Summary of a Report on the Internal Situation in Russia.
THE following is a summary of a report on the internal situation in Russia which has been received from Mr. K——, a member of the British Printers' Trade Union, who left Petrograd on the 9th January, 1919. Mr. K—— was also a member of the Russian Printers' Trade Union ; he travelled extensively in Russia and was received everywhere as a working man. He had, therefore, an exceptional opportunity of studying the conditions in Soviet Russia. Reports have been received from various sources of the growing opposition to Bolshevik rule among a certain section of the Russian population, and Mr. K——'s account tends to confirm these reports:—
(i.) Conditions in the towns.—Since the beginning of November,1918, there has been an increasingly strong feeling against the Bolsheviks among the intelligent portions of the working classes of Petrograd, Moscow, and other centres. In the early days of their power the Bolsheviks were enthusiastically supported by the working classes in the towns, but latterly the more enlightened have become convinced of the failure of the Bolsheviks' experiments at social reform. They have, however, nominally remained Bolsheviks, as there is no other alternative, since the Bolsheviks control the food supplies and hold all the arms in the country. Mr. K——, in support of the foregoing, quotes views expressed to him by members of various factory staffs, and he cites cases of strikes in large factories, such as the Putilov, Obukhovski, Treugolnik, of which confirmation has been received from other sources. All factories are controlled by the Soviet of People's Economy. The Commissars are inexperienced, and great difficulty is experienced in obtaining good work-men, with the result that the output of the factories has greatly decreased, in some cases to 10 per cent. of the original output.
Note.—Further confirmation of the reported opposition of a section of the working population to Bolshevik rule is found in a recent Bolshevik wireless message, which states that 60,000 workmen are on strike in Petrograd, demanding an end to fratricidal war and the institution of free trade.
(ii.) Conditions in the countryside. ̶ ̶ A similar change has occurred in the attitude of the better-class peasants. At first Bolshevik innovations were welcomed in the countryside, where, also, feeling was bitter against the English, who were accused of the desire to exploit Russia for their benefit. This attitude, however, underwent a change when the Poverty Committees were instituted. These committees were composed of the worst elements of the villages reinforced by Bolsheviks from the towns, with the result that village life became intolerable. Respectable peasants. to remedy this state of affairs, decided to join these committees with a view to exercising their influence upon them, and in many cases were successful. This led to a change in the constitution of the committees, and the Soviet authorities are now endeavouring to regain their former control in this respect. At the same time the peasants' attitude of hostility towards the English disappeared, and the wish was expressed in many quarters that the latter would come and deliver Russia from Bolshevik rule.
(iii.) Religious Revival. ̶ ̶ Another important factor in the situation has been a strong revival of religious feeling in the towns and countryside; the result, apparently, of the revulsion caused by the wholesale persecution and murder of priests by the Bolsheviks. The change of attitude in this respect is manifest by the great increase in church attendance, which in the early days of Bolshevik rule was chiefly confined to women, and by the increasing boldness of the priests in denouncing the Bolsheviks. It is noteworthy, in the latter respect, that the priests are acting with increasing impunity—a fact which appears to indicate that the Bolsheviks are afraid of antagonizing public opinion over this question.
2. Anti-Bolshevik conspiracy. - In the above connection, and as further evidence of the growing opposition, in the interior, to the Bolsheviks, it is of interest to note that, according to the Bolshevik wireless news of the 14th February, an anti-Bolshevik conspiracy on the part of Left Social Revolutionaries has been discovered. The headquarters of the conspiracy were at Moscow. The leaders, it is stated, which include Mme. Spiridonova, Steinberg, Trutovsky, Protapovitch, and Rozenblum, have been arrested, and the movement has apparently been completely forestalled. It is stated that documentary evidence shows that the object of these Left Social Revolutionaries was to overthrow the Soviet Government and to establish an all-Russian Government. As a preliminary step, terroristic acts were to be carried out against Soviet leaders; these, however, were to be carried out independently by local organizations with a view to avoid compromising the whole movement. Steps had been taken to institute anti-Bolshevik propaganda in the army and among the peasants, who were to be incited to rise. The chief activities of this organization had apparently been directed towards White Russia, where, in the "Nash Put" (the Vilna organ of the Left Social Revolutionaries), an anti-Bolshevik agitation had already commenced. In White Russia it was apparently the aim of this organization to seize power on the evacuation of the German forces.
Note.—It is noteworthy that, at the same time as this reported conspiracy has been in progress members of the Left Social Revolutionary Party, who formerly belonged to the Constituent Assembly at Ufa, have been negotiating with the Soviet Government with a view to combining with the latter. It is not clear, therefore, how far these former members of the Constituent Assembly really represent the Left Social Revolutionary Party.