[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Morning Post. Tuesday 6th June 1933
II. Crucifixion of the Peasants
SLAVE STATE IN GRIP OF FAMINE
Abject Misery and Desolation
Below we publish the second of four remarkable articles on the present situation in Russia by Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge, who recently acted for eight months as the Moscow Correspondent of an English Liberal newspaper.
Mr. Muggeridge went to Russia a convinced and enthusiastic Communist. He came away entirely disillusioned about the Soviet regime. He has drawn a faithful and terrible picture of the human suffering under existing conditions, and has described his own disillusionment in moving and memorable words.
By MALCOLM MUGGERIDGE
The Five-Year Plan, as far as the factory workers are concerned has had the effect of so lowering their standard of life that Moscow is now regarded as a paradise of plenty, because, with luck, it is possible to get there a bread ration of one and three quarter pounds a day and, in certain circumstances, an in-different meal in the factory restaurants. In other towns, condition, are much worse. In Odessa, for instance, the bread ration was reduced in February to one hundred grams a day.
The average monthly wage of an un-skilled worker is from 100 to 150 roubles (nominally £10 to £15), which means that he cannot buy in the open market, where meat costs twenty roubles a kilo, and butter—sold, before the embargo, in London at ninepence a pound—sixty-five roubles a kilo. Thus, apart from the factory restaurants, which are available only for a minority even of factory workers, he is entirely dependent on his bread ration. If that is taken away, he starves.
[NOTE: - the rouble is worth nominally two shillings.]
I say—and no unbiased person who has lived in Russia can contradict me— that most Soviet workers and their families to-day are living entirely on these bread rations; that they taste, from one month’s end to another, neither meat nor butter nor sugar nor vegetables; that their housing conditions are more abominable than the most abominable slums in England: that their lives are spent in a miserable round of work and waiting in queues and struggling on and all crowded tramcars.
All their waking time they are terrified - terrified of the G.P.U.; terrified of one another; terrified that they will lose their ration cards: terrified that they will be refused a passport, and be driven away from the corner in some room or cellar where they are at least allowed to sleep in peace.
None-the-less, their lot, compared with the peasants, is privileged and luxurious and happy.
A MONSTROUS CRIME
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RULE IN THE VILLAGES
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obedient slogans and build mechanically a hideous paradise.
What the Bolsheviks have done in the towns of Russia is nothing; a kind of inverted American boom; a kind of morbid equivalent of the general post-war economic extravagance; a thing that might pass and be quickly forgotten. The particular horror of their rule is what they have done in the villages. This, I am convinced, is one of the most monstrous crimes in history, so terrible that people in the future will scarcely be able to believe it ever happened.
If you go now to the Ukraine or the North Caucasus, exceedingly beautiful countries and formerly amongst the most fertile in the world you will find them like a desert; fields choked with weeds and neglected; no livestock or horses; villages seeming to be deserted, sometimes actually deserted peasants famished, often their bodies swollen, unutterably wretched.
You will discover, if you question them, that they have had no bread at all for three months past; only potatoes and some millet, and that now they are counting their potatoes one by one because they know nothing else will be available to eat until the summer, if then. They will tell you that many have already died of famine, and that many are dying every day; that thousands have been shot by the Government and hundreds of thousands exiled; that it is a crime, punishable by the death sentence without trial, for them to have grain in their houses.
They will only tell you these things, however, if no soldier or stranger is within sight. At the sight of a uniform or of someone properly fed, whom they assume, because of that fact, to be a Communist or a Government official, they change their tone and assure you that they have everything in the way of food and clothing that the heart of man can desire, and that they love the dictatorship of the proletariat, and recognise thankfully the blessings it has brought to them.
WHAT IS HID FROM TOURISTS
Strange as it may seem, a certain number of these poor wretches are from time to time made to speak in this strain to parties of tourists. I found that the name of Bernard Shaw was known to them. They spoke of him privately in the same tone, and spitting as venomously, as when they spoke of Stalin.
I saw these conditions for myself in the North Caucasus and the Ukraine, and heard from many sources, some Russians, some foreign, and some even Communists, that similar conditions prevailed in all the agricultural districts of Russia. This is unquestionably the case.
It is impossible to describe the horror of it. I saw in India villages devastated by cholera. It was terrible. They were dead villages. Yet plagues pass, and I knew that the villages would fill again with living people. I saw in Belgium villages devastated by war. They, too, were dead villages. Yet even the war had ended, and I knew that the villages would fill again with living people.
It is impossible to describe the horror of it. I saw in India villages devastated by cholera. It was terrible. They were dead villages. Yet plagues pass. and I knew that the villages would fill again with living people. I saw in Belgium villages devastated by war. They, too, were dead villages. Yet even the war had ended, and I knew that the villages would fill again with living people.
Villages devastated by the Bolsheviks were terrible beyond words because their seemed no end. It was as though a blight had settled on the Country. It was as though nothing would ever grow there again. It was a though the peasants, their lives torn up by the roots, were ghosts haunting a place where they had once lived and been happy.
Why should it ever stop? I asked myself—soldiers, impersonal, some of them Mongols with leaden faces and slit eyes; members of the G.P.U, dapper, well-fed, often Jews, carrying out the orders of the dictatorship of the proletariat, destroying more surely than barbarians (who come with swords and fire, things relatively clean) the life, the soul of a country.
HUNDRED MILLION SLAVES
From the beginning, the Bolsheviks have regarded the peasants as so much raw material for carrying out their plans. They gave them the land in order to get power, and, having got power, took the land away from them.
After the famine of 1921; after the Krondstadt revolt, when those whom Trotsky had called ‘‘the pride and his glory of the Revolution” demanded, amongst other things, free elections and a secret ballot; liberty of speech and of the Press for workers and peasants; the right to organise Trade Unions; equal rations for all who worked; and when they were, in consequence, shot down in hundreds by Trotsky’s orders, and then handed over to the G.P.U., that had run away when the revolt started, for an orgy of sadistic revenge—after all this, the peasants were given the right to trade freely with their produce. As soon, however, as they began to grow prosperous again, the promises that had been made to them were broken.
Those peasants who, because they were more industrious or more unscrupulous or more intelligent than their fellows, had prospered, were treated as dangerous criminals; the New Economic Policy, like the Torgsin shops, was a means of locating thrift and wealth in order to destroy the one and steal the other.
Collectivisation and de-kulakisation followed. The peasants were driven, mostly at the end of a rifle, into collective farms, which, being incompetently and often corruptly directed by picked Communists, have failed to produce enough rood to feed the town populations, let alone provide exports to pay for Socialist construction, Last autumn and winter the Government’s agents went over the country like a swarm of locusts taking everything edible, and leaving behind them a desert.
The dictatorship of the proletariat has entrusted the task of making this desert fruitful again to its “flaming sword,” the G.P.U., which, under the name of “political departments“ established in every machine-tractor-station and State farm— that is, everywhere—will attempt to produce crops by the same methods as those by which timber has been produced for export.
To all intents and purposes the whole peasantry has been arrested and sentenced to forced labour. The proletariat’s “flaming sword” is at its best, in dealing with helpless, unorganised, starving people; even so, a hundred million peasants may well prove unmanageable. If not; if, under the patronage of “political departments.” the fields bear abundantly, then a new and most hideous kind of slavery will have to be reckoned with, a slavery different from, and more awful than, any hitherto known in the world.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
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