[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Daily Express, April 5th, 1933
SOVIET CONFISCATE PART OF WORKERS’ WAGES.
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HOUNDED FROM THE TOWNS
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PROGRESS AT THE EXPENSE OF HAPPINESS
By Gareth Jones
Forced loans which reduce the workers’ wages are revealed by Mr. Gareth Jones to-day in the story of his wanderings through Russia among the working people. A Communist confesses to the confiscation of a quarter of the monthly pay; a trader tells how he is being hounded from the towns; a political envoy of Russia’s ruling caste boasts of his power over the masses; a peasant who travelled far to buy bread tells how it was taken from him. Mr. Gareth Jones, until recently Mr. Lloyd George’s foreign adviser, has just returned from Russia, a country he has known for years.
“Do not go into the villages,” I was told in a certain Embassy. “The peasants are starving, and will steal anything they can get hold of.”
Disregarding this warning, I piled my rucksack with many loaves of white bread, with butter, cheese, meat and chocolate which I had bought with foreign currency at the Torgsin stores. I arrived at the station in Moscow from which the trains leave for the south, picked my way through the dirty peasants lying sleeping on the floor and in a few minutes found myself it the hard class compartment of the slowest train which leaves Moscow for Kharkoff.
To see Russia one must travel “hard class,” and go by a slow train. Those tourists who travel “soft class.” and by express trains, get only an impression, and do not see the real Russia.
The compartment filled slowly. Peasants with sacks full of bread came in. An energetic man, who looked well nourished and wore a leather cap and a leather jacket, came and sat opposite me. Then the train gave a jolt, and we set off on our day’s journey towards the Ukraine. The types in that train throw light on the Russia of 1933.
‘RUTHLESS’ SCOTLAND YARD’
There is first, the Communist Party member who sits opposite me, and who maintains that in England every Communist is starving to death as a prisoner in the Tower of London. He thinks that Scotland-Yard has as firm a grip over English life as the Ogpu has in Russia.
"Scotland-Yard is all powerful!’ he says and is ruthlessly crushing the English working class. But Scotland-yard will not be able to stop the upsurge of revolutionary forces for long. The revolution will come there, and then you must have a Cheka as ruthless as ours.”
We talk about freedom in England. “Freedom, indeed,” he exclaims. “You have only freedom to chatter. But suppose you organised a military force to fight against the King, would you be allowed to do so? Certainly not. That is a proof that you have no freedom!”
Two Russians listen intently to our conversation, but they do not. say a single word. It is not safe for a Russian to argue in front of a Communist Party member.
Not far away sits
a peasant who stares with glassy eyes at the floor. He has a small sack to
which he clings. He mutters to me: "I went to the town for bread and
bought bread, but they took my bread away from me." He repeats
several times: “They took my bread away from me, and I shall not have bread
for my family in the village where they are expecting bread. I have only a
That is one of the many little tragedies so frequent in Russia. In a village in the Ukraine they are waiting for the peasant to return from the town - but he will come breadlless.
Another type in the train is the disillusioned young Communist. We stand alone in the corridor and look out at the vast expanse of snow covering the Russian countryside. “A lot of us young Communists,” he says, “are getting dissatisfied because we have no bread. I have had none for a week, although I work in a town-only potatoes. I only get sixty roubles a month but by the time they have taken a lot away I only get about forty to fifty. How can I live?”
“What do you mean when you say they take part of your wages away from you?" I ask him.
angry. “Don't you know that we are forced to give up part of our wages
for loans. What do I want to subscribe to the Five-Year Plan in four per
cent. loans for? But they take it away at the source. And that's not
the only thing either. They docket lots of things.”
The young Communist looks worried, and goes on. When I left my mother and two sisters a couple of days ago they only had two glasses of flour left. My brother died of hunger. No wonder we young Communists cannot help feeling sick at things:”
DEPRIVED OF ALL RIGHTS
As I stand in the corridor and look out at the wooden huts covered with snow amid at the silvery birches, a swarthy man, a Jew or Armenian, enters into conversation with me. He has a row of gold teeth. "Going to the Ukraine? ” he asks. I nod assent. "So am I. I have been thrown out of Leningrad. And now they’ll throw me out of Kharkoff, I expect. It's a dog’s life.”
"Why were you thrown out? “ I ask. "Well they would not give the a passport in Leningrad. “They said I was one of the scum and the sooner I got out the better. You see, I am a private trader. I sell things in the streets and because of that they deprived me of all my rights.”
"And you should have seen the taxes they made me pay. What will happen to me in time future I do not know. It’s better not to think of it.” At that moment a Red Army soldier comes along, carrying a number of lottery tickets. He approaches each man and shows him a declaration in bad handwriting which runs as follows: “We workers of the first coach of this train challenge you in the fifth coach to a socialist competition for the sale of lottery tickets for the Defence Society. Somebody has written underneath. We in the fifth coach accept your Socialist treaty 100 p.c.”
“WE WILL SMASH THEM"
Each man in the coach paid one rouble for a lottery ticket entitling him if he wins to a motor-car or a tractor or a journey or an anti-poison gas costume. “Why are you buying that ticket for a rouble when you only earn sixty roubles a month? “I asked the young Communist later. "Well I suppose I’ve got to,” he replies.
A domineering man in a khaki coat then talks with me. At the first glance one can tell that he is a party member, for most Communists in Russia have a stamp of vigour and ruthlessness which marks them as the ruling class. He tells me that he is a member of the Politodel (the Political Department), and I prick up my ears, for the Political Department is that detachment of many thousands of Communists who have been sent to the villages to make a violent drive to force the peasants to work. He looks ruthless and cruel. We are semi-military,” he says. “We’ll smash the kulak (the peasant who was formerly better off) and we’ll smash all opposition.” He clenches his fist. “We are practically all men who served in the civil war. I was in the cavalry in the finest Red regiment.
“We who are now going into the villages are the chosen ones, the strongest, and we are all workers, mainly from the factories. We shall show the peasants what strict control means.”
This man is typical of the spirit in which the villages are to be tackled. He will not hesitate at shooting. He is filled with the doctrine of class warfare in the villages, and he is determined to carry on what he considers to be a holy war against all those who are against the Communist collective farms.
In every little station the train stops, and during one of these halts a man comes up to me and whispers to me in German: “Tell them in England that we are starving, and that we are getting swollen.”
A little later I decide to leave the train and make my way into the villages. I pull my rucksack over my back.
The young Communist says to me: “Be careful. The Ukrainians are desperate” But I get out of the train, which rattles on to Kharkoff, leaving me alone in the snow.
Original Research, Content & Site Design by Nigel Linsan Colley. Copyright © 2001-17 All Rights Reserved Original document transcriptions by M.S. Colley.Click here for Legal Notices. For all further details email: Nigel Colley or Tel: (+44) 0796 303 8888