Report by Colonel Kimens, Acting British Vice-Counsul at Petrograd, dated
There have been no arrests of British subjects during the last few weeks, but they are exposed to continual humiliations, ill-treatments, and hardships, and are suffering great financial losses. Practically no difference is being made now between Russians and foreigners ; they have to do forced labour ; the flats are requisitioned, and occupants obliged to leave them at a few days' notice ; the furniture may not be removed, as it has been declared national property, and clothes and provisions, above a small minimum, are confiscated.
The state of affairs in Russia is becoming daily more critical, and the reign of terror is assuming proportions which seem quite impossible, and are incompatible with all ideas of humanity and civilisation. Government, properly speaking, has ceased to exist in Russia, and the only work done by the Soviet authorities is inciting of class hatred, requisitioning and confiscation of property, and destruction of absolutely every-thing, and world propaganda of Bolshevism. All freedom of word and action has been suppressed ; the country is being ruled by an autocracy which is infinitely worse than that of the old régime ; justice does not exist, and every act on the part of persons not belonging to the "proletariat" is interpreted as counter-revolutionary and punished by imprisonment, and in many cases execution, without giving the unfortunate victim a chance of defending himself in a tribunal, as sentences are passed without trial.
The whole legislation of the country is done by decrees, which are published by the central Soviet authorities at Moscow and the northern commune at Petrograd, and are supposed to be enforced everywhere, but in reality this remains only on paper and the local authorities obey only such orders from which they can derive a personal profit, and ignore all others. The chaos has gone so far that the central authorities are no longer obeyed, and as a result of it every province has become a state in a state. Anarchy is rampant everywhere, villages rise against villages, peasants against peasants, and the country is entering upon an era or open interior warfare, so that if this state of things is allowed to continue only the fittest will survive.
The primâ facie reason of this state of affairs is the expropriation of landed property, and the subsequent abolition of all other property. This is the root of the whole evil which has brought Russia to the present condition.
The first step taken in this direction was the expropriation of landed property belonging to the peasants, followed by the nationalisation of town property and houses. In December 1917 the banks were seized, and soon afterwards began the nationalisation of works and factories. Now all furniture is being confiscated, and people are allowed to have only a small quantity of clothes. The nationalisation of trade which has now been decreed will be the final death-blow to life and Russia's productive power will come to an end.
This policy of the Soviet authorities can be easily explained, and is quite logical from their point of view. Their one object is to overthrow the existing order of things and capitalism, first in Russia and afterwards in all other countries, and in order to attain this end all methods are admissible as long as the masses remain satisfied. The expropriation of land has led to a very considerable decrease of crops, the nationalisation of factories to a standstill of industry, the seizure of the banks to a complete cessation of money circulation, and the nationalisation of trade to a deadlock in that branch of the economic life of the country, so that nothing is being produced, and there the system of the present policy of confiscation will be applied on an increasing scale, as the dissatisfaction of the masses cannot be admitted and the popularity of the authorities must be kept up.
It is obvious that the present rulers of Russia realise that this state of things cannot continue indefinitely, and that it is impossible to rule a country on confiscation and on a steadily increasing issue of paper money, which amounts at present to 3 milliards of roubles. The intention of the Government is to rule on these lines as long as possible, and afterwards to carry it on in other neighbouring countries, and as there are strong Bolshevik tendencies in Poland, the Ukraine, the Baltic Provinces, and in Finland, the danger is very great indeed that Bolshevism will spread in those countries. In that case it will be impossible to stop the movement which presents a danger to the civilisation of the whole world.