By MALCOLM MUGGERIDGE
The Morning Post
Thursday, June 8, 1933
Below we publish the last 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, lie
came away entirely disillusioned about the Soviet regime. He has drawn a
faithful and terrible picture of the human suffering under existing
conditions, and has described his own disillusionment in moving and
It is absurd to be angry about the Soviet Regime looked back at a decent
distance, it will seem, I am sure in keeping with the general course of
Russian history. Lenin had much in common with Peter the Great, and the
methods, even the character, of Stalin, make an interesting parallel with
Ivan the Terrible.
Russia has never been governed by anything but a military dictatorship in
one form or another, and the population has been used for centuries to
terroristic methods. The peculiar feature of Bolshevik rule is that it has
extended the application of these methods to everyone and to every
department of life. This, precisely, will be the cause of its ultimate
Even military dictatorships require a certain amount of popular support and
a certain economic justification in the sense of being able to provide a
majority of the population with the minimum necessaries of life. The
dictatorship of the proletariat fulfils neither condition. It is, apart
from small ruling class and the Red Army, universally detested; and with all
the resources of a great grain producing country t its disposal, it cannot
provide even the relatively inconsiderable town populations with bread.
A foreign war would be fatal to it because the army would have to reckon not
only with the enemy in front but with a hundred million famished, infuriated
peasants in the rear.
None-the-less, everything suggests that when the Soviet régime falls it will
be followed by one as intolerable on civilised European standards. I
understand that the émigrés have all ready, in the event of a
counter-revolution taking place, an organisation to inherit, through tile
direct descent of the G.PU., the functions and traditions of the Okhrana.
If, however, it is absurd to be angry about the Soviet régime, it is not
absurd to recognise the dangers inherent in its international pretentious,
or to point out the contemptible and dangerous folly of those outside Russia
who accept such pretensions at their face value. No one has a greater
contempt than your Bolshevik for the outlook and character of
reformist-pacifist-humanitarian-revolutionaries; and no one has developed to
a finer pitch the art of gulling them.
People who have spent all their lives in pouring out righteous indignation
about housing conditions in English industrial towns refer gaily to the
congestion in Moscow - congestion so appalling that, as a Russian explained
to me once, no one, apart from the privileged few, has a moment of privacy
from one year's end to another - as "camping out."
Scientists with international reputations accept with naive simplicity the
validity of statistics that a knowledge of elementary arithmetic would show
to be preposterously false.
Pacifists who have laboured mightily to propagate the ideals of the League
of Nations watch ferocious military displays in the Red Square with tears of
appreciative emotion in their eyes, and enthusiastically applaud outbursts
of fanatical bellicosity.
Ex-Cabinet Ministers, not confined to one political party, talk
appreciatively of the stability of the rouble when, so low is Its purchasing
power, you can buy great parcels of Soviet currency notes for a few pounds
or dollars, arid expect a poverty stricken, starving population, whose only
thought and hope is to get a little bread, to prove in the immediate future
a lucrative market for manufactured goods.
Reputable economists express the belief that a government forced, in order
to meet its existing obligations, to scavenge the last fragments of precious
metal left in the Country by the methods, I have already described, will be
prepared, given gentle treatment, to do profitable business with British
Tender-hearted maternity experts find matter only for complacency in
children so debilitated by under-nourishment that it will take, on a
moderate estimate, three generations for the nation to recover its virility.
Men of letter - Oh, men of letters! - sit through plays so tiresome, so
vapid, so pretentious, that painstaking audiences in provincia1 repertory
theatres would hoot hem off the stage, and return to their native countries
to write enthusiastic artic1es about revolutionary drama and revolutionary
art, and the birth of a new civilisation, and the new aesthetic and moral
and spiritual values that are emerging from the travail of the dictatorship
of he proletariat.
Journalists - but why should I say anything about journalists? As I have
explained in an earlier article in the " Morning Post," journalism in Moscow
is, by the nature of the case, a racket: and let whoever has not racketeered
for a living throw he first stone.
I must admit that all this makes me angry if only because, as retailed in
articles and lectures and conversations, it awoke certain hopes and
illusions which a visit to Russia painfully dispelled. It is a kind of
hypocrisy, or at least stupidity, whose consequences, both inside and
outside Russia, are deplorable.
Outside Russia, where, unhappily, there are so many victims of economic
distress, it turns peoples eyes hopefully towards something which, at the
best, will prove a terrible disappointment to them, and, at the worst, their
complete undoing; inside Russia it serves to bolster up a savage and
unscrupulous tyranny, and to mock a population whose sufferings pass
Perhaps it has never occurred to those intellectual Communists who enjoy, in
Bloomsbury, all the privileges and comforts of a bourgeois existence in a
capitalist society, and who, after a short conducted tour, praise
ecstatically, at so many guineas a thousand voids, a régime that has made
life intolerable, when it has not slaughtered, their like in Russia that
there are unfortunates who take what they write seriously; who, having
little enough to lose, go with their families am their belongings to start
life again a soviet citizens in the classless proletarian paradise about
which they have read, ant for whom disillusionment is a more serious matter
than the abandonment o an intellectual creed. Yet this is the case.
Every year some thousands of Americans and Europeans cross the Soviet
frontier; are mostly forced or persuaded to take Soviet citizenship, and
then spent their time trying to recover their old nationality. They are
not, it may be imagined, very amiably disposed toward the author or lecturer
or politician who first put the project into their heads. The consulates in
Moscow are fully occupied with such cases. I did not meet in Russia one
genuinely working-class foreigner who had come to live there who did not
bitterly regret having done so.
How, it may be wondered, is the trick done? How does the Soviet Government
manage so completely to gull the flower of Europe's intelligentsia? Heaven
knows! The properties at its disposal are meagre enough, and the cast a
sorry one; yet the fact remains that educated people will have stayed in
Moscow, and who have travelled over the Ukraine, return home with golden
tales of achievement and prosperity.
I can only assume that delight at finding their aspirations approved by a
Government with unlimited power blinds them robs them of all their judgment,
intoxicated them, so that, like Caliban, they hear only sounds arid sweet
airs, a million joyous hammers building socialism, and fail to notice either
the wilderness that has come into existence at the same time of the starving
slaves who populate it.
Socialist salesmanship - a ghastly combination of Semitic servility and
American slickness and Marxist arrogance - carries them over Russia from one
show factory or school or farm or waterworks to another, without their
seeing anything of the intervening spaces.
Perhaps, too, I sometimes thought, they shut their eyes wilfully because,
after having for so long been voices crying in the wilderness, they dare not
admit even to themselves that the ruthless application of their ideas
produces such disastrous results; because, in their secret souls, they would
like to be a dictator of the proletariat - something apart, all-powerful,
destroying what they could never dominate, tearing up by the roots a life in
which they have never shared, and then building in the desert they have made
a great, planned, Marxist, useless pyramid, marking at once the end of
civilisation and the realisation of their dreams.
I have written these articles because I believe them to be true. I tm not a
reactionary on the contrary have the deepest sympathy with, and admiration
for, the working-class movement in this and other countries. It is, indeed,
because the Soviet Government is, in the most absolute sense of the word,
reactionary that I hate it so bitterly; and it is because I know that any
association between it and the working-class movement in England must be
fatal for the latter that I shall, on every possible occasion and in the
most vehement terms I can command, expose its pretensions, especially as
they are echoed idiotically by its foreign admirers.
Only half-wits can look forward to the future with any great complacency;
but one thing I am convinced of - no worse fate can befall a people than to
fall into the hands of a set of professional revolutionaries; barbarians
whose minds are full of disorderly dreams of Marxist utopias and American
prosperity and world conquest; a dictatorship of the proletariat and its
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.