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6 



Russia in the Shadows 




Street Scenery in Petersburg: Site of a Demolished 
Wooden House. 

Frontispiece. 



Russia in the 
Shadows 



H. Q. Wells 



17. s'. a 1 



HODDER AND STOUGHTON 

LIMITED LONDON 



Contents 



I. Petersburg in Collapse ... 9 

II. Drift and Salvage . . . . 31 

III. The Quintessence of Bolshevism . 59 

IV. The Creative Effort in Russia . 87 
V. The Petersburg Soviet ... .113 

VI. The Dreamer in the Kremlin . . 123 

VII. The Envoy 145 



/. Petersburg in Collapse 



IN January 19 14 I visited Petersburg 
and Moscow for a couple of weeks ; 
in September 1920 I was asked to repeat 
this visit by Mr. Kamenev, of the Russian 
Trade Delegation in London. I snatched 
at this suggestion, and went to Russia at 
the end of September with my son, who 
speaks a little Russian. We spent a 
fortnight and a day in Russia, passing 
most of our time in Petersburg, where we 
went about freely by ourselves, and were 
shown nearly everything we asked to see. 
We visited Moscow, and I had a long 
conversation with Mr. Lenin, which I 
shall relate. In Petersburg I did not stay 
at the Hotel International, to which foreign 
visitors are usually sent, but with my old 
friend, Maxim Gorky. The guide and 
interpreter assigned to assist us was a 
lady I had met in Russia in 19 14, the 



io Russia in the Shadows 

niece of a former Russian Ambassador to 
London. She was educated at Newnham, 
she has been imprisoned five times by the 
Bolshevist Government, she is not allowed 
to leave Petersburg because of an attempt 
to cross the frontier to her children in 
Esthonia, and she was, therefore, the last 
person likely to lend herself to any attempt 
to hoodwink me. I mention this because 
on every hand at home and in Russia I 
had been told that the most elaborate 
camouflage of realities would go on, and 
that I should be kept in blinkers throughout 
my visit. 

As a matter of fact, the harsh and terrible 
realities of the situation in Russia cannot 
be camouflaged. In the case of special 
delegations, perhaps, a certain distracting 
tumult of receptions, bands, and speeches 
may be possible, and may be attempted. 
But it is hardly possible to dress up two 
large cities for the benefit of two stray 
visitors, wandering observantly often in 
different directions. Naturally, when one 
demands to see a school or a prison one 



Petersburg in Collapse 1 1 

is not shown the worst. Any country 
would in the circumstances show the 
best it had, and Soviet Russia is no excep- 
tion. One can allow for that. 

Our dominant impression of things 
Russian is an impression of a vast irre- 
parable breakdown. The great monarchy 
that was here in 1914, the administrative, 
social, financial, and commercial systems 
connected with it have, under the strains 
of six years of incessant war, fallen down 
and smashed utterly. Never in all history 
has there been so great a debacle before. 
The fact of the Revolution is, to our minds, 
altogether dwarfed by the fact of this 
downfall. By its own inherent rotten- 
ness and by the thrusts and strains of 
aggressive imperialism the Russian part of 
the old civilised world that existed before 
1 9 14 fell, and is now gone. The peasant, 
who was the base of the old pyramid, 
remains upon the land, living very much 
as he has always lived. Everything else 
is broken down, or is breaking down. 
Amid this vast disorganisation an emer- 



12 Russia in the Shadows 

gency Government, supported by a disci- 
plined party of perhaps 150,000 adherents 
— the Communist Party — has taken con- 
trol. It has — at the price of much shooting 
— suppressed brigandage, established a sort 
of order and security in the exhausted 
towns, and set up a crude rationing 
system. 

It is, I would say at once, the only 
possible Government in Russia at the 
present time. It is the only idea, it 
supplies the only solidarity, left in Russia. 
But it is a secondary fact. The dominant 
fact for the Western reader, the threatening 
and disconcerting fact, is that a social and 
economic system very like our own and 
intimately connected with our own has 
crashed. 

Nowhere in all Russia is the fact of that 
crash so completely evident as it is in 
Petersburg. Petersburg was the artificial 
creation of Peter the Great ; his bronze 
statue in the little garden near the Admi- 
ralty still prances amid the ebbing life of 
the city. Its palaces are still and empty, 



Petersburg in Collapse 13 

or strangely refurnished with the type- 
writers and tables and plank partitions of 
a new Administration which is engaged 
chiefly in a strenuous struggle against 
famine and the foreign invader. Its streets 
were streets of busy shops. In 19 14 I 
loafed agreeably in the Petersburg streets — 
buying little articles and watching the 
abundant traffic. All these shops have 
ceased. There are perhaps half a dozen 
shops still open in Petersburg. There is a 
Government crockery shop where I bought 
a plate or so as a souvenir, for seven or 
eight hundred roubles each, and there are 
a few flower shops. It is a wonderful 
fact, I think, that in this city, in which 
most of the shrinking population is already 
nearly starving, and hardly any one 
possesses a second suit of clothes or more 
than a single change of worn and patched 
linen, flowers can be and are still bought 
and sold. For five thousand roubles, which 
is about six and eightpence at the current 
rate of exchange, one can get a very 
pleasing bunch of big chrysanthemums. 



14 Russia in the Shadows 

I do not know if the words " all the 
shops have ceased " convey any picture 
to the Western reader of what a street 
looks like in Russia. It is not like Bond 
Street or Piccadilly on a Sunday, with the 
blinds neatly drawn down in a decorous 
sleep, and ready to wake up and begin 
again on Monday. The shops have an 
utterly wretched and abandoned look ; 
paint is peeling off, windows are cracked, 
some are broken and boarded up, some 
still display a few fly-blown relics of stock 
in the window, some have their windows 
covered with notices ; the windows are 
growing dim, the fixtures have gathered 
two years' dust. They are dead shops. 
They will never open again. 

All the great bazaar-like markets are 
closed, too, in Petersburg now, in the 
desperate struggle to keep a public control 
of necessities and prevent the profiteer 
driving up the last vestiges of food to 
incredible prices. And this cessation of 
shops makes walking about the streets 
seem a silly sort of thing to do. Nobody 



Petersburg in Collapse 15 

" walks about " any more. One realises 
that a modern city is really nothing but 
long alleys of shops and restaurants and 
the like. Shut them up, and the meaning 
of a street has disappeared. People hurry 
past — a thin traffic compared with my 
memories of 19 14. The electric street 
cars are still running and busy — until six 
o'clock. They are the only means of 
locomotion for ordinary people remaining 
in town — the last legacy of capitalist enter- 
prise. They became free while we were 
in Petersburg. Previously there had been 
a charge of two or three roubles — the 
hundredth part of the price of an egg. 
Freeing them made little difference in 
their extreme congestion during the home- 
going hours. Every one scrambles on the 
tramcar. If there is no room inside you 
cluster outside. In the busy hours festoons 
of people hang outside by any handhold ; 
people are frequently pushed off, and 
accidents are frequent. We saw a crowd 
collected round a child cut in half by 
a tramcar, and two people in the little 



1 6 Russia in the Shadows 

circle in which we moved in Petersburg 
had broken their legs in tramway 
accidents. 

The roads along which these tramcars 
run are in a frightful condition. They have 
not been repaired for three or four years ; 
they are full of holes like shell-holes, often 
two or three feet deep. Frost has eaten 
out great cavities, drains have collapsed, 
and people have torn up the wood pave- 
ment for fires. Only once did we see any 
attempt to repair the streets in Petrograd. 
In a side street some mysterious agency 
had collected a load of wood blocks and 
two barrels of tar. Most of our longer 
journeys about the town were done in 
official motor-cars — left over from the 
former times. A drive is an affair of 
tremendous swerves and concussions. 
These surviving motor-cars are running 
now on kerosene. They disengage clouds 
of pale blue smoke, and start up with a 
noise like a machine-gun battle. Every 
wooden house was demolished for firing 
last winter, and such masonry as there was 



Petersburg in Collapse 17 

in those houses remains in ruinous gaps, 
between the houses of stone. 

Every one is shabby ; every one seems 
to be carrying bundles in both Petersburg 
and Moscow. To walk into some side 
street in the twilight and see nothing but 
ill-clad figures, all hurrying, all carrying 
loads, gives one an impression as though 
the entire population was setting out in 
flight. That impression is not altogether 
misleading. The Bolshevik statistics I 
have seen are perfectly frank and honest 
in the matter. -The population of Peters- 
burg has fallen from 1 ,200,000 (before 19 19) 
to a little over 700,000, and it is still falling. 
Many people have returned to peasant 
life in the country, many have gone abroad, 
but hardship has taken an enormous toll 
of this city. The death-rate in Petersburg 
is over 81 per 1,000 ; formerly it was high 
among European cities at 22. The birth- 
rate of the underfed and profoundly de- 
pressed population is about 15. It was 
formerly about 30. 

These bundles that every one carries 

c 



Russia in the Shadows 



are partly the rations of food that are doled 
out by the Soviet organisation, partly they 
are the material and results of illicit trade. 
The Russian population has always been 
a trading and bargaining population. Even 
in 1 9 14 there were but few shops in Peters- 
burg whose prices were really fixed prices. 
Tariffs were abominated ; in Moscow 
taking a droshky meant always a haggle, 
ten kopecks at a time. Confronted with 
a shortage of nearly every commodity, a 
shortage caused partly by the war strain, — 
for Russia has been at war continuously 
now for six years — partly by the general 
collapse of social organisation, and partly 
by the blockade, and with a currency in 
complete disorder, the only possible way 
to save the towns from a chaos of cornering, 
profiteering, starvation, and at last a mere 
savage fight for the remnants of food and 
common necessities, was some sort of 
collective control and rationing. 

The Soviet Government rations on prin- 
ciple, but any Government in Russia now 
would have to ration. If the war in the 



Petersburg in Collapse 19 

West had lasted up to the present time 
London would be rationing too — food, 
clothing, and housing. But in Russia 
this has to be done on a basis of uncon- 
trollable peasant production, with a popu- 
lation temperamentally indisciplined and 
self-indulgent. The struggle is necessarily 
a bitter one. The detected profiteer, the 
genuine profiteer who profiteers on any 
considerable scale, gets short shrift ; he 
is shot. Quite ordinary trading may be 
punished severely. All trading is called 
" speculation/' and is now illegal. But a 
queer street-corner trading in food and so 
forth is winked at in Petersburg, and quite 
openly practised in Moscow, because only 
by permitting this can the peasants be 
induced to bring in food. 

There is also much underground trade 
between buyers and sellers who know each 
other. Every one who can supplements 
his public rations in this way. And every 
railway station at which one stops is an 
open market. We would find a crowd of 
peasants at every stopping-place waiting 

c 2 



20 Russia in the Shadows 

to sell milk, eggs, apples, bread, and so 
forth. The passengers clamber down and 
accumulate bundles. An tgg or an apple 
costs 300 roubles. 

The peasants look well fed, and I doubt 
if they are very much worse off than they 
were in 19 14. Probably they are better 
off. They have more land than they had, 
and they have got rid of their landlords. 
They will not help in any attempt to over- 
throw the Soviet Government because 
they are convinced that while it endures 
this state of things will continue. This 
does not prevent their resisting whenever 
they can the attempts of the Red Guards 
to collect food at regulation prices. In- 
sufficient forces of Red Guards may be 
attacked and massacred. Such incidents 
are magnified in the London Press as 
peasant insurrections against the Bol- 
sheviks. They are nothing of the sort. 
It is just the peasants making themselves 
comfortable under the existing regime. 

But every class above the peasants — 
including the official class — is now in a 



Petersburg in Collapse 2 1 

state of extreme privation. The credit 
and industrial system that produced com- 
modities has broken down, and so far the 
attempts to replace it by some other form 
of production have been ineffective. So 
that nowhere are there any new things. 
About the only things that seem to be 
fairly well supplied are tea, cigarettes, and 
matches. Matches are more abundant in 
Russia than they were in England in 191 7, 
and the Soviet State match is quite a good 
match. But such things as collars, ties, 
shoelaces, sheets and blankets, spoons and 
forks, all the haberdashery and crockery of 
life, are unattainable. There is no replac- 
ing a broken cup or glass except by a 
sedulous search and illegal trading. From 
Petersburg to Moscow we were given a 
sleeping car de luxe, but there were no 
water-bottles, glasses, or, indeed, any loose 
fittings. They have all gone. Most of 
the men one meets strike one at first as 
being carelessly shaven, and at first we 
were inclined to regard that as a sign of a 
general apathy, but we understood better 



22 Russia in the Shadows 

how things were when a friend mentioned 
to my son quite casually that he had been 
using one safety razor blade for nearly a 
year. 

Drugs and any medicines are equally 
unattainable. There is nothing to take 
for a cold or a headache ; no packing off 
to bed with a hot-water bottle. Small 
ailments develop very easily therefore into 
serious trouble. Nearly everybody we met 
struck us as being uncomfortable and a 
little* out of health. A buoyant, healthy 
person is very rare in this atmosphere of 
discomforts and petty deficiencies. 

If any one falls into a real illness the 
outlook is grim. My son paid a visit to 
the big Obuchovskaya Hospital, and he 
tells me things were very miserable there 
indeed. There was an appalling lack of 
every sort of material, and half the beds 
were not in use through the sheer impos- 
sibility of dealing with more patients if 
they came in. Strengthening and stimu- 
lating food is out of the question unless the 
patient's family can by some miracle 



Petersburg in Collapse 23 

procure it outside and send it in. Opera- 
tions are performed only on one day in the 
week, Dr. Federoff told me, when the 
necessary preparations can be made. On 
other days they are impossible, and the 
patient must wait. 

Hardly any one in Petersburg has much 
more than a change of raiment, and in a 
great city in which there remains no 
means of communication but a few over- 
crowded tramcars,* old, leaky, and ill- 
fitting boots are the only footwear. At 
times one sees astonishing makeshifts by 
way of costume. The master of a school 
to which we paid a surprise visit struck me 
as unusually dapper. He was wearing a 
dinner suit with a blue serge waistcoat. 
Several, of the distinguished scientific and 
literary men I met had no collars and wore 
neck- wraps. Gorky possesses only the 
one suit of clothes he wears. 

At a gathering of literary people in 

* I saw one passenger steamboat on the Neva 
crowded with passengers. Usually the river was 
quite deserted except for a rare Government tug or 
a solitary boatman picking up drift timber. 



24 Russia in the Shadows 

Petersburg, Mr. Amphiteatroff, the well- 
known writer, addressed a long and bitter 
speech to me. He suffered from the usual 
delusion that I was blind and stupid and 
being hoodwinked. He was for taking off 
the respectable-looking coats of all the 
company present in order that I might see 
for myself the rags and tatters and pitiful 
expedients beneath. It was a painful and, 
so far as I was concerned, an unnecessary 
speech, but I quote it here to emphasise 
this effect of general destitution. And this 
underclad town population in this dis- 
mantled and ruinous city is, in spite of all 
the furtive trading that goes on, appallingly 
underfed. With the best will in the world 
the Soviet Government is unable to pro- 
duce a sufficient ration to sustain a healthy 
life. We went to a district kitchen and 
saw the normal food distribution going on. 
The place seemed to us fairly clean and 
fairly well run, but that does not com- 
pensate for a lack of material. The lowest 
grade ration consisted of a basinful of thin 
skilly and about the same quantity of 




Street Scenery in Petersburg. 




£ 



Mr. Wells Discovers a Street Under Repa] 



Petersburg in Collapse 25 

stewed apple compote. People have bread 
cards and wait in queues for bread, but for 
three days the Petersburg bakeries stopped 
for lack of flour. The bread varies greatly 
in quality ; some was good coarse brown 
bread, and some I found damp, clay-like, 
and uneatable. 

I do not know how far these disconnected 
details will suffice to give the Western 
reader an idea of what ordinary life in 
Petersburg is at the present time. Moscow, 
they say, is more overcrowded and shorter 
of fuel than Petersburg, but superficially 
it looked far less grim than Petersburg. 
We saw these things in October, in a 
particularly fine and warm October. We 
saw them in sunshine in a setting of ruddy 
and golden foliage. But one day there 
came a chill, and the yellow leaves went 
whirling before a drive of snowflakes. It 
was the first breath of the coming winter. 
Every one shivered and looked out of the 
double windows — already sealed up — and 
talked to us of the previous year. Then 
the glow of October returned. 



26 Russia in the Shadows 

It was still glorious sunshine when we 
left Russia. But when I think of that 
coming winter my heart sinks. The Soviet 
Government in the commune of the north 
has made extraordinary efforts to prepare 
for the time of need. There are piles of 
wood along the quays, along the middle of 
the main streets, in the courtyards, and in 
every place where wood can be piled. Last 
year many people had to live in rooms 
below the freezing point ; the water-pipes 
froze up, the sanitary machinery ceased to 
work. The reader must imagine the con- 
sequences. People huddled together in 
the ill-lit rooms, and kept themselves alive 
with tea and talk. Presently some Russian 
novelist will tell us all that this has meant 
to heart and mind in Russia. This year it 
may not be quite so bad as that. The food 
situation also, they say, is better, but this 
I very much doubt. The railways are 
now in an extreme state of deterioration ; 
the wood-stoked engines are wearing out ; 
the bolts start and the rails shift as the 
trains rumble along at a maximum of 



Petersburg in Collapse 27 

twenty-five miles per hour. Even were 
the railways more efficient, Wrangel has 
got hold of the southern food supplies. 
Soon the cold rain will be falling upon 
these 700,000 souls still left in Petersburg, 
and then the snow. The long nights 
extend and the daylight dwindles. 

And this spectacle of misery and ebbing 
energy is, you will say, the result of 
Bolshevist rule ! I do not believe it is. 
I will deal with the Bolshevist Government 
when I have painted the general scenery of 
our problem. But let me say here that 
this desolate Russia is not a system that 
has been attacked and destroyed by some- 
thing vigorous and malignant. It is an 
unsound system that has worked itself out 
and fallen down. It was not communism 
which built up these great, impossible 
cities, but capitalism. It was not com- 
munism that plunged this huge, creaking, 
bankrupt empire into six years of exhaust- 
ing war. It was European imperialism. 
Nor is it communism that has pestered this 
suffering and perhaps dying Russia with a 



Russia in the Shadows 



series of subsidised raids, invasions, and 
insurrections, and inflicted upon it an 
atrocious blockade. The vindictive French 
creditor, the journalistic British oaf, are 
far more responsible for these deathbed 
miseries than any communist. But to 
these questions I will return after I have 
given a little more description of Russia as 
we saw it during our visit. It is only when 
one has some conception of the physical 
and mental realities of the Russian collapse 
that one can see and estimate the Bolshevist 
Government in its proper proportions. 



II. Drift and Salvage 



77. Drift and Salvage 



AMONG the things I wanted most to 
see amid this tremendous spectacle 
of social collapse in Russia was the work of 
my old friend Maxim Gorky. I had heard 
of this from members of the returning 
labour delegation, and what they told me 
had whetted my desire for a closer view of 
what was going on. Mr. Bertrand Russell's 
description of Gorky's health had also made 
me anxious on his own account ; but I am 
happy to say that upon that score my news 
is good. Gorky seems as strong and well 
to me now as he was when I knew him first 
in 1906. And as a personality he has 
grown immensely. Mr. Russell wrote 
that Gorky is dying and that perhaps 
culture in Russia is dying too. Mr. 
Russell was, I think, betrayed by the 
artistic temptation of a dark and purple 

concluding passage. He found Gorky in 

31 



32 Russia in the Shadows 

bed and afflicted by a fit of coughing, and 
his imagination made the most of it. 

Gorky's position in Russia is a quite 
extraordinary and personal one. He is no 
more of a communist than I am, and I 
have heard him argue with the utmost 
freedom in his flat against the extremist 
positions with such men as Bokaiev, 
recently the head of the Extraordinary 
Commission in Petersburg, and Zalutsky, 
one of the rising leaders of the Communist 
party. It was a very reassuring display of 
free speech, for Gorky did not so much 
argue as denounce — and this in front of 
two deeply interested English enquirers. 

But he has gained the confidence and 
respect of most of the Bolshevik leaders, 
and he has become by a kind of necessity 
the semi-official salvage man under the 
new regime. He is possessed by a pas- 
sionate sense of the value of Western science 
and culture, and by the necessity of pre- 
serving the intellectual continuity of 
Russian life through these dark years of 
famine and war and social stress, with the 




Corky in the Great Dump of Art and Virtuosity in 
Petersburg. 



Drift and Salvage 33 

general intellectual life of the world. He 
has found a steady supporter in Lenin. 
His work illuminates the situation to an 
extraordinary degree because it collects 
together a number of significant factors 
and makes the essentially catastrophic 
nature of the Russian situation plain. 

The Russian smash at the end of 191 7 
was certainly the completest that has ever 
happened to any modern social organ- 
isation. After the failure of the Kerensky 
Government to make peace and of the 
British naval authorities to relieve the 
situation upon the Baltic flank, the 
shattered Russian armies, weapons in hand, 
broke up and rolled back upon Russia, a 
flood of peasant soldiers making for home, 
without hope, without supplies, without 
discipline. That time of debacle was a 
time of complete social disorder. It was 
a social dissolution. In many parts of 
Russia there was a peasant revolt. There 
was chateau-burning, often accompanied by 
quite horrible atrocities. It was an ex- 
plosion of the very worst side of human 

D 



34 Russia in the Shadows 

nature in despair, and for most of the 
abominations committed the Bolsheviks 
are about as responsible as the Government 
of Australia. People would be held up 
and robbed even to their shirts in open 
daylight in the streets of Petersburg and 
Moscow, no one interfering. Murdered 
bodies lay disregarded in the gutters 
sometimes for a whole day, with passengers 
on the footwalk going to and fro. Armed 
men, often professing to be Red Guards, 
entered houses and looted and murdered. 
The early months of 191 8 saw a violent 
struggle of the new Bolshevik Government 
not only with counter-revolutions but with 
robbers and brigands of every description. 
It was not until the summer of 191 8, and 
after thousands of looters and plunderers 
had been shot, that life began to be 
ordinarily safe again in the streets of the 
Russian great towns. For a time Russia 
was not a civilisation, but a torrent of 
lawless violence, with a weak central 
Government of inexperienced rulers, fight- 
ing not only against unintelligent foreign 



Drift and Salvage 35 

intervention but against the completest 
internal disorder. It is from such chaotic 
conditions that Russia still struggles to 
emerge. 

Art, literature, science, all the refine- 
ments and elaboration of life, all that we 
mean by " civilisation," were involved in 
this torrential catastrophe. For a time the 
stablest thing in Russian culture was the 
theatre. There stood the theatres, and 
nobody wanted to loot them or destroy 
them ; the artists were accustomed to 
meet and work in them and went on meet- 
ing and working ; the tradition of official 
subsidies held good. So quite amazingly 
the Russian dramatic and operatic life kept 
on through the extremest stormsof violence, 
and keeps on to this day. In Petersburg 
we found there were more than forty shows 
going on every night ; in Moscow we 
found very much the same state of affairs. 
We heard Shalyapin, greatest of actors and 
singers, in The Barber of Seville and in 
Chovanchina ; the admirable orchestra was 
variously attired, but the conductor still 

D 2 



36 Russia in the Shadows 

held out valiantly in swallow tails and a 
white tie ; we saw a performance of Sadko y 
we saw Monachof in The Tsarevitch Alexei 
and as Iago in Othello (with Madame 
Gorky — Madame Andreievna — as Desde- 
mona). When one faced the stage, it was 
as if nothing had changed in Russia ; but 
when the curtain fell and one turned to the 
audience one realised the revolution. There 
were now no brilliant uniforms, no evening 
dress in boxes and stalls. The audience was 
an undifferentiated mass of people, the same 
sort of people everywhere, attentive, good- 
humoured, well-behaved and shabby. Like 
the London Stage Society, one's place in 
the house is determined by ballot. And 
for the most part there is no paying to 
enter the theatre. For one performance the 
tickets go, let us say, to the professional 
unions, for another to the Red Army and 
their families, for another to the school 
children, and so on. A certain selling of 
tickets goes on, but it is not in the present 
scheme of things. 

I had heard Shalyapin in London, but 



Drift and Salvage 37 

I had not met him personally there. We 
made his acquaintance this time in Peters- 
burg, we dined with him and saw something 
of his very jolly household. There are 
two stepchildren almost grown up, and 
two little daughters, who speak a nice, 
stiff, correct English, and the youngest of 
whom dances delightfully. Shalyapin is 
certainly one of the most wonderful things 
in Russia at the present time. He is the 
Artist, defiant and magnificent. Off the 
stage he has much the same vitality and 
abounding humour that made an encounter 
with Beerbohm Tree so delightful an 
experience. He refuses absolutely to sing 
except for pay — 200,000 roubles a per- 
formance, they say, which is nearly £15 — 
and when the markets get too tight, he 
insists upon payment in flour or eggs or the 
like. What he demands he gets, for 
Shalyapin on strike would leave too dismal 
a hole altogether in the theatrical world of 
Petersburg. So it is that he maintains 
what is perhaps the last fairly comfortable 
home in Russia. And Madame Shalyapin 



38 Russia in the Shadows 

we found so unbroken by the revolution 
that she asked us what people were wearing 
in London. The last fashion papers she 
had seen — thanks to the blockade — dated 
from somewhen early in 191 8. 

But the position of the theatre among the 
arts is peculiar. For the rest of the arts, 
for literature generally and for the scientific 
worker, the catastrophe of 191 7-1 8 was 
overwhelming. There remained no one 
to buy books or pictures, and the scientific 
worker found himself with a salary of 
roubles that dwindled rapidly to less than 
the five-hundredth part of their original 
value. The new crude social organisation, 
fighting robbery, murder, and the wildest 
disorder, had no place for them ; it had 
forgotten them. For the scientific men at 
first the Soviet Government had as little 
regard as the first French revolution, which 
had " no need for chemists." These 
classes of worker, vitally important to 
every civilised system, were reduced, there- 
fore, to a state of the utmost privation and 
misery. It was to their assistance and 



Drift and Salvage 39 

salvation that Gorky's first efforts were 
directed. Thanks very largely to him and 
to the more creative intelligences in the 
Bolshevik Government, there has now been 
organised a group of salvage establishments, 
of which the best and most fully developed 
is the House of Science in Petersburg, in 
the ancient palace of the Archduchess 
Marie Pavlova. Here we saw the head- 
quarters of a special rationing system 
which provides as well as it can for the 
needs of four thousand scientific workers 
and their dependants — in all perhaps for 
ten thousand people. At this centre they 
not only draw their food rations, but they 
can get baths and barber, tailoring, cobbling 
and the like conveniences. There is even 
a small stock of boots and clothing. There 
are bedrooms, and a sort of hospital 
accommodation for cases of weakness and 
ill-health. 

It was to me one of the strangest of my 
Russian experiences to go to this institu- 
tion and to meet there, as careworn and 
unprosperous-looking figures, some of the 



4<D Russia in the Shadows 

great survivors of the Russian scientific 
world. Here were such men as Oldenburg 
the orientalist, Karpinsky the geologist, 
Pavloffthe Nobel prizeman, RadlofT, Bielo- 
polsky, and the like, names of world-wide 
celebrity. They asked me a multitude of 
questions about recent scientific progress 
in the world outside Russia, and made me 
ashamed of my frightful ignorance of such 
matters. If I had known that this would 
happen I would have taken some sort of 
report with me. Our blockade has cut 
them off from all scientific literature outside 
Russia. They are without new instru- 
ments, they are short of paper, the work 
they do has to go on in unwarmed labora- 
tories. It is amazing they do any work at 
all. Yet they are getting work done ; 
Pavloff is carrying on research of astonish- 
ing scope and ingenuity upon the mentality 
of animals ; Manuchin claims to have 
worked out an effectual cure for tubercu- 
losis, even in advanced cases ; and so on. 
I have brought back abstracts of Manuchin 's 
work for translation and publication here, 



■■•■■ ,^^^HHBj^R 


I; 


•v. ill a ji ■ dBir 'S i ^v ^ y m 



A Petersburg Street Car en Route. 




Messrs. Lenin and Wells in Conversation. 



Drift and Salvage 41 

and they are now being put into English. 
The scientific spirit is a wonderful spirit. 
If Petersburg starves this winter, the 
House of Science — unless we make some 
special effort on its behalf — will starve too, 
but these scientific men said very little to 
me about the possibility of sending them 
in supplies. The House of Literature and 
Art talked a little of want and miseries, 
but not the scientific men. What they 
were all keen about was the possibility of 
getting scientific publications ; they value 
knowledge more than bread. Upon that 
matter I hope I may be of some help to 
them. I got them to form a committee to 
make me out a list of all the books and 
publications of which they stood in need, 
and I have brought this list back to the 
Secretary of the Royal Society of London, 
which had already been stirring in this 
matter. Funds will be needed, three or 
four thousand pounds perhaps (the address 
of the Secretary of the Royal Society is 
Burlington House, W.), but the assent of 
the Bolshevik Government and our own 



42 Russia in the Shadows 

to this mental provisioning of Russia has 
been secured, and in a little time I hope 
the first parcel of books will be going 
through to these men, who have been cut 
off for so long from the general mental 
life of the world. 

If I had no other reason for satisfaction 
about this trip to Russia, I should find 
quite enough in the hope and comfort 
our mere presence evidently gave to many 
of these distinguished men in the House 
of Science and in the House of Literature 
and Art. Upon many of them there 
had settled a kind of despair of ever 
seeing or hearing anything of the outer 
world again. They had been living for 
three years, very grey and long years 
indeed, in a world that seemed sinking 
down steadily through one degree of 
privation after another into utter darkness. 
Possibly they had seen something of one 
or two of the political deputations that 
have visited Russia — I do not know ; but 
manifestly they had never expected to see 
again a free and independent individual 



Drift and Salvage 43 

walk in, with an air of having come quite 
easily and unofficially from London, and 
of its being quite possible not only to come 
but to go again into the lost world of the 
West. It was like an unexpected afternoon 
caller strolling into a cell in a gaol. 

All musical people in England know the 
work of Glazounov ; he has conducted 
concerts in London and is an honorary 
doctor both of Oxford and Cambridge. 
I was very deeply touched by my meeting 
with him. He used to be a big florid 
man, but now he is pallid and much 
fallen away, so that his clothes hang loosely 
on him. He came and talked of his friends 
Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Villiers 
Stanford. He told me he still composed, 
but that his stock of music paper was 
almost exhausted. " Then there will be 
no more." I said there would be much 
more, and that soon. He doubted it. He 
spoke of London and Oxford ; I could see 
that he was consumed by an almost 
intolerable longing for some great city 
full of life, a city with abundance, with 



44 Russia in the Shadows 

pleasant crowds, a city that would give him 
stirring audiences in warm, brightly-lit 
places. While I was there, I was a sort 
of living token to him that such things 
could still be. He turned his back on the 
window which gave on the cold grey Neva, 
deserted in the twilight, and the low lines 
of the fortress prison of St. Peter and 
St. Paul. " In England there will be no 
revolution — no ? I had many friends in 
England — many good friends in Eng- 
land. . • ." I was loth to leave him, and 
he was very loth to let me go. 

Seeing all these distinguished men living 
a sort of refugee life amidst the im- 
poverished ruins of the fallen imperialist 
system has made me realise how helplessly 
dependent the man of exceptional gifts is 
upon a securely organised civilisation. 
The ordinary man can turn from this to 
that occupation ; he can be a sailor or a 
worker in a factory or a digger or what not. 
He is under a general necessity to 
work, but he has no internal demon 
which compels him to do a particular 



Drift and Salvage 45 

thing and nothing else, which compels 
him to be a particular thing or die. 
But a Shalyapin must be Shalyapin or 
nothing, Pavloff is Pavloff and Glazounov, 
Glazounov. So long as they can go on 
doing their particular thing, such men will 
live and flourish. Shalyapin still acts and 
sings magnificently — in absolute defiance 
of every Communist principle ; Pavloff 
still continues his marvellous researches — 
in an old coat and with his study piled up 
with the potatoes and carrots he grows in 
his spare time ; Glazounov will compose 
until the paper runs out. But many of 
the others are evidently stricken much 
harder. The mortality among the intel- 
lectually distinguished men of Russia has 
been terribly high. Much, no doubt, has 
been due to the general hardship of life, 
but in many cases I believe that the sheer 
mortification of great gifts become futile 
has been the determining cause. They 
could no more live in the Russia of 19 19 
than they could have lived in a Kaffir 
kraal. 



46 Russia in the Shadows 

» 1 

Science, art, and literature are hothouse 
plants demanding warmth and respect and 
service. It is the paradox of science that 
it alters the whole world and is produced 
by the genius of men who need protection 
and help more than any other class of 
worker. The collapse of the Russian 
imperial system has smashed up all the 
shelters in which such things could exist. 
The crude Marxist philosophy which 
divides all men into bourgeoisie and pro- 
letariat, which sees all social life as a 
stupidly simple " class war," had no 
knowledge of the conditions necessary for 
the collective mental life. But it is to the 
credit of the Bolshevik Government that 
it has now risen to the danger of a universal 
intellectual destruction in Russia, and 
that, in spite of the blockade and the 
unending struggle against the subsidised 
revolts and invasions with which we and 
the French plague Russia, it is now per- 
mitting and helping these salvage organisa- 
tions. Parallel with the House of Science 
is the House of Literature and Art. The 



Drift and Salvage 47 

writing of new books, except for some 
poetry, and the painting of pictures have 
ceased in Russia. But the bulk of the 
writers and artists have been found employ- 
ment upon a grandiose scheme for the 
publication of a sort of Russian encyclo- 
paedia of the literature of the world. In 
this strange Russia of conflict, cold, famine 
and pitiful privations there is actually 
going on now a literary task that would 
be inconceivable in the rich England and 
the rich America of to-day. In England 
and America the production of good 
literature at popular prices has practically 
ceased now — " because of the price of 
paper." The mental food of the English 
and American masses dwindles and de- 
teriorates, and nobody in authority cares 
a rap. The Bolshevik Government is at 
least a shade above that level. In starving 
Russia hundreds of people are working 
upon translations, and the books they 
translate are being set up and printed, 
work which may presently give a new 
Russia such a knowledge of world thought 



48 Russia in the Shadows 

as no other people will possess. I have 
seen some of the books and the work going 
on. " May " I write, with no certainty. 
Because, like everything else in this ruined 
country, this creative work is essentially 
improvised and fragmentary. How this 
world literature is to be distributed to the 
Russian people I do not know. The book- 
shops are closed and bookselling, like 
every other form of trading, is illegal. 
Probably the books will be distributed to 
schools and other institutions. 

In this matter of book distribution the 
Bolshevik authorities are clearly at a loss. 
They are at a loss upon very many such 
matters. In regard to the intellectual life 
of the community one discovers that 
Marxist Communism is without plans 
and without ideas. Marxist Communism 
has always been a theory of revolution, a 
theory not merely lacking in creative and 
constructive ideas, but hostile to creative 
and constructive ideas. Every Communist 
orator has been trained to contemn 
11 Utopianism," that is to say, has been 



Drift and Salvage 49 

trained to contemn intelligent planning. 
Not even a British business man of the 
older type is quite such a believer in 
things righting themselves and in " mud- 
dling through " as these Marxists. The 
Russian Communist Government now finds 
itself face to face, among a multiplicity of 
other constructive problems, with the 
problem of sustaining scientific life, of 
sustaining thought and discussion, of pro- 
moting artistic creation. Marx the Prophet 
and his Sacred Book supply it with no lead 
at all in the matter. Bolshevism, having 
no schemes, must improvise therefore — 
clumsily, and is reduced to these pathetic 
attempts to salvage the wreckage of the 
intellectual life of the old order. And that 
life is very sick and unhappy and seems 
likely to die on its hands. 

It is not simply scientific and literary 
work and workers that Maxim Gorky is 
trying to salvage in Russia. There is a 
third and still more curious salvage organ- 
isation associated with him. This is the 
Expertise Commission, which has its head- 

E 



50 Russia in the Shadows 

quarters in the former British Embassy. 
When a social order based on private 
property crashes, when private property 
is with some abruptness and no qualifica- 
tion abolished, this does not abolish and 
destroy the things which have hitherto 
constituted private property. Houses and 
their gear remain standing, still being 
occupied and used by the people who had 
them before — except when those people 
have fled. When the Bolshevik authorities 
requisition a house or take over a deserted 
palace, they find themselves faced by this 
problem of the gear. Any one who knows 
human nature will understand that there 
has been a certain amount of quiet annexa- 
tion of desirable things by inadvertent 
officials and, perhaps less inadvertently, by 
their wives. But the general spirit of 
Bolshevism is quite honest, and it is set 
very stoutly against looting and suchlike 
developments of individual enterprise. 
There has evidently been comparatively 
little looting either in Petersburg or Moscow 
since the days of the debacle. Looting died 



Drift and Salvage 51 

against the wall in Moscow in the spring of 
1 918. In the guest houses and suchlike 
places we noted that everything was 
numbered and listed. Occasionally we 
saw odd things astray, fine glass or crested 
silver upon tables where it seemed out of 
place, but in many cases these were things 
which had been sold for food or suchlike 
necessities on the part of the original 
owners. The sailor courier who attended 
to our comfort to and from Moscow was 
provided with a beautiful little silver teapot 
that must once have brightened a charming 
drawing-room. But apparently it had 
taken to a semi-public life in a quite 
legitimate way. 

For greater security there has been a 
gathering together and a cataloguing of 
everything that could claim to be a work 
of art by this Expertise Commission. 
The palace that once sheltered the British 
Embassy is now like some congested 
second-hand art shop in the Brompton 
Road. We went through room after room 
piled with the beautiful lumber of the 

E 2 



52 Russia in the Shadows 

former Russian social system. There are 
big rooms crammed with statuary ; never 
have I seen so many white marble Venuses 
and sylphs together, not even in the 
Naples Museum. There are stacks of 
pictures of every sort, passages choked 
with inlaid cabinets piled up to the ceiling ; 
a room full of cases of old lace, piles of 
magnificent furniture. This accumulation 
has been counted and catalogued. And 
there it is. I could not find out that any 
one had an idea of what was ultimately 
to be done with all this lovely and elegant 
litter. The stuff does not seem to belong 
in any way to the new world, if it is indeed 
a new world that the Russian Communists 
are organising. They never anticipated 
that they would have to deal with such 
things. Just as they never really thought 
of what they would do with the shops and 
markets when they had abolished shopping 
and marketing. Just as they had never 
thought out the problem of converting a 
city of private palaces into a Communist 
gathering-place. Marxist theory had led 



Drift and Salvage 53 

their minds up to the " dictatorship of the 
class-conscious proletariat " and then inti- 
mated — we discover now how vaguely — 
that there would be a new heaven and a 
new earth. Had that happened it would 
indeed have been a revolution in human 
affairs. But as we saw Russia there is 
still the old heaven and the old earth, 
covered with the ruins, littered with the 
abandoned furnishings and dislocated ma- 
chinery of the former system, with the old 
peasant tough and obstinate upon the soil 
— and Communism, ruling in the cities 
quite pluckily and honestly, and yet, in 
so many matters, like a conjurer who has 
left his pigeon and his rabbit behind him, 
and can produce nothing whatever from 
the hat. 

Ruin ; that is the primary Russian fact 
at the present time. The revolution, the 
Communist rule, which I will proceed to 
describe in my next paper, is quite secon- 
dary to that. It is something that has 
happened in the ruin and because of the 
ruin. It is of primary importance that 



54 Russia in the Shadows 

people in the West should realise that. If 
the Great War had gone on for a year or 
so more, Germany and then the Western 
Powers would probably have repeated, with 
local variations, the Russian crash. The 
state of affairs we have seen in Russia is 
only the intensification and completion of 
the state of affairs towards which Britain 
was drifting in 191 8. Here also there are 
shortages such as we had in England, but 
they are relatively monstrous ; here also 
is rationing, but it is relatively feeble and 
inefficient ; the profiteer in Russia is not 
fined but shot, and for the English 
D.O.R.A. you have the Extraordinary 
Commission. What were nuisances in 
England are magnified to disasters in 
Russia. That is all the difference. For 
all I know, Western Europe may be still 
drifting even now towards a parallel crash. 
I am not by any means sure that we have 
turned the corner. War, self-indulgence, 
and unproductive speculation may still be 
wasting more than the Western world is 
producing ; in which case our own crash — 



Drift and Salvage $$ 

currency failure, a universal shortage, 
social and political collapse and all the 
rest of it — is merely a question of time. 
The shops of Regent Street will follow the 
shops of the Nevsky Prospect, and Mr. 
Galsworthy and Mr. Bennett will have to 
do what they can to salvage the art treasures 
of Mayfair. It falsifies the whole world 
situation, it sets people altogether astray 
in their political actions, to assert that the 
frightful destitution of Russia to-day is to 
any large extent the result merely of Com- 
munist effort ; that the wicked Commun- 
ists have pulled down Russia to her present 
plight, and that if you can overthrow the 
Communists every one and everything in 
Russia will suddenly become happy again. 
Russia fell into its present miseries through 
the world war and the moral and intellec- 
tual insufficiency of its ruling and wealthy 
people. (As our own British State — as 
presently even the American State — may 
fall.) They had neither the brains nor the 
conscience to stop warfare, stop waste of 
all sorts, and stop taking the best of every- 



56 Russia in the Shadows 

thing and leaving every one else dangerously 
unhappy, until it was too late. They ruled 
and wasted and quarrelled, blind to the 
coming disaster up to the very moment of 
its occurrence. And then, as I describe 
in the next chapters, the Communist 
came in. . . . 



777. The Quintessence of Bolshevism 



///. The Quintessence of Bolshevism 

IN the two preceding chapters I have tried 
to give the reader my impression of 
Russian life as I saw it in Petersburg and 
Moscow, as a spectacle of collapse, as the 
collapse of a political, social, and economic 
system, akin to our own but weaker and 
more rotten than our own, which has 
crashed under the pressure of six years of 
war and misgovernment. The main col- 
lapse occurred in 19 17 when Tsarism, 
brutishly incompetent, became manifestly 
impossible. It had wasted the whole 
land, lost control of its army and the 
confidence of the entire population. Its 
police system had degenerated into a 
regime of violence and brigandage. It 
fell inevitably. 

And there was no alternative govern- 
ment. For generations the chief energies 
of Tsarism had been directed to destroying 



60 Russia in the Shadows 

any possibility of an alternative govern- 
ment. It had subsisted on that one fact 
that, bad as it was, there was nothing else 
to put in its place. The first Russian 
Revolution, therefore, turned Russia into 
a debating society and a political scramble. 
The liberal forces of the country, un- 
accustomed to action or responsibility, set 
up a clamorous discussion whether Russia 
was to be a constitutional monarchy, a 
liberal republic, a socialist republic, or 
what not. Over the confusion gesticulated 
Kerensky in attitudes of the finest liberal- 
ism. Through it loomed various ambiguous 
adventurers, " strong men," sham strong 
men, Russian Monks and Russian Bona- 
partes. What remained of social order 
collapsed. In the closing months of 191 7 
murder and robbery were common street 
incidents in Petersburg and Moscow, as 
common as an automobile accident in the 
streets of London, and less heeded. On 
the Reval boat was an American who had 
formerly directed the affairs of the Ameri- 
can Harvester Company in Russia. He 




The Statue of Marx outside the Smolny Institute. 
(Headquarters of the Communist Party.) 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 6 1 

had been in Moscow during this phase of 
complete disorder. He described hold-ups 
in open daylight in busy streets, dead 
bodies lying for hours in the gutter — as a 
dead kitten might do in a western town — 
while crowds went about their business 
along the side-walk. 

Through this fevered and confused 
country went the representatives of Britain 
and France, blind to the quality of the 
immense and tragic disaster about them, 
intent only upon the war, badgering the 
Russians to keep on fighting and make a 
fresh offensive against Germany. But 
when the Germans made a strong thrust 
towards Petersburg through the Baltic 
provinces and by sea, the British Admiralty, 
either through sheer cowardice or through 
Royalist intrigues, failed to give any effec- 
tual help to Russia. Upon this matter the 
evidence of the late Lord Fisher is plain. 
And so this unhappy country, mortally 
sick and, as it were, delirious, staggered 
towards a further stage of collapse. 

From end to end of Russia, and in the 



62 Russia in the Shadows 

Russian-speaking community throughout 
the world, there existed only one sort of 
people who had common general ideas 
upon which to work, a common faith and 
a common will, and that was the Com- 
munist party. While all the rest of Russia 
was either apathetic like the peasantry or 
garrulously at sixes and sevens or given 
over to violence or fear, the Communists 
believed and were prepared to act. 
Numerically they were and are a very 
small part of the Russian population. At 
the present time not one per cent, of the 
people in Russia are Communists ; the 
organised party certainly does not number 
more than 600,000 and has probably not 
much more than 150,000 active members. 
Nevertheless, because it was in those 
terrible days the only organisation which 
gave men a common idea of action, common 
formulae, and mutual confidence, it was 
able to seize and retain control of the 
smashed empire. It was and it is the only 
sort of administrative solidarity possible 
in Russia. These ambiguous adventurers 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 63 

who have been and are afflicting Russia, 
with the support of the Western Powers, 
Deniken, Kolchak, Wrangel and the like, 
stand for no guiding principle and offer no 
security of any sort upon which men's 
confidence can crystallise. They are 
essentially brigands. The Communist 
party, however one may criticise it, does 
embody an idea and can be relied upon to 
stand by its idea. So far it is a thing 
morally higher than anything that has yet 
come against it. It at once secured the 
passive support of the peasant mass by 
permitting them to take land from the 
estates and by making peace with Germany. 
It restored order — after a frightful lot of 
shooting — in the great towns. For a 
time everybody found carrying arms with- 
out authority was shot. This action was 
clumsy and bloody but effective. To 
retain its power this Communist Govern- 
ment organised Extraordinary Commis- 
sions, with practically unlimited powers, 
and crushed out all opposition by a Red 
Terror. Much that that Red Terror did 



- 



64 Russia in the Shadows 

was cruel and frightful, it was largely 
controlled by narrow-minded men, and 
many of its officials were inspired by social 
hatred and the fear of counter-revolution, 
but if it was fanatical it was honest. Apart 
from individual atrocities it did on the 
whole kill for a reason and to an end. 
Its bloodshed was not like the silly aimless 
butcheries of the Deniken regime, which 
would not even recognise, I was told, the 
Bolshevik Red Cross. And to-day the 
Bolshevik Government sits, I believe, in 
Moscow as securely established as any 
Government in Europe, and the streets of 
the Russian towns are as safe as any streets 
in Europe. 

It not only established itself and restored 
order, but — thanks largely to the genius of 
that ex-pacifist Trotsky — it re-created the 
Russian army as a fighting force. That we 
must recognise as a very remarkable 
achievement. I saw little of the Russian 
army myself, it was not what I went to 
Russia to see, but Mr. Vanderlip, the enter- 
prising American financier, whom I found 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 6$ 

in Moscow engaged in some mysterious 
negotiations with the Soviet Government, 
had been treated to a review of several 
thousand troops, and was very enthusiastic 
about their spirit and equipment. My son 
and I saw a number of drafts going to the 
front, and also bodies of recruits joining 
up, and our impression is that the spirit 
of the men was quite as good as that of 
similar bodies of British recruits in London 
in 1917-18. 

Now who are these Bolsheviki who have 
taken such an effectual hold upon Russia ? 
According to the crazier section of the 
British Press they are the agents of a 
mysterious racial plot, a secret society, in 
which Jews, Jesuits, Freemasons, and 
Germans are all jumbled together in the 
maddest fashion. As a matter of fact, 
nothing was ever quite less secret than the 
ideas and aims and methods of the Bol- 
sheviks, nor anything quite less like a 
secret society than their organisation. But 
in England we cultivate a peculiar style 
of thinking, so impervious to any general 



66 Russia in the Shadows 

ideas that it must needs fall back upon the 
notion of a conspiracy to explain the 
simplest reactions of the human mind. If, 
for instance, a day labourer in Essex makes 
a fuss because he finds that the price of 
his children's boots has risen out of all 
proportion to the increase in his weekly 
wages, and declares that he and his fellow- 
workers are being cheated and underpaid, 
the editors of The Times and of the Morning 
Post will trace his resentment to the 
insidious propaganda of some mysterious 
society at Konigsberg or Pekin. They 
cannot conceive how otherwise he should 
get such ideas into his head. Conspiracy 
mania of this kind is so prevalent that I 
feel constrained to apologise for my own 
immunity. I find the Bolsheviks very 
much what they profess to be. I find 
myself obliged to treat them as fairly 
straightforward people. I do not agree 
with either their views or their methods, 
but that is another question. 

The Bolsheviks are Marxist Socialists. 
Marx died in London nearly forty years 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 67 

ago ; the propaganda of his views has 
been going on for over half a century. 
It has spread over the whole earth and 
finds in nearly every country a small 
but enthusiastic following. It is a natural 
result of world-wide economic conditions. 
Everywhere it expresses the same limited 
ideas in the same distinctive phrasing. 
It is a cult, a world-wide international 
brotherhood. No one need learn Russian 
to study the ideas of Bolshevism. The 
enquirer will find them all in the London 
Plebs or the New York Liberator in exactly 
the same phrases as in the Russian 
Pravda. They hide nothing. They say 
everything. And just precisely what these 
Marxists write and say, so they attempt to 
do. 

It will be best if I write about Marx 
without any hypocritical deference. I 
have always regarded him as a Bore of the 
extremest sort. His vast unfinished work, 
Das Kapital, a cadence of wearisome 
volumes about such phantom unrealities 
as the bourgeoisie and the proletariat^ a 

F 2 



68 Russia in the Shadows 

book for ever maundering away into 
tedious secondary discussions, impresses 
me as a monument of pretentious pedantry. 
But before I went to Russia on this last 
occasion I had no active hostility to Marx. 
I avoided his works, and when I en- 
countered Marxists I disposed of them 
by asking them to tell me exactly what 
people constituted the proletariat. None 
of them knew. No Marxist knows. In 
Gorki's flat I listened with attention while 
Bokaiev discussed with Shalyapin the fine 
question of whether in Russia there was a 
proletariat at all, distinguishable from the 
peasants. As Bokaiev has been head of 
the Extraordinary Commission of the Dic- 
tatorship of the Proletariat in Petersburg, 
it was interesting to note the fine difficulties 
of the argument. The " proletarian " in 
the Marxist jargon is like the " producer " 
in the jargon of some political economists, 
who is supposed to be a creature absolutely 
distinct and different from the " con- 
sumer." So the proletarian is a figure 
put into flat opposition to something called 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 69 

capital. I find in large type outside the 
current number of the Plebs, " The working 
class and the employing class have nothing 
in common." Apply this to a works fore- 
man who is being taken in a train by an 
engine-driver to see how the house he is 
having built for him by a building society 
is getting on. To which of these im- 
miscibles does he belong, employer or 
employed ? The stuff is sheer nonsense. 

In Russia I must confess my passive 
objection to Marx has changed to a very 
active hostility. Wherever we went we 
encountered busts, portraits, and statues 
of Marx. About two-thirds of the face 
of Marx is beard, a vast solemn woolly 
uneventful beard that must have made all 
normal exercise impossible. It is not the 
sort of beard that happens to a man, it is 
a beard cultivated, cherished, and thrust 
patriarchally upon the world. It is exactly 
like Das Kapital in its inane abundance, 
and the human part of the face looks over 
it owlishly as if it looked to see how the 
growth impressed mankind. I found the 



7<D Russia in the Shadows 

omnipresent images of that beard more 
and more irritating. A gnawing desire 
grew upon me to see Karl Marx shaved. 
Some day, if I am spared, I will take up 
shears and a razor against Das Kapital ; I 
will write The Shaving of Karl Marx. 

But Marx is for the Marxists merely an 
image and a symbol, and it is with the 
Marxist and not with Marx that we are 
now dealing. Few Marxists have read 
much of Das Kapital. The Marxist is 
very much the same sort of person in all 
modern communities, and I will confess 
that by my temperament and circumstances 
I have the very warmest sympathy for 
him. He adopts Marx as his prophet 
simply because he believes that Marx 
wrote of the class war, an implacable war 
of the employed against the employer, and 
that he prophesied a triumph for the 
employed person, a dictatorship of the 
world by the leaders of these liberated 
employed persons (dictatorship of the 
proletariat), and a Communist millennium 
arising out of that dictatorship. Now this 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 7 1 

doctrine and this prophecy have appealed 
in every country with extraordinary power 
to young persons, and particularly to 
young men of energy and imagination w T ho 
have found themselves at the outset of 
life imperfectly educated, ill-equipped, and 
caught into hopeless wages slavery in our 
existing economic system. They realise 
in their own persons the social injustice, 
the stupid negligence, the colossal in- 
civility of our system ; they realise that 
they are insulted and sacrificed by it ; 
and they devote themselves to break it 
and emancipate themselves from it. No 
insidious propaganda is needed to make 
such rebels ; it is the faults of a system 
that half-educates and then enslaves them 
which have created the Communist move- 
ment wherever industrialism has developed. 
There would have been Marxists if Marx 
had never lived. When I was a boy of 
fourteen I was a complete Marxist, long 
before I had heard the name of Marx. I 
had been cut off abruptly from education, 
caught in a detestable shop, and I was 



72 Russia in the Shadows 

being broken in to a life of mean and 
dreary toil. I was worked too hard and 
for such long hours that all thoughts of 
self-improvement seemed hopeless. I 
would have set fire to that place if I had 
not been convinced it was over-insured. 
I revived the spirit of those bitter days in 
a conversation I had with Zorin, one of 
the leaders of the Commune of the North. 
He is a young man who has come back 
from unskilled work in America, a very 
likeable human being and a humorous and 
very popular speaker in the Petersburg 
Soviet. He and I exchanged experiences, 
and I found that the thing that rankled 
most in his mind about America was the 
brutal incivility he had encountered when 
applying for a job as packer in a big dry 
goods store in New York. We told each 
other stories of the way our social system 
wastes and breaks and maddens decent 
and willing men. Between us was the 
freemasonry of a common indignation. 

It is that indignation of youth and 
energy, thwarted and misused, it is that 






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The Quintessence of Bolshevism 73 

and no mere economic theorising, which 
is the living and linking inspiration of the 
Marxist movement throughout the world. 
It is not that Marx was profoundly wise, 
but that our economic system has been 
stupid, selfish, wasteful, and anarchistic. 
The Communistic organisation has pro- 
vided for this angry recalcitrance certain 
shibboleths and passwords ; " Workers 
of the World unite, " and so forth. It has 
suggested to them an idea of a great con- 
spiracy against human happiness concocted 
by a mysterious body of wicked men called 
capitalists. For in this mentally enfeebled 
world in which we live to-day conspiracy 
mania on one side finds its echo on the 
other, and it is hard to persuade a Marxist 
that capitalists are in their totality no more 
than a scrambling disorder of mean-spirited 
and short-sighted men. And the Com- 
munist propaganda has knitted all these 
angry and disinherited spirits together into 
a world-wide organisation of revolt — and 
hope — formless though that hope proves 
to be on examination. It has chosen Marx 



74 Russia in the Shadows 

for its prophet and red for its colour. . . . 
And so when the crash came in Russia, 
when there remained no other solidarity 
of men who could work together upon any 
but immediate selfish ends, there came 
flowing back from America and the West 
to rejoin their comrades a considerable 
number of keen and enthusiastic young 
and youngish men, who had in that more 
bracing Western world lost something of 
the habitual impracticability of the Russian 
and acquired a certain habit of getting 
things done, who all thought in the same 
phrases and had the courage of the same 
ideas, and who were all inspired by the 
dream of a revolution that should bring 
human life to a new level of justice and 
happiness. It is these young men who 
constitute the living force of Bolshevism. 
Many of them are Jews, because most of 
the Russian emigrants to America were 
Jews ; but few of them have any strong 
racial Jewish feeling. They are not out 
for Jewry but for a new world. So far 
from being in continuation of the Jewish 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 75 

tradition the Bolsheviks have put most of 
the Zionist leaders in Russia in prison, 
and they have proscribed the teaching of 
Hebrew as a " reactionary " language. 
Several of the most interesting Bolsheviks 
I met were not Jews at all, but blond 
Nordic men. Lenin, the beloved leader 
of all that is energetic in Russia to-day, 
has a Tartar type of face and is certainly 
no Jew. 

This Bolshevik Government is at once 
the most temerarious and the least experi- 
enced governing body in the world. In 
some directions its incompetence is amaz- 
ing. In most its ignorance is profound. 
Of the diabolical cunning of " capitalism " 
and of the subtleties of reaction it is 
ridiculously suspicious, and sometimes it 
takes fright and is cruel. But essentially 
it is honest. It is the most simple-minded 
Government that exists in the world to-day. 

Its simple-mindedness is shown by one 
question that I was asked again and again 
during this Russian visit. " When is the 
social revolution going to happen in 



76 Russia in the Shadows 

England ? " Lenin asked me that, Zeno- 
vieff, who is the head of the Commune of 
the North, Zorin, and many others. 

Because it is by the Marxist theory all 
wrong that the social revolution should 
happen first in Russia. That fact is 
bothering every intelligent man in the 
movement. According to the Marxist 
theory the social revolution should have 
happened first in the country with the 
oldest and most highly developed indus- 
trialism, with a large, definite, mainly 
propertyless, mainly wages-earning work- 
ing class (proletariat). It should have 
begun in Britain, and spread to France and 
Germany, then should have come America's 
turn and so on. Instead they find Com- 
munism in power in Russia, which really 
possesses no specialised labouring class at 
all, which has worked its factories with 
peasant labourers who come and go from 
the villages, and so has scarcely any 
" proletariat " — to unite with the workers 
of the world and so forth — at all. Behind 
the minds of many of these Bolsheviks with 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 77 

whom I talked I saw clearly that there 
dawns now a chill suspicion of the reality 
of the case, a realisation that what they 
have got in Russia is not truly the promised 
Marxist social revolution at all, that in 
truth they have not captured a State but 
got aboard a derelict. I tried to assist the 
development of this novel and disconcert- 
ing discovery. And also I indulged in a 
little lecture on the absence of a large 
" class-conscious proletariat " in the 
Western communities. I explained that in 
England there were two hundred different 
classes at least, and that the only " class- 
conscious proletarians " known to me in 
the land were a small band of mainly 
Scotch workers kept together by the 
vigorous leadership of a gentleman named 
MacManus. Their dearest convictions 
struggled against my manifest candour. 
They are clinging desperately to the belief 
that there are hundreds of thousands of 
convinced Communists in Britain, versed 
in the whole gospel of Marx, a proletarian 
solidarity, on the eve of seizing power and 



78 Russia in the Shadows 

proclaiming a British Soviet Republic. 
They hold obstinately to that after three 
years of waiting — but their hold weakens. 

Among the most amusing things in this 
queer intellectual situation are the repeated 
scoldings that come by wireless from 
Moscow to Western Labour because it 
does not behave as Marx said it would 
behave. It isn't red — and it ought to be. 
It is just yellow. 

My conversation with ZenovierT was 
particularly curious. He is a man with 
the voice and animation of Hilaire Belloc, 
and a lot of curly coal-black hair. " You 
have civil war in Ireland," he said. 
" Practically," said I. " Which do you 
consider are the proletarians, the Sinn 
Feiners or the Ulstermen ? " We spent 
some time while Zenovieff worked like a 
man with a jigsaw puzzle trying to get 
the Irish situation into the class war 
formula. That jigsaw puzzle remained 
unsolved, and we then shifted our attention 
to Asia. Impatient at the long delay of 
the Western proletarians to emerge and 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 79 

declare themselves, Zenovieff, assisted by 
Bela Kun, our Mr. Tom Quelch, and a 
number of other leading Communists, has 
recently gone on a pilgrimage to Baku to 
raise the Asiatic proletariat. They went 
to beat up the class-conscious wages slaves 
of Persia and Turkestan. They sought out 
factory workers and slum dwellers in the 
tents of the steppes. They held a congress 
at Baku, at which they gathered together 
a quite wonderful accumulation of white, 
black, brown, and yellow people, Asiatic 
costumes and astonishing weapons. They 
had a great assembly in which they swore 
undying hatred of Capitalism and British 
imperialism ; they had a great procession in 
which I regret to say certain batteries of 
British guns, which some careless, hasty 
empire-builder had left behind him, 
figured ; they disinterred and buried again 
thirteen people whom this British empire- 
builder seems to have shot without trial, 
and they burnt Mr. Lloyd George, M. 
Millerand, and President Wilson in effigy. 
I not only saw a five-part film of this 



80 Russia in the Shadows 

remarkable festival when I visited the 
Petersburg Soviet, but, thanks to Zorin, 
I have brought the film back with me. It is 
to be administered with caution and to 
adults only. There are parts of it that 
would make Mr. Gwynne of the Morning 
Post or Mr. Rudyard Kipling scream in 
their sleep. If so be they ever slept again 
after seeing it. 

I did my best to find out from Zenovieff 
and Zorin what they thought they were 
doing in the Baku Conference. And 
frankly I do not think they know. I 
doubt if they have anything clearer in 
their minds than a vague idea of hitting 
back at the British Government through 
Mesopotamia and India, because it has 
been hitting them through Kolchak, 
Deniken, Wrangel, and the Poles. It is a 
counter-offensive almost as clumsy and 
stupid as the offensives it would counter. 
It is inconceivable that they can hope for 
any social solidarity with the miscellaneous 
discontents their congress assembled. One 
item " featured " on this Baku film is a 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 81 

dance by a gentleman from the neighbour- 
hood of Baku. He is in fact one of the 
main features of this remarkable film. He 
wears a fur-trimmed jacket, high boots, 
and a high cap, and his dancing is a very 
rapid and dexterous step dancing. He 
produces two knives and puts them between 
his teeth, and then two others which he 
balances perilously with the blades danger- 
ously close to his nose on either side of it. 
Finally he poises a fifth knife on his 
forehead, still stepping it featly to the 
distinctly Oriental music. He stoops and 
squats, arms akimbo, sending his nimble 
boots flying out and back like the Cossacks 
in the Russian ballet. He circles slowly 
as he does this, clapping his hands. He is 
now rolled up in my keeping, ready to 
dance again when opportunity offers. I 
tried to find out whether he was a specimen 
Asiatic proletarian or just what he sym- 
bolised, but I could get no light on him. 
But there are yards and yards of film of 
him. I wish I could have resuscitated 
Karl Marx, just to watch that solemn stare 

G 



82 Russia in the Shadows 

over the beard, regarding him. The film 
gives no indication of the dancer's reception 
by Mr. Tom Quelch. 

I hope I shall not offend Comrade Zorin, 
for whom I have a real friendship, if I 
thus confess to him that I cannot take his 
Baku Conference very seriously. It was 
an excursion, a pageant, a Beano. As a 
meeting of Asiatic proletarians it was 
preposterous. But if it was not very much 
in itself, it was something very important 
in its revelation of shifting intentions. Its 
chief significance to me is this, that it 
shows a new orientation of the Bolshevik 
mind as it is embodied in Zenovieff. So 
long as the Bolsheviki held firmly with 
unshaken conviction to the Marxist formula 
they looked westward, a little surprised 
that the " social revolution " should have 
begun so far to the east of its indicated 
centre. Now as they begin to realise that 
it is not that prescribed social revolution 
at all but something quite different which 
has brought them into power, they are 
naturally enough casting about for a new 



The Quintessence of Bolshevism 83 

system of relationships. The ideal figure 
of the Russian republic is still a huge 
western " Worker/ ' with a vast hammer or 
a sickle. A time may come, if we maintain 
the European blockade with sufficient 
stringency and make any industrial 
recuperation impossible, when that ideal 
may give place altogether to a nomadic- 
looking gentleman from Turkestan with a 
number of knives. We may drive what 
will remain of Bolshevik Russia to the 
steppes and the knife. If we help some new 
Wrangel to pull down the by no means 
firmly established Government in Moscow, 
under the delusion that thereby we shall 
bring about " representative institutions " 
and a " limited monarchy/' we may find 
ourselves very much out in our calculations. 
Any one who destroys the present law and 
order of Moscow will, I believe, destroy 
what is left of law and order in Russia. 
A brigand monarchist government will 
leave a trail of fresh blood across the Rus- 
sian scene, show what gentlemen can do 
when they are roused, in a tremendous 

G 2 



84 Russia in the Shadows 

pogrom and White Terror, flourish 
horribly for a time, break up and vanish. 
Asia will resume. The simple ancient 
rhythm of the horseman plundering the 
peasant and the peasant waylaying the 
horseman will creep back across the plains 
to the Niemen and the Dniester. The cities 
will become clusters of ruins in the waste ; 
the roads and railroads will rot and rust ; 
the river traffic will decay. . . . 

This Baku Conference has depressed 
Gorky profoundly. He is obsessed by a 
nightmare of Russia going east. Perhaps 
I have caught a little of his depression. 



IV, The Creative Effort in Russia 



IV. The Creative Effort in Russia 

IN the previous three chapters I have 
tried to give my impression of the 
Russian spectacle as that of a rather 
ramshackle modern civilisation completely 
shattered and overthrown by misgovern- 
ment, under-education, and finally six 
years of war strain. I have shown science 
and art starving and the comforts and 
many of the decencies of life gone. In 
Vienna the overthrow is just as bad ; and 
there too such men of science as the 
late Professor Margules starve to death. 
If London had had to endure four more 
years of war, much the same sort of thing 
would be happening in London. We 
should have now no coal in our grates 
and no food for our food tickets, and 
the shops in Bond Street would be as 
desolate as the shops in the Nevsky 
Prospect. Bolshevik government in Russia 



88 Russia in the Shadows 

is neither responsible for the causation nor 
for the continuance of these miseries. 

I have also tried to get the facts of 
Bolshevik rule into what I believe is their 
proper proportions in the picture. The 
Bolsheviks, albeit numbering less than 
five per cent, of the population, have been 
able to seize and retain power in Russia 
because they were and are the only body 
of people in this vast spectacle of Russian 
ruin with a common faith and a common 
spirit. I disbelieve in their faith, I ridicule 
Marx, their prophet, but I understand and 
respect their spirit. They are — with all 
their faults, and they have abundant faults 
— the only possible backbone now to a 
renascent Russia. The recivilising of 
Russia must be done with the Soviet 
Government as the starting phase. The 
great mass of the Russian population is 
an entirely illiterate peasantry, grossly 
materialistic and politically indifferent. 
They are superstitious, they are for ever 
crossing themselves and kissing images, — 
in Moscow particularly they were at it — 



The Creative Effort in Russia 89 

but they are not religious. They have 
no will in things political and social beyond 
their immediate satisfactions. They are 
roughly content with Bolshevik rule. The 
Orthodox priest is quite unlike the Catholic 
priest in Western Europe ; he is himself 
typically a dirty and illiterate peasant 
with no power over the wills and con- 
sciences of his people. There is no con- 
structive quality in either peasant or 
Orthodoxy. For the rest there is a con- 
fusion of more or less civilised Russians, 
in and out of Russia, with no common 
political ideas and with no common will. 
They are incapable of producing anything 
but adventurers and disputes. 

The Russian refugees in England are 
politically contemptible. They rehearse 
endless stories of " Bolshevik outrages " ; 
chateau-burnings by peasants, burglaries 
and murders by disbanded soldiers in 
the towns, back street crimes — they tell 
them all as acts of the Bolshevik Govern- 
ment. Ask them what government they 
want in its place, and you will get rubbishy 



90 Russia in the Shadows 

generalities — usually adapted to what the 
speaker supposes to be your particular 
political obsession. Or they sicken you 
with the praise of some current super-man, 
Deniken or Wrangel, who is to put every- 
thing right — God knows how. They 
deserve nothing better than a Tsar, and 
they are incapable even of deciding which 
Tsar they desire. The better part of the 
educated people still in Russia are — for the 
sake of Russia — slowly drifting into a 
reluctant but honest co-operation with 
Bolshevik rule. 

The Bolsheviks themselves are Marxists 
and Communists. They find themselves 
in control of Russia, in complete contra- 
diction, as I have explained, to the theories 
of Karl Marx. A large part of their 
energies have been occupied in an entirely 
patriotic struggle against the raids, inva- 
sions, blockades, and persecutions of every 
sort that our insensate Western Governments 
have rained upon their tragically shattered 
country. What is left over goes in the 
attempt to keep Russia alive, and to 



The Creative Effort in Russia 91 

organise some sort of social order among 
the ruins. These Bolsheviks are, as I have 
explained, extremely inexperienced men, 
intellectual exiles from Geneva and Hamp- 
stead, or comparatively illiterate manual 
workers from the United States. Never 
was there so amateurish a government 
since the early Moslim found themselves 
in control of Cairo, Damascus, and 
Mesopotamia. 

I believe that in the minds of very many 
of them there is a considerable element of 
dismay at the tremendous tasks they find 
before them. But one thing has helped 
them and Russia enormously, and that is 
their training in Communistic ideas. As 
the British found out during the submarine 
war, so far as the urban and industrial 
population goes there is nothing for it 
during a time of tragic scarcity but collapse 
or collective control. We in England had 
to control and ration, we had to suppress 
profiteering by stringent laws. These 
Communists came into power in Russia 
and began to do at once, on principle, the 



92 Russia in the Shadows 

first most necessary thing in that chaos of 
social wreckage. Against all the habits 
and traditions of Russia, they began to 
control and ration — exhaustively. They 
have now a rationing system that is, on 
paper, admirable beyond cavil ; and per- 
haps it works as well as the temperament 
and circumstances of Russian production 
and consumption permit. It is easy to 
note defects and failures, but not nearly 
so easy to show how in this depleted and 
demoralised Russia they could be avoided. 
And things are in such a state in Russia 
now that even if we suppose the Bolsheviks 
overthrown and any other Government in 
their place, it matters not what, that 
Government would have to go on with the 
rationing the Bolsheviks have organised, 
with the suppression of vague political 
experiments, and the punishment and 
shooting of profiteers. The Bolsheviki in 
this state of siege and famine have done 
upon principle what any other Government 
would have had to do from necessity. 
And in the face of gigantic difficulties 



The Creative Effort in Russia 93 

they are trying to rebuild a new Russia 
among the ruins. We may quarrel with 
their principles and methods, we may call 
their schemes Utopian and so forth, we 
may sneer at or we may dread what they 
are doing, but it is no good pretending 
that there is no creative effort in Russia 
at the present time. A certain section of 
the Bolsheviks are hard-minded, doctrinaire 
and unteachable men, fanatics who believe 
that the mere destruction of capitalism, 
the disuse of money and trading, the 
effacement of all social differences, will in it- 
self bring about a sort of bleak millennium. 
There are Bolsheviki so stupid that they 
would stop the teaching of chemistry in 
schools until they were assured it was 
11 proletarian " chemistry, and who would 
suppress every decorative design that was 
not an elaboration of the letters R.S.F.S.R. 
(Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic) 
as reactionary art. I have told of the 
suppression of Hebrew studies because 
they are " reactionary " ; and while I was 
with Gorky I found him in constant bitter 



94 Russia in the Shadows 

disputes with extremist officials who would 
see no good in any literature of the past 
except the literature of revolt. But there 
were other more liberal minds in this new 
Russian world, minds which, given an 
opportunity, will build and will probably 
build well. Among men of such con- 
structive force I would quote such names 
as Lenin himself, who has developed 
wonderfully since the days of his exile, 
and who has recently written powerfully 
against the extravagances of his own 
extremists ; Trotsky, who has never been 
an extremist, and who is a man of very 
great organising ability ; Lunacharsky, the 
Minister for Education ; Rikoff , the head 
of the Department of People's Economy ; 
Madame Lilna of the Petersburg Child 
Welfare Department ; and Krassin, the 
head of the London Trade Delegation. 
These are names that occur to me ; it is 
by no means an exhaustive list of the 
statesmanlike elements in the Bolshevik 
Government. Already they have achieved 
something, in spite of blockade and civil 



The Creative Effort in Russia 95 

and foreign war. It is not only that they 
work to restore a country depleted of 
material to an extent almost inconceivable 
to English and American readers, but they 
work with an extraordinarily unhelpful 
personnel. Russia to-day stands more in 
need of men of the foreman and works- 
manager class than she does of medica- 
ments or food. The ordinary work in the 
Government offices of Russia is shockingly 
done ; the slackness and inaccuracy are 
indescribable. Everybody seems to be 
working in a muddle of unsorted papers 
and cigarette ends. This again is a state 
of affairs no counter-revolution could 
change. It is inherent in the present 
Russian situation. If one of these military 
adventurers the Western Powers patronise 
were, by some disastrous accident, to 
get control of Russia, his success would 
only add strong drink, embezzlement, and 
a great squalour of kept mistresses to the 
general complication. For whatever else 
we may say to the discredit of the Bolshevik 
leaders, it is undeniable that the great 



96 Russia in the Shaaows 

majority lead not simply laborious but 
puritanical lives. 

I write of this general inefficiency in 
Russia with the more asperity because it 
was the cause of my not meeting Luna- 
charsky. About eighty hours of my life 
were consumed in travelling, telephoning, 
and waiting about in order to talk for 
about an hour and a half with Lenin and 
for the same time with Tchitcherin. At 
that rate, and in view of the intermittent 
boat service from Reval to Stockholm, to 
see Lunacharsky would have meant at 
least a week more in Russia. The whole 
of my visit to Moscow was muddled in the 
most irritating fashion. A sailor-man carry- 
ing a silver kettle who did not know his 
way about Moscow was put in charge of 
my journey, and an American who did not 
know enough Russian to telephone freely 
was set to make my appointments in the 
town. Although I had heard Gorky 
arrange for my meeting with Lenin by 
long - distance telephone days before, 
Moscow declared that it had had no notice 



The Creative Effort in Russia 97 

of my coming. Finally I was put into the 
wrong train back to Petersburg, a train 
which took twenty-two hours instead of 
fourteen for the journey. These may seem 
petty details to relate, but when it is 
remembered that Russia was really doing 
its best to impress me with its vigour 
and good order, they are extremely signifi- 
cant. In the train, when I realised that it 
was a slow train and that the express had 
gone three hours before while we had 
been pacing the hall of the guest house with 
our luggage packed and nobody coming for 
us, the spirit came upon me and my lips 
were unsealed. I spoke to my guide, as 
one mariner might speak to another, and 
told him what I thought of Russian 
methods. He listened with the profoundest 
respect to my rich incisive phrases. When 
at last I paused, he replied — in words that 
are also significant of certain weaknesses 
of the present Russian state of mind. 

11 You see," he said, " the blockade " 

But if I saw nothing of Lunacharsky 
personally, I saw something of the work 

H 



98 Russia in the Shadows 

he has organised. The primary material 
of the educationist is human beings, and 
of these at least there is still no shortage 
in Russia, so that in that respect Luna- 
charsky is better off than most of his 
colleagues. And beginning with an initial 
prejudice and much distrust, I am bound 
to confess that, in view of their enormous 
difficulties, the educational work of the 
Bolsheviks impresses me as being as- 
tonishingly good. 

Things started badly. Directly I got to 
Petersburg I asked to see a school, and 
on the second day of my visit I was taken 
to one that impressed me very unfavourably. 
It was extremely well equipped, much 
better than an ordinary English grammar 
school, and the children were bright and 
intelligent ; but our visit fell in the recess. 
I could witness no teaching, and the 
behaviour of the youngsters I saw indi- 
cated a low standard of discipline. I 
formed an opinion that I was probably 
being shown a picked school specially 
prepared for me, and that this was all that 



The Creative Effort in Russia 99 

Petersburg had to offer. The special 
guide who was with us then began to 
question these children upon the subject 
of English literature and the writers they 
liked most. One name dominated all 
others. My own. Such comparatively 
trivial figures as Milton, Dickens, Shake- 
speare ran about intermittently between 
the feet of that literary colossus. Being 
questioned further, these children pro- 
duced the titles of perhaps a dozen of my 
books. I said I was completely satisfied 
by what I had seen and heard, that I 
wanted to see nothing more — for indeed 
what more could I possibly require ?— -and 
I left that school smiling with difficulty 
and thoroughly cross with my guides. 

Three days later I suddenly scrapped 
my morning's engagements and insisted 
upon being taken at once to another 
school — any school close at hand. I was 
convinced that I had been deceived about 
the former school, and that now I should 
see a very bad school indeed. Instead I 
saw a much better one than the first I 

H 2 



ioo Russia in the Shadows 

had seen. The equipment and building 
were better, the discipline of the children 
was better, and I saw some excellent 
teaching in progress. Most of the teachers 
were women, very competent-looking 
middle-aged women, and I chose ele- 
mentary geometrical teaching to observe 
because that on the blackboard is in the 
universal language of the diagram. I saw 
also a heap of drawings and various models 
the pupils had done, and they were very 
good. The school was supplied with 
abundant pictures. I noted particularly a 
well-chosen series of landscapes to assist 
the geographical teaching. There was 
plenty of chemical and physical apparatus, 
and it was evidently put to a proper use. 
I also saw the children's next meal in 
preparation — for children eat at school in 
Soviet Russia — and the food was excellent 
and well cooked, far above the standard 
of the adult rations we had seen served 
out. All this was much more satisfactory. 
Finally by a few questions we tested the 
extraordinary vogue of H. G. Wells among 



The Creative Effort in Russia 101 

the young people of Russia. None of 
these children had ever heard of him. 
The school library contained none of his 
books. This did much to convince me 
that I was seeing a quite normal school. 
I had, I now begin to realise, been taken 
to the previous one not, as I had supposed 
in my wrath, with any elaborate intention 
of deceiving me about the state of educa- 
tion in the country, but after certain 
kindly intrigues and preparations by a 
literary friend, Mr. Chukovsky the critic, 
affectionately anxious to make me feel 
myself beloved in Russia, and a little 
oblivious of the real gravity of the business 
I had in hand. 

Subsequent enquiries and comparison of 
my observations with those of other visitors 
to Russia, and particularly those of Dr. 
Haden Guest, who also made surprise 
visits to several schools in Moscow, have 
convinced me that Soviet Russia, in the 
face of gigantic difficulties, has made and 
is making very great educational efforts, 
and that in spite of the difficulties of the 



102 Russia in the Shadows 

general situation the quality and number 
of the schools in the towns has risen abso- 
lutely since the Tsarist rigime. (The 
peasant, as ever, except in a few " show " 
localities, remains scarcely touched by 
these things.) The schools I saw would 
have been good middle schools in England. 
They are open to all, and there is an 
attempt to make education compulsory. 
Of course Russia has its peculiar difficulties. 
Many of the schools are understaffed, 
and it is difficult to secure the attendance 
of unwilling pupils. Numbers of children 
prefer to keep out of the schools and 
trade upon the streets. A large part of 
the illicit trading in Russia is done by 
bands of children. They are harder to 
catch than adults, and the spirit of Russian 
Communism is against punishing them. 
And the Russian child is, for a northern 
child, remarkably precocious. 

The common practice of co-educating 
youngsters up to fifteen or sixteen, in a 
country as demoralised as Russia is now, 
has brought peculiar evils in its train. 



The Creative Effort in Russia 103 

My attention was called to this by the 
visit of Bokaiev, the former head of the 
Petersburg Extraordinary Commission, and 
his colleague Zalutsky to Gorky to consult 
him in the matter. They discussed their 
business in front of me quite frankly, and 
the whole conversation was translated to 
me as it went on. The Bolshevik authori- 
ties have collected and published very 
startling, very shocking figures of the moral 
condition of young people in Petersburg, 
which I have seen. How far they would 
compare with the British figures — if there 
are any British figures — of such bad dis- 
tricts for the young as are some parts of 
East London or such towns of low type 
employment as Reading I do not know. 
(The reader should compare the Fabian 
Society's report on prostitution, Down- 
ward Paths, upon this question.) Nor do 
I know how they would show in com- 
parison with preceding Tsarist conditions. 
Nor can I speculate how far these phe- 
nomena in Russia are the mechanical 
consequence of privation and overcrowding 



104 Russia in the Shadows 

in a home atmosphere bordering on despair. 
But there can be no doubt that in the 
Russian towns, concurrently with increased 
educational effort and an enhanced intel- 
lectual stimulation of the young, there is 
also an increased lawlessness on their part, 
especially in sexual matters, and that this 
is going on in a phase of unexampled 
sobriety and harsh puritanical decorum so 
far as adult life is concerned. This hectic 
moral fever of the young is the dark side 
of the educational spectacle in Russia. I 
think it is to be regarded mainly as an 
aspect of the general social collapse ; every 
European country has noted a parallel 
moral relaxation of the young under the 
war strain ; but the revolution itself, in 
sweeping a number of the old experienced 
teachers out of the schools and in making 
every moral standard a subject of debate, 
has no doubt contributed also to an as 
yet incalculable amount in the excessive 
disorder of these matters in present-day 
Russia. 
Faced with this problem of starving and 



The Creative Effort in Russia 105 

shattered homes and a social chaos, the 
Bolshevik organisers are institutionalising 
the town children of Russia. They are 
making their schools residential. The 
children of the Russian urban population 
are going, like the children of the British 
upper class, into boarding schools. Close 
to this second school I visited stood two 
big buildings which are the living places of 
the boys and of the girls respectively. In 
these places they can be kept under some 
sort of hygienic and moral discipline. 
This again happens to be not only in 
accordance with Communist doctrine, but 
with the special necessities of the Russian 
crisis. Entire towns are sinking down 
towards slum conditions, and the Bolshevik 
Government has had to play the part of a 
gigantic Dr. Barnardo. 

We went over the organisation of a sort 
of reception home to which children are 
brought by their parents who find it 
impossible to keep them clean and decent 
and nourished under the terrible conditions 
outside. This reception home is the old 



106 Russia in the Shadows 

Hotel de 1'Europe, the scene of countless 
pleasant little dinner-parties under the old 
regime. On the roof there is still the 
summertime roof garden, where the string 
quartette used to play, and on the staircase 
we passed a frosted glass window still 
bearing in gold letters the words Coiffure 
des Dames. 

Slender gilded pointing hands directed 
us to the " Restaurant/' long vanished from 
the grim Petersburg scheme of things. 
Into this place the children come ; they 
pass into a special quarantine section for 
infectious diseases and for personal cleanli- 
ness — nine-tenths of the newcomers har- 
bour unpleasant parasites — and then into 
another section, the moral quarantine, 
where for a time they are watched for bad 
habits and undesirable tendencies. From 
this section some individuals may need to 
be weeded out and sent to special schools 
for defectives. The rest pass on into 
the general body of institutionalised 
children, and so on to the boarding 
schools. 






The Creative Effort in Russia 107 

Here certainly we have the " break-up 
of the family " in full progress, and the 
Bolshevik net is sweeping wide and taking 
in children of the most miscellaneous 
origins. The parents have reasonably free 
access to their children in the daytime, but 
little or no control over their education, 
clothing, or the like. We went among the 
children in the various stages of this 
educational process, and they seemed to 
us to be quite healthy, happy, and con- 
tented children. But they get very good 
people to look after them. Many men and 
women, politically suspects or openly dis- 
contented with the existing political con- 
ditions, and yet with a desire to serve 
Russia, have found in these places work 
that they can do with a good heart and 
conscience. My interpreter and the lady 
who took us round this place had often 
dined and supped in the Hotel de l'Europe 
in its brilliant days, and they knew each 
other well. This lady was now plainly clad, 
with short cut hair and a grave manner ; 
her husband was a White and serving with 



108 Russia in the Shadows 

the Poles ; she had two children of her own 
in the institution, and she was mothering 
some scores of little creatures. But she 
was evidently keenly proud of the work of 
her organisation, and she said that she 
found life — in this city of want, under the 
shadow of a coming famine — more interest- 
ing and satisfying than it had ever been in 
the old days. 

I have no space to tell of other educa- 
tional work we saw going on in Russia. 
I can give but a word or so to the Home of 
Rest for Workmen in the Kamenni Ostrof . 
I thought that at once rather fine and not a 
little absurd. To this place workers are 
sent to live a life of refined ease for two or 
three weeks. It is a very beautiful country 
house with big gardens, an orangery, and 
subordinate buildings. The meals are 
served on white cloths with flowers upon 
the table and so forth. And the worker 
has to live up to these elegant surroundings. 
It is a part of his education. If in a forget- 
ful moment he clears his throat in the 
good old resonant peasant manner and 



The Creative Effort in Russia 109 

spits upon the floor, an attendant, I was 
told, chalks a circle about his defilement 
and obliges him to clean the offended 
parquetry. The avenue approaching this 
place has been adorned with decoration in 
the futurist style, and there is a vast figure 
of a " worker " at the gates resting on his 
hammer, done in gypsum, which was 
obtained from the surgical reserves of the 
Petersburg hospitals. . . . But after all, 
the idea of civilising your workpeople by 
dipping them into pleasant surroundings 
is, in itself, rather a good one. . . . 

I find it difficult to hold the scales of 
justice upon many of these efforts of 
Bolshevism. Here are these creative and 
educational things going on, varying be- 
tween the admirable and the ridiculous, 
islands at least of cleanly work and, I 
think, of hope, amidst the vast spectacle of 
grisly want and wide decay. Who can 
weigh the power and possibility of their 
thrust against the huge gravitation of this 
sinking system ? Who can guess what 
encouragement and enhancement they may 



no Russia in the Shadows 

get if Russia can win through to a respite 
from civil and foreign warfare and from 
famine and want ? It was of this re-created 
Russia, this Russia that may be, that I 
was most desirous of talking when I went 
to the Kremlin to meet Lenin. Of that 
conversation I will tell in my final 
chapter. 



V. The Petersburg Soviet 



V. The Petersburg Soviet 



ON Thursday the 7th of October we at- 
tended a meeting of the Petersburg 
Soviet. We were told that we should find 
this a very different legislative body from 
the British House of Commons, and we 
did. Like nearly everything else in the 
arrangements of Soviet Russia it struck us 
as extraordinarily unpremeditated and im- 
provised. Nothing could have been less 
intelligently planned for the functions it 
had to perform or the responsibilities it 
had to undertake. 

The meeting was held in the old Winter 
Garden of the Tauride Palace, the former 
palace of Potemkin, the favourite of 
Catherine the Second. Here the Imperial 
Duma met under the Tsarist regime, and 
I visited it in 19 14 and saw a languid 
session in progress. I went then with Mr. 
Maurice Baring and one of the Bencken- 

"3 T 



U4 Russia in the Shadows 

dorffs to the strangers' gallery, which ran 
round three sides of the hall. There was 
accommodation for perhaps a thousand 
people in the hall, and most of it was empty. 
The president with his bell sat above a 
rostrum, and behind him was a row of 
women reporters. I do not now remember 
what business was in hand on that occasion ; 
it was certainly not very exciting business. 
Baring, I remember, pointed out the large 
proportion of priests elected to the third 
Duma ; their beards and cassocks made 
a distinctive feature of that scattered 
gathering. 

On this second visit we were no longer 
stranger onlookers, but active participants 
in the meeting ; we came into the body of 
the hall behind the president's bench, where 
on a sort of stage the members of the 
Government, official visitors, and so forth 
find accommodation. The presidential 
bench, the rostrum, and the reporters 
remained, but instead of an atmosphere of 
weary parliamentarianism, we found our- 
selves in the crowding, the noise, and the 



The Petersburg Soviet 1 1 5 

peculiar thrill of a mass meeting. There 
were, I should think, some two hundred 
people or more packed upon the semi- 
circular benches round about us on the 
platform behind the president, comrades 
in naval uniforms and in middle-class and 
working-class costume, numerous intelli- 
gent-looking women, one or two Asiatics 
and a few unclassiflable visitors, and the 
body of the hall beyond the presidential 
bench was densely packed with people who 
filled not only the seats but the gangways 
and the spaces under the galleries. There 
may have been two or three thousand people 
down there, men and women. They were 
all members of the Petersburg Soviet, 
which is really a sort of conjoint meeting 
of its constituent Soviets. The visitors' 
galleries above were equally full. 

Above the rostrum, with his back to us, 
sat ZenovierT, his right-hand man Zorin, 
and the president. The subject under 
discussion was the proposed peace with 
Poland. The meeting was smarting with 
the sense of defeat and disposed to resent 

I 2 



1 1 6 Russia in the Shadows 

the Polish terms. Soon after we came in 
Zenovieff made a long and, so far as I could 
judge, a very able speech, preparing the 
minds of this great gathering for a Russian 
surrender. The Polish demands were out- 
rageous, but for the present Russia must 
submit. He was followed by an oldish 
man who made a bitter attack upon the 
irreligion of the people and government of 
Russia ; Russia was suffering for her sins, 
and until she repented and returned to 
religion she would continue to suffer one 
disaster after another. His opinions were 
not those of the meeting, but he was 
allowed to have his say without interruption. 
The decision to make peace with Poland 
was then taken by a show of hands. Then 
came my little turn. The meeting was told 
that I had come from England to see the 
Bolshevik regime ; I was praised profusely ; 
I was also exhorted to treat that regime 
fairly and not to emulate those other recent 
visitors (these were Mrs. Snowden and 
Guest and Bertrand Russell) who had 
enjoyed the hospitality of the republic and 



The Petersburg Soviet 117 

then gone away to say unfavourable things 
of it. This exhortation left me cold ; I 
had come to Russia to judge the Bolshevik 
Government and not to praise it. I had 
then to take possession of the rostrum and 
address this big crowd of people. This 
rostrum I knew had proved an unfor- 
tunate place for one or two previous 
visitors, who had found it hard to explain 
away afterwards the speeches their trans- 
lators had given the world through the 
medium of the wireless reports. Happily, 
I had had some inkling of what was coming. 
To avoid any misunderstanding I had 
written out a short speech in English, and 
I had had this translated carefully into 
Russian. I began by saying clearly that 
I was neither Marxist nor Communist, 
but a Collectivist, and that it was not to a 
social revolution in the West that Russians 
should look for peace and help in their 
troubles, but to the liberal opinion of the 
moderate mass of Western people. I 
declared that the people of the Western 
States were determined to give Russia 



J 



1 1 8 Russia in the Shadows 

peace, so that she might develop upon her 
own lines. Their own line of development 
might be very different from that of 
Russia. When I had done I handed a 
translation of my speech to my interpreter, 
Zorin, which not only eased his task but 
did away with any possibility of a subse- 
quent misunderstanding. My speech was 
reported in the Pravda quite fully and 
fairly. 

Then followed a motion by Zorin that 
Zenovieff should have leave to visit Berlin 
and attend the conference of the Indepen- 
dent Socialists there. Zorin is a witty and 
humorous speaker, and he got his audience 
into an excellent frame of mind. His 
motion was carried by a show of hands, 
and then came a report and a discussion 
upon the production of vegetables in the 
Petersburg district. It was a practical 
question upon which feeling ran high. 
Here speakers rose in the body of the hall, 
discharging brief utterances for a minute 
or so and subsiding again. There were 
shouts and interruptions. The debate was 



The Petersburg Soviet 119 

much more like a big labour mass meeting 
in the Queen's Hall than anything that a 
Western European would recognise as a 
legislature. 

This business disposed of, a still more 
extraordinary thing happened. We who 
sat behind the rostrum poured down into 
the already very crowded body of the hall 
and got such seats as we could find, and 
a white sheet was lowered behind the 
president's seat. At the same time a band 
appeared in the gallery to the left. A 
five-part cinematograph film was then run, 
showing the Baku Conference to which I 
have already alluded. The pictures were 
viewed with interest but without any 
violent applause. And at the end the band 
played the Internationale, and the audience 
— I beg its pardon ! — the Petersburg Soviet 
dispersed singing that popular chant. It 
was in fact a mass meeting incapable of 
any real legislative activities ; capable at 
the utmost of endorsing or not endorsing 
the Government in control of the plat- 
form. Compared with the British Parlia- 



120 Russia in the Shadows 

ment it has about as much organisation, 
structure, and working efficiency as a big 
bagful of miscellaneous wheels might have, 
compared to an old-fashioned and inac- 
curate but still going clock. 




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VI, The Dreamer in the Kremlin 



VI. The Dreamer in the Kremlin 

MY chief purpose in going from 
Petersburg to Moscow was to see 
and talk to Lenin. I was very curious to 
see him, and I was disposed to be hostile 
to him. I encountered a personality 
entirely different from anything I had 
expected to meet. 

Lenin is not a writer ; his published 
work does not express him. The shrill 
little pamphlets and papers issued from 
Moscow in his name, full of misconcep- 
tions of the labour psychology of the West 
and obstinately defensive of the impossible 
proposition that it is the prophesied Marxist 
social revolution which has happened in 
Russia, display hardly anything of the real 
Lenin mentality as I encountered it. 
Occasionally there are gleams of an inspired 
shrewdness, but for the rest these publica- 
tions do no more than rehearse the set 
123 



124 Russia in the Shadows 

ideas and phrases of doctrinaire Marxism. 
Perhaps that is necessary. That may be 
the only language Communism under- 
stands ; a break into a new dialect would 
be disturbing and demoralising. Left 
Communism is the backbone of Russia 
to-day ; unhappily it is a backbone without 
flexible joints, a backbone that can be bent 
only with the utmost difficulty and which 
must be bent by means of flattery and 
deference. 

Moscow under the bright October sun- 
shine, amidst the fluttering yellow leaves, 
impressed us as being altogether more lax 
and animated than Petersburg. There is 
much more movement of people, more 
trading, and a comparative plenty of 
droshkys. Markets are open. There is 
not the same general ruination of streets 
and houses. There are, it is true, many 
traces of the desperate street fighting of 
early 19 18. One of the domes of that 
absurd cathedral of St. Basil just outside 
the Kremlin gate was smashed by a shell 
and still awaits repair. The tramcars we 



The Dreamer in the Kremlin 125 

found were not carrying passengers ; they 
were being used for the transport of 
supplies of food and fuel. In these matters 
Petersburg claims to be better prepared 
than Moscow. 

The ten thousand crosses of Moscow 
still glitter in the afternoon light. On one 
conspicuous pinnacle of the Kremlin the 
imperial eagles spread their wings ; the 
Bolshevik Government has been too busy 
or too indifferent to pull them down. The 
churches are open, the kissing of ikons is 
a flourishing industry, and beggars still 
woo casual charity at the doors. The cele- 
brated miraculous shrine of the Iberian 
Madonna outside the Redeemer Gate was 
particularly busy. There were many 
peasant women, unable to get into the 
little chapel, kissing the stones outside. 

Just opposite to it, on a plaster panel on 
a house front, is that now celebrated 
inscription put up by one of the early 
revolutionary administrations in Moscow : 
" Religion is the Opium of the People." 
The effect this inscription produces is 



126 Russia in the Shadows 

greatly reduced by the fact that in Russia 
the people cannot read. 

About that inscription I had a slight 
but amusing argument with Mr. Vanderlip, 
the American financier, who was lodged in 
the same guest house as ourselves. He 
wanted to have it effaced. I was for 
retaining it as being historically interesting, 
and because I think that religious tolera- 
tion should extend to atheists. But Mr. 
Vanderlip felt too strongly to see the 
point of that. 

The Moscow Guest House, which we 
shared with Mr. Vanderlip and an adven- 
turous English artist who had somehow 
got through to Moscow to execute busts 
of Lenin and Trotsky, was a big, richly- 
furnished house upon the Sofiskaya 
Naberezhnaya (No. 17), directly facing the 
great wall of the Kremlin and all the 
clustering domes and pinnacles of that 
imperial inner city. We felt much less 
free and more secluded here than in 
Petersburg. There were sentinels at the 
gates to protect us from casual visitors, 



The Dreamer in the Kremlin 127 

whereas in Petersburg all sorts of un- 
authorised persons could and did stray in 
to talk to me. Mr. Vanderlip had been 
staying here, I gathered, for some weeks, 
and proposed to stay some weeks more. 
He was without valet, secretary, or inter- 
preter. He did not discuss his business 
with me beyond telling me rather care- 
fully once or twice that it was strictly 
financial and commercial and in no sense 
political. I was told that he had brought 
credentials from Senator Harding to Lenin, 
but I am temperamentally incurious and 
I made no attempt whatever to verify this 
statement or to pry into Mr. Vanderlip 's 
affairs. I did not even ask how it could 
be possible to conduct business or financial 
operations in a Communist State with 
any one but the Government, nor how it 
was possible to deal with a Government 
upon strictly non-political lines. These 
were, I admitted, mysteries beyond my 
understanding. But we ate, smoked, drank 
our coffee and conversed together in an 
atmosphere of profound discretion. By 



128 Russia in the Shadows 

not mentioning Mr. Vanderlip's " mis- 
sion," we made it a portentous, omni- 
present fact. 

The arrangements leading up to my 
meeting with Lenin were tedious and 
irritating, but at last I found myself 
under way for the Kremlin in the company 
of Mr. Rothstein, formerly a figure 
in London Communist circles, and an 
American comrade with a large camera who 
was also, I gathered, an official of the 
Russian Foreign Office. 

The Kremlin as I remembered it in 
1 9 14 was a very open place, open much 
as Windsor Castle is, with a thin trickle 
of pilgrims and tourists in groups and 
couples flowing through it. But now it 
is closed up and difficult of access. There 
was a great pother with passes and permits 
before we could get through even the outer 
gates. And we were filtered and inspected 
through five or six rooms of clerks and 
sentinels before we got into the presence. 
This may be necessary for the personal 
security of Lenin, but it puts him out of 



The ~D reamer in the Kremlin ■ 129 

reach of Russia, and, what perhaps is more 
serious, if there is to be an effectual 
dictatorship, it puts Russia out of his 
reach. If things must filter up to him, 
they must also filter down, and they may 
undergo very considerable changes in the 
process. 

We got to Lenin at last and found him, 
a little figure at a great desk in a well-lit 
room that looked out upon palatial spaces. 
I thought his desk was rather in a litter. 
I sat down on a chair at a corner of the 
desk, and the little man — his feet scarcely 
touch the ground as he sits on the edge of 
his chair — twisted round to talk to me, 
putting his arms round and over a pile of 
papers. He spoke excellent English, but 
it was, I thought, rather characteristic of 
the present condition of Russian affairs 
that Mr. Rothstein chaperoned the conver- 
sation, occasionally offering footnotes and 
other assistance. Meanwhile the American 
got to work with his camera, and un- 
obtrusively but persistently exposed plates. 
The talk, however, was too interesting for 

K 



130 Russia in the Shadows 

that to be an annoyance. One forgot 
about that clicking and shifting about 
quite soon. 

I had come expecting to struggle with 
a doctrinaire Marxist. I found nothing of 
the sort. I had been told that Lenin 
lectured people ; he certainly did not do 
so on this occasion. Much has been made 
of his laugh in the descriptions, a laugh 
which is said to be pleasing at first and 
afterwards to become cynical. This laugh 
was not in evidence. His forehead re- 
minded me of someone else — I could not 
remember who it was, until the other 
evening I saw Mr. Arthur Balfour sitting 
and talking under a shaded light. It is 
exactly the same domed, slightly one-sided 
cranium. Lenin has a pleasant, quick- 
changing, brownish face, with a lively 
smile and a habit (due perhaps to some 
defect in focussing) of screwing up one 
eye as he pauses in his talk ; he is not very 
like the photographs you see of him because 
he is one of those people whose change of 
expression is more important than their 



The Dreamer in the Kremlin 131 

features ; he gesticulated a little with his 
hands over the heaped papers as he talked, 
and he talked quickly, very keen on his 
subject, without any posing or pretences 
or reservations, as a good type of scientific 
man will talk. 

Our talk was threaded throughout and 
held together by two — what shall I call 
them ?■ — motifs. One was from me to him : 
" What do you think you are making of 
Russia ? What is the state you are trying 
to create ? ,! The other was from him to 
me : " Why does not the social revolution 
begin in England ? Why do you not work 
for the social revolution ? Why are you 
not destroying Capitalism and establishing 
the Communist State ? " These motifs 
interwove, reacted on each other, illumi- 
nated each other. The second brought 
back the first : " But what are you making 
of the social revolution ? Are you making 
a success of it ? " And from that we got 
back to two again with : "To make it a 
success the Western world must join in. 
Why doesn't it ? " 

K 2 



132 Russia in the Shadows 

In the days before 191 8 all the Marxist 
world thought of the social revolution as 
an end. The workers of the world were to 
unite, overthrow Capitalism, and be happy 
ever afterwards. But in 19 18 the Com- 
munists, to their own surprise, found them- 
selves in control of Russia and challenged 
to produce their millennium. They have a 
colourable excuse for a delay in the pro- 
duction of a new and better social order 
in their continuation of war conditions, in 
the blockade and so forth, nevertheless it 
is clear that they begin to realise the 
tremendous unpreparedness which the 
Marxist methods of thought involve. At 
a hundred points — I have already put a 
finger upon one or two of them — they 
do not know what to do. But the common- 
place Communist simply loses his temper 
if you venture to doubt whether every- 
thing is being done in precisely the best 
and most intelligent way under the new 
regime. He is like a tetchy housewife 
who wants you to recognise that every- 
thing is in perfect order in the middle of 



The Dreamer in the Kremlin 133 

an eviction. He is like one of those now 
forgotten suffragettes who used to promise 
us an earthly paradise as soon as we 
escaped from the tyranny of " man-made 
laws." Lenin, on the other hand, whose 
frankness must at times leave his disciples 
breathless, has recently stripped off the 
last pretence that the Russian revolution 
is anything more than the inauguration of 
an age of limitless experiment. " Those 
who are engaged in the formidable task 
of overcoming capitalism,' ' he has recently 
written, " must be prepared to try method 
after method until they find the one which 
answers their purpose best." 

We opened our talk with a discussion of 
the future of the great towns under Com- 
munism. I wanted to see how far Lenin 
contemplated the dying out of the towns 
in Russia. The desolation of Petersburg 
had brought home to me a point I had 
never realised before, that the whole form 
and arrangement of a town is determined 
by shopping and marketing, and that the 
abolition of these things renders nine- 



134 Russia in the Shadows 

tenths of the buildings in an ordinary town 
directly or indirectly unmeaning and use- 
less. " The towns will get very much 
smaller,' ' he admitted. " They will be 
different. Yes, quite different/ ' That, I 
suggested, implied a tremendous task. It 
meant the scrapping of the existing towns 
and their replacement. The churches and 
great buildings of Petersburg would 
become presently like those of Novgorod 
the Great or like the temples of Paestum. 
Most of the town would dissolve away. 
He agreed quite cheerfully. I think it 
warmed his heart to find someone who 
understood a necessary consequence of 
collectivism that many even of his own 
people fail to grasp. Russia has to be 
rebuilt fundamentally, has to become a 
new thing. . . . 

And industry has to be reconstructed — 
as fundamentally ? 

Did I realise what was already in hand 
with Russia ? The electrification of 
Russia ? 

For Lenin, who like a good orthodox 



The Dreamer in the Kremlin 135 

Marxist denounces all " Utopians/ ' has 
succumbed at last to a Utopia, the Utopia 
of the electricians. He is throwing all his 
weight into a scheme for the development 
of great power stations in Russia to serve 
whole provinces with light, with transport, 
and industrial power. Two experimental 
districts he said had already been electrified. 
Can one imagine a more courageous project 
in a vast flat land of forests and illiterate 
peasants, with no water power, with no 
technical skill available, and with trade 
and industry at the last gasp ? Projects 
for such an electrification are in process 
of development in Holland and they have 
been discussed in England, and in those 
densely-populated and industrially highly- 
developed centres one can imagine them as 
successful, economical, and altogether bene- 
ficial. But their application to Russia is an 
altogether greater strain upon the con- 
structive imagination. I cannot see any- 
thing of the sort happening in this dark 
crystal of Russia, but this little man at the 
Kremlin can ; he sees the decaying railways 



136 Russia in the Shadows 

replaced by a new electric transport, sees 
new roadways spreading throughout the 
land, sees a new and happier Communist 
industrialism arising again. While I talked 
to him he almost persuaded me to share 
his vision. 

" And you will go on to these things 
with the peasants rooted in your soil ? " 

But not only are the towns to be rebuilt ; 
every agricultural landmark is to go. 

" Even now," said Lenin, " all the agri- 
cultural production of Russia is not peasant 
production. We have, in places, large scale 
agriculture. The Government is already 
running big estates with workers instead 
of peasants, where conditions are favour- 
able. That can spread. It can be extended 
first to one province, then another. The 
peasants in the other provinces, selfish and 
illiterate, will not know what is happening 
until their turn comes. . . ." 

It may be difficult to defeat the Russian 
peasant en masse ; but in detail there is 
no difficulty at all. At the mention of the 
peasant Lenin's head came nearer to 




Lenin. 
Behind him stands Gorky ; to the right of Gorky (i.e. on his left) 
are Zorin (hat) and Zenovieff. Behind with cigarette is Radek. 



The Dreamer in the Kremlin 137 

mine ; his manner became confidential. 
As if after all the peasant might over- 
hear. 

It is not only the material organisation 
of society you have to build, I argued, it 
is the mentality of a whole people. The 
Russian people are by habit and tradition 
traders and individualists ; their very souls 
must be remoulded if this new world is to 
be achieved. Lenin asked me what I had 
seen of the educational work afoot. I 
praised some of the things I had seen. 
He nodded and smiled with pleasure. 
He has an unlimited confidence in his work. 

" But these are only sketches and begin- 
nings,' ' I said. 

" Come back and see what we have done 
in Russia in ten years' time," he answered. 

In him I realised that Communism 
could after all, in spite of Marx, be 
enormously creative. After the tiresome 
class-war fanatics I had been encountering 
among the Communists, men of formulae 
as sterile as flints, after numerous experi- 
ences of the trained and empty conceit of 



138 Russia in the Shadows 

the common Marxist devotee, this amaz- 
ing little man, with his frank admission 
of the immensity and complication of the 
project of Communism and his simple 
concentration upon its realisation, was 
very refreshing. He at least has a vision 
of a world changed over and planned 
and built afresh. 

He wanted more of my Russian impres- 
sions. I told him that I thought that in 
many directions, and more particularly in 
the Petersburg Commune, Communism 
was pressing too hard and too fast, and 
destroying before it was ready to rebuild. 
They had broken down trading before 
they were ready to ration ; the co-operative 
organisation had been smashed up instead 
of being utilised, and so on. That brought 
us to our essential difference, the difference 
of the Evolutionary Collectivist and Marxist, 
the question whether the social revolution 
is, in its extremity, necessary, whether it is 
necessary to overthrow one economic 
system completely before the new one can 
begin. I believe that through a vast sus- 



The Dreamer in the Kremlin 139 

tained educational campaign the existing 
Capitalist system can be civilised into a 
Collectivist world system ; Lenin on the 
other hand tied himself years ago to the 
Marxist dogmas of the inevitable class war, 
the downfall of Capitalist order as a 
prelude to reconstruction, the proletarian 
dictatorship, and so forth. He had to 
argue, therefore, that modern Capitalism 
is incurably predatory, wasteful, and un- 
teachable, and that until it is destroyed 
it will continue to exploit the human 
heritage stupidly and aimlessly, that it will 
fight against and prevent any administra- 
tion of natural resources for the general 
good, and that, because essentially it is a 
scramble, it will inevitably make wars. 

I had, I will confess, a very uphill 
argument. He suddenly produced Chiozza 
Money's new book, The Triumph of 
Nationalisation, which he had evidently 
been reading very carefully. " But you 
see directly you begin to have a good 
working collectivist organisation of any 
public interest, the Capitalists smash it up 



140 Russia in the Shadows 

again. They smashed your national ship- 
yards ; they won't let you work your coal 
economically. " He tapped the book. " It 
is all here." 

And against my argument that wars 
sprang from nationalist imperialism and not 
from a Capitalist organisation of society 
he suddenly brought : " But what do you 
think of this new Republican Imperialism 
that comes to us from America ? " 

Here Mr. Rothstein intervened in 
Russian with an objection that Lenin 
swept aside. 

And regardless of Mr. Rothstein's plea 
for diplomatic reserve, Lenin proceeded 
to explain the projects with which one 
American at least was seeking to dazzle 
the imagination of Moscow. There was 
to be economic assistance for Russia and 
recognition of the Bolshevik Government. 
There was to be a defensive alliance against 
Japanese aggression in Siberia. There was 
to be an American naval station on the 
coast of Asia, and leases for long terms of 
sixty or fifty years of the natural resources 



The Dreamer in the Kremlin 141 

of Khamskhatka and possibly of other large 
regions of Russian Asia. Well, did I think 
that made for peace ? Was it anything 
more than the beginning of a new world 
scramble ? How would the British Im- 
perialists like this sort of thing ? 

Always, he insisted, Capitalism competes 
and scrambles It is the antithesis of 
collective action. It cannot develop into 
social unity or into world unity. 

But some industrial power had to come 
in and help Russia, I said. She cannot 
reconstruct now without such help. . . . 

Our multifarious argumentation ended 
indecisively. We parted warmly, and I 
and my companion were filtered out of 
the Kremlin through one barrier after 
another in much the same fashion as we 
had been filtered in. 

" He is wonderful/ ' said Mr. Rothstein. 
" But it was an indiscretion " 

I was not disposed to talk as we made 
our way, under the glowing trees that 
grow in the ancient moat of the Kremlin, 
back to our Guest House. I wanted to 



142 Russia in the Shadows 

think Lenin over while I had him fresh 
in my mind, and I did not want to 
be assisted by the expositions of my com- 
panion. But Mr. Rothstein kept on talking. 

He was still pressing me not to mention 
this little sketch of the Russian- American 
outlook to Mr. Vanderlip long after I 
assured him that I respected Mr. Vander- 
lip J s veil of discretion far too much to 
pierce it by any careless word. 

And so back to No. 17 Sofiskaya 
Naberezhnaya, and lunch with Mr. Vander- 
lip and the young sculptor from London. 
The old servant of the house waited on 
us, mournfully conscious of the meagreness 
of our entertainment and reminiscent of 
the great days of the past when Caruso 
had been a guest and had sung to all that 
was brilliant in Moscow in the room up- 
stairs. Mr. Vanderlip was for visiting the 
big market that afternoon — and later 
going to the Ballet, but my son and I were 
set upon returning to Petersburg that 
night and so getting on to Reval in time 
for the Stockholm boat. 



VII. The Envoy 



VII. The Envoy 



IN the preceding chapters I have written 
in the first person and in a familiar 
style because I did not want the reader 
to lose sight for a moment of the shortness 
of our visit to Russia and of my personal 
limitations. Now in conclusion, if the 
reader will have patience with me for a 
few final words, I would like in less 
personal terms and very plainly to set 
down my main convictions about the 
Russian situation. They are deep-seated 
convictions, and they concern not merely 
Russia but the whole present outlook of 
our civilisation. They are merely one 
man's opinion, but as I feel them strongly, 
so I put them without weakening 
qualifications. 

First, then, Russia, which was a modern 
civilisation of the Western type, least 
disciplined and most ramshackle of all 



145 



146 Russia in the Shadows 

the Great Powers, is now a modern 
civilisation in extremis. The direct cause 
of its downfall has been modern war 
leading to physical exhaustion. Only 
through that could the Bolsheviks have 
secured power. Nothing like this Russian 
downfall has ever happened before. If it 
goes on for a year or so more the process 
of collapse will be complete. Nothing 
will be left of Russia but a country of 
peasants ; the towns will be practically 
deserted and in ruins, the railways will be 
rusting in disuse. With the railways will 
go the last vestiges of any general govern- 
ment. The peasants are absolutely 
illiterate and collectively stupid, capable 
of resisting interference but incapable of 
comprehensive foresight and organisation. 
They will become a sort of human swamp 
in a state of division, petty civil war, and 
political squalour, with a famine whenever 
the harvests are bad ; and they will be 
breeding epidemics for the rest of Europe. 
They will lapse towards Asia. 

The collapse of the civilised system in 



The Envoy 147 



Russia into peasant barbarism means that 
Europe will be cut off for many years from 
all the mineral wealth of Russia, and from 
any supply of raw products from this 
area, from its corn, flax, and the like. It 
is an open question whether the Western 
Powers can get along without these sup- 
plies. Their cessation certainly means 
a general impoverishment of Western 
Europe. 

The only possible Government that can 
stave off such a final collapse of Russia now 
is the present Bolshevik Government, if it 
can be assisted by America and the 
Western Powers. There is now no alter- 
native to that Government possible. There 
are of course a multitude of antagonists — 
adventurers and the like — ready, with 
European assistance, to attempt the over- 
throw of that Bolshevik Government, but 
there are no signs of any common purpose 
and moral unity capable of replacing it. 
And moreover there is no time now for 
another revolution in Russia. A year 
more of civil war will make the final 

l 2 



148 Russia in the Shadows 

sinking of Russia out of civilisation in- 
evitable. We have to make what we can, 
therefore, of the Bolshevik Government, 
whether we like it or not. 

The Bolshevik Government is inexperi- 
enced and incapable to an extreme degree ; 
it has had phases of violence and cruelty ; 
but it is on the whole honest. And it 
includes a few individuals of real creative 
imagination and power, who may with 
opportunity, if their hands are strengthened, 
achieve great reconstructions. The Bol- 
shevik Government seems on the whole to 
be trying to act up to its professions, which 
are still held by most of its supporters with 
a quite religious passion. Given generous 
help, it may succeed in establishing a new 
social order in Russia of a civilised type 
with which the rest of the world will be 
able to deal. It will probably be a miti- 
gated Communism, with a large-scale 
handling of transport, industry, and (later) 
agriculture. 

It is necessary that we should under- 
stand and respect the professions and 



The Envoy 149 



principles of the Bolsheviks if we Western 
peoples are to be of any effectual service 
to humanity in Russia. Hitherto these 
professions and principles have been 
ignored in the most extraordinary way by 
the Western Governments. The Bolshevik 
Government is, and says it is, a Communist 
Government. And it means this, and will 
make this the standard of its conduct. 
It has suppressed private ownership and 
private trade in Russia, not as an act of 
expediency but as an act of right ; and 
in all Russia there remain now no com- 
mercial individuals and bodies with whom 
we can deal who will respect the conven- 
tions and usages of Western commercial 
life. The Bolshevik Government, we have 
to understand, has, by its nature, an 
invincible prejudice against individual busi- 
ness men ; it will not treat them in a 
manner that they will consider fair and 
honourable ; it will distrust them and, as 
far as it can, put them at the completest 
disadvantage. It regards them as pirates — 
or at best as privateers. It is hopeless and 



150 Russia in the Shadows 

impossible therefore for individual persons 
and firms to think of going into Russia to 
trade. There is only one being in Russia 
with whom the Western world can deal, 
and that is the Bolshevik Government 
itself, and there is no way of dealing with 
that one being safely and effectually except 
through some national or, better, some 
international Trust. This latter body, 
which might represent some single Power 
or group of Powers, or which might even 
have some titular connection with the 
League of Nations, would be able to 
deal with the Bolshevik Government on 
equal terms. It would have to recognise 
the Bolshevik Government and, in 
conjunction with it, to set about the now 
urgent task of the material restoration of 
civilised life in European and Asiatic 
Russia. It should resemble in its general 
nature one of the big buying and con- 
trolling trusts that were so necessary and 
effectual in the European States during 
the Great War. It should deal with its 
individual producers on the one hand, and 



The Envoy 151 



the Bolshevik Government would deal 
with its own population on the other. 
Such a Trust could speedily make itself 
indispensable to the Bolshevik Govern- 
ment. This indeed is the only way in 
which a capitalist State can hold commerce 
with a Communist State. The attempts 
that have been made during the past year 
and more to devise some method of private 
trading in Russia without recognition 
of the Bolshevik Government were 
from the outset as hopeless as the 
search for the North-West passage from 
England to India. The channels are 
frozen up. 

Any country or group of countries with 
adequate industrial resources which goes 
into Bolshevik Russia with recognition and 
help will necessarily become the supporter, 
the right hand, and the consultant of the 
Bolshevik Government. It will react upon 
that Government and be reacted upon. It 
will probably become more collectivist in 
its methods, and, on the other hand, the 
rigours of extreme Communism in Russia 



152 Russia in the Shadows 

will probably be greatly tempered through 
its influence. 

The only Power capable of playing this 
role of eleventh-hour helper to Russia 
single-handed is the United States of 
America. That is why I find the adven- 
ture of the enterprising and imaginative 
Mr. Vanderlip very significant. I doubt 
the conclusiveness of his negotiations ; 
they are probably only the opening phase 
of a discussion of the Russian problem 
upon a new basis that may lead it at last 
to a comprehensive world treatment of this 
situation. Other Powers than the United 
States will, in the present phase of world- 
exhaustion, need to combine before they 
can be of any effective use to Russia. 
Big business is by no means antipathetic 
to Communism. The larger big business 
grows the more it approximates to Collec- 
tivism. It is the upper road of the few 
instead of the lower road of the masses to 
Collectivism. 

The only alternative to such a helpful 
intervention in Bolshevik Russia is, I 



The Envoy 153 



firmly believe, the final collapse of all that 
remains of modern civilisation throughout 
what was formerly the Russian Empire. 
It is highly improbable that the collapse 
will be limited to its boundaries. Both 
eastward and westward other great regions 
may, one after another, tumble into the 
big hole in civilisation thus created. 
Possibly all modern civilisation may 
tumble in. 

These propositions do not refer to any 
hypothetical future ; they are an attempt 
to state the outline facts and possibilities 
of what is going on — and going on with 
great rapidity — in Russia and in the world 
generally now, as they present themselves 
to my mind. This in general terms is the 
frame of circumstance in which I would 
have the sketches of Russia that have 
preceded this set and read. So it is I 
interpret the writing on the Eastern wall of 
Europe. 



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