Bolshevism and the Russian Peasants
In the early days of the Bolshevik regime, when we were giving Bolsheviks full credit for the magnificent efforts they were making on behalf of the working class, we met with violent abuse from many 100 per cent. revolutionaries, who, fresh from supporting the war, had just discovered that Kerensky whom they hailed was no better than President Wilson whom they hailed before him.
They were unable to understand that it is not wise, nor even helpful, to credit men with actions which are in the nature of the case impossible. We said then that, with the best will in the world, the Bolsheviks could not establish Socialism in Russia; certain other things they could do and did do. In particular we said that the peasants, the great majority, did not understand Socialism, and did not want it. It was also quite apparent that nothing fundamental could be done without their consent.
The Soviet Government was, of course, concentrating on Socialist propaganda, but apart from the fact that the most definite want felt by the peasants was satisfied by the acquisition of land, the Bolsheviks were also faced with the difficulty of reaching people who in the main could not read.
This enormous obstacle was airily disposed of by our critics, and we were often assured that the Bolsheviks had done in a few months what could not be done in this country by years of persistent propaganda.
It is, therefore, of interest to learn just how much has really been accomplished. The following extract is from a report of a recent congress on “The Peasant Press” contained in Russian Information and Review (January 12th, 1924):—
“Throughout the R.S.F.S.R. there are only 32 regional peasant newspapers, with a circulation of 115,000; 39 county newspapers, with a circulation of 50,000: and the Moscow Bicdnota, with a circulation- of 45,000.”
Thus, after 6 years of State aided propaganda, only 1 peasant household out of every 100 takes a copy of a newspaper.
Hopes are entertained that by 1925 this circulation can be multiplied 10 times, so that 1 household in 10 will receive a copy.
Consideration of these figures will show what work has to be done and how incredibly foolish were those who in 1917 and 1918 [who] believed that the establishment of Socialism in Russia was even imminent.