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The Western Mail, April 20th, 1933



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Foreign Trade Wrecked by Fanatical Suspicion

By Gareth Jones  

The trial of the British engineers in Moscow will rank as one of the biggest blunders of history.  The false step which the O.G.P.U. (the State Political Police) blindly took when they ordered the arrest of the six Britons has had results greatly damaging to the Soviet Union.  The O.G.P.U. went about the frame-up without consulting anybody.  Its officials left the Soviet Foreign Office in the dark and sprang the trumped-up charges upon an astonished Soviet public. 

The Moscow Foreign office could not fight against the O.G.P.U., which is now all-powerful, and had to defend the O.G.P.U. action in public, while probably cursing it in private.


What the O.G.P.U. did in keeping with the Bolshevik mentality.  It was motivated by a great fear of the capitalist nations.  According to the Bolsheviks, the capitalists are ever plotting the overthrow of the Soviet Union and send swarms of spies to Russia. 

“England and America are preparing war on the Soviet Union.  The Pope and the Hitlerites are allies in preparing to attack the Soviet Union.” 

Those are typical propaganda posters which one sees everywhere.  This fear of capitalist attack is deeply impressed on the Russian mind, for the Bolsheviks credulously accept Lenin’s prophecy that the war between Capitalism and Communism is bound to come.  What wonder that most British experts or observers going to Russia are suspected of being spies? 

The O.G.P.U. is fanatical in another of its suspicions, namely, the relations between British people and the Intelligence Service.  The Bolsheviks really believe that Scotland Yard (which they confuse with the British Intelligence Service) is an all-powerful force dominating British life.  Scotland Yard, in their imaginations, is the exact equivalent of the O.G.P.U. and has every man and woman and child under its control. 

The Bolsheviks have been taught to believe that every British subject going abroad has to report to Scotland Yard, has to have special permission to leave the country, and has to call at Scotland with military information on his return to England.  In pre-war days the Tsarist police were also suspicious concerning the character of the foreigners who entered Russia. 


The O.G.P.U. was also fanatically-minded in its suspicion of sabotage.  The wrecking of machines has been a frequent crime both in Tsarist and Bolshevik Russia.  Although the accusation strikes as fantastic, sabotage is quite a natural idea to Russians.  Much valuable machinery has been wrecked by wilful damaging by Russians who hate the Bolshevik system. 

Hence the O.G.P.U.’s blunder was natural one in view of Russian history and of Russian mentality.  The O.G.P.U.’s disregard of human life is also natural in view of Russian character.  Human life has never been of much stock in Russia, and the rights of the individual have always been scorned by the ruling class, whether Tsarist or Bolshevik.  Nor will Russian public opinion have much effect on the Bolsheviks’ policy.  The young Communists and the members of the party will see in the trial an explanation for the breakdowns in industry.  But the rest of the country will only think and talk of one subject-  “Food.” 


Where the O.G.P.U. blundered most was in its ignorance of foreign countries.  It did not foresee the first result of the trial which was a world-wide publicity of the dangers accompany engineering trade in Russia.  The trial has thrown vivid searchlight upon the way the government treats foreign experts.  The natural reaction in a foreign firm is: “How can we trade with people who treat the representatives of a first-class company in such a disgraceful way?”  The third degree methods employed in the trial and the invalid nature of the evidence obtained by terrorising Russians have also damaged the Soviet Government in foreign eyes. 

The second consequence of the trial which the O.G.P.U. did not foresee was the barrier it put in the way of American recognition.  President Roosevelt seemed in favour of entering upon diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, but the Moscow trial has alarmed the American, and that goal of Soviet foreign policy-American recognition-is now farther away than ever. 


The final consequence unforeseen by the O.G.P.U. is the prohibition of 80 per cent. of imports from Russia, which was proclaimed yesterday.  Next week the import of petroleum, wheat, butter, raw cotton, timber, and other commodities will be banned.  This will deal a severe blow at Soviet foreign trade, for Great Britain has been Russia’s greatest market.  Usually, almost one-third of the Soviet exports have come to the United Kingdom.  In 1931 the Soviet Union sold to Britain goods to the value of £32,000,000, and bought from Britain £9,000,000 worth of goods. 

The ban on timber from Russia may lead to difficulties, in view of large contracts which have been signed and in of the suitability of Russian timber for British needs. Among the items banned are pit-props and pit-wood. 

The banning of foodstuffs will probably not change the situation greatly, for the export of foodstuffs will, in any case decline rapidly on account of the massacre of cattle and of the ruin of agriculture in Russia. 


Some of the effects of the embargo will be unfortunate.  The shipping trade between British ports and Russia will be adversely affected.  The shutting off of the British market will cause the Soviet Government great difficulties in meeting obligations abroad, and this will hurt British businessmen who are owed money by Russia.  Moreover it will hasten Russian default in Germany, and this will endanger the German budgetary situation.  Little did the O.G.P.U. think of the world-wide political and economic consequences of their sudden descent upon the British engineers’ lodgings in Moscow.


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