Interviews with Mr. A. and Mr. B., who left Moscow on January 21,1919.
MR. A. and Mr. B., two British subjects who left Moscow on the 21st January, were interviewed at the Foreign Office on the 10th February about present conditions in Moscow.
Mr. B., who was a teacher in a Moscow secondary school, the "practical academy," gave the following information about conditions in the school in which he taught. This school was typical of many others.
Each class has its committee, and as a rule the most popular boy is chosen to represent the others at the masters' meetings. The objects of the committees are: (1) To control the masters ; (2) to arrange about the distribution of food, all the boys and girls in the school being given a mid-day meal. This is, as a matter of fact, the only reason that they go to school at all.
Both boys and girls are herded together, and there is no semblance of morality. The entire absence of discipline in this connection is having an extremely bad effect on the coming generation. In the classes all semblance of discipline has been destroyed. The children do exactly as they like, sometimes walking out in the middle of a lesson. This is especially the case in the lesson before the mid-day meal, as they are all anxious to get the first places. No punishments, no home-work and no marks are allowed. The attendance is abominable, the children coming and going just as they think fit. It is impossible to keep order, and the classes are simply like a bear-garden. If a master does not happen to be popular, the boys turn him out. Sometimes a master may go to a class to give a lesson, only to find the boys holding a committee meeting which must not be disturbed.
At Kolomna, between Moscow and Kazan, a boy aged 18 was appointed commissar of the whole school, being in charge of all the teachers. On one occasion he closed the school for a whole week because one of the masters gave a boy a bad mark.
The universities suffer from the same lack of discipline. Any boy of 16 years of age is entitled to enter the university without showing any certificate, so that even if a boy is unable to read or write, he can still enter the university.
The Bolsheviks have advertised far and wide the benefits of the new proletarian culture. The above facts throw an interesting light on the way it works in practice.
Mr. A., who is a Moscow man, gave the following information about: (1) the "terror" ; (2) conditions in factories with which he was acquainted ; (3) the shops in Moscow :―
1. The "Terror."
Executions still continue in the prisons, though the ordinary people do not hear about them. Often during the executions a regimental band plays lively tunes. The following account of an execution was given to Mr. A. by a member of one of the bands. On one occasion he was playing in the band, and as usual, all the people to be executed were brought to the edge of the grave. Their hands and feet were tied together so that they would fall forward into the grave. They were then shot through the neck by Lettish soldiers. When the last man had been shot the grave was closed up, and on this particular occasion the band-man saw the grave moving. Not being able to stand the sight of it, he fainted, whereupon the Bolsheviks seized him, saying that he was in sympathy with the prisoners. They were on the point of killing him, but other members of the band explained that he was really ill, and he was then let off. Among the prisoners shot on that occasion was a priest, who asked permission to say a prayer before being shot, to which the Bolsheviks replied laconically, "Ne Nado" (It is not necessary).
2. Conditions in Factories.
At the principal factory at Kolomna, a town on the Moscow and Kazan Railway, there are only about 5,000 workers out of the normal total of 25,000. The factory is run by a committee of three—one workman, one engineer, and one director. Here, as everywhere, all the workman are discontented and would much prefer the old management. The situation is intolerable. Nobody works and nobody wants to work, while the one and only topic of conversation is food. All the people are discontented because they have not got enough to eat.
At Domodedova, near Moscow, the fine-cloth factory was still working before Christmas, but the output was estimated at 5 per cent. of the normal. The factory was run by a Committee of Workmen, but the owner used to meet the Committee occasionally to discuss the working of the factory with them, and to give them advice All the workmen were discontented with the way in which the factory was run, and most of them wanted the old managers back again. But as long as the Bolsheviks pay the men high wages they will stay there, though they do practically no work at all. They have to pretend to be Bolshevik, but in reality they are not in sympathy with them at all.
3. Shops in Moscow.
No shops are open at all except the Soviet shops. The Bolsheviks close down certain shops, take down the signs, and remove all the material without paying for it. They then put up signs of their own announcing the sale of clothing, which they sell at twice the price which was charged at the shop from which they took the stuff. No new stuff is now being made at all. What is now being sold is entirely old stock.