Paul Dukes.

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

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italism. Has not the Third International to this
day persistently proclaimed its intention to conspire
against the very governments with which the Bol-
sheviks have made, or are hoping to make, commercial
contracts, and from which they now beg philanthropic
aid? But the Third International, I believe, has
a bark which is much worse than its bite. Our fear
of it is largely of our own creation. Its lack of under-
standing of the psychology of western workers is
amazing, and its appeals are astonishingly illogical.
To kill it, let it talk.


The essential impotence of the Third International
is fully recognized by those little nations that were
once part of Russia. Having thrown off the yoke
of revolution, they have long sought to open economic
intercourse with their unlovable eastern neighbour.
True, their attitude is inspired in part by apprehension
of those who would compel them forcibly to renew the
severed tie rather than allow them to re-unite volun-
tarily with Russia when the time shall mature;
but their desire for normal intercourse is based
primarily on the conviction that the communistic
experiment would rapidly succumb under any normal
conditions introduced from outside. Nothing will
undermine Bolshevism so effectually as kindness, and
the more non -political, disinterested, and all-embracing
that kindness, the geater will be its effect. With
the supplanting of the spirit of political bigotry by
that of human sympathy many rank and file Com-
munists, attracted to the party in their ignor-
ance by its deceptive catch-phraseology and the
energy, resolution, and hypnotic influence of its
leaders, will realize with the rest of Russia and with
the whole world that Bolshevism is politically a des-
potism, economically a folly, and as a democracy a
stupendous delusion, which will never guide the
proletarian ship to the harbour of communistic felicity.

Misgivings are often expressed in liberally minded
circles that redaction might undo all that has been
achieved since that historic moment when Nicholas
II signed the deed of abdication from the Russian
throne. "Reaction," in these days of loose terminology,
is as abused a word as "bourgeois," ''proletariat," or
"soviet." If it means stepping backward, a certain


amount of healthy reaction in Russia is both desirable
and inevitable. Are not retrogression and progress
at times identical? No man, having taken the wrong
turning, can advance upon his pilgrimage until he
returns to the cross-roads. But the Russian nation
has undergone a psychological revolution more pro-
found than any visible changes, great though these
be, and the maximum of possible reaction must still
leave the country transformed beyond recognition.
This would still be the case even if the sum-total of
revolutionary achievements were confined to the decrees
promulgated during the first month after the overthrow
of the Tsar. We need not fear healthy reaction.

No power on earth can deprive the peasant of the
land now acquired, in the teeth of landlord and Bol-
shevik alike, on a basis of private ownership. By
strange irony of fate, the Communist regime has
made the Russian peasant still less communistic than
he was under the Tsar. And with the assurance of
personal possession, there must rapidly develop that
sense of responsibility, dignity, and pride which well-
tended property always engenders. For the Russian
loves the soil with all his heart, with all his soul, and
with all his mind. His folksongs are full of affec-
tionate descriptions of it. His plough and his harrow
are to him more than mere wood and iron. He loves
to think of them as living things, as personal friends.
Barbaric instincts have been aroused by the Revo-
lution, and this simple but exalted mentality will
remain in abeyance as long as those continue to
rule who despise the peasant's primitive aspirations and
whose world-revolutionary aims are incomprehensible
to him. A veiled threat still lies behind ambiguous


and inconsistent Bolshevist protestations. When this
veiled threat is eliminated and the peasant comes
fully into his own I am convinced that he will be found
to have developed independent ideas and an unlooked-
for capacity for judgment and reflection which will
astonish the world, and which with but little practice
will thoroughly fit him for all the duties of citizenship.

Shortly after the Baltic republic of Lithuania had
come to terms with Soviet Russia, one of the members
of the Lithuanian delegation who had just returned
from Moscow told, me the following incident. In
discussing with the Bolsheviks, out of official hours,
the internal Russian situation, the Lithuanians asked
how, in view of the universal misery and lack of
liberty, the Communists continued to maintain their
dominance. To which a prominent Bolshevist leader
laconically replied: "Our power is based on three
things: first, on Jewish brains; secondly, on Lettish
and Chinese bayonets; and thirdly, on the crass
stupidity of the Russian people."

This incident eminently betrays the true sentiments
of the Bolshevist leaders toward the Russians. They
despise the people over whom they rule. They regard
themselves as of superior type, a sort of cream
of humanity, the "vanguard of the revolutionary
proletariat, " as they often call themselves. The
Tsarist Government, except in its final degenerate days,
was at least Russian in its sympathies. The kernel
of the Russian tragedy lies not in the brutality of
the Extraordinary Commission, nor even in the sup-
pression of every form of freedom, but in the fact
that the Revolution, which dawned so auspiciously and
promised so much, has actually given Russia a govern-


ment utterly alienated from the sympathies, aspirations,
and ideals of the nation.

The Bolshevist leader would find but few disputants
of his admission that Bolshevist power rests to large
extent on Jewish brains and Chinese bayonets. But
his gratitude for the stupidity of the Russian people
is misplaced. The Russian people have shown not
stupidity but eminent wisdom in repudiating both
Communism and the alternative to it presented by
the landlords and the generals. Their tolerance of
the Red preferably to the White is based upon the
conviction, universal throughout Russia, that the
Red is a merely passing phenomenon. Human nature
decrees this, but there was no such guarantee against
the Whites with the support of the Allies behind
them. A people culturally and politically immature
like the Russians may not easily be able to embody
in a formula the longings that stir the hidden depths
of their soul, but you cannot on this account call
them stupid. The Bolsheviks are all formula —
empty formula — and no soul. The Russians are all
soul with no formula. They possess no developed
system of self-expression outside the arts. To the
Bolshevik the letter is all in all. He is the slave of
his shibboleths. To the Russian the letter is nothing;
it is only the spirit that matters. More keenly than
is common in the western world he senses that the
kingdom of heaven is to be found not in politics or
creeds of any sort or kind, but simply within each one
of us as individuals.

The man who says: "The Russians are a nation of
fools," assumes a prodigious responsibility. You can-
not call a people stupid who in a single century have


raised themselves from obscurity to a position of pre-
eminence in the arts, literature, and philosophy. And
whence did this galaxy of geniuses from Glinka to
Scriabine and Stravinsky, or such as Dostoievsky,
Turgeniev, Tolstoy, and the host of others whose
works have so profoundly affected the thought of the
last half-century — whence did they derive their in-
spiration if not from the common people around them?
The Russian nation, indeed, is not one of fools, but
of potential geniuses. But the trend of their genius
is not that of western races. It lies in the arts and
philosophy and rarely descends to the more sordid
realms of politics and commerce.

Yet, in spite of a reputation for unpracticalness,
the Russians have shown the world at least one supreme
example of economic organization. It is forgotten
nowadays that Russia deserves an equal share in the
honours of the Great War. She bore the brunt of the
first two years of it and made possible the long defence
of the western front. And it is forgotten (if ever it
was fully recognized) that while corruption at Court
and treachery in highest military circles were leading
Russia to perdition, the provisioning of the army and
of the cities was upheld heroically, with chivalrous
self-sacrifice, and with astonishing proficiency, by
the one great democratic and popularly controlled
organization Russia has ever possessed, to wit, the
Union of Cooperative Societies. The almost in-
credible success of the Russian cooperative move-
ment was due, I believe, more than anything else
to the spirit of devotion that actuated its leaders. It
is futile to point, as some do, to exceptional cases of
malpractices. When an organization springs up with


mushroom growth, as did the Russian cooperatives,
defects are bound to arise. The fact remains that
by the time the Revolution came, the Russian cooper-
ative societies were not only supplying the army but
also providing for the needs of almost the entire nation
with an efficiency unsurpassed in any other country.

The Bolsheviks waged a ruthless and desperate
war against public cooperation. The Cooperative
Unions represented an organ independent of the
State and could therefore not be tolerated under a
Communist regime. But, like religion, cooperation
could never be completely uprooted. On the con-
trary, their own administration being so incompetent,
the Bolsheviks have on many occasions been compelled
to appeal to what was left of the cooperative so-
cieties to help them out, especially in direct dealings
with the peasantry. So that, although free coopera-
tion is entirely suppressed, the shell of the former
great organization exists in a mutilated form, and
offers hope for its resuscitation in the future when
all cooperative leaders are released from prison.
There are many ways of reducing the Russian problem
to simple terms, and not the least apt is a struggle
between Cooperation and Coercion.

A deeper significance is attached in Russia to the
word "Cooperation" than is usual in western countries.
The Russian Cooperative Unions up to the time
when the Bolsheviks seized power by no means limited
their activities to the mere acquisition and distri-
bution of the first necessities of life. They had also
their own press organs, independent and well-informed,
they were opening scholastic establishments, public
libraries and reading rooms, and they were organizing


departments of Public Health and Welfare. Russian
Cooperation must be understood in the widest possible
sense of mutual aid and the dissemination of mental
and moral as well as of physical sustenance. It is
a literal application on a wide social scale of the ex-
hortation to do unto others as you would that they
should do to you. This comprehensive and idealistic
movement was the nearest expression yet manifested
of the Russian social ideal, and I believe that, what-
ever the outward form of the future constitution of
Russia may be, in essence it will resolve itself into a
Cooperative Commonwealth.

There is one factor in the Russian problem which
is bound to play a large part in its solution, although
it is the most indefinite. I mean the power of emotion-
alism. Emotionalism is the strongest trait of the
Russian character and it manifests itself most often,
especially in the peasantry, in religion. The cal-
culated efforts of the Bolsheviks to suppress religion
were shattered on the rocks of popular belief. Their
categorical prohibition to participate in or attend any
religious rites was ultimately confined solely to Com-
munists, who when convicted of attending divine
services are liable to expulsion from the privileged
ranks for "tarnishing the reputation of the party."
As regards the general populace, to proclaim that
Christianity is "the opium of the people" is as far
as the Communists now dare go in their dissuasions.
But the people flock to church more than ever they
did before, and this applies not only to the peasants
and factory-hands but also to the bourgeoisie, who
it was thought were growing indifferent to religion.
This is not the first time that under national affliction


the Russian people have sought solace in higher things.
Under the Tartar yoke they did the same, forgetting
their material woes in the creation cf many of those
architectural monuments, often quaint and fantastic
but always impressive, in which they now worship.
I will not venture to predict what precisely may be
the outcome of the religious revival which undoubtedly
is slowly developing, but will content myself with
quoting the words of a Moscow workman, just arrived
from the Red capital, whom I met in the northern
Ukraine in November, 1920. "There is only one man
in the whole of Russia," said this workman, "whom
the Bolsheviks fear from the bottom of their hearts, and
that is Tihon, the Patriarch of the Russian Church."

A story runs of a Russian peasant, who dreamt
that he was presented with a huge bowl of delicious
gruel. But, alas, he was given no spoon to eat it
with. And he awoke. And his mortification at
having been unable to enjoy the gruel was so great
that on the following night, in anticipation of a re-
currence of the same dream, he was careful to take
with him to bed a large wooden spoon to eat the
gruel with when next it should appear.

The untouched plate of gruel is like the priceless
gift of liberty presented to the Russian people by the
Revolution. Was it, after all, to be expected that
after centuries of despotism, and amid circumstances
of world cataclysm, the Russian nation would all at
once be inspired with knowledge of how to use the
new-found treasure, and of the duties and responsi-
bilities that accompany it? But I am convinced that


during these dark years of affliction the Russian peas-
ant is, so to speak, fashioning for himself a spoon,
and when again the dream occurs, he will possess
the wherewithal to eat his gruel. Much faith is
needed to look ahead through the black night of the
present and still see dawn ahead, but eleven years of
life amongst all classes from peasant to courtier have
perhaps infected me with a spark of that patriotic
love which, despite an affectation of pessimism and
self-deprecation, does almost invariably glow deep
down in the heart of every Russian. I make no
excuse for concluding this book with the oft-quoted
lines of "the people's poet," Tiutchev, who said more
about his country in four simple lines than all other
poets, writers, and philosophers together. In their
simplicity and beauty the lines are quite untranslatable,
and my free adaptation to the English, which must
needs be inadequate, I append with apologies to
all Russians:

Umom Rossii nie poniatj;
Arshinom obshchym nie izmieriij;
U niei osobiennaya statj —
V Rossiu mozhno tolko vieritj.

Seek not by Reason to discern

The soul of Russia : or to learn

Her thoughts by measurements designed

For other lands. Her heart, her mind,

Her ways in suffering, woe, and need,

Her aspirations and her creed,

Are all her own —

Depths undefined,
To be discovered, fathomed, known

By Faith alone.


APR 1 5 1982


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