|This article from the 1922 extension to the 1911 encyclopedia is an update of the information in the article Russia.|
RUSSIA In 1920-1 Soviet Russia had shrunk considerably by 1921 in comparison with the former Russian Empire. Instead of a population of some 180 millions it comprised in 1921 about 130 millions, of whom io millions were peasants and the rest were divided among the townsfolk and the nomadic and hunting tribes of the eastern steppes and of Siberia. It is estimated that the country lost 1,700,000 killed in the course of the World War, but it is impossible to form even an approximate conception of the number of those who perished from the indirect effects of the war through wounds, ill-health and privations, and of those who were destroyed by the massacres of the civil war, the misery of retreats and migrations, the epidemics of typhus, cholera, diphtheria which claimed a heavy toll in the unsanitary conditions of life. It would hardly be art exaggeration to put the number of victims of these disorders at some io millions. The abnormal increase of the death-rate has been definitely registered in certain cases, and there is good reason to suppose that in all centres where people congregated for political or economic reasons exceptional mortality prevailed and the health of the population was enfeebled through starvation and sickness. Petrograd, with 2,250,000 inhabitants in 1914, had been reduced to some 700,- 000, and Moscow to 1.000,000 instead of 1,800,000.
But, undoubtedly, the greatest inroads had been made by the separation of large territories that had acquired political independence. Finland accounts for a diminution of 3,000,000; Poland for 11,000,000; Esthonia and Latvia for 3,000,000; Lithuania for 5,000,000; Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan for 8,000,000; Bessarabia for 3,000,000, the districts of White Russia and Volhynia, ceded to Poland, for 3,000,000.
|Table of contents|
The great combination for economic intercourse guaranteed by the empire had been broken up to the detriment of most of its component parts. Of course, from the point of view of national separatism, the political independence of Esthonia or Latvia was a great conquest, a glorious assertion of self-determination, and a source of profit in the helpless.condition of Russia. These Baltic States serve as a kind of neutral fringe in which Bolsheviks can be met in safety by representatives of western Powers and western commerce. Gold from the Russian State reserves was being stored there, Reval and Riga serving as outlets for whatever trade was conducted with the west by the bankrupt Government of Moscow. Undoubtedly such a position, recognized by Europe and at the same time highly useful to the Soviet, might be a lucrative one. But these newborn States hardly realized sufficiently that sooner or later an account would have to be rendered to a Russia restored to its national traditions and strength. Such a historical Russia would hardly consent to leave the gates of the Baltic in the hands of alien Governments, who had done their level best to thwart its efforts at restoration in 1919, who manifested on every occasion their hostility to the Russian people and were in more dangerous proximity to Petrograd than Ireland was to London. The Bolsheviks had no objection to using Lettish mercenaries for repressing popular risings in Russia, and Lettish stockbrokers for commercial dealings with the west, but the Russian Government could not be expected to remain anti-national for ever. In the case of Poland the necessities of the industrial situation are quite as obvious as those of the commercial one. Polish industry thrived on the economic connexion with Russia. Without the Russian market Poland is economically a lifeless strip of territory: Germany does not want Polish manufactures; the only commodity it did want from Poland was cheap labour, but recent occurrences in Silesia and elsewhere show to what an extent national animosities have obstructed intercourse, even in this respect. It will be a long time before Poland will be able to use the outlet to the sea for the purpose of considerable trade and it is not likely to become ever a sea-power of some standing. In the meantime Poland in 1921 was practically bankrupt, with its currency enormously depreciated. It would certainly not seek reunion with Russia, but it might regret the opportunity it had in 1919 for helping in the restoration of a national government in Russia. Lithuania, with its unhappy situation in the intersection of the lines of action of three powerful neighbours - Germany, Poland and Russia - had to keep up a front primarily against the Poles as its most dangerous neighbours. As German protection was excluded by the policy of the Entente and especially of France, it seemed certain that the Lithuanians would sooner or later have to lean on Russia. But it would have to be a Russia with a civilized Government and a solid national basis. As for Rumania, the seizure of Bessarabia, though confirmed by decree of the Entente Powers, and the wholesale dispossession of Russian landowners, had not pacified the province, of which half the population belonged to the Russian stock and in which even many Moldavians were reputed Russophiles. The alliance between Rumania and Poland, concluded in the spring of 1921, might serve the purpose against a possible Bolshevist offensive, but would hardly help against a reconstituted National State. In the Caucasus again, the various alien nationalities are so intermixed and so hostile to each other that it was impossible to expect the rise of any local federation or even of durable peace: the Armenians, the Georgians, the Caucasian Tartars, as soon as they were free of their movements, were inclined to jump at each other's throats, and the necessity of a strong empire holding their appetites for self-determination in check was recognized even in 1921: it formed the background of the Soviet Govern ments artificially created in Azerbaijan, in Georgia and in Armenia. The factor of economic interdependence was also clearly to the fore: Georgians normally hate Armenians, though the rural population of Georgian stock wants the cooperation of the Armenians in the towns. The Tartars would fain swoop down on the people in the plains, and have repeatedly tried to do so, but after a time the necessity of drawing supplies from peaceful agriculturists and traders asserts itself among them. The oil treasures of Baku are of paramount importance to any Russian State and on the other hand these oil wells cannot be exploited without drawing supplies from a "Hinterland" furnishing food and manufactured articles. Above all, these regions can reckon on peaceful development only if there is a strong police force to keep the heterogeneous elements in order. Such a force could only be provided under existing conditions by Russia. Even the Bolsheviks had found access to this disturbed region as negotiators and pacifiers although their methods of pacification were of a peculiar kind - mainly the extermination or driving out of elements opposed to the Soviets.
On the whole there could be no doubt in 1921 that anti-Russian tendencies and political arrangements found their chief support in the absurdity of Bolshevik rule as well as from a recollection of the oppressive policy of the Tsarist period. A change for the better in the direction of freedom and democracy in Russia would render it possible to restore to some degree the economic and political ties which rendered fruitful the coOperation between these interdependent elements. As things stood, Soviet Russia was in 1921 deprived of important commercial outlets and industrial auxiliaries, and had to pay a proportionate price for such help as she could get from them.
The curtailment of these resources was, however, of small importance when compared with the misrule of the Communist authorities in Russia proper. As a result of the civil war, of the proscription of trade, of the destruction of the middle classes, of the ruin of currency and credit, the processes of circulation had been impeded and blocked to such an extent that one had to look back to the Mongol invasions in order to find anything similar in magnitude to the misery of the situation up to the middle of 1921. The struggles in the Ukraine, with the repeated changes of rulers (democratic Ukrainians, the German protectorate, Petlura's bands, Bolsheviks, Denikin's White Guards, the Bolsheviks again, a Polish invasion, the Bolsheviks again), and the accompanying sequence of risings and punitive expeditions had made the south-western granary of the black soil almost unavailable for years to come. In the same way the Donets basin, the Cossack territories, the Volga provinces had been the scene of bitter conflicts and disturbances which had affected their productivity in a most unfavourable way.' In 1921 one could hardly talk of a Russian railway system. It was already worn out to a great extent by the war and rendered useless for the bulk of the population by the strain put on it by military exigencies. The Soviet administration had been trying hard to effect the most urgent repairs as to rails, engines and trucks, and had utilized a considerable part of the gold reserve to buy locomotives and rolling-stock abroad. But the needs were so great and the engineering resources of Russia had fallen so low, that there was no marked improvement in this respect.
The restrictions as to trade had been relaxed lately, by the decrees of March 29 and May 17 1921, and a lame attempt had been made to revive trade, but all these concessions were too much in contradiction with other standing features of Communist policy to produce an extensive change in the situation. The fact 1 Production of coal in the Donets basin for the first four months of 1913, 1919 and 1920 (in thousands of poods).
January. ... .
March. ... .
April. .. .
(Report of Lord Emmott's Committee.) remained that the dictatorship of the Soviets had employed itself systematically on cutting the connecting nerves of the economic organism and had thereby produced a state of paralysis which it was out of question to heal by a few decrees.
One of the hateful consequences of this self-inflicted disorder was the severance between town and country. The rise and the growth of towns depend directly on ways of communication and the circulation of men and goods. They are primarily centres of distribution and exchange, and if the roads to them are obstructed they are unable to perform their economic functions of distribution and exchange. There was, of course, a secondary cause to their decay in "Sovdepia," namely the fact that they were centres of industry and affected by the ruin. But their decay as centres of commerce was bound in itself to produce a back flow of the population towards the villages. Such a back flow was especially indicated in Russia, where the distinction between rural and urban life was never a very marked one, and where large numbers of the inhabitants, such as cabmen, carriers, porters, small tradesmen, were recruited from the villages for a time and accustomed to return to their rural homes at certain periods of the year. In "Sovdepia" this mixed population tried to escape from the deadening grip of the Bolsheviks in the towns to the rural districts. It could live a freer life there, and, besides, it was nearer to the direct source of food-stuffs - the tilled soil. In this way the economic evolution of "Sovdepia" might be described as a regress from commercial to natural husbandry.
Another side of this process of "naturalization" was connected with the disappearance of the mainspring of flourishing commerce - credit. The causes of this phenomenon are partly of an economic and partly of a political nature. As the whole system of Communism is based on war against capital, no accumulation of wealth or resources should be allowed in private hands. This being so, no transactions can be carried out in the strength of confidence in a person's ability to meet engagements in the future. Cash payments and (in view of the worthless currency) barter are the only legitimate forms of exchange. To this must be added the effect produced by arbitrary expropriations by the renunciation of State liabilities, at home and abroad, by the absence of any legal security against dispossession. In such conditions there can be no talk of prosperous economic intercourse. Not the market but the barrack is the social center.
The will of a people to live cannot be entirely extinguished even by a Communist regime. Practice reacts by all conceivable means against the theory. Clandestine trade had been going on in Russia all through the years 1918-21. The Sukharevka market in Moscow teemed with people bidding all kinds of goods for sale. Those who succeeded in getting a passage by rail or by river-craft carried little stores of merchandise in sacks, ostensibly for their own use, in reality for trade purposes. What prices such contraband goods fetched was another matter: people had to pay fantastic sums for the risks incurred by the traders, besides making up for the depreciation of the currency. Anyhow the flow of speculation had never ceased in spite of all the decrees of the Soviet, and the rulers had recently made up their mind to recognize the existence and to admit in half-hearted way the legality of local trade (March 1921). This was proclaimed in the west as a great victory of common sense over extremist doctrine: it was in truth an inevitable admission which did not do away with the main causes of the disorder - insecurity, disruption of communications, distrust, corrupt and arbitrary interference by the commissars. As long as these causes continued to operate, the economic life of Russia would be suffering from their cumulative effects, and the social intercourse of the country was bound to be disturbed by the fever of fraudulent and rapacious profiteering in an atmosphere of misery and disease.
State of Peasantry. - One of the first decrees of the Bolsheviks proclaimed the abolition of private property and the nationalization of the land. In practice this decree sanctioned the disorderly grabbing of estates by the adjoining peasantry, and the new rulers connived at this form of appropriation for the sake of its psychological effect as a revolutionary act. This meant that they renounced "nationalization" at the same time as they professed to carry it out, and although they tried to save their face by distinguishing between the ownership attributed to the republic and the possession of land snatched by the peasants, the fact remained that the October Revolution as translated into agrarian terms meant the passage of some 50 million dessiatins (135 million ac.) from former landowners into the hands of "petty bourgeois" of the peasant class. The fact that some of the new proprietors held in village groups while others held in individual homesteads did not alter the fundamental opposition between the two social conceptions. The history of the years of Soviet domination up to July 1921 showed that the Communists did not realize at once the consequences of the agrarian revolution registered by their decree. They strove to carry out their programme of nationalization in two directions: they kept in the hands of the Commonwealth a considerable number of estates which had belonged to the State, the Imperial family and certain private landowners - they based their policy of food supply on the principle that the peasants were tenants at will of the republic liable to unlimited exactions for the benefit of the whole.
Under the first head a series of measures were adopted for the exploitation of estates on communistic principles. In the peculiar terminology of the Soviet a number of "Sovkhoses" and "Kolkhoses" were carved out of the land fund and put under the economic control of the administration. The "Sovkhoses" were economic organizations carried on under the immediate direction of the Government while the "Kolkhoses" were communes and associations of peasants enjoying economic support from the Government. Sovkhoses either carried on agriculture in general or cultivated special kinds of technical plants such as beetroot or tobacco. In the first case the Sovkhoses were mainly organized as colonies of industrial workers fitted out with agricultural implements of all kinds, cattle, seeds, etc. The object was to make town workers more independent of the "yoke" of the villages by giving them the opportunity of growing their own corn and vegetables, managing their own dairy farms, etc. These annexes of the factories, designed to rear privileged proletarians in a healthy atmosphere of occasional rural occupation and to provide the surrounding villages with examples of model farming, proved a dismal failure. According to a report presented to a congress of agricultural workers in July 1920 the delays and red tape of administrative patronage rendered the condition of the proletarian husbandmen exceedingly precarious.' And as for the workers it could not be expected that they would be able to give satisfaction in their amphibious pursuits. The progress of the Kolkhoses was not more successful. Some were started as actual "communes" with individual cooperation and individual "profits," and those were doomed to be a failure; other Kolkhoses merely drew assistance from the Government, and had to encounter the hostility of neighbouring, less-privileged villages. The negative results of this experiment may be gauged from the fact that the number of Kolkhoses in action decreased in one year from 1,900 to 1,500.
The immense area covered by peasant tenures on the old lines was little affected in its constitution by the Bolshevik usurpation. The attempt of the Soviet to bait the well-to-do peasants by the needy folk proved that the Communist intellectuals did not know the material with which they had to deal. There was no "village proletariat" to speak of, which could serve as a basis for the intended subversion of social relations in the villages; and such tramps and drunkards as the Bolsheviks were able to bring together in their crusade against welfare and order did not succeed in effecting much more than occasional disturbances, which ended mostly in the suppression of the "needy folk" by the peasantry.
1 According to the decree of June 8 1919, the control of the Sovkhoses farms was given to the Gla y semkhose (the Central Board of Agriculture), which (1) united all agricultural farms organized by the industrial proletariat; and (2) united all the central boards controlling those branches of industry which were in need of agricultural plants for their production, such as "Glaysakhar," "Glavtabak," "Glavkrachmal," "Centrochai," and "Pharmacentre" (Economic Life Oct. 2 1919). The original area allotted to different industrial boards amounted to 200,000 dess. (540,000 ac.), but the area actually distributed amongst them was much smaller, amounting only to 80,000 dess. (Russian Economist, Jan. 1921).
Much more irksome were the requisitions and expropriations exercised in virtue of the eminent ownership of the Commonwealth. The Soviet was constrained to fall back on this means of extracting some supplies for feeding the army and the towns, but the decrees enjoining the confiscation of the entire produce with the exception of the quantity necessary for the subsistence of the husbandmen, could not fail to provoke a stubborn resistance. The answer of the peasantry was that the farmers restricted the area under seed to the extent necessary to feed them and their families. Why should they toil to increase cultivation if the fruits of their labour were to be taken from them? According to a Soviet authority (Larin) the quantity used for cultivation had shrunk from 5 milliard poods in 1917 to 22 milliard poods in 1920. The Soviet Government brought all the weight of its terroristic coercion to bear against this passive resistance. It sent punitive expeditions, it encouraged its privileged proletarians to raid the countryside for supplies, it issued a decree ordering the maximum of available soil to be taken over in cultivation and threatening recalcitrant farmers with confiscation and imprisonment: all in vain as far as the general results were concerned. The hardships and disorder were increased hundredfold, but it proved impossible to drive a mass of ioo,000,000 peasants by the whip to perform work which was distasteful to them.
The Soviet dictators had to acknowledge their defeat, and in the spring of 1921 (on March 23), in view of a threatening famine, a decree was issued by the Executive Council of the Soviet recognizing and guaranteeing the private tenure of householders who would conform to the payment of a tax in kind. Instead of charging the provinces with certain lump sums to be partitioned among the uyezds (districts) and, lower down among the volosts, and to be collected from the harvest according to the requirements of the Government, a land tax was imposed which had to be assessed according to the outfit and means of each separate household. It was calculated that this substitution of a land tax for the system of repartition amounted to the reduction from 470,000,000 poods of corn to 240,000,000. It remained to be seen whether the business of assessing and collecting the tax could be carried out with sufficient skill and fairness. The one positive asset of the revolutionary period from the point of view of the peasants consisted in the passage of land from the squires to the tillers, and this was certainly a conquest which the villagers were not going to give up. All attempts at political reconstruction would have to reckon with this basic fact.
The history of industrial economy presents the same features, and describes the same curve, from partial disorganization through blockade and war to general ruin in consequence of absurd Utopianism, and, ultimately, to desperate attempts to reconstitute production by reverting to methods condemned and destroyed by the Communists. There is, however, a notable difference: while the enormous block of the rural population was able to oppose unconquerable passive resistance to the dictators in spite of terrorism and heavy losses, the scanty stratum of the industrial workers was almost worn out in the struggle.
We have again to start in our survey in the case from the years immediately preceding the Revolution. Bolshevik experiments were the culminating phase of a process of destruction which had started long before the Oct. 1917 upheaval: the guilt of the Communists consisted in the fact that instead of fighting the evil, they did everything in their power to aggravate it. The initial stage of industrial decay dates from the time when Russia was isolated from western resources by the Central Powers in alliance with Turkey and Bulgaria. The country had to attempt the impossible task of providing by its own primitive resources for the tremendous technical requirements of the war. The criminal levity of Tsarist administration under men like Sukhomlinov had left it with exhausted equipment and munitions by the end of some nine months of military operations, and an unsoluble problem was set to its patriotic leaders in 1915; they had to make up the deficiencies and to prepare further efforts. This meant technically that all the coal and all the railway machinery had to be diverted for the use of the army while the economic needs of the population were entirely disregarded. As a result, though, with the help of Zemstvo and Municipal Committees acting for purposes of national defence, the fabrication of shells and machine-guns was to some extent reestablished and maintained, the, economic work in the rear necessary for production and repairs was rapidly deteriorating. Train service, for example, was officially suspended for weeks between Petrograd and Moscow in order to make room for military transport and the most urgent needs of food supply. Repairs of locomotives had to be carried out in a more and more imperfect and insufficient manner, and the statistics as to the state of rolling-stock presented drastic symptoms of a lamentable deterioration. The March 1917 Revolution accentuated all these evils because another cause of decay came to the fore with ever-increasing force: the discontent and the demoralization of the workers broke out like a stream of all-consuming lava. The responsibility for the sufferings of the time was laid entirely at the door of greedy capitalists, and the workers were convinced that they were justified in demanding increased wages and decreased labour. A Minister of Labour of the Provisional Government, Skobelev, upheld emphatically their contention.
Per cent. of
out of order
o ? 0
16,000 6, 800
3 6 ,55 1
59, 1 9 6
Number of Engines
1, 1 77
6 4 0
4 0 5
Number of new Engines
constructed in Russia
Carpenters of the
1 ,95 0
Absence for other
Total of days absent
Days of rest .
Days of work. .
The following tables give illustrations of the change in the condition of the rolling stock: - Engines. Repair of Engines. Construction of New Engines. In the cotton industry of the Moscow district the earnings of skilled and unskilled workmen per day was as follows: - All partial attempts to put a stop to constant rioting, absenteeism, and slackness availed nothing against the general intoxication of the "glorious revolutionary days." Working Year of the Industrial Workmen in Days. The table shows that, notwithstanding the large decrease in the number of holidays after the Revolution, the working year of the workman, owing to the increase of sickness, absence from work and stoppages, has decreased by 68 days, or 25%; and if, further, the length of the working day be taken in account, in 1916, including overtime 10.1 hours, and at the beginning of 1920, 8.6 hours, then the decrease of the working year amounts to 900 hours or 30 per cent.
The Bolshevik victory in Oct. 1917 added yet another ingredient to the industrial ferment. The Marxist dictators, the industrial workers, were the chosen class, the leaders of the proletariat, and entitled therefore to carve out benefits and indulgences for themselves according to their own notions of right and expediency. More especially they were keen to ransom the employers' class, not only by appropriating the lion's share in actual profits but by exacting compensation for advantages which had accrued to employers in the past, as well as vengeance for ill-treatment of the workers in the course of centuries. The inference from this conception of economic relations between working men and their former employers was the system of workers' control' which the Soviets started in their industrial policy. It meant that each factory and workshop had to be conducted in the future under the supervision and according to the directions of a board of workmen, while the employers were degraded to the position of technical experts and banking managers.
The object of the peculiar combination between Capitalism and Socialism designated as "workers' control" was avowedly to enable the workmen to draw on the resources of the capitalist to the last drop, and in this complete success was achieved thanks to the servitude imposed on the "employer" who could neither withdraw nor oppose any decree of the workman's board. But the system had yet another effect, namely a complete industrial anarchy and consequent ruin.
The next stage was reached when the Soviets attempted to put an end to this anarchy by a regime of nationalization.2 1 The Workers' Control was established by the decree of Nov. 14 1917. It directed the production, sale and storage of products and of raw materials and the administration of the financial side of the business. It belonged to all workers by the intermediary of their elected institutions with the participation of representatives of the employees and of the technical staff.
The situation in the factories became chaotic, and the disorganization of the undertakings assumed the most extraordinary dimensions. The interference of the Workers' Committees made it quite impossible to realize any scheme planned in advance. All programmes of economical policy were annulled by the "judgment" of the Workers' Committees.
2 In the course of a report delivered to the Moscow Congress by the Supreme Council of People's Economy in Jan. 1920, A. I. Rykov, the president of the Council, made the following statement: "The nationalization of industry has been carried out pretty fully. In 1918, 1,125 factories and works were nationalized, and by the end of 1919 the number was about 4,000. This means that nearly all industry has passed into the hands of the state (Soviet) organs, while private industry has been destroyed, as former statistics show that there were up to Io,000 industrial undertakings, including cottage industries. These latter are not subject to nationalization, and the 4,000 nationalized factories and works include not only the larger concerns, but likewise the bulk of the average industrial concerns of Soviet Russia. Of these 4,000 undertakings about 2,000 are working at present. All the rest have been closed. The number of operatives is estimated approximately at 1,000,000, which is between one-third and one-fifth of the numbers of the proletariat in 1914. Both as regards the number of hands and the number of undertakings in operation the Russian manufacturing industry is likewise undergoing a crisis." Nationalization could be introduced into practice only by deriving economic direction and control, not from the accidental and separate groups of workmen in factories and workshops, but from the national centre. This centre was embodied in the Economic Council of the people, supported locally by subordinate councils in the provinces and districts, and relying for the execution of its decrees on a vast bureaucracy of head offices (Glaski) and "centres." It is difficult to form an adequate opinion as to the ramifications and numbers of this all-embracing bureaucracy. We have the evidence of its own members as to the actual working of the system. In theory it had to organize the repartition of raw materials, to assign means and draw supplies and to collect products in accordance with requirements. In reality the Soviet bureaucrats struggled with each other, stifled local opinion and individual enterprise, and had generally to record lamentable discrepancies between plans and achievements.3 Bureaucratic nationalization proved as ineffectual as workmen's control in solving the problems of increased production and organization of labour. Theoretically, the workmen in the nationalized industries had to be considered not as privileged beneficiaries but as disciplined citizens serving the Commonwealth. Attempts to translate this view into practice were made. Workmen were mobilized for industrial purposes, sent to the Ural or to the Donets fronts, subjected to military control and martial law, armies that had been fighting the Poles or Denikin were switched off to execute economic tasks. Trotsky developed the idea of the militarization of industry as the only means of saving the country from collapse. But the results were not encouraging. Workmen deserted from the towns and hid in the villages, while those unfortunates who were unable to leave Petrograd, or other industrial towns, went on strike, made demonstrations and riots in the face of ruthless repressions; even when they performed their hard labour, it proved miserably inadequate for lack of physical health and moral energy.
Altogether, industrial nationalization proved as much of a failure as agricultural nationalization. And so the Soviets had to retreat, here as there, to a position characterized by the abandonment of all their economic doctrines and previsions. In 1921 Comrade Krassin was recommending in the West a programme that Lenin had announced to the 10th Congress of Communists and to the Central Executive Council: capital and competent leadership were acknowledged as necessary forces in the process of industrial production: the national capitalists had been robbed and driven from Russia; therefore foreign capitalists had to be called in to take their place. They were promised guarantees against arbitrary expropriation "a la Russe" and they might think that they were less liable to succumb to it because they were not "comrades" but citizens of civilized states, and might count on the strong arm of their Governments. But the great inducement consisted obviously in the prospect of rapid profiteering on a scale commensurate with the risk incurred by those who ventured into the wolves' den.
Engines, new .
Engines, new type
Engines, important repairs .
Engines, medial repairs
Carriages, 3rd class, new
Carriages, 4th class, new
Carriages, for goods, new
In comparison with these gigantic schemes of exploitation other retrograde measures were modest and mild. Small capitalists, even when Russians, were allowed to start shops, and individual enterprise was to be encouraged somehow, although Communism was not renounced as an ideal, and big undertakings were to be kept in the hands of the State. The introduction of From Jan. to June 1918, the Soviet regime at the Puti;off factory gave the following results: - Delivered Prevision The real productivity of the factory is from 3 to to times inferior to those of the scheme of production established by the superior Council of National Economy. (Report of Mr. Molitof to the Petrograd Soviet, Aug. 15 1918, Labry, 187.) specialists was recommended as a necessary measure. Under the regime of the workmen's control, technical experts were treated as second-rate persons to be ordered about by the ignorant "demos" of proletarian boards, but experts were now invited to proceed to Sovdepia in order to help to restart productive industrial activity. In the factories piece-work was given a prominent place as against the "ca'canny" devices of time work, although previously workmen used to protest most violently against this form of remuneration. Altogether payment by results was being more and more recognized as an antidote against slovenly labour. As for working hours no account was taken of the 8-hour day, and forced labour was exacted for io or 12 hours when deemed necessary by the commissars.
Thus the Soviet dictators were trying in 1921 to back out of the impasse into which they had run the industry of the country. There was among the working class one group which had profited by the Oct. revolution - it was the communistic nucleus used by the Soviet administration to spy on their comrades and to coerce them. They enjoyed all the privileges of an official class and could afford not only necessaries of life but such luxuries as were to be had in the market. Apart from these privileged Communists the working class was reduced to a condition of utter destitution. Even judging by the standard of the prices fixed from time to time by the ruling powers they could not make the two ends meet, because the prices had risen during Soviet domination from 16 to 25 times. In 1921 bread cost 19 times as much as in the second quarter of 1917, manufactured goods 22 times as much, footwear and soap 25 times. Wages indeed had increased also, but their nominal increase did not keep up with the cost of living. About the middle of 1918 an enquete had been made in Moscow as to the budgets of 2,173 workmen, and it resulted from it that on the average a bachelor working-man's wages did not exceed 462 rubles per month, though by occasional extra work they might be brought up to 624. The head of a family earned on the average 703 rubles, and might increase his earning by supplementary labour to 1,077 rubles per month. The ordinary budget was made up in the case of a bachelor by 22.2 rubles for lodging, 46.9 for food, 47.7 for clothing, 1' 1 for house implements, 19.6 for health (baths, drugs, etc.), 13.4 cultural expenses (newspapers, books, etc.), 13 (parcels sent to village home), 32 miscellaneous expenses; in all, including other items, being 609 r. For heads of families the average monthly expenses rose to 952.7, of which 672.8 r. fell on food (Zagorsky, La Republique des Soviets, 214, 215). These figures show a considerable deficit in normal and well-regulated households: any disturbance in personal conduct, conditions of labour or health, was bound to result in downright starvation and ruin. Let us also notice that distress was much more marked in 1920 and 1921 than in 1918.
The only consolation for workmen was derived from the fact that the hated bourgeois were subjected to even greater hardships. In the early stages of Bolshevik domination this kind of consolation was a potent one: the feeling of triumph of the lower class over its former superiors made up for many privations, but in course of time the bourgeois were trodden down to that extent that there was not much satisfaction to be obtained from kicking them, while new contrasts arose between the mode of life of halfstarved workers and of the Soviet bureaucrats shepherding them. The food situation became catastrophic in 1921. As a result of the restriction of cultivation, transport difficulties and civil disorder, a great part of the country was visited by downright famine, with terrible prospects ahead.
In such conditions nothing could be expected but growing decay in public credit and finance. The Soviet Government had been living on the reserves accumulated under monarchical rule. The gold fund of the Imperial Treasury had been its chief asset in conducting political and commercial negotiations. Its remnant represented something like £50,000,- 000 in the first quarter of 1921. The needs of the home circulation were satisfied by constant emissions of paper notes. There was no system and no limit in this process of inflation. Paper notes had even come to be measured by weight instead of being reckoned at their indicated value. The Chief of the Soviet State often spoke with contempt of money currency as a worthless product of capitalistic exploitation. But the Communist Commonwealth had not yet discovered the means of replacing this system by a more adequate instrument of exchange. Figures in rubles were still being handled as if they represented realities. The only hope left for the Bolsheviks was that when they had spent the reserves captured from the Imperial Government and from the defeated armies, the national capital represented by the natural wealth of Russia in forests, minerals, fisheries, etc., should be put into the market. The handing over of this wealth to foreigners would mean, of course, economic subjection, a state similar to that of Asiatic and African dependencies of western Powers. But the Bolsheviks were not deterred by a prospect of that kind, provided it enabled them to continue in power. They mapped out a programme of concessions on the widest scale.
The Council of the Commissars of the people laid down a set of rules as to concessions, and the Councils of Economy and of Agriculture outlined a vast scheme of natural resources which should be offered to foreigners for exploitation. The rules were as follows: (I) Concessions should be granted by agreement on the principle of a division of profits.
(2) In case of the introduction of special machinery and appliances the concessionnaires would be granted privileges, e.g. large orders.
(3) The concessionnaires would be allowed to remain in possession for long periods in order that they should draw sufficient benefits from their concessions.
(4) The Government of the Soviets guaranteed immunity to the concessionnaires from nationalization, confiscation and requisitions.
(5) The concessionnaires would have the right to hire labourers on conditions specified in the Laws of the Commonwealth or on special conditions safeguarding the life and the health of the workmen.
(6) The Government pledged itself not to make any change in the conditions of the agreement by a one-sided exercise of its authority.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the resources of the country offered to enterprising capitalists for exploitation. Two or three examples must suffice to give an idea of the booty offered to foreign capitalists by Russian Communists. In Western Siberia, along the rivers Ob, Irtysh and Taz, an area of 70 million dess. (about 180 million ac.) was reserved for them. It is covered by immense forests of pines, firs, cedars and larches. If it were found necessary at the start to restrict exploitation to a strip along the rivers some is versts wide along each bank, there would still be available for immediate and easy use some 16 million dess. (about 42 million acres). The timber should be sawed and worked into pulp and cellulose in mills to be erected by the estuary of the Ob. Such mills ought to make up a settlement of the size of another Archangel. The natural route westwards lies down the Ob and by the Kara sea: it had already been utilized to some extent and its future importance could not be exaggerated. The whole region should be opened up by a number of railway lines. Mineral wealth of various kinds - platinum, coal, lead - is to be found in these districts. One of the most stupendous advertisements as to mineral wealth concerned the Kuzsnetsk coal mines along the Tom river. They were estimated to contain about 250 million tons of excellent coal. In European Russia 14 uyezds (districts) were advertised for agricultural exploitation and the construction of ways of communications of all kinds. All these districts are situated in the black soil region of southeastern Russia. The application of powerful traction engines and steam ploughs would soon convert them into one of the prin cipal granaries of Europe.
Such were the prospects held out in 1921 to enterprising capitalists. Not a word was wasted on the social and legal conditions of the human material connected with these tracts. It remained for the concessionnaires to fashion it with the assistance of the enlightened commissars: it was evident that the 5th clause of the Soviet rules ought not to be applied in such a way as to hamper the great process of economic restoration. The principal object was to get capitalists to speculate on the material basis described with such graphic details.
It remained to be seen how they would organize and keep in order the labouring population required for the carrying out of the concessions - whether the foreign capitalists would obtain feudal franchises with police powers of their own, or the Soviet power would keep watch on their behalf and use coercive measures to keep the Russian workmen up to the mark.
Another side of the repressive policy of the Soviets in the stress of dire need was presented by the appeal to the help of coOperatives. These organizations had gone through a chequered existence under the rule of the Soviets. In the early days of 1917 and 1918, the proletarian dictators used them as convenient tools at home and abroad in order to counteract the impression that Russia was ruled by an uncompromising despotism. The leaders of the cooperatives were encouraged to preach a non-party attitude, and to concentrate their efforts on purely economic work without any admixture of political opposition. In the campaign for the reopening of trade with Soviet Russia it was usual to assert that such trade would be carried on exclusively with cooperators and not with the ill-famed Moscow Government. In 1919, however, a sharp turn was given to the wheel, and the cooperatives were "nationalized" - declared to be subordinate committees of the Central Economic Council. In Sovdepia this measure was explained not only as a consequence of the general policy of Communism, but also as a necessary precaution against Social revolutionaries and Mensheviks, accused of having barricaded themselves within the coOperatives for purposes of political agitation.
In the beginning of the year 1921 a new current set in: cooperatives were to some extent reestablished as autonomous organizations. The object was to revive them as agents of repartition. The Soviet decree of April 7 1921 was drawn up, however, in such a narrow and ambiguous form, that the institution remained doomed to mechanical subjection. The Act concerned primarily cooperatives of consumers. It allows combinations for protection and traffic only in an exceptional case and in obscure terms. As far as allowed, cooperatives are included in administrative units of state origin and local delimitation. All freedom of action is curtailed and subjected to strict supervision. Lastly, the members are not voluntary associates intending to help each other according to free agreement, but people brought together by the fact of dwelling in the same locality or belonging to the same professional group.
All this shows to what extent the principle of autonomous association was felt to be antagonistic to Soviet despotism. It might be assumed that the cooperatives would either remain inactive and fictitious, or else that they would contrive to escape the jealous supervision and the step-motherly pressure exercised by the "Glavki" and "centres." The hard facts of economic decay admitted of no controversy and could be illustrated by tabulated results. It was still impossible in 1921 to apply the same tests to the moral aspect of the condition of Russia, although there could be no doubt that the deterioration of national life in this respect was more harmful than economic decay. The aggressive tone of Communist propaganda could not deceive any one who considered the efforts of the "Proletcult" with common sense. It was not the number of schools that mattered, but their efficiency and educational influence. The prophecy of Dostoievsky in The Possessed had come true: the Bolsheviks had not only squandered the reserves accumulated by orderly government, and scattered some 2,000,- 000 of the best educated Russians across the world - they had poisoned the mainsprings of national morals for generations to come. One or two of the conclusions of Lord Emmott's Committee may be appropriately cited in this connexion; their studied moderation makes them particularly effective: "Child education in Soviet Russia is based upon an attempt to dissolve the ties hitherto existing between parent and child, and children are removed from the care of their parents soon after birth; we have received no information on the moral and physical effects of this policy. Education, both child and adult, is not merely secular, but directly anti-religious in bias." As a specimen of the educational practice of Soviet Russia we will quote from the experience of a leading professor of the medical faculty of the university of Moscow, published under the pseudonym of "Donskry" in the Archives of the Russian Revolution, I (Berlin, Ig21): "By order of the commissars 5,000 applicants had been admitted as freshmen in the medical faculty, although the lecture-rooms were constructed for 250. Representations had been made that it was impossible to admit persons who had received no appropriate instruction, but they were disregarded. The only thing required was that applicants should have attained the age of 16 years - the rules as to admission did not mention even the necessity of knowing how to read and write. The crowd of students dwindled to small numbers very soon, however, on account of the absence of heating during the winter and of the almost insuperable difficulty in getting materials for experimental teaching." Books Of Reference. - Claude Anet, Through the Russian Revolution (1917); Lujo Brentano, Russland der kranke Mann (1918); E. J. Dillon, The Eclipse of Russia (1919); A. Iswolsky, The Memoirs of Alexander Iswolsky (edited and translated by C. L. Seeger, 1920); Carl Kautsky, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1920); A. Kerensky, The Prelude to Bolshevism - the Kornilov Rebellion (1919); Raoul Labry, L'Industrie Russe et la Revolution (1919), Une Legislation communiste (1920); M. A. Landau-Aldanoff, Lenine (1919); V. Lenin, "Left Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder (1920), Land Revolution in Russia (1919), The Great Initiative (1920); Roger Levy, Trotsky (1920); Francis MacCullagh, A Prisoner of the Reds (1921); P. N. Nlilinkov, History of the Second Russian Revolution (1920) Bolshevism - an International Danger (1920); K. Nabokov, Ordeal of a Diplomat (1921); A. Nekludoff, Diplomatic Reminiscences before and during the World War, 1911-1917 (1920); New Russia (weekly publication, 1920); Boris Nolde, Le Regne de Lenin (1920); R. W. Postgate, The Bolshevik Theory (1920); Maurice Paleologue, "La Russie des Tsars pendant la grande Guerre," La Revue des Deux Mondes (Jan.-May 1921); M. A. Ransome, Six Weeks in Russia (1919), The Crisis in Russia (1921); Report (Political and Economic) of the Committee to Collect Information on Russia (1921); C. E. Russell, Unchained Russia (1918), The Russian Economist (N I, 2 and 3 periodical 1920-1), The Russian Commonwealth; Alexander Schreiber, L'Organisation judicaire de la Russie des Soviets (1918); Ethel Snowden, Through Bolshevik Russia (1920), Soviet Russia (weekly publication, vols. I. and II. 1919-20); John Spargo, The Psychology of Bolshevism (1919), The Greatest Failure in all History (1920), Bolshevism, the Enemy of Political and Industrial Democracy (1919), Struggling Russia (weekly magazine, in progress 1919); Leon Trotsky, The Bolsheviki and World Peace (1918), Our Revolution (1918), War or Revolution (1918), A Paradise in this World (1920); The History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk (1919); Emile Vandervelde, Three Aspects of the Russian Revolution (1918); Maurice Verstraete, Mes Cahiers Russes (1920); V. VictoroffToporoff, La premiere Annee de la Revolution Russe (1919); Sir Paul Vinogradoff, Self-Government -in Russia (1915), The Reconstruction of Russia (1919); H. G. Wells, Russia in the Shadows (1920); Ariadna Tyrkova Williams, From Liberty to Brest-Litovsk (1919); Robert Wilton, Russia's Agony (1918), The Last Days of the Romanovs (1920); 5. Zagorsky, La Republique des Soviets, Bilan economique (1921).
- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.
This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2021 ITA all rights reserved.