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The Daily Express, April 8th, 1933 Page 9



- - - 

Russia’s Collapse 

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 1931. 

What The Side Streets Revealed

 In the 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 Absence 

“But surely 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 and 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.

“Why 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. 

“Our 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”.

 Passportisation, labour discipline and unemployment.  Those are the three specters which haunt the Russian worker. 

To see a PDF facsimile of the above please CLICK HERE

On Monday 10th Apil in the letters 'to the Editor' page (page 12) appeared a letter from Edward Hilliard suggesting a prohibition on the importation of Soviet foodstuffs until thr famine had subsided:


In the circumstances described by Mr. Gareth Jones it would be a charitable action to prohibit the import of foodstuffs from Russia until such time as the starving Russians can obtain food in order to keep alive.

Our supplies from sources other than Russia are ample for our present requirements.

To see a PDF facsimile of the above please CLICK HERE


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