Russia. No. 1 (1919). - 55. Report by Mr. J______.

No. 55.

Report by Mr. J——.

IN making this report I propose to deal with conditions as they appear to me at present existing in such parts of Russia as are known to me, namely, the Vladimir and Moscow Government, under the following headings :

1. Food and price of same.

2. Wages.

3. Railways.

4. Education.

5. The press.

6. Condition and feeling of the general public.

7. Business and condition of industry.

1. Food of all kinds is difficult to obtain, and in many cases it is necessary for journeys to be taken in order to obtain same. Prices are abnormal, and in many cases entirely out of the reach of all classes. A system of rationing by means of cards is in force, but the quantity allowed per person varies according to the class of society to which such persons belong.

The classification for bread is as follows :-

(1) Labourers performing heavy manual work, ¾-lb. of black bread per day ; (2) those doing lighter work, ½-lb. per day ; (3) clerical workers, ¼-lb. per day, and after these, those living on capital, 1/8-lb. per day. The following were the prices in Moscow at the time I left, and those who could not pay these prices had either to go without or make long journeys into the country for the purpose of trying to obtain food at a cheaper rate, but this is now becoming more and more difficult to do.

Black flour, from 500 to 600 roubles per pud (40 lb). is very difficult to obtain ; being brought to Moscow in quantities of 2 to 3 puds at a time by meshechniks (men who go to Southern Russia and buy the flour there at from 60 to 100 roubles, and bring same to Moscow and sell at the price named above).

White flour cannot possibly be obtained.

Meat is obtainable in very small quantities at the following prices : ̶ ̶

Soup meat, 25 roubles per lb.

Mutton, 30 to 40 roubles per lb.

Pork, 60 to 70 roubles per lb.

Horseflesh has now become very scarce, and very hard to obtain at 18 roubles per lb.

Dog meat. Two shops have been opened in Moscow for the sale of this meat, the price being 6 roubles per lb.

Sugar, very difficult to obtain at 60 to 65 roubles per lb.

Tea is very scarce indeed, even at the price of 150 to 200 roubles per lb.

Butter, when same can be obtained, costs 120 roubles per lb., but is now practically unobtainable ; no other fats are obtainable, with the exception of certain fish oil, which is the only fat available for cooking purposes.

Potatoes are now very difficult to obtain, and then only at a cost of 160 to 200 roubles per pud of 40 lb.

Milk is very scarce indeed.

Oats very difficult, to obtain ; price, 240 roubles per pud.

The following articles cannot be obtained at any price : Coffee, cocoa, rice, and cereals.

2. Wages have increased considerably, but, despite this fact, the general body of workers are far worse off owing to the purchasing value of money having decreased far more proportionately than wages have increased.

Workers in flour mills prior to the war were paid from 20 to 40 roubles per month and at present receive from 200 to 500 roubles per month.

Prior to the war, bread cost 1 r. 80 k. per pud and meat 15 kopeks per lb., a comparison with the present prices given will show that workers are at present in a far worse position than previously, and I can confidently state that many of them now realise this and would gladly revert to the old conditions if only this were possible.

3. Railways. - Through lack of material and technical knowledge necessary to effect repairs, together with the increasing shortage of fuel and the reduction of output on the part of the railway employés consequent upon maladministration, disorganisation and lack of discipline, the locomotives and rolling stock available for traffic is rapidly decreasing, and as the number of persons desiring to travel is increasing, all trains are very much overloaded and the passengers are often packed so tight together as to be practically unable to move.

It has been found necessary to use heavy goods engines, through lack of light passenger engines, for the purpose of drawing passenger trains, and the only carriages now in use are similar to our cattle trucks.

These trucks are so packed that the decencies of life cannot be observed, one having often to remain therein thirty-six hours or more before it is possible, owing to the pressure of fellow-passengers, to descend.

Under these conditions, transport by rail must eventually cease altogether.

4. Education has practically ceased. The scholars have a president and committee who decide all matters concerning the respective school.

In most schools dining-rooms have been opened, and the children are given free meals, and they practically only go to school in order to obtain food. But in many places, owing to the uncleanly and filthy manner in which food has been served, these dining-rooms have had to be closed. Within my own knowledge such a dining-room in a small town in the Vladimir Government had to be closed, the children having contracted venereal disease through the filthy condition of the utensils used in serving the meals.

5. The Press.- Only two daily papers are issued in Moscow, i.e., the "Isvestia of the Soviet" and "Pravda," these papers are edited by leading Bolsheviks, and of course contain only opinions and statements likely to further the cause of Bolshevism, and nothing is allowed to be published in any way antagonistic to or critical of Bolshevism.

In January last a weekly paper, issued on a Wednesday, called “Fperid," supposed to be owned by the "Menshevik Party," though considered to be controlled by the Bolsheviks, was allowed to be published. In this paper, articles were allowed to appear which were a little more free, but the paper was stopped after the fourth number had been issued. It is the general opinion that if the truth were allowed to be published for a period of one week only, a great awakening of the people would result.

6. Condition and Feeling of the People.- Suffering from malnutrition, lack of fuel, and the intense cold, also having nearly given up hope of the help of the Allied nations which they have for so long been expecting and anxiously awaiting, the educated professional and merchant classes are now entering upon a state of despair,

resignation, and indifference to all questions other than food. From my own experience I can safely state that at least 80 per cent. of the population in the district where I resided, including both the educated, working and peasant classes are strongly opposed to the present masters of Government and to Bolshevism.

The fact that many of these people have joined the Red Guard is not of itself evidence of a belief in Bolshevism or in the Government, but is in the majority of cases a step taken in desperation for the purposes of obtaining food and other things which could not be obtained in any other manner, or through being made to join by the present system or compulsory mobilisation.

I am personally acquainted with several officers of the old army who have been compelled to join the Bolshevik army through fear of the consequences which would fall upon their near and dear relations should they refuse to do so.

Should an officer of the old army fail to present himself when called upon to join the present Bolshevik army and evade arrest, his wife and children, if married, or his father or mother, if single, would be punished probably by imprisonment or worse. All these officers are strictly watched, and any occupying important positions have constantly with them a political "Komisar," to whom all orders given must be shown and approved by him before being transmitted; should disloyalty be suspected the officer would immediately be shot. Desertion both by officers and men in the front line is very great, and is upon the increase. All these people, both officers and men, are potential deserters to any outside force which would offer them protection and food.

Prior to my leaving Moscow, typhus had broken out, claiming many victims, and was spreading rapidly ; and it was feared that the spring and summer months would spread this disease to an uncontrollable extent. When I left all hospitals were full, patients lying on the floors and in the corridors.

7. Business and conditions of industry.- Private trading no longer exists, the only shops open being those of the Bolsheviks.

Raw materials are scarce and difficult to obtain, and many factories and mills have consequently to be closed.

The provision of raw material for the flax mills have been placed in the hands of the Centre Textile Committee, and no raw material may in future be obtained direct.

Though the committee had been in existence for several months, no raw material had been supplied by them to my mill up to the time of my leaving, and only two weeks' supply was then in hand, being the balance left from a large stock.

For the past year the workers have been in control of all mills, and as an example of the methods adopted, I state below the conditions appertaining at the mill where I was General Manager, a mill employing 6,500 workers, two-thirds of whom were women, and one-third men. In the first instance a committee was elected from the workers by the workers. The Committee consisted of 24 men, and from these the following three sub-committees were formed : ̶

(1.) Controlling Committee, consisting of six.

(2.) Food Committee, consisting of four.

(3.) The Enlightening Committee, consisting of four.

The remaining ten formed the Presidium or Council.

The Presidium sat every day in a house in the mill-yard from 9 A.M. till 3 P.M., and the President of the Workers' Committee always presided at the sittings of the Presidium. The duties of the Presidium were to receive all complaints from the workers, and adjust them to the workers' benefit, whether the complaint was of a reasonable nature or otherwise. The result was a continual unnecessary and annoying interference with the inside management of the mill. For instance, should the spinners complain, say, that No. 14 yarn is working badly, they would call for the man superintending the material department, and tell him to put in higher material, without taking into consideration the loss incidental to such procedure. It was therefore a constant battle to prevent the Presidium from doing this manner of injurious actions. The duties of the Controlling Committee are to control all buying and selling in connection with the mill. No money can be paid for goods delivered, or for work done without their signature. Nothing can be bought without their consent, and all articles bought in the district must be bought by the members of the committee themselves. Owing to this, these men, having no idea of the quality of an article, very often buy inferior goods at higher prices than would be given by an expert. They control every action of, and are constantly interfering with the administrative staff, and so confuse and bother the men employed on this work until they are unable to perform their duties, and lose all interest and initiative.

The Food Committee look after the obtaining and distribution of foodstuffs, and are constantly travelling all over the country seeking food, but are very unsuccessful in this purpose, and therefore have very little to distribute.

The duties of the Enlightening Committee are rather obscure, but appear to consist first of the propagation of Socialistic principles, and they do this by buying literature of a Socialistic nature, of course, for the Workers' Club, and second in providing amusements for the workers by organising concerts, dances, &c. The great desire of the members of all these committees seems to be to get commandeered, either by the General Meeting or by their own committee, upon the grounds of urgency to go to some other town or district for some reason or other, and when they are on these expeditions they receive 50 roubles per day for their expenses, besides their daily wage, which is paid out of the Mill funds, and very often they have the possibility of receiving a good round sum by way of bribes when buying something for the Mill. All these committees, though elected in the first instance by the majority of the workers are now practically self-elected, as the majority of the workers are so inert, uninterested, and tired of the whole Bolshevik system that they do not trouble to attend for the purpose of voting. The elections generally take place at meetings with not more than 300 or less workers present out of the 6,500, and the members of the committee have generally pre-arranged who will be chosen, and have their supporters who arrange matters as required.

All these committees very soon lose the trust of, and are not in favour with those who have elected them, but are generally re-elected, as stated before, and again the same things go on.

Tzoxovoi Committees. ̶ ̶ Besides the committees before named, in each department three to five workers are elected as a Department Committee. The workers composing this committee are taken from their usual work and have an office in their particular department. They walk round the department keeping order and giving directions as to what is and what is not to be done.

In the giving of these directions the manager of the department concerned is often entirely ignored. Nothing can be done in each respective department without the members of the committee being informed and agreeing, and there is constant friction and misunderstanding because of this. The manager, finding it necessary to do certain things, and the committee not allowing him, and vice versa. ln the majority of cases the administration loses heart and does not protest, as if they go against the committee there is a general meeting of workers, and it is decided to discharge the manager or master who has gone against the workers, and this decision is carried out. In my own case I prevented this taking place on several occasions with my managers by calling the committee together and informing them that if they discharged the manager concerned I should throw up my situation and leave the mill ; this threat having the desired effect up to October 1918. I was able to adopt this attitude owing to the fact that I knew the majority of my workers held me in high esteem and trust, as it was known that in my twenty years of mill life in Russia I never did anything in haste, and though very strict, tried to be just. In October 1918, I considered it desirable, in my own interests, to live in Moscow, and I then only visited the mill once a month. After I did this two men were discharged ̶ ̶ one the manager of our turf fields and one of the head superintendents. On January 1919, the mill was fully nationalised, and the workers were ordered to elect a directorate of five. I was the first director elected by the workers, only two voting against me out of 6,500. I mention this fact in order to show that my claim, set out above, to the esteem and respect of my work-people is not an unfounded one.

Below I give brief particulars of output obtained prior to and after the revolution :-

Output before revolution ; mill working 18 hours a day :-

Spinning mill: 1,000 to 1,100 puds a day.

Weaving mill: 800 to 8,500 pieces of linen cloth at 55 to 60 arshives each.

Output winter of 1918-19 ; mill working 16 hours per day :-

Spinning mill: 450 to 500 puds per day.

Weaving mill: 400 pieces per day.

This production was exceptional, as at other mills in our line the turnover was much worse.

For the last nine months the financing of the mill has been conducted in the following manner: To obtain money for wages, &c., we prepared invoices of finished goods and gave these into the Centre Textile, who gave us 75 per cent. of the value of the invoice, and held the balance until the delivery of the goods according to the instructions of the Central Textile, when the remaining 25 per cent, was paid. When presenting the invoice an estimate showing in detail the proposed expenditure was also required by them. Always hoping that some change in the control of the mills might take place, and it being apparent that the system at present in vogue could not permanently exist, our whole object was to retain in our warehouses as much as possible of finished goods, in order that, if the original owner was again allowed to take possession, goods would be available which could be readily turned into cash, and so enable the owner to continue working the mill. This was the only step possible that could be taken to protect the original owner's property. When I left the above-mentioned mill we had in the warehouse finished cloth goods to the value of about 30,000,000 roubles.

Foreigners such as myself remained at our positions to the last possible moment in the hope of a normal Government in Russia and return of property to its former owners.

March 20, 1919.