Why Chapter Is Written--Venerable Kropotkin's Message Direct From Central Russia--Official Report Of United States Department Of State --Conclusions Of Study Prepared For National Chamber Of Commerce --Authoritative Comment By Men Who Are In Position To Know--A Cartoon And Comment Which Speak For Veterans.
The writers have an idea that the veterans of the North Russian Expedition would like a short, up-to-date chapter on Bolshevism. We used to wonder why it was that John Bolo was so willing to fight us and the White Guards. We would not wish to emphasize the word willing for we remember the fact that many a time when he was beaten back from our defenses we knew by the sound that he was being welcomed back to his camp by machine guns. And the prisoners and wounded whom we captured were not always enthusiastic about the Bolshevism under whose banner they fought. To be fair, however, we must remark that we captured some men and officers who were sure enough believers in their cause.
And the general reader will probably like a chapter presented by men who were over in that civil war-torn north country and who might be expected to gather the very best materials available on the subject of Bolshevism. And what we have gathered we present with not much comment except that we ourselves are trying to keep a tolerant but wary eye upon those who profess to believe in Bolshevism. We say candidly that we think Bolshevism is a failure. But we do not condemn everyone else who differs with us. Let there be fair play and justice to all, freedom of thought and speech, with decent respect for the rights of all.
The first article is adapted from an article in The New York Times of recent date, according to which Margaret Bondfield, a member of the British Labor Delegation which recently visited Russia, went to see Peter Kropotkin, the celebrated Russian economist and anarchist, at his home at Dimitroff, near Moscow. The old man gave her a message to the workers of Great Britain and the western world:
"In the first place, the workers of the civilized world and their friends among other classes should persuade their governments to give up completely the policy of armed intervention in the affairs of Russia, whether that intervention is open or disguised, military, or under the form of subventions by different nations.
"Russia is passing through a revolution of the same significance and of equal importance that England passed through in 1639-1648 and France in 1789-1794. The nations of today should refuse to play the shameful role to which England, Prussia, Austria, and Russia sank during the French Revolution.
"Moreover, it is necessary to consider that the Russian Revolution--which seeks to erect a society in which the full production of the combined efforts of labor, technical skill and scientific knowledge shall go to the community itself--is not a mere accident in the struggle of parties. The revolution has been in preparation for nearly a century by Socialist and Communist propaganda, since the times of Robert Owen, Saint-Simon, and Fourier. And although the attempt to introduce the new society by the dictatorship of a party apparently seems condemned to defeat, it must be admitted that the revolution has already introduced into our life new conceptions of the rights of labor, its true position in society, and the duties of each citizen.
Not only the workers, but all progressive elements in the civilized nations should bring to an end the support so far given to the adversaries of the revolution. This does not mean that there is nothing to oppose in the methods of the Bolshevist government. Far from it! But all armed intervention by a foreign power necessarily results in an increase of the dictatorial tendencies of the rulers and paralyzes the efforts of those Russians who are ready to aid Russia, independent of her government, in the restoration of her life.
"The evils inherent in the party dictatorship have grown because of the war conditions in which this party has maintained itself. The state of war has been the pretext for increasing the dictatorial methods of the party as well as the reason for the tendency to centralize each detail of life in the hands of the government, which has resulted in the cessation of many branches of the nation's usual activities. The natural evils of state Communism have been multiplied tenfold under the pretext that the distress of our existence is due to the intervention of foreigners.
"It is my firm opinion that if the military intervention of the Allies is continued it will certainly develop in Russia a bitter sentiment with respect to the western nations, a sentiment that will be utilized some day in future conflicts. This bitter feeling is already growing.
"So far as our present economic and political situation is concerned, the Russian revolution, being the continuation of the two great revolutions in England and France, undertakes to progress beyond the point where France stopped when she perceived that actual equality consists in economic equality.
"Unfortunately, this attempt has been made in Russia under the strongly centralized dictatorship of a party, the Maximalist Social Democrats. The Baboeuf conspiracy, extremely centralized and jacobinistic, tried to apply a similar policy. I am compelled frankly to admit that, in my opinion, this attempt to construct a communist republic with a strongly centralized state communism as its base, under the iron law of the dictatorship of a party, is bound to end in a fiasco. We are learning in Russia how communism should not be introduced, even by a people weary of the ancient regime and making no active resistance to the experimental projects of the new rulers.
"The Soviet idea--that is to say, councils of workers and peasants, first developed during the revolutionary uprisings of 1905 and definitely realized during the revolution of February, 1917--the idea of these councils controlling the economic and political life of the country, is a great conception. Especially so because it necessarily implies that the councils should be composed of all those who take a real part in the production of national wealth by their own personal efforts.
"But as long as a country is governed by the dictatorship of a party, the workers' and peasants' councils evidently lose all significance. They are reduced to the passive role formerly performed by the states generals and the parliaments when they were convened by the king and had to combat an all-powerful royal council.
"A labor council ceases to be a free council when there is no liberty of the press in the country, and we have been in this situation for nearly two years--under the pretext that we are in a state of war. But that is not all. The workers' and peasants' councils lose all their significance unless the elections are preceded by a free electoral campaign and when the elections are conducted under the pressure of the dictatorship of a party. Naturally, the stock excuse is that the dictatorship is inevitable as a method to fight the ancient regime. But such a dictatorship evidently becomes a barrier from the moment when the revolution undertakes the construction of a new society on a new economic basis. The dictatorship condemns the new structure to death.
"The methods resorted to in overthrowing governments already tottering are well known to history, ancient and modern. But when it is necessary to create new forms of life--especially new forms of production and exchange--without examples to follow, when everything must be constructed from the ground up, when a government that undertakes to supply even lamp chimneys to every inhabitant demonstrates that it is absolutely unable to perform this function with all its employees, however limitless their number may be, when this condition is reached such a government becomes a nuisance. It develops a bureaucracy so formidable that the French bureaucratic system, which imposes the intervention of 40 functionaries to sell a tree blown across a national road by a storm, becomes a bagatelle in comparison. This is what you, the workers in the occidental countries, should and must avoid by all possible means since you have at heart the success of a social reconstruction. Send your delegates here to see how a social revolution works in actual life.
"The prodigious amount of constructive labor necessary under a social revolution cannot be accomplished by a central government, even though it may be guided by something more substantial than a collection of Socialist and anarchistic manuals. It requires all the brain power available and the voluntary collaboration of specialized and local forces, which alone can attack with success the diversity of the economic problems in their local aspects. To reject this collaboration and to rely on the genius of a party dictatorship is to destroy the independent nucleus, such as the trade unions and the local co-operative societies by changing them into party bureaucratic organs, as is actually the case at present. It is the method not to accomplish the revolution. It is the method to make the realization of the revolution impossible. And this is the reason why I consider it my duty to warn you against adopting such methods.
It must be evident to the reader that Russia is at present being ruled by a system of pyramided majorities, many of which are doubtful popular majorities. In the name of the Red Party Lenin and Trotsky rule. They themselves admit it. The dictatorship of the proletariat, and similar terms are used by them in referring to their highly centralized control. We Americans are in the habit of overturning state and national administrations when we think one party has ruled long enough. Even a popular war president at the pinnacle of his power found the American people resenting, so it has been positively affirmed, his plea for the return of his party to continued control in 1918. Can we as a self-governing people look with anything but wonder at the occasional American who fails to see that the perpetual rule of one party year after year which we as Americans have always doubted the wisdom of, is the very thing that Lenin and Trotsky have fastened upon Russia. Russia, that wanted to be freed from the Romanoff rule and its bureaucratic system of fraud, waste, and cruelty, today groans under a system of despotism which is just as, if not more, wasteful, fraudulent and cruel.
There are sincere people who might think that because the Bolsheviks have kept themselves in power, that they must be right. We can not agree with the reasoning. Even if we knew nothing about the bayonets and machine guns and firing squads and prisons, we would not agree to the reasoning that the Bolshevik government is right just because it is in power. We prefer the reasoning of the greatest man whom America has produced, Abraham Lincoln, whose words, which we quote, seem to us to exactly fit the present Russian situation:
"A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only free sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left."--Abraham Lincoln.
The Chamber of Commerce of the United States has, through Frederic J. Haskin, Washington, D. C., distributed an admirable pamphlet, temperate and judicial, which compares the Soviet system with the American constitutional system. This pamphlet written by Hon. Burton L. French, of Idaho, concludes his discussion as follows:
"In a government that has been heralded so widely as being the most profound experiment in democracy that has ever been undertaken, we would naturally expect that the franchise would be along lines that would recognize all mankind embraced within the citizenship of the nation as standing upon an equal footing. The United States has for many years adhered to that principle. It was that principle largely for which our fathers died when they established our government, and yet that principle seems foreign to the way of thinking of Lenin and Trotsky as they shaped the Russian constitution.
PARALLEL 8--THOSE WHO MAY VOTE RUSSIA 1. The franchise extends to all over 18 years of age who have acquired the means of living through manual labor, and also persons engaged in housekeeping for the former.
UNITED STATES All men (and women in many states, and soon in all) who are citizens and over 21 years of age, excepting those disfranchised on account of illiteracy, mental ailment or criminal record.
"Bear in mind the liberal franchise with which the American Nation meets her citizens and let me ask you to contemplate the franchise that is handed out to the people of Russia who are; 18 years of age or over who have acquired the means of living through labor that is productive and useful to society and persons engaged in housekeeping in behalf of the former are entitled to the franchise. Who else? The soldiers of the army and navy. Who else? Any of the former two classes who have become incapacitated.
"Now turn to the next sections of the Russian constitution and see who are disfranchised.
"The merchant is disfranchised; ministers of all denominations are disfranchised; and then, while condemning the Czar for tyranny, the soviet constitution solemnly declares that those who were in the employ of the Czar or had been members of the families of those who had ruled in Russia for many generations shall be denied suffrage.
"Persons who have income from capital or from property that is theirs by reason of years of frugality, industry, and thrift are penalized by being denied the right to vote. They are placed in the class with criminals, while the profligate, the tramp who works enough to obtain the means by which he can hold body and soul together, is able to qualify under the constitution of Russia and is entitled to a vote. Under that system in the United States the loyal men and women who bought Liberty Bonds, in their country's peril would be disfranchised while the slacker would have the right of suffrage.
"Persons who employ hired labor in order to obtain from it an increase in profits may not vote or hold office. Under that system the manufacturer who furnishes employment for a thousand men would be denied the ballot, while those in his employ could freely exercise the right of franchise. Under that system the farmer who hires a crew of men to help him harvest his crop is denied the franchise. Under that system the dairyman who hires a boy to milk his cows or to deliver milk is denied the franchise.
"The constitution of Russia adopts the declaration of rights as part of the organic act to the extent that changes have not been made, by the constitution. Examine them--the constitution and the declaration of rights--we find other most astounding doctrines in the soviet fundamental law. I shall not discuss but merely mention a few of them. They do not pertain so much to the structure of government as they do to the economic and social conditions surrounding the people under the soviet system:
"First. Private ownership of land is abolished. (No compensation, open or secret, is paid to the former owner.)
"Second. Civil marriage alone is legal. By act of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets a marriage may be accomplished by the contracting parties declaring the fact orally, or by writing to the department of registry of marriage. Divorce is granted by petition of both or either party upon proof alone that divorce is desired.
"Third. The teaching of religious doctrines is forbidden in private schools, as well as in schools that are public.
"Fourth. No church or religious society has the right to own property. (The soviet leaders boldly proclaim the home and the church as the enemies of their system, and from the foregoing it would seem that they are trying to destroy them.)
"Fifth. Under the general authority granted to the soviets by the constitution inheritance of property by law or will has been abolished.
"These amazing features of the constitution and laws enacted under the constitution speak more eloquently than any words that could be used to amplify them in portraying the hideousness of a system of government that, if permitted to continue, must inevitably crush out the home in large part by the flippancy with which marriage and divorce are regarded, by the refusal of permitting the land to be held in private ownership, and by refusing the parent the right at death to pass on to his wife or to his children the fruits of years of toil.
"What, then, is my arraignment of sovietism according to the soviet constitution?
"1. The people have no direct vote or voice in government, except the farmers in their local rural soviets and the city dwellers in their urban soviets.
"2. The rural, county, provincial, regional, and All-Russian soviets are elected indirectly, and the people have no direct vote in the election.
"3. The people have no voice in the election of executive officers of the highest or lowest degrees.
"4. There is no mention of independent judicial officers in the constitution.
"5. The people are very largely disfranchised.
"6. The farmer of Russia is discriminated against.
"7. The system raises class against class; the voters vote by trade and craft groups instead of on the basis of thought units.
"8. The system strikes a blow at the church and the home.
"9. The system is pyramidal and means highly centralized and autocratic power.
"The soviet system of government can not be defended. It is against the interests of the very men for whom it is supposed to have been established--the laboring man. He is the man most of all who must suffer under any kind of government or system that is wrong. He is the man who would be out of bread within the shortest time. He is the man whose family would be destitute of clothing in the shortest time. He is the man whose family will suffer through disease, famine, and pestilence in the shortest time.
"As it is against the best interest of the laboring man, so it is against the best interest of all the people, and, as a matter of fact, the overwhelming mass of people of this country and all countries is made up of laboring people.
"Finally, the soviet government, as foreshadowed in its constitution, is obviously unjust, unfair and discriminatory. This fact will appear at once to any mind trained to the American manner of thought, which takes the trouble to investigate sovietism, and whatever tendency there may be to approve will disappear with better understanding."
"Men in high places who have had opportunity to get the facts," says Mr. Burton, "give their impressions of the experiment:
"WOODROW WILSON, President of the United States.--'There is a closer monopoly of power in Moscow and Petrograd than there ever was in Berlin.'
"SAMUEL GOMPERS, President of the American Federation of Labor.-- 'Bolshevism is as great an attempt to disrupt the trade unions as it is to overturn the government of the United States. It means the decadence or perversion of the civilization of our time. To me, the story of the desperate Samson who pulled the temple down on his head is an example of what is meant by bolshevism.'
"MORRIS HILLQUIT, International Secretary of the Socialist Party.--'The Socialists of the United States would have no hesitancy whatsoever in joining forces with the rest of their countrymen to repel the Bolsheviki who would try to invade our country and force a form of government upon our people which our people were not ready for, and did not desire.'
"HERBERT HOOVER, Former United States Food Administrator.--'The United States has been for one hundred and fifty years steadily developing a social philosophy of its own. This philosophy has stood this test in the fire of common sense. We have a willingness to abide by the will of the majority. For all I know it may be necessary to have revolutions in some places in Europe in order to bring about these things, but it does not follow that such philosophies have any place with us.'
"WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT, Former President of the United States.--'I do not fear bolshevism in this country. I do not mean that in congested centers foreigners and agitators will not have influence. But Americans as a whole have a deep love for America. It is a vital love that the sensational appeals of bolshevists and agitators cannot weaken'."
A yellowed and tattered cartoon that hung on a Company bulletin board at 466 when the snow was slipping away.
"America Looks Mighty. Good After You've Seen Europe" is the title.
On the right stands the Bolshevik orator on a soap box. His satchel bursting out with propaganda and pamphlets on Bolshevism from Europe. In his hand he holds a pamphlet that has a message for the returning doughboys. The agitator's hair and whiskers bristle with hatred and envy. His yellow teeth look hideous between his snarling lips. And he points a long skinny finger for the doughboy to see his message, which is, "Down with America, it's all Wrong." So much for the man who came from Europe to wreck America.
Now look at the Man Who Went to Europe to Save America and is now back on the west side of the Statue of Liberty. Does he look interested in Bolshevism Or downhearted over America? No. In his figure a manful contrast to the scraggly agitator. In his face no hate, no malice. He does not even hate the self-deluded agitator.
His clean-brushed teeth are exposed by a good-humored smile of assurance and confidence. He does not extend a fist but he waves off the fool Bolshevik orator with a good-natured but nevertheless final answer. And here it is: "Go on--Take That Stuff Back to Where You Got it--I Wouldn't Trade a Log Hut on a Swamp in America for the Whole of Europe!"
We are thinking that the cartoon just about says it for all returned soldiers from North Russia. We want nothing to do with the Bolo agitator in this country who would make another Russia of the United States. We let them blow off steam, are patient with their vagaries, are willing to give every man a fair hearing if he has a grievance, but we don't fall for their wild ideas about tearing things up by the roots.
[Illustration: Cartoon. Ship at an American pier in the background. Soldier standing erect on the left says "Go on--Take That Stuff Back to Where You Got it--I Wouldn't Trade a Log Hut on a Swamp in America for the Whole of Europe!" Orator standing crouched on soapbox on the right. Orator is holding a paper saying "Down with America! It's all wrong!" Papers in orator's sack: "Bolshevism from Europe" "East side of New York propaganda"] AMERICA LOOKS MIGHTY GOOD AFTER YOU'VE SEEN EUROPE --COLUMBUS EVENING DISPATCH*****
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