The Progress of Bolshevism in Russia.
Memorandum by Mr. B——.
The Russian Government.—There has now been time for considerable organisation of the Bolshevik Government. Russia has been divided into four Federal Republics:—
(1.) Commune of the North.
(2.) Commune of the West.
(3.) Central Commune.
(4.) Commune of the Volga.
The first is composed of the Governments of Petrograd, Archangel, Viatka, Vologda, part of the Government of Pskov, Novgorod, Tcherepovetz and Olonetz.
The second comprises the Governments of Vitebsk, Smolensk and Pskov.
The third the Governments of Moscow, Orel, Koursk, Toula, Tver, Nijni ̶ Novgorod, Voronege.
The fourth those of Kazan, Simbirsk Saratov and Perm.
Each town is provided with its Council of Deputies and its Commission for fighting counter-revolution, sabotage and speculation. Each district besides has its Council of Deputies (Sovdep) and its Extraordinary Commission. These institutions direct all local affairs, but they are all subject to the authority of the Central Executive Committee, which sits at Moscow. The pan-Russian Extraordinary Commission against counter-revolution, &c., also sits at Moscow. The members of these bodies are supposed to be elected by the pan-Russian Congress of Workmen, Peasants, Red Guards, Sailors and Cossack Deputies ; foreign affairs are under the exclusive management of George Tchitcherine. The Central Committee is composed as follows :—
|Trotsky||Military and Naval Commissary.|
|Spiez||Commissary of Labour.|
|Podrovski||Interior (ex-Professor of History at Moscow).|
|Nevski||Commissary of Roads and Communications. A former engineer at the Ministry.|
|Oulianova||Lenin’s wife, social assistant.|
|Stoutchka||Justice. Formerly a Deputy of the Petrograd Tribunal.|
|Tziouroupa||Minister of Food.|
The Red Army.—On the 25th October, 1918, the Bolshevik troops of Petrograd and the neighbourhood numbered hardly more than two divisions. Regimental committees have been abolished throughout the Army, and the power was transferred to military commissaries, who were charged with attending to the political moral. The Bolshieviks have neglected no means for increasing the number of their troops. Disabled soldiers of the old Army released from Germany are concentrated on their arrival either at Petrograd or Moscow and quartered with soldiers of the Red Guard. They are left without clothing, with insufficient rations, and without medical attendance, while the Red Guard, with whom they are mingled, is well fed, clothed, and amply supplied with money. When they complain, the answer is ; "Enrol in the Red Guard." Refractory cases are cruelly treated. At the head of the Red Guard is a former colonel of the staff, a Lett named Vatatis. Each soldier receives 300 to 500 roubles a month, equipment, food on a higher scale than all the other categories, and a promise to support his family in the event of death ; but, in spite of their privileged situation, the Red Guard have not the confidence of the Government, and, as intercepted letters show, many of them are disaffected. The real reliance of the Government is placed in the "International Battalions of the Army," which are formed of Letts and Chinese, who are used as punitive companies both in the Army and in the interior. Theoretically, the International Battalions are on an equality with the Red Guard, but actually they are far better paid, and they can count on absolute immunity for the excesses they commit against the wretched civil population which is left at their mercy. There is compulsory military instruction in the towns for all men between 17 and 40, in the form of drills twice a week. While its cohesion lasts, the Bolshevik Army is an incontestable force.
The Terror.—All assemblies except those organised by the Bolsheviks are forbidden in the towns. Anti-Bolshevik meetings are dispersed by armed force and their organisers shot. No Press exists except the Bolshevik Press. The Bolsheviks organise Sunday reunions, in which such subjects as,"Should one enrol in the Red Guards?" ; "Who will give us our daily bread?" ; "The world revolution," &c., are debated.
So effective is the Terror that no one dares to engage in anti-Bolshevik propaganda. People have been arrested for a simple telephonic conversation, in which the terms seemed ambiguous or could be interpreted as adverse to the Bolsheviks. An arrest is the prelude to every kind of corruption ; the rich have to pay huge exactions to intermediaries, who are usually Jews, before they can obtain their release.
Latterly "mass arrests" have come into fashion. It was thought at first that these were ordered by the Extraordinary Commission against counter-revolution, but it is now known that they are ordered by a special Revolutionary Committee called for short “The Three," because it consists of three members. This committee is independent of the Extraordinary Commission and is controlled only by the Commissary of War. Persons arrested by its orders have never been seen again.
The proceedings of this committee are kept secret ; its very composition is unknown to the public.
It has already been mentioned that the Red Guard is disaffected. A letter from a sailor named Borzof, written on the eve of going to the front, says, "The authorities seem to think that we are going to support the interests of the Soviets, but they are greatly mistaken. All the sailors are otherwise inclined . . . many of them go simply to avoid hunger.... I think there will be an end to all this very soon ; the Allies will overpower us." Another letter from Petrograd says, "We hear that Petrograd, before any other Russian town, will be in touch with Europe, but in the meantime half the inhabitants there are dying from hunger and typhoid fever." These letters and others were sent by the Russian Censor to the Extraordinary Commission for fighting the counter-revolution, and no doubt the writers have already been dealt with in the usual way.
There is, of course, in Russia a public opinion quite outside the Bolsheviks—an opinion which longs ardently for any kind of intervention—Allied or German—which will put an end to the present state of anarchy. So far it has expressed itself only in half-hearted insurrections, as for example that of Yaroslav and the assassination of Mirbach, &c. Nevertheless, in spite of the apparent stability of the Bolshevik Government, in spite of the ineptitude of its opponents, there are signs that the Terrorist Oligarchy is tottering. It is indeed impossible to believe that a Government, financially bankrupt and unable to feed its population, can survive for very long, however drastically it attempts to govern by terror. A neutral in Petrograd said recently that hatred towards the Government and everybody connected with it is spreading among all classes of the population, including peasants and the working men. The end will probably come quite suddenly as it did in the French Terror.
The anti-Bolshevik parties are considering all sorts of devices for discrediting the Bolsheviks. One is to flood the country with false currency, in order to throw discredit on the Soviets ; another, to seize the printing office, where bank notes are produced, at Petrograd ; another, to obtain employment in Government offices for the purpose of furnishing information to their Party, which is being conducted by Boris Asvinkof. Even the working class of the two capitals is divided and there is a considerable anti-Bolshevik party. The general opinion of the educated classes is that a force of half a million would suffice to overthrow the Bolsheviks with very few losses.
Bolshevik Administration.—One is startled from time to time by hearing that some well-known man of education has joined the Bolsheviks, such for instance as Maxim Gorki and the famous singer Chaliapin. The fact is that there are many specious things in the Bolshevik creed designed to capture persons of all shades of opinion. It is not usually with the principles of a system of Government that fault can be found, but in the application of the principles, and when these applied by ruffians, such as the Terrorists of the French and the Russian Revolutions, the principles fall into ruin. Rose-coloured accounts of the Bolshevik régime are written by persons who have only the principles to go by. Take for example, the housing question. Some families have more rooms than they can live in, others have to live in one room, others again have no room at all. The Bolshevik Government commandeers a large house and lets it to indigent persons, so that all have equal housing accommodation. The house is managed by a committee and the only person who dislikes the arrangement is the owner of the house. The rationing is another instance. There are four categories. No.1 entitles those engaged in heavy manual work to ¾ lb. of bread and five herrings a day, and No.4, the lowest in the scale, giving in fact the right to 1/6 lb. of bread per diem, is prescribed for those who employ other people. No. 4 is a very cogent weapon for persuading people to enlist in the Red Guard or other unpopular occupation.
National economy is managed by a Superior Council sitting at Moscow, which nominally administers the industry, exports and imports for the whole country, but, in practice, all industry and commerce being paralysed, it has very little to do. There is food administration in each district, partly under the control of the Food Commissariat and partly under the Council of National Economy. Expeditionary corps, composed of Volunteers and Red Guards, are used to requisition corn from the peasants, who will not give it willingly because the price is fixed at a lower rate than the cost of production. These expeditionary corps carry away all the food on which they can lay their hands, leaving the peasants what is strictly necessary; it is in fact a kind of organised brigandage. Corps of the same kind exist in the mills and factories with not less than 1,000 employees. They requisition the food necessary for the maintenance of themselves and the factory hands.
Much is made among the Bolshevik sympathisers in England of the Bolshevik system of public education, but it is easy to acquire merit for any educational system in a country where there was practically no elementary education before the revolution. It is also true that the opera and the theatres are kept running, but I am assured that the opera performed to an empty house until the Government gave orders that it was to be filled. Such methods of window dressing are not unknown in other countries.
The following is a list of prices for foodstuffs and clothing current on the 15th of December:-
|Potatoes (mostly rotten)||10 per lb.|
|Salt fish (bad condition )||9-10 “|
|Bread (by card, scarce)||1 ½ “|
|Bread (in open market)||18-20 “|
|Pork (scarce)||50 “|
|Beef (scarce)||22-23 “|
|Sugar (scarce)||80 “|
|Tea ( scarce)||100 “|
|Coffee (none to be had at any price)|
|Butter (salted)||75 “|
|Butter (unsalted)||80 “|
|(The Russian lb. is 2 oz. lighter than our lb.)|
|Suit of clothes (very ordinary)||800-900|
|Shoes (poor quality)||400|
|Cotton (only by card) (for a piece 26-in. square)||15-16|
Other reports show that Bolshevism is still a potent force in Siberia and that Bolsheviks are in close touch with those in European Russia.
In destroying the fabric of society the Bolsheviks appear to be adopting the methods of "skyscrapers" in New York, which is to dig out everything to a depth of 300 ft. in order to erect a new and stable edifice. They have said more than once that unless they can by propaganda induce a sympathetic revolution in other countries their fate must be sealed ; and the fever of propaganda which now possesses them is really a measure of self-preservation.
It is now reported that they are abandoning propaganda by leaflets in favour of personal and secret propaganda.