Manchester Guardian (predecessor of Guardian) May 20, 1925
REPLY TO THE DELEGATION
The British Committee for the Defence of Political Prisoners in Russia has published a reply in pamphlet from to the report of the British Labour Delegation on its visit to Russia. The Committee states in a foreword that its information “differs most materially from that they (the Labour delegation) are now circulating. We find it impossible to accept this delegates report as a serious contribution. Commonsense will not allow us to believe that seven Englishmen, ignorant of Russia and the Russian language, could report intelligently on a country so huge and on a situation so complex after a five week’s visit…
“On one point, however, we agree with the report. It admits, frankly and repeatedly, that in Russia free speech is non-existent; that nothing can be published without the Government’s express permission; that all criticisms unfvourable to it are punished ruthlessly. It follows that nay statements the Government may make are worthless, for no one has a chance of testing their veracity.”
Miss Emma Goldman, in an introduction to the pamphlet, states:–“It must be admitted that the delegation’s picture of the wonders and blessings under the Bolshevik regime is skillfully drawn. Its high lights will dazzle many people. But the credit for it must be given to the ingenious artists in Moscow, whose masterly over credulous minds and innocent hearts surpasses anything known in history.”
After criticizing the delegation’s comment about the system of elections, the Comintern (The Third International), and the Communist party, the pamphlet refers to the question of education and states that “there are so many half truths in the delegation’s report that the entire picture is blurred.” On the care of children, extracts from “Pravda” are quoted to show that the position is not as the delegates stated to be, and that the health of shool children has grown since 1919.
“There is yet another class of children of whom the report has very little to say,” the pamphlet proceeds. “It is evident that no one told the delegation of this, nor did they take any pains to look into the appalling state of the ever-growing number of destitute children who throng their highways and byways of Russia. ‘Pravda,’ of January 22 of this year, reports 44,770 destitute children in Northern Caucasia alone. The ‘Pravda’ correspondent who investigated the provinces of Saratov found 27,000 homeless children. In one receiving station he discovered 800 emaciated and ragged children, herded together in a room barely large enough for three hundred. He found disease rampant among them: 354 cases of trachoma, 19 venereal cases, and 62 covered with a loathsome rash.”
The Cheka and Georgia
“We are asked to believe that ‘there is now no Cheka, or anything of that nature, except in Georgia, and that the G.P.U. has no power to proceed or even to prosecute. It is now nothing more than an organisation like our own detective service. The G.P.U. still has political responsibilities—counterrevolutionary conspiracies are still discovered and may entail capital punishment after trial in the criminal blocks.’ We are also asked to believe that there is no ‘reign of terror’ in Russia. This assertion is such a travesty of the actual political situation in Russia that it is incredible that seven Labour men could have swallowed the Government version of the institution which is the blackest spot on the escutcheon of the Russian Revolution and, to this day, holds the whole of Russia terrorized….
“The lot of the Russian political prisoner is: Hunger, cold, humiliation, and death. How ‘thoroughly’ the delegation have been able to get beneath the surface of things can best be seen by their statement regarding the treatment of non-political prisoners. They say, ‘the humanisation of prison-life is a striking feature in Russia.’ The appeal on political on Solovetsky Island on behalf of 3,000 common prisoners flatly contradicts the declaration that the ‘treatment of the non-political prisoners in Soviet Russia is based on the latest theories of criminal psychology.”
The report on the situation in Georgia, the Committee declares, “is the most disgraceful whitewash in the whole volume. … The perversion of actual facts is the more outrageous because, long before the delegation went to Russia, there was convincing material in London of the butchery instigated in Georgia by Moscow and its henchmen… The fact of the matter is that the Georgian uprising, provoked by Moscow, was suppressed with the same ruthlessness as were the revolutionary movement of the Ukrainian peasantry and the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921. Bolshevik despotism and terror in Georgia had prepared the ground for the uprising. Cheka prokoratura held the strings, and the Kremlin rejoiced in the chance to do a little ‘exemplary’ blood-letting in rebellious Georgia.”
In their conclusion the Committee state: “No amount of whitewash can obliterate the outstanding fact that Russia and her people are State-ridden, State-driven and State-gagged.”