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Title:      Russia in the Shadows
Author:     H.G. Wells
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Russia in the Shadows
H.G. Wells


CONTENTS

I.   Petersburg In Collapse
II.  Drift And Salvage
III. The Quintessence Of Bolshevism
IV.  The Creative Effort In Russia
V.   The Petersburg Soviet
VI.  The Dreamer In The Kremlin
VII. The Envoy



I PETERSBURG IN COLLAPSE

In January 1914 I visited Petersburg and Moscow for a couple of weeks;
in September 1920 I was asked to repeat this visit by Mr. Kamenev, of
the Russian Trade Delegation in London. I snatched at this suggestion,
and went to Russia at the end of September with my son, who speaks a
little Russian. We spent a fortnight and a day in Russia, passing most
of our time in Petersburg, where we went about freely by ourselves, and
were shown nearly everything we asked to see. We visited Moscow, and I
had a long conversation with Mr. Lenin, which I shall relate. In
Petersburg I did not stay at the Hotel International, to which foreign
visitors are usually sent, but with my old friend, Maxim Gorky. The
guide and interpreter assigned to assist us was a lady I had met in
Russia in 1914, the niece of a former Russian Ambassador to London. She
was educated at Newnham, she has been imprisoned five times by the
Bolshevist Government, she is not allowed to leave Petersburg because of
an attempt to cross the frontier to her children in Esthonia, and she
was, therefore, the last person likely to lend herself to any attempt to
hoodwink me. I mention this because on every hand at home and in Russia
I had been told that the most elaborate camouflage of realities would go
on, and that I should be kept in blinkers throughout my visit.

As a matter of fact, the harsh and terrible realities of the situation
in Russia cannot be camouflaged. In the case of special delegations,
perhaps, a certain distracting tumult of receptions, bands, and speeches
may be possible, and may be attempted. But it is hardly possible to
dress up two large cities for the benefit of two stray visitors,
wandering observantly often in different directions. Naturally, when one
demands to see a school or a prison one is not shown the worst. Any
country would in the circumstances show the best it had, and Soviet
Russia is no exception. One can allow for that.

Our dominant impression of things Russian is an impression of a vast
irreparable breakdown. The great monarchy that was here in 1914, the
administrative, social, financial, and commercial systems connected with
it have, under the strains of six years of incessant war, fallen down
and smashed utterly. Never in all history has there been so great a
débâcle before. The fact of the Revolution is, to our minds,
altogether dwarfed by the fact of this downfall. By its own inherent
rottenness and by the thrusts and strains of aggressive imperialism the
Russian part of the old civilised world that existed before 1914 fell,
and is now gone. The peasant, who was the base of the old pyramid,
remains upon the land, living very much as he has always lived.
Everything else is broken down, or is breaking down. Amid this vast
disorganisation an emergency Government, supported by a disciplined
party of perhaps 150,000 adherents--the Communist Party--has taken
control. It has--at the price of much shooting--suppressed brigandage,
established a sort of order and security in the exhausted towns, and set
up a crude rationing system.

It is, I would say at once, the only possible Government in Russia at
the present time. It is the only idea, it supplies the only solidarity,
left in Russia. But it is a secondary fact. The dominant fact for the
Western reader, the threatening and disconcerting fact, is that a social
and economic system very like our own and intimately connected with our
own has crashed.

Nowhere in all Russia is the fact of that crash so completely evident as
it is in Petersburg. Petersburg was the artificial creation of Peter the
Great; his bronze statue in the little garden near the Admiralty still
prances amid the ebbing life of the city. Its palaces are still and
empty, or strangely refurnished with the typewriters and tables and
plank partitions of a new Administration which is engaged chiefly in a
strenuous struggle against famine and the foreign invader. Its streets
were streets of busy shops. In 1914 I loafed agreeably in the Petersburg
streets--buying little articles and watching the abundant traffic. All
these shops have ceased. There are perhaps half a dozen shops still open
in Petersburg. There is a Government crockery shop where I bought a
plate or so as a souvenir, for seven or eight hundred roubles each, and
there are a few flower shops. It is a wonderful fact, I think, that in
this city, in which most of the shrinking population is already nearly
starving, and hardly any one possesses a second suit of clothes or more
than a single change of worn and patched linen, flowers can be and are
still bought and sold. For five thousand roubles, which is about six and
eightpence at the current rate of exchange, one can get a very pleasing
bunch of big chrysanthemums.

I do not know if the words "all the shops have ceased" convey any
picture to the Western reader of what a street looks like in Russia. It
is not like Bond Street or Piccadilly on a Sunday, with the blinds
neatly drawn down in a decorous sleep, and ready to wake up and begin
again on Monday. The shops have an utterly wretched and abandoned look;
paint is peeling off, windows are cracked, some are broken and boarded
up, some still display a few fly-blown relics of stock in the window,
some have their windows covered with notices; the windows are growing
dim, the fixtures have gathered two years' dust. They are dead shops.
They will never open again.

All the great bazaar-like markets are closed, too, in Petersburg now, in
the desperate struggle to keep a public control of necessities and
prevent the profiteer driving up the last vestiges of food to incredible
prices. And this cessation of shops makes walking about the streets seem
a silly sort of thing to do. Nobody "walks about" any more. One realises
that a modern city is really nothing but long alleys of shops and
restaurants and the like. Shut them up, and the meaning of a street has
disappeared. People hurry past--a thin traffic compared with my memories
of 1914. The electric street cars are still running and busy--until six
o'clock. They are the only means of locomotion for ordinary people
remaining in town--the last legacy of capitalist enterprise. They became
free while we were in Petersburg. Previously there had been a charge of
two or three roubles--the hundredth part of the price of an egg. Freeing
them made little difference in their extreme congestion during the
homegoing hours. Every one scrambles on the tramcar. If there is no room
inside you cluster outside. In the busy hours festoons of people hang
outside by any handhold; people are frequently pushed off, and accidents
are frequent. We saw a crowd collected round a child cut in half by a
tramcar, and two people in the little circle in which we moved in
Petersburg had broken their legs in tramway accidents.

The roads along which these tramcars run are in a frightful condition.
They have not been repaired for three or four years; they are full of
holes like shell-holes, often two or three feet deep. Frost has eaten
out great cavities, drains have collapsed, and people have torn up the
wood pavement for fires. Only once did we see any attempt to repair the
streets in Petrograd. In a side street some mysterious agency had
collected a load of wood blocks and two barrels of tar. Most of our
longer journeys about the town were done in official motor-cars--left
over from the former times. A drive is an affair of tremendous swerves
and concussions. These surviving motor-cars are running now on kerosene.
They disengage clouds of pale blue smoke, and start up with a noise like
a machine-gun battle. Every wooden house was demolished for firing last
winter, and such masonry as there was in those houses remains in ruinous
gaps, between the houses of stone.

Every one is shabby; every one seems to be carrying bundles in both
Petersburg and Moscow. To walk into some side street in the twilight and
see nothing but ill-clad figures, all hurrying, all carrying loads,
gives one an impression as though the entire population was setting out
in flight. That impression is not altogether misleading. The Bolshevik
statistics I have seen are perfectly frank and honest in the matter. The
population of Petersburg has fallen from 1,200,000 (before 1919) to a
little over 700,000, and it is still falling. Many people have returned
to peasant life in the country, many have gone abroad, but hardship has
taken an enormous toll of this city. The death-rate in Petersburg is
over 81 per 1,000; formerly it was high among European cities at 22. The
birth-rate of the underfed and profoundly depressed population is about
15. It was formerly about 30.

These bundles that every one carries are partly the rations of food that
are doled out by the Soviet organisation, partly they are the material
and results of illicit trade. The Russian population has always been a
trading and bargaining population. Even in 1914 there were but few shops
in Petersburg whose prices were really fixed prices. Tariffs were
abominated; in Moscow taking a droshky meant always a haggle, ten
kopecks at a time. Confronted with a shortage of nearly every commodity,
a shortage caused partly by the war strain,--for Russia has been at war
continuously now for six years--partly by the general collapse of social
organisation, and partly by the blockade, and with a currency in
complete disorder, the only possible way to save the towns from a chaos
of cornering, profiteering, starvation, and at last a mere savage fight
for the remnants of food and common necessities, was some sort of
collective control and rationing.

The Soviet Government rations on principle, but any Government in Russia
now would have to ration. If the war in the West had lasted up to the
present time London would be rationing too--food, clothing, and housing.
But in Russia this has to be done on a basis of uncontrollable peasant
production, with a population temperamentally indisciplined and
self-indulgent. The struggle is necessarily a bitter one. The detected
profiteer, the genuine profiteer who profiteers on any considerable
scale, gets short shrift; he is shot. Quite ordinary trading may be
punished severely. All trading is called "speculation," and is now
illegal. But a queer street-corner trading in food and so forth is
winked at in Petersburg, and quite openly practised in Moscow, because
only by permitting this can the peasants be induced to bring in food.

There is also much underground trade between buyers and sellers who know
each other. Every one who can supplements his public rations in this
way. And every railway station at which one stops is an open market. We
would find a crowd of peasants at every stopping-place waiting to sell
milk, eggs, apples, bread, and so forth. The passengers clamber down and
accumulate bundles. An egg or an apple costs 300 roubles.

The peasants look well fed, and I doubt if they are very much worse off
than they were in 1914. Probably they are better off. They have more
land than they had, and they have got rid of their landlords. They will
not help in any attempt to overthrow the Soviet Government because they
are convinced that while it endures this state of things will continue.
This does not prevent their resisting whenever they can the attempts of
the Red Guards to collect food at regulation prices. Insufficient forces
of Red Guards may be attacked and massacred. Such incidents are
magnified in the London Press as peasant insurrections against the
Bolsheviks. They are nothing of the sort. It is just the peasants making
themselves comfortable under the existing régime.

But every class above the peasants--including the official class--is now
in a state of extreme privation. The credit and industrial system that
produced commodities has broken down, and so far the attempts to replace
it by some other form of production have been ineffective. So that
nowhere are there any new things. About the only things that seem to be
fairly well supplied are tea, cigarettes, and matches. Matches are more
abundant in Russia than they were in England in 1917, and the Soviet
State match is quite a good match. But such things as collars, ties,
shoelaces, sheets and blankets, spoons and forks, all the haberdashery
and crockery of life, are unattainable. There is no replacing a broken
cup or glass except by a sedulous search and illegal trading. From
Petersburg to Moscow we were given a sleeping car de luxe, but there
were no water-bottles, glasses, or, indeed, any loose fittings. They
have all gone. Most of the men one meets strike one at first as being
carelessly shaven, and at first we were inclined to regard that as a
sign of a general apathy, but we understood better how things were when
a friend mentioned to my son quite casually that he had been using one
safety razor blade for nearly a year.

Drugs and any medicines are equally unattainable. There is nothing to
take for a cold or a headache; no packing off to bed with a hot-water
bottle. Small ailments develop very easily therefore into serious
trouble. Nearly everybody we met struck us as being uncomfortable and a
little out of health. A buoyant, healthy person is very rare in this
atmosphere of discomforts and petty deficiencies.

If any one falls into a real illness the outlook is grim. My son paid a
visit to the big Obuchovskaya Hospital, and he tells me things were very
miserable there indeed. There was an appalling lack of every sort of
material, and half the beds were not in use through the sheer
impossibility of dealing with more patients if they came in.
Strengthening and stimulating food is out of the question unless the
patient's family can by some miracle procure it outside and send it in.
Operations are performed only on one day in the week, Dr. Federoff told
me, when the necessary preparations can be made. On other days they are
impossible, and the patient must wait.

Hardly any one in Petersburg has much more than a change of raiment, and
in a great city in which there remains no means of communication but a
few overcrowded tramcars,[1] old, leaky, and ill-fitting boots are the
only footwear. At times one sees astonishing makeshifts by way of
costume. The master of a school to which we paid a surprise visit struck
me as unusually dapper. He was wearing a dinner suit with a blue serge
waistcoat. Several of the distinguished scientific and literary men I
met had no collars and wore neck-wraps. Gorky possesses only the one
suit of clothes he wears.

[Footnote 1: I saw one passenger steamboat on the Neva crowded with
passengers. Usually the river was quite deserted except for a rare
Government tug or a solitary boatman picking up drift timber.]

At a gathering of literary people in Petersburg, Mr. Amphiteatroff, the
well-known writer, addressed a long and bitter speech to me. He suffered
from the usual delusion that I was blind and stupid and being
hoodwinked. He was for taking off the respectable-looking coats of all
the company present in order that I might see for myself the rags and
tatters and pitiful expedients beneath. It was a painful and, so far as
I was concerned, an unnecessary speech, but I quote it here to emphasise
this effect of general destitution. And this underclad town population
in this dismantled and ruinous city is, in spite of all the furtive
trading that goes on, appallingly underfed. With the best will in the
world the Soviet Government is unable to produce a sufficient ration to
sustain a healthy life. We went to a district kitchen and saw the normal
food distribution going on. The place seemed to us fairly clean and
fairly well run, but that does not compensate for a lack of material.
The lowest grade ration consisted of a basinful of thin skilly and about
the same quantity of stewed apple compote. People have bread cards and
wait in queues for bread, but for three days the Petersburg bakeries
stopped for lack of flour. The bread varies greatly in quality; some was
good coarse brown bread, and some I found damp, clay-like, and
uneatable.

I do not know how far these disconnected details will suffice to give
the Western reader an idea of what ordinary life in Petersburg is at the
present time. Moscow, they say, is more overcrowded and shorter of fuel
than Petersburg, but superficially it looked far less grim than
Petersburg. We saw these things in October, in a particularly fine and
warm October. We saw them in sunshine in a setting of ruddy and golden
foliage. But one day there came a chill, and the yellow leaves went
whirling before a drive of snowflakes. It was the first breath of the
coming winter. Every one shivered and looked out of the double
windows--already sealed up--and talked to us of the previous year. Then
the glow of October returned.

It was still glorious sunshine when we left Russia. But when I think of
that coming winter my heart sinks. The Soviet Government in the commune
of the north has made extraordinary efforts to prepare for the time of
need. There are piles of wood along the quays, along the middle of the
main streets, in the courtyards, and in every place where wood can be
piled. Last year many people had to live in rooms below the freezing
point; the water-pipes froze up, the sanitary machinery ceased to work.
The reader must imagine the consequences. People huddled together in the
ill-lit rooms, and kept themselves alive with tea and talk. Presently
some Russian novelist will tell us all that this has meant to heart and
mind in Russia. This year it may not be quite so bad as that. The food
situation also, they say, is better, but this I very much doubt. The
railways are now in an extreme state of deterioration; the wood-stoked
engines are wearing out; the bolts start and the rails shift as the
trains rumble along at a maximum of twenty-five miles per hour. Even
were the railways more efficient, Wrangel has got hold of the southern
food supplies. Soon the cold rain will be falling upon these 700,000
souls still left in Petersburg, and then the snow. The long nights
extend and the daylight dwindles.

And this spectacle of misery and ebbing energy is, you will say, the
result of Bolshevist rule! I do not believe it is. I will deal with the
Bolshevist Government when I have painted the general scenery of our
problem. But let me say here that this desolate Russia is not a system
that has been attacked and destroyed by something vigorous and
malignant. It is an unsound system that has worked itself out and fallen
down. It was not communism which built up these great, impossible
cities, but capitalism. It was not communism that plunged this huge,
creaking, bankrupt empire into six years of exhausting war. It was
European imperialism. Nor is it communism that has pestered this
suffering and perhaps dying Russia with a series of subsidised raids,
invasions, and insurrections, and inflicted upon it an atrocious
blockade. The vindictive French creditor, the journalistic British oaf,
are far more responsible for these deathbed miseries than any communist.
But to these questions I will return after I have given a little more
description of Russia as we saw it uring our visit. It is only when one
has some conception of the physical and mental realities of the Russian
collapse that one can see and estimate the Bolshevist Government in its
proper proportions.




II DRIFT AND SALVAGE


Among the things I wanted most to see amid this tremendous spectacle of
social collapse in Russia was the work of my old friend Maxim Gorky. I
had heard of this from members of the returning labour delegation, and
what they told me had whetted my desire for a closer view of what was
going on. Mr. Bertrand Russell's description of Gorky's health had also
made me anxious on his own account; but I am happy to say that upon that
score my news is good. Gorky seems as strong and well to me now as he
was when I knew him first in 1906. And as a personality he has grown
immensely. Mr. Russell wrote that Gorky is dying and that perhaps
culture in Russia is dying too. Mr. Russell was, I think, betrayed by
the artistic temptation of a dark and purple concluding passage. He
found Gorky in bed and afflicted by a fit of coughing, and his
imagination made the most of it.

Gorky's position in Russia is a quite extraordinary and personal one. He
is no more of a communist than I am, and I have heard him argue with the
utmost freedom in his flat against the extremist positions with such men
as Bokaiev, recently the head of the Extraordinary Commission in
Petersburg, and Zalutsky, one of the rising leaders of the Communist
party. It was a very reassuring display of free speech, for Gorky did
not so much argue as denounce--and this in front of two deeply
interested English enquirers.

But he has gained the confidence and respect of most of the Bolshevik
leaders, and he has become by a kind of necessity the semi-official
salvage man under the new régime. He is possessed by a passionate
sense of the value of Western science and culture, and by the necessity
of preserving the intellectual continuity of Russian life through these
dark years of famine and war and social stress, with the general
intellectual life of the world. He has found a steady supporter in
Lenin. His work illuminates the situation to an extraordinary degree
because it collects together a number of significant factors and makes
the essentially catastrophic nature of the Russian situation plain.

The Russian smash at the end of 1917 was certainly the completest that
has ever happened to any modern social organisation. After the failure
of the Kerensky Government to make peace and of the British naval
authorities to relieve the situation upon the Baltic flank, the
shattered Russian armies, weapons in hand, broke up and rolled back upon
Russia, a flood of peasant soldiers making for home, without hope,
without supplies, without discipline. That time of débâcle was a time
of complete social disorder. It was a social dissolution. In many parts
of Russia there was a peasant revolt. There was château-burning, often
accompanied by quite horrible atrocities. It was an explosion of the
very worst side of human nature in despair, and for most of the
abominations committed the Bolsheviks are about as responsible as the
Government of Australia. People would be held up and robbed even to
their shirts in open daylight in the streets of Petersburg and Moscow,
no one interfering. Murdered bodies lay disregarded in the gutters
sometimes for a whole day, with passengers on the footwalk going to and
fro. Armed men, often professing to be Red Guards, entered houses and
looted and murdered. The early months of 1918 saw a violent struggle of
the new Bolshevik Government not only with counter-revolutions but with
robbers and brigands of every description. It was not until the summer
of 1918, and after thousands of looters and plunderers had been shot,
that life began to be ordinarily safe again in the streets of the
Russian great towns. For a time Russia was not a civilisation, but a
torrent of lawless violence, with a weak central Government of
inexperienced rulers, fighting not only against unintelligent foreign
intervention but against the completest internal disorder. It is from
such chaotic conditions that Russia still struggles to emerge.

Art, literature, science, all the refinements and elaboration of life,
all that we mean by "civilisation," were involved in this torrential
catastrophe. For a time the stablest thing in Russian culture was the
theatre. There stood the theatres, and nobody wanted to loot them or
destroy them; the artists were accustomed to meet and work in them and
went on meeting and working; the tradition of official subsidies held
good. So quite amazingly the Russian dramatic and operatic life kept on
through the extremest storms of violence, and keeps on to this day. In
Petersburg we found there were more than forty shows going on every
night; in Moscow we found very much the same state of affairs. We heard
Shalyapin, greatest of actors and singers, in The Barber of Seville
and in Chovanchina; the admirable orchestra was variously attired, but
the conductor still held out valiantly in swallow tails and a white tie;
we saw a performance of Sadko, we saw Monachof in The Tsarevitch
Alexei and as Iago in Othello (with Madame Gorky--Madame
Andreievna--as Desdemona). When one faced the stage, it was as if
nothing had changed in Russia; but when the curtain fell and one turned
to the audience one realised the revolution. There were now no brilliant
uniforms, no evening dress in boxes and stalls. The audience was an
undifferentiated mass of people, the same sort of people everywhere,
attentive, good-humoured, well-behaved and shabby. Like the London Stage
Society, one's place in the house is determined by ballot. And for the
most part there is no paying to enter the theatre. For one performance
the tickets go, let us say, to the professional unions, for another to
the Red Army and their families, for another to the school children, and
so on. A certain selling of tickets goes on, but it is not in the
present scheme of things.

I had heard Shalyapin in London, but I had not met him personally there.
We made his acquaintance this time in Petersburg, we dined with him and
saw something of his very jolly household. There are two stepchildren
almost grown up, and two little daughters, who speak a nice, stiff,
correct English, and the youngest of whom dances delightfully. Shalyapin
is certainly one of the most wonderful things in Russia at the present
time. He is the Artist, defiant and magnificent. Off the stage he has
much the same vitality and abounding humour that made an encounter with
Beerbohm Tree so delightful an experience. He refuses absolutely to sing
except for pay--200,000 roubles a performance, they say, which is nearly
£15--and when the markets get too tight, he insists upon payment in
flour or eggs or the like. What he demands he gets, for Shalyapin on
strike would leave too dismal a hole altogether in the theatrical world
of Petersburg. So it is that he maintains what is perhaps the last
fairly comfortable home in Russia. And Madame Shalyapin we found so
unbroken by the revolution that she asked us what people were wearing in
London. The last fashion papers she had seen--thanks to the
blockade--dated from somewhere early in 1918.

But the position of the theatre among the arts is peculiar. For the rest
of the arts, for literature generally and for the scientific worker, the
catastrophe of 1917-18 was overwhelming. There remained no one to buy
books or pictures, and the scientific worker found himself with a salary
of roubles that dwindled rapidly to less than the five-hundredth part of
their original value. The new crude social organisation, fighting
robbery, murder, and the wildest disorder, had no place for them; it had
forgotten them. For the scientific men at first the Soviet Government
had as little regard as the first French revolution, which had "no need
for chemists." These classes of worker, vitally important to every
civilised system, were reduced, therefore, to a state of the utmost
privation and misery. It was to their assistance and salvation that
Gorky's first efforts were directed. Thanks very largely to him and to
the more creative intelligences in the Bolshevik Government, there has
now been organised a group of salvage establishments, of which the best
and most fully developed is the House of Science in Petersburg, in the
ancient palace of the Archduchess Marie Pavlova. Here we saw the
headquarters of a special rationing system which provides as well as it
can for the needs of four thousand scientific workers and their
dependants--in all perhaps for ten thousand people. At this centre they
not only draw their food rations, but they can get baths and barber,
tailoring, cobbling and the like conveniences. There is even a small
stock of boots and clothing. There are bedrooms, and a sort of hospital
accommodation for cases of weakness and ill-health.

It was to me one of the strangest of my Russian experiences to go to
this institution and to meet there, as careworn and unprosperous-looking
figures, some of the great survivors of the Russian scientific world.
Here were such men as Oldenburg the orientalist, Karpinsky the
geologist, Pavloff the Nobel prizeman, Radloff, Bielopolsky, and the
like, names of world-wide celebrity. They asked me a multitude of
questions about recent scientific progress in the world outside Russia,
and made me ashamed of my frightful ignorance of such matters. If I had
known that this would happen I would have taken some sort of report with
me. Our blockade has cut them off from all scientific literature outside
Russia. They are without new instruments, they are short of paper, the
work they do has to go on in unwarmed laboratories. It is amazing they
do any work at all. Yet they are getting work done; Pavloff is carrying
on research of astonishing scope and ingenuity upon the mentality of
animals; Manuchin claims to have worked out an effectual cure for
tuberculosis, even in advanced cases; and so on. I have brought back
abstracts of Manuchin's work for translation and publication here and
they are now being put into English. The scientific spirit is a
wonderful spirit. If Petersburg starves this winter, the House of
Science--unless we make some special effort on its behalf--will starve
too, but these scientific men said very little to me about the
possibility of sending them in supplies. The House of Literature and Art
talked a little of want and miseries, but not the scientific men. What
they were all keen about was the possibility of getting scientific
publications; they value knowledge more than bread. Upon that matter I
hope I may be of some help to them. I got them to form a committee to
make me out a list of all the books and publications of which they stood
in need, and I have brought this list back to the Secretary of the Royal
Society of London, which had already been stirring in this matter. Funds
will be needed, three or four thousand pounds perhaps (the address of
the Secretary of the Royal Society is Burlington House, W.), but the
assent of the Bolshevik Government and our own to this mental
provisioning of Russia has been secured, and in a little time I hope the
first parcel of books will be going through to these men, who have been
cut off for so long from the general mental life of the world.

If I had no other reason for satisfaction about this trip to Russia, I
should find quite enough in the hope and comfort our mere presence
evidently gave to many of these distinguished men in the House of
Science and in the House of Literature and Art. Upon many of them there
had settled a kind of despair of ever seeing or hearing anything of the
outer world again. They had been living for three years, very grey and
long years indeed, in a world that seemed sinking down steadily through
one degree of privation after another into utter darkness. Possibly they
had seen something of one or two of the political deputations that have
visited Russia--I do not know; but manifestly they had never expected to
see again a free and independent individual walk in, with an air of
having come quite easily and unofficially from London, and of its being
quite possible not only to come but to go again into the lost world of
the West. It was like an unexpected afternoon caller strolling into a
cell in a gaol.

All musical people in England know the work of Glazounov; he has
conducted concerts in London and is an honorary doctor both of Oxford
and Cambridge. I was very deeply touched by my meeting with him. He used
to be a big florid man, but now he is pallid and much fallen away, so
that his clothes hang loosely on him. He came and talked of his friends
Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. He told me he still
composed, but that his stock of music paper was almost exhausted. "Then
there will be no more." I said there would be much more, and that soon.
He doubted it. He spoke of London and Oxford; I could see that he was
consumed by an almost intolerable longing for some great city full of
life, a city with abundance, with pleasant crowds, a city that would
give him stirring audiences in warm, brightly-lit places. While I was
there, I was a sort of living token to him that such things could still
be. He turned his back on the window which gave on the cold grey Neva,
deserted in the twilight, and the low lines of the fortress prison of
St. Peter and St. Paul. "In England there will be no revolution--no? I
had many friends in England--many good friends in England...." I was
loth to leave him, and he was very loth to let me go.

Seeing all these distinguished men living a sort of refugee life amidst
the impoverished ruins of the fallen imperialist system has made me
realise how helplessly dependent the man of exceptional gifts is upon a
securely organised civilisation. The ordinary man can turn from this to
that occupation; he can be a sailor or a worker in a factory or a digger
or what not. He is under a general necessity to work, but he has no
internal demon which compels him to do a particular thing and nothing
else, which compels him to be a particular thing or die. But a Shalyapin
must be Shalyapin or nothing, Pavloff is Pavloff and Glazounov,
Glazounov. So long as they can go on doing their particular thing, such
men will live and nourish. Shalyapin still acts and sings
magnificently--in absolute defiance of every Communist principle;
Pavloff still continues his marvellous researches--in an old coat and
with his study piled up with the potatoes and carrots he grows in his
spare time; Glazounov will compose until the paper runs out. But many of
the others are evidently stricken much harder. The mortality among the
intellectually distinguished men of Russia has been terribly high. Much,
no doubt, has been due to the general hardship of life, but in many
cases I believe that the sheer mortification of great gifts become
futile has been the determining cause. They could no more live in the
Russia of 1919 than they could have lived in a Kaffir kraal.

Science, art, and literature are hothouse plants demanding warmth and
respect and service. It is the paradox of science that it alters the
whole world and is produced by the genius of men who need protection and
help more than any other class of worker. The collapse of the Russian
imperial system has smashed up all the shelters in which such things
could exist. The crude Marxist philosophy which divides all men into
bourgeoisie and proletariat, which sees all social life as a stupidly
simple "class war," had no knowledge of the conditions necessary for the
collective mental life. But it is to the credit of the Bolshevik
Government that it has now risen to the danger of a universal
intellectual destruction in Russia, and that, in spite of the blockade
and the unending struggle against the subsidised revolts and invasions
with which we and the French plague Russia, it is now permitting and
helping these salvage organisations. Parallel with the House of Science
is the House of Literature and Art. The writing of new books, except for
some poetry, and the painting of pictures have ceased in Russia. But the
bulk of the writers and artists have been found employment upon a
grandiose scheme for the publication of a sort of Russian encyclopaedia
of the literature of the world. In this strange Russia of conflict,
cold, famine and pitiful privations there is actually going on now a
literary task that would be inconceivable in the rich England and the
rich America of to-day. In England and America the production of good
literature at popular prices has practically ceased now--"because of the
price of paper." The mental food of the English and American masses
dwindles and deteriorates, and nobody in authority cares a rap. The
Bolshevik Government is at least a shade above that level. In starving
Russia hundreds of people are working upon translations, and the books
they translate are being set up and printed, work which may presently
give a new Russia such a knowledge of world thought as no other people
will possess. I have seen some of the books and the work going on. "May"
I write, with no certainty. Because, like everything else in this ruined
country, this creative work is essentially improvised and fragmentary.
How this world literature is to be distributed to the Russian people I
do not know. The bookshops are closed and bookselling, like every other
form of trading, is illegal. Probably the books will be distributed to
schools and other institutions.

In this matter of book distribution the Bolshevik authorities are
clearly at a loss. They are at a loss upon very many such matters. In
regard to the intellectual life of the community one discovers that
Marxist Communism is without plans and without ideas. Marxist Communism
has always been a theory of revolution, a theory not merely lacking in
creative and constructive ideas, but hostile to creative and
constructive ideas. Every Communist orator has been trained to contemn
"Utopianism," that is to say, has been trained to contemn intelligent
planning. Not even a British business man of the older type is quite
such a believer in things righting themselves and in "muddling through"
as these Marxists. The Russian Communist Government now finds itself
face to face, among a multiplicity of other constructive problems, with
the problem of sustaining scientific life, of sustaining thought and
discussion, of promoting artistic creation. Marx the Prophet and his
Sacred Book supply it with no lead at all in the matter. Bolshevism,
having no schemes, must improvise therefore--clumsily, and is reduced to
these pathetic attempts to salvage the wreckage of the intellectual life
of the old order. And that life is very sick and unhappy and seems
likely to die on its hands.

It is not simply scientific and literary work and workers that Maxim
Gorky is trying to salvage in Russia. There is a third and still more
curious salvage organisation associated with him. This is the Expertise
Commission, which has its headquarters in the former British Embassy.
When a social order based on private property crashes, when private
property is with some abruptness and no qualification abolished, this
does not abolish and destroy the things which have hitherto constituted
private property. Houses and their gear remain standing, still being
occupied and used by the people who had them before--except when those
people have fled. When the Bolshevik authorities requisition a house or
take over a deserted palace, their find themselves faced by this problem
of the gear. Any one who knows human nature will understand that there
has been a certain amount of quiet annexation of desirable things by
inadvertent officials and, perhaps less inadvertently, by their wives.
But the general spirit of Bolshevism is quite honest, and it is set very
stoutly against looting and suchlike developments of individual
enterprise. There has evidently been comparatively little looting either
in Petersburg or Moscow since the days of the débâcle. Looting died
against the wall in Moscow in the spring of 1918. In the guest houses
and suchlike places we noted that everything was numbered and listed.
Occasionally we saw odd things astray, fine glass or crested silver upon
tables where it seemed out of place, but in many cases these were things
which had been sold for food or suchlike necessities on the part of the
original owners. The sailor courier who attended to our comfort to and
from Moscow was provided with a beautiful little silver teapot that must
once have brightened a charming drawing-room. But apparently it had
taken to a semi-public life in a quite legitimate way.

For greater security there has been a gathering together and a
cataloguing of everything that could claim to be a work of art by this
Expertise Commission. The palace that once sheltered the British Embassy
is now like some congested second-hand art shop in the Brompton Road. We
went through room after room piled with the beautiful lumber of the
former Russian social system. There are big rooms crammed with statuary;
never have I seen so many white marble Venuses and sylphs together, not
even in the Naples Museum. There are stacks of pictures of every sort,
passages choked with inlaid cabinets piled up to the ceiling; a room
full of cases of old lace, piles of magnificent furniture. This
accumulation has been counted and catalogued. And there it is. I could
not find out that any one had an idea of what was ultimately to be done
with all this lovely and elegant litter. The stuff does not seem to
belong in any way to the new world, if it is indeed a new world that the
Russian Communists are organising. They never anticipated that they
would have to deal with such things. Just as they never really thought
of what they would do with the shops and markets when they had abolished
shopping and marketing. Just as they had never thought out the problem
of converting a city of private palaces into a Communist
gathering-place. Marxist theory had led their minds up to the
"dictatorship of the class-conscious proletariat" and their
intimated--we discover now how vaguely--that there would be a new heaven
and a new earth. Had that happened it would indeed have been a
revolution in human affairs. But as we saw Russia there is still the old
heaven and the old earth, covered with the ruins, littered with the
abandoned furnishings and dislocated machinery of the former system,
with the old peasant tough and obstinate upon the soil--and Communism,
ruling in the cities quite pluckily and honestly, and yet, in so many
matters, like a conjurer who has left his pigeon and his rabbit behind
him, and can produce nothing whatever from the hat.

Ruin; that is the primary Russian fact at the present time. The
revolution, the Communist rule, which I will proceed to describe in my
next paper, is quite secondary to that. It is something that has
happened in the ruin and because of the ruin. It is of primary
importance that people in the West should realise that. If the Great War
had gone on for a year or so more, Germany and then the Western Powers
would probably have repeated, with local variations, the Russian crash.
The state of affairs we have seen in Russia is only the intensification
and completion of the state of affairs towards which Britain was
drifting in 1918. Here also there are shortages such as we had in
England, but they are relatively monstrous; here also is rationing, but
it is relatively feeble and inefficient; the profiteer in Russia is not
fined but shot, and for the English D.O.R.A. you have the Extraordinary
Commission. What were nuisances in England are magnified to disasters in
Russia. That is all the difference. For all I know, Western Europe may
be still drifting even now towards a parallel crash. I am not by any
means sure that we have turned the corner. War, self-indulgence, and
unproductive speculation may still be wasting more than the Western
world is producing; in which case our own crash--currency failure, a
universal shortage, social and political collapse and all the rest of
it--is merely a question of time. The shops of Regent Street will follow
the shops of the Nevsky Prospect, and Mr. Galsworthy and Mr. Bennett
will have to do what they can to salvage the art treasures of Mayfair.
It falsifies the whole world situation, it sets people altogether astray
in their political actions, to assert that the frightful destitution of
Russia to-day is to any large extent the result merely of Communist
effort; that the wicked Communists have pulled down Russia to her
present plight, and that if you can overthrow the Communists every one
and everything in Russia will suddenly become happy again. Russia fell
into its present miseries through the world war and the moral and
intellectual insufficiency of its ruling and wealthy people. (As our own
British State--as presently even the American State--may fall.) They had
neither the brains nor the conscience to stop warfare, stop waste of all
sorts, and stop taking the best of everything and leaving every one else
dangerously unhappy, until it was too late. They ruled and wasted and
quarrelled, blind to the coming disaster up to the very moment of its
occurrence. And then, as I describe in the next chapters, the Communist
came in....



III THE QUINTESSENCE OF BOLSHEVISM


In the two preceding chapters I have tried to give the reader my
impression; of Russian life as I saw it in Petersburg and Moscow, as a
spectacle of collapse, as the collapse of a political, social, and
economic system, akin to our own but weaker and more rotten than our
own, which has crashed under the pressure of six years of war and
misgovernment. The main collapse occurred in 1917 when Tsarism,
brutishly incompetent, became manifestly impossible. It had wasted the
whole land, lost control of its army and the confidence of the entire
population. Its police system had degenerated into a régime of
violence and brigandage. It fell inevitably.

And there was no alternative government. For generations the chief
energies of Tsarism had been directed to destroying any possibility of
an alternative government. It had subsisted on that one fact that, bad
as it was, there was nothing else to put in its place. The first Russian
Revolution, herefore, turned Russia into a debating society and a
political scramble.

The liberal forces of the country, unaccustomed to action or
responsibility, set up a clamorous discussion whether Russia was to be a
constitutional monarchy, a liberal republic, a socialist republic, or
what not. Over the confusion gesticulated Kerensky in attitudes of the
finest liberalism. Through it loomed various ambiguous adventurers,
"strong men," sham strong men, Russian Monks and Russian Bonapartes.
What remained of social order collapsed. In the closing months of 1917
murder and robbery were common street incidents in Petersburg and
Moscow, as common as an automobile accident in the streets of London,
and less heeded. On the Reval boat was an American who had formerly
directed the affairs of the American Harvester Company in Russia. He had
been in Moscow during this phase of complete disorder. He described
hold-ups in open daylight in busy streets, dead bodies lying for hours
in the gutter--as a dead kitten might do in a western town--while crowds
went about their business along the side-walk.

Through this fevered and confused country went the representatives of
Britain and France, blind to the quality of the immense and tragic
disaster about them, intent only upon the war, badgering the Russians
to keep on fighting and make a fresh offensive against Germany. But when
the Germans made a strong thrust towards Petersburg through the Baltic
provinces and by sea, the British Admiralty, either through sheer
cowardice or through Royalist intrigues, failed to give any effectual
help to Russia. Upon this matter the evidence of the late Lord Fisher is
plain. And so this unhappy country, mortally sick and, as it were,
delirious, staggered towards a further stage of collapse.

From end to end of Russia, and in the Russian-speaking community
throughout the world, there existed only one sort of people who had
common general ideas upon which to work, a common faith and a common
will, and that was the Communist party. While all the rest of Russia was
either apathetic like the peasantry or garrulously at sixes and sevens
or given over to violence or fear, the Communists believed and were
prepared to act. Numerically they were and are a very small part of the
Russian population. At the present time not one per cent. of the people
in Russia are Communists; the organised party certainly does not number
more than 600,000 and has probably not much more than 150,000 active
members. Nevertheless, because it was in those terrible days the only
organisation which gave men a common idea of action, common formulæ, and
mutual confidence, it was able to seize and retain control of the
smashed empire. It was and it is the only sort of administrative
solidarity possible in Russia. These ambiguous adventurers who have been
and are afflicting Russia, with the support of the Western Powers,
Deniken, Kolchak, Wrangel and the like, stand for no guiding principle
and offer no security of any sort upon which men's confidence can
crystallise. They are essentially brigands. The Communist party, however
one may criticise it, does embody an idea and can be relied upon to
stand by its idea. So far it is a thing morally higher than anything
that has yet come against it. It at once secured the passive support of
the peasant mass by permitting them to take land from the estates and by
making peace with Germany. It restored order--after a frightful lot of
shooting--in the great towns. For a time everybody found carrying arms
without authority was shot. This action was clumsy and bloody but
effective. To retain its power this Communist Government organised
Extraordinary Commissions, with practically unlimited powers, and
crushed out all opposition by a Red Terror. Much that that Red Terror
did was cruel and frightful, it was largely controlled by narrow-minded
men, and many of its officials were inspired by social hatred and the
fear of counter-revolution, but if it was fanatical it was honest. Apart
from individual atrocities it did on the whole kill for a reason and to
an end. Its bloodshed was not like the silly aimless butcheries of the
Deniken régime, which would not even recognise, I was told, the
Bolshevik Red Cross. And to-day the Bolshevik Government sits, I
believe, in Moscow as securely established as any Government in Europe,
and the streets of the Russian towns are as safe as any streets in
Europe.

It not only established itself and restored order, but--thanks largely
to the genius of that ex-pacifist Trotsky--it re-created the Russian
army as a fighting force. That we must recognise as a very remarkable
achievement. I saw little of the Russian army myself, it was not what I
went to Russia to see, but Mr. Vanderlip, the enterprising American
financier, whom I found in Moscow engaged in some mysterious
negotiations with the Soviet Government, had been treated to a review of
several thousand troops, and was very enthusiastic about their spirit
and equipment. My son and I saw a number of drafts going to the front,
and also bodies of recruits joining up, and our impression is that the
spirit of the men was quite as good as that of similar bodies of British
recruits in London in 1917-18.

Now who are these Bolsheviki who have taken such an effectual hold upon
Russia? According to the crazier section of the British Press they are
the agents of a mysterious racial plot, a secret society, in which Jews,
Jesuits, Freemasons, and Germans are all jumbled together in the maddest
fashion. As a matter of fact, nothing was ever quite less secret than
the ideas and aims and methods of the Bolsheviks, nor anything quite
less like a secret society than their organisation. But in England we
cultivate a peculiar style of thinking, so impervious to any general
ideas that it must needs fall back upon the notion of a conspiracy to
explain the simplest reactions of the human mind. If, for instance, a
day labourer in Essex makes a fuss because he finds that the price of
his children's boots has risen out of all proportion to the increase in
his weekly wages, and declares that he and his fellow-workers are being
cheated and underpaid, the editors of The Times and of the Morning
Post will trace his resentment to the insidious propaganda of some
mysterious society at Konigsberg or Pekin. They cannot conceive how
otherwise he should get such ideas into his head. Conspiracy mania of
this kind is so prevalent that I feel constrained to apologise for my
own immunity. I find the Bolsheviks very much what they profess to be. I
find myself obliged to treat them as fairly straightforward people. I do
not agree with either their views or their methods, but that is another
question.

The Bolsheviks are Marxist Socialists. Marx died in London nearly forty
years ago; the propaganda of his views has been going on for over half a
century. It has spread over the whole earth and finds in nearly every
country a small but enthusiastic following. It is a natural result of
worldwide economic conditions. Everywhere it expresses the same limited
ideas in the same distinctive phrasing. It is a cult, a world-wide
international brotherhood. No one need learn Russian to study the ideas
of Bolshevism. The enquirer will find them all in the London Plebs or
the New York Liberator in exactly the same phrases as in the Russian
Pravda. They hide nothing. They say everything. And just precisely
what these Marxists write and say, so they attempt to do.

It will be best if I write about Marx without any hypocritical
deference. I have always regarded him as a Bore of the extremest sort.
His vast unfinished work, Das Kapital, a cadence of wearisome volumes
about such phantom unrealities as the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat, a book for ever maundering away into tedious secondary
discussions, impresses me as a monument of pretentious pedantry. But
before I went to Russia on this last occasion I had no active hostility
to Marx. I avoided his works, and when I encountered Marxists I disposed
of them by asking them to tell me exactly what people constituted the
proletariat. None of them knew. No Marxist knows. In Gorky's flat I
listened with attention while Bokaiev discussed with Shalyapin the fine
question of whether in Russia there was a proletariat at all,
distinguishable from the peasants. As Bokaiev has been head of the
Extraordinary Commission of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in
Petersburg, it was interesting to note the fine difficulties of the
argument. The "proletarian" in the Marxist jargon is like the "producer"
in the jargon of some political economists, who is supposed to be a
creature absolutely distinct and different from the "consumer." So the
proletarian is a figure put into flat opposition to something called
capital. I find in large type outside the current number of the Plebs,
"The working class and the employing class have nothing in common."
Apply this to a works foreman who is being taken in a train by an
engine-driver to see how the house he is having built for him by a
building society is getting on. To which of these immiscibles does he
belong, employer or employed? The stuff is sheer nonsense.

In Russia I must confess my passive objection to Marx has changed to a
very active hostility. Wherever we went we encountered busts, portraits,
and statues of Marx. About two-thirds of the face of Marx is beard, a
vast solemn woolly uneventful beard that must have made all normal
exercise impossible. It is not the sort of beard that happens to a man,
it is a beard cultivated, cherished, and thrust patriarchally upon the
world. It is exactly like Das Kapital in its inane abundance, and the
human part of the face looks over it owlishly as if it looked to see how
the growth impressed mankind. I found the omnipresent images of that
beard more and more irritating. A gnawing desire grew upon me to see
Karl Marx shaved. Some day, if I am spared, I will take up shears and a
razor against Das Kapital; I will write The Shaving of Karl Marx.

But Marx is for the Marxists merely an image and a symbol, and it is
with the Marxist and not with Marx that we are now dealing. Few Marxists
have read much of Das Kapital. The Marxist is very much the same sort
of person in all modern communities, and I will confess that by my
temperament and circumstances I have the very warmest sympathy for him.
He adopts Marx as his prophet simply because he believes that Marx wrote
of the class war, an implacable war of the employed against the
employer, and that he prophesied a triumph for the employed person, a
dictatorship of the world by the leaders of these liberated employed
persons (dictatorship of the proletariat), and a Communist millennium
arising out of that dictatorship. Now this doctrine and this prophecy
have appealed in every country with extraordinary power to young
persons, and particularly to young men of energy and imagination who
have found themselves at the outset of life imperfectly educated,
ill-equipped, and caught into hopeless wages slavery in our existing
economic system. They realise in their own persons the social injustice,
the stupid negligence, the colossal incivility of our system; they
realise that they are insulted and sacrificed by it; and they devote
themselves to break it and emancipate themselves from it. No insidious
propaganda is needed to make such rebels; it is the faults of a system
that half-educates and then enslaves them which have created the
Communist movement wherever industrialism has developed. There would
have been Marxists if Marx had never lived. When I was a boy of fourteen
I was a complete Marxist, long before I had heard the name of Marx. I
had been cut off abruptly from education, caught in a detestable shop,
and I was being broken in to a life of mean and dreary toil. I was
worked too hard and for such long hours that all thoughts of
self-improvement seemed hopeless. I would have set fire to that place if
I had not been convinced it was over-insured. I revived the spirit of
those bitter days in a conversation I had with Zorin, one of the leaders
of the Commune of the North. He is a young man who has come back from
unskilled work in America, a very likeable human being and a humorous
and very popular speaker in the Petersburg Soviet. He and I exchanged
experiences, and I found that the thing that rankled most in his mind
about America was the brutal incivility he had encountered when applying
for a job as packer in a big dry goods store in New York. We told each
other stories of the way our social system wastes and breaks and maddens
decent and willing men. Between us was the freemasonry of a common
indignation.

It is that indignation of youth and energy, thwarted and misused, it is
that and no mere economic theorising, which is the living and linking
inspiration of the Marxist movement throughout the world. It is not that
Marx was profoundly wise, but that our economic system has been stupid,
selfish, wasteful, and anarchistic. The Communistic organisation has
provided for this angry recalcitrance certain shibboleths and passwords;
"Workers of the World unite," and so forth. It has suggested to them an
idea of a great conspiracy against human happiness concocted by a
mysterious body of wicked men called capitalists. For in this mentally
enfeebled world in which we live to-day conspiracy mania on one side
finds its echo on the other, and it is hard to persuade a Marxist that
capitalists are in their totality no more than a scrambling disorder of
mean-spirited and short-sighted men. And the Communist propaganda has
knitted all these angry and disinherited spirits together into a
world-wide organisation of revolt--and hope--formless though that hope
proves to be on examination. It has chosen Marx for its prophet and red
for its colour.... And so when the crash came in Russia, when there
remained no other solidarity of men who could work together upon any but
immediate selfish ends, there came flowing back from America and the
West to rejoin their comrades a considerable number of keen and
enthusiastic young and youngish men, who had in that more bracing
Western world lost something of the habitual impracticability of the
Russian and acquired a certain habit of getting things done, who all
thought in the same phrases and had the courage of the same ideas, and
who were all inspired by the dream of a revolution that should bring
human life to a new level of justice and happiness. It is these young
men who constitute the living force of Bolshevism. Many of them are
Jews, because most of the Russian emigrants to America were Jews; but
few of them have any strong racial Jewish feeling. They are not out for
Jewry but for a new world. So far from being in continuation of the
Jewish tradition the Bolsheviks have put most of the Zionist leaders in
Russia in prison, and they have proscribed the teaching of Hebrew as a
"reactionary" language. Several of the most interesting Bolsheviks I met
were not Jews at all, but blond Nordic men. Lenin, the beloved leader of
all that is energetic in Russia to-day, has a Tartar type of face and is
certainly no Jew.

This Bolshevik Government is at once the most temerarious and the least
experienced governing body in the world. In some directions its
incompetence is amazing. In most its ignorance is profound. Of the
diabolical cunning of "capitalism" and of the subtleties of reaction it
is ridiculously suspicious, and sometimes it takes fright and is cruel.
But essentially it is honest. It is the most simple-minded Government
that exists in the world to-day.

Its simple-mindedness is shown by one question that I was asked again
and again during this Russian visit. "When is the social revolution
going to happen in England?" Lenin asked me that, Zenovieff, who is the
head of the Commune of the North, Zorin, and many others.

Because it is by the Marxist theory all wrong that the social revolution
should happen first in Russia. That fact is bothering every intelligent
man in the movement. According to the Marxist theory the social
revolution should have happened first in the country with the oldest and
most highly developed industrialism, with a large, definite, mainly
propertyless, mainly wages-earning working class (proletariat). It
should have begun in Britain, and spread to France and Germany, then
should have come America's turn and so on. Instead they find Communism
in power in Russia, which really possesses no specialised labouring
class at all, which has worked its factories with peasant labourers who
come and go from the villages, and so has scarcely any "proletariat"--to
unite with the workers of the world and so forth--at all. Behind the
minds of many of these Bolsheviks with whom I talked I saw clearly that
there dawns now a chill suspicion of the reality of the case, a
realisation that what they have got in Russia is not truly the promised
Marxist social revolution at all, that in truth they have not captured a
State but got aboard a derelict. I tried to assist the development of
this novel and disconcerting discovery. And also I indulged in a little
lecture on the absence of a large "class-conscious proletariat" in the
Western communities. I explained that in England there were two hundred
different classes at least, and that the only "class-conscious
proletarians" known to me in the land were a small band of mainly Scotch
workers kept together by the vigorous leadership of a gentleman named
MacManus. Their dearest convictions struggled against my manifest
candour. They are clinging desperately to the belief that there are
hundreds of thousands of convinced Communists in Britain, versed in the
whole gospel of Marx, a proletarian solidarity, on the eve of seizing
power and proclaiming a British Soviet Republic. They hold obstinately
to that after three years of waiting--but their hold weakens.

Among the most amusing things in this queer intellectual situation are
the repeated scoldings that come by wireless from Moscow to Western
Labour because it does not behave as Marx said it would behave. It isn't
red--and it ought to be. It is just yellow.

My conversation with Zenovieff was particularly curious. He is a man
with the voice and animation of Hilaire Belloc, and a lot of curly
coal-black hair. "You have civil war in Ireland," he said.
"Practically," said I. "Which do you consider are the proletarians, the
Sinn Feiners or the Ulstermen?" We spent some time while Zenovieff
worked like a man with a jigsaw puzzle trying to get the Irish situation
into the class war formula. That jigsaw puzzle remained unsolved, and we
then shifted our attention to Asia. Impatient at the long delay of the
Western proletarians to emerge and declare themselves, Zenovieff,
assisted by Bela Kun, our Mr. Tom Quelch, and a number of other leading
Communists, has recently gone on a pilgrimage to Baku to raise the
Asiatic proletariat. They went to beat up the class-conscious wages
slaves of Persia and Turkestan. They sought out factory workers and slum
dwellers in the tents of the steppes. They held a congress at Baku, at
which they gathered together a quite wonderful accumulation of white,
black, brown, and yellow people, Asiatic costumes and astonishing
weapons. They had a great assembly in which they swore undying hatred of
Capitalism and British imperialism; they had a great procession in which
I regret to say certain batteries of British guns, which some careless,
hasty empire-builder had left behind him, figured; they disinterred and
buried again thirteen people whom this British empire-builder seems to
have shot without trial, and they burnt Mr. Lloyd George, M. Millerand,
and President Wilson in effigy. I not only saw a five-part film of this
remarkable festival when I visited the Petersburg Soviet, but, thanks to
Zorin, I have brought the film back with me. It is to be administered
with caution and to adults only. There are parts of it that would make
Mr. Gwynne of the Morning Post or Mr. Rudyard Kipling scream in their
sleep. If so be they ever slept again after seeing it.

I did my best to find out from Zenovieff and Zorin what they thought
they were doing in the Baku Conference. And frankly I do not think they
know. I doubt if they have anything clearer in their minds than a vague
idea of hitting back at the British Government through Mesopotamia and
India, because it has been hitting them through Kolchak, Deniken,
Wrangel, and the Poles. It is a counter-offensive almost as clumsy and
stupid as the offensives it would counter. It is inconceivable that they
can hope for any social solidarity with the miscellaneous discontents
their congress assembled. One item "featured" on this Baku film is a
dance by a gentleman from the neighbourhood of Baku. He is in fact one
of the main features of this remarkable film. He wears a fur-trimmed
jacket, high boots, and a high cap, and his dancing is a very rapid and
dexterous step dancing. He produces two knives and puts them between his
teeth, and then two others which he balances perilously with the blades
dangerously close to his nose on either side of it. Finally he poises a
fifth knife on his forehead, still stepping it featly to the distinctly
Oriental music. He stoops and squats, arms akimbo, sending his nimble
boots flying out and back like the Cossacks in the Russian ballet. He
circles slowly as he does this, clapping his hands. He is now rolled up
in my keeping, ready to dance again when opportunity offers. I tried to
find out whether he was a specimen Asiatic proletarian or just what he
symbolised, but I could get no light on him. But there are yards and
yards of film of him. I wish I could have resuscitated Karl Marx, just
to watch that solemn stare over the beard, regarding him. The film gives
no indication of the dancer's reception by Mr. Tom Quelch.

I hope I shall not offend Comrade Zorin, for whom I have a real
friendship, if I thus confess to him that I cannot take his Baku
Conference very seriously. It was an excursion a pageant, a Beano. As a
meeting of Asiatic proletarians it was preposterous. But if it was not
very much in itself, it was something very important in its revelation
of shifting intentions. Its chief significance to me is this, that it
shows a new orientation of the Bolshevik mind as it is embodied in
Zenovieff. So long as the Bolsheviki held firmly with unshaken
conviction to the Marxist formula they looked westward, a little
surprised that the "social revolution" should have begun so far to the
east of its indicated centre. Now as they begin to realise that it is
not that prescribed social revolution at all but something quite
different which has brought them into power, they are naturally enough
casting about for a new system of relationships. The ideal figure of the
Russian republic is still a huge western "Worker," with a vast hammer or
a sickle. A time may come, if we maintain the European blockade with
sufficient stringency and make any industrial recuperation impossible,
when that ideal may give place altogether to a nomadic-looking gentleman
from Turkestan with a number of knives. We may drive what will remain of
Bolshevik Russia to the steppes and the knife. If we help some new
Wrangel to pull down the by no means firmly established Government in
Moscow, under the delusion that thereby we shall bring about
"representative institutions" and a "limited monarchy," we may find
ourselves very much out in our calculations. Any one who destroys the
present law and order of Moscow will, I believe, destroy what is left of
law and order in Russia. A brigand monarchist government will leave a
trail of fresh blood across the Russian scene, show what gentlemen can
do when they are roused, in a tremendous pogrom and White Terror,
flourish horribly for a time, break up and vanish. Asia will resume. The
simple ancient rhythm of the horseman plundering the peasant and the
peasant waylaying the horseman will creep back across the plains to the
Niemen and the Dniester. The cities will become clusters of ruins in the
waste; the roads and railroads will rot and rust; the river traffic will
decay....

This Baku Conference has depressed Gorky profoundly. He is obsessed by a
nightmare of Russia going east. Perhaps I have caught a little of his
depression.



IV THE CREATIVE EFFORT IN RUSSIA


In the previous three chapters I have tried to give my impression of the
Russian spectacle as that of a rather ramshackle modern civilisation
completely shattered and overthrown by misgovernment, under-education,
and finally six years of war strain. I have shown science and art
starving and the comforts and many of the decencies of life gone. In
Vienna the overthrow is just as bad; and there too such men of science
as the late Professor Margules starve to death. If London had had to
endure four more years of war, much the same sort of thing would be
happening in London. We should have now no coal in our grates and no
food for our food tickets, and the shops in Bond Street would be as
desolate as the shops in the Nevsky Prospect. Bolshevik government in
Russia is neither responsible for the causation nor for the continuance
of these miseries.

I have also tried to get the facts of Bolshevik rule into what I believe
is their proper proportions in the picture. The Bolsheviks, albeit
numbering less than five per cent, of the population, have been able to
seize and retain power in Russia because they were and are the only body
of people in this vast spectacle of Russian ruin with a common faith and
a common spirit. I disbelieve in their faith, I ridicule Marx, their
prophet, but I understand and respect their spirit. They are--with all
their faults, and they have abundant faults--the only possible backbone
now to a renascent Russia. The recivilising of Russia must be done with
the Soviet Government as the starting phase. The great mass of the
Russian population is an entirely illiterate peasantry, grossly
materialistic and politically indifferent. They are superstitious, they
are for ever crossing themselves and kissing images,--in Moscow
particularly they were at it--but they are not religious. They have no
will in things political and social beyond their immediate
satisfactions. They are roughly content with Bolshevik rule. The
Orthodox priest is quite unlike the Catholic priest in Western Europe;
he is himself typically a dirty and illiterate peasant with no power
over the wills and consciences of his people. There is no constructive
quality in either peasant or Orthodoxy. For the rest there is a
confusion of more or less civilised Russians, in and out of Russia, with
no common political ideas and with no common will. They are incapable of
producing anything but adventurers and disputes.

The Russian refugees in England are politically contemptible. They
rehearse endless stories of "Bolshevik outrages"; château-burnings by
peasants, burglaries and murders by disbanded soldiers in the towns,
back street crimes--they tell them all as acts of the Bolshevik
Government. Ask them what government they want in its place, and you
will get rubbishy generalities--usually adapted to what the speaker
supposes to be your particular political obsession. Or they sicken you
with the praise of some current super-man, Deniken or Wrangel, who is to
put everything right--God knows how. They deserve nothing better than a
Tsar, and they are incapable even of deciding which Tsar they desire.
The better part of the educated people still in Russia are--for the sake
of Russia--slowly drifting into a reluctant but honest co-operation with
Bolshevik rule.

The Bolsheviks themselves are Marxists and Communists. They find
themselves in control of Russia, in complete contradiction, as I have
explained, to the theories of Karl Marx. A large part of their energies
have been occupied in an entirely patriotic struggle against the raids,
invasions, blockades, and persecutions of every sort that our insensate
Western Governments have rained upon their tragically shattered country.
What is left over goes in the attempt to keep Russia alive, and to
organise some sort of social order among the ruins. These Bolsheviks
are, as I have explained, extremely inexperienced men, intellectual
exiles from Geneva and Hampstead, or comparatively illiterate manual
workers from the United States. Never was there so amateurish a
government since the early Moslim found themselves in control of Cairo,
Damascus, and Mesopotamia.

I believe that in the minds of very many of them there is a considerable
element of dismay at the tremendous tasks they find before them. But one
thing has helped them and Russia enormously, and that is their training
in Communistic ideas. As the British found out during the submarine war,
so far as the urban and industrial population goes there is nothing for
it during a time of tragic scarcity but collapse or collective control.
We in England had to control and ration, we had to suppress profiteering
by stringent laws. These Communists came into power in Russia and began
to do at once, on principle, the first most necessary thing in that
chaos of social wreckage. Against all the habits and traditions of
Russia, they began to control and ration--exhaustively. They have now a
rationing system that is, on paper, admirable beyond cavil; and perhaps
it works as well as the temperament and circumstances of Russian
production and consumption permit. It is easy to note defects and
failures, but not nearly so easy to show how in this depleted and
demoralised Russia they could be avoided. And things are in such a state
in Russia now that even if we suppose the Bolsheviks overthrown and any
other Government in their place, it matters not what, that Government
would have to go on with the rationing the Bolsheviks have organised,
with the suppression of vague political experiments, and the punishment
and shooting of profiteers. The Bolsheviki in this state of siege and
famine have done upon principle what any other Government would have had
to do from necessity.

And in the face of gigantic difficulties they are trying to rebuild a
new Russia among the ruins. We may quarrel with their principles and
methods, we may call their schemes Utopian and so forth, we may sneer at
or we may dread what they are doing, but it is no good pretending that
there is no creative effort in Russia at the present time. A certain
section of the Bolsheviks are hard-minded, doctrinaire and unteachable
men, fanatics who believe that the mere destruction of capitalism, the
disuse of money and trading, the effacement of all social differences,
will in itself bring about a sort of bleak millennium. There are
Bolsheviki so stupid that they would stop the teaching of chemistry in
schools until they were assured it was "proletarian" chemistry, and who
would suppress every decorative design that was not an elaboration of
the letters R.S.F.S.R. (Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic) as
reactionary an. I have told of the suppression of Hebrew studies because
they are "reactionary"; and while I was with Gorky I found him in
constant bitter disputes with extremist officials who would see no good
in any literature of the past except the literature of revolt. But there
were other more liberal minds in this new Russian world, minds which,
given an opportunity, will build and will probably build well. Among men
of such constructive force I would quote such names as Lenin himself,
who has developed wonderfully since the days of his exile, and who has
recently written powerfully against the extravagances of his own
extremists; Trotsky, who has never been an extremist, and who is a man
of very great organising ability; Lunacharsky, the Minister for
Education; Rikoff, the head of the Department of People's Economy;
Aladame Lilna of the Petersburg Child Welfare Department; and Krassin,
the head of the London Trade Delegation. These are names that occur to
me; it is by no means an exhaustive list of the statesmanlike elements
in the Bolshevik Government. Already they have achieved something, in
spite of blockade and civil and foreign war. It is not only that they
work to restore a country depleted of material to an extent almost
inconceivable to English and American readers, but they work with an
extraordinarily unhelpful personnel. Russia to-day stands more in need
of men of the foreman and works-manager class than she does of
medicaments or food. The ordinary work in the Government offices of
Russia is shockingly done; the slackness and inaccuracy are
indescribable. Everybody seems to be working in a muddle of unsorted
papers and cigarette ends. This again is a state of affairs no
counter-revolution could change. It is inherent in the present Russian
situation. If one of these military adventurers the Western Powers
patronise were, by some disastrous accident, to get control of Russia,
his success would only add strong drink, embezzlement, and a great
squalour of kept mistresses to the general complication. For whatever
else we may say to the discredit of the Bolshevik leaders, it is
undeniable that the great majority lead not simply laborious but
puritanical lives.

I write of this general inefficiency in Russia with the more asperity
because it was the cause of my not meeting Lunacharsky. About eighty
hours of my life were consumed in travelling, telephoning, and waiting
about in order to talk for about an hour and a half with Lenin and for
the same time with Tchitcherin. At that rate, and in view of the
intermittent boat service from Reval to Stockholm, to see Lunacharsky
would have meant at least a week more in Russia. The whole of my visit
to Moscow was muddled in the most irritating fashion. A sailor-man
carrying a silver kettle who did not know his way about Moscow was put
in charge of my journey, and an American who did not know enough Russian
to telephone freely was set to make my appointments in the town.
Although I had heard Gorky arrange for my meeting with Lenin by
long-distance telephone days before, Moscow declared that it had had no
notice of my coming. Finally I was put into the wrong train back to
Petersburg, a train which took twenty-two hours instead of fourteen for
the journey. These may seem petty details to relate, but when it is
remembered that Russia was really doing its best to impress me with its
vigour and good order, they are extremely significant. In the train,
when I realised that it was a slow train and that the express had gone
three hours before while we had been pacing the hall of the guest house
with our luggage packed and nobody coming for us, the spirit came upon
me and my lips were unsealed. I spoke to my guide, as one mariner might
speak to another, and told him what I thought of Russian methods. He
listened with the profoundest respect to my rich incisive phrases. When
at last I paused, he replied--in words that are also significant of
certain weaknesses of the present Russian state of mind. "You see," he
said, "the blockade----"

But if I saw nothing of Lunacharsky personally, I saw something of the
work he has organised. The primary material of the educationist is human
beings, and of these at least there is still no shortage in Russia, so
that in that respect Lunacharsky is better off than most of his
colleagues. And beginning with an initial prejudice and much distrust, I
am bound to confess that, in view of their enormous difficulties, the
educational work of the Bolsheviks impresses me as being astonishingly
good.

Things started badly. Directly I got to Petersburg I asked to see a
school, and on the second day of my visit I was taken to one that
impressed me very unfavourably. It was extremely well equipped, much
better than an ordinary English grammar school, and the children were
bright and intelligent; but our visit fell in the recess. I could
witness no teaching, and the behaviour of the youngsters I saw indicated
a low standard of discipline. I formed an opinion that I was probably
being shown a picked school specially prepared for me, and that this was
all that Petersburg had to offer. The special guide who was with us then
began to question these children upon the subject of English literature
and the writers they liked most. One name dominated all others. My own.
Such comparatively trivial figures as Milton, Dickens, Shakespeare ran
about intermittently between the feet of that literary colossus. Being
questioned further, these children produced the titles of perhaps a
dozen of my books. I said I was completely satisfied by what I had seen
and heard, that I wanted to see nothing more--for indeed what more could
I possibly require?--and I left that school smiling with difficulty and
thoroughly cross with my guides.

Three days later I suddenly scrapped my morning's engagements and
insisted upon being taken at once to another school--any school close at
hand. I was convinced that I had been deceived about the former school,
and that now I should see a very bad school indeed. Instead I saw a much
better one than the first I had seen. The equipment and building were
better, the discipline of the children was better, and I saw some
excellent teaching in progress. Most of the teachers were women, very
competent-looking middle-aged women, and I chose elementary geometrical
teaching to observe because that on the blackboard is in the universal
language of the diagram. I saw also a heap of drawings and various
models the pupils had done, and they were very good. The school was
supplied with abundant pictures. I noted particularly a well-chosen
series of landscapes to assist the geographical teaching. There was
plenty of chemical and physical apparatus, and it was evidently put to a
proper use. I also saw the children's next meal in preparation--for
children eat at school in Soviet Russia--and the food was excellent and
well cooked, far above the standard of the adult rations we had seen
served out. All this was much more satisfactory. Finally by a few
questions we tested the extraordinary vogue of H. G. Wells among the
young people of Russia. None of these children had ever heard of him.
The school library contained none of his books. This did much to
convince me that I was seeing a quite normal school. I had, I now begin
to realise, been taken to the previous one not, as I had supposed in my
wrath, with any elaborate intention of deceiving me about the state of
education in the country, but after certain kindly intrigues and
preparations by a literary friend, Mr. Chukovsky the critic,
affectionately anxious to make me feel myself beloved in Russia, and a
little oblivious of the real gravity of the business I had in hand.

Subsequent enquiries and comparison of my observations with those of
other visitors to Russia, and particularly those of Dr. Haden Guest, who
also made surprise visits to several schools in Moscow, have convinced
me that Soviet Russia, in the face of gigantic difficulties, has made
and is making very great educational efforts, and that in spite of the
difficulties of the general situation the quality and number of the
schools in the towns has risen absolutely since the Tsarist régime.
(The peasant, as ever, except in a few "show" localities, remains
scarcely touched by these things.) The schools I saw would have been
good middle schools in England. They are open to all, and there is an
attempt to make education compulsory. Of course Russia has its peculiar
difficulties. Many of the schools are understaffed, and it is difficult
to secure the attendance of unwilling pupils. Numbers of children prefer
to keep out of the schools and trade upon the streets. A large part of
the illicit trading in Russia is done by bands of children. They are
harder to catch than adults, and the spirit of Russian Communism is
against punishing them. And the Russian child is, for a northern child,
remarkably precocious.

The common practice of co-educating youngsters up to fifteen or sixteen,
in a country as demoralised as Russia is now, has brought peculiar evils
in its train. My attention was called to this by the visit of Bokaiev,
the former head of the Petersburg Extraordinary Commission, and his
colleague Zalutsky to Gorky to consult him in the matter. They discussed
their business in front of me quite frankly, and the whole conversation
was translated to me as it went on. The Bolshevik authorities have
collected and published very startling, very shocking figures of the
moral condition of young people in Petersburg, which I have seen. How
far they would compare with the British figures--if there are any
British figures--of such bad districts for the young as are some parts
of East London or such towns of low type employment as Reading I do not
know. (The reader should compare the Fabian Society's report on
prostitution, Downward Paths, upon this question.) Nor do I know how
they would show in comparison with preceding Tsarist conditions. Nor can
I speculate how far these phenomena in Russia are the mechanical
consequence of privation and overcrowding in a home atmosphere bordering
on despair. But there can be no doubt that in the Russian towns,
concurrently with increased educational effort and an enhanced
intellectual stimulation of the young, there is also an increased
lawlessness on their part, especially in sexual matters, and that this
is going on in a phase of unexampled sobriety and harsh puritanical
decorum so far as adult life is concerned. This hectic moral fever of
the young is the dark side of the educational spectacle in Russia. I
think it is to be regarded mainly as an aspect of the general social
collapse; every European country has noted a parallel moral relaxation
of the young under the war strain; but the revolution itself, in
sweeping a number of the old experienced teachers out of the schools and
in making every moral standard a subject of debate, has no doubt
contributed also to an as yet incalculable amount in the excessive
disorder of these matters in present-day Russia.

Faced with this problem of starving and shattered homes and a social
chaos, the Bolshevik organisers are institutionalising the town
children of Russia. They are making their schools residential. The
children of the Russian urban population are going, like the children of
the British upper class, into boarding schools. Close to this second
school I visited stood two big buildings which are the living places of
the boys and of the girls respectively. In these places they can be kept
under some sort of hygienic and moral discipline. This again happens to
be not only in accordance with Communist doctrine, but with the special
necessities of the Russian crisis. Entire towns are sinking down towards
slum conditions, and the Bolshevik Government has had to play the part
of a gigantic Dr. Barnardo.

We went over the organisation of a sort of reception home to which
children are brought by their parents who find it impossible to keep
them clean and decent and nourished under the terrible conditions
outside. This reception home is the old Hotel de l'Europe, the scene of
countless pleasant little dinner-parties under the old régime. On the
roof there is still the summertime roof garden, where the string
quartette used to play, and on the staircase we passed a frosted glass
window still bearing in gold letters the words Coiffure des Dames.

Slender gilded pointing hands directed us to the "Restaurant," long
vanished from the grim Petersburg scheme of things. Into this place the
children come; they pass into a special quarantine section for
infectious diseases and for personal cleanliness--nine-tenths of the
newcomers harbour unpleasant parasites--and then into another section,
the moral quarantine, where for a time they are watched for bad habits
and undesirable tendencies. From this section some individuals may need
to be weeded out and sent to special schools for defectives. The rest
pass on into the general body of institutionalised children, and so on
to the boarding schools.

Here certainly we have the "break-up of the family" in full progress,
and the Bolshevik net is sweeping wide and taking in children of the
most miscellaneous origins. The parents have reasonably free access to
their children in the daytime, but little or no control over their
education, clothing, or the like. We went among the children in the
various stages of this educational process, and they seemed to us to be
quite healthy, happy, and contented children. But they get very good
people to look after them. Many men and women, politically suspects or
openly discontented with the existing political conditions, and yet with
a desire to serve Russia, have found in these places work that they can
do with a good heart and conscience. My interpreter and the lady who
took us round this place had often dined and supped in the Hotel de
I'Europe in its brilliant days, and they knew each other well. This lady
was now plainly clad, with short cut hair and a grave manner; her
husband was a White and serving with the Poles; she had two children of
her own in the institution, and she was mothering some scores of little
creatures. But she was evidently keenly proud of the work of her
organisation, and she said that she found life--in this city of want,
under the shadow of a coming famine--more interesting and satisfying
than it had ever been in the old days.

I have no space to tell of other educational work we saw going on in
Russia. I can give but a word or so to the Home of Rest for Workmen in
the Kamenni Ostrof. I thought that at once rather fine and not a little
absurd. To this place workers are sent to live a life of refined ease
for two or three weeks. It is a very beautiful country house with big
gardens, an orangery, and subordinate buildings. The meals are served on
white cloths with flowers upon the table and so forth. And the worker
has to live up to these elegant surroundings. It is a part of his
education. If in a forgetful moment he clears his throat in the good old
resonant peasant manner and spits upon the floor, an attendant, I was
told, chalks a circle about his defilement and obliges him to clean the
offended parquetry. The avenue approaching this place has been adorned
with decoration in the futurist style, and there is a vast figure of a
"worker" at the gates resting on his hammer, done in gypsum, which was
obtained from the surgical reserves of the Petersburg hospitals.... But
after all, the idea of civilising your workpeople by dipping them into
pleasant surroundings is, in itself, rather a good one....

I find it difficult to hold the scales of justice upon many of these
efforts of Bolshevism. Here are these creative and educational things
going on, varying between the admirable and the ridiculous, islands at
least of cleanly work and, I think, of hope, amidst the vast spectacle
of grisly want and wide decay. Who can weigh the power and possibility
of their thrust against the huge gravitation of this sinking system? Who
can guess what encouragement and enhancement they may get if Russia can
win through to a respite from civil and foreign warfare and from famine
and want? It was of this re-created Russia, this Russia that may be,
that I was most desirous of talking when I went to the Kremlin to meet
Lenin. Of that conversation I will tell in my final chapter.



V THE PETERSBURG SOVIET


On Thursday the 7th of October we attended a meeting of the Petersburg
Soviet. We were told that we should find this a very different
legislative body from the British House of Commons, and we did. Like
nearly everything else in the arrangements of Soviet Russia it struck us
as extraordinarily unpremeditated and improvised. Nothing could have
been less intelligently planned for the functions it had to perform or
the responsibilities it had to undertake.

The meeting was held in the old Winter Garden of the Tauride Palace, the
former palace of Potemkin, the favourite of Catherine the Second. Here
the Imperial Duma met under the Tsarist régime, and I visited it in
1914 and saw a languid session in progress. I went then with Mr. Maurice
Baring and one of the Benckendorffs to the strangers' gallery, which ran
round three sides of the hall. There was accommodation for perhaps a
thousand people in the hall, and most of it was empty. The president
with his bell sat above a rostrum, and behind him was a row of women
reporters. I do not now remember what business was in hand on that
occasion; it was certainly not very exciting business. Baring, I
remember, pointed out the large proportion of priests elected to the
third Dumas; their beards and cassocks made a distinctive feature of
that scattered gathering.

On this second visit we were no longer stranger onlookers, but active
participants in the meeting; we came into the body of the hall behind
the president's bench, where on a sort of stage the members of the
Government, official visitors, and so forth find accommodation. The
presidential bench, the rostrum, and the reporters remained, but instead
of an atmosphere of weary parliamentarianism, we found ourselves in the
crowding, the noise, and the peculiar thrill of a mass meeting. There
were, I should think, some two hundred people or more packed upon the
semi-circular benches round about us on the platform behind the
president, comrades in naval uniforms and in middle-class and
working-class costume, numerous intelligent-looking women, one or two
Asiatics and a few unclassifiable visitors, and the body of the hall
beyond the presidential bench was densely packed with people who filled
not only the seats but the gangways and the spaces under the galleries.
There may have been two or three thousand people down there, men and
women. They were all members of the Petersburg Soviet, which is really a
sort of conjoint meeting of its constituent Soviets. The visitors'
galleries above were equally full. Above the rostrum, with his back to
us, sat Zenovieff, his right-hand man Zorin, and the president. The
subject under discussion was the proposed peace with Poland. The meeting
was smarting with the sense of defeat and disposed to resent the Polish
terms. Soon after we came in Zenovieff made a long and, so far as I
could judge, a very able speech, preparing the minds of this great
gathering for a Russian surrender. The Polish demands were outrageous,
but for the present Russia must submit. He was followed by an oldish man
who made a bitter attack upon the irreligion of the people and
government of Russia; Russia was suffering for her sins, and until she
repented and returned to religion she would continue to suffer one
disaster after another. His opinions were not those of the meeting, but
he was allowed to have his say without interruption. The decision to
make peace with Poland was then taken by a show of hands. Then came my
little turn. The meeting was told that I had come from England to see
the Bolshevik régime; I was praised profusely; I was also exhorted to
treat that régime fairly and not to emulate those other recent
visitors (these were Mrs. Snowden and Guest and Bertrand Russell) who
had enjoyed the hospitality of the republic and then gone away to say
unfavourable things of it. This exhortation left me cold; I had come to
Russia to judge the Bolshevik Government and not to praise it. I had
then to take possession of the rostrum and address this big crowd of
people. This rostrum I knew had proved an unfortunate place for one or
two previous visitors, who had found it hard to explain away afterwards
the speeches their translators had given the world through the medium of
the wireless reports. Happily, I had had some inkling of what was
coming. To avoid any misunderstanding I had written out a short speech
in English, and I had had this translated carefully into Russian. I
began by saying clearly that I was neither Marxist nor Communist, but a
Collectivist, and that it was not to a social revolution in the West
that Russians should look for peace and help in their troubles, but to
the liberal opinion of the moderate mass of Western people. I declared
that the people of the Western States were determined to give Russia
peace, so that she might develop upon her own lines. Their own line of
development might be very different from that of Russia. When I had done
I handed a translation of my speech to my interpreter, Zorin, which not
only eased his task but did away with any possibility of a subsequent
misunderstanding. My speech was reported in the Pravda quite fully and
fairly.

Then followed a motion by Zorin that Zenovieff should have leave to
visit Berlin and attend the conference of the Independent Socialists
there. Zorin is a witty and humorous speaker, and he got his audience
into an excellent frame of mind. His motion was carried by a show of
hands, and then came areport and a discussion upon the production of
vegetables in the Petersburg district. It was a practical question upon
which feeling ran high. Here speakers rose in the body of the hall,
discharging brief utterances for a minute or so and subsiding again.
There were shouts and interruptions. The debate was much more like a big
labour mass meeting in the Queen's Hall than anything that a Western
European would recognise as a legislature.

This business disposed of, a still more extraordinary thing happened. We
who sat behind the rostrum poured down into the already very crowded
body of the hall and got such seats as we could find, and a white sheet
was lowered behind the president's seat. At the same time a band
appeared in the gallery to the left. A five-part cinematograph film was
then run, showing the Baku Conference to which I have already alluded.
The pictures were viewed with interest but without any violent applause.
And at the end the band played the Internationale, and the audience--I
beg its pardon!--the Petersburg Soviet dispersed singing that popular
chant. It was in fact a mass meeting incapable of any real legislative
activities; capable at the utmost of endorsing or not endorsing the
Government in control of the platform. Compared with the British
Parliament it has about as much organisation, structure, and working
efficiency as a big bagful of miscellaneous wheels might have, compared
to an old-fashioned and inaccurate but still going clock.



VI THE DREAMER IN THE KREMLIN


My chief purpose in going from Petersburg to Moscow was to see and talk
to Lenin. I was very curious to see him, and I was disposed to be
hostile to him. I encountered a personality entirely different from
anything I had expected to meet.

Lenin is not a writer; his published work does not express him. The
shrill little pamphlets and papers issued from Moscow in his name, full
of misconceptions of the labour psychology of the West and obstinately
defensive of the impossible proposition that it is the prophesied
Marxist social revolution which has happened in Russia, display hardly
anything of the real Lenin mentality as I encountered it. Occasionally
there are gleams of an inspired shrewdness, but for the rest these
publications do no more than rehearse the set ideas and phrases of
doctrinaire Marxism. Perhaps that is necessary. That may be the only
language Communism understands; a break into a new dialect would be
disturbing and demoralising. Left Communism is the backbone of Russia
to-day; unhappily it is a backbone without flexible joints, a backbone
that can be bent only with the utmost difficulty and which must be bent
by means of flattery and deference.

Moscow under the bright October sunshine, amidst the fluttering yellow
leaves, impressed us as being altogether more lax and animated than
Petersburg. There is much more movement of people, more trading, and a
comparative plenty of droshkys. Markets are open. There is not the same
general ruination of streets and houses. There are, it is true, many
traces of the desperate street fighting of early 1918. One of the domes
of that absurd cathedral of St. Basil just outside the Kremlin gate was
smashed by a shell and still awaits repair. The tramcars we found were
not carrying passengers; they were being used for the transport of
supplies of food and fuel. In these matters Petersburg claims to be
better prepared than Moscow.

The ten thousand crosses of Moscow still glitter in the afternoon light.
On one conspicuous pinnacle of the Kremlin the imperial eagles spread
their wings; the Bolshevik Government has been too busy or too
indifferent to pull them down. The churches are open, the kissing of
ikons is a flourishing industry, and beggars still woo casual charity at
the doors. The celebrated miraculous shrine of the Iberian Madonna
outside the Redeemer Gate was particularly busy. There were many peasant
women, unable to get into the little chapel, kissing the stones outside.

Just opposite to it, on a plaster panel on a house front, is that now
celebrated inscription put up by one of the early revolutionary
administrations in Moscow: "Religion is the Opium of the People." The
effect this inscription produces is greatly reduced by the fact that in
Russia the people cannot read.

About that inscription I had a slight but amusing argument with Mr.
Vanderlip, the American financier, who was lodged in the same guest
house as ourselves. He wanted to have it effaced. I was for retaining it
as being historically interesting, and because I think that religious
toleration should extend to atheists. But Mr. Vanderlip felt too
strongly to see the point of that.

The Moscow Guest House, which we shared with Mr. Vanderlip and an
adventurous English artist who had somehow got through to Moscow to
execute busts of Lenin and Trotsky, was a big, richly-furnished house
upon the Sofiskaya Naberezhnaya (No. 17), directly facing the great wall
of the Kremlin and all the clustering domes and pinnacles of that
imperial inner city. We felt much less free and more secluded here than
in Petersburg. There were sentinels at the gates to protect us from
casual visitors, whereas in Petersburg all sorts of unauthorised persons
could and did stray in to talk to me. Mr. Vanderlip had been staying
here, I gathered, for some weeks, and proposed to stay some weeks more.
He was without valet, secretary, or interpreter. He did not discuss his
business with me beyond telling me rather carefully once or twice that
it was strictly financial and commercial and in no sense political. I
was told that he had brought credentials from Senator Harding to Lenin,
but I am temperamentally incurious and I made no attempt whatever to
verify this statement or to pry into Mr. Vanderlip's affairs. I did not
even ask how it could be possible to conduct business or financial
operations in a Communist State with any one but the Government, nor how
it was possible to deal with a Government upon strictly non-political
lines. These were, I admitted, mysteries beyond my understanding. But we
ate, smoked, drank our coffee and conversed together in an atmosphere of
profound discretion. By not mentioning Mr. Vanderlip's "mission," we
made it a portentous, omnipresent fact.

The arrangements leading up to my meeting with Lenin were tedious and
irritating, but at last I found myself under way for the Kremlin in the
company of Mr. Rothstein, formerly a figure in London Communist circles,
and an American comrade with a large camera who was also, I gathered, an
official of the Russian Foreign Office.

The Kremlin as I remembered it in 1914 was a very open place, open much
as Windsor Castle is, with a thin trickle of pilgrims and tourists in
groups and couples flowing through it. But now it is closed up and
difficult of access. There was a great pother with passes and permits
before we could get through even the outer gates. And we were filtered
and inspected through five or six rooms of clerks and sentinels before
we got into the presence. This may be necessary for the personal
security of Lenin, but it puts him out of reach of Russia, and, what
perhaps is more serious, if there is to be an effectual dictatorship, it
puts Russia out of his reach. If things must filter up to him, they must
also filter down, and they may undergo very considerable changes in the
process.

We got to Lenin at last and found him, a little figure at a great desk
in a well-lit room that looked out upon palatial spaces. I thought his
desk was rather in a litter. I sat down on a chair at a corner of the
desk, and the little man--his feet scarcely touch the ground as he sits
on the edge of his chair--twisted round to talk to me, putting his arms
round and over a pile of papers. He spoke excellent English, but it was,
I thought, rather characteristic of the present condition of Russian
affairs that Mr. Rothstein chaperoned the conversation, occasionally
offering footnotes and other assistance. Meanwhile the American got to
work with his camera, and unobtrusively but persistently exposed plates.
The talk, however, was too interesting for that to be an annoyance. One
forgot about that clicking and shifting about quite soon.

I had come expecting to struggle with a doctrinaire Marxist. I found
nothing of the sort. I had been told that Lenin lectured people; he
certainly did not do so on this occasion. Much has been made of his
laugh in the descriptions, a laugh which is said to be pleasing at first
and afterwards to become cynical. This laugh was not in evidence. His
forehead reminded me of someone else--I could not remember who it was,
until the other evening I saw Mr. Arthur Balfour sitting and talking
under a shaded light. It is exactly the same domed, slightly one-sided
cranium. Lenin has a pleasant, quick-changing, brownish face, with a
lively smile and a habit (due perhaps to some defect in focussing) of
screwing up one eye as he pauses in his talk; he is not very like the
photographs you see of him because he is one of those people whose
change of expression is more important than their features; he
gesticulated a little with his hands over the heaped papers as he
talked, and he talked quickly, very keen on his subject, without any
posing or pretences or reservations, as a good type of scientific man
will talk.

Our talk was threaded throughout and held together by two--what shall I
call them?--motifs. One was from me to him: "What do you think you are
making of Russia? What is the state you are trying to create?" The other
was from him to me: "Why does not the social revolution begin in
England? Why do you not work for the social revolution? Why are you not
destroying Capitalism and establishing the Communist State?" These
motifs interwove, reacted on each other, illuminated each other. The
second brought back the first: "But what are you making of the social
revolution? Are you making a success of it?" And from that we got back
to two again with: "To make it a success the Western world must join in.
Why doesn't it?"

In the days before 1918 all the Marxist world thought of the social
revolution as an end. The workers of the world were to unite, overthrow
Capitalism, and be happy ever afterwards. But in 1918 the Communists, to
their own surprise, found themselves in control of Russia and challenged
to produce their millennium. They have a colourable excuse for a delay
in the production of a new and better social order in their continuation
of war conditions, in the blockade and so forth, nevertheless it is
clear that they begin to realise the tremendous unpreparedness which the
Marxist methods of thought involve. At a hundred points--I have already
put a finger upon one or two of them--they do not know what to do. But
the commonplace Communist simply loses his temper if you venture to
doubt whether everything is being done in precisely the best and most
intelligent way under the new régime. He is like a tetchy housewife
who wants you to recognise that everything is in perfect order in the
middle of an eviction. He is like one of those now forgotten
suffragettes who used to promise us an earthly paradise as soon as we
escaped from the tyranny of "man-made laws." Lenin, on the other hand,
whose frankness must at times leave his disciples breathless, has
recently stripped off the last pretence that the Russian revolution is
anything more than the inauguration of an age of limitless experiment.
"Those who are engaged in the formidable task of overcoming capitalism,"
he has recently written, "must be prepared to try method after method
until they find the one which answers their purpose best."

We opened our talk with a discussion of the future of the great towns
under Communism. I wanted to see how far Lenin contemplated the dying
out of the towns in Russia. The desolation of Petersburg had brought
home to me a point I had never realised before, that the whole form and
arrangement of a town is determined by shopping and marketing, and that
the abolition of these things renders nine-tenths of the buildings in an
ordinary town directly or indirectly unmeaning and useless. "The towns
will get very much smaller," he admitted. "They will be different. Yes,
quite different." That, I suggested, implied a tremendous task. It meant
the scrapping of the existing towns and their replacement. The churches
and great buildings of Petersburg would become presently like those of
Novgorod the Great or like the temples of Paestum. Most of the town
would dissolve away. He agreed quite cheerfully. I think it warmed his
heart to find someone who understood a necessary consequence of
collectivism that many even of his own people fail to grasp. Russia has
to be rebuilt fundamentally, has to become a new thing....

And industry has to be reconstructed--as fundamentally?

Did I realise what was already in hand with Russia? The electrification
of Russia?

For Lenin, who like a good orthodox Marxist denounces all "Utopians,"
has succumbed at last to a Utopia, the Utopia of the electricians. He is
throwing all his weight into a scheme for the development of great power
stations in Russia to serve whole provinces with light, with transport,
and industrial power. Two experimental districts he said had already
been electrified. Can one imagine a more courageous project in a vast
flat land of forests and illiterate peasants, with no water power, with
no technical skill available, and with trade and industry at the last
gasp? Projects for such an electrification are in process of development
in Holland and they have been discussed in England, and in those
densely-populated and industrially highly-developed centres one can
imagine them as successful, economical, and altogether beneficial. But
their application to Russia is an altogether greater strain upon the
constructive imagination. I cannot see anything of the sort happening in
this dark crystal of Russia, but this little man at the Kremlin can; he
sees the decaying railways replaced by a new electric transport, sees
new roadways spreading throughout the land, sees a new and happier
Communist industrialism arising again. While I talked to him he almost
persuaded me to share his vision.

"And you will go on to these things with the peasants rooted in your
soil?"

But not only are the towns to be rebuilt; every agricultural landmark is
to go.

"Even now," said Lenin, "all the agricultural production of Russia is
not peasant production. We have, in places, large scale agriculture. The
Government is already running big estates with workers instead of
peasants, where conditions are favourable. That can spread. It can be
extended first to one province, then another. The peasants in the other
provinces, selfish and illiterate, will not know what is happening until
their turn comes...."

It may be difficult to defeat the Russian peasant en masse; but in
detail there is no difficulty at all. At the mention of the peasant
Lenin's head came nearer to mine; his manner became confidential. As if
after all the peasant might overhear.

It is not only the material organisation of society you have to build, I
argued, it is the mentality of a whole people. The Russian people are by
habit and tradition traders and individualists; their very souls must be
remoulded if this new world is to be achieved. Lenin asked me what I had
seen of the educational work afoot. I praised some of the things I had
seen. He nodded and smiled with pleasure. He has an unlimited confidence
in his work.

"But these are only sketches and beginnings," I said.

"Come back and see what we have done in Russia in ten years' time," he
answered.

In him I realised that Communism could after all, in spite of Marx, be
enormously creative. After the tiresome class-war fanatics I had been
encountering among the Communists, men of formulæ as sterile as flints,
after numerous experiences of the trained and empty conceit of the
common Marxist devotee, this amazing little man, with his frank
admission of the immensity and complication of the project of Communism
and his simple concentration upon its realisation, was very refreshing.
He at least has a vision of a world changed over and planned and built
afresh.

He wanted more of my Russian impressions. I told him that I thought that
in many directions, and more particularly in the Petersburg Commune,
Communism was pressing too hard and too fast, and destroying before it
was ready to rebuild. They had broken down trading before they were
ready to ration; the co-operative organisation had been smashed up
instead of being utilised, and so on. That brought us to our essential
difference, the difference of the Evolutionary Collectivist and Marxist,
the question whether the social revolution is, in its extremity,
necessary, whether it is necessary to over throw one economic system
completely before the new one can begin. I believe that through a vast
sustained educational campaign the existing Capitalist system can be
civilised into a Collectivist world system; Lenin on the other hand
tied himself years ago to the Marxist dogmas of the inevitable class
war, the downfall of Capitalist order as a prelude to reconstruction,
the proletarian dictatorship, and so forth. He had to argue, therefore,
that modern Capitalism is incurably predatory, wasteful, and
unteachable, and that until it is destroyed it will continue to exploit
the human heritage stupidly and aimlessly, that it will fight against
and prevent any administration of natural resources for the general
good, and that, because essentially it is a scramble, it will inevitably
make wars.

I had, I will confess, a very uphill argument. He suddenly produced
Chiozza Money's new book, The Triumph of Nationalisation, which he had
evidently been reading very carefully. "But you see directly you begin
to have a good working collectivist organisation of any public interest,
the Capitalists smash it up again. They smashed your national shipyards;
they won't let you work your coal economically." He tapped the book. "It
is all here."

And against my argument that wars sprang from nationalist imperialism
and not from a Capitalist organisation of society he suddenly brought:
"But what do you think of this new Republican Imperialism that comes to
us from America?"

Here Mr. Rothstein intervened in Russian with an objection that Lenin
swept aside.

And regardless of Mr. Rothstein's plea for diplomatic reserve, Lenin
proceeded to explain the projects with which one American at least was
seeking to dazzle the imagination of Moscow. There was to be economic
assistance for Russia and recognition of the Bolshevik Government. There
was to be a defensive alliance against Japanese aggression in Siberia.
There was to be an American naval station on the coast of Asia, and
leases for long terms of sixty or fifty years of the natural resources
of Khamskhatka and possibly of other large regions of Russian Asia.
Well, did I think that made for peace? Was it anything more than the
beginning of a new world scramble? How would the British Imperialists
like this sort of thing?

Always, he insisted, Capitalism competes and scrambles. It is the
antithesis of collective action. It cannot develop into social unity or
into world unity.

But some industrial power had to come in and help Russia, I said. She
cannot reconstruct now without such help....

Our multifarious argumentation ended indecisively. We parted warmly, and
I and my companion were filtered out of the Kremlin through one barrier
after another in much the same fashion as we had been filtered in.

"He is wonderful," said Mr. Rothstein. "But it was an indiscretion----"

I was not disposed to talk as we made our way, under the glowing trees
that grow in the ancient moat of the Kremlin, back to our Guest House. I
wanted to think Lenin over while I had him fresh in my mind, and I did
not want to be assisted by the expositions of my companion. But Mr.
Rothstein kept on talking.

He was still pressing me not to mention this little sketch of the
Russian-American outlook to Mr. Vanderlip long after I assured him that
I respected Mr. Vanderlip's veil of discretion far too much to pierce it
by any careless word.

And so back to No. 17 Sofiskaya Naberezhnaya, and lunch with Mr.
Vanderlip and the young sculptor from London. The old servant of the
house waited on us, mournfully conscious of the meagreness of our
entertainment and reminiscent of the great days of the past when Caruso
had been a guest and had sung to all that was brilliant in Moscow in the
room upstairs. Mr Vanderlip was for visiting the big market that
afternoon--and later going to the Ballet, but my son and I were set upon
returning to Petersburg that night and so getting on to Reval in time
for the Stockholm boat.



VII THE ENVOY


In the preceding chapters I have written in the first person and in a
familiar style because I did not want the reader to lose sight for a
moment of the shortness of our visit to Russia and of my personal
limitations. Now in conclusion, if the reader will have patience with me
for a few final words, I would like in less personal terms and very
plainly to set down my main convictions about the Russian situation.
They are deep-seated convictions, and they concern not merely Russia but
the whole present outlook of our civilisation. They are merely one man's
opinion, but as I feel them strongly, so I put them without weakening
qualifications.

First, then, Russia, which was a modern civilisation of the Western
type, least disciplined and most ramshackle of all the Great Powers, is
now a modern civilisation in extremis. The direct cause of its
downfall has been modern war leading to physical exhaustion. Only
through that could the Bolsheviks have secured power. Nothing like this
Russian downfall has ever happened before. If it goes on for a year or
so more the process of collapse will be complete. Nothing will be left
of Russia but a country of peasants; the towns will be practically
deserted and in ruins, the railways will be rusting in disuse. With the
railways will go the last vestiges of any general government. The
peasants are absolutely illiterate and collectively stupid, capable of
resisting interference but incapable of comprehensive foresight and
organisation. They will become a sort of human swamp in a state of
division, petty civil war, and political squalour, with a famine
whenever the harvests are bad; and they will be breeding epidemics for
the rest of Europe. They will lapse towards Asia.

The collapse of the civilised system in Russia into peasant barbarism
means that Europe will be cut off for many years from all the mineral
wealth of Russia, and from any supply of raw products from this area,
from its corn, flax, and the like. It is an open question whether the
Western Powers can get along without these supplies. Their cessation
certainly means a general impoverishment of Western Europe.

The only possible Government that can stave off such a final collapse of
Russia now is the present Bolshevik Government, if it can be assisted by
America and the Western Powers. There is now no alternative to that
Government possible. There are of course a multitude of
antagonists--adventurers and the like--ready, with European assistance,
to attempt the overthrow of that Bolshevik Government, but there are no
signs of any common purpose and moral unity capable of replacing it. And
moreover there is no time now for another revolution in Russia. A year
more of civil war will make the final sinking of Russia out of
civilisation inevitable. We have to make what we can, therefore, of the
Bolshevik Government, whether we like it or not.

The Bolshevik Government is inexperienced and incapable to an extreme
degree; it has had phases of violence and cruelty; but it is on the
whole honest. And it includes a few individuals of real creative
imagination and power, who may with opportunity, if their hands are
strengthened, achieve great reconstructions. The Bolshevik Government
seems on the whole to be trying to act up to its professions, which are
still held by most of its supporters with a quite religious passion.
Given generous help, it may succeed in establishing a new social order
in Russia of a civilised type with which the rest of the world will be
able to deal. It will probably be a mitigated Communism, with a
large-scale handling of transort, industry, and (later) agriculture.

It is necessary that we should understand and respect the professions
and principles of the Bolsheviks if we Western peoples are to be of any
effectual service to humanity in Russia. Hitherto these professions and
principles have been ignored in the most extraordinary way by the
Western Governments. The Bolshevik Government is, and says it is, a
Communist Government. And it means this, and will make this the standard
of its conduct. It has suppressed private ownership and private trade in
Russia, not as an act of expediency but as an act of right; and in all
Russia there remain now no commercial individuals and bodies with whom
we can deal who will respect the conventions and usages of Western
commercial life. The Bolshevik Government, we have to understand, has,
by its nature, an invincible prejudice against individual business men;
it will not treat them in a manner that they will consider fair and
honourable; it will distrust them and, as far as it can, put them at the
completest disadvantage. It regards them as pirates--or at best as
privateers. It is hopeless and impossible therefore for individual
persons and firms to think of going into Russia to trade. There is only
one being in Russia with whom the Western world can deal, and that is
the Bolshevik Government itself, and there is no way of dealing with
that one being safely and effectually except through some national or,
better, some international Trust. This latter body, which might
represent some single Power or group of Powers, or which might even have
some titular connection with the League of Nations, would be able to
deal with the Bolshevik Government on equal terms. It would have to
recognise the Bolshevik Government and, in conjunction with it, to set
about the now urgent task of the material restoration of civilised life
in European and Asiatic Russia. It should resemble in its general nature
one of the big buying and controlling trusts that were so necessary and
effectual in the European States during the Great War. It should deal
with its individual producers on the one hand, and the Bolshevik
Government would deal with its own population on the other. Such a Trust
could speedily make itself indispensable to the Bolshevik Government.
This indeed is the only way in which a capitalist State can hold
commerce with a Communist State. The attempts that have been made during
the past year and more to devise some method of private trading in
Russia without recognition of the Bolshevik Government were from the
outset as hopeless as the search for the North-West passage from England
to India. The channels are frozen up.

Any country or group of countries with adequate industrial resources
which goes into Bolshevik Russia with recognition and help will
necessarily become the supporter, the right hand, and the consultant of
the Bolshevik Government. It will react upon that Government and be
reacted upon. It will probably become more collectivist in its methods,
and, on the other hand, the rigours of extreme Communism in Russia will
probably be greatly tempered through its influence.

The only Power capable of playing this rôle of eleventh-hour helper to
Russia single-handed is the United States of America. That is why I find
the adventure of the enterprising and imaginative Mr. Vanderlip very
significant. I doubt the conclusiveness of his negotiations; they are
probably only the opening phase of a discussion of the Russian problem
upon a new basis that may lead it at last to a comprehensive world
treatment of this situation. Other Powers than the United States will,
in the present phase of world-exhaustion, need to combine before they
can be of any effective use to Russia. Big business is by no means
antipathetic to Communism. The larger big business grows the more it
approximates to Collectivism. It is the upper road of the few instead of
the lower road of the masses to Collectivism.

The only alternative to such a helpful intervention in Bolshevik Russia
is, I firmly believe, the final collapse of all that remains of modern
civilisation throughout what was formerly the Russian Empire. It is
highly improbable that the collapse will be limited to its boundaries.
Both eastward and westward other great regions may, one after another,
tumble into the big hole in civilisation thus created. Possibly all
modern civilisation may tumble in.

These propositions do not refer to any hypothetical future; they are an
attempt to state the outline facts and possibilities of what is going
on--and going on with great rapidity--in Russia and in the world
generally now, as they present themselves to my mind. This in general
terms is the frame of circumstance in which I would have the sketches of
Russia that have preceded this set and read. So it is I interpret the
writing on the Eastern wall of Europe.



THE END





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