THe Soviet system was one of those innumerable creations of the human mind which seem to owe their existence to a fortunate historical accident. It has survived because it proved to be peculiarly well adapted to become the organ of that dictatorship of the workers which lies at the foundation of Communist theory and practice. When Lenin, with his comrades, returned to Russia from exile in Switzerland after the revolution of March, 1917, he does not seem to have perceived at once how valuable the Soviets would be for his purpose-or, if he perceived it, he did not instantly declare it. His first manifesto assumed that Russia would organize her-self for the social revolution under the ordinary democratic forms. But the General Strike which overthrew Czardom had already revived the Soviets, which first came into existence during the abortive struggle of 1905. They were, as we have seen, simply strike committees which consisted of representatives of all the workers who struck, grouped, as was only natural, in their factories and workshops. The Soviets remained in existence after the strike had achieved its purpose as an engine for bringing working-class pressure to bear upon the Pro-visional Government, for the Duma had had no part in making the revolution, nor could it be regarded as representative of the Russian people. Lenin soon perceived the aptness of the Soviets for his purpose, and conceived the purpose of making them the permanent organ of the working-class dictatorship. In the early days the Petro-grad Soviet alone was of much importance; it sat in the capital, revived the tradition of the Paris Commune, and guided the Revolution. As the influence of the Communists (who had not yet assumed this name) rapidly grew, Congresses of the Soviets which had sprung up all over Russia served as the first improvised model of a national organization; representatives of the peasants were added, and eventually of housewives and other workers who were not included in the factories and workshops which constituted the original Soviets.
Thus, by a natural historical evolution, without the appearance of inventing anything artificial, the Dictatorship created its organ. The Soviets secured their influence, subtly and naturally, without at first challenging democratic theory, since the old Czarist Duma lacked all moral authority and the Kerensky Government made the fatal mistake of delaying the election of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal suffrage. As this Government revealed its weakness and its subservience to the Allies, "All power to the Soviets" was soon a cry which rallied the working class of Central Russia. Lenin timed his coup d'etat before the Constituent Assembly could meet, and when at length it met, with the Communists in a minority, he first ignored and then dispersed it. The Dictatorship had already its own representative organs, which reflected (at least in Central Russia) the will of the workers. We shall see, as we go on, how well adapted the Soviet system was for this purpose. It is specially well fitted for the discharge of administrative tasks, and, in a Socialist State, once its basis is laid down, the administration of the great complex of the nationalized industries is of vastly greater importance than legislation. In the second place, the indirect method by which the higher Soviets are elected, favors a well-organized party, while the workers, who directly choose the Soviets at the base, retain the belief that they are controlling the whole mechanism.
The Dictatorship is an inevitable phase in any Socialist transformation of society which has won its opportunity by armed struggle. The Socialist criticism of democracy, as it exists in capitalist countries, insists that its institutions inevitably distort the expression of the will of the workers, though they are everywhere the majority of the population. It gives them an illusory consciousness of power, while the real exercise of power belongs to the class which owns the factories, the banks, and the land. It can, by virtue of its ownership of the means of production, deny to the wage-earners the opportunity of work and therefore of life. The wealth of this class has given its members, if not a monopoly of education, at least an immense advantage in this respect over the masses. Their habit of command, their technical knowledge, and their social prestige dazzle and intimidate the minds of the workers. They use the schools to perpetuate their view of life, society, and property. The trained bureaucracy which administers the law and the whole apparatus of the State, is drawn from the propertied class, and on the whole reflects its views. But above all, by its ownership (with a few exceptions in recent times) of the press, the propertied class has the power to make the thinking of the workers and to distort their political judgment by its selection of news and its presentation of public questions. The result is that, even under universal suffrage, the will of the majority can be deflected, and subordinated to that of the owning and governing class.
Communists, therefore, refuse to rely on the use of democratic forms within the capitalist State to bring about the transition to Socialism. They are waging, even before the stage of revolution is reached, a class war which aims at transferring the reality of power to the majority of the population-the workers in industry and on the land. This can be achieved only when the ownership of the means of production, with all the direct authority and the subtle influence which it confers, passes from private hands to the control of the whole working community.
At some phase in this struggle (so runs the Communist thesis) the use of force is inevitable. A privileged class will always have recourse in the last resort to arms, in order to defend the rights of ownership on which the unequal distribution of socially-created wealth depends. During the Revolution, and for some time after it has won military victory, it must frankly exercise a dictatorship, treating the members of the former owning class as its avowed enemies, and denying to them their share in the exercise of influence and power. When the transition is completed, class itself will disappear, and the entire population, having abolished the privileges of birth, wealth, and unequal education, will consist of one class only, the workers, who will all make, by manual or mental work; their contribution to the common stock.(1)
The Soviet system was, then, in its origin, essentially an organ of the class struggle. It involves a repudiation of the territorial basis common to all forms of democracy. The source of the right of men and women (the sex discrimination has, of course, no place in any part of the system) to vote is not their ownership or occupation of property, as it was in the earlier forms of European Democracy, nor yet the mere fact that they passively inhabit a given area; it is rather their function, their activity in the performance of work, which is assumed to be useful to the whole community. That may be the secondary theoretical basis which the Soviet System has built for itself; but the real historical basis was, rather, that as workers these men and women belonged to the order which was conducting its warfare against capitalism, with the object of making itself the governing class. Communists reject with scorn the assumption of democratic theory that any expression of the national or general will can result from the use of democratic forms, so long as society lives under the class struggle. Like Disraeli, they see in every country not one nation, but two. Bucharin is amusingly frank. To the objection that the Soviet system fails to reflect the general will of the nation, he replies:
Society to-day consists of classes with opposed interests.- These classes can no more be reconciled than wolves and sheep can be reconciled. Wolves enjoy eating sheep; these must protect themselves against the wolves, and one asks whether, and if so how, it can be possible to employ the common will of wolves and sheep? Is there such a thing as a sheepish-wolfish will? Every rational man will say that that is an impossibility. There cannot be a common sheeps-wolves' will. There can be only one of the two, either a wolves' will, which enslaves the deceived and oppressed sheep, or a sheep's will, which snatches the sheep from the wolves and chases the robbers away. There can be no middle course. The relationship between the classes is just as clear. . . . They are mortal foes. What common will can they have? Some sort of bourgeois-proletarian will? . . . But in times of revolution the proletarian wills to transform the world, while the bourgeoisie would buttress the old slavery.
The Soviet system, then, makes no attempt to disguise its class character. Its formal and official title is the Workers' and Peasants' Government. Accordingly, we find this fundamental article in one of the earlier drafts of the Constitution:
The third All-Russian Congress of workers', peasants', and soldiers Soviets(2) lays it down that at present, at the moment of the decisive struggle of the proletariat against its exploiters, there is no place for these exploiters in any organ of the Soviet power.
This is the justification for the exclusions from the franchise, which were of considerable importance in the early days of the system and still survive. The general principle is that only workers are entitled to the vote; the term is defined to include peasants, intellectual and professional workers, and the housewives of workers' and peasants' families. All of these attain citizenship and the right to vote, without distinction of sex, at eighteen years of age. The disfranchised inhabitants, in addition to persons convicted of disgraceful crimes, and the mentally deficient, include the various groups which are classed, as exploiters:
(1) Those who live in whole or part by employing labor for gain. This does not apply to those who employ a domestic servant, nor to those who are training one or two apprentices.
(2) Those who live by "speculation" (a wide term) or, if there are any such in Russia, from the rent and interest.
(3) Certain groups which are held to be, by reason of their profession, the defenders of the old order, not-ably the clergy and former Czarist policemen.
After the immense social transformation which has gone on since 1917, the disfranchised are no longer numerous. About a million of the land-owning and capitalist class emigrated; many fell in the Civil War; of the rest the majority have found work as "specialists," clerks or teachers, and have thereby won their right to citizenship. If one may take the Vladimir "government" as an average case, I found that in the towns five percent of the adult population was disfranchised, but in the villages less than one percent. In a great town the percentage might possibly be a little higher, but over vast areas of Russia it cannot be much above the village figure. It could hardly make much difference in these days to the result of an election, so far as mere numbers go, if the exceptions to universal franchise were to be abolished. The case for maintaining it, however, is not so much that the "exploiters" are perilously numerous; they might be dangerous rather by reason of their former prestige, their experience in managing men; and their higher level of education. Disfranchisement means, of course, not merely that they cannot vote; they may not attend election meetings, nor may they be elected to any Soviet. Disfranchisement is a stigma, which may be held to neutralize their former influence. There are, however, some hard cases, and the friends of a man who is a genuine worker, in spite of the fact that he employs an assistant, will often share his indignation at his disfranchisement.
The Soviet system would have provided a natural and logical basis of representation in any fully industrialized country which had adopted socialism. Psychologically, it has some great advantages over the territorial system. The workers in a big factory know each other; they have a common outlook; accustomed to daily association, not merely in work, but in study and recreation, they have a moral unity which the chance in-habitants of a quarter of a great city very rarely achieve. It is no mere metaphor to speak of their common will. It is no less important that they know the records and personalities of the men and women who aspire to rep-resent them, far more intimately than voters in a big democratic constituency can usually know the candidates; even when they are local men. In an advanced country which had industrialized its agriculture on the basis of big farms employing many hands, the system might be extended also to the rural areas without heavy loss in the intimacy of its working. In Russia no big estates (save a very few model State farms) have survived the Revolution. The peasants do not work in common. On the other hand they do not live in scattered homesteads or little groups of cottages, as in countries which have long enjoyed security. They live in villages, which, while they often straggle for a considerable length on either side of a road, do foster neighborly contact and a communal spirit. The village, as we have seen, is the unit in the countryside as the factory is the unit in the town.
But the Soviet system is not a symmetrical plan for achieving a just representation of whatever may be the opinions of the inhabitants of Russia. It is an organ of the class struggle. The peasants may be poor, and they may be workers, but they were not the pioneers in the Revolution. Save, indeed, that they seized the land with ready enthusiasm, they took little active part in it until, in the later period of the Civil War, their disgust with the "White" generals induced them to fight steadily under Communist leadership. Save for the more intelligent of the younger men who have passed through the school of the Red Army, the peasants do not possess the outlook of the organized workers of the towns. They grasp the aims of the Revolution imperfectly, and, owing to their lack of education and the immense distances over which they are scattered in a country poorly provided with roads and railways, it is not easy to keep them informed. Yet they form the overwhelming majority of the population. The leaders of the Revolution had to face the certainty that, if they gave equal representation to the villages and the towns, the peasants would soon swamp the revolutionary class, and the policy of the Soviet Republic would be based on some instinctive, old-world brand of individualism, short-sighted, conservative, and colored, perhaps, by the traditions of the most obscurantist Church in Christendom. Fortunately, the peasants had already accepted an unequal basis of representation in the early days of 1917, when the congresses of workers' and peasants' Soviets first met together. It has continued to this day. Its basis is (if we take 100 as the unit) that 100 voters in the towns have the same voting power as 500 inhabitants of the villages. It is not easy, without an exact study of the census, to say what the real pro-portion is, for children are reckoned in the population of the countryside, while only adults are counted in the urban constituencies. The townsman's vote probably weighs about three times as heavily as the countryman's. Even so the peasants are in a large majority.
How, then, does the Communist Party, which exercises the Dictatorship, contrive to maintain its control over the Russian Republic and the Soviet Union? For its strength lies in the towns, though its membership in the villages is slowly growing. The secret lies in the system of indirect representation. Only the Soviets at the base of the pyramid, the town and village Soviets, are directly elected by the whole enfranchised population. The higher Soviets are elected by those below them. Thus the undiluted peasant vote is never available for the choice of the higher Soviets; it has always been mixed with the enhanced representation of the towns. This mixture, however, would be insufficient, were it not that even the villages return a high proportion of per-sons who, if not Communists, are at least in sympathy with the Party. These "non-party" sympathizers are on the whole less than a match for the trained, energetic Communists who are elected, and they have no organization behind them, even if they had the wish, when they voted, to. give a preference to non-Communists. At each rung of the ladder, experience and organization tell. By the time one reaches the "government" or county in the hierarchy of Soviets, a substantial Communist majority is assured, and after that step is passed, the dilution of "non-party" members is negligible. The process, with a solid party press behind it, works on the whole smoothly. There is no need for the exercise of any special pressure, for the rival parties which might have organized against the Communists have all been eliminated.
The hierarchy of the Soviets is built on a uniform and symmetrical plan, and, apart from some oddities in the nomenclature which make it difficult to translate, the ground-plan of the system is easy to grasp. The Soviet Government took over without alteration the division of the country into administrative areas which prevailed in Czarist times, though it has gradually been carrying out a redistribution. Each area has its Soviet. The smallest territorial unit is the volost, which one may translate "parish," though it is commonly much bigger than any English parish and may contain from seventy to one hundred villages. Next comes the uyezd, or district. But by far the most important of these units is the "government" (gubernia) which I have translated "county," though many prefer the word "province." There are thirty-two "governments" in European Russia, excluding the autonomous Republics, and of these the population ranges from 400,000 in the vast forest county of Archangelskoie up to two and even three millions for Moscow, Leningrad, and other more populous areas. The area which seems to correspond more nearly to "province" is the oblast, which includes a group of counties, but is of small administrative importance. It is in the county that the real work of administration is centralized. It has commonly a marked individual character, and may conceive big ambitions, and in carrying them out it enjoys some right of initiative.
The method of. indirect election, starting from the village and the town Soviets, is as follows. The village having first elected its own Soviet, that Soviet in turn chooses its deputies for the volost congress Soviet, observing a rough proportion to population. The village Soviets also choose the uyezd congresses, electing one delegate for each of their own ten members. Each of these congresses of Soviets elects its standing executive committee, which meets in the long intervals between the sittings of the whole assembly. The chairman, secretary, and sometimes a third member receive salaries for their work.
The important "government" (county) Soviet, or Congress of Soviets, as it is more properly called, is elected jointly by the town Soviets in its area and by the volost (parish) congresses, in the proportion already explained; namely, one deputy for every two thousand electors in the towns and one for every ten thousand inhabitants of the volosts. It sometimes happens, owing to the timing of elections, that the uyezd congress, rather than the volost congress, is the electing body for the peasants. Its Executive Committee (Izpolcom, to use the Russian abbreviation) is a rather numerous body, which may number as many as fifty persons who specialize in taking charge of the various departments. Administrative work is divided among departments which correspond to the ministries (or, as they are called, Commissariats) of the Republic, so that each "government" has its own organization which works out a local policy for education, health, agriculture, and the rest, following, of course, the lines laid down for national policy. Some degree of initiative is possible, and something may be done to adapt national policy to local needs. But the autonomy of the "governments" is rather severely limited by the fact that, save for the profits from those socialized industries which it administers and occasional supplementary taxes or surtaxes which may be levied for local needs, the "government" is not its own master in finance.(3) It depends on the share of the national revenue allocated to it from the center. But here, as elsewhere, the Soviet system preserves its leading characteristics. Neither in the villages nor in the larger areas, nor even in the important county areas, is administration left to a professional civil service. Just as in the village the elected chairman of the Soviet replaced the old Czarist authority, so in the counties the elected members of the Soviet have superseded the professional bureaucrats of the old regime. One need hardly say that the mechanism of these big administrative organizations cannot dispense with experts, secretaries, and clerks, but the elected members perform their duties, as a rule, in a painstaking and ambitious spirit.
Another feature which runs throughout the system is that the whole Soviet is divided into sub-committees, each charged with the control of some branch of the ad-ministration. Non-members may be co-opted on to these committees. The result is that every member has some definite work to do and feels himself responsible (as we saw in the reports of the Moscow members) for the welfare, it may be, of certain hospitals, or of a group of schools, or for the strict observance of the laws which limit the hours of work. The formal sittings of the Soviets are neither frequent nor do they extend over many days. Some well-known national figure often at-tends from Moscow to expound national policy; the re-ports of the various departments are criticized; the budget is passed. But the real work of every Soviet member consists in the discharge of his administrative duties. It was proposed, for example, in Vladimir county (though I cannot say whether the proposal was ultimately adopted) that each newly elected member of the County Soviet should come up to the county-town and spend a whole week working in the office of the department in which he was specially interested, in order to familiarize himself with its work. There is a hostel for such purposes.
In turning from the local to the national government, there are several complications, which call for explanation. The vast territory which the world calls "Russia" is not a single State, but a Union of sovereign Republics, each of which has its own national government. Again, of these Republics which compose the Union, two are federations (Russia and Transcaucasia) which them-selves include several autonomous Republics and territories. But the structure of all these governments, whether the Union itself, the federal Republics, or the autonomous Republics, is substantially identical. Let us trace it.
The sovereign body is in every case the Congress of Soviets. Each county sends its delegates. These are elected indirectly by the town and county Soviets which vote in proportion to population, following the ratio observed throughout, by which the voters in the town have five times the voting strength of the inhabitants of the villages, an advantage which may, as we saw, be in reality three to one.
The Congress meets, as a rule, once a year, for about ten days. It is not, in the real sense of the word, the legislative body. It debates policy broadly, and passes resolutions which lay down the general principles to be followed in legislation. The atmosphere of its sittings is that of a great public demonstration. The Union Congress, for example, which has some fifteen hundred members, meets in the Moscow Opera House. The stage is occupied by the leaders and the heads of the administration, and speeches are apt to be big oratorical efforts.
The real legislative body is the so-called Central Executive Committee (known as the C. I. K. and pronounced "tseek") . It meets more frequently than the Congress to which it is responsible-in the case of the Union, at least three times in the year-passes the Budget, receives the reports of the Commissars (ministers), and discusses international policy. It, in its turn, elects two standing bodies:
(1) The Presidium of twenty-one members, which has the right to legislate in the intervals between the sittings of the superior assemblies, and also transacts some administrative work.
(2) The Council of Peoples' Commissars. These correspond roughly to the Ministers or Secretaries of State in democratic countries and are the chiefs of the administration. Meeting as a Council, they have larger powers than any Cabinet, for they may pass emergency legislation and issue decrees which have all the force of legislation. Save in cases of urgency, however, their decrees and drafts of legislation must be ratified by the Executive Committee (C.I.K.) . In another respect they differ from the European conception of a Minister. Each Commissar is in reality the chairman of a small board of colleagues, who are his advisers. These advisory boards, or collegia, meet very frequently (it may even be daily) to discuss current business, and any member of a board has the right to appeal to the whole Council of Commissars against a decision of the Commissar.
It remains to outline the subdivision of these administrative departments. They fall into three groups:
(I) Five of them deal with matters which fall solely within the competence of the Union. There are no corresponding Commissars in the allied Republics which compose it, though each of the Commissariats for Union affairs has its representative in the various Republics. These five departments, known as the Peoples' Commissariats of the Union, are:
(1) Foreign Affairs
(2) Defense (army and navy)
(3.) Foreign Trade
(5) Posts and Telegraphs
(II) The second group of five, known as the United Commissariats, are to be found both in the Union and in the various Republics which compose it. The Union Commissariat lays down the general principles of ad-ministration, and exercises a measure of control. But for these departments each Republic has also its own Commissar. They are:
(3) Workers' and Peasants' Inspection
(4) Internal Trade
(5) The Supreme Council of Public Economy.
The third of these departments is an original feature of the Soviet system, which recurs at every stage of the hierarchy from the top to the bottom. It is the department of audit and inspection. It verifies accounts. It inspects public works. It issues the most searching reports, which often deal shrewd blows at official optimism. Its business is to detect inefficiency and corruption.
The fifth of these departments, the Supreme Council of Public Economy, is the most important organ in the Socialist State. Though a description of it belongs properly to the volume in this series which deals with industry, one may point out here the immense range of its responsibilities. Though each of the nationalized industries has its own autonomous organization, oddly named a Trust, it falls to the Supreme Council to coordinate their work. It sets the pace and fixes the volume of output at which each industry should aim. It is responsible also, as the last resort, for the fixing of the general level of prices. It is the final arbiter between the interests of the producers, organized in their Trade Unions, and the interests of the consumers. It has the last word when the price level of agricultural produce soars dangerously above or below the price level of manufactured goods and threatens discontent in town or villages. On its arrangements will depend how rapidly Russia can accumulate a surplus for the replacement and expansion of her capital equipment.
Working as a distinct department, though in close touch with the Supreme Economic Council, is an institution which must give to its directors the illusion of living each week through the Seven Days of Creation. Known as the "Gosplan," it is, in reality, the higher brain of the whole industrial system. Its business is, on the basis of all the available statistics, to forecast the needs and sketch the future development of the community. It may plan the expansion of one industry, or propose the concentration of another. It may outline the next phase of the titanic electrical development which was Lenin's chief interest in his last years. It may propose some development, let us say in. forestry, which will expand the exports of the Union. It may next make its schemes for the utilization of the profits of this venture, to purchase tractors, or what not. It must concern itself with the whole field of effort, from agriculture to industry and mining. Here is scope, which the greatest Trust magnate of the capitalist world might envy, for the imagination which plans and creates, boldly it may be, yet always within the fetters of reality, for it must scheme for a poor community which must eat and learn before it dares to set aside a surplus for future growth.
Each year it is busy in planning the tasks of the next. Though it works under severe limitations, it realizes in some measure the predictions which socialists have made; as to the gains which any community must reap, when it so far controls industry that it can plan for it as a whole, and so coordinate the growth of its various members.
The Gosplan is a Union institution, but autonomous copies of it, which collaborate with it, exist in all the allied Republics.
(III) Finally, we come to a group of six departments which are not included in the administrative apparatus of the Union, but exist only in the allied and autonomous Republics. The Union may lay down general principles which govern their work, but the whole administrative responsibility falls to the national units. These are the Peoples' Commissariats for:
(2) Home Affairs
(6) Social Welfare
It is obvious, in a territory so vast, with such a diversity of soil and climate, ranging from the sub-arctic North to the sub-tropical regions of Turkestan and Transcaucasia, that the dealings of the State with agriculture must be decentralized. Education also is left to the national Republics, for the obvious reason that respect for national cultures is one of the foundations of Soviet policy. The other departments, ranging from the control of the ordinary police (known in Russia as the "militia") to the protection of public health and the promotion of social welfare (the care of the aged, war-pensioners, and the like), deal no less obviously with matters of domestic concern.
To conclude what has been, I fear, inevitably a some-what dry survey of a rather intricate administrative system, it may be well to emphasize some of its general characteristics. Russians claim for it that, as a representative system, it brings the rulers more closely and constantly in touch with the people than any other. That is true, I believe, of the foundations of the system. The town Soviets feel the life of the factory pulsing through them; the village Soviet is always in touch with the average peasant. But, above this stage, the various organs of government are confronted with a nearly insoluble problem. You cannot, in a country so vast, cursed as it is with primitive means of communication, keep your elected bodies in session for many days at a time, nor can you assemble them frequently. The higher Soviets are not properly Soviets at all. They are congresses of Soviets. They serve chiefly to keep the outlying districts in touch with the center. Their members listen with close interest to reports and disperse to the county again, carrying their impressions with them. A useful consultation has taken place, but little more can be claimed for it. These meetings of congresses of Soviets cannot and do not bring to bear on the administration a sufficiently continuous scrutiny.
The absence of any organized opposition within the Soviets or outside them, is, needless to say, an aggravation of this defect. The real work of administration, and also of scrutiny, criticism, and control, falls to the executive committees. If they, in fact, remain in touch with the mass of the people, they owe it less to the merits of the system, than to the fact that they are themselves elected members and men of the people, and that they belong by majority to the Communist Party, which has developed the study of the mass-mind of the workers to a fine art. The unique and interesting thing about these executives is not the devious and indirect method by which they have been chosen, but rather the fact that men who have spent most of their lives as manual workers do contrive, by hard study and incessant application, to direct a rather complicated administrative machine. (4)
It may be well, in conclusion, to answer two questions regarding the system which often arise when one is discussing it theoretically. It is natural to argue that the plan of functional representation must emphasize sectional interests and obscure any broad view of the common good. If men vote as weavers or as metal workers, will they not think mainly of the special interests of their craft or trade? Is there not a probability, when men and women of all trades and occupations meet and vote together, because they inhabit a given area, that a broader view of the general good will emerge? The argument carries weight at first sight. I can only answer that I never saw signs of this narrow sectional outlook in Russia. For this there may be two reasons. First, each craft relies on its Trade Union, which is a recognized power in the Soviet State, to watch over its special interests. In the second place, the atmosphere of the election is made, and topics under discussion are, in effect, chosen, by the Communist Party, which, what-ever else it may be charged with, cannot be blamed for a narrow outlook. Indeed, its unpardonable crime, to most of its opponents, is that it persists in mistaking the world for its parish.
Again, does not the system of indirect election debar the electors from any opportunity of debating or deciding the bigger issues of national policy? To some extent this is true. New departments of policy are decided, not at the elections, nor even in the Soviet Congresses, but within the councils of the Communist Party. On the other hand, as we have seen, international issues are discussed even at village election meetings. But the main thing to bear in mind is that the problems of modern Russia are emphatically administrative problems. Speaking broadly, the various organs of the system, from the Council of Commissars of the Union down to the sub-committees of a town Soviet, are handling the same problems. Whether one sits in the Kremlin at a meeting of the most august body of the whole Union, the "C.I.K.," or round a table in Vladimir with the working men who constitute its County Executive Committee, one hears exactly the same problems discussed. How, be-fore June arrives, shall we manage to reduce prices by ten percent? What growth can we show in the number of our spindles, or factories, and in the number of workers employed? When and how shall we make our final assault on the last relics of illiteracy? Or when shall we have room in our schools, even in the remotest village, for every child? Was it by good luck or good guidance that the number of typhus cases has dropped in a year by half? And, finally, how can we hasten the raising of clover seed, so that the peasants who, at last, thanks to our propaganda, are clamoring for it, may not be disappointed?
These are the problems of Soviet politics. With these, at least, every elector is encouraged to concern himself; with these the immense number of Russian citizens who pass, every year, for the first time through the constantly changing ranks of the Soviets, are obliged to familiarize themselves. The process of education is incessant. For, in one respect at least, these Communists are unique among the dictators who have figured in history. Their passion is to educate those whom they rule.
Next: Chapter 6: The Soviets at Work
(1) I must apologize to the reader for the brevity and crudity of this passage. The length and subject of this book forbid me to include any discussion of Socialist or Communist theory. Most Socialists, of course, in countries which have a long democratic tradition, argue that with adequate self-education and organization the workers may hope, under fortunate conditions, to use the forms of democracy to hasten the evolution of Socialism without bloodshed. A lively account of the Communist position, and also of the Soviet system will be found in Bucharin's A.B.C. of Communism which has been translated into English. In quoting it I have made my own translation.
(2) The separate soldiers' Soviets afterwards disappeared. Soldiers now vote where they are quartered, with the rest of the population.
(3) In the Vladimir government local taxes brought in only one million roubles, in a total revenue of over fourteen millions. By far the more hopeful source of local revenue would seem to be the profits of enter-prises conducted under and for the County Soviet, which amount to thrice the yield of the local taxes. This county budget, I may add, is of interest because nearly half the expenditure is incurred for education and the health service.
(4)By way of illustration of the working of the system, some figures from the Vladimir government may be of interest. It has 1516 village Soviets with 10,615 members. Of these only 6.4 percent are members of the Communist Party; 2.8 percent belong to the League of Youth, while the non-party members constitute 88.8 percent.
There are eight Soviets for suburban, i.e., semi-industrial districts, with 412 members, and here the percentage of Communists rises to 42.7, while 23.5 percent belong to the League of youth.
In the town Soviets, of which there are eleven, with 1187 members, the Party has a bare majority; Communists 45.1 percent, Youth 5.3 percent.
On the executive committees of the Volost congresses, the non-party members have a bare majority (50.7 percent), but on the more important Uyezd executive committees the proportion is reversed (Communists 69 percent).
Finally, when we come to the most important body of all, the executive Committee of the whole Government, we find that the Communists constitute 72.7 percent.
No less significant is the fact that out of the fifty-five members of this Executive Committee (four being women) no less than twenty-eight are workers, eighteen are peasants, nine are classed as employees (a term which includes clerks), while only four are "intellectuals" (probably teachers and doctors).
One may add that in the Vladimir Government, with a population of 2,282,000, the Communist Party has 12,000 members according to the recent census, including 2352 women and 3854 persons who as yet rank only as "candidates."