Contemporary Reviews of Six Weeks in Russia in 1919


Daily Mail, 12th June, 1919 (Hamilton Fyfe)

A surprisingly sympathetic review considering its source: in 1919 the Daily Mail remained fiercely xenophobic: the Germans were still and invariably referred to as the Huns, and the 'Bolshies' were regarded as no better.


Almost every day someone says to me "What do you think about Russia now?" and goes on to complain of the scarcity of news from there, which makes it very hard to form opinions as to what is happening Herein lies the value of books like Mr. Arthur Ransome's "Six Weeks in Russia in 1919" (Allen and Unwin. 2s. 6d.), which is published today, and like "Bolshevism" (Hodder and Stoughton, 2s. 6d.) written by Mr. Keeling, the printer, who got away from Petrograd last January after working there for five years.

It would be unfair to call Mr. Ransome a Bolshevik. He is no politician. He is an observer. His interest in the men and measures of the Russian Revolution is that of a man of letters. He was until the war a writer of books. He became a newspaper correspondent by accident. He quickly leaned to speak Russian (I have even heard him make speeches in it), and this helped him to establish relations with Bolsheviks. His constructive despatches were naturally coloured by these relations. But he sees plainly and deplores the mistakes the Bolsheviks have made, such as their suppression of the Constituent Assembly, and he hates as much as any man the brutal deeds done in the name of the Revolution.

Mr. Keeling tells mainly about the sweeping away, Mr. Ransome about the setting up. What Mr. Ransome tells is not of a nature to encourage those who look forward to like revolutions elsewhere. He is not a believer himself in the likelihood of an English Revolution. He had many an argument on this topic with Lenin and other governing men in Moscow.

His notes of conversations with Lenin are most interesting, A happy little man, e calls the leaders of the Bolsheviks. "Bald-headed and wrinkled, he tilts his chair this way and that, laughing over one thing and another, yet ready at any moment to give serious advice. Every one of his wrinkles is a wrinkle of laughter, not of worry. He is quite without personal ambition, His whole faith is in elemental forces which move people."

Lenin talked about his visits to England, and showed that he had looked into things here pretty closely. "Is Sidney Webb working consciously in the interests of capital?" he enquired, and when Mr. Ransome said "No" he retorted, "Then has more industry than brains." Another of his epigrams was "You cannot stop a revolution . . . though Ramsay Macdonald will try to at the last minute."

He was quite ready, he said, to cease all Bolshevik propaganda if England would cease making war. "Revolution does not depend on propaganda. If the conditions of revolution are not there, no sort of propaganda will either hasten it or impede it. . . . Put Russia under water for twenty years and you would not affect by a shilling or an hour a week the demands of the shop-stewards in England."

All this is all very well, of course, but while Lenin talks Russia starves. One unforgettable picture is that of a man driving a sledge laden with horse-flesh, mostly bones. "A black crowd of crows followed the sledge and perched on it, tearing greedily at the meat. The man beat at them continually with his whip, but they were so famished that hey took no notice whatever."

It is the wretched state of the railways which prevents the food that exists in immense quantities from being distributed. The number of locomotives running is far below the normal. Thousands stand idle waiting for repairs. "We can go off starving for another year for the revolution," an enthusiast told Mr. Ransome. It is not a cheerful look-out.

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Daily News, 12th June, 1919 (Anonymous)

More of a news item than a conventional review, the Daily News in effect gets an additional dispatch from its former correspondent


Mr Arthur Ransome in Soviet Russia

Mr. Arthur Ransome, the former "Daily News" correspondent in Russia, has written a book which, in his preface, he has the audacity to call "surprisingly dull." Anyone taking up this book will, nevertheless, not be able to put it down until he has come to the last page, and then he will not cease to be impressed by the artistry or deeply moved by the human story.

This, as Mr. Ransome, with obvious sincerity himself observes, is no work of propaganda, but its unmistakable truth and warm sympathy are more irresistible than any "propaganda" book could ever be.

Mr. Ransome, who had been living many months in Scandinavia, undertook the present brief journey to Russia at the beginning of the year by way of reply to Mr. Lockhart, the former unofficial British agent in Moscow who at a public meeting in London had deprecated Mr. Ransome's right to speak of the conditions in Russia in view of his prolonged absence from the country. What he saw there during the six weeks of his stay is now submitted to the public in the form of extracts from the author's diary.


Mr. Ransome is no blind admirer of Bolshevik Russia. He is only too well aware of human imperfections in general and of the Bolshevik failings in particular. But he has imagination, he is not blinded by prejudice, and he can see the eternal and the ideal behind the frail and the mortal.

Read the conversation with Pavlovitch, President of the Committee of State Construction, and you will realise the sort of work which is being performed in Russia at present under almost inconceivable difficulties. The Committee has constructed a canal system connecting the Baltic with the Volga which has played a decisive rôle in the fight against Kiltchak. Over 700 miles of railway and nearly 800 miles of high road are under construction. But all this time, Pavlovitch remarks, the needs of war have been pressing on the Committee heavily:

Today is the first day for two months that we have been able to warm this building. We have been working here in overcoats and fur hats in a temperature below the freezing point. Why? Wood was already on its way to us, when we suddenly had to throw troops northwards. Our wood had to be flung out of the waggons, and the Red Army put in its place and the waggons sent north again. The thing had to be done, and we have had to work as best we could in the cold. Many of my assistants have fallen ill. Two only yesterday had to be taken home in something like that of fit, the result of prolonged sedentary work in unheated rooms. I have lost the use of my right hand for the same reason." he stretched out his right hand, which he had been keeping in the pocket of his coat. It was an ugly sight, with swollen, immovable fingers, like the roots of a vegetable.


In spite, however, of these horrible conditions, the new rulers of Russia do not despair. Pavlovitch, indeed, says:
The reactionaries have money, munitions, supplies of all kinds, instructors, from outside. We have nothing, and yet we beat them. Do you know that the English have given them tanks? Have you heard that in one place they 'used gases' or something of the kind, and blinded eight hundred men? And yet we win. Why? Because from every town we capture we get new strength. And any town they take is a source of weakness to them, one more town to garrison and hold against the wishes of the population.
Lenin himself is perfectly convinced that Soviet Russia will, in the end, win, because, in his opinion, a world-revolution, embracing even England, is inevitable. Even if Russia were to be swallowed up by the sea today, the revolution in the rest of Europe would go on – such is Lenin's opinion. Mr. Ransome speaks of him in the following picturesque terms:
More than ever, Lenin struck me as a happy man. Walking home from the Kremlin, I tried to think of any other man of his calibre who had a similar joyous temperament. I could think of none. This little, bald-headed, wrinkled man, who tilts his chair this way and that, laughing over one thing or another, ready any minute to give serious advice to any who interrupt him to ask for it, advice so well reasoned that it is to his followers far more compelling than any command, every wrinkle is a wrinkle of laughter, not of worry. I think the reason must be that he is the first great leader who utterly discounts the value of his own personality. He is quite without personal ambition. More than that, he believes, as a Marxist in the movement of the masses which, with or without him, would still move. His whole faith is in the elemental forces that move people, his faith in himself is merely his belief that he justly estimates the direction of those forces. He does not believe that any man could make or stop the revolution which he thinks inevitable. If the Russian revolution fails, according to him it fails only temporarily, and because of forces beyond any man's control. He is consequently free with a freedom no other great man has ever had. It is not so much what he says that inspires confidence. It is this sensible freedom, this obvious detachment. With his philosophy he cannot for a moment believe that one man's mistake might ruin all. He is, for himself at any rate, the exponent not the cause of the events that will be for ever linked with his name.
Mr. Ransome's book is likely to live both as literature and as an historical document.

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Manchester Guardian, 12th June, 1919 ('H.')


What is life in Moscow and Petrograd really like under the Bolsheviks? How is food supplied and industry carried on? What sort of order is maintained? How is an apparently ruined people able to hold up against attacks on all sides? What is the real attitude of the Government itself to the outer world, and what are its expectations of the future? On all these questions our own dealings with Russia should depend. Yet first-hand information upon them is almost entirely denied us. Now at length we have an authentic document in this little book by Mr. Arthur Ransome, who was in Petrograd and Moscow for six weeks in February and March of this year. The book is of all the greater value because it advocates nothing and scarcely draws any conclusions, but just gives a picture of life and a record of conversations with many men, Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik.

First as to actual conditions. One the one hand there is settled order:

The most remarkable thing in Petrograd to anyone returning after 6 months' absence is the complete disappearance of armed men. The town seems to have returned to a perfectly peaceful condition, in the sense that the need for revolutionary patrols has gone. Soldiers walking about no longer carry their rifles and the picturesque figures of the Revolution who wore belts of machine-gun cartridges hung about their person have gone.
On the other hand Petrograd is "unloading" itself on to the country districts by the return of men to their native villages. The shortage of food, clothing and fuel is intense in all the big towns, and is felt all through the book. Mr. Ransome got a card authorising him to buy one meal daily, which consisted of "a plate of very good soup, together with a second course of a scrap of meat or fish."
Besides the food obtainable on cards it was possible to buy at ruinous prices food from speculators, and an idea of the difference in prices may be obtained from the following examples: Bread is 1 rouble 20 kopecks per pound by card and 15 to 20 roubles per pound from the speculators; sugar is 12 roubles per pound from the peculators, and never less than 50 roubles per pound in the open market. It is obvious that abolition of the card system would mean that the rich would have enough and the poor nothing. Various methods have been tried in the effort to get rid of the speculators, whose high profits, naturally, decrease the willingness of the villages to sell bread at less abnormal rates. But as a Communist said to me, "There is only one way to get rid of speculators and that is to supply enough on the card system. When people can buy all they want at 1 rouble 20 kopecks they are not going to pay an extra 14 roubles for the encouragement of speculators. "And when will you be able to do that?" I asked. "As soon as the war ends and we can use our transport for peaceful purposes."
On the other hand the children are systematically fed in the schools. "There was no need for a single child in Moscow to go hungry," and they are also supplied with boots. How far the shortage is, in fact, due to the occupation of the necessary transport by the requirements of the war, and how far to the reluctance of peasants to sell, and indeed to produce, are questions which Mr. Ransome does not discuss, but it need not be argued that, whatever the originating cause, the war must immensely accentuate the difficulties.

How is Communism actually working in Russia? The answer, as we collect it, is very partially and intermittently. Necessaries are distributed in the towns in accordance with rules:

Rooms are distributed on much the same plan as clothes. Housing is considered a State monopoly, and a general census of housing accommodation has been taken. In every district there are housing committees to whom people wanting rooms apply. They work on the rough-and-ready theory that until every man has one room no one has a right to two. An Englishman acting as manager of works near Moscow told me that part of his house had been allotted to workers in his factory, who, however, were living with him amicably, and had, I think, allowed him to choose which rooms he should concede. This plan has, of course, proved very hard on house-owners and in some cases the new tenants have made a horrible mess of the houses, as might, indeed, have been expected, seeing that they had previously been of those who had suffered directly from the decivilising influence of overcrowding.
When we pass from the distribution of necessaries to their production the case is different. The private conduct of any enterprise is made exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, and an instructive story is given at length, which defies quotation, of the owner of a tannery who averted evil by making over his own tannery to a co-operative society of his own workpeople, who formed a committee of control and made him president. In the national factories control by the workers has failed and given way to public regulation in which various interests are represented. Directors are appointed by the Central Direction of National Factories, and there is a council, which in technical matters has only advisory power, to consider "the internal order of the factory, complaints of any kind, and the material and moral conditions of work, and so on." In this council not more than half of the factory. This we get back to the compromise between the State and the "guild" if the name may be used here. Nor is there any attempt to fore the peasant to give up individual ownership – the more remarkable because individual ownership is a modern development among the peasants of Russia. On the whole, it appears that Communism is applicable to the distribution of necessaries as a war-time measure, but not to production.

Next, what is the attitude of Government and people? The desire of the Bolsheviks for peace is written all over the book, and the immense concessions that they offered the Allies in the hope of buying it are fully described – the recognition of the debts of the old regime, concessions to Entente subjects of minerals, timber, &c., and the "discussion of annexations," i. e. presumably the separation of Esthonia, Lithuania, the Ukraine, and so forth.

The overwhelming mass of the people and of the revolutionary leaders want peace, and only continued war forced upon them could turn their desire for peace into desperate, resentful aggression.
Peace has been refused them for reasons never stated. The chief motive is of course the desperate fear of countenancing a Socialistic revolution. How long will they be able to resist? Apparently they themselves think for about a year. They are still foolishly sanguine of revolution in other countries, but that they are able to put a great deal of constructive vigour into their resistance appears at many points of Mr. Ransome's story, in which we are at times reminded of the fight for existence of the French Revolution. But the principal reason of their success is put in a conversation by Pavlovitch, president of the Committee of State construction.
You know, hampered as we are by lack of everything, we could not put up the fight we are putting up against the reactionaries if it were not for the real revolutionary spirit of the people as a whole. The reactionaries have money, munitions, supplies of all kinds, instructors, from outside. We have nothing, and yet we beat them. Do you know that the English have given them tanks? Have you heard that in one place they 'used gases' or something of the kind, and blinded eight hundred men? And yet we win. Why? Because from every town we capture we get new strength. And any town they take is a source of weakness to them, one more town to garrison and hold against the wishes of the population.
Meanwhile it is pretty clear that but for the war the Bolsheviks would have been already beaten. There is naturally grave discontent with the food shortage, and they have bitter enemies in the other revolutionary parties. With peace they would have been compelled either to compromise or give place to these moderate parties. But the war has rallied all parties to them, and everything is forgotten in the struggle for the elements of the social revolution against the reaction backed by the foreigner.

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Nation 14th June 1919 (Anonymous)

Ransome's book was reviewed together with Bolshevism: Mr. Keeling's Five Years in Russia which came off markedly the worse in the comparison, the reviewer saying that "His personal narrative would be valuable if one could sift it from the commonplace of propaganda'.


It must be more than a year since direct news came out of Russia. It is more isolated than Germany at the height of the blockade and the full tide of the war, for privileged people, at least, could always get the German newspapers. No Russian newspapers arrive. Our only sources of news or impressions are the rare travellers who manage to go and return. Mr. Arthur Ransome's narrative of a rapid journey to Moscow and back is doubly valuable. Firstly, it gives a vivid and recent picture of the heart of Soviet Russia as it was no more than two months ago. Secondly, since it is the work of a man who knew Bolshevist Russia as few foreigners did in its early phases, it measures for us the changes that have come about during the last year. We have often been grateful to Mr. Ransome for letters and telegrams which satisfied our curiosity about the most interesting movement of our generation. This book increase our debt. Mr. Ransome's method is direct. Of his own observations and comments he gives us comparatively little: we should have welcomed more. On the other hand, he records very fully the conversations which he had, when he went in search of information, with the administrative heads of the Soviet Government.

The impression which results from a careful reading of this valuable material will not surprise a reader who thinks. Little as we are allowed to know about Russia, we know one rather important fact. Lenin's Government has survived now for a year and seven months. The Lvov and Kerensky régime lived only for seven months. It had war only on one front and it had Allied aid. Lenin has had to fight against a whole circle of enemies with the whole Entente behind them. He had to improvise his army. On the whole, even if Petrograd should fall, the balance of military success is in his favour. In these days military achievement is so directly dependent on good administration and economic efficiency in the rear, that one might have inferred from this fact alone, that the initial period, which had its anarchic extravagances, is long since over.

The chief difficulty today is still transport – a difficulty which began to trouble Russia very gravely even before Tsarism fell. There was no coal for the locomotives because the Donetz basin was until lately in counter-revolutionary hands. The locomotives themselves, from lack of material and skilled labour, cannot be repaired – a phenomenon which one may observe even in Germany. With river navigation the case is no better, since it depends on oil which our occupation of the Caucasus holds up. It seems, however, that in so far as they can still run trains, the Bolsheviks keep the old standards of speed and efficiency – which is more than can be said of any railway in Central Europe today. They have even laid new lines and deepened canals. What they might have done if they had had peace one can dimly guess, for it is obvious that the needs of these incessant and multitudinous wars have absorbed most of the energies of the administration.

One knows how mere underfeeding can sap the will of a people, when no constructive idea sustains it. Germany in her present phase is in that case. This record of Mr. Ransome's suggests that in spite of infinitely worse material conditions than Berlin or even Vienna ever endured, Moscow under the stimulus of a militant revolution has evolved an energy and a resource which seem wholly un-Russian. Mr. Ransome describes his visit to a play of Chekov's – one of the despairing pre-revolutionary plays which depicted the sick will of a fettered society. To him it seemed to describe a vanished age. His records of Russian adaptability under the blockade were to us the most surprising things in the book, The ingenuity of the Germans in devising substitutes did not surprise us, but even their resource grew weary. Who expected the Russians after all these years of war and civil war to develop this constructive energy? Yet it seems, when coal failed them, they took to adapting water-power to obtain electricity (a device one fears ill-suited to their climate, for it must fail them in winter). At Moscow they are using pear. More remarkable are their schemes, since cotton is cut off, to devize a process by which flax can be used on machines intended for cotton. All this means that the experts, and the technical employers who at first boycotted the second revolution, have returned to work. Mr. Ransome tells us that some of them, who care nothing for politics, are now working for the Soviets with enthusiasm, because they find that enterprise and ideas are better rewarded than ever they were in the past. It sounds like the early days of revolutionary France. In Hungary this happy relation of the intellectuals with the revolution existed from the beginning. It is evidently what Lenin himself desires.

Mr. Ransome's record is full of interesting and novel material. We hope that all the advocates of military intervention will read his interview with the "Right" Social Revolutionary leader, Volsky. Of his personality we know nothing. What is of consequence is that he was in Siberia the President of the Conference of Members of the Constituent Assembly, which originally gave Admiral Koltchak his status. Volsky and his colleagues were actually leaders in the civil war: they were in relation with the Allies: they used the Tchecho-Slovaks, and it was they who first called Koltchak to power, by naming him "Commander of the Forces of the Constituent Assembly." It was against them that Koltchak made his coup d'état, and some of them were shot by his officers. They seem to have believe the current propaganda stories that German troops were marching against the Tchecho-Slovak front, but now they "know that there were no German troops in Russia at all." Today, these Right wing moderates have rallied openly to the Bolsheviks, not because the agree with them, but because they prefer any Socialist régime to a "bourgeois dictatorship." Volsky's conclusion is, we imagine, that of most if not all the moderate Socialists in Russia.

"intervention of any kind will prolong the régime of the Bolsheviks by compelling us to drop opposition to the Soviet Government, although we do not like it, and to support it because it is defending the revolution."
That testimony from a man who was actually a leader in the civil war against the Bolsheviks has its unique value. He ended with a dismal prediction: "If by any chance Koltchak, Denikin and Co, were to win, they would have to kill in hundreds, and the result would be the complete ruin and the collapse of Russia in anarchy."

The conclusion to which Mr. Ransome's book leads is, we think, that if Koltchak and his friends can win, it will be solely a mechanical effect resulting from the boundless expenditure of Allied money and munitions. It will answer the wishes of no Russian party, except, of course, the avowed monarchists. It might last for a short while, but only until Russia had recovered from the effects of the massacre of Socialists of all shades which Koltchak will have to carry out if he is to make himself secure. On the other hand, it is plain from the whole trend of this narrative, and most of all from the terms which Lenin has repeatedly offered to the Allies, that the Soviet régime can survive only by compromises which will destroy its revolutionary character. It must acknowledge foreign debts. It can pay them only by alienating the natural resources of Russia to foreign concession holders. It must tolerate and even invite the entry of foreign capitalists. While it compromises in this way to buy the permission of foreign capital to live, it must also compromise with the Russian peasant to maintain itself at home. His instinct for property in land has survived these years of revolution, and while the Bolsheviks seem to have succeeded in the end in organizing many of their socialized functions, they have had to tolerate in the country a system which differs only in certain legal fictions from peasant-ownership. Hungary (if it survives) may do better with its great socialized estates, for the reason that agriculture there was immensely more advanced than it ever was in Russia. In short, Lenin, who began with a sweeping and uncompromising revolution, must end, if he survives, with compromises which will bring him back to the half-way evolutionary house of evolutionary Socialism. The moral doubtless is that if a revolution is to succeed it must be world-wide. The practical conclusion is that if the Allies can bring themselves to tolerate a moderate system of semi-Socialism, they can have it today by making peace with Lenin.

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Times Literary Supplement 19th June 1919 (Anonymous)

By far the most hostile of the reviews that I have been able to find to date.


Mr. Ransome, the well-known journalist, who left Russia last summer for Stockholm, read in an English paper at the beginning of the present year that he was being attacked as having no longer the right, in view of his protracted absence, to speak of conditions in Bolshevist Russia: he thereupon left Stockholm for Russia at the end of January in the company of Messrs. Litvinov and Vorovsky, the Bolshevist envoys, and their party, and three Scandinavian correspondents, one of these the Norwegian Socialist, Mr. Puntervold. With Mr. Litvinov's aid, Mr. Ransome spent six weeks in Moscow and Petrograd, with all the advantages that the friendship of the Bolshevist leaders gave him. He had no difficulty, for example, in obtaining a room at the Hotel Astoria at Petrograd when he arrived; a seat in the train was reserved for him with Mr. Litvinov's party when he travelled to Moscow the next day; at Moscow, again, he was accommodated with a room in an hotel reserved for sailor delegates and, as he was not sufficiently comfortable there, he was transferred to a hotel which was mainly reserved for high Bolshevist officials. Mme. Radek secured him a pass for the Kremlin, and, most important consideration of all, he was provided with food by the hospitable authorities. Thus equipped, Mr. Ransome set to work to discover "what is being done and thought in |Moscow at the present time." With this object he paid a long round of visits to the principal Bolshevist leaders (including Lenin) whose statements he reproduces practically without comment.

For example, Mr. Ransome went to see Schmidt, the Commissary for Labour in the Bolshevist Government

I told him I was particularly interested to hear what he could say in answer to the accusations made both by the Menshevists and by the Extremists on the Left that control by the workers has become a dead letter, and that a time will come when the trade unions will move against the State organisation.

Schmidt answered:– "Those accusations and suggestions are all very well for agitational purposes, but the first to laugh at them would be the trade unions themselves. The commissariat, for example, which is the actual labour centre, is controlled directly by the unions. As Commissar of Labour, I was elected directly by the general council of the trade unions. Of the college of nine members which controls the whole work of the Commissariat, five are elected directly by the general council of the trade unions and four appointed by the Council of People's Commissaries, thus giving the unions a decisive majority in all questions concerning labour. All nine are confirmed by the Council of People's Commissaries, representing the State as a whole, and the Commissar is confirmed by the All-Russian Executive Committee."

Mr. Ransome seems not to be aware that the trade unions are no longer independent organisations, but that, as Mr. Keeling has conclusively shown from his own experience as a member of a Russian trade union, they have been intimidated into submission to the Government by the Bolshevist conspiracy of famine and violence. Thus all Mr. Schmidt's democratic professions are valueless and, in fact, untrue. The same criticism applies to most of the other conversations Mr. Ransome enjoyed during the course of his tour. His informants, to maintain a typical instance, frequently pointed to the exterior blockade of the sufferings of the inhabitants; but they and Mr. Ransome himself are silent about the Bolshevists' own blockade of the towns whereby the townsfolk have been forbidden to bring in supplies of food for themselves. and have thus been thrown back upon the inefficient, corrupt and partisan channels of Bolshevist distribution.

Mr. Ransome did indeed meet one or two Menshevists and others, representing those sections of their respective parties which are to some extent in agreement with the Bolshevists on certain questions of policy such as Allied intervention. It is unfortunate that Mr. Ransome's conversations with them turned mainly upon their points of agreement with the Bolshevists. A more critical visitor might have inquired from them to what extent the Bolshevists' claims in general are justified. But there is no sign throughout his book that Mr. Ransome put most of the Bolshevist leaders' statements to the test of fact. It is significant that Mr. Puntervold, who, as we have seen, entered Russia at the same time as Mr. Ransome, but was not content to take the Bolshevists' claims on trust, has publicly declared (in the Stockholm Social-Demokraten of March 8) that the Bolshevists have completely failed to achieve any of their constructive aims.

Mr. Ransome undoubtedly secured good "copy" during his sojourn in the Bolshevist capital and, while his book offers no adequate statement of facts and conditions there, is interesting as a resumé of the Bolshevists' professions as set out by them for foreign consumption. But Soviet Russia is paved with Bolshevist good intentions, and, as Mr. Ransome himself noticed at a meeting of the Moscow Soviet, the public no longer takes any interest in them. Starvation and the Terror have reduced the mass of the people to the apathy of despair.

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New Statesman 12th July 1919 (Anonymous)


Towards the end of 1918 Mr. Bruce Lockhart, I a lecture in London which seemed in some ways to be under the aegis of our Foreign Office, went out of his way to attack Mr. Ransome, and said that as he had been out of Russia for some months he had no right to speak of conditions there. The attack led directly to Mr. Ransome's return to Petrograd and Moscow, where for six weeks he was given every opportunity by the Bolshevik Government to study the conditions, social and political. The result is a book of the very greatest value at this moment. It stands by itself in the flood of Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik propaganda which for a year now has been almost the only material offered to the British reader to help him in making up his mind upon one of the greatest of Political problems. Mr. Ransome's book is a record of things seen and things heard, told by a man who does not conceal his own thoughts and feelings. It is no disparagement of Mr. Ransome to say that we would not accept a political judgement of his without ourselves possessing a considerable knowledge of the facts upon which his judgment was based: the same applies to almost all the fallible inhabitants of this misty and muddled world. But when a man does not conceal his own sympathies and beliefs, and at the same time does not attempt to convince us that white is white (or black), and black black (or white), and when he is content to use his eyes and ears, then at least he gives us something more satisfying to bite upon than passion and prejudice.

One thing which these pages make clear is that the official picture of Russia and of the Bolshevik Government which is periodically drawn in blood and thunder for the benefit of the British elector is a monstrous perversion. It is true that ere has been a Red Terror; it is true that Petrograd and Moscow are cold and starving; that the transport is broken down, that there is discontent and opposition to the government. But almost every page of this book proves that either Mr. Ransome is a liar or that the official picture of Bolshevik Russia is a lie. Here, for instance, are two casual quotations from Mr. Ransome:

The most noticeable thing in Petrograd to anyone returning after six months' absence is the complete disappearance of armed men. The town seems to have returned to a perfectly peaceable condition in the sense that the need for revolutionary patrols has gone. Soldiers walking about no longer carry their rifles . . .

[In Moscow after an evening at the opera.] Going home afterwards through the snow I did not see a single armed man. A year ago the streets were deserted after ten in the evening except by those who, like myself, had work which took them to meetings and such things late at night. They used to be empty except for military pickets round their log-fires. Now they were full of foot-passengers going home from the theatres, utterly forgetful of the fact that only twelve months before they had thought the streets of Moscow unsafe after dark. There could be no question about it. The revolution is settling down, and people now think of other matters than the old question, Will it last one week or two?

Readers may believe or disbelieve Mr. Ransome's picture of Petrograd and Moscow, but we think they will find it difficult to disbelieve so straightforward a narrative; and it is certain that the condition of two great cities could not be described by him if their inhabitants were subject to a most hideous tyranny of men who maintained themselves in power solely by armed force. Again, take the question of the Soviet form of Government in relation to our political democracy. One may approve or disapprove of, believe or disbelieve in, the Soviet form, but for the foreigner and his Government the only relevant question is: Do the present Government and their institutions in Russia provide the regular representation and expression of popular opinion through elected organs of government? WE are told that they do not, that Lenin and the Commissars are autocrats in exactly the same way as were the Tsars. This is, however, incompatible with Mr. Ransome's description of the meeting of the Executive Committee and of the Moscow Soviet which he attended. Of the Moscow Soviet he remarks that "Practically every man sitting on the benches was obviously a workman and keenly intent on what was being said." And most significant is his description of the meeting of the Executive Committee at which the adherence of the Right Social Revolutionaries, who had been fighting against the Bolsheviks, was considered, their recantation accepted, and a resolution passed giving them "the right equally with other parties to share in the work of the Soviets."

The points on which we have touched will indicate the importance of Mr. Ransome's book. The record of his conversations with Lenin and the chief executive officials in the Bolshevik Government are extraordinarily interesting. And the book is written with a personal simplicity and grace which is singularly refreshing after the acrid bad temper which disfigures most books now devoted to Russian politics.

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New Republic 24th September 1919 (Alvin Johnson)

Soviet Russia from the Inside

In all the machinery of the war there has been nothing to compare in efficiency with the general censorship. In former times it was almost impossible even to keep the major strategic plans from filtering though to the enemy, and the whole tendency of recent years, with the acceleration of the movement of persons and letters and printed matter, with the multiplication of telegraphs and telephones and the institution of wireless communication, seemed to guarantee that little of importance could happen anywhere without the whole world's knowledge. But if the transmision of intelligence has put on eight league boots, ????? and has besides commandeered all the mists and the darkess of night. It blotted from the vision of the world a whole great country, for months and years. Until recently one could, if he chose, believe that the only industry surviving in Russia was the execution of atrocities, just as one can still believe anything he likes about the Aztec State. It was possible to know as much about the one as about the other. Or, if one refused to believe absurdities, even those that had been officially circulated at great expense, he simply had a blank space in his mind where he needed facts. No candid American will deny that he read with astonishment of the record-breaking fair held last month at Nijni Novgorod, in the heart of Soviet Russia. We had all been sufficiently influenced by anti-Russian propaganda to suppose that business was quite flat in the Soviet territory.

Plainly we canot begin too soon to fill in the the gaps in our knowledge of Russian conditions. For this purpose there is nothing better available than Arthur Ransome's excellent book, Russia in 1919. The author is a modest man, and acknowledges in his preface a deficiency in knowledge of economics that his book never betrays. But that is the only trace of insincerity in the book. For the rest it is a straightforward account of what life is like ?????? in Soviet Russia seems like ?????? to an uncommonly intelligent and honest Englishman, whose thorough acquaintance with Rusia and familiarity with the Russian language, customs and character qualify him exceptionally for the work of getting at the relevant facts.

The book begins with a matter of fact account of the author's journey from Stockholm to Petrograd last February. The journey was, of course, without dramatic incident since the revolution had long since passed out of the stage of sporadic disorders that might interrupt railway traffic. Petrograd, naturally, was hungry and cold, but quite orderly. Under the oppression of the Red Army? Oh, no.

The most noticeable thing in Petrograd, to anyone returning after six month's absence, is the complete disappearance of armed men. The town seems to have returned to a perfectly peaceable condition in the sense that the need for revolutionary patrols has gone. Soldiers walking about no longer carry their rifles, and the picturesque figures of the revolution who wore belts of machine-gun cartridges slung about their persons have gone.
There wasn't much for Arthur Ransome at Petrograd, however. He looked up Zinoviev, who got into our list of fabled monsters a year ago, when the Red Terror followed upon the attempted assassination of Lenin.
Zinoviev is a Jew, with a lot of hair, a round, smooth face, and a very abrupt manner. ... He is neither an original thinker nor a good orator except in debate, in answering opposition, which he does with extreme skill. His nerve was badly shaken by the murder of his friends, Volodarsky and Uritzky ????? last year, and he is said to have lost his head after the attack on Lenin, to whom he is extremely devoted.
But most of the fabled monsters are in Moscow, at the seat of government and thither, after a brief delay, Arthur Ransome betook himself. I must pass without comment the deft touches with which the author pictures the appearance of Moscow, hungry and cold, with trade nationalized, housing nationalized and almost everything wanting but the courage and energy of the Soviet leaders. Arthur Ransome was so fortunate to be in time for the famous meeting of the Executive Committee, when the Soviet reply to the Principo proposal was discussed. Chicherin, naturally, let the discussion

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I am grateful to Wayne G. Hammond for help in identifying these reviews