Chapter 21

Submitted by Alias Recluse on June 2, 2012



There is still a great deal we have left unsaid.

We have nonetheless attempted to relate what we considered to be of the most interest for understanding Soviet Russia and the Party that rules it.

Were we to have included everything else we saw, and discussed it in general terms rather than in detail, we would have needed many more pages. To discuss it all in detail would have required another volume.

The disorganization caused by Bolshevik organization alone would have required whole chapters.

The fact that, in order to obtain the services of an interpreter when we needed one we either had to submit a request to the Third International or else go to three or four departments, will give the reader some idea of the extremely complicated Bolshevik organization.

But there is more: the division of functions was so meticulously observed that even people who worked in the same department and carried out functions that were completely mutually interdependent, could not explain exactly what their function was or its necessary and possible ramifications.

Even the organization of the Congress of the Third International itself, which was attended by a total of less than one hundred foreign delegates, required the labor and the constant attention of dozens of employees for almost three months, and when the Congress began everything or almost everything had to be improvised.

The mere fact that the Bolsheviks, installed in Power and the absolute rulers over all, only provided us with one interpreter to translate every language, will give you an idea of the nature of Bolshevik organization.

People coming and going; employees constantly bustling about and receiving orders from someone; yes, a great deal of motion; but nothing but motion. The practical, the positive, the real, which would have quickly brought the labors, the deliberations and the resolutions of the Congress to fruition; that was another matter entirely.

One month for the sessions of the Congress alone. Thirty days of deliberations; the fact that we met three times on some days, will give an idea of what could be done. We could barely follow through on a half dozen of them, however.

And that was the style of the proceedings at all levels. If the Soviet institutions had been organized for the express purpose of wasting time, it would have been hard to fulfill this goal more completely.

In this case, as in all similar ones, the intuition of the people and necessity overcame these deficiencies and torpors, always discovering the quickest and most suitable solution. Nowhere has there been such a contrast between the vitality and the activity of the people, on both an individual and collective level, with the sluggishness and laziness of government institutions, as was exemplified by what we saw in Russia. The case of the Cooperatives that we discussed above, along with many other such cases we could adduce, serve as testimony and proof of what we say.

Even official declarations corroborate our assertions.

In the hallways leading to the Throne Room, where the sessions of the Congress were held, there were posters with graphics showing comparisons between the minimum amount of food needed to keep a person alive and the amount that was officially rationed to each person. There could not be a more unfortunate comparison.

The official ration was equal to twenty-five percent of the individual’s minimum daily requirement. The balance, or the remaining seventy-five percent, had to be obtained despite all the official obstacles, hindrances and impediments. Did the people succeed in making up the difference? Not all of it; but they did manage to get a large part of it.

These same posters speak to us of the fact that the individual manages to obtain 50% of his minimum daily requirements by relying on his own resources. The other 25% is deemed to be impossible to find, and it was this lack that plunged the people into misery and pauperism.

The reality, then, was quite unfavorable for the Bolshevik State. It was absolute master and ruler of all; the only buyer and the only seller; in its hands were the means of circulation and exchange of products of an entire country, and yet it was incapable of providing each individual with more than 25% of what he needed, while the individual, despite having to navigate his way through all the obstacles the State erected to impede his efforts, nonetheless managed to procure with his own resources twice what the State gave him—is this lesson about the incapacity of the State not much more convincing than all the fantasies concocted in Bolshevik literature in its defense?

But why follow such a road!

And please note that it never occurred to us, for the purposes of adducing yet more evidence of the State’s failure to organize social life, to use the scenes of horror and misery we witnessed, or the degradation of the people due to the effects of poverty, as an argument.

We shall only mention in passing that in this minor treatment of State incapacity, we do not restrict its scope to the Bolshevik State; we apply it to all of them, because all of them have provided the most obvious proofs of their incapacity.

We have seen in Red Square, in Moscow, at the very doors of the Kremlin, dozens of people, including women and children, sleeping on the hard ground, when we went home to sleep after a day attending the Congress.

We also saw, one Sunday evening, a man pass by dressed in suit that was in reasonably good shape, but his feet were bare, no shoes at all, he had no shirt, and wore no hat. These clothes were no doubt all that he had left, and he wore them on Sunday to take his walk.

And why mention the women who had shoes but no stockings, or went about with nothing on their legs, because a woman who had stockings considered herself fortunate, or those who had cut their hair short because they could not comb it, for a lack of the most basic instruments to do so?

And the women who sold themselves for a meal, after having gone days and days from one government office to another, in search of a job, but without finding one?

And the half-dressed men? Or those who improvised suits from mismatched remnants of clothing, serving as visible denunciations of poverty and scarcity, with all their cruel consequences?

Why speak of the children of eight, nine, twelve or fifteen years of age, who sought in the black market and illegal trade what the official institutions could not provide them?

Are the Bolsheviks, the Russian rulers, the men who hold Power in the name of the working class and of the suffering people, solely responsible for these miseries? With the same frankness with which we reject and combat their political procedures, and the sophistries they utilized to seize and stay in Power, we likewise refuse to make them responsible for all the evils that afflict the Russian people. They are responsible for part of them, yes, the smallest part, we must make this clear in advance.

The material responsibility for all the misery we witnessed in the seventy days we spent in Russia, fall as an insult, a stigma and a terrible accusation, on the European bourgeoisie and governments. They are responsible, most responsible by far.

Without the blockade, without the Cordon Sanitaire, without the guards that the Entente posted at the gates of the countries on Russia’s borders, these miseries would have been on a much reduced scale; the Russian people would have been capable of a much more effective degree of self-defense and would not have come to such extremities as they suffered.

The Bolsheviks must be absolved of this sin. They already have on their consciences as socialists and as actors in the drama of the dawning of a new world, enough faults, without also burdening them with ones they did not commit, those for which they cannot be held responsible.

If each person is only held accountable for the faults that he has himself committed, in this case we must blame, because the blame is theirs, the European governments, and hold them responsible for this immense crime against humanity committed in Russia.

In this particular case, the Bolsheviks can mount the tribunal as accusers, rather than step into the dock as the accused, and act as judges rather than as criminals, and play the role of victims rather than perpetrators. For once we have to begrudge them the right to this belligerence. They have good reason.

We have fulfilled the mission we set out to undertake.

Dispassionately, without sarcasm or insults, we have related what we saw during our stay in Russia.

Whoever reads our account without any prejudices or preconceived notions of any kind, with the desire to understand rather than to judge, will do us the justice of acknowledging that, in our exposition of the facts, we have mixed the smallest possible quantity of partiality and we have conformed to the standard that we set forth at the beginning: to neither criticize nor to condemn; we are merely relating what we saw. And we believe that we have complied with this rule.

That is why, to conclude our narrative, we shall make a promise; if the public likes our work, we shall write a second part that we shall entitle: “Seventy Days in Russia—What I Think.”

Just as we restricted ourselves to narration in the first part, we shall criticize and pass judgments of what we saw, according to our opinions, in the second. The labor of making an objective accounting would thus be followed by that of critique.

So, then, if our labors are complemented by such a culmination, we shall feel satisfied; if not, we shall regret it, but that is all.

Angel Pestaña
August 1924