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The Times, October 16th 1930

 

THE TWO RUSSIA'S   

- - -

STRENGTH OF THE COMMUNISTS

- - -

III. WAR PROPAGANDA

       
From a correspondent (Gareth Jones)   

In spite of widespread discontent, the government seems relatively stable for there is no organized opposition.  Any attempt at forming a policy opposed to the general line of the party is immediately nipped in the bud.  The O.G.P.U. (the State Political Police) is a strong body, with powers of life and death, which can ruthlessly and immediately suppress any counter-revolutionary movement.  Never the less, peasant risings are possible, but these are not likely to affect seriously the position of the Government because they can be instantly crushed.  Nor will the riots, which will probably take place this winter, bring about the downfall of the Soviet power, for they will be suppressed with equal thoroughness.

 

Since the Red Army is a class army, strongly impregnated with Communist doctrines it will probably continue to support the Government and ensure the continuance of the régime.  Everyone who, is not of proletarian origin is debarred from a military career, and politics is an important part of the soldier’s training.  There have, however, been signs of disaffection among the peasant soldiers who form the majority of the troops.  When in the first few months of this year the country was being collectivized by force, rifles were smuggled by soldiers to their friends in the villages.  It was the attitude of the Army that made Stalin change his tactics very suddenly in the beginning of March and condemn the excesses local Communist authorities towards the peasants.  A revolt is improbable, but there always is the possibility, so my informant seemed to think, of a Red military leader such as the adventurer Blücher loved by the troops and popular in Russia, obtaining control of the Army and throwing out the unpopular Stalin.

 

A vital question for the Communist leaders is the supply of the army with food, and solution of this problem has been found in the formation of vast State farms in Siberia, the Volga district, the uncultivated steppes of North Caucasia and elsewhere.  These “ Sovkhozi,’’ which are run by the most modern machinery and are schools for the training of agricultural mechanics, cover a total area of over 2,400.000 acres, and are stations for agricultural experiments as well as for production.  In 1931 it is estimated that 123 vast farms will produce 4,000,000 tons of grain, and in the following year the production of the State farms is to reach 8,000,000 tons.  The workers on these farms are paid labourers.  By these “grain factories,” as they are called, the Government is guaranteed a stable supply of grain, and, if the Soviet plans for building ‘‘pig and cattle factories" succeed, there will be a regular source of meat for the army and for the important factories.

 

Another stabilizing influence in the Soviet Union is the great interest taken in engineering and mechanics.  The attention of a large number of Russians is being attracted from counter-revolutionary activities to machines. To be an engineer is the ambition of Russian youth, and their education is being run on technical lines.

 

POSSIBLE CHANGES

 

An overthrow in the sense of a complete change of the régime seems therefore, impossible.  Chaos appears to be the only alternative to the present Government for there is no other group outside the Party to take control.  It is probable, however that within the Party itself there will be changes.  The Right Wing “ Opportunists “ will make themselves felt this winter, for, in spite of the humiliation of their leaders Rykov and Tomsky in the 16th Congress of the Party in June and July last, they are still strong among the rank and file and their other leader, Bukharin, is a power to be reckoned with.  It would be unwise, however, to underestimate the skill in intrigue of a man like Stalin, who was too strong for Trotsky the Right Oppositionists nevertheless will have the support of a large proportion of the both active and non-active.  Although they appeared to be crushed in the 16th Congress their ranks will be strengthened by the sufferings which Russia will undergo this winter.  Indeed, the hardships of the next months might even make the Kremlin realise that a more moderate policy must be adopted, that trade must be more free, that the peasants must not be forced into collective farms, and that goods must not be exported at the price of hunger at home.  In spite of this possibility there is no prospect of any slow evolution towards Capitalism, such as was expected when the New Economic Policy was inaugurated.

 

Much will depend on external events, both commercial and diplomatic. The probable reaction of the capitalist countries to Soviet dumping is too involved a question to be considered here, but concerted action against Russian cheap imports would certainly hinder the execution of the Five-Years Plan.  The Soviet policy of obtaining credits at all costs to buy machines and build factories, with a view to making the country self-supporting is partly guided by the fear of an ultimate attack by capitalist countries.  The idea that the anti-Soviet war is as inevitable as the world revolution is typically expressed in the following conversation with a Red Army commander: “War is bound to come.  It is inevitable.  The British may not make war against us, but they will certainly get other peoples like the Poles or the Chinese to do it.”

 

THE WAR INDUSTRY

 

At present Soviet foreign policy is emphatically one of peace. There is no desire for war and a fervent wish for time to carry out the Five-Years Plan.  Whereas a peaceful Soviet foreign policy can be predicted for the next two, three, or even four years after, it is hard to be confident about the years after.  First, one hears on all sides, and the Communists do not conceal it, that the war industry is developing rapidly.  The Soviet demand for nickel, which is presumably for the, making of bullet envelopes and armour plating is greater than Britain’s.  Secondly, Communism has for the Red Army and for the party the force of a religion, and when one has always been taught that the millennium is close at hand one tends to be impatient at the slowness with which history moves.  Nor is the feeling engendered among the young towards the Imperialists likely to increase the friendliness towards Great Britain.  “You wait; the world revolution will come although men like Cook have proved traitors to the working class,” exclaimed a Communist in a private talk.  “One day the unemployed of Manchester and of London will not think of sport, but of revolution, and at the same time the British will have trouble in their colonies.”

 

This thesis supported by some Communists is that war will come in 1935.  By that year, it is claimed, the Five-Years Plan will have lead to such prosperity that the Soviet Union will be able not only to supply her own people with goods but also to export in such quantities as to be a serious rival to Great Britain and America.  The leading capitalist countries of the world will therefore unite to attempt to crush the conflicting systems side by side is impossible.  Communism will ultimately triumph, for, they maintain the present period in world history is that of the disorganisation of capitalism.

 

Moreover the Soviet war propaganda in the form of placards and publications is intense and is having an effect upon the youth of the country.  Among the magazines which have a wide circulation are the Red Army Soldier, Aviation and Chemistry and The Aeroplane.  The Osoaviakhim, the Society for Air Membership and Chemical Warfare has an extensive membership, and its activities range lectures on poison gas to training in the use of rifles and machine guns for women and girls as well as for men and boys.

 

The fear entertained by some Communists that a war will lead to an immediate rising against the régime appears unfounded.  A bitter opponent of Communism stated: “I hate the Bolshevists, but if Russia were at war, whether the Bolshevists were in power or not, I should fight at once and so would every good Russian.” Indeed, war rumours are often a means of rallying the nationalism of the Russians to the support of the government and turning away the attention of the masses from the deficiencies in home policy, for this is the Achilles’ heel of the Communist régime.

 

It is in home policy therefore, that the final test of communism will come and more especially in agrarian policy.  Collective farming has been helped this year by an excellent harvest, and although the boast of the Communists: “Within three years there will not be a single individual peasant left,” is laughed at by those who know the Russian countryside, it would be unwise to underestimate the energy of the authorities, the advantages which are offered to the members of collective farms, and the deprivations which the individual farmers are made to suffer.  Large-scale agriculture, although hated by the vast majority of peasants, may in time increase production all round.  More food will mean better work in the factories and although, the Five-Years Plan is now tottering, and although a series of bad harvests might change the whole situation, there still remains a chance that, provided collective farms succeed, there will after two, three, or four years be some improvement in the workers lot.  But weaknesses of Communism – bitter class hatred, the persecution of individual thought and of freedom, the crushing of the bourgeoisie and of the intelligentsia and the subordination of art, drama, literature and even music to political aims.

 

“We are building not for tomorrow but for a century.”  Exclaimed a Bolshevist.  The next 10 years will show whether Communism as applied in Russia is able to give a satisfactory standard of living to 150 millions of people.  But all the proofs lie, if anywhere in the future. 

 

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