1930s >> 1936 >> no-377-january-1936

A Letter from Russia

(The letter below is translated from “Here sulo,” an Esperanto journal published in Paris. The letter is dated November 15th, 1935, and is written from Russia. Owing to the savage repression of Socialist and other opponents of the Communist Party, the name and address of the writer are not given. The letter is useful as a reminder that independent views still gain expression in spite of the Dictatorship.’)

Although I do not doubt that you certainly have sent me “heretical” literature, yet, if by chance this letter reaches you, it will show that I have received nothing from you for the past two months— absolutely nothing. I should like to pour out my indignation concerning this grave-like home of orthodoxy in which I am compelled to live—with a mask over my face. You will understand that the more indignant one may be, the more necessary it is outwardly to exhibit approval of the regime, and to cry loudly on every occasion, “Long Live Stalin the Great!” But this pouring out of indignation would avail nothing, and I know that you prefer concrete, exact facts and figures.

Therefore, you will find on the other side a table, which I compiled from the most trustworthy sources and which relates to prices at the beginning of October. You can prepare a similar table of prices in Paris, and in that way will be able to judge the standard of living of the Soviet working-class as it is eighteen years after its “emancipation.”

[This table, and a similar one compiled for France, are excluded for reasons of space. They show that average wages in Russia will buy much less food than can be bought by average wages in France. The comparison is, however, incomplete, because it does not take into account the low rents in Russia and the services provided free of cost.— Editorial Committee.]

However, I cannot refrain from saying that this low standard of living is not the worst side of our “socialist” regime; at least, so far as I myself am concerned. In the main, I long for freedom of speech and of meeting; I am sick to death with. “officialism.” But— and that possibly will be the most terrible news to you — more and more people here lose the desire for liberty: the new generation does not even understand what liberty means to you and me. Its chief care and desire is only to follow precisely the instructions from the Kremlin.

In the schools they are shamelessly reintroducing the old, traditional method of teaching, with strict discipline for the scholars. And it will appear to you very characteristic that there is great agitation to put all the scholars into uniforms. Soon our schools will be like barracks. In the Army also, discipline becomes more and more strict. Recently, they even re-established the old ranks, so that “Comrade” Vorosilov is now a Marshal! In every way they popularise him by means of articles and pictures. On the specimen postcard accompanying this letter you can admire his fat, jovial and self-satisfied face, and his breast decorated with eight orders.

What also characterises our present régime is the widespread campaign of so-called “udamiks,” whose task is to speed-up production and secure a record output.

The new kind of exploitation under our State capitalism has reached such a degree that in some places workers, in their resentment, have attacked these record-breakers. Of course, the result has been that the suppression has been intensified. I knew working conditions in Czarist times, and can assure you that the working-class were less driven then than now (literally “their sweat was more precious then than now ”).
Not only was their sweat more precious, but their lives also. With regard to that, judge for yourself from the following information, which is printed in black and white in Izvestia, on November 10th, 1935. Nozdrin, a railway conductor, was condemned to death and executed because he caused a collision between two trains. Note that no lives were lost, and that the accident occurred between goods trains. Under the Czarist regime such a monstrous punishment would not have been possible, nor, I am sure, would it be possible in any other country. Our technical experts are more heartless than aristocrats or plutocrats.
Possibly it would be wiser for me to forget these things, ignore what is around me, and simply enjoy the privileged situation which I personally happen to have. But I just cannot forget that we made a revolution in order to stop the exploitation of men by men, and that the result is quite different from what we aimed at. If only our experience could teach the Western working-class! But it seems not so, as our exploiters are still considered by you to be revolutionaries.
Dear comrade, pardon the bitter tone of my letter, and only remember this: on no account and at no time should workers resign the right of free speech and of meeting freely; under no excuse and in no circumstances ought they to consent to their trade unions and co-operative movements becoming part of the State apparatus, and consequently instruments in the hands of exploiting leaders; no-how should they permit the re-establishment, under any kind of guise whatsoever, of that which aims at destroying the revolution.

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