequence of this, if these forces were socially directed, ie, used for the common good, the standard of life would be very much higher than has ever been possible in past history; but these productive forces are still directed sectionally and privately by the master class — the capitalist class, whose economic interest is opposed to that of the mass of the people, because they obtain their incomes not by co-operating jointly with the workers, but by exploiting the workers through the profit-making system, and these controllers never even aim at regulating industry in the interest of the community, but merely aim at competing for and getting a market for products.
The economic power exerted by the bourgeoisie in controlling industry, entirely overrides and nullifies any influence exerted by the working class in and through any of the agencies the worker is identified with, so long as he works inside of the capitalist system.
As soon as he realises the capitalist system is the root cause of economic and social discord, then he will seek to overthrow capitalism in favour of a socialist commonwealth; from that time his efforts in the union, in the co-operative movement, in municipal and political affairs will ever be directed to transferring from the control of the capitalist to the workers the whole of industry. Capitalism he will fight constantly, and never again be gulled either by speeches or papers into thinking he is, under capitalism, a free man.
Let me suppose the reader is an unemployed member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union; has exhausted state unemployed benefit, is now receiving only a very few shillings a week from the union, family life rapidly deteriorating as regards the standard; confronted with the employers’ present demand that those in work shall be subjected to another 12½ per cent reduction in wages. Are you one who still fails to see the necessity for a change of system from dictatorship of the bourgeoisie to dictatorship of the proletariat? I can imagine someone saying: “I am entirely opposed to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, but I don’t want dictatorship of any kind.” The reply to that is neither will any intelligent person require or tolerate dictatorship when the situation is such that sweet reasonableness will prevail but the capitalists are entrenched now not only by actual possession, but by control of the public institutions, of the police, the military and the navy. They control the weapons of war, which they declare they will use against the workers if their claims are challenged.
I leave it at that as far as this report goes, declaring that I heartily subscribe to the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat operating in the interests of social justice.
The proletariat, meaning the wage-workers in industry, are in present-day society those who are most vital to the modern industrial system, the proletarianisation of the workers, has proceeded under the modern industrial system at an ever-accelerating pace. Primitive methods of production, by the skilful manipulation of tools by manpower is being rapidly superseded by machine industry. It is well illustrated in the boot and shoe trade. Only one generation ago it was the general practice for the individual workman to make a boot throughout from beginning to finish. Now, as a consequence of machine production, fifty or more persons participate in the making of a boot, and no one person can possess the skill and ability to make a complete boot. Production is increased so stupendously by machine methods that the whole population can be supplied with the utmost ease as regards capacity to produce. Still the machines cannot function unless aided by the human hand and head, and however ignorant these human heads are, they are not machines.
The capitalists cannot run industry without these human heads and hands. They are absolutely vital to production. There is a limit to coaxing, bribing, forcing, and there is a strong trend towards solidarity, or the taking of joint action to achieve a common end on the part of these workers of both sexes — who however insignificant as individuals, are all-powerful as a class; a refusal to function on their part means that all the magnificent machinery is out of action. It is this outstanding fact that gives importance to the behaviour of the machine-using workers. If they refuse to attend to the machines there is no production; with a sufficiency of obedient machine minders or users, even if they possess but little mechanical skill, capitalists can continue production; but when, for whatever reason, they refuse to function as the agency connecting up mechanical power and directing natural forces, capitalists are helpless, governments are helpless, and stagnation follows. The proletariat of Russia, the town workers engaged in industry, including the railwaymen, always a most important section, are only some ten per cent of the total population.
It was this ten per cent that supplied the spirit, the vim, the push, the ideas that carried the Revolution to success, and that has maintained the position against all comers.
The Red Army, of course, is the agency, the power, the machine; enthused, inspirited, ennobled by the inspiring ideal of economic, social, and political freedom for all workers.
The army is composed 80 per cent of peasants, who share in the determination, the revolutionary fervour of the proletariat, but with a difference. The peasants for the most part are not full-fledged Communists; it is not communal ownership of land they are concerned about, but land for themselves to cultivate, and to secure the results of their own labour. The land of Russia is held under the Soviet government by individual peasants belonging to the village commune, and they cultivate their respective holdings with varying degrees of co-operative or communal effort, but the results are taken by the individual holders. The Soviet government cannot go beyond the peoples’ capacity in the application of communist principles, but they carry on a systematic propagandist campaign, by a great variety of methods, to afford opportunities for the peasantry to understand the march of events in the world at large, and to appreciate their position as world citizens.
However, the peasants are perfectly clear-minded as to where their interests lie, and in every time of trial they ally themselves with the Soviet government, being fully alive to the fact that it is the Red Army, brought into being by the Revolution, and inspired by the ideas of the Revolution, that enables them as peasants under a Soviet government to enjoy the results of their labour, and they know full well that the success of any counter-revolution would mean to them the loss of the lands they now possess, and the wholesale massacre of themselves. So it is these peasants, along with the town proletariat that have fought and beaten all the counter-revolutionaries and are likely to be equal to any strain of the kind they may be subjected to.
But the vitalising, energising, inspiring, stimulating, directing force all the time is the Communist Party. This is small in size for so large a population, only some 600,000 in number, but these are tried and tested, those who have been through the school of experience and the test of real strain.
These men and women were in the shops and factories, mills and mines, and all through the revolutionary period they have been the ones first called on to face danger, to tackle any work, even where it was a certainty death would be met in the doing of it, with the result that on very many occasions they have been sacrificed, and the knowledge they possessed has died with them, not sacrificed in vain, but in the maintaining of the position, facing fearful odds until numbers could arrive, and those left after sanguinary efforts have again returned to the shops and factories, but with the numbers depleted.
It is this fact of the killing off of so many of the small percentage of experts that has added so seriously to the work of reconstruction. The war and counter-revolutionaries destroyed the bridges, sabotaged the railroads, the engines, etc. Again and again has this been done, and a diminishing number of capable workers is left to engage in reconstruction work. Yet with it all they are grappling with the situation and getting to grips with fundamentals. To wait, however, for Russia to build up her resources without resorting to general trading, would take an inordinately long time, and those responsible have wisely advised that industrial activity shall be encouraged on bases that will fit with the requirements of the country and the possibilities of practical action with the mental outlook of those inside and outside Russia.
I am writing this on October 4 at the office of the British Bureau of the Red International, a few doors from the Strand, London. For twenty minutes past a procession of London’s unemployed has been passing in marching order. The traffic is held up, thoroughfares are blocked, scores of thousands of able-bodied men are in enforced idleness, and they are demonstrating to demand the release from prison of Comrade George Lansbury and the other councilors of Poplar, imprisoned for endorsing expenditure for unemployed maintenance and refusing to levy an exorbitant rate upon the people of Poplar. Naturally, my mind turns to Russia. There no man is, or ever need be, unemployed. Every man and woman has a right to food according to the standard generally obtaining, but as a condition of this maintenance the authorities have the right to put all to work, and they do it. To eat without working, if of a workable age, is to live at other people’s expense against their will, and in Russia, at any rate, this does not obtain.
In this vital matter Russia is a beacon light to all the world. No unemployed, work for all, and for millions more. Instead of fearing a growth of the population they know they can dovetail into society scores of millions more, and, instead of the standard of life going down as a consequence, it would rise very substantially. The present famine is the direct consequence of two successive years of drought in the area affected, accentuated by the devastation of war, and especially of the counter-revolutionaries. With scientific principles applied to agriculture in a nationwide fashion, such as the Soviet government is aiming at, including adequate water conservation and irrigation, even the absence of rain for a couple of seasons will not bring devastation in the future. Soviet Russia, with Siberia, contains not only much of the finest land in the world, but is especially rich in all essential minerals and timber in inexhaustible quantities.
Already Russia is well on the way with a national scheme of electrification. I had the opportunity of visiting the principle station, at Shatouskia. Peat is obtainable in such vast quantities that it is estimated there is fuel sufficient to meet all the requirements of this vast station for a period of 40 years, obtainable on the spot. Already there are stacks of it, some fifteen to twenty feet at base and about the same in height, and I estimated these stacks that I passed would be eight to ten miles in length, and they consider they have only made a good start so far at development. This is one of the stations for light and power purposes, part of a national scheme to cover the whole of Russia.
I wish to guard against creating the feeling that production is satisfactory in Russia. It is far from being satisfactory for reasons already given, but which may be again referred to. Inadequate transport facilities consequent upon damage done to engines and rolling stock; the fewness of skilled mechanics owing to so many having been killed in the war, and by the counter-revolutionaries; the unfit state of machinery in mills and shops owing to damage done during war, and the wearing out of parts of imported machinery, which parts cannot well be replaced except by the original makers; this applies particularly to British-made machinery.
All the textile mills that I saw were equipped with British-made machinery. I was at one mill where every machine and spring frame was from the Lancashire and Cheshire district, with perfectly familiar names of makers.
At the mill referred to I noted machines from Howard and Bulloughs of Accrington; Dobson and Barlows of Bolton; Brooks and Doxey of Manchester; Taylor’s of Stalybridge; and Asa Lees of Oldham. I noticed frames without spindles. The manager explained he stood in immediate need of thirty thousand additional spindles from Lancashire, and gave me a specimen spindle to bring away as evidence of what was needed, and said: “We have the material — cotton from Turkestan — to last us for the next six months, and we have the workers, but we are lacking in production because we are unable to get these repairs attended to.”
I was at another group of textile mills where the manager is a Lancashire man who turned out to be a man I had known in England. This manager gave me much information. The occasion of my visit was to participate in a meeting of the mill workers, the special purport of which was to do honour to the “heroes of industry”.
Those workers who had distinguished themselves by special efforts in the various departments were called to the platform, and the manager of the works expatiated upon the nature of the service performed; long service, special efficiency, large output, steadiness at task, etc, and in each case a present was made, in most instances, being mill products, cloth and so on, which would be of value to them for clothing, etc, but, in any case, it was a public ceremony, where these recipients received the plaudits of fellow workers and eulogy from the management.
The Lancashire manager, in reply to questions as to capacity for output, admitted he was anxious to turn out more, as since the Revolution, amongst other things that hindered high output was the fact that the women workers now had six weeks from work before childbirth, and six weeks after, which where the women numbered thousands, as in the case being dealt with, meant considerable dislocation. But a greater reason he gave was the fact that many of the men refused to remain at work in mills, seeing that they could go to the country with their parents, or to their native districts, and obtain land and live on the produce, and so obtain a very much better living than was possible at the present time as a mill worker.
I was in a steelworks at Tsaritzin, on the Volga, where only two furnaces out of ten were working, most of the others being under repair, but two were ready to start the following week. Some of the furnaces they could not put in working order for lack of repairing material.
The eight-hour day prevails at these works, as throughout Russia. In pre-revolutionary days the working hours were twelve per shift.
It may be of interest to state that this visit was made when I was with the commission under President Kalinin on the Volga; only one other Englishman was included in the party, and he did no public speaking. A couple of Americans were included, and as occasion required, these were available for propaganda purposes. One evening at this town, Tsaritzin, I addressed four meetings. The first was of workers at the steelworks I have referred to, the meeting being held at the Union House. The second meeting was composed of oil workers chiefly, there being large quantities of oil stored in the district. The audience gave me a most hearty reception, and sang the Internationale with more gusto and heartiness than I had ever before heard it.
The third meeting for the evening was held in the building known as the Communist Club of 1871. It was a general public meeting of all sections. After translation, a speaker arose to propose thanks to me, and said he himself was a metalworker, and he was delighted to meet an Englishman connected with the same occupation engaged in advocating the principles of worldwide socialism, and he turned to me and shook hands, and gave me a resounding kiss and proceeded with his speech. The fourth meeting was of wood workers, and this, too, was very enthusiastic, as they all were, and manifested the keenest interest in having a visitor from England in hearty sympathy with them. It was the following day that a group of us paid a visit to the steelworks, going over all departments and winding up by addressing the workers in one of the large sheds at leaving-off time.
At all mills and factories and workshops that we visited, we were introduced to the members of the workers’ committee, who were in evidence as much as the manager. The director or manager at the steelworks referred to above is appointed by the Council of Economy, and the metalworkers union. They have a works committee, each trade electing its percentage on a basis of one delegate for 25 workers, the total employed at the time being 2500. An executive committee is elected by the 100 delegates. There is also a grading committee to place men according to ability and requirements, a member of the executive committee working with this.
If the manager leaves, they have a list of candidates. This list is submitted to the metalworkers union, comprising all sections. Their selection would be sent to the Council of Economy of the gubernia (district government). If the Council of Economy did not approve they would make their nomination, and this would be submitted to the union. All chief engineers are appointed by the men. If the workmen do not agree with the appointment, other nominations are made, and it was added: “They always work harmoniously.”
Apart from conferences, I addressed many meetings, generally held in theatres about the same size as our theatres in Britain. I never saw the slightest disorder or unruly behaviour at any one of them. As a rule a meeting lasted about two hours, and the audience never showed signs of impatience, almost invariably a number of written questions were sent up to the platform without being asked for, showing it is the recognised custom to ask questions in this way.
In appearance all the audiences were cleanly and respectable, to use the word in a non-offensive fashion. Many men wore the typical Russian shirts, quite a number had substantial looking leather jackets that seemed to fill the bill for any weather. The women were tastefully dressed, generally having a handkerchief gracefully tied round the head; others in headgear exactly as used here. On a number of occasions after I had spoken, what appeared to be written questions were handed up to me. When I had the same translated, they turned out to be messages from groups of soldiers in the hall. On one occasion the following was handed to myself, and other foreigners who had taken a part in the meeting:
Comrades and Red Guests,
We send you our hearty greetings, and hope you will quickly take the power in your hands, and in the hands of the toiling masses. We wish your proletariat should kick out the bourgeoisie. Take the products you have created. We will exchange them with you for raw materials and other products. In this manner, freed from bourgeois domination, we will secure and enjoy economic freedom.
Soldiers of the ninth detachment of the Red Army, Moscow, July 10, 1921.
Whilst the miners’ struggle was on in Great Britain, it was a matter of great surprise to me to find that the Russian soldiers showed such a keen interest in the conflict. Not only were they interested but keenly sympathetic, and on various occasions they subscribed a month’s wages to the British miners. The total amount would not be great, but it was all they received as pay apart from food, and when that is realised it will be admitted their interest was of a very practical and genuinely helpful character.
I had opportunities of meeting most of the prominent personalities, and though I feel diffident about the matter, I think it will he useful that I should give an opinion respecting them. I first saw and heard Comrades Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev at the Communist International Congress. The first impression I had when Lenin and Trotsky respectively took their places and joined in discussion was the air of easy fraternisation that characterised them both; no attitudinising of any kind, or behaving in any way as superior persons. Nothing peculiar in dress or mannerisms. Comrade Lenin has an easy manner on the platform, rarely talking very loudly, and judging by the cool self-possession after a two-hour speech, he seemed quite equal to going on for another two hours if need be. In appearance he is medium in height and build, light complexion, short moustache and beard, kindly twinkling eyes, which when seen at close quarters tell of a lovable nature. My first introduction to him was at the congress, when he was much occupied, but he added he wished much to have a good talk with me, and would arrange. Later I had a lengthy talk under conditions that enabled me to observe and draw conclusions as to the type and style of man.
My conclusions were that he is an exceedingly capable man, astonishingly well informed as to the world’s doings, and especially in the chief things that matter in regard to the trend of the governments of the world and the personalities that compose them. I look upon Comrade Lenin as a man of extraordinary ability, with a judgment suited to the exceedingly important position he occupies, knowing exactly what it all means, where hostility is to be expected, the nature and probable extent of this, and possessing a profound knowledge as to how to cope with it.
About the same time, also at the Communist conference, I was introduced to Comrade Trotsky, and later had an opportunity of a good talk. On the platform, he, like his colleague, is perfectly at home; one, two, three or more hours, he can and does talk when occasion needs. Much more like his portraits than is the case with Lenin. There is nothing of boastfulness or swagger in either of them: Trotsky is different in type from Lenin, yet similarly lovable, quiet and kindly in conversation, equal at any moment to light pleasantries or the weightier matters of state. Fate has rendered service to mankind in bringing along two such men as comrades, the one the complement of the other.
Comrade Zinoviev is wonderfully popular. He is a tower of strength to the movement, a great platform man, and powerful force in all the weightier matters requiring expert knowledge and intellectual acumen.
Comrade Kalinin I came into close contact with during the three-week run through the drought-stricken area. I saw him under a variety of conditions, on the train, and on the boat, in council meeting, discussing and advising as to the course to pursue to fully investigate the famine conditions; again receiving deputations who came for advice or help, individuals and groups, either to the train or boat; again, meeting the local Soviets, special committees, and trade unions, winding up usually as the chief speaker at a public meeting in the theatre of whatever town we happened to be in. On such occasions Kalinin talked as a father to the people, and was always treated with the utmost respect and kindliest behaviour. Comrade Kalinin as chairman of the All Russian Central Executive Committee, is at the head of the Soviet government. He is 45 years of age, his parents were peasants, himself a metalworker; he has a small farm of about seven acres; he is rarely at home, as most of his time he spends traveling through Russia on educational campaigns, when he is not presiding over the CEC.
The principal figure in the trade union movement of Russia is Comrade Losovsky; he also is a metalworker, and has lived and worked in Paris a considerable time, and was secretary of his union in Paris. He is 34 years of age; he has a wide knowledge of the movement industrially and otherwise. I saw much of him during the Red Trade Union Congress and after. I found him a very helpful comrade, entirely devoted to the work of the union movement, strong on the platform and with the pen, spending himself in the cause of the Revolution.
I missed no opportunity of understanding the situation in Russia; I determined before I left England for Russia that I would go as free as my nature would allow me, free from prejudice, or unreasoning bias, and would frankly face the situation, and report accordingly. I was away from London fourteen weeks, eleven of these I spent in Russia. I know how easy it is to view the situation obliquely, but to those who have any concern for my summing up of the situation, I say unhesitatingly, the Revolution in Russia is in every deed the most stupendous event to humanity that has occurred for generations. The glory of it is that they are perfectly clear as to what they are after, and what it involves the abolition of capitalism and the development of a thorough communist society. This they are building up, but it is utterly impossible to apply full-fledged communist principles to all departments, and with all sections irrespective of their mental outlook and economic surroundings. Thus, with regard to the land of Russia, it is not complete communism by a long way to allow each peasant to exercise full individual right to cultivate or control land for a period of years, but it was peasant ownership and control that the peasant desired, that those who cultivated should enjoy the proceeds thereof, and not have them taken from them by a despotic landlord or tyrannical government. It is a very long way towards the complete communalisation of the land.
In the development of industry, the long blockade plus the damage done by the counter-revolutionaries has most seriously checked industry, so that in some area plants are idle, and the need for commodities is very great. It must be understood that the energies of a very large percentage of the town workers, and of very many young peasants, have been entirely engrossed in civil war. Deniken, Wrangel, Kolchak and other counter-revolutionaries doing enormous damage, deliberately destroying every bridge they could reach, laying waste, killing and robbing in a wholesale way, have added to the already enormous tasks the Russians are confronted with. The Red Army has proved victorious on every occasion, notwithstanding the lavish expenditure by entente governments, and the enormous supplies placed by these governments at the disposal of the counter-revolutionaries. The Red Army has driven them all out ignominiously, and there can be no other result for those now preparing in Rumania and elsewhere to try to further hinder Russia’s development. The Soviet government has done magnificently, notwithstanding all these difficulties, and in order to facilitate development of industry and the exchange of commodities, they have introduced what is termed the new economic conditions. This means that the large industrial establishments will be entirely owned, managed and controlled in all respects by the government with the aid of the trade unions in a very real sense, which are not only allowed but expected and relied upon to exercise at all times a responsible guiding and directing influence.
Another class of industrial establishment will be entrusted to groups of concessionists under direct supervision of the Soviet government, but while subject to the Soviet laws, management will be in the hands of the private controllers, and it therefore comes under the heading of State Capitalism. A third category includes the smaller shops, and these are allowed to engage in general trade, subject to the control of the Soviet government, watching and guiding and coaching all, for the full realisation of the socialist commonwealth. This subject was dealt with by Comrade Petrovsky in the June number of The Communist Review as follows:
On the march
1. The Russian Communist Party never considered Communism to be a rigid formula, but an end to approach which many detours and bypaths have to be used.
2. Communism has never yet existed in Russia; what has existed has been the dictatorship of the proletariat, ie, of the best organised and most class-conscious of the town industrial workers, supported actively in the Soviets by the remainder of the working class, and passively by the peasantry, so long as its elementary demands were satisfied.
3. That the peasantry should demand security and free trading is nothing new; it is simply the demand of the small producer for a market. If a “democratic”, Menshevik, ie, lower middle-class government had been in power, he would have found a market in the large speculator and the foreign merchant, who would have been left entirely unchecked, while the worker starved. As it is, a government of revolutionary Communists, trusted by the overwhelming majority of the town organised workers and the peasants of Russia, is in power; and, while for a month or two the workers’ position undoubtedly is not improved by the new policy, there is a guarantee that, at the end of this period, when the new policy produces the big harvest already foreshadowed, the supply of food from millions upon millions of small capitalist sources will be directed into large, state-capitalist channels, and the establishment of the proletarian state as a capitalist in relation to the petty producers of the countryside is a step forward towards Communism.
Comrade Lenin, dealing with the same subject, said: “Trading and commerce must be developed at all costs, and without any fear of capitalism; for its limits have been fixed by definite Soviet measures, which direct it into the form of state capitalism or co-operation.” So our comrades may be quite sure the responsible men in Russia know perfectly well where they stand, and by what means they will reach the end in view, meanwhile it is our task to do that which is best calculated to help them and make their work easier, and that task is for us to work effectively to bring to an end the incompetent capitalist system that curses us today.
Could utter failure be more clearly demonstrated than that we have with us now! The enforced idleness of two million persons. What excuse can be given for it? What defence can be made for it? Nature has not taken away the raw material, nor deprived men of their power to work up the raw material into the requirements of life. It is the capitalist system and this alone that does this. The capitalist domination is the direct and sole cause of the poverty of the millions today in the United Kingdom. Who shall tell us we may not oppose that system and if they tell us who shall care what they tell?
Fellow workers, there is no law made by humans that can hold the field against this simple law of life: that, being responsible for families, it is our duty to adequately maintain them. The only obstacles in the way are man-made regulations to the interest of the dominant class. Every newspaper is giving columns of dope respecting unemployment; the prime minister and others are alleged to have been discussing this matter “most gravely”, and the police in Trafalgar Square broke the heads of many of those who walked in peaceable procession as enforced idlers.
We know well enough that there can be no real cure for unemployment till true co-operation prevails, and industry is carried on for use and not for profit. And, therefore, we know that it is our duty to direct all our energies to the changing of the economic basis of society. But it certainly does admit of courageous action being taken to substantially reduce the working hours, spreading the total work to be done over the total number to do it. Yet what have we in the capitalist sphere? The Scottish railway companies are insisting that the eight-hour day shall give place to a ten-hour day, exactly the reverse of that which should be done. The engineering employers are demanding a reduction of wages equal to £50,000,000 a year, thus reducing the consuming power of the workers, and consequently adding further to the enforced idlers ranks.
Capitalism: its name spells the most miserable failure that humanity has been cursed with. And what a squirrel cage we are in. The unions accumulate funds, the members feel comparatively secure against capitalist aggression. Capitalists refuse to carry on trade, enforced idleness follows, depletion of the union funds takes place by unemployment benefits being paid. The capitalists, knowing this, demand drastic reduction in wages. Union officials and rank and filers say: “What chance have we got of fighting this now? Our funds are low, a big percentage of the members have only had unemployed pay and not wages for months past, and those in work have had to pay, and are still paying excessively in the matter of contributions and levies.” Result: compromise, reductions, further lowering of the standard and the thrice-accursed capitalist system gets another spell to breathe and reassert its baneful influence on humankind. Worse than that! Hitherto, notwithstanding these repeated experiences, the trade unionists have fatuously acquiesced in the conditions imposed, and again shared in common effort with the master class to continue the capitalist system. The real service for a militant trade or labour union is to overthrow the capitalist system, ie, to definitely pursue a policy that shall hasten the growth of working-class solidarity and to refuse to continue to function as willing workers under the direction of capitalists.
The basic facts to be ever borne in mind are: raw material exists in abundance, and with mechanical aid it is increasingly easy to obtain. Man’s power to produce life’s necessaries therefrom is greater and greater every year. There is room for everyone on the earth, and for many millions more, and none need be short of necessaries or comforts, if only we have the courage to undertake to manage affairs free from the domination of the ruling class. Yet nearly all the efforts of Labour men are spent in directing the energy of the workers’ organisations into grooves provided for it by the master class.
Given clear-sightedness oil the part of the trade unionists, they would even at this present juncture demand full trade union rates, and the apportioning of the total work to be done over the total number to do it. But if this policy be not pursued, if we foolishly try to facilitate the reassertion of capitalism, what warranty is there for complaining about unemployment?
It is permissible to entertain such questions as road-making, canal construction, reafforestation, etc, but none of these even, if all resorted to, can cure enforced idleness, and anyhow all of these proposals would, as a matter of course, be systematically and quite adequately attended to under any well-ordered scheme of society.
It may be considered cause for deep regret that there is no real cure for enforced idleness under capitalism, but men whose minds are familiar with the economic consequences of a system of production for profit, will without being asked, naturally and necessarily be found working for the change of system.
It is not only permissible to denounce this system; it is our bounden duty so to do. If the capitalists can demonstrate that it is a satisfactory system, let them get to it. There surely is a large enough field for them upon which to operate. If Labour politicians are sanguine that they can do something of a really helpful nature, well, again, the course is open; let them confound their critics by the efficiency of their efforts.
To insist upon constant and adequate incomes would soon lead to the necessity for definite revolutionary activity, even to the undertaking to function as actual managers and controllers of industry, but all this would be in the right direction.
All that has been written leads to this. It is fooling away our time in the trade union movement to remain quiescent in the capitalist system. For a union to be used to co-operate with employers to continue to run on capitalist lines is directly against the interests of the working class. We must, not as individuals only, but as definitely industrially organised workers, clearly avow our determination to constantly fight the capitalist system.
Those workers who claim to have economic and political experience and declare against revolutionary activity in the unions must be made to understand that the unions will have no room for them in the future. If they want to bolster up the capitalist system, let them do it in a capitalist organisation, the unions are for altogether different purposes.
There is only one clear course for straight-going members of trade and labour unions, ie, to recognise that international action is an absolutely vital essential of effective organisation, and equally clearly must we declare for the complete overthrow of the worn-out capitalist system, and scientifically prepare to accept all consequences that may follow upon this.
I stand, therefore, for the Red Trade Union International, as voiced at the international congress at Moscow. I am unwilling to be identified in any way with the Amsterdam International, whose adherents compromise with capitalism, and seriously hinder the economic emancipation of the workers.
The ineptitude of the trade union movement is deplorable, chiefly because matters are allowed to drift; reactionaries are able to tilt policy in a reactionary direction, which results in stultifying the unions from militant efficiency.
The engineering and shipbuilding industry is now confronted with the organised pressure of the employing class to have their wages cut to much below the pre-war standard. The employers are adamant, cool, calculating, mercilessly cold-blooded, determined to use the power they possess as a consequence of the economic chaos brought about by their own insufferable arrogance on the one side and industrial incapacity on the other, notwithstanding their boasted knowledge of men and affairs.
Comrades, get to it in your branches; see that your branch affiliates with the Red International; stand no more fooling over the matter; carve your way out of this industrial wilderness: trust no more to blind fate in the hope that something, sometime, somewhere, will turn up. Be clear as to the necessary objective, and clear as to the way to reach it.
Read the appendix in this pamphlet dealing with the Red International of Labour Unions, discuss the matter with likely members of your branch, and raise the matter there, definitely proposing affiliation to the Red International. Get identified with the work yourself, and accept a share of responsibility in connection with the same, and we shall soon have an effective organisation, pioneering the way to militant industrial efficiency.
Just recently the press had lengthy statements, said to be issued by Lord Curzon that Russia had violated the understanding entered into in respect to trade development between England and Russia by encouraging anti-Indian agitation, etc. It now transpires Lord Curzon’s note was based on wrong information.
The following is from the Daily Herald, dated October 7, 1921:
Curzon refuted by Soviet. Charges answered point by point. Russia’s offer proof of friendliness towards Britain.
The Daily Herald has received a copy of the Russian government's reply to Lord Curzon’s note. The reply is signed by Maxim Litvinov as Deputy Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and is dated September 27.
A cursory glance over the Curzon Note on its delivery, it says, “was sufficient to enable the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs to state to Mr Hodgson that the charges contained therein are either unfounded or based on false information.”
It then proceeds to point out one by one the manifest absurdities of the note — many of which have already been exposed by the Daily Herald.
The alleged reports to the Central Committee of the Third International by Stalin, Elieva, Karakhan, and Nuorteva are, it shows, manifest forgeries, since none of these men has ever reported to the Third International or has ever made any report to its Central Committee. The most flagrant absurdity is, of course, the case of Nuorteva, who was actually in prison at the time when he is alleged to have been in charge of a non-existent “Department of Propaganda”.
Made in Germany The “quotation” from Lenin’s speech of June 8 is equally a forgery. He made no speech on June 8 and at no time spoke the sentences ascribed to him.
The Third International, it is pointed out in passing, can no more be identified “with the Russian government than could the Second International with the Belgian government when its seat was in Brussels and Vandervelde a Belgian minister, or with the British government when Henderson was in the British cabinet. Of the 31 members of the executive of the “Third” only five are even Russians.
The note then goes on to trace to their source in “a bulletin published in Germany under the title Ostinformation by an anonymous group of detectives” many of the forgeries on which Lord Curzon’s charges are founded. Photographic evidence of their origin is appended.
This bulletin’s “very secret” reports, it is suggested, have also supplied some of the false information in the “Emmott Report” on Russia.
Not hostile. Turning then from these forged “speeches” and “reports”, the Russian note denies one by one the charges of “hostile action” in Asia.
“The Russian government wishes to state most sympathetically that, since the conclusion of the Anglo-Russian Agreement, it has had no dealings, direct or indirect with Mr Chaltopadya or any other Indian revolutionaries,” that there exists no propaganda school in Tashkent for preparing emissaries for India, and has no knowledge of his factory of smokeless powder.
It is, however, a fact that an Indian who suggested to the Soviet government to organise some traffic in arms in Kabul has been arrested as an agent-provocateur and is still in prison.
“The Soviet government must certainly decline any responsibility for the activities of Jamal Pasha in Kabul, to whom no assistance is being given.
“The crossing of Russia by natives of India on their way to Afghanistan no more constitutes a breach of the agreement than does the freedom of movement given in England to Russian counter-revolutionaries.”
The charge that the Russian government has tried to incite the Ankara government against Great Britain is “especially baseless when the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs has recently been instrumental in bringing together the British agent and the Turkish ambassador in Moscow to give them an opportunity for discussing the differences of their governments”.
Soviet’s orders The note then goes on to say that “strict instructions have been given to Russian representatives in the East to abstain from any anti-British propaganda … The Russian government has no reason to believe that they are not acting in accordance with their instructions.
“In some instances they may unconsciously have infringed upon British interests, not knowing exactly in what direction these interests lie,” it is added.
For during the negotiations the Russians asked repeatedly that these “interests” and the mutual obligations of the agreement should be discussed and defined. But the British refused, and “insisted on condensing the obligations into vague formulae”.
Still, the Russian government “did not anticipate that the British Foreign Office would lend itself to using forged documents in an attempt to discredit the Russian government, and to throw doubt upon its loyalty to its pledges”.
It’s up to Britain. After referring to the arrest of the Russian trade agents in Constantinople and to other “far from friendly” action of the British government, the note ends by expressing “the readiness of the Russian government to discuss in a friendly manner the best ways and means for removing any hindrance to the establishment of normal relations”.
“When, instead of resorting to baseless charges for casting doubts on the good faith of the Russian government and for deterring other nations from entering into agreements with Russia, the British government will on its part show the same readiness for adjusting differences in a businesslike way, it would find a ready response on the part of the Russian government.”
In the Daily Herald of same date, October 7, 1921, is given the following very interesting interview with Dr Nansen, the Norwegian explorer, and Red Cross High Commissioner re Russian Famine Relief:
“If Russia is saved from starvation the unemployment problem throughout the world will be solved.
“Food is wasting in the granaries of the earth, while millions of men, women and children in Russia are dying for want of food.”
Dr Fridtjof Nansen, the famous Arctic explorer and International Red Cross High Commissioner in charge of schemes for Russian famine relief, made these momentous statements yesterday to a representative of the Daily Herald.
“I know you have your own acute unemployment crisis here in England,” he said, “but the famine in Russia is a still more serious problem.
“Labour in this country, I know, is doing much for the relief of their fellow workers in Russia, but until we can raise sufficient money — a sum of £5,000,000 before Christmas — our effort to save Russia’s starving 10,000,000 will be of no avail.”
Two problems combined. “The workmen can see enough of the effects of famine in this important market and important source of wheat supplies to realise that it is as much their duty to alleviate the sufferers as it is to protect themselves from starvation.
“From an economic point of view, too, the businessmen of the British Empire will see that to protect Russia from further disaster is to open a wider field for their goods and provide more work for their workless.
“The two problems are combined.
“I believe the Soviet government of Russia is sincerely trying to do everything possible to help the situation, but I think it is not capable of saving its people from starvation without the aid of other countries.
“The Soviet”s statistics of the numbers of people now dying of hunger I have proved to be absolutely correct. The Russians have a remarkable knowledge of figures, and the estimates made have been verified by the various commissioners I have met throughout the country.
My heart bled. “The crops of the peasants in the famine districts are gone.
“It must not be assumed that all the Russian grain country is without crops, but the loss of food supply is of such dimensions that you can hardly imagine what it means.”
Dr Nansen told the Daily Herald representatives of the appalling conditions in the country districts. The reports he gave in every detail bear out the statements made by correspondents of this paper.
“The sights to be seen of the privation of men, women and children — and I have known something of privation myself,” said the Farthest North explorer, ”made my heart bleed for these brave people battling with a cruel fate.”
Even Persia helps. “If all countries work together, there will be no difficulty. Norway, my own country, is giving valuable help. Swedish food is already reaching the zones of human devastation; Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are assisting.
Germany, with all her difficulties, is doing what she can; the communes of France are willing helpers, and, what is more, the Persian government is coming in now with a promise of large quantities of cereals and rice.
“But it is a pity that with Argentine burning her spare grain in furnaces. American wheat rotting in the granaries, Canada’s combines bulging with 2,000,000 more tons of corn than she can use, that these Russian millions should die of starvation.”
Red armies help. Entirely unfounded are the reports that food sent for the famine-stricken areas has gone to the Red armies of the Soviet.
“They are not well, but sufficiently, fed and indeed, give of their meagre rations to help their countrymen.
“The Soviets are contributing as much as they can to cope with their people’s hunger, but that is by no means enough.
“They have organised a huge horse transport service which will effectively carry the needed food sent into the country, especially when the rivers and waterways are closed in the next few weeks by ice and snow. Sledges will be used when the trains are unable to raise steam in the cold of the Russian winter, when the temperature is normally 80 degrees below zero.
Not going to Soviet. “I especially wish to point out that no money or food is going to the Soviet government.
“The money is being used by us to buy food from the cheapest sources, and our organisation makes certain that the food reaches the people it is intended for.
“All money subscribed will be used in the most effective way. Every penny goes to save life in Russia and for no other purpose. Some of us are giving our services free.
“According to our agreement with the Soviet government, every form of relief is controlled by the representatives of the various contributing countries on the spot.
“I cannot conceive of any more security being given or asked for by the governments or the people who are sending the money.
“I was attacked for having allowed the Soviet government to influence our decisions. I have never done so.
“We are going to have a central authority to deal with all the relief in Moscow consisting of two persons — one representing the Soviet government and one representing our organisation, appointed by myself. I am responsible for him.
“This executive will have all power in its hands with regard to transport and distribution.
“The Soviet government will give a free hand to its representative to decide with our representative everything that is to be done.
“I do not think there is much risk of the Soviet government in that way getting too much influence, and as it is anxious that the work should be done, it will agree entirely with our propositions.
“Everything is dependent upon the goodwill of the Soviet government. We can do nothing without it. From my dealings with the Soviet government, I am convinced that, with its aid, the beneficial work undertaken for suffering humanity will be crowned with success.
“Time is everything. Every day brings us nearer the Russian winter. Unless succour soon reaches the regions of death, snow will be the winding-sheet of millions of a great people.
Object To conduct a propaganda campaign in the whole trade union movement to throw the trade union movement on to militant lines, not to compromise with the capitalist system, but to work for its overthrow. We stand for the Red International and not the reactionary yellow. We urge all trade union branches, who are in agreement to affiliate to the British bureau. It is impossible to carry on this work without finance.
The following are the conditions upon which unions, branches of unions, trades councils, etc, are invited to join:
Trade union branches: twopence per member per annum.
Trade union district committees: two shillings per 1000 members per annum.
Trades councils: one shilling per 1000 members per annum.
Trade union federations: one shilling per 1000 members per annum.
Address: 3 Wellington Street, The Strand, London.
Tom Mann, President
N. Watkins, Secretary