Report by Mr. G. ______, who left Petrograd in November, 1918.
When we turn from the general aims of the Bolshevik policy to the actual situation in the big cities, as Petrograd and Moscow at the time when I left, it could be summed up in one word―famine. As regards Petrograd, its population now has come down to 908,000, whereas in 1916 it was estimated at 2,500,000 to 2,600,000 people. Two-thirds of the population have been able to escape to other parts of the country, and the one-third remaining is reduced to starvation. The prices for food have risen to such an extent that all the principal commodities are out of the reach of the buyer. The amount of food which is allowed by rations is in itself absolutely insufficient to keep up life, and then it is hardly regularly received ; sometimes bread is not received for two days consecutively. Besides, it must not be forgotten that the Russian population is divided into four classes, the educated and capitalist class being put into the third and fourth category, receiving three or four times less than the workmen and other classes, who are in the first and respectable category. Even the workman who gets four times more than others cannot live on his ration, and must buy bread and other commodities in an underhand way, the open sale of them being forbidden. In order to give an instance, I wish just to say that an egg cost when I left, six roubles ; a bottle of milk, six or seven roubles ; a pound of bread, fourteen to seventeen roubles. The class which is the best fed is the Red Army and the Bolshevik officers.
The foreign press has, as I understand, published some details about the September massacres in Petrograd, when more than one thousand men were shot in Kronstadt and at the Peter-Paul Fortress indiscriminately, without any trial, not even the pretence of a court-martial ; shot, or drowned, as was the case with Father Ornatsky, the well-known priest of the Kazan Cathedral in Petrograd, who was drowned with his two young sons, who were officers, along with many others. Whereas the shooting in big towns has during the last months decreased owing to Lenin's personal dislike of Red terrorism, it is continuing in the provinces, where priests, landowners, physicians, rich merchants, lawyers, are indiscriminately shot in cold blood, without any trial and without any reason besides a general pretext of being counter-revolutionists. Arrests and domestic searches are going on as before. There are some thousands of men and women starving in the prisons of Petrograd—professors of universities, eminent lawyers, priests, generals, officers, ladies of society, bankers, &c. There are towns and districts where all the priests who have to wear their hair long in accordance with religious custom now have been forced to have it cut short. In other towns churches have been desecrated and bishops arrested or shot.
A special measure, in order to complete the humiliation of the bourgeoisie, is compulsorily forced labour, to which all the bourgeoisie men and women are liable, and which consists in men from 20 to 60 being sent on all sorts of jobs, discharging of coal, cleaning water-closets in the soldiers' barracks, digging graves in cemeteries, removing cholera stricken patients, &c. ; and for the women being obliged to wash the dirty linen of the barracks, or other like jobs for a month. In case of the women with delicate health, and of elderly men, death from exposure or severe illness after a week or two of such labour, which is usually conducted under the most humiliating conditions, is not seldom.
Under the conditions which I have outlined above it is not astonishing that disaffection is growing, and it must be said that it is growing in all classes of the population. It is evident that the attitude of the educated classes against Bolshevism is one of impotent hatred. The news given out by Bolshevik employees that the intellectual and bourgeoisie classes have allied themselves with the Bolsheviks is a deliberate falsehood. It is true that thousands upon thousands of these people have been induced to work under the Bolsheviks to accept some salaried situation with the government, but in respect to the working classes it must be borne in mind that the industrial working man has practically disappeared. Bolshevism has ruined Russian industry. The great bulk of the big factories, work-shops, or mills do not work for a great many months, for want of raw materials. The workmen received from the State full pay for some time, but afterwards had to choose either to return to the villages or to enlist in the Red Army, and in most cases they did the latter. The small artisan is starving to death, which explains his anti-Bolshevik attitude. There remains the peasant, far away in his village, rich with paper money and bread, which he does not want to give away, but the Bolsheviks are sending armed expeditions to steal bread, which they want to feed the Red Army. The shooting of peasants every day by the Red Guards coming down for bread is an every-day feature. Revolutions have broken out, and nearly everywhere they are being quelled with blood. When we ask ourselves who are the classes who support the Bolsheviks, the answer would be that they consist of the people who are fed and paid by the Bolsheviks, the Red Army, and the not less numerous army of paid Government officials. All of them are paid more and fed better than the population amongst whom they live, and, with the present food conditions, it is not astonishing that they stick to the Bolsheviks. The Red Army and the numerous army of different commissioners have also an unlimited opportunity of plundering the peaceful population, of which they avail themselves to an extent which, in the small provincial towns in the country, is simply terrifying,and which brings around the Bolsheviks all the lowest classes of the population. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that Bolshevism had for many years its best recruits from among the young workmen of big factories, who, as stated above, have now enlisted in the Red Army, and who form the Socialist nucleus of the State.
All political parties are declared to be outside the pale of the law, as counter-revolutionary, and the old Socialist parties, if they try to make public opposition to the Bolshevist tyranny, fare no better than the Liberal parties. Especially the Socialist- Revolutionary party is subject to the most violent and bloody persecution. Under these circumstances, can it astonish anyone that public opinion, terrorised by imprison-ment and numberless executions, remains dumb?
It must not be forgotten that the Bolsheviks have formed small committees of the so-called poorest peasants in each village, who are armed with rifles, and often machine guns, and who, being representative of the proletariat, have to exercise the dictatorship of the people over the village bourgeoisie, making up the majority of peasants. The well-to-do peasant is thus completely excluded from any public activity, and is kept terrorised by these committees, which in many cases are composed of the worst elements of the village, drunkards, ex-convicts, &c. Further, it cannot be doubted that the Russian people are worn out by the war and by the revolution, and that the love of peace which was always a permanent feature of its national character has been enhanced and has developed itself into an attitude of dumb suffering.
The impartial reader of the Bolshevist press, and it must be taken into considera-tion that there does not exist any press with the exception of the official one now in Russia, can read in these official papers every day articles and information about local revolts which happen daily in various parts of the country, mostly villages where the peasants rise in an entirely unorganized way against the power of the Soviet. In the second part of November such revolts have taken place in nearly all the districts of the Government of Moscow, and were suppressed mercilessly by the Red Army, composed to a considerable extent of Chinese and Letts.
As regards food distribution, it is admitted even by the Bolsheviks that in no department of Government is there so much corruption as among the numberless officials who control the food administration. The organisation of the food distribution is, of course, mainly governed by the fact that there is scarcely any food to be distributed.
Russian industry is dead for the moment, and the Russian industrial workman has ceased to exist as a class for the time being. It is an extremely curious feature of the Russian Revolution that a movement which has proclaimed itself as social and democratic has achieved in the first instance total destruction of those social groups on which a social democratic organisation is mainly based, the class of the industrial workmen. All factories, all the important ones with a few exceptions of those who are still engaged on munition work, are stopped, and the industrial workman had either to return to the village with which he had no more ties in common or to enlist in the Red Army.The younger generation of the workmen, men of 19 to 26 years, have to a great extent chosen the second alternative,and it is they who form the Bolshevik nucleus of the Red Army. To speak of the growing success of the management of industrial concerns by Soviet is an absolute misrepresentation. It would be sufficient in order to disprove this statement to cite the instance of the most important factories and works in Petrograd, Moscow and Nishny,where factories which engaged usually many thousands occupy now a few hundred men.
As regards Petrograd, the number of executions is usually taken at 1,300, though the Bolshevik admitted only 500, but then they do not take into account many hundreds of officers, former civil servants and private individuals, who were shot in Kronstadt, and in the Peter and Paul Fortress in Petrograd, without any special order from the Central authorities, by the discretion of the local Soviet ; 400 were shot during one night in Kronstadt alone ; three big graves were dug in the courtyard and the 400 placed before it, then they were shot one after another.
The Extraordinary Commission of Petrograd had on the orders of the day of one of their sittings the question of the application of torture. It is common knowledge that the unfortunate Jewish student who killed Britozsky was tortured three or four times before his execution.
The Oboukhoff works were,in their majority, supporters of the Social Revolutionary party, or of other moderate socialist organisations. They summoned a meeting of the workmen at which, by an overwhelming majority, a resolution was carried insisting upon the Bolsheviks putting an end to the civil war, and reconstructing the Government on lines which would admit the participation of all socialistic parties. The Bolsheviks answered with a general lock-out of the workmen and the closing of the Oboukhoff works.
The population is everywhere divided into four classes for purposes of rationing, the middle and "parasitic" classes, being in the third and fourth divisions, getting one-quarter or one-eighth of the rations accorded to the workmen and the clerks, but even these rations remain mostly on paper, as there is not food enough to give them.