20 DECEMBER 1930, Page 14


A Li Trlin FROM Moscow.

[Our correspondent, Mr. Duranty, has lived in Russia many years and is the correspondent of the New York Times in Moscow. We publish his interesting report exactly as received and take no iesponsibility for the views or opinions expressed.—En. Spectator.] [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—English newspaper-readers might well he excused of recent weeks for believing that the " Thermidor " of the Bolshevik Revolution, predicted three or four years ago by no less eminent a hierophant of its mysteries than Leon Trotsky, had come at last. Stalin assassinated, so ran the headlines, the Red Army in revolt, the Government over- thrown, and a military dictatorship in power, Moscow echoing to the rattle of machine-guns, its streets spattered with blood and rows of corpses in its squares.

The headlines varied in vehemence, but such was their general purport. Curiously enough, however, none of the sensational reports below them had a Moscow " dateline," which may have escaped the eye of the average reader. All these thrilling stories hailed from Berlin, or Riga, or Hel- singfors, or somewhere else outside the territory of the U.S.S.R. Moscow correspondents were dumb, or terrorized, or isolated by the rupture of telephone and telegraph communication (this was actually stated in one message from Berlin), or simply, which proved to be the fact, knew nothing about these exciting events in their midst.

They knew nothing for the best of reasons. " Thermidor " was a pure invention, manufactured out of whole cloth by Russian emigres in Berlin, Rigs, &c., and fed by them to trusting, if naive, reporters in Berlin, Riga, &c., who swal- lowed it like pap. Murders, mutinies, counter-revolution, and rows of corpses in the Theatre Square of Moscow were all

part of a gigantic mystification, the most amazing hoax of public opinion since the German " corpse-factories " of the Great War.

Your correspondent is the last person to defend the Soviet censorship, whose existence and alleged severity have led some of the leading English newspapers to seek their information about events in the U.S.S.R. from Berlin or Riga rather than Moscow. (And, like Saul, seeking for his father's asses, lo ! they have found it.) It is, nevertheless, a fact that the great news agencies and newspapers of Germany and the United, States have maintained representatives in Moscow during the last eight years, most of whom sometimes find the censorship irksome, as censorships are apt to be, but rarely impeding the transmission of news, except for occasional delays, for pur- poses of verification. At that the censorship is confined to telegraphic dispatches. " Mail copy " is allowed to pass without restriction, and Warsaw is only twenty-four hours' journey from Moscow. Setting Moscow newspaper corre- spondents aside, it is rather startling to find that the World Press swallowed all these rumours so readily, in apparent forgetfulness that there are now in Moscow some twenty foreign diplomatic Representations, including the Embassies of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, who are bound by no censorship, enjoy right of code telegrams and sealed courier bags, to say nothing of diplomatic immunity and free- dom of movement for their staffs. Were they also terrorized, is it suggested, or merely indifferent, or just ignorant and blind and deaf ? However it may be, none of them noticed or reported to their home Governments anything unusual in the somewhat drab life of contemporary Moscow. The K6lnische Zeitung, staid bourgeois organ of Rhineland business, has admitted that the reports of " startling events " in Moscow were inspired by emigre or other anti-Soviet sources abroad, and has published an indignant message from its Moscow correspondent denouncing these " preposterous inventions." In addition, the correspondent explains what all the fuss and pother was about. It was nothing more or less than a smoke-screen and counter-barrage in reply to the act of indictment of the "Engineers' Conspiracy" which was published on November 11th. The most important of émigré organizations, the " Financial, Commercial and Industrial Union" of Paris, which financed the ill-starred expedition of General Wrangel in 1919-20, and was the real " Wrangel Government," so astonishingly recog- nized by France (as M. Poincare himself declared) on the eve of its total collapse, was directly accused by the Soviet act of indictment of fomenting and financing the attempt of a group of ex-bourgeois engineers and technicians in Soviet employment to produce an economic crisis in the U.S.S.R., with a view to provoking counter-revolution, which would be hailed by the Union and its friends in France and her allies in Eastern Europe, Poland, and Rumania as an excuse for new intervention. How far these charges were justified, or sub- stantiated by the trial of the engineers in question, is beside the mark. One thing is clear, the withers of the Union were not unwrung, and it and other enemies of the Soviet involved in the accusation leapt forward with a counter-thesis : The Soviet was desperate, the Five Year Plan a ghastly failure, Russia was starving, and the Kremlin, tottering on its base, had clutched at the last straw of hope, a scapegoat and excuse in the eleventh hour, the machinations of our enemies at home and abroad."

So the emigres "unscrupulously invented," as the Kolnische Zeitung says, a fantastic medley of strife, massacre, and mutiny in the Soviet State to support its thesis that the Bolshivek regime was desperate and tottering to ruin. They found an unexpected ally in an imaginative English engineer, who told a reputable London newspaper—from Riga, however —that he personally had been eye-witness of a bloody combat in the streets of Moscow, after which he had seen • rows of corpses " in the Central Theatre Square. All your corre- spondent can say is that it did not happen. There was no fighting, no rattle of machine-guns, no crash of bombs, no thud of cannon, and, finally, no corpses. A terminological inexactitude," as Mr. Winston Churchill, who, it seems from his recent article, is willing to believe anything about Soviet Russia, once remarked.

Your correspondent feels that an apology is due to the Spectator and its readers for thus rudely challenging the veracity of great newspapers or of the emigre patriots of the Paris • Union.' But there is a certain stubbornness about facts which words and virulence cannot overcome. Either Stalin was murdered or not ; either the Bolshevik regime was overthrown or not ; either the streets of Moscow were full of war's tumult and blood and corpses or not. And your correspondent believes that the Spectator and its readers want the truth about Russia, not sugar-coated by Bolshevik propaganda, nor blood-coated by emigre hatred.

In the U.S.S.R. to-day there are four important factors to determine national life—the Five Year. Plan, the question of supply of goods and food, the Agrarian Reform, and the Intra-Party controversy.

The Five Year Plan, however it may have been presented abroad, is only a budgetal programme, covering for the sake of convenience live years instead of one, for the industrial and agrarian reconstruction of Russia upon a Socialist (that is, State-capitalist) basis. Its original estimates, issued in the autumn of 1928, required an increase of industrial pro- duction averaging 20 per cent. per annum, which is far in excess of the average increase of any capitalist State, but seemed feasible for a backward country like Russia, with its immense natural resources, which had been barely scratched in the past, its great reserves of man-power, and its centralized control. The end of the first year, September 80th, 1929, showed that the programme had been carried out with big surpluses in many directions. Accordingly, the plan was altered to estimate increases of production from 30 to 40 per cent. during the fiscal year October 1st, 1929, to' September 80th, 1930. This raised figure was not reached, although in almost every department of industry results materially surpassed the original estimates of 20 per cent. increase. The Soviet Press, in its effort to stimulate production and put into being the Kremlin " slogan " of self-criticism, made a great outcry about " shortcomings and failures of the (revised) Five Year Plan," and conveyed the impression; quite wrongly, that the original estimates had not been reached. Meanwhile the plan was putting a great strain on the Russian people. Explained briefly, it was a tremendous " speculation in futures ' by a whole nation, requiring an unprecedented " capital investment " of national wealth and energy in enterprises whose return could not be apparent for two or three years, railways, metallurgic and automotive factories, dams and power plants, &c. Most of the equip- ment and technical advice for these enterprises must be purchdsed from abroad, and the only way Soviet Russia could pay was by export of commodities, furs, food and such raw materials as oil, timber, coal, and manganese, all of which were more or less needed at home. It is the opinion of your correspondent that no such strain has been imposed on any nation in time of peace.

The effect in Russia, where transportation is far from equal to what is required of it, and the new Socialist system of goods distribution and sale still unsatisfactory, was to produce an acute goods and commodity shortage throughout the country. Everywhere demand exceeds supply tenfold, and if anything like a " free market " was permitted, com- modity prices would reach vertiginous heights. Actually food and the important commodities are strictly rationed on a. card system like that obtaining in Europe during the War, with fixed prices. No one gets as much as he wants, there are queues and delays and grumbling, but it is not true that the food rations are so inadequate as to involve privation, much less real hunger. There is no famine in Russia, nor starvation.

What might have happened had this year's harvest failed is a matter of conjecture, but it did not fail. The surplus of grain over the needs of both the urban and rural popula- tions is at least six million metric tons, probably eight or nine millions. The sugar-beet and cotton crops showed an even greater proportionate increase over the previous year. The U.S.S.R. is assured of enough cereals, sugar, and textiles to satisfy home needs. The Soviet Press, perhaps correctly, ascribes this jump in agricultural production to the collective farm movement, the Agrarian Reform, which has met considerable opposition among the eonvervative and individualist peasantry of Russia, but has nevertheless gained much ground during the past two years. To-day half of the farms in the chief grain-producing areas are collectivized, there are vast areas under cultivation by State farms, and their production rate per acre is from- 20 to 50 per cent. higher than the individual holdings. The Agrarian Reform, however unpopular at the outset, is justifying itself by results, and new State cattle and pig farms, built up in the last nine months to replace animals slaughtered by individual peasants who did not like the collective system, have come into being to handle the meat and fat problem on a mass- production basis- In respect of cereal and stock production no impartial observer can deny that the outlook is hopeful.

It must not be supposed, however, that all is for the best in the best of all Bolshevik worlds. A bitter controversy has raged within the Communist Party itself about the tempo or rate of progress required by the Five Year Plan. Rykof, Tomsky, and Bukharin, and more recently a group of Stalin's own " young men " headed by Sertzof and Lominadze, have argued that the strain upon the nation is too great; that festina lente is a wiser motto than the headlong rush which may lead only to destruction. Stalin and the Kremlin do not think so and have dealt hardly with the Opposition. Sertzof and Lominadze have been expelled from the Central Committee of the Communist Party and it is not improbable that Rykof will be removed from his post as President of the Council of Commissars. As far as the intra-party discussion is concerned, the engineers' trial has notably aided the Kremlin. The Russian masses are as sensitive to the word " intervention " as the French to the thought of German " revanche." The trial has had the effect of rallying them round the Kremlin more solidly than ever; and far from thinking of revolt they have given the Kremlin carte blanche to deal as it will with intra-party doubters, with disaffected elements at home, and enemies abroad.—I am, Sir,