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Red dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia online

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cially foreign, of which the rest of the world hears so
much, passed over them completely. Rykov accepted
his directions unhesitatingly from "those who knew."
He never asked himself why the party was so small,
and popular discontent he attributed, as he was told to
do, to the pernicious agitation of Mensheviks and
Socialist-Revolutionaries, who were but monarchists in
disguise. Rykov was the type of man the Bolsheviks
were .striving their utmost to entice into the Communist
party. He had three supreme recommendations: he
was an untiring worker, his genuinely good motives
would serve to popularize the party, and he never
thought. It is independent thinkers the Bolsheviks
cannot tolerate. Rykov, like a good Communist, ac-
cepted the dogma laid down from above and that was
the alpha and omega of his creed. But when it came to
doing something to improve the lot of his fellows and,
incidentally, to lead them into the true Communist
path, Rykov was all there. In other realms he would
have made an ideal Y. M. C. A. or Salvation Army
worker, and it was not surprising whenever it was a
question of amusing or entertaining the soldiers that he
was in great demand.

The hall was decorated with red flags. Portraits of
Lenin, Trotzky, Zinoviev, and of course of Karl Marx,
wreathed in red bunting and laurels, decorated the


walls. Over the stage hung a crude inscription painted
on cardboard: "Long live the Soviet Power," while
similar inscriptions, "Proletarians of all countries,
unite," and "Long live the World Revolution," were
hung around. The audience, consisting of the regiment
and numerous guests, sat on wooden forms and disre-
garded the exhibited injunction not to smoke.

The entertainment commenced with the singing of
the "Internationale," the hymn of the World Revolu-
tion. The music of this song is as un-Russian, unmelo-
dious, banal, and uninspiring, as any music could
possibly be. To listen to its never-ending repetition on
every possible and impossible occasion is not the least
of the inflictions which the Russian people are com-
pelled to suffer under the present dispensation. When
one compares it with the noble strains of the former
national anthem, or with the revolutionary requiem
which the Bolsheviks have happily not supplanted by
any atrocity such as the "Internationale" but have
inherited from their predecessors, or with national songs
such as Yeh-Uhnem, or for that matter with any Russian
folk-music, then the "Internationale" calls up a picture
of some abominable weed protruding from the midst of a
garden of beautiful and fragrant flowers.

The "Internationale" was sung with energy by those
in the audience who knew the words, and the accom-
panist made up with bombastic pianistic flourishes for
the silence of those who did not.

Nothing could have afforded a more remarkable con-
trast than the item that followed. It was an unaccom-
panied quartette by four soldiers who sang a number of
Russian folk-songs and one or two composed by the
leader of the four. If you have not listened to the


Russian peasants of a summer evening singing to accom-
pany their dances on the village green, you cannot know
exactly what it meant to these peasant soldiers, cooped
in their city barracks, to hear their songs re-sung. The
singers had studiously rehearsed, the execution was
excellent, the enthusiasm they aroused was unbounded,
and they were recalled again and again. They would
probably have gone on endlessly had not the Jewish
agitator, who was acting as master of ceremonies and
who had to make a speech later, announced that they
must get along with the programme. The contrast
between Bolshevism and Russianism could never have
been more strikingly illustrated than by this accidental
sequence of the "Internationale" followed by Russian
folk-songs. The former was an interpretation in sound
of all the drab, monotonous unloveliness of the suppos-
edly proletarian regime, the latter an interpretation in
music of the unuttered yearnings of the Russian soul,
aspiring after things unearthly, things beautiful, things

There followed a selection of songs and romances by
a lady singer from one of the musical-comedy theatres,
and then rose the agitator. The job of a professional
agitator is a coveted one in Red Russia. A good agi-
tator is regarded as a very important functionary, and
receives high pay. Coached in his arguments and
phraseology in the propagandist schools of the capitals,
he has nothing whatever to do but talk as loudly and as
frequently as possible, merely embellishing his speeches
in such a way as to make them forceful and, if possible,
attractive. He requires no logic, and consequently no
brains, for he is guaranteed against heckling by the
Bolshevist system of denouncing political opponents as


"enemies of the State" and imprisoning them. Thus
the entire stock-in-trade of a professional agitator con-
sists of "words, words, words," and the more he has of
them the better for him.

The youth who mounted the stage and prepared to
harangue the audience was nineteen years of age, of
criminal past (at this very time he was charged by the
Bolsheviks themselves with theft), and possessed of
pronounced Hebrew features. His complexion was
lustrous, his nose was aquiline and crooked, his mouth
was small, and his eyes resembled those of a mouse.
His discourse consisted of the usual exhortations to
fight the landlord Whites. He was violent in his de-
nunciation of the Allies, and of all non-Bolshevist
Socialists. His speech closed somewhat as follows:

"So, comrades, you see that if we give in to the
Whites all your land will go back to the landowners, all
the factories to the money makers, and you will be
crushed again under the yoke of the murderous bankers,
priests, generals, landlords, police, and other hirelings
of bourgeois tyranny. They will whip you into slavery,
and on the bleeding backs of you, your wives, and your
children they will ride themselves to wealth. We
Communists only can save you from the bloody rage of
the White demons. Let us defend Red Petrograd to the
last drop of our blood! Down with the English and
French imperialist bloodsuckers! Long live the prole-
tarian World Revolution!"

Having ended his speech he signalled to the accom-
panist to strike up the "Internationale." Then fol-
lowed another strange contrast, one of those peculiar
phenomena often met with in Russia, even in the Com-
munist party. A modest, nervous, and gentle-looking


individual whom I did not know, as different from the
previous speaker as water from fire, made a strangely
earnest speech, urging the necessity of self-education as
the only means of restoring Russia's fallen fortunes. At
the admission of fallen fortunes the Jew looked up with
displeasure. He had sung the glories of the Red ad-
ministration and the exploits of the Red army. It was
not enough, said the speaker, that Russia had won the
treasured Soviet Power — that, of course, was an inesti-
mable boon — but until the people dragged themselves
out of the morass of ignorance they could not profit
by its benefits. The masses of Russia, he urged, should
set strenuously to work to raise themselves culturally
and spiritually, in order to fit themselves for the great
task they were called upon to perform, namely, to effect
the emancipation of the workers of all the world.

The "Internationale" was not sung when he con-
cluded. There was too much sincerity in his speech,
and the bombastic strains of that ditty would have been
sadly out of place. The rest of the programme con-
sisted of two stage performances, enacted by amateurs,
the first one a light comedy, and the second a series of
propagandist tableaux, depicting the sudden emancipa-
tion of the worker by the Soviet Power, heralded by
an angel dressed all in red. In one of these comrade
Rykov proudly participated. In the concluding tab-
leau the Red angel was seen guarding a smiling workman
and his family on one side, and a smiling peasant and
family on the other, while the audience was invited to
rise and sing the "Internationale."

Of conscious political intelligence in the cultural-
enlightenment committees there is none, nor under
"iron party discipline" can there possibly be any. All


Communist agitators repeat, parrot-like, the epithets
and catch-phrases dictated from above. None the less,
despite their crudity and one-sidedness, these com-
mittees serve a positive purpose in the Red army. By
the provision of entertainment the savagery of the sol-
diery has been curbed and literacy promoted. If they
were non-political and run by intelligent people with
the sole object of improving the minds of the masses
they might be made a real instrument for the further-
ance of education and culture. At present they are
often grotesque. But representing an "upward"
trend, the cultural-enlightenment committees form
a welcome contrast to the majority of Bolshevist insti-

Our survey of the essential features of the Red
army is now complete and may be summed up as
follows :

1. — A military machine, with all the attributes of
other armies but differing in terminology. Its strength
at the close of 1920 was said to be about two million,
but this is probably exaggerated.

2.— A concomitant organization, about one tenth
in size, of the Communist party, permeating the
entire army, subjected to military experts in purely
military decisions, but with absolute powers of po-
litical and administrative control, supplemented by
Special Departments of the Extraordinary Commission,
Revolutionary Tribunals, and Special Commissions
for Combating Desertion.

3. — A network of Communist-controlled propagan-
dist organizations called Cultural-Enlightenment Com-


mittees, whose object is the entertainment and edu-
cation of the soldiers.

Tractable, docile, and leaderless though the Russian
people are, the machine which has been built up in
the Red army is still a monument to the inflexible will
and merciless determination of its leader, Trotzky.
Its development has been rapid and is perhaps not
yet complete. Trotzky would make of it an abso-
lutely soul-less, will-less, obedient instrument which
he may apply to whatsoever end he thinks fit. Unless
a popular leader appears, the army is Trotzky's as
long as he can feed it.

There are those who have long believed an internal
military coup to be imminent, organized by old-time
generals such as Brusilov, Baluev, Rattel, Gutov,
Parsky, Klembovsky and others, whose names are
associated with the highest military posts in Soviet
Russia. Three things militate against the early success
of such a coup. First, the experience of internal
conspiracies shows it to be next to impossible to con-
spire against the Extraordinary Commission. Sec-
ondly, the memory of White administrations is still
too fresh in the minds of the common soldier. Thirdly,
these generals suffer from the same defect as Wrangel,
Denikin, and Kolchak, in that they are not politicians
and have no concrete programme to offer the Russian

The local popularity of peasant leaders such as the
"little fathers" Balahovitch in Bielorusia and Makhno
in Ukrainia, who denounce Bolsheviks, Tsars, and
landlords alike, shows that could a bigger man than
these be found to fire the imagination of the peasantry
on a nation-wide scale the hoped-for national peasant


uprising might become a reality. Until such a figure
arises it is not from outside pressure or internal mili-
tarist conspiracies, but in the very heart and core
of the Communist Party that we must look for the
signs of decay of Bolshevism. Such signs are already
coming to light, and must sooner or later lead to cata-
clysmic developments — unless they are forestalled by
what Pilsudski, the socialist president of the Polish
Republic, foresees as a possibility. Pilsudski spent
many years in exile in Siberia under the Tsar for
revolutionary agitation and knows Russia through and
through. He foresees the possibility that the entire
Russian population, maddened with hunger, disease,
and despair, may eventually rise and sweep down on
western Europe in a frantic quest for food and warmth.
Such a point will not be reached as long as the
peasant, successfully defying Bolshevist administra-
tion, continues to produce sufficient for his own re-
quirements. It needs, however, but some severe
stress of nature, such as the droughts which periodi-
cally visit the country, to reduce the people to that
condition. Will anything be able to stop such an
avalanche? Should it ever begin, the once so ardently
looked-for Russian steam roller will at last have
become an awful, devastating reality.


"the party" and the people

If I were asked what feature of the Communist
regime I regarded as, above all, the most conspicuous,
the most impressive, and the most significant, I
should say without hesitation the vast spirit-
ual gulf separating the Communist party from
the Russian people. I use the word "spiritual" not
in the sense of "religious." The Russian equivalent,
duhorny, is more comprehensive, including the
psychological, and everything relating to inner,
contemplative life, and ideals.

History scarcely knows a more flagrant misnomer
than that of "government of workers and peasants."
In the first place the Bolshevist Government consists
not of workers and peasants but of typical intellectual
bourgeois. In the second, its policy is categorically
repudiated by practically the entire Russian nation,
and it rides the saddle only by bullying the workers
and peasants by whom it purports to have been elected.
The incongruity between Russian national ideals and
the alien character of the Communists naturally will
not be apparent to outsiders who visit the country
to study the Bolshevist system from the very viewpoint
which least of all appeals to the Russian, namely, the
possibility of its success as a socialist experiment.
But those foreign socialist enthusiasts who adhere
to Bolshevist doctrines are presumably indifferent



to the sentiments of the Russian people, for their
adherence appears to be based on the most un-Russian
of all aspects of those doctrines, namely, their in-
ternationalism. And this un-Russian, international
aspect of Bolshevism is admittedly its prime charac-

There is a sense of course in which the psychology
of all peoples is becoming increasingly international,
to the great benefit of mankind. No one will deny
that half our European troubles are caused by the
chauvinistic brandishing of national flags and quarrels
about the drawing of impossible frontier lines. But
these are the antics of a noisy few — "Bolsheviks of
the right" — and do not reflect the true desire of peoples,
which is for peace, harmony, and neighbourliness. Not
so the immediate aspirations until the present time
of the Bolsheviks, whose first principle is wc~M-wide
civil war between classes, and whose brandishing of
the red flag surpasses that of the most rabid western
chauvinists. Theirs is not true internationalism.
Like their claim to represent the Russian people, it
is bogus.

The gulf between " the party " and the people yawns at
every step, but I will only mention one or two prominent
instances. The most important institution established
by the Bolsheviks is that known as the "Third Inter-
national Workers' Association," or briefly, the "Third
International." The aim of this institution is to
reproduce the Communist experiment in all countries.
The First International was founded in 1864 by Karl
Marx. It was a workers' association not world-
revolutionary in character. Its sympathy, however, with
the Paris Commune discredited it, and it was followed by


the Second, which confined itself to international labour
interests. The Third International was founded in
Moscow in the first week of March, 1919, amid cir-
cumstances of great secrecy by a chance gathering
of extreme socialists from about half a dozen of the
thirty European states, leavened with a similar number
of Asiatics. Subsequently a great meeting was held,
at which the Second, called the "yellow" International
because it is composed of moderates, was declared
defunct and superseded by the "real," that is, the
Communist, International.

The next day this group of unknown but precocious
individuals came to their headquarters at Petrograd,
" the Metropolis of the "World Revolution." I went to
meet them at the Nicholas railway station. The mystery
that enshrouded the birth of the Third International
rendered it impossible to be duly impressed with the
solemnity of the occasion, and although I had not
come either to cheer or to jeer, but simply to look on,
I could not but be struck by the comicality of the
scene. The day was frosty, and for nearly two hours
the members of the Third International, standing
bareheaded on a specially constructed tribune, wasted
time saying exactly the same things over and over
again, their speeches being punctuated by the cacoph-
ony of three badly directed bands, In spite of
their luxurious fur coats the delegates shivered and
their faces turned blue. They did not at all look the
desperadoes I had half anticipated. Some of them
were even effeminate in appearance. Only Zinoviev,
the president, with his bushy dishevelled hair, looked
like an unrepentant schoolboy amid a group of delin-
quents caught red-handed in some unauthorized prank.


The orators, with chattering teeth, sang in divers
tongues the praises of the Red regime. They lauded
the exemplary order prevailing in Russia and rejoiced
at the happiness, contentment, and devotion to the
Soviet Government which they encountered at every
step. They predicted the immediate advent of the
world revolution and the early establishment of Bol-
shevism in every country. They all perorated their
lengthy orations with the same exclamations: "Long
live the Third International!"; "Down with the
bourgeoisie!"; "Long live socialism!" (by which
they meant Bolshevism), etc., and no matter how
many times these same slogans had been shouted
already, on each occasion they were retranslated at
length, with embellishments, and to the musical
accompaniment of the inevitable "Internationale."

The position of the Third International in Russia
and its relation to the Soviet Government are not
always easy to grasp. The executives both of the
International and of the Government are drawn
from the Communist party, while every member of the
Government must also be a member of the Third
International. Thus, though technically not inter-
changeable, the terms Soviet Government, Third
International, and Communist party merely repre-
sent different aspects of one and the same thing.
It is in their provinces of action that they differ.
The province of the Third International is the
whole world, including Russia: that of the pres-
ent Soviet Government is Russia alone. It would
seem as if the Third International, with its su-
perior powers and scope and with firebrands like
Zinoviev and Trotzky at its helm, must override the


Moscow government. In practice, however, this is
not so. For the hard logic of facts has now proved
to the Moscow government that the theories which
the Third International was created to propagate are
largely wrong and unpracticable, and they are being
repudiated by the master mind of Lenin, the head of
the home government. Thus two factions have
grown up within the Communist party: that of Lenin,
whose interests for the time are centred in Russia
and who would sacrifice world-revolutionary dreams
to preserve Bolshevist power in one country; and that
of the Third International, which throws discretion
to the winds, standing for world-revolution for ever
and no truck with the bourgeoisie of capitalistic
states. Hitherto the majority in the party have
swung to the side of Lenin, as is not unnatural, for
very few rank-and-file Communists really care about
the world revolution, having no conception of what it
implies. And if they had, they would probably support
him more heartily still.

At the very moment when the Third International
was haranguing for its own satisfaction outside the
Nicholas station, very different things were happening
in the industrial quarters of the city. There, the
workers, incensed by the suppression of free speech,
of freedom of movement, of workers' cooperation, of
free trading between the city and the villages, and by
the ruthless seizure and imprisonment of their spokes-
men, had risen to demand the restoration of their
rights. They were led by the men of the Putilov
iron foundry, the largest works in Petrograd, at one
time employing over forty thousand hands. The
Putilov workers were ever to the fore in the revolution-


ary movement. They led the strikes which resulted
in the revolution of March, 1917. Their independent
bearing, their superior intelligence and organization,
and their efforts to protest against Bolshevist despotism,
aroused the fears and hatred of the Communists, who
quite rightly attributed this independent attitude to
the preference of the workers for the non-Bolshevist
political parties.

The dispute centred round the Bolshevist food
system which was rapidly reducing the city to a state
of starvation. Hoping the storm would blow over,
the Bolshevist authorities allowed it for a time to run
its course, endeavouring to appease the workers by
an issue of rations increased at the expense of the rest
of the population. The latter measure only intensified
the workers' indignation, while the hesitation of the
Bolsheviks to employ force encouraged them in their
protests. Unauthorized meetings and processions in-
creased in frequency, the strikes spread to every fac-
tory in the city, speakers became more violent, and
all sorts of jokes were made publicly at the expense of
the Bolsheviks. Ambling in the industrial quarters
I saw a party of men emerge from a plant singing
the Marseillaise and cheering. At the same time
they carried a banner on which was rudely imprinted
the following couplet:

Doloi Lenina s koninoi,
Daitje tsarya s svininoi,

which being interpreted means: "Down with Lenin
and horseflesh, give us a tsar and pork!"

As the disturbances developed, typewritten leaf-


lets began to be distributed containing resolutions
passed at the various meetings. One of these leaflets
was the resolution passed unanimously by 12,000
workers (at that time the entire staff) of the Putilov
works, demanding that the task of provisioning be
restored to the former cooperative societies. The
language of the resolution was violent, the Bolshevist
leaders were referred to as bloody and hypocritical
tyrants, and demands were also put forward for the
cessation of the practice of torture by the Extra-
ordinary Commission and for the immediate release
of numerous workers' representatives.

I knew of this resolution the day of the meeting,
because some friends of mine were present at it. The
proceedings were enthusiastic in the extreme. The
Bolsheviks did not mind that much, however, because
they were careful that nothing about it should get into
the press. But when the typed resolutions spread
surreptitiously with alarming rapidity, in exactly
the same way as in December, 1916, the famous
speech of Miliukoff against Rasputin in the Duma
was secretly distributed from hand to hand, then
the Bolsheviks saw things were going too far and took
urgent measures to suppress the unrest without any
further delay.

One Sunday between thirty and forty street cars
full of sailors and guards, the latter of whom spoke
a language that workers who encountered them de-
clared was not Russian, arrived in the vicinity of the
Putilov works and occupied all the entrances. During
the next three days between three and four hundred
men were arrested, while in those cases where the
workers were not to be found their wives were taken


in their stead. This process is always simple enough
for the workers are not allowed to possess arms. It
is significant that among those arrested at one of the
shipping yards were two men who had declared at a
meeting that even the English parliament was superior

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Online LibraryPaul DukesRed dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia → online text (page 18 of 22)