By MALCOLM MUGGERIDGE
The Morning Post,
Monday, June 5, 1933
Below we publish the first of four remarkable articles, on the present
situation in Russia by Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge, who recently acted for eight
months as the Moscow Correspondent of an English Liberal newspaper.
Mr. Muggeridge went to Russia a convinced and enthusiastic Communist. He
came away entirely disillusioned about the Soviet regime. He has drawn a
faithful and terrible picture of human suffering under existing conditions,
and has described his own disillusionment in moving and memorable words.
By MALCOLM MUGGERIDGE
Future historians are likely to have some difficulty in accounting for the
remarkable vogue of the Five-Year Plan. How, they will wonder, did it come
about that so fantastic, so elephantine, so patently inefficient and
wasteful a project impressed, not merely simple-minded idealists, but also
reputable economists, successful business men, particularly American, and
To answer this question they will have to attempt to recreate the general
character of the post-war period in which the Plan was floated - instability
so great that any positive proposal, however extravagant, was received
respectfully; size so worshipped that the (on paper) biggest of all
big-business, socialist big-business, seemed wholly admirable because of its
scale; statistics so profuse and so widely honoured that a project, when it
was expounded statistically, was taken as having been achieved.
The general conception, I imagine, of the Five-Year Plan is of something
graphed and written down which is fulfilled as accurately and regularly as,
in European countries other than Russia, trains fulfil their time-tables.
In this sense, the Plan never had any existence. In so far as there has
been a Plan at all, it has been altered, and altered considerably, almost
from day to day. Its object was to industrialise the country rapidly and on
a large scale, mainly with art eye to military preparedness. In regard to
this last, I am not competent to speak, but would refer those interested to
one of the very few accurate and profound studies of Soviet Russia - "La
Revolution Russe," by Henry Rollin - where they will find the matter
excellently discussed and in great detail.
A FABIAN FAIRYLAND
It was not difficult for the Soviet Government, with the aid of highly-paid
foreign engineers and by importing foreign machinery, to bring into
existence a number of large and, in themselves, sufficiently impressive
Food products and timber and oil and furs, dumped abroad, chiefly in
England, at fabulously low prices, realised the necessary valuta;
printing-presses made available an unlimited number of paper roubles; and
with a ready supply of political prisoners to undertake - for no wages - the
more arduous tasks, as for instance, digging canals, and, with a
working-class so intimidated that the proletarian Pharaohs, like the
Egyptian, need fear no labour troubles in building their pyramids, socialist
construction seemed to booming.
Visiting Americans found the situation delectable; they stood in front of
the "largest hydro-electric station in the world" with wonder and awe in
their eves, and asked themselves whether, after all, Wall Street had not
something to learn from Karl Marx. Parties of Fabians and pacifists and
promoters of cultural relations with the Soviet Union had pointed out to
them by dainty ''Intourist"' guides the sites of wonderful socialist cities,
saw the very plans, and felt that at last their dreams had come true.
It seems almost a pity that this Fabian fairyland, which, apart from the
hundred-and-sixty million inhabitants of Russia, has given so much innocent
pleasure to so many amiable people, provided the subject-matter for so many
interesting articles in newspapers and periodicals, led to so much
instructive lecturing in halls on the radio, should have proved
unsubstantial. Such, however, is the fact.
The industrial enterprises, admirable as to size, failed to produce anything
that anyone wanted; Soviet industry was heavy rather than light, very heavy;
the peasants, some 90 per cent, of the population, lacking
class-consciousness and a proper appreciation of the advantages of a
dictatorship of the proletariat, grew tired of provisioning and paying for
socialist construction and starving themselves, and ate up their cattle and
horses and neglected their fields, with the result that the factory-workers
began to suffer from a food shortage and the Government from a
valuta-shortage; the fecundity of the rouble - here at least production far
exceeded the Plan's estimates! - led to its heavy depreciation, and even the
political prisoners, having no other means of protest, died most wastefully.
To deal with this situation the Government has adopted a series of drastic
and characteristic measures. It has dismissed large numbers of
factory-workers - in Kharkov, for instance, 20,000 and in Moscow at least
500,000 - and ruthlessly pruned all administrative offices. It has
suspended new industrial development and issued the most stringent
regulations in regard to expenditure, which result, in many cases, in wages
falling several months into arrears.
Factory discipline has been tightened up by taking food distribution out of
the hands of the co-operatives, over which the consumers had some measure of
control, and putting it in the hands of the factory managements with
instructions to punish slackness, even missing one day's work without a
medical certificate - incidentally, almost unobtainable owing to the
shortage of doctors - or unpunctuality, by the withdrawal of ration cards,
that is, by starvation.
This programme or retrenchment has naturally led to unemployment. The
dictatorship of the proletariat's method of dealing with an unemployment
(The rest of the article is missing. We expect to be able to post the
entire article soon. ArtUkraine.com)
ArtUkraine.com thanks Margaret Siriol Colley and Nigel Collery for
providing the article above. Please check out their website about
Gareth Jones, Welch journalist, who reported accurately on the
conditions he found in the Soviet Union in the early 1930's.