The Progress of Bolshevism Abroad.
Memorandum by Mr. B——
FROM a report recently received from a former Russian statesman, it certainly appears that Bolshevism is dying at its roots. He says that the split between the Lenin and Trotsky group has become menacing. The few idealists that still remain among the Bolsheviks are seeing their ideas falling to pieces one after another, while a world revolution is still hanging fire. The leaders, who have full details of the position of Bolshevism both in Russia and abroad, clearly foresee their downfall, and admit their discouragement in private conversation with their friends. The “middle" Bolsheviks, i.e., the Commissars, Soviet staff, and officers of the Red Army, knowing nothing of the progress of events except what they read in the Bolshevik press, are less dismayed. They still believe in the eventual victory of Bolshevism in Germany, and are looking forward to disturbances in England, but many of them are already looking out for hiding places, and it is believed that they will desert the Bolsheviks as soon as there is another revolution.
The minor Bolsheviks, Communist workmen, &c., are not concerned with politics at all. Their sole preoccupation is the question of food. Those who are living at the Smolny seem to be convinced of the early downfall of the Soviet Government, owing to disorganisation in the Red Army, revolts in the villages, and famine. Many of them are returning to their homes and throwing off the mask of Bolshevism. The mass of the townspeople are terrorized and incapable of any independent action.
Under-feeding is having its effect, and the epidemics of typhus, small-pox, and influenza are spreading rapidly. In the Obuchof hospital, during December, the mortality amounted to 14,000. During that month the population of Petrograd fell by 105,000. Next to disease and famine, the absence of fuel is the worst scourge. All this presses terribly upon the prisoners, who are now thrust eight into a cell intended for one person, and fed upon putrid herrings and soup made from potato peel. Typhoid, small-pox, and influenza cases are left in the same cell with uninfected persons, and in the quarantine cells eight to ten patients lie together. There is complete disorganisation of transport. The Bolsheviks are doing all they can to postpone the day of complete breakdown by giving superior diet to the railway workers, who are very discontented.
The Red Army continues to hold together, but its moral is said to have declined. The moral of the fleet is in a dangerous state. Many of the sailors have amassed a fortune during the past year, and they believe that they can only retain it by bringing in a bourgeois Government. They are now not only discontented, but anti-Bolshevik. In the beginning of January they demanded the removal of commissars from the ships, which was done. An attempt made by the Government to send the sailors to the front was disastrous. They refused to go, and refused to be disarmed. The relations between the sailors and officers have lately improved, and the Bolshevik leaders are aware of the danger of having in the very centre of Petrograd a compact armed force hostile to them. All that the sailors need for taking action is a leader.
There is no Labour question in Petrograd because there are no capitalists, no trade, and no industry. The workmen, who used to number hundreds of thousands, may now be counted in thousands. Many of them have taken service under the Bolsheviks, and are employed in various commissariats and committees. Large numbers have drifted away into the country. On the whole, those who remain are against the Bolsheviks. They control the water supply, the electric fire stations, the tramways, and arsenal. They appear to entertain no ill-feeling towards the bourgeoisie, but, on the other hand, they are quite inarticulate as to the form of Government they would prefer.
At the Putilof Works anti-Semitism is growing, probably because the food supply committees are entirely in the hands of Jews—and voices can be heard sometimes calling for a "pogrom."
In the railway workshops the men are split into two parties—Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik. The Government is carrying on a feverish propaganda among them, but without much effect. The womenfolk are specially counter-revolutionary, probably because they feel the want of food more severely. The workmen are generally opposed to the Red Army and against war of any kind.
The food supply, in which there was a temporary improvement during January, has again become hopeless. In Petrograd there is no reserve of food.
The peasants in the Northern governments are generally anti-Bolshevik, but the feeling varies in the different governments, and is most hostile where requisitions have been made. The "Committees of the Poor" are avoided by respectable peasants. Members of those committees—numbering sometimes 20 per cent. of the population—do no work and live at the expense of the local peasants by requisition. This led to revolts in January in several districts. Nearly all the peasants are armed, some even having machine guns and a supply of cartridges. They have ceased to take the slightest interest in politics. What they need is cloth and iron, as well as food.
The most interesting feature in the report is the statement that, both in the towns and villages, there is a reawakening of religion. At Kolpin the churches are overcrowded ; the propaganda of Ivan Tchirikof is meeting with success ; Pashkovtsef's sect is growing, and new sects are appearing. In the villages also the priests are no longer molested and are beginning to reopen the churches.
At the International Communist Conference at Moscow, according to the Russian wireless, Kamenef declared for the doctrines of Karl Marx and a proletarian dictatorship. Lenin spoke hopefully of the victory of the Social Revolution being secured. "In spite," he said, "of all the obstacles and the number of victims who may suffer in the progress of the cause, we may live to see a universal Republic of Soviets." There was to be a review of the Red Army for the edification of the foreign delegates.
The Red Army is flooded with propaganda literature, and Trotsky is conducting a series of mass meetings. The propaganda trains are decorated fantastically in order to make an impression on the soldiers. Trotsky’s present theme is the coming of the Socialistic State. Stoppage of work in factories is almost universal, not only from the lack of fuel, but from strikes.
The Russian wireless has issued a statement that the Government, although not recognising the Berne Conference as representative of the working classes, will allow the Commission to travel through Russia, just as they would allow any bourgeois Commission to do the same, but they enquire whether the Governments of the various countries’ representatives will allow a Bolshevik Commission to inspect their countries.
A man named J ——, who has arrived in Norway from Russia, states that he was employed as engineer at a printing works. In the spring of 1918 the press was taken over by the Soviet Government, and was employed in printing propaganda in many languages—" Every language," he says, "except Russian." Most of the matter printed was in German, but there was a good deal of English too, as well as leaflets in Asiatic languages, for which purpose type was purchased in India. He specially remembered Sanscript and Hindustani.
The efforts of the Bolsheviks to corrupt the Allied soldiers at Archangel are reported to be futile. Specimens of the literature dropped by Bolshevik aeroplanes comprised English translations of manifestoes by Lenin and Petrof, a man who was charged in connection with the Houndsditch murders.
There are many reports about the printing of forged notes for the various Allied countries, and the £1 note is reported to be forged in enormous quantities. The only forged notes now being circulated in this country are very crude, and are quite unworthy of the style of note printing for which the Russians used to be famous. Most of the forgery has been badly executed by hand on inferior paper.