From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard
That Fine Thing — Opportunity.
Capitalist cant and humbug still manifest themselves at every turn, and the Bolshevist movement still supplies them with some of the finest opportunities for such manifestation. Almost weekly some female member of the class who kept Russian soil soaked with blood (working-class blood, of course) for generations, escapes from the “clutches” of the Bolsheviks, and brings her troubles to these shores. Invariably she has a harrowing tale of the atrocities of “the terror.” She usually has managed to pick up a document of fearful import —Bolshevik army orders relating to the taking of women and girls for sinister purposes are the moat common; we all know how carelessly the “Reds” leave such things lying about the streets! —which is very thoughtful of her, for it enables her perhaps otherwise unconvincing narrative to be published with illustrations.
Unfortunate Lack of Evidence
But also invariably, when the Russian Countess (all the princesses have long since been laid in their nameless graves, with unmentionable accompaniments) has told her tale of horror, she has nothing to show in substantiation thereof except her ropes of pearls and her jewels (which the “Reds” might have found had they taken the trouble to search her) and precious document —which might quite possibly be a forgery. Invariably she has no mangled limbs to display before the public whom she expects to swallow so much. She does not hobble along on one leg as do so many poor fellows of the working class in this country and others. She gets about very well, thank yon; and if she did lose forty pounds of fat owing to the Bolshevik horrors (and not, mark yon, because she had to fare as other people in a land which she herself describes as starving) she soon finds it again among her fellow parasites in the West End. For, happily enough, all these horrors which she relates (even to people of “birth and breeding” being compelled to work) have happened — to other people!
The Latest Witnesses —
Not Russian countesses, but two Irish “girls,” are the latest to escape from that other “distressful country” that is not Ireland. They come with the same wearying tale of atrocities that have been inflicted upon—others. They have (the “Daily Chronicle” of Jan. 3 informs us) “a number of terrible photographs, showing the horrors of the Red regime.” And “It is impossible henceforward to hope that such stories of the Red Terror may prove to have been exaggerated; the credibility of these new witnesses is beyond question.”
And yet—there are some strange features about their narrative. One might start with those “terrible photographs.” It is a strange; thing that they do not publish them. What have they brought them to this country for, if they are not to be seen? Is it in order to talk about them, and to add to the famous Government collection of Russian photographs which are not fit for publication—for fear somebody should identify them as pictures of outrages perpetrated upon Russian workers under the Czarist regime ?
— Have the Old Falling.
It is strange reading also that two ladies, one of whom had “lost 40lb. in weight as a result of her sufferings," and the other of whom looks, from her published photograph, as though her sister’s loss has been her gain, could “run for five miles,” as the “Daily Chronicle” reports that they finally did, to escape the Red Terror.
It is strange, also, that one of these women could lay (sic) on her “bed with the door barricaded” while “ten Bolsheviks occupied the room next to mine. . . . There night after night they carried on drunken orgies of an unspeakable character,” and yet be able to say (as both she and her sister do) that she was “never subjected to personal violence.” It is strange again how she knew the exact number, when there were so many, of Bolsheviks in that room if she had to hide herself away from them, or that they could be bo very terrible if she did not.
It is strange yet again that if the iron of these dread doings had bitten so deep into her soul --not to speak of her “weight"—the lady had a thought to spare for the observation which is replaced with prints in the above quotation. That observation was: “There was a beautiful drawing-room full of beautiful furniture.” If the fact that Bolsheviks ware holding “drunken orgies” in rooms and among furniture where only the rich had carried on theirs, is a crime of the Bolsheviks or a trouble of the lady, we may judge at once the standard by which she appraises both the villainy of the “Reds” and the depth of her own “sufferings.”
It is strange, farther, that these two ladies “have been in Kieff during each period of Bolshevik rule.” One would have thought that one experience of this “nightmare” was enough, and that they would have seized the first opportunity of clearing out of the danger zone. But they appear to have cleared out only when one of them was detected in hiding Russian officers, in other words taking an active part in the struggle against the Bolsheviks. A similar participation in warfare in any other country has its prescribed penalty. The ladies were wise to scoot.
And now for the particular horrors which the “credibility of these new witnesses” puts beyond question.
When the Reds had departed one of the ladies went to a sort of human slaughter house, where “in the garden 127 nude and mutilated corpses, including those of some women, were flung into a hole.” Obviously, she could not count these 127 bodies all flung into one hole, so it is clear that the unquestionable credibility with which the capitalist editor of our capitalist contemporary so lightly guarantees the unconvincing narrative must be made to cover even second-hand information.
Such, indeed is shown to be the case as the story proceeds, for we are told that “the man who removed the bodies from the shed told a horrible story of what he described as the staircase of death. “It seems [seems, mark you] that the victims first had to strip and then form up in line with arms folded.
“First one line had to lie on their faces, and they were then shot.
“Then the second row filed in and took their places, just behind the first row; and so row after row of corpses was piled up until there was what he describes as a staircase of bleeding bodies reaching almost to the ceiling of the shed,”
So the lady’s credibility is to guarantee the truth of what another party told her, even!
But there is a fly in the ointment, for it is obvious that the proceeding as stated could not result in “a staircase of bleeding bodies reaching almost to the ceiling of the abed.” The geometry of the thing is all wrong.
However, it matters little what the trimmings were. It would be strange indeed if the Bolsheviks, at war and pressed on every hand, did not find occasion to put some backs up against a wall. And stripped of all its embroidery, that is all it amounts to. In the reports of their opponents parallel cases are thus sententiously recorded: "Many Bolsheviks were captured and executed.” Ana it ill becomes those who took part in the filling of ten million graves all over the world, to whine because the process which they set in motion does not cease at their command.
But the seal is placed on the hypocrisy of the ruling class by the facts revealed by the inquiry into certain happenings in India, and the cool and even callous way in which those facts are accepted by our masters’ Press. Nothing that has yet been alleged against the Bolsheviks in any way compares with or rivals for sheer ferocious animal brutality the confessed and even vaunted butchery of 500 natives by a British officer. In a country where that awful specimen of bloody-minded savagery had no other right at all to be save the right of the “mailed fist,” and in their own village, some thousands of people demonstrated in defiance of their conquerors’ orders. How the British apostle of “frightfulness” hurried to the scene eager for the bloodletting; how he deployed his men on a neighbouring hilltop, and in a few brief seconds had them pouring “rapid fire” into the crowd; how he ceased the butchery, not when the crowd dispersed, not when 500 fell dead and 2,000 wounded, but when he ran out of ammunition; and how he then marched his men away from the scene without attempting to give any assistance to his victims (it was not his business, he said): all this is told in the capitalist Press. We have no need to resort to suspect sources for that information. And these revelations come to hand at the opportune moment to form an effective reply to the tales of Bolshevik barbarity.
A. E. Jacomb