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The Times, October 14th 1930


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From a Correspondent (Gareth Jones)


The previous article described the aims and methods of the Communist minority and the views of the active workers on their achievements.  The conversations recorded below will show the growing gulf between the “rulers” and the “ ruled “ and the profound discontent of the “non-active” inhabitants.  There is, however, a section of the population, which belongs partly to the “active” and partly to the “non-active” sections.  These are the highly-skilled artisans, the engineers and the mechanics, who are well paid, who are eagerly sought after, and among whom there is no unemployment.  They are so in­dispensable to the execution of the Five-Years Plan that they receive wages varying from 150 roubles (nominally about £15) a month to 250 or 300 roubles (£25 or £35) and more.  They are able, therefore, to obtain food beyond their rations from the private traders, who sell at a higher price than the cooperative shops.  Thus unless they have a bourgeois past - they are happy compared with the unskilled worker, who may receive 80 to 100 roubles (nominally £8 to £10) a month, but often less.  To this intermediate section ef the population belong also those who enjoy the advantages of the Rest Houses and Sanatoria provided by the State.




The views of the majority of the workers on living conditions under the Five-Years Plan can be gathered from the following conversations with workers. An employee of an agricultural implement factory said:“ Everything is bad now and we cannot get anything at all.  We cannot get boots and we cannot get clothes.  Workers in my factory get 80 to 100 roubles nominally £8 to £10] a month, and 120 roubles [£12] is the lowest figure on which one can live.  We cannot obtain enough food and many are too weak to work. Eight hours is my day, but many seasonal workers do ten and twelve hours.”  One of many thousands of miners, whose flight from the hunger and the housing shortage of the Donetz Basin the writer witnessed, expressed his opinion of what the Five-Years Plan was doing for Russia in the following words: “Everybody is going away from the Donetz Basin, because there is no food here.  There is nothing in Russia.  The situation is terrible.  All that the Communists do for us is to promise us that when the Five-Years Plan is over we shall all be prosperous.  My life is like a flower; it will soon wither away.  I want to eat and live now.  What does it matter to me what will happen in a hundred years?”


Another miner who was travelling hundred the same compartment nodded approval and said: “A year or two ago we could got enough to eat, but now nothing at all. Now they are sending all our grain abroad and building factories.  Why cannot they give us food and boots and clothing?  I get 80 roubles a month.  How can I live?  The Five-Years Plan will not succeed.  The Communists will not last very long, for we cannot stick it any longer.  You see if there will not be a revolution.”  Nor was this miner the only Russian who was so angry with present conditions as to speak of an uprising, for other citizens, especially in the south, spoke of revolution.


Women are equally discontented with living conditions.  A woman worker said:  “Times are bad.  From 1922 until last year everything was satisfactory, but now things have become unbearable.  With the money I receive for my eight-hour day’s work I can only buy a small plateful of potatoes and tomatoes or a tiny portion of fish.  I earn 52 roubles (nominally about £5 a month).  How can I live?”  Lack of faith in the future of the Plan and disillusionment characterized the conversation of most non-active workers.


Bitter hatred of Communists and of the privileges they enjoy was often expressed.  During a journey in the South a train passed ours and in were two cleanly dressed men travelling first-class.  A workingwoman (a cook) who was in our compartment shouted: “There’s a party man and there’s another.  They are both travelling soft [first-class].  They get everything and we have to starve.”   With this there was general agreement among the people the compartment.  “The Communists get the best rooms and we get none at all.  They just send somebody off to the prisons of Solovki and take their room," said a miner on another journey.




Stalin shares the unpopularity of his Party and most Russians evaded a reply to any question about him saying: “If Lenin had only lived, then all would have been well.”  An anecdote told with a warning that to repeat it would render anyone guilty of a counter-revolutionary act, illustrates the general attitude towards the dictator.  Stalin has a dream in which Lenin appears and says to him:  “Good-day Stalin.  How is Russia?” Stalin replies, “We are getting on splendidly.  Our achievements under the Five-Years Plan are wonderful.”  Lenin asks’ “But what are you going to do when the Five-years Plan is over?”  Stalin answers: “Oh, then we shall have another Five-Years Plan.”  Finally Lenin crushes Stalin by saying: By that time everyone in Russia will have died and have joined me and you will be the only man left to carry out your second Five-Years Plan.”


Rykov and Tomsky are despised for their weakness in the 6th Congress of the Communist Party, when they showed abject humility before Stalin.  One often hears praise, however of the right wing moderate Bukharin.  The remark is frequently made:  “Bukharin is not done for yet.”


Nor do the methods used by the Party meet with the approval of the masses.  The Communists have committed a tactical blunder in over-indulging in propaganda.  “We do not read the notices because we know already what is written on them,” was the remark of a teacher.  A miner expressed himself in more vigorous terms: “I do not believe a word they say in the papers or on the placards.  They are all lies, lies, lies.  Nobody reads the posters, we are so tired of them.”


The action of the State Political Police in exiling peasants, members of the intelligentsia, the priests and bourgeois, to Solovki, to the Urals and to Siberia, is condemned by the majority of the non-active inhabitants, for the sympathy of the average Russian is still, as in Tsarist days, with the under-dog, with the sufferer.  Fear of the secret police closed the mouths of some fellow travellers.  On being asked several questions, one skilled worker became silent and said: “I am afraid of talking to you.  A lot of foreigners, Latvians and others, belong to the Ogpu (the State Political Police).  There are spies – most of the Komsomoltsi (Young Communists), for example  - who report you.  You may be a spy.”


The present food shortage was attributed by most Russians to two causes – the agricultural revolution begun last year and the absence of a free market.  A caretaker and his wife explained: “It is all the fault of this collectivisation, which the peasants hate.  There is no meat, nothing at all.  What we want is a free market.”  Upon this, the most vital problem of all, it is better, however, to let the peasants speak for themselves.


While there is no reason to believe that the poor peasants support their Communist benefactors the point of view of the average peasant was well expressed in the following conversations, one with two members of a collective farm and the other with a Cossack individual farmer.  “Its a dog’s life,” agreed the two collective members.  “It would be better to live under the earth than to live now.  They force us to join collective farms.  The very best people, those who worked day and night, were sent to the Urals and Siberia, and their houses were taken from them.  What is the use of living?”




The Cossack individual farmer also complained bitterly of the Communist policy.  “It is hard to live. Just because we have our own holdings they make life a burden for us.  I come here to the big town and I go to a shop to buy something.  They say:  “Show us your collective farm card”.  I reply:  “But I have no collective farm card”.  They say:  “Then we cannot sell you anything.”  So in time I shall have to give up my land.  Otherwise I shall not be able to buy a single thing and perhaps they will just take my house away and send me to Siberia.  In my Cossack station in February they took 40 of the best and most hardworking peasants away with their women and children and sent them in freezing trains to Urals.”


The conversation quoted above, upon which no comment is necessary, are not chosen on account of the opposition they express to the Soviet régime, but because they are typical of views heard in many parts of Russia.  They prove that the Communist Government has to face ever-growing opposition and hatred within the country.  The openness with which many Russians expressed their dissatisfaction is another striking testimony to the extent to which public opinion has been roused.  What influence the state of affairs in the country is likely to have on the trend of Soviet policy will be shown in the next article.




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