What does the younger generation think about in its more serious moments? Recently the Jewish Daily Bulletin ran a series of vigorous, two-fisted articles by William B. Ziff, a mature representative of the younger generation. (Mr. Ziff is thirty-six.) Today, the Jewish Daily Bulletin presents an article by Miss Estelle Krasne, a member of the still younger generation of American Jewry. Miss Krasne is nineteen and a student at Goucher College, Baltimore, class of 1935. She recently made a trip to Russia. Her reaction to the Soviet experiment is presented here in the hope that it will prove stimulating to both old and young readers.
It has been said in the past that visitors to Russia were one of two classesâ€”those who come expecting to see only success or those who come expecting to see only failure.
That may have been true in the dim past, in the early days of the Soviet. The last few years, however, have found visitors to Russia more and more capable of shedding pre#onceived notions, discarding blind prejudices formed in advance of crossing the Soviet border.
The causes for this newer, saner approach to a study of Russia and what it is attempting to do are many. The world of the past few years has been in a state of incredible flux. We have seen tried and fast systems collapse. We have seen national policies crumble. We have witnessed the failure of what we considered fundamentally sound laws. And from the resulting chaos we have emerged groping expectantly, hopefully, eager to find a just solution; a solution that will bring stability and contentment to those who desire it.
IDEAL PROMISES MUCH
And so we have come to look to Russia for a possible answer. Here is a new experiment, an ideal that promises much. A classless society aiming to control both the production and distribution of wealth. The latter to be based on the principal of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
Here, we have said to ourselves, is a system that aims to abolish the very seeds of capitalism, the right of private property and its concomitant result â€” exploitation of labor. And here the well-known opium of religion was to be rooted up and with the religion would go anti-Semitism and other stupid, boorish racial prejudices that have been the cause of endless bloodshed and ill-feeling between peoples.
In a word, it is a new system. We come to Russia aware of this, not expecting perfection, merely expecting to see the incubation of a new ideal, the materialization of what might be termed a philosophical concept.
It was with this point of view that I entered Russia. I set down as calmly and dispassionately as posible exactly what I found in the USSR.
In Russia my family and I suffered many discomforts. We found sanitary conditions in a shocking state, accustomed as we were to capitalistic laws of hygiene.
COULD FORGIVE DISCOMFORTS
A first class hotel offered us as accommodation for a party of three one room containing one bed. We were subjected to treatment in Russia which disregarded our personal rights and which we would have resented in other countries.
However, the fact that we found Russian service wanting in efficiency might all have been disregarded had we seen that the ideal was successfully working towards its goal; that in its materialization it seemed as successful as both Marx and Lenin promised. But when even the surface presents an impression not of one class, but of a nation discontented, dissatisfied with conditions that have reduced an entire populace to a point of starvation and poverty, then we may question the ideal and investigate into the reasons for this failure.
This is an impression that a visitor could not fail to gain unless he permitted the Soviet Government to treat him as we treat a horse, giving him blinders for his eyes lest he see anything that might disturb him, and a feed bag for his nose, the feed in this case being the Kremlin’s propaganda.
ONLY ‘BREAD STANDARD’
If this be the surface impression, it may well be asked, what is the impression that a more fortunate visitor receives who is able to speak the Russian language and has an acquaintanceship among the Russian people? He is able to probe deeper, to find an explanation for the poverty and discontentment.
He soon finds out that there is but one standard in Russia â€” a bread standard. Russia was poor under the Czar’s regime. Statistics show that seventeen per cent of the population were destitute, homeless and without any means of support. These were the “Moujiks.” Eighty-one per cent of the population had a home and some means of support, while two per cent lived on the bounty of the land. Today in Russia, except for the one and one-half per cent of the population who are accepted as members of the party, the cry of the nation is bread. They are a hunger-conscious race, for the Soviet regime has failed to control the production and distribution of its wealth, its forests, its fields and its cities.
SEES GRAFT RAMPANT
An insight into the Russian system shows that the very evils of capitalism that it purports to abolish run rampant throughout the Government. Bribery, graft and thievery are the mainstays of the starving population. It is only by the acceptance of a “Payok” (graft) that the Russian workman finds he can make his pittance of a salary suffice his bare needs. From the highest official to the lowest workman, each one seems to indulge in bartering his “Payok.”
The only ideal that seems to be rapidly realizing fruition is the abolition of religion and of racial prejudice. Whether or not we agree with the basic theory of the Soviet that religion must be uprooted out of the hearts and minds of people, we cannot fail to concede that Russia is accomplishing the incredible in wiping out racial bias.
Coming through Poland, one feels anti-Semitism in the very air. The minute one enters Russia, one can sense the difference. There, there is no anti-Jewish feeling, or if there is it is so well concealed that it is to all intents and purposes non-existant. In Russia today, one is not a Jew, a person to be insulted, ridiculed, beaten, as in Poland or in Germany. In Russia today, a Jew is a man among men, a woman among women. That much of Russia is fine. That much of the Soviet ideal the rest of the world can well afford to copy.
BACK TO FAULTS
But to return to the faults I found in this land of new ideals and a new beginning for humanity.
Bribery, red tape, or what we commonly term as “pull” is just as commonly known in Russia as in the most capitalistic nation. Only if you know a high official can you expect to procure a train ticket without waiting endless days on the endless “ocherids” or lines that seem to cover all Russia.
For if it is for bread, for cigarettes, for newspapers or a new pair of shoes, there exists the lack of efficiency so characteristic of the Russian order that the customer must stand on what seems to be a never ending queue before he may receive what he desires, unless he can manage to do what we refer to as “pulling strings.”
Some Russians, it is true, do not have to stand in line. As the current story goes: one comrade meets his fellow and indulges in a discussion of their economic needs. The first asks, “How goes?” The other responds, much to the dismay of the questioner, “Quite well, quite well, indeed. I have three sons, one an engineer in Moscow who earns 600 roubles a month, a second, an economist who earns 1,000 roubles a month. However, if it wasn’t for my son in America who is unemployed and who sends me dollars, I must admit we would all probably starve.”
Despite the fact that they are all comrades one “tavarish” does not trust the next, for thievery is a common thing. Your belongings are not safe, for the Soviets have abolished property rights and with it obviously the respect for personal property.
And what, the reader may remark, have you to say for the reforms instituted by the Soviet Government â€” schooling, care of children, and courts? The answer to this is that these reforms are all very well, but they do not affect a sufficient number of the vast population of 160,000,000 to have an important effect. The youth of the country is at once thankful and rebellious for the opportunity it has to receive education. He is thankful, for it removes him from the class of road-workers in which he would be placed were it not for his education, for all must work in order to eat. Yet he is rebellious that he is forced to work while he studies, for no one may enter the University unless he also does manual labor.
HYGIENE A FARCE
The hygienic care and homes for children, flashes of which we often see on the screen, are a farce, for they affect only the smallest percentage of the population, and we must realize that little details have no place in this picture, for we are dealing with a vast multitude, and consequently, in order to create any impression on this canvass the strokes must be broad and bold. This same fact applies to the courts and factories and to the other reforms of which the Soviet Government wishes the world to know.
Under this dictatorship of the proletariat one might expect to find ideal labor conditions. If we were to consider working anywhere from fourteen to eighteen hours per day at a salary of 150 roubles ($3.00) per month communistic progress, then a point might be scored for the Soviets. Should the worker rebel at this, he finds himself without a job and hence, minus the power to secure breadâ€”existence.
EXPLOITED BY STATE
These 160,000,000 people are not exploited by capitalism, they are being exploited by a more heartless master than capitalismâ€”the State. Communism cannot pause in its brutal march to consider the individual. These millions of people are no better than slaves of the Stateâ€”a State that knows no compromiseâ€”whose only weapon is terror.
The Communistic system has abolished religion, that which has been man’s mainstay throughout the ages in teaching him to live correctly, yet it fosters an absolute idolatry of Lenin and Stalin, an idolatry that teaches barbarism if need be to achieve the desired end.
And then we come to consider the youthâ€”the hope of every nation. What is their attitude? The younger generation feels hampered and discontented. The prospect he sees before him discourages him. He desires a wider, freer reign and hence escape is his only solution.
Behind all this we may discover Communism’s great mistake. Communism has made its fatal error in believing that people are all moulded from the same clay and by the same technique. It does not take into account the fact that people grow, that each individual has his personal variations, that the mass is composed of individuals who have their personal emotions and desires, which, when satisfied, aid in the variation and progress of existence and which cry, when left unanswered, brings forth a turbulent, degenerate, low existence from which both mental and physical culture and refinement are excluded.
Hand in hand with this disregard of individualism goes the Communistic aim of the destruction of property rights. Here again we find man battling with an age-old instinct, for property right is inherent and not what the Communists believe an instinct that can be uprooted by the “mere” sacrifice of one generation. The masses are not idealistic. It is the smallest percentage of a population who are so constituted and who are willing to sacrifice their lives for a possible ideal for the ensuing generations. The greatest part of a population is not willing to sacrifice their lives, their dearest possession, for an ideal, an experiment, the outcome of which is doubtful. Cognizant of this, we may well ask: What right has this small percentage of idealists to sacrifice their unwilling countrymen to their ideal which, at the very least, can certainly be considered fallible?