The Western Mail, Novemeber 7th,
LENIN'S WIDOW TALKS TO A WELSHMAN.
By GARETH JONES.
FIFTEEN years ago today Lenin shook the world.
As leader of the Bolsheviks he seized power over one-sixth of the globe
and installed a dictatorship of the working class for the first time in
For many years he had worked out every detail of his
scheme. In the Reading Room of the British Museum in London his keen brain
had penetrated the secrets of all the revolutions which had taken place.
The late Mr. Silyn Roberts remembered having seen him at work there, but
he little realised that the Asiatic-looking Russian with the narrow eyes
sitting next to him in the Reading Room would one day be master over the
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
There are probably many Welsh students who frequented
the British Museum who saw him preparing his philosophy and his plans
of action which were to lead to the first proletarian revolution, but
remained unaware that their fellow-student was one of the great figures
If only Lenin had lived! is the cry which
one hears on all sides in Russia today, for he aroused the love of the
peasants by his practical nature and by his New Economic Policy in 1921,
which restored freedom of trade and abandoned Socialism in the villages.
In the towns Lenin is worshipped by millions, who cherish
his photograph just as they cherished the icon. Thousands swarm each day
in the vast Red Square in Moscow, where in a red marble mausoleum his
embalmed body lies for all to see. There the maker of the Russian Revolution
fifteen years ago can be seen motionless in a glass coffin guarded by
two Red soldiers, who are almost as still as the corpse they defend. Workers,
peasants, children with red kerchiefs shuffle past in the semidarkness,
not whispering a word as they concentrate their looks on the dead Lenin.
Almost as striking a personality as the Bolshevik leader
himself is his widow, who received me in the Commissariat of Education
in Moscow. She bravely accompanied her husband throughout all his exiles,
in Siberia, in London, in Switzerland, and elsewhere, and helped him in
his studies and in his plans.
She is a typical example of the driving power which
wives of great men have inspired in their husbands. Like Lenin, who came
from a petty noble stock, she was not a working-class woman, although
her whole life was devoted to the workers. They had no children, but Lenins
widow is devoted to the care of the children of the Soviet Union and she
is known as Russias Mother.
Since Lenin died, in January, 1924, she has spent most
of her time in improving the education in the Soviet Union. She has, however,
been associated with the opposition to Stalin, and her real relations
with the present dictator are not so cordial as they are stated to be
in the official press.
The anecdote is whispered in Moscow that Stalin and
she had a quarrel. Suddenly Stalin lost his temper, turned to her and
shouted: Look here, old woman, if you do not behave Ill appoint
another widow to Lenin!
It would be better, therefore, I thought, as I mounted
the stone steps to her room not to talk about politics, but about education.
I was brought into a very small, very bare office, whose only decoration
was a large photograph of Lenin.
I recognised at the table the woman whose image I had
seen reproduced all over Russia. Over 6o years of age, she had greyish
white hair, which was brushed tightly back over her head, and she wore
a very simple check dress. Her manners indicated a person in whom kindness
and courtesy were natural. Her smile was full of sympathy, and she made
an impression upon me of complete unselfishness, of hard work, self-sacrifice,
and absolute absence of care for worldly comfort. Her facial features
were irregular, for she had big overhanging eyelids and her lips were
For an hour she talked in clear, simple Russian of the
educational aims of the Communists. She laid tremendous stress upon production
and upon the necessity of increasing production. She mentioned the word
production in the same tone as a Welsh minister might mention
God or religion.
The children must learn everything about production,
she stated. They must be able to understand machines, and in the way she
said machines I saw the worship of technical things which
is typical of Russia today. She told me that in order that the children
might be able to learn about machines and factories a new system of education,
called polytechnical education, had been introduced,
by which each school was attached to a factory. The pupils were to visit
the factory frequently and thus become acquainted with the processes of
As she spoke I wondered whether she was not laying too
much stress upon the material and the technical in Russia and whether
there were not other things, such as liberty and literature and religious
freedom, which were infinitely more important.
Lenins widow then described the great advances
which have been made in education in Russia. There was a wave of enthusiasm
among the workers to study, and in some factories, she said, nearly all
the workers attended evening class after the days work was done.
Factory workers would go out to the villages to teach the peasants how
to read and writeand illiteracy was disappearing. Some people of
8o years of age were now intent on studying the alphabet. Libraries had
been spread right throughout Russia.
She suddenly grew excited as she told me of a letter
she had received from a German teacher asking her whether it was true
that the Communists wished to take the children away from the parents
and place them in childrens towns. No, she exclaimed; this was certainly
not true. The child should have relations with its family, because it
must learn about life, about factories, about workers.
Her idea was to have large communal houses in which
one whole floor would be devoted to the children during the daytime. There
they would be under the care of trained psychologists. At night, however,
the child would sleep in the apartment of its parents.
Lenins widow was enthusiastic about the way women
were entering more into the factories and becoming active workers, and
praised the mothers of Russia because they were now nearly all at work
in some branch of production.
When I left her I felt that I had been face to face
with a great personality, but I doubted whether a system of education
which had no place for freedom of thought would succeed in raising a generation
of truly educated men who would think for themselves.
November 7th, 1932.
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