Editorial from the October 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard
To most of-those who know the history of India under English rule, and of China during the nineteenth century, the huge advertisement of the Russian Famine by the Capitalist Press of this country must seem singularly strange.
In 1918 there were 6,000,000 people carried off by the results of famine—camouflaged as Spanish “ ’flu ”—in India. Yet not one-tenth of the space was devoted to this appalling catastrophe that there has been to the Russian Famine, though the former was immensely more disastrous than the latter up to the present. Huge numbers of people have died of hunger in China during the latter portion of the nineteenth century without receiving more than a few lines notice in the Capitalist Press.
Why this sudden solicitude for starving people on the part of our masters? Have they become tender-hearted overnight, and full of desire to ease suffering wherever it may be found? One need go no further than the nearest street to find the answer.
There will be found “heroes” from the trenches often without a limb or an eye, “patriots” from the munition works, and women from the shell factories, each and all proclaiming their want and misery due to lack of employment or support. The Executive Committee of the ruling class, known as the Government, stops the Housing Schemes, thus adding a large number to the already immense army of unemployed, and then reduces the unemployed insurance pay, and so decreases the purchasing power—poor as it was—of those drawing such pay. Those in work have suffered reductions of wages in far greater proportion than the small fall in prices, and further reductions are threatened in all directions.
The class responsible for the forcing down of the standard of living of the workers, that looks on callously at the want and misery existing here among the masses out of work, and which rules an Empire where millions die of starvation in less than a year, cannot be accused of either sympathy or tender-heartedness towards the Russians. An explanation must be looked for elsewhere.
The various notices in the Capitalist Press are marked by a unanimity in charging the Bolshevik Government with being the cause of the Russian Famine. This statement is such a stupid lie that only the befuddled mentality of’ those who blindly follow that press and its teachings would accept it. The simple fact is that the extraordinarily dry spring and summer has affected Russia more than the rest of Europe because of her primitive methods of agriculture. This is aggravated by her lack of means of transport, though the Russian Government has made strenuous endeavours to improve this service during their control of power. The canting hypocrisy of this lie is shown by the fact that not one of the papers spreading it have attributed the famine in India to English rule, though there is a vast array of evidence to support such a contention.
Another point on which some of the Capitalist Press are openly, and others more guardedly, giving voice is the suggestion that the Russian Government is playing false over the matter of relief measures. Hence the demand for “committees of inquiry,” “full control of supplies,” etc. These demands only thinly veil the intentions of these capitalist ghouls. Under cover of these claims they would sort out the claimants for relief, and take care that only those opposed—really or apparently—to the Bolshevik rule would be assisted. A more sinister object that lies behind these moves is the attempt to use the famine as a means of entering Russia, , and, under the claim of “full control of relief,” seize positions of power for the purpose of overthrowing the Russian Government.
Here, then, is the explanation of the beating of the big drum about Russia. Not charity, nor humanity, nor fellow-feeling for suffering millions in Russia, but the slimy endeavours of the foul capitalists of Europe to use the disaster there as a means of seizing control of Russia, with its vast natural resources—not for the wellbeing of the Russian workers, but for the profit of those engaged in the burglary.
While the capitalists are haggling over the sending of relief to the starving people in the Volga basin, they are supplying huge quantities of munitions to Poland and Rumania for the purpose of military operations against Russia (see Daily Telegraph, September 13th, 1921). If these operations were to turn out successfully for the capitalists, the Russian workers might starve even to the extent that happens in India, but the Jackal Press would not then be able to find room to report so ordinary an occurrence.
It is another lesson for the working class, showing that only when they control the means of life will they be able to make provision against famines or floods. As soon as they learn the lesson they will set to work to establish that ownership by inaugurating Socialism.