[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Daily Express, April 8th, 1933 Page 9
“PITIFUL LIVES OF SOVIET FACTORY SLAVES”
- - -
By Gareth Jones
One night, after
attending a reception given by the Soviet Foreign Office in a Moscow Palace, I
went to explore the workers homes in Moscow.
Up to then I had
been impressed by the warm clothes of most of those people who frequented the
centre of the city and by the health of the children in Moscow. I had
learned that the children were given good meals in school. I had talked to
skilled workers who were well paid and received plenty to eat in their
factories, and I knew that some shops were moderately well stocked, although
entrance was limited to privileged persons. The number of fine motor-cars
rushing through the streets had struck me as a great improvement over 1930 and
What The Side Streets Revealed
packed theatre I had seen a crowd which seemed to me exceedinglv middle-class in
its respectable clothing and its nourished look. The brisk walk of many
Muscovites had struck me. Hungry people do not walk like that, I
reflected. The main streets in Moscow were in good condition and had
improved over previous years. If it were not therefore for begging
peasants I should have drawn the conclusion that all was well with Moscow.
Would my visits
to Soviet workers’ homes confirm that impression?
I left the
centre of the town and found myself alone in a dark side street. I entered
a courtyard littered with rubbish. To the left stood a wooden house with
an. open door, through which I went. It led me into a semi-lit corridor with
doors on each side leading into rooms. A working woman came out.
“What do you want?” “I want to see how workers live,” was my
reply. Her husband invited me in. “We’ll show you how they make us
workers live,” he said bitterly. There was one small room with a bed
which occupied almost the whole of the space. Three of us live here,”
said the woman.
‘Come and visit
the next family.” The next room was still smaller. An ikon was
hanging in the corner. On the bed an old woman was lying, pale and
ill. "Three live here,” she said, “but when my sons came back on
leave from the Red Army we were five.” I wondered how five could
possibly sleep in the small space of the room. In some of the rooms in the
house there were six, seven, and even eight in each room.
As I talked to
the old woman a girl of about twelve years of age, with a large red necktie,
entered. Her face around her eyes was swollen with crying. Her
mother followed her, and her pale face was also swollen with tears.
“What is the matter? “I asked. The mother replied: “We have been
refused passports, and we have to leave Moscow by March 30. We know no one
in the world except in Moscow, but we have to go beyond sixty-five miles from
Moscow. Where can we go? How will we have food there?
No Bread Penalty For Day’s
they will leave you your bread card?” I asked. “Not even a bread card,
and we have no money.” The old woman said also that she was refused a
visa, and would have to leave Moscow, but she was quiet, and seemed resigned,
although she knew well what her fate would be.
These people were
the victims of passportisation.”
No wonder I got
angry next day when a Communist, who seemed to know every statistic there was to
be known, told me: “We hope that by our system of passportisation we shall be
able to remove the surplus labour from the towns. About 700,000 will leave
Moscow. But I can assure you that only crooks, speculators, kulaks,
private traders, and ex-officers will have to go.”
On the same
evening that talked to a factory woman in the home of a worker, she told
me: “They are cruelly strict now in the factories. If you are absent one
day you are sacked, get your bread card taken away, and cannot get a
passport. Life is a nightmare. I walk to my factory every day, for
travelling in the crowded tram kills my nerves.
“It is more
terrible than ever. If you say a word now in the factories you are
dismissed.” This strictness in the factories is the result of the
Government decrees on labour discipline. Its main aim is to tie the good
worker to the factory and to get rid of the slacker. Cursed by a
continuous desertion of the factories by disgruntled workers, who left for other
factories, the Soviet Government has decided to put a stop to it by a severity
which is nothing else than slavery.
“We work now
for a greater slave driver than ever,” was the comment of one worker who knew
pre-war factories. This man went to work each day in dread, for he lived
outside Moscow and had to catch an omnibus to work. Some of his friends had
been dismissed for arriving at the factory a quarter of an hour late, and,
living far from his place of work, he feared the same fate. To be deprived
of a bread card, which is the penalty for one day’s absence from work is no
light thing in Russia. It is not only the slacker, however, who gets
dismissed, but also the honest worker.
No Unemployment Insurance
When I arrived in
London and saw the placard “The Land Without Unemployment,” the pathos and
the hypocrisy of the situation struck me. In Moscow, in Kharhoff, in every
city, thousands are being turned out of the factories. They receive no
bread card, as I was told by numerous workers, or in some cases a bread-card for
a fortnight. They receive no unemployment insurance. They are
deprived of passports and are sent away from the towns into the countryside,
where there is no bread and where they often know no one.
more workers are leaving the factory gates to face starvation. A vigorous
economy drive is cutting down staffs in many offices, and in some factories from
twenty-five to forty percent.
do you have so
many unemployed?” was the question I asked a well-known Communist. His
answer was typical of the hypocrisy of many Bolsheviks.
unemployment is according to plan. We are ejecting people from the offices
in order to make the others work better. We are creating unemployment on
purpose, and the people understand. “According to plan!” It
does not matter to human life, as long as everything is “according to plan”.
labour discipline and unemployment. Those
are the three specters which haunt the Russian worker.
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