How the Soviets Work


THIS book is the fruit of two visits to Russia in 1920, and again; early in the present year. It is an attempt to give an account of the working of the Soviets as a political system. But as it grew in my mind, the constitutional questions sank into a secondary place. The Soviet system, after all, is not an experiment in constitution-building: it is an instrument which Russian Communists have found well adapted to secure them their leadership during the period of revolutionary dictation. Another subject, however, continually crossed that which the title suggests. The book is really as much an attempt to answer the question "Why does the Soviet work?" as the question "How does it work?" Every political system is a psychological experiment. I have tried to show how the survival in Russia of this system follows from the history of its working-class. A social structure which can, for nearly ten years, surmount the trials which Soviet Russia has experienced, manifestly has deep roots in human nature.

I must make a double apology, first to the writers of other volumes in this series, for trenching occasionally on their subjects, and then to my readers. One cannot study the Soviet system altogether in vacuo. It is a method for managing industry and agriculture, and promoting education and health. At the same time, I must apologize to the reader because my references to these subjects are inevitably brief, and sometimes vague.

They lie outside my theme. May I also remind critics, who may complain that I have said little about certain matters of controversy-about civil liberties for example -that these also form the subjects of separate volumes?

For the courtesy and attention which I met with in Russia, I should like to thank some friends, both old and new-in particular Comrades Fedor Rothstein, Rozinsky and Radek in the first category, together with the leaders of the Vladimir Soviet; and in the second, Comrades Bucharin, Ichok, and Larin, and my new acquaintances in Kazan. To the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs I owe a special debt, notably to Comrades Litvinoff and Karakhan in Moscow and to Ivan Maisky in London. The last of my pleasures in writing this book is to thank Miss Claire Leighton for the honor she has done me in reading my manuscript.

H. N. B. London
May Day, 1927

Next: Chapter 1: A Factory with a Past