Experiences in Russia 1931
Days 11 to 13
First published & copyrighted by the Alton Press, Inc, Pittsburgh, USA in 1932.
Transcription & republication by Dr. M. S. Colley & N. L. Colley. © 2002-03. All Rights reserved. For further information: www.colley.co.uk/garethjones/legal.htm ; the domain from where this file was originally downloaded.
Original Source material from the diaries of Gareth Jones' visit to the Soviet Union with Jack Heinz II , in Autumn 1931. For further Soviet articles by Gareth Jones, please visit: www.colley.co.uk/garethjones/
We arrived at Moscow at 11:30 a.m. and were taken to the Metropole Hotel in a new Franklin sedan by our Intourist guide.
Following are remarks made by a foreign woman who had lived long in Russia:
“They don’t quite rely on the Red Army this year, and leave was not granted to many peasant soldiers who wanted to go back to the villages.
“The morals are very low. Girls like those two there,” pointing to two working girls in the street, “do not hesitate to live with men. If they have a baby they can easily have an abortion. Ninety percent of the people are indifferent to matters of this kind.
“The G.P.U is all powerful; there is one G.P.U. member in every house.”
This statement, by the way, is probably an exaggeration.
This morning we went for a long auto ride out to Sparrow Hill from which one gets a capital view of Moscow and its four million people. Moscow gave me a pleasant surprise after Leningrad. Here the streets are well paved and kept clean; a modern watering truck runs about, sprinkling. The streetcars are crowded here, too, but there are many more automobiles. People are better dressed. The whole appearance of the city and of the people is better than we found in Leningrad.
We stopped to visit a barrack on our way back from Sparrow Hill. It was a place for manual laborers. Here a meal cost only thirty kopecks, but very poor food was served. In the bunk house there was a noticeably clean floor. Here was a definitely new note! The men laughed when we mentioned it, and explained that they had a system of fining a man one kopeck for throwing a cigarette or tracking mud on the floor.
We visited the remarkable Park of Culture and Rest, where the workers go in the late afternoon, and on their rest days for movies, sports, lectures, and swimming. About the park were radio speakers from which we heard:
“We must have more and more Shock Brigade workers.”
This was followed by a song about “Shock Brigades.”
Here was an avenue of bronze busts of the leading Shock Brigade heroes of the country. A flaming red banner read:
“We must know the heroes of the Soviet Union.”
Another sign read:
“The Red Sport International is a militant organization of the International Proletariat.”
It is amazing how everything here is directed toward the military!
Another poster showed a group of silk-hatted Capitalists seated around a table on which there was a sheet of paper bearing the word “Crisis.” On the table was a sign reading, “The Hoover Plan.” Towering above this scene was a great red figure of a worker brandishing a rifle.
[Hover Plan - Crisis – from Gareth’s personal collection. ã Nigel Linsan Colley. 2002.]
We returned to the hotel and went with Lady Muriel Paget to the British Embassy for tea, and there were entertained by Mr. Strang, the charge, and Mr. Walker, the first secretary.
I went to the movies tonight with Lady Muriel and a friend of hers, Madame Litvinoff, an English woman and the wife of the foreign minister. She would not come to the hotel with us because she had already been “called up” for associating too much with foreigners. It was strange to see her jump onto a tram crowded with people when she started for home.
We visited a marriage and divorce bureau this morning.
Just as we were approaching the door an old priest in his long dark robe came up to an aged woman, who was standing by, and as she bent down to kiss his cross, he made the blessing sign over her. That was outside!
Inside, a girl of twenty was the clerk who took the necessary data. A couple seated themselves on chairs beside her desk - name, address, passport, one ruble charge, sign names; scratch, scratch went the pen. In five and a half minutes it was done - marriage in the Soviet manner. The contrast was striking - religion without; formality without religion within!
Three more couples were waiting. Next! A girl of seventeen wanted to be married, but that was too young. However, she had a doctor’s certificate saying she was pregnant, so she could get married.
The average number of marriages per month is 400; divorces, 200. It was interesting that in the spring months the number of marriages did not increase. I said:
“In the spring a young man’s fancy doesn’t turn to thoughts of love in this country.”
“Oh, yes,” replied the clerk, “but they haven’t time to get married.”
Divorce is easier than marriage. Either party may, without consulting the other, secure a Divorce Certificate, with no trouble, from the ZAKS (the Marriage and Divorce Bureau). It has often happened that a man will one night tell his wife that he is going to get divorce papers, and appear at home the next night with the new bride! Then, due to the housing shortage, all three must live together until eventually somebody moves out.
We visited the old convent of Novodyevichi. It is now used as a museum to illustrate the emancipation of woman, her new social position as a worker, and her freedom from the superstition of the Church.
Just inside the door was a huge poster in color, a caricature of a grinning fat priest riding astride an old peasant woman who was on all fours. Dangling from a stick held by the priest was an icon which she was trying to kiss. The donkey and the carrot were not more ludicrous.
The graveyard here was in a horrible state, graves torn up, and grave stones lying about in great disorder.
At the entrance, an old woman in a shawl sold admission tickets and displayed a few miserable postcards. She had a much wrinkled face and a pair of sharp eyes. This was her contribution:
“The old ones still believe in God, but the young ones don’t. I do, of course.”
The “of course” was added because she assumed, no doubt, that her age had’ already identified her with the believers.
“It is very sad for the mothers,” she said, “because their children look down on them as a result of their religious beliefs and after reaching the age of thirteen or fourteen they will not have anything to do with their parents. Yet there are some young people who believe! The girls behave very badly today. They want to make me an atheist because of my job, but if they want to dismiss me, let them do it. We must speak quietly, for if the director heard me telling you I believe in God and that things are bad, he would dismiss me.”
We ran into Colonel Cooper, the American engineer in charge of the Dnieperstroy dam, at the hotel tonight - a bit of a rough diamond, but a smart man, I guess. Quite a character!
Red Letter Day! We breakfasted with Maurice Hindus, author of “Humanity Uprooted,” this morning. A man of Russian-Jewish peasant origin, he can see with a clever mind, the general peasant situation in particular. For the future, he does not hazard a guess as to the trend of policy or the result. World revolution is impossibility, he believes.
“In America or England,” he declared, “the bourgeois would give up private property only over his dead body.”
He also agreed with Jones that the Third International had declined both in significance and in activity. The press does not mention it, there are no men of prominence in it, they are not sending funds abroad, and the foreign branches are declining in the number enlisted, he says.
“The peasants,” said Mr. Hindus, “are not so well off from the point of view of food as in 1926, or before the Revolution; but they now have education, entertainment, and care for their children. They lived very well from 1920 to 1928 when the collective farm movement began. They joined this movement because they realized there was no future for them as individualists, and that they could only reach a certain level and then get knocked on the head. In many cases there was compulsion by threat of being called Kulak. It meant that personal accumulation was impossible in the future, but this also meant the unification of economic effort and, therefore, the collectives are far more productive than the individual farms. The Commune will be more productive than the Artel and will be the ultimate aim.”
The “Commune” is the most highly Communistic farm organization; here practically all the possessions of the members are communized. The “Artel,” on the other hand, is less highly communized, but the difference is one of degree only.
Mr. Hindus thinks that this year’s harvest is not so good as that of the previous season. Exports of grain will be less, probably because they need more at home.
The cotton factories are not so successful as they should be, he believes. Cotton growing in Turkestan will be a huge project in the future, and Russia will be able to export a fine, long-staple product in quantity.
Mr. Hindus thinks exports will decline, due to home needs. At present, they are forced.
Mr. Hindus left us rather abruptly, but he was nice enough while here.
At 11 o’clock, we had an appointment to visit Louis Fischer, an American Jew of a Philadelphia family. Quite radical in his thinking, he has written a book on “Why Recognize Russia?”
Mr. Fischer said:
“Russia is a bull country. Exports and imports will not decline, I think. Resources are so tremendous that the country will produce more than the people need. We too easily under-estimate the country’s productive capacity. ‘In three years time,’ a Soviet cotton man told me last year, ‘we will be independent in cotton.’ And they are already exporting
With regard to the attitude toward Germany, Mr. Fischer told us that someone in the People’s Commissariat for Trade had said to him privately:
“My God, I hope Germany doesn’t go smash!”
That is very significant and is seconded by Varga’s report on Germany at a meeting of the Komintern. He said a crash in Germany would be disastrous, the reason for all this being 300 million marks in orders placed there. Magnitogorsk needs these machines vitally.
Mr. Fischer felt that the Komintern is declining. Nobody takes the Komintern seriously. The personnel now consists merely of revolutionary bureaucrats. They still want world revolution, but their method is different from the heyday period of 1923. Radeck said, “Revolutions aren’t carried in suitcases,” and they realize it. Moscow is not ready to sacrifice Russia for world revolution. Its hand is not going to be in every revolutionary fire.
“But why this constant talk and fear of intervention?” I asked.
“I think it is a very sincere belief, but quite a ridiculous one,” said Mr. Fischer. “It is hard to understand. Everywhere, you see posters calling for the protection of the U.S.S.R. against intervention. The world proletariat is therein appealed to, and this acts as a safety measure, the Soviets think.”
In regard to imports, Mr. Fischer foresees Russian need of delicate machines, rubber, lemons, coffee, better quality clothes, medicines, and chemicals. Consumption of the finer manufactured goods will be greater. When this period of paying for capital imports is over, Russia will be in the unusual position of having practically no debts. There is a good future for exports of grain, oil, lumber, coal, and manganese.
“This country is starving itself great,” said Mr. Fischer.
Shortly after this interview, we saw Walter Duranty, New York Times correspondent. Poor man! He has a hard time of it. Almost everyone who comes to Russia pays him a visit. He is known as the Unofficial America Ambassador, and though he is a very busy man, he is perfectly charming to everyone.
He spoke of the new attitude toward the technician, now that Stalin has said they must have their own technicians. Stalin didn’t mean by this to exclude the old ones, but to advance any loyal workers, regardless of background.
Rudzutak, on August 12th, gave further interpretation to this when he spoke to the engineers and technicians, saying that “we must not look back on sabotage and treachery, but forward to future plans. It is how a man acts that counts.” Mr. Duranty thinks this is a much healthier outlook, and it should go far to advance the plan.
The G.P.U. are changing their vigilant attitude and personnel, thinks Mr. Duranty. It follows from Stalin’s speech. It is an unannounced change. Messing, who was severe, is now out; Menjensky has been ill for a long time, and he used to he a severe man; Yagoda, also severe, has been demoted to second in command; Akulof is now first assistant, and a mild man.
American engineers have said that there have been cases of sabotage where the Russian engineers remained silent, and afraid to report it, but things are now changed.
Peasants can now sell things in the private market, even though they belong to the Kolhozi.
Mr. Duranty believes the Party will, however, stick to the two Marxian principles:
(1) Production by the State and the corollary that no individual may employ others to make a profit for himself. (A servant is, however, permissible.)
(2) Only the workers have a voice in running things.
The newspaper correspondent agrees that there is a decline in the Third International and says also that the following factors are proofs of non-interest in a world revolution:
(1) Possibility of forcing an immediate World Revolution ended in 1923.
(2) Stalin emphasizes the “building” of Socialism in our country.
(3) World Communist parties have fought with the Soviet Third International.
(4) “World Revolution is inevitable sonic day, so why worry?” says Stalin. “We can only prepare the peoples’ minds.”
The foreign trade of Russia will depend on the policy of foreign governments, in Mr. Duranty’s opinion.
Russia has shown herself ready to make offers for repayment on the principle of a further loan, (National City Bank case of $86,000,000) with a high interest rate of nine or twelve percent going to repay the first loan. She still repudiates the Kerensky debt.
The secret of Stalin’s power has been a matter of recent comment. It is amazing how he put out Trotsky, a man of equal, but of a more fiery and self-assertive nature. Stalin has maintained his position and advanced his strength by a special technique - achieving by seeming to put aside. He cloaks himself with the authority of the Party when it makes declarations. Yet at the same time, those are always his opinions and coincide with his will. W. H. Chamberlain tells of an amusing incidental example of this technique. It seems that a foreign journalist put in an application to see Stalin when they were both at the same summer resort. The answer came back, “Stalin never gives interviews unless the Party commands him to do so.” Thus does the “man of steel” identify himself with Party discipline and play upon the Communist rule that is opposed to any kind of self-assertive flamboyant leadership.
At the Dom Krestyanin (Peasant House) here in Moscow, we saw the Agricultural Exhibition which they use to educate the peasants when they come to town. Several years ago it was built to combine the functions of a boarding house, club, and free legal aid society for peasant delegates sent from the country with grievances. One huge poster was very typical. It was titled, “Religion is a weapon for oppression,” and showed a huge Bible on the backs of workers. On top of the Bible was an ugly Capitalist in evening dress and top hat, and beside him, the Pope.
There are facts and figures everywhere at the Peasant House. Here is one of the announcements:
“In Artels, twenty-four percent clean their teeth. In the Commune, thirty-one percent clean their teeth!”
We visited a typical workers’ club of the Caouchouc Industry today. Five thousand workers have the use of this club, which consists of various kinds of meeting rooms, devoted to first aid, mechanics, war material, music, and dramatics, and there is also a fine large theatre. Everybody must take the military training course, including the use of gas masks, arms, etc. Classes are all held after working hours, and are obligatory for Party members. Seventy percent of the factory workers are of the Party or Komsomoitsi. About nine half-hour classes, twelve times in thirty days, are required in the military course.
The fight against idlers is amusing in method and effectively carried on.
“We have a cemetery with real graves in the factory,” explained the enthusiastic young man who took us around the club premises. “If a man is an idler or a drunkard, his name is put on a cross on a grave. And we cartoon the drunkard, with his name below the drawing. We use hypnotism to stop some from drunkenness, and effect cures.”
This worker explained their motto, which is:
“No revolution can last unless it can defend itself.”
“We must all be prepared to jump from our machines and seize rifles against foreign invasion,” he said.
I went with Mrs. Patterson and her son to see a Prophylactia for former prostitutes this morning. The girls are sent there after receiving hospital treatment. The authorities attempt to change their lives, furnish them work in a healthy atmosphere, pay them, and give them “culture.” There are 120 girls in this Prophylactia. Their work consists of knitting cotton stockings by machine. Even here they have Shock Brigade workers who display red pennants with their records on them.
We had the privilege of visiting Madame Krupskaya, Lenin’s widow, a woman of sixty years, most kindly, most simple, and fine. Unfortunately she would not speak French, only Russian, and consequently I could not understand what she said. However, I could tell by her expression that her heart was in her work in the schools, and that she was proud to tell foreigners of this work.
She had white, whispy hair, brushed closely back from her face, a slightly twisted mouth, and heavy prominent eyelids. One eye was a little bloodshot. Her smile, however, was indeed full of sympathy and love for children. Her speech was clear and simple, without hesitation, and logical to a remarkable degree. It was a wonderful interview, with a really fine person.
As she is at the head of the Primary School System of Russia, education was the subject she discussed. Here are points she made:
Education must teach the child and the worker everything about production. Upon production she laid great stress at all times. The children must learn about factories and mines and farms, and how to increase production, she explained. The workers must also learn, and then help others.
There is a great desire among workers to study, and in some factories practically all the workers go to evening classes.
Then these workers go out to the collective farms to teach organization to the peasants.
Factories have special connections with the Kolhozi, and workers go from the factories to the Kolhozi and give the peasants the benefit of their organizing abilities. The factory workers have learned how to work and organize in groups, whereas the peasant has only been accustomed to work for himself.
Thus the factory worker brings to the village his experience in working and organizing. He also brings cultural education. He teaches the peasant to read and write. This is essential, not only from the cultural viewpoint, but also in knowing how to run a collective farm. I t is necessary to keep accounts, to make contracts, to figure and to budget.
Then she spoke of the children and Polytechnical Education. Polytechnical Education is now the great motto. Its aim is to educate the children to become at the same time workers and collective owners of industry. Thus it lays great stress on the part the future citizen must play in production. Each school has an arrangement with a factory or collective farm. The pupil frequently visits the factory and learns about production by practical experience in handling machines. When the children go to the collective farms they learn about life in the villages, and they also bring culture to the peasant.
This summer, for example, 500 children went from Moscow to Crimea. They all worked four hours a day and thus helped to reduce the shortage of labor that was apparent everywhere in the Soviet Union. In their spare time, they went on excursions, bathed, played games; and then returned home healthy and happy.
Workers and peasants are everywhere learning to read and write. Some people of eighty are trying to learn. In Saratov, there was a Pioneers’ crusade against illiteracy. The Pioneers visited every home and grouped the literate and the il1iterate. They put the illiterate to shame! They formed classes and taught them, and now Saratov has no illiteracy. In the villages, there are cultural centers, children’s gardens, and libraries. Where there are many tiny villages, a central one is made into the cultural center.
“Of course, we don’t teach religion in the schools,” Madam Krupskava announced.
“A German pedagogue wrote and asked me if we wanted to set up children’s towns where all the children would live together. I replied to him, ‘No, that would be a mistake. The children should have relations with their families, because they must learn about life, about factories, and about workers.’ Our idea is to have in the large new communal houses one floor devoted to the children. We must remember that in Russia nearly all the mothers work. They also want to learn, and to go to the cinema; so they are glad when they can devote their time to lessons while the care of children is taken off their hands.”
We heard an amusing story of an American doctor’s visit to the main hospital here. He was favorably impressed, except for the flies. He commented on them and received the excuse that the) were a “relic of the Czarist regime.”
Tonight, after an early dinner, from 8:30 to 10:00, we visited the famous Red Square and Lenin’s Tomb. The huge square was lit by search lights, illuminating the ancient Kremlin wall, with the Red Flag (illuminated) flying atop. The tomb stands against the wall; simple and beautiful in red and black marble. A line of 1,500 people, two abreast, were waiting to enter. Within, two sentries stood motionless - one at each end of the glass topped coffin. There lies the great man in state. It was quiet, except for the shuffle of feet. We passed out, thrilled by the sight of the body of men dead seven years.
“There has been a decree that only those who work can receive things,” he said in explanation, “so the order must be carried out.”
That was that!
He told us about their Kolhoz and the “otkhodniki” (peasants sent to factories):
“Here we have group piece work. We decide how many workers shall be assigned to threshing, how many to milking, etc., and send the unnecessary ones to work in the factories. We sent 130 men to the biological factory alone. Some go because they want to. The more machines we get, the more spare people we shall have to send to the 518 new factories to be opened this year.
“Last year we had ‘uravnilovka’ [equal pay] and a lot of people were lazy and said that whether they worked or not they got the same pay. But we introduced ‘sdelshchina’ [piece work] -this spring, and now they work far harder. We use a system of brigades with a brigadier in charge. Each person has a book in which the amount of work he does is put down daily, together with the credit he receives for that work in terms of ‘work days’. For instance, cutting silage is only one-half a ‘work day’ in the book, because it is not a full-time job; other jobs receive more than a ‘work day’s’ credit - e. g., a brigadier receives this, or a skilled worker, or one who has done a particularly good job that day. They are paid monthly advances on the basis of the number of ‘work days’ up to sixty per cent of what we figure the average pay should be, or about eighty rubles. Then the remainder of the profits of the farm are divided at the end of the year.”
Probably not the profits!
“We had a Sect in our village,” continued our friend, as we drove along through the fields in the warm sun, “but we sent the leader away, chased him.
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