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The Times, October 16th 1931



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From a Correspondent (Gareth Jones)

            Among some young peasants there is an enthusiasm for socialisation in which a love of machines plays a great part.  This is a favourable sign for the future of socialistic agriculture in the Soviet Union.  It is being developed by the spreading of education on Communist lines throughout the country.  The fight against illiteracy is being taken with admirable energy.  Campaigns to encourage the peasants to study are carried on by the Communist Pioneers and the Komsomoltsi (young Communists), and pamphlets and books are spread by the million.  The electrification of the villages will impress youth.  The clubs are rallying points for young people of the villages and by radio and visitors from the towns, by films and lectures, their minds are being moulded along Communist lines.  A battle royal is being waged for the mind and heart of the young peasant.  Will he cling to the “Land and Liberty” ideal of his parents and grandparents or will he firm himself into a socialistic system of agriculture.  Will the peasant be happy as a cog in a great agricultural wheel, or will he always yearn for his little patch, his own cow, and freedom to buy and sell as he wishes?  The next few decades will show. 

            The collectivisation of agriculture, which, at the sacrifice of happiness of the peasant gives the government control over Russia’s grain, and the businesslike programme outlined by Stalin in June, are two factors which point to a coming improvement in the industrial situation and to a strengthening of the regime itself.  A third factor is the springing up of this new generation, which has it’s schooling in the Soviet State and has no recollection of life in pre-Revolutionary days.  It is upon the youth of the country that the Bolshevist leaders set their highest hopes; and it is upon them that powerful influences are working which in time will result in the emergence of a new type of citizen.  The main influences are Communist education the worship of the machine, anti-religious agitation, militarisation and the propaganda for world revolution. 


            Communist education now lays the greatest stress upon the part, which the future citizen must play in production.  Three years ago the “polytechnical” school was introduced.  Under The “polytechnical “system each school has an agreement with a factory or with a collective farm which the pupils visit regularly to study methods of production.  It is remarkable to note what importance is attached to the word” production”, a word, which is surrounded with a halo of respect.  At an early age children are introduced to factory life and learn to handle machines.  An enthusiasm for technical things is engendered, and the knowledge, which children have of machinery, is surprising.  As it was the ideal of the Prussian child to become an officer, so it is now the ideal to become ideal of a Soviet child to become an engineer.  At present a widespread campaign is being conducted for compulsory education for all and the cult of the machine will thus be extended to the farthest parts of the Soviet Union.  Processions of children are seen marching with banners bearing such inscriptions as “Obligatory education is the basis of the cultural revolution”; “Give us technical power”; “For a seven-year education”; “Let us fight for the Plan, for the speed, for the carrying out the Plan in four years.”  Technical and political toys are encouraged among children.  In shop windows one can see “A Mass Political Toy according to the resolution of the 16th Congress of the All-Russian Communist Party” called “To catch up and surpass the Capitalist Countries, the carrying out of the Five-Years Plan in Industry.” 

            Political education is given in schools along the lines of the principle “History is the record of class struggles.”  Such an education is a narrow basis for the rearing of a new generation, especially when one considers that music, art and literature are all subordinated to a political aim.  “Art is agitation” such is the teaching that guides the Communist thinkers.  It is inconceivable that there should not be some day a reaction against this limited conception of all branches of learning as weapons of class warfare. 

            Anti-propaganda is carried on among youth and is achieving distinct success, for the children readily believe what is taught in the schools. A religious Leningrad mother bewailed the fact that her 10-year old daughter had recently returned from her class and had demanded: “Show me God!  You cannot.  There is no God.”  Throughout the country posters proclaim: “Religion is a weapon for oppression”, while cartoons lampoon the priest as the tool of the Capitalist and a friend of the interventionist.  The Communists try to establish a close connection between drink and religion.  Posters frequently to be observed are “Alcohol is the friend of religion” and “The man who makes home-brew and the illegal trader in spirits are allies of the Pope.”  This bitter propaganda often produces an effect quite different from that which it intends.  Adherents of religious sects are numerous and among the Communists themselves there are many who pay lip service to atheism but who at heart are believers.  On priest told of the Communist in his village who on his deathbed confessed his belief in God.  There are many thousands of Christians enrolled in the Young Communist League.  “I am a believer,” said a schoolteacher, “but I cannot repeat Communist speeches as eloquently as any Commissar in Moscow.  If I do not become a Young Communist I shall not receive a good education, so I pretend to rejoice in their long- winded foreign words like ‘industrialisation’, but what my tongue says my heart does not believe.  Never the less, among young people religion is now losing ground and together with the lessening of the religious basis, stable family is in the towns also losing its importance. 


            An alarming and potent influence upon youth is the extreme militarisation of the country.  A jingoistic spirit is being fostered in the Soviet Union and the firm belief in the inevitability of war, which is to result in the inevitability of the war which is to result from the clash of the Capitalistic and Communist system leads to an intensification of war training.  In the theatre one reads the appeal in large red and white letters: “Be prepared at any moment to defend your Socialistic fatherland.”  In the interval between two acts of a brilliant performance in an opera house a gas mask demonstration may take place.  Dominating the militarisation of the Soviet Union lies the fear of foreign intervention, and its guiding principle is the quotation from Lenin: “No revolution can last unless it can defend itself.”  Lenin’s study of Clausewitz is today bearing fruit in the stress laid upon military science.  Members of the Young Communist League are urged to be leaders in the task of spreading military knowledge.  A powerful instrument for the training of the civilian population is the Ossoariakhim (Society for Aviation and Chemical Defence), which now numbers 11,000,000 members.  This has numerous branches in factories and collective farms, where men and women alike receive training in shooting and in the use of gas masks.  In many factories regular military exercises are obligatory for party members and the young Communists.  Communists share this keenness on preparedness for war in the villages and even peasants living thousand of miles away from the borders have received anti-gas practice.  In one collective farm the church, which had been closed, was to be turned in to a house of Culture, a section of which was to be devoted to military purposes. 

            In spite of the thorough militarisation of Soviet Russia, there is no feeling of aggression but a keen desire for peace, based on the necessity of good relations with the capitalist powers, essential for the industrialisation of the country.  Nothing is less desirable to the Kremlin than a foreign adventure, which would threaten the fulfilment of the Five-Years Plan.  Moreover the Soviet Union is now concentrating upon her own affairs and eager to realise “Socialism in one country”, a policy, which Trotsky condemns from afar as “National Communism” and a betrayal of Marx and Lenin.  It is true that the inevitability of world revolution and the ultimate formation of a World Union of Socialist Soviet Republics are convictions as unshakeable as ever.  But in spite of the world crisis they are no longer represented as imminent realities.  As a consequence the youth of Russia is encouraged to devote itself to he economic tasks of national construction and the prestige of the Third International has suffered a sad decline.  No longer the headquarters of the leaders of the Government, it has become the resort of nonentities and it has to subordinate its revolutionary ardour to the cold common sense of the Foreign Office, which prefers not to risk valuable credits and machinery for the sake of a weak revolution in Germany.  Serious disturbances abroad or revolts, which the Russian Communists would be morally bound to aid would be a setback to their plans of industrialisation and are depreciated until the time when the Soviet Union will be stronger. 

            Such are the outstanding influences to which the younger generation in Russia are exposed.  The power of the Communist Party to mould youth along the lines they desire is increased by the unity of the party, which has been achieve after a bitter struggle against right and left opposition.  Rarely has there been less dissension within the ranks as to the policy to be pursued.  Never the less, the movement in Soviet Russia to transform men and women into the cogs of a great productive wheel and to crush all thought which clashes with the official philosophy is faced with two insurmountable barriers.  These are the originality of the Russian mind and the human passion for liberty which is intensified by tyranny and which will increase with the spreading of education. 


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