17 OCTOBER 1941, Page 16

Facts About Russia

THE former M.P. for North Lanark, Miss Jennie Lee, has written in this unpretentious pamphlet one of the best books on Russia for the ordinary person that has yet been published in English. In a brief introduction she says : " This booklet is not written for fanatics, either pro-Russian or anti-Russian," and throughout she displays the scientific spirit of an honest observer, who is passionately concerned to know facts first, and to draw conclusions afterwards. In a preliminary chapter she describes what conditions were when she first saw Leningrad eleven years ago. As the daughter of a working miner she had then certain social advantages in Russia. She frankly admits this inverted privilege and snobism, and one of the first experi- ences she records is her meeting with a Russian, the son of a gentleman who had owned a big estate before the Revolution. He had accepted the new order, and was an ambitious young man, anxious to get on in it, but complained that because of his unfortunate ancestry there was no place for him at Moscow University. " But," adds Miss Lee, " that was Russia eleven years ago! Much has changed since ;hen. This fetish of proletarian ancestry, for instance, is no longer considered so necessary." What is still necessary, she admits, is "to conform to orthodox political views."

The Russians have a new social gospel to which they have committed themselves. It is only logical that they should insist on carrying out their programme rigorously, and learning by experience what works and what does not work. When one starts building there is no place for unbelievers who think build- ing futile; but there must soon be room for critics who say " try this rather than that, you will find it better," and Miss Lee convinces one that Russia was also advancing in this direction and had already reached a point in her development when what she herself describes as " the cult of the working man," had lost its original narrowness of conception. What is most ex- cellent in Miss Lee's book is her frank first-hand account Of exactly how the people in such parts of Russia as she visited (and from the beginning she abandoned the official tour) care! on their daily'lives. In her chapters on " Homes of the People, " Religion," " Education," &c., she does not describe in glowing language ihe ideals and the doctrines with which most writers on Russia awaken incredulity in the sensible reader, but puts down exactly what she has seen, and admits the many glaring deficiencies. The result is that we finish this booklet with 3

feeling of pride and exhilaration in the many real achievements of our ally.

U.S.S.R. contains more than forty pages of statistical material about Russia, with thirty-one designs in pictorial form by David Ellison. The sources of its figures are the Statistical Year-Book of the League of Nations, Geneva, 1940, the American Review on the Soviet Union, and various official Russian docu-