MIA: History: F.V. Gladkov: Cement (Abstracts)

Abstracts from


'"Listen, blockheads," she said. "Listen how the Soviet power puts everything right. They took the grain from the peasant so as to make war on the bourgeois; and they took the factories from the bourgeois- factories like ours. And now there's no work! They took the bourgeois' goods away from them and said: 'Divide this among yourselves, workers, so that nothing gets wasted.' All right, go ahead.... But when the factory works, it will be different. Why don't you go home, you wooden heads!"'

[Avdotia, page 21]

'Without understanding why, Gleb felt wings unfolding in his soul. All this, the mountains, the sea, the factory, the town and the boundless distances beyond the horizon- the whole of Russia, we ourselves. All this immensity- the mountains, the factory, the distances- all were singing in their depths the song of our mighty labour. Do not our hands tremble at the thought of our back-breaking task, a task for giants? Will not our hearts burst with the tide of our blood? This is Workers' Russia; this is us; the new world of which mankind has dreamed throughout the centuries. This is the beginning: the first indrawn breath before the first blow. It is. It will be. The thunder roars.'

[page 34]

'"Your Nurochka is a lovely little girl."

It was the matron speaking, a little woman, alert like a mouse, freckled and with gold-filled teeth.

Dasha looked past her at the walls and windows and her face grew stern and hard again.

"Now stop that, that about Nurochka.... They're all equal here, and they all ought to be lovely."

"Yes, certainly, certainly. We do everything for the proletarian children. The proletarian children must have all our attention. The Soviet power takes such great care."'

[Dasha, page 39]

'"To hell with our practice! Our children have lived in holes like pigs.... Give them pictures, light, fine furniture. Everything possible must be given to them. Furnish the Clubroom, make it beautiful. They must eat, play, have a lot to do with nature. For us- nothing, but for them- everything. Even if we have to cut ourselves to pieces, even if we have to die, we must give them everything. And so that the staff shouldn't get lazy, they can sleep in dirty attics... don't throw dust in my eyes, Comrade. I understand very well- other things as well as your practice."

[Dasha, page 40]

'"Bureaucracy is ruining us.... Bureaucracy. We've scarcely had time to bury the bodies of our Comrades... their blood is hardly dry... before we're sitting in private rooms and easy chairs with lovely riding breeches like generals. And the formalities- docketing papers, marking doors 'no admittance'... soon we shall get to 'Your Excellency.' We had Comrades. Where are they? I feel that the working class is oppressed and miserable once more..."'

[Shuk, page 43]

'"I don't know what you mean by Utopia, Comrade Shidky. If you don't pronounce the word factory, the workmen will say it. What are you jawing about: the factory is the past or the future? If the workers are banging their heads against the factory every day- as they are- then the factory is there, and it's waiting for workers' hands to run it. What's all the joke about with you, Comrades? Have you been to the factory? Have you seen the Diesel engines and the workmen? The factory is a whole little town and the machines are all ready to run. Why have the workers been robbing the factory? Why do rain and wind eat into the concrete and iron? Why does destruction go on? And the rubbish heaps pile up? Why have the workers nothing to do except fool around with empty bellies? The worker isn't a broody hen: you can't ask him to sit down on the eggs and hatch chicks! And you keep on telling him that the factory isn't a factory, but an abandoned quarry, and he spits on you then and curses with all his might. How could he treat you otherwise? he's* right in stripping the factory and dragging it bit by bit to his home; it would all go to the devil anyway. You've been filling his head with all sorts of beautiful language, but what have you done to make him a class-conscious proleterian instead of a cheese-paring haggler? That's the way you have to put the question, my dear Comrades."'

[Gleb, page 51- 52]

'"Comrades, we have a wonderful library, whose books have been confiscated and nationalized from the bourgeoisie and the capitalists- but they're all of German orgin. Now, according to proletarian discipline we must read them, because we must remember that, as workers, we belong to the international masses and therefore, must command every language. The library is open to all, whether they can read or whether they cannot. I call upon you, Comrades, to come there to achieve culture and not to sabotage...."'

[Gromada, page 58]

'"The fate of all books, Serge, is to be the prison of thought. Each book is a noose for human liberty. Isn't it true that all these shelves look like iron bars? Aspiring to immortality, the human spirit produces a book - its own tomb. An inexorable doom, Serge: man is in permanent rebellion, and rebellion is no more than a leap from one prison to another; for one's mother's womb into the womb of society, into the shackles of obligatory rules, and from there - into the grave! Marcus Aurelius was no fool: he knew how to sense freedom while rattling his chains, and possessed sufficient wisdom to look through the walls of his prison."'

[Dimitri Ivagin- Serges' father, page 107]

'"Real freedom, my friends, lies in the complete negation of geometrical designs and their material realization. The Communists are strong and wise because they have turned Euclid's geometry upside down. I recognize them and love them because of their amusing revolution against permanency and all such fetish forms. Don't leave anything here, my friends; that would be inconsistent of you and disagreeable to me. To be tied, even by one little rotten thread, to the sides of a cube, prism or triangle, is more fearful than to be buried under mountains of rubish."'

[Dimitri Ivagin- Serges' father, page 178]

'" Here's where the real work is, Gleb. We've lived through a lot, learning by heart theses about the Trade Union movement and the New Economic Policy. We were turning round and round on the same spot, every day in our routine. We were becoming deaf and blind... we were developing bureaucratism. We were killing our living force in order to become professional officials.... The New Economic Policy- Once I heard a waterman- a diver he was- say: 'This New Economic Policy is a great invention: restaurants, wine and beer, on draught or in bottle. I'm going to vote for this with both hands!' No, Gleb, it won't be like that. The Tenth Party Congress will not enter on the path."'

[Polia, page 188]

'These three men didn't take their supper in the hall, but met in Shramm's room for this meal. Shramm's room had fine upholstered furniture, fur rugs and carpets. Sometimes they sat there until dawn, and what they did there- no one knew. Only in the morning the chambermaid at the House of the Soviets would find bottles under the table, and would sweep up sausage skins and empty tins; and the air smelt of cigarette-ends and stale drink.

[page 233]

'"And here's another thing, Tskheladze, not your case. Your case is too petty. There's a terrible whirlpool, and we're all in it. We're going to be subjected to a dreadful trail, worse than civil war, ruin, famine and blockade. We're in the presence of a hidden foe who is not going to shoot us, but will spread before us all the charms and temptations of capitalist business. We control the whole of the economic system. That's certain enough. But the petty trader is crawling out of his hole. He's beginning to get fat and re-incarnates in various forms. For instance, he's trying to instal* himself in our own ranks, behind a solid barricade of revolutionary phrases, with all the attributes of Bolshevik valour. Markets, cafes, shop windows, delicacies, home comforts and alcohol. After the war atmosphere people begin to throw off the fetters. That's something we should be afraid of. There is pain, lassitude, revolt.... It's not from tiredness- no: it's a healthy revolutionary protest, coming from an over-developed class instinct, for the romanticism of the war period. Here we have the old methods of struggle- but precisely these old methods are no longer of use. The foe is mean, cunning and difficult to catch. We must forge a new strategy. It's impossible to win just by indignation and revolt; that would merely mean reaction and hysteria. In this case we have radically to change ourselves, harden ourselves, fortify the Bolshevik in ourselves for a long, lingering siege. The romance of the tumultuous battle-fronts is finished. We want no romance now. What we need now is quiet, cold and resourceful administrators and hard-headed labourers with strong teeth, the muscles of a bull and healthy nerves. One must be a Bolshevik all the way through, Tskheladze. Calm yourself, Comrade, and let us think together over these various questions, which demand a good deal of brain-work...."'

[Shidky, page 237]

'"I can't endure it, because i can neither understand nor justify.... We have destroyed and we have suffered-. A sea of blood- famine. And suddenly- the past arises again with joyful sound.... And I don't know where the nightmare is: in those years of blood, misery, sacrifice, or in this bacchanalia of rich shop windows and drunken cafes! What was the good of mountains of corpses? Were they to make the workers' dens, their poverty and their death, more dreadful? Was it that blackguards and vampires should again enjoy all the good things of life, and get fat by robbery? I cannot recognize this, and I cannot live with it! We have fought, suffered and died- was it in order that we should be so shamefully crucified? What for?"'

[Polia, page 275]

'"Quite close to the breakwater, washed up against the debris and the seaweed, was lying the body or a new-born child. A red handkerchief was tied around its head, there were socks on its feet, and one could not see its little hands as it had a white cloth tied around it. The corpse was quite new and the little milk-white face was beautiful, peaceful, quite life-like, as though asleep. It was quiet here between the breakwaters, and the waves, driven by the outer storm, met and broke softly upon each other. Why was the body of this child so carefully placed upon the seaweed? From where came this suckling with its waxen face? The warmth of its mother's hand was almost still upon it as could be seen by this scarf, the carefully tied white cloth, and the tiny socks upon its chubby feet. Serge looked at the dead child and could not tear himself away; it seemed to him that at a moment it would open its eyes and stare at him and smile. From where came this little child, so inhumanly sacrificed, arousing in him such poignant pity? From a wrecked ship? Thrown in the sea by a frenzied mother?"'

[page 301-302]

Written: 1925, in six installments
Transcription/Markup: Brian Baggins. Abstracted from the original work, without the author's later revisions.
Copyleft: Soviet History Archive (marxists.org) 1997, 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.