[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
My summer in Europe permits — herewith — first, my “high—spot” findings on:
V. A suggestion regarding NRA [National Recovery Administration] and after.
Everywhere Polish soldiers, airplanes — and taxes. Everywhere German bitterness over the "absurd" French-engineered boundary and its soldier—enforcement.
“This farmer’s house is in Germany but his farm is across that ditch in Poland! He can cross the boundary by daylight only. Helping his sick cow, by night, may mean three weeks in Polish jails.”
“This German family's (Polish) servants report its every conversation. The only place it can talk freely with its guests is in the auto.”
“The Treaty required Poland to use our Free City of Dantzig as its only port. Now it has built up its own new port or Gdynia. We face ruin!’
“But you see,” retort the Poles, “Dantzig takes orders only from Berlin. It refused some years ago to let us import any munitions for repelling Bolshevik invaders. That forced us to develop Gdynia, - - We’ll gladly compromise on tariffs or what—not. But we won’t give back one single millimeter of territory!”
Meanwhile, Hitler has surprised all by decidedly easing the situation. Whether he merely seeks a temporary breathing—spell, nobody knows.
II. Of the Saar’s 700,000 population, 90 per cent was earlier expected to vote in the Plebiscite of 1935 for return to Germany.
Hitlerism makes this now less certain: The day it enters, every Saar Communist, Socialist, Jew, and other Non—Hitlerite will have to “beat it” across the border! (The Basin avoided Germany’s Inflation. It enjoys more jobs than Germany, higher real wages, lower taxes, more freedom. Its local coal and steel jobs are likely to be more plentiful if it remains under the League of Nations: Its joining France is unlikely.)
Over—active Hitler propaganda might force the League to send in (French) troops. That might bring War! War might also result from what many French expect before long - namely, a French Hitler in Paris! Otherwise the Plebiscite’s outcome will depend mainly on Hitler’s success or failure this winter.
III. I was disappointed with Hitler’s voice, magnetism, ideas. His Nuremburg speeches were mostly platitudes about art, music, race—purity, etc.
He has gained political leadership mainly because he speaks comfortingly to a people whose self—respect, religion, and courage were destroyed by the triple defeats of 1918, of ‘23’s Inflation, and finally, of the Depression.
“Your victorious armies,” he tells them ‘were stabbed in the back by the Socialists and Reds. ‘Non— Aryans’ took your money by Inflation and your jobs by Depression. — — Choose between us and Communism!”
Hence the over—populated “Concentration Camps,” the flight of 60,000 Jews, legislation barring them from Government jobs and the demand that they be “fired” from university studies and business generally - in general, widespread brutality, censorship, muzzled press, fear — also hope.
“One—fourth of us today are Hitlerites. One—fourth of us are friendly to Hitlerism because this is ‘good business.’ A fourth are ‘hopeful waiters.’ The final fourth hates but keeps silent.”
Watching, in Nuremburg, 140,000 (weaponless) soldiers take 4½ hours to march past, and seeing 65,000 boy soldiers—to—be listening to “The Leader,” helped explain why all Europe fears hidden munitions and early war. But I’m not yet certain that Hitler wishes this, either now or later. To hold power he and his “mediocre it not positively pathological” Cabinet must make such gestures as his anti—League move.
“Quiet here?” summarized a German worker. Sure. We all have to be quiet, Still Hitler has helped us Germans to walk now with chest out and head up we hope he’s right. But we wonder how he can find more jobs by driving out thousands of our best professionals, our most active capitalists, and our best business men.”
To succeed, Hitler must report “more jobs” or else make the Allies ease up. Otherwise, popular, hard—boiled Goer1ng may pull a military dictatorship.
IV. In Russia’s Donetz or “Pittsburgh District” in the Ukraine I visited factories and collective farms with Government—employed interpreters.
But mostly I talked with (a) German, French and American engineers, official representatives and experts of long Russian residence: and (b) hundreds of Russian workers (in German) on the back streets of Kharkov, Ukraine’s 850,000—man capital, and especially in the same coal and steel towns I visited in ‘28. All this brought four convictions:
A. Famine, last winter and spring, caused fully five million deaths!
a. Though unbelievable here, this situation is no longer news in Europe.
b. Practically all foreign—born but resident observers put the figure higher than the 5,000,000 victims of “Hungry ‘21." This hunger has been more widespread. It has also not been lessened by ‘21’s $70,000,000 of American relief. (Party members (3,000,000) last August denied the situation and frowned upon helping the starving.)
c. Amongst themselves upper—class Russians are reported to discuss whether the dead have totalled fifteen millions or only ten! Nobody can know: Doctors (all Government—employed) dare report death only as due to “Weak Heart” or “Exposure.” Big increase in death—rate - also in number of tuberculous young — remains unexplained.
d, Moscow correspondents last August were denied access to the district I was visiting. Duranty pooh—poohed all hunger rumors, but now confidentially admits “five million.”
e, Two other reasons for America’s ignorance of conditions are: (1) Army control has lately made censorship both stricter and dumber; (2) “We residents didn’t know why Yalta was suddenly, one morning, empty of all beggars and starving — until, about eleven o’clock, we saw hundreds of foreign tourists!’
f, I personally saw children and grown—ups dying of starvation. (Indicated by swollen faces.)
g, “My daughter died of hunger three months ago today.”
h. “How many dead did you see coming down to work this morning?” Thus conversation began last winter in many offices. (In August these offices were largely empty while the clerks helped harvest the “bread”: Nobody calls it wheat.)
I. “In my village, last winter, I saw regularly 25 neighbors dead each morning. Often 50, Sometimes 100! - You see, they go out in search of something to eat and finally drop down, too weak to move - and well, that’s all.”
j. “An aunt of mine kept herself and two children alive by selling, one by one, her gold teeth and fillings -- ‘I don’t need them,’ she told us, ‘as long as our Government black bread is always wet or moist in the middle.
k. “That policeman capturing that boy there will load his wagonful of homeless orphans into a railroad car, It will then be run so far out into the open country that the youngsters can’t walk back. You see, last winter, families flocked here from the starving villages. Later they were forced back home. To give their children one more chance, they abandoned them here — to a total of 18,000!”
l. As in ‘21, reports of cannibalism are too common to be disregarded. These are made more believable by the way “merchants” try to sell in the “Free Market” three lumps of sugar, a gob of cement, two or three eggs, a piece of meat — all a handful at a time, with nothing else in sight.
B. In spite of material and cultural gains, I believe the worker, in at least the Donetz, is worse off than 5 years ago.
a. While pay has been somewhat increased, the rouble’s purchasing power has fallen from 50 to about 2½ cents! A shoe—shine costs a rouble — ditto three or four scraggly pears; a self—respecting egg — 1.30 R; butter in the Free Market, 50 R (You can “bootleg” anywhere from 30 to 200 roubles for an American dollar!)
b. A worker can buy his allotted ¾ pound or more of bread per day — also certain other supplies — at very low rates; also, at l.—l.50 R. one meal daily in his employer’s (usually dirty) lunch—room. Figuring this in, it looks as though the ordinary laborer’s “real” wages, had, since ‘28, been at least cut in two!
c. This calls for more and more compulsion. Present labor policy is now mainly — ‘Work today or starve tomorrow:”
d. Without the new, individual “Labor Passport,” no worker can resign, buy his railway ticket to another job, or retain either his cheap—bread—card or his bed. Then Free Market prices soon start him starving.
e. “But even if my job brings me 2 - 4 roubles daily, I starve almost as quickly.”
f. “How many roubles a month?” I could ask in Russian. Ten fingers brought together would answer 45 — 65 — 90, etc. Then a finger across the throat would register its below—par traffic. Two hands would next pull down cheeks to indicate hunger. Then a shrug of the shoulders for helplessness. Finally a finger to lips asking for silence.
g. "My husband and I are always hungry — also our child. But we try hard somehow to keep strong. Only the strong will see next April’s sun!”
C. Her chances are smaller than Moscow correspondents are forced by their jobs to report. Today all Russia exults in the best crop in 50 years! But —
a. “It’s because the farmers are too few,” so people answered my inquiry why so much “bread” stood shocked but ungarnered and blackening in late August. Or — “Too weak,” or “Too sore,” or “The city clerks are too inexperienced.”
b. Why have farmers gone hungriest? Because if 100 per cent of all harvested grain is not delivered to Government officials 15 or 20 miles away, there may be a firing squad!
c. But even a “best harvest may bring hunger if Government: (1) exports too much in order to get Valuta or foreign credit for buying machinery; or (2) puts too much aside into its War Grain Chest; or (3) figures that a few more million starved might “persuade” farm and factory workers to cooperate
D. As the result of the above, Russia’s workers are now reported as everywhere engaged in the “Battle of Passive Resistance.”
Please note that I observed many gains over five years ago — new buildings, more factories, better pavements, more recreation parks and worker “palaces of culture,” less illiteracy, more worker opportunity for night study, etc., etc. Nevertheless, I am forced to believe that, in spite of their intelligence, honesty, and idealism, the Kremlin High—ups are stumbling at the crucial, mainspring point of interesting the worker in his work.
My experience in the labor gangs convinces me that few employers ever lick passive resistance. I predict, accordingly, either more “capitalistic” ways of handling workers or else increased operating difficulties.
V. So I arrived: home, September 15th, with conclusions:
First, that every loyal American should cooperate to the fullest with NRA. But, second, that NRA measures should be viewed as emergency measures and emergency measures only — not as measures for permanently re-making American Society.
Too many political and intellectual leaders appear convinced that German and Russian results are now good enough to authorize us to depend permanently on blanket codes, collective regimentation, and governmental fiats — to throw overboard forever all reliance on individual initiative, inventiveness, and enterprise.
We are behaving like Pre—Hitler Germans. Defeated economically in ‘29, we are trying to “save our face” by letting Uncle Sam do it — while we crawl under the bed. In exactly the same way, so I have observed, everybody, after a few weeks of bumming, soon contrives to figure out and accept as permanent a philosophy which saves his pride by making the life of a bum look not only bearable but attractive. That’s because we humans mostly live our way into our thinking — also why so many bums remain bums.’
In ‘29 we lived ourselves into excessive and absurd individualism. Today we are living ourselves too far into a new “collective play-safe-ism." What we need, along with our efforts to end depression, is to base our long-time planning the experience of neither (abnormal) '29 nor (abnormal) ‘33, but, instead, the average of the two our entire experience since 1620 [sic]. -
As the result of our entire experience, our worker has enjoyed — and still enjoys — a higher level of living than any worker in the world. To date, the experiences of Russia and Germany teach only this: Government brings only hunger when it watches the golden eggs so over—closely that it discourages the goose from laying them:
Our American worker will be forced to trade his car for the German worker’s bicycle or the Russian worker’s (undernourished) shanks’ horses if we do not distinguish between emergency requirements for ending depression and permanent requirements for a better society — If we expect to solve our long—future problems by merely shoving them onto our legislators — if we forget that, while the Kingdom of American Well-being heads up in Washington, it, nevertheless, like a certain other Kingdom, continues to depend largely upon individual fairness and individual aspiration and effort, and is therefore always to be sought within our own individual minds and hearts.
Please — especially if you care to receive later “High—Spots” — take seriously my request that you find time to write me whether you find this letter timely and perhaps even helpful.
Researched by Nigel L. Colley & Margaret S. Colley. © 2003 Oberlin College Archives, Cleveland, Ohio. All rights reserved.
NOTE: Click HERE to visit E. Morgan William's Artukraine.com (& with many thanks for discovering this cross-reference) transcription of a New York Times article, recording Whiting Williams' return from the USSR on the 24th August 1933, by their anti-Duranty, Berlin correspondent, Frederick Birchall [published date 25th August 1933] entitled:"Famine in Russia Equal to 1921".
Original Research, Content & Site Design by Nigel Linsan Colley. Copyright © 2001-17 All Rights Reserved Original document transcriptions by M.S. Colley.Click here for Legal Notices. For all further details email: Nigel Colley or Tel: (+44) 0796 303 8888