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to the Soviets as the Bolsheviks ran them. These
two were among those who were subsequently shot.
When after returning to England I recounted this
incident to the Committee on International Affairs
of the British Labour Party, the gentleman on my
right (I do not know his name) found nothing better
to exclaim than, "Serve 'em right."

The uproar over the arrest of the workers, and es-
pecially of their wives, was terrific. The resolutions
having spread all over the city, you could already hear
people whispering to each other with furtive joy that
there was shortly to be a general insurrection, that
Zinoviev and others were preparing to take flight,
and so on. In the course of three weeks things became
so bad that it was deemed advisable to call Lenin
from Moscow in the hope that his presence would
overawe the workers, and a great Communist counter-
demonstration was organized at the Narodny Dam.

The Narodny Dom (House of the People) is a huge
palace built for the people by the late Tsar. Before
the war it used to be very difficult, owing to the system
of abonnements, to obtain tickets to the state theatres,
of which the Marinsky Opera and the Alexandrinsky
Theatre were the chief ; so the Tsar, at his own expense,
built this palace and presented it to the people. Be-
sides numerous varieties, it contained a large theatre
where the same dramatic works were produced as in
the state theatres, and the biggest opera house in


Russia, where the Russian peasant Shaliapin, the
greatest operatic singer and actor the world has yet
seen, sang regularly to huge audiences of six or eight
thousand lower middle class and working people.
In the days when I was a student of the Conservatoire
of Petrograd, eking out a living by teaching English,
I often used to frequent the Narodny Dom opera.
There was free admission to a portion of the hall, while
the most expensive seats were at cinematograph
prices. The inevitable deficit was made up out of
the state exchequer. Over the porch of the building
was an inscription: From the Tsar to his people. When
the Bolsheviks came into power they removed this
inscription, and also abolished the name of "House
of the People," changing it to "House of Rosa Lux-
embourg and Karl Liebknecht." Containing the larg-
est auditorium in Russia, this building is now fre-
quently used for special celebrations. As a rule, on such
occasions only the Communist elite and special dele-
gates are admitted. The common people to whom
the Tsar presented the palace are refused admission.

On the evening of the great Communist counter-
demonstration against the Petrograd strikers, machine
guns barred the entrance to what was once the House
of the People, and the approaches bristled with bayo-
nets. The former Tsar, when last he visited it, drove
up in an open carriage. Not so the new "Tsar," the
president of the workers' republic, whose moment of
arrival was a secret and who arrived literally hedged
round with a special bodyguard of Red cadets.

The audience was a picked one, consisting of the
principal Communist organs of the city and delegates
of organizations such as trade unions, teachers, and


pupils, selected by the Communists. I got in with
a ticket procured by my manager. When Lenin
emerged on to the stage, the audience rose as one man
and greeted him with an outburst of vociferous ap-
plause lasting several minutes. The little man, who
has such a hold on a section of his followers, advanced
casually to the footlights. His oriental features be-
trayed no emotion. He neither smiled, nor looked
austere. Dressed in a plain drab lounge suit, he
stood with his hands in his pockets, waiting patiently
till the cheering should subside. Was he indifferent
to the welcome, or was he secretly pleased? He showed
no sign and at length held up his hand to indicate
that there had been enough of it.

The orators of the revolution— and they are indeed
great orators — all have their distinctive style. That
of Trotzky, with poised, well-finished, well-reasoned
phrases, is volcanic, fierily hypnotic : that of Zinoviev,
torrential, scintillating with cheap witticisms, devoid
of original ideas, but brilliant in form and expression;
that of Lunacharsky, violent, yet nobly and patheti-
cally impressive, breathing an almost religious fervour.
Lenin differs from all of these. He knows and cares
for no rhetorical cunning. His manner is absolutely
devoid of all semblance of affectation. He talks fast
and loudly, even shouts, and his gesticulations remind
one of the tub-thumping demagogue. But he posses-
ses something the others do not possess. Cold and
calculating, he is not actuated to the extent Zinoviev
and Trotzky are by venom against political opponents
and the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, despite his
speeches, which are often nothing more than necessary
pandering to the cruder instincts of his colleagues,


Lenin (himself an ex-landlord) has never ceased to
believe not only that the Russian bourgeoisie as a
class are necessary to the state, but that the entire
Russian peasantry is and always will be a class of
small propertj'-owning farmers with the psychology
of the petit bourgeois. True, in 1918 the attempt
was made, chiefly through the medium of committees
of the village poor, to thrust Communism upon the
peasantry by force. But it was soon relinquished
and Lenin headed the retreat. Astonishingly ignorant
of world events and completely out of harmony with
western workers, Lenin has maintained his position
in Russia simply by his understanding of this single
trait of the Russian peasant character and by repeatedly
conceding to it — even to the complete temporary
repudiation of communistic principles.

In all other respects Lenin is a dogmatic disciple
of Karl Marx, and his devotion to the cause of the
world revolution is tempered only by the slowly
dawning realization that things in the western world
are not exactly as enthusiastic Communists describe.
But Lenin's better understanding of the mind of the
Russian peasant gives him an advantage over his
fellows in presenting his case to his followers, bringing
him a little nearer to actualities; so that his speech,
while laboured, abstruse, and free from rhetorical
flourish, is straightforward and, to his little-thinking
Communist audiences, carries persuasion that he must
be right. But the "right" refers not to ethics, which
does not enter into Bolshevist philosophy, but only to

On the occasion T am describing also Lenin spoke
mainly of tactics. The vicious Mensheviks and So-


cialist-revolutionaries had agitated in the factories
and persuaded the workers to down tools and make
preposterous demands which were incompatible with
the principles of the workers' and peasants' govern-
ment. The chief ground cf complaint was the Bol-
shevist food commissariat. The workers were hungry.
Therefore the workers must be fed and the revolt
would subside. A heroic effort must be made to
obtain food for the factories. So the government
had decided to stop the passenger traffic on every
railroad in Russia for the space of three weeks, in
order that all available locomotives and every available
car and truck might be devoted to the sole purpose
of transporting forced supplies of food to the northern

Of the results of these so-called "freight weeks"
little need be said beyond the fact that the experiment
was never repeated on account of its complete failure
to solve the problem. For though the government
supplies did indeed very slightly increase, the popu-
lation in the end was much hungrier than before for
the very simple reason that the stoppage of the pas-
senger traffic materially interfered with the ebb and
flow of "sackmen," upon whose illicit and risky oper-
ations the public relied for at least half, and the better
half, of their food supplies!

The workers' revolt subsided, not through the better
feeding of the men, but because they were effectually
reduced to a state of abject despair by the ruthless
seizure of their leaders and the cruel reprisals against
their wives and families, and because this moment
was chosen by the authorities to remove a large draft
of workers to other industrial centres in the interior,


thus reducing their numbers. Still, on the occasion
of Lenin's visit, the workers did make a final attempt
to assert themselves. A delegation from the largest
factories was sent to present their demands, as set
forth in resolutions, to the president in person at the
Narodny Dom. But the delegation was refused admis-
sion. They returned, foiled, to their factories and ob-
served to their comrades that "it was easier to approach
the Tsar Nicholas than it was to gain access to the
president of the 'Soviet Republic'." What, I wondered,
would the Third International have thought of such

After the experiment of the "freight weeks," the
next expedient resorted to, when the selfsame demands
were again presented, was a strangely inconsistent
but an inevitable one. It was a partial concession
of freedom to "sackmen." After long and loud
clamouring, a certain percentage of workers were
granted the right to journey freely to the provinces
and bring back two poods (72 lbs.) of bread per head.
Thus they got the nickname of two-pooders and the
practice was called "two-pooding." As everyone
strove to avail himself of the right the railroads not
unnaturally became terribly congested, but the measure
nevertheless had the desired effect. Not only was
there almost immediately more bread but the price
fell rapidly. The workers travelled to the grain-
growing districts, came to terms with the villagers
who willingly gave up to them what they hid from
Bolshevist requisitioned, and journeyed back, jealously
clutching their sacks of bread. I happened to be


travelling to Moscow at this time and the sight of
swarms of wretched " two-pooders, " filling all the
cars and clambering on the roofs and buffers, was a
pitiful one indeed. But just at the moment when
it seemed as if a genuine solution of the food problem
in the capitals had been found, "two-pooding" was
summarily cut short by government edict on the
ground that the congestion of the railways rendered
impossible the transport of the government's sup-

For over a year more the Bolsheviks strove their
utmost to stave off the inevitable day when it would
no longer be possible to forbid the right of free trading.
As the feud between themselves and the peasants
deepened, and the difficulty of provisioning increased,
the government sought by one palliative after another
to counteract the effects of their own food policy.
But recently, in the spring of this year, the fateful
step was taken. Against considerable opposition from
his followers Lenin publicly repudiated the communis-
tic system of forced requisitions and with certain
restrictions restored the principle of freedom in the
buying and selling of food.

This step was a policy of desperation but it is the
most important event since the Bolshevist coup d'etat
in November, 1917. For it is a repudiation of the
fundamental plank of the Communist platform, the
first principle of which is the complete suppression
of all free trading, private business initiative, and
individual enterprise. There is no limit to the possi-
bilities opened up by this tragic necessity — as it
must seem to the Communists. But having taken it,
however reluctantly, why do they not release their


opponents from prison and invite their cooperation —
those opponents whose chief protest was against the
stupidity of the Bolshevist food system?

The explanation is that with the Bolshevist leaders
the welfare of the workers and peasants, and of hu-
manity in general, is completely subservient to the
interest of the Communist party, and this attitude is
inspired not so much by selfish motives as by an
amazingly bigoted conviction that the Bolshevist
interpretation of Marxian dogma is the sole formula
that will ultimately lead to what they regard as the
"emancipation of all workers." Astonishing as it
may seem in these days, when the better elements of
mankind are struggling to temper prejudice with
reason, theory to the Bolsheviks is all in all, while
facts are only to be recognized when they threaten
the dictatorship of the party. Thus the concession
of freedom of trade to the peasantry does not imply
any yielding of principle, but merely adaptation to
adverse conditions, a step "backward," which must
be "rectified" the moment circumstances permit.
That is why Bolshevist sophists have been talking
themselves blue since Lenin's announcement in the
endeavour to prove to home and foreign followers that
the chameleon has not and never will change its colour.
"Free trading," they say, "is only a temporary un-
avoidable evil." Temporary? But can any one who
believes in human nature conceive of a possible return
to the system Lenin has discarded?

One day there occurred in Petrograd a startling
event that would have made foreign protagonists


of proletarian dictatorship, had they been present, sit
bolt upright and diligently scratch their heads.

A re-registration of the party had taken place, the
object being to purge its ranks of what were referred to
as "undesirable elements" and "radishes," the latter
being a happy epithet invented by Trotzky to desig-
nate those who were red only on the outside. A
stringent condition of reentry was that every member
should be sponsored for his political reliability, not
only upon admission but in perpetuity, by two others.
Such were the fear and suspicion prevailing even within
the ranks of the party. The result was that, besides
those who were expelled for misdemeanours, many
Communists, disquieted by the introduction of so
stringent a disciplinary measure, profited by the re-
registration to retire, and the membership was reduced
by more than 50 per cent. A total of less than 4,000
was left out of a population of 800,000.

Immediately after the purge there were districts
of the "metropolis of the world revolution" where
scarcely a Communist was left. The central com-
mittee had been prepared to purge the party of a cer-
tain number of undesirables, but the sudden reduction
by over half was a totally unexpected blow. Its bitter-
ness was enhanced by the fact that only three weeks
earlier, by means of threats, bribes, trickery, and vio-
lence, the Communists had secured over 1,100 out of
1,390 seats at the elections to the Petrograd Soviet,
which result they were holding up to the outside world
as indicative of the spreading influence of Bolshevism.

The vitally urgent problem arose of how to increase
the party membership. With this end in view a
novel and ingenious idea was suddenly conceived.


It was resolved to make an appeal for party recruits
among the workers! Amazing though it may seem,
according to their own utterances the Communist
leaders thought of this course only as a last resort.
To the outsider this must seem almost incredible.
Even in Russia it seemed so at first, but on second
thoughts it appeared less strange. For ever since
the murder in 1918 of the Jewish commissars Volo-
darsky and Uritzky, the former by unknown workmen
and the latter by a Socialist-Revolutionary Jew, the
Communists had come to regard the workers on the
whole as an unreliable element, strongly under Men-
shevist and Socialist-Revolutionary influence. The
small section that joined the Bolsheviks were elevated
to posts of responsibility, and thus became detached
from the masses. But a larger section, openly adhering
to anti-Bolshevist parties, were left, and the persecution
to which their spokesmen were constantly subjected
only enhanced their prestige in the workers' eyes.

Of whom, then, had the Communist party con-
sisted for the first two years of the Red regime? The
question is not easy to answer, for the systems of
admission have varied as much as the composition of
the party itself. The backbone of the rank and file
was originally formed by the sailors, whom I heard
Trotzky describe during the riots of July, 1917, as
"the pride and glory of the revolution." But a year
or so later there was a good sprinkling of that type
of workman who, when he is not a Communist, is
described by the Communists as "workman bour-
geois." Though the latter were often self-seekers
and were regarded by the workers in general as snobs,
they were a better element than the sailors, who


with few exceptions were ruffians. Further recruits
were drawn from amongst people of most varied
and indefinite type — yardkeepers, servant girls, ex-
policemen, prison warders, tradesmen, and the petty
bourgeoisie. In rare instances one might find students
and teachers, generally women of the soft, dreamy,
mentally weak type, but perfectly sincere and dis-
interested. Most women Communists of the lower
ranks resembled ogresses.

In early days membership of the party, which
rapidly came to resemble a political aristocracy, was
regarded as an inestimable privilege worth great
trouble and cost to obtain. The magic word Com-
munist inspired fear and secured admission and pref-
erence everywhere. Before it every barrier fell.
Of course endless abuses arose, one of which was the
sale of the recommendations required for membership.
As workers showed no inclination to join, it was self-
seekers for the most part who got in, purchasing their
recommendations by bribes or for a fixed sum and
selling them in their turn after admission. These
were the "undesirables" of whom the leaders were
so anxious to purge the party.

Various expedients were then devised to filter ap-
plicants. Party training schools were established
for neophytes, where devotion to "our" system was
fanned into ecstasy while burning hatred was excited
toward every other social theory whatsoever. The
training schools were never a brilliant success, for a
variety of reasons. The instruction was only theoret-
ical and the lecturers were rarely able to clothe their
thoughts in simple language or adapt the abstruse
aspects of sociological subjects to the mentality of


their audiences, consisting of very youthful workers
or office employees lured into attendance by an extra
half pound of bread issued after each lecture. The
course was irksome, involving sacrifice of leisure
hours, and the number of ideiny ("idealistic") ap-
plicants was too small to permit rigorous discipline.
The training schools were gradually superseded by
Communist clubs, devoting their attention to concerts
and lectures, resembling the cultural-enlightenment
committees in the army.

Another deterrent to "radishes" was devised by
establishing three degrees for professing converts:

1 Sympathizers.

2 Candidates.

3 Fully qualified Communists.

Before being crowned with the coveted title of "mem-
ber of the Communist party," neophytes had to
pass through the first two probationary stages, in-
volving tests of loyalty and submission to party dis-
cipline. It was the prerogative only of the third
category to bear arms. It was to them that pref-
erence was given in all appointments to posts of res-

One source there is, upon which the Bolsheviks
can rely for new drafts with some confidence. I
refer to the Union of Communist Youth. Realizing
their failure to convert the present generation, the
Communists have turned their attention to the next
and established this Union which all school children
are encouraged to join. Even infants, when their
parents can be induced or compelled to part with
them, are prepared for initiation to the Union by
concentration in colonies and homes, where they are


fed on preferential rations at the expense of the rest
of the population, and clothed with clothing seized
from children whose parents refuse to be separated.
It is the object of these colonies to protect the young
minds from pernicious non-Communist influence and
so to instil Bolshevist ideology that by the time they
reach adolescence they will be incapable of imbibing
any other. According to Bolshevist admissions many
of these homes are in an appalling state of insanitation,
but a few are kept up by special efforts and exhibited
to foreign visitors as model nurseries. It is still
too early to estimate the success of this system. Per-
sonally I am inclined to think that, when not defeated
by the misery of insanitation and neglect, the propa-
gandist aims will be largely counteracted by the silent
but inevitably benevolent influence of the self-sacri-
ficing intellectuals (doctors, matrons, and nurses)
whose services cannot be dispensed with in the running
of them. The tragedy of the children of Soviet Russia
is in the numbers that are thrown into the streets.
But the Union of Communist Youth, consisting of
adolescents, with considerable license permitted them,
with endless concerts, balls, theatre parties and excur-
sions, supplementary rations and issues of sweetmeats,
processioning, flag-waving, and speechmaking at pub-
lic ceremonies, is still the most reliable source of
recruits to the Communist party.

It will be readily realized that the party consisted of
a heterogeneous medley of widely differing characters,
in which genuine toilers were a minority. When
the novel suggestion was made of inviting workers to
join, this fact was admitted with laudable candour.
The Bolshevist spokesmen frankly avowed they had


completely forgotten the workers, and a great cam-
paign was opened to draw them into the party. "The
watchword 'Open the party doors to the workers',"
wrote Pravda on July 25, 1919, "has been forgotten.
Workers get 'pickled' as soon as they join" — which
meant they become Communists and entirely lose
their individuality as workers. Zinoviev wrote a
long proclamation to toilers explaining who the Com-
munists were, and their objects.

"The Bolshevist party," said he, "was not born
a year or two ago. Our party has behind it more than
one decade of glorious activity. The best workers
of the world called themselves Communists with
pride. . . . The party is not a peculiar sect, it
is not an aristocracy of labour. It consists also of
workers and peasants — only more organized, more
developed, knowing what they want and with a fixed
programme. The Communists are not the masters, in
the bad sense of that word, of the workers and peasants,
but only their elder comrades, able to point out the
right path. . . . Recently we have purged our
ranks. We have ejected those who in our opinion
did not merit the grand honour of being called Com-
munists. They were mostly not workers but people
more or less of the privileged classes who tried to 'paste'
themselves on to us because we are in power. . . .
Having done this we open wide the door of the party
to people of labour. . . . All honest labourers
may enter it. If the party has defects let us correct
them together. . . . We warn everyone that in
our party there is iron discipline. You must harden
yourself and at the call of the party take up very
hard work. We call all who are willing to sacrifice


themselves for the working-class. Strengthen and
help the only party in the world that leads the workers
to liberty!"

With all formalities such as probationary stages
removed, and diffident candidates magnanimously
assured that if only they joined they could learn
later what it was all about, the membership of the
party in the northern capital rose in three months
to 23,000. This was slightly less than could have
been mustered, prkr to the purging, by combining
members, sympathizers, candidates, and the Union of
Communist Youth. The figures in Moscow were
approximately the same.

The above remarks apply to the rank and file.
Intellectuality in the party has always been represented
largely, though by no means exclusively, by Jews, who
dominate the Third International, edit the Soviet
journals, and direct propaganda. It must never be
forgotten, however, that there are just as many Jews
who are opposed to Bolshevism, only they cannot make
their voice heard. I find that those who warn against
a coming pogrom of Jews as a result of the evils of

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Online LibraryPaul DukesRed dusk and the morrow; adventures and investigations in red Russia → online text (page 19 of 22)