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 history.
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
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 of history.
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.
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.
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.
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 Lenin’s widow is
devoted to the care of the children of the Soviet Union and she is known
as “ Russia’s Mother.”
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
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 I’ll appoint another widow to
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.
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 slightly twisted.
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
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 production.
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.
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 day’s work was done. Factory workers would go
out to the villages to teach the peasants how to read and write—and
illiteracy was disappearing. Some people of 8o years of age were now
intent on studying the alphabet. Libraries had been spread right
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
children’s 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.
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.
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.
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.