Dora B. Montefiore

Something to Learn from Russia

Source: The Communist, August 5, 1920, p. 4 (1,117 words)
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Of course we Communists have always known that the Government and its hireling capitalist press possessed reams of information about the real state of things in Russia, and that the “Red Terrors,” the “orgies of bloodshed,” the “ferocious tyrants” (Lenin and Trotsky), and the “ruthless anarchy” were so many dressed up lay figures drawn from time to time across the half-darkened Russian stage in order to make the flesh of the bourgeois, and the non-class-conscious worker creep whenever the word “Bolshevik” was used. As long as it was possible the truth was hidden from the public, who were, as usual, only too ready to be gulled by goblin stories of a country about which they knew little or nothing.

But truth, in the case of Russia, was not only stranger, but stronger than fiction, and those who were closely watching the half-darkened Russian stage saw, not only the ridiculous lay figures being danced about in front of their eyes, but saw also in the background the shifting of scenes, the grouping of serious and enthused actors, and the setting of the whole stage for a drama such as the world had not yet witnessed. Those in other countries, whose hearts throbbed in unison with that supreme drama, signalled their solidarity and did their utmost with pen and tongue to interpret its meaning to the world. From time to time, one by one of those who were watching the Russian stage managed to push their way to the back and were lost for a time in its darkened gloom. When they finally returned they, one and all, had wonderful tales to tell of the reconstructive work for the future being carried on. They told of a nation which, having renounced all imperialist designs, yet had to organise and keep in the field a modern army with its overwhelming demands, because other nations, in a more backward state of political and economic evolution, had vowed that the new Russian Republic should not be permitted to continue. They told of a country which, in spite of the terrible hardships forced upon it by outside military pressure, was not only making good, but was giving an object lesson to other countries in producing for use instead of for profit.

But still the lying capitalist press continued its fantastic stories until one day it became apparent that not only could Russia continue to do without us in her process of post-war reconstruction, but that we and the other Western nations of Europe could not do without her, and, as a result of that discovery, tentative efforts were made for trade communication between Russia and Great Britain with, as an ultimate outcome, Peace for Russia.

Immediately there was this distinct chance of Peace and of future trade between Great Britain and Russia, the tone of some of our capitalist newspapers changed and truths were allowed to reach the public through their columns, which, had always till then been suppressed.

One of the most interesting of these belated informative articles appeared “The Observer,” of July 11th, by Mr. George Young, who, though perhaps he scarcely realises it himself, has fallen a victim, intellectually and spiritually, to Bolshevism, which, it would appear, is as infectious as influenza. “If” writes Mr. Young, “our labour regulation and food rationing were good, theirs (the Bolsheviks) are both fairer and more efficient. Thus the principle that food is the raw material of labour, vaguely recognised by us in respect of soldiers and miners, has been elaborated by them until food is switched on and off Government departments, factories or private households, as public demands upon them vary.” Mr. Young has got hold of part of the Communist ideal that food, clothing, warmth and shelter are the right of every producer by hand and brain, but not having the clue to the formula, he has narrowed it down to the food question only.

But that he has felt, if but dimly, the spiritual urge which is the motive power driving the material machinery of Communism is proved by the following passage: “Devotion and discipline in this ‘internal front’ are organised into a ‘Red Army,’ or more accurately perhaps into a Religious order—the Communist Party. And those Communists are men who have made the great renunciation. They are the First Hundred Thousand—a missionary and militant order, with Lenin for Loyola.” Nothing finer could be told of these men and women, many of whom we know personally, than that they are “the First Hundred Thousand” who are blazing the trail along which millions will shortly follow.

Mr. Young has the flair of the journalist, and he has absorbed through his pores the revolutionary fact that Communism is the coming mould into which society, in its present state of disintegration and flux, is to be poured. He describes intelligently and in detail the three Communist sets of wires along which are transmitted the administrative messages passing between the producers and those they have put into administrative power. These are the Soviets with the Council of Commissaries; the Trades Unions, and the Supreme Council of National Economy, and the Consumers’ Communes, with the Centro-Coyus (Cooperatives). After explaining how the Supreme Council not only commands the labour army but controls all raw materials and manufactures, Mr. Young remarks: “Imagine a big business body in London with an economic authority even approaching this, and where would the political power really reside?” This is the question on which capitalism is breaking its teeth at present. When the workers finally wake up to their own organised power, they may perhaps present the capitalist with the answer!

But Mr. Young’s last sentence is the most pregnant. He has been told by the Communists in Russia that they expect their country in the future to be a “Federation of Co-operative Associations,” of “Consumers’ Communes,” centring in the “Centro-Coyus,” and he thinks that “the recent rapid development of national and international cooperation caused by the war tends to corroborate this theory.” He, however, treats us to the usual pacifist wheeze about our change coming through evolution rather than through revolution, but it is probable his article would not have been accepted without that academic platitude. “In the meantime,” he adds, “there is much more to be learnt from Russia than differences between the Soviet and Parliamentary forms of democratic representation.” That is indeed so; and those who have intelligence and vision may learn, and are learning, from the cloud of witnesses of every caste of thought and shade of politics who return from Russia, of the mighty adventure in reconstructive justice being carried on in that country.