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The Western Mail, April 7th, 1933


- - - 

Putting the clock back by Centuries


The journey into Russia has been described as the crossing of the boundary from one economic system, Capitalism, into another, Communism.  But this description is too simple, for each country has a different type of Capitalism.

German Capitalism, which is almost a State Socialism or, as a German banker described it to me, “a Socialist State run by capitalists,” is totally different from American Capitalism, where the State has up to recently kept aloof from business, and where the Government which rules least is considered the Government which rules best.  French Capitalism, in which the Government has great control over finance and makes finance a tool of politics, is totally different from British Capitalism, where finance is more independent of politics and where the national income is less evenly distributed than in France.

Nor is Russia the land of Communism.  Any Communist would refute this, and say that the Soviet Union is only building up Communism, and that Communist classless society will not be brought into being for many years.

 West to East 

A journey into Russia is, therefore, not journey from clear-cut Capitalism into clear-cut Communism.  It is rather a journey from Europe into Asia into Russia is, therefore, from a Western civilization into an Eastern civilisation.  It is a journey back several centuries.  Russia never had the Reformation, which affected so deeply the life of Wales.  Russia is now in the middle of her Industrial Revolution, which Britain went through over a century ago.  The effects of the French Revolution were slight.  Russia only abolished serfdom in 1881.  The fight for freedom which created the free British and French characters had been crushed.  Thus Russia remains Asia, although territorially in Europe.  It is Asiatic in the past and present poverty and in the fatalism of its peasants.

Such were my thoughts as the Russian frontier came nearer.  My companions had different ideas.  They were all Communists who had fled from Canada or America and expected to find perfect conditions in the Communist State of Russia. They felt embittered at capitalism.  One of them was a Hungarian who had lived in Canada and been arrested by the police and sentenced without a trial.  Finally he was deported.  Where was he to go?  If he went back to Hungary he would be hanged as a Communist.  So he came to Russia, where, he said, the working class had built for themselves a magnificent fatherland.

Foreign Deportees 

His case was typical of other foreign deportees from Canada and America- victims of the depression.  These workers coming from Hungary or Poland scrape up a few dollars, travel steerage to immigration offices and after weeks or months of confinement are deported.  They make their way to Soviet Russia.  There were many of these men bitter with capitalism on the train.  When we crossed the Soviet frontier they raised a cheer.  “Now, boys, we’re safe in the land without unemployment,” they said. 

We looked out of the train.  They were delighted with everything they saw.  The slightest building was exaggerated in their imagination into a Socialist triumph.  We arrived in Moscow, and indeed there was little in the centre of the city which America lose their jobs, sleep in the American parks, are finally seized by, could disillusion them [SIC - this sentence is meaningless in the original].  The children looked well fed and most of the people had warm clothes and sufficient footwear.  The, streets had improved greatly and several new buildings were in course of construction.  My first impression was good.  I had forgotten one thing [this line missing at end of page of article]… in the whole of the Soviet Union is collected for the capital city. 

A Contrast 

No greater contrast could be found than the feelings of those who left Russia the same time as I did several weeks later.  These were American workers, who had come two and a half years earlier, expecting to find good conditions.  They now cursed the Soviet Government with all the vituperation they could command.  Their American passports had been taken away from them in order to make it difficult for them to leave Russia. 

It was only through the efforts of an American journalist that they had received their passports.  Their two sons had lived on a collective farm and had had nothing but potatoes and cattle fodder for six months. 

They said: “No one wants to work.  No one cares whether the machines are smashed or neglected.  In the factory where I was, almost 100 per cent of the workers are against the Government.  The workers are too weak to do real work.  Now they are afraid of losing their jobs because in some factories up to 50 per cent of a the workers have been dismissed.” 

When I heard the other workers in the train, Germans and Italians, talk of their experiences in Soviet factories and saw their joy when the Soviet frontier was passed I thought of the hope of the deportees as they entered the Soviet Union, and wondered how they were faring in that Asiatic country which had tried in vain to catch up many centuries of industrialism in the brief span of five years.


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