THE RUSSIAN EXPERIMENT – Worker, Brisbane, Qld Wednesday 14 October 1931 – BIG ESSAY IN NATION BUILDING – GEORGE BERNARD SHAW’S OPINION OF SOVIETISM
IMMEDIATELY after his return from Russia, George Bernard Shaw advised the British Independent Labor Party Summer School on conditions under the Soviet Government.
‘I have been preaching Socialism all my political life” he said, ‘And here at last is a country which has established Socialism, made it the basis of its political system, definitely thrown over private property, and turned its back on Capitalism— a country which has succeeded in conducting industry successfully, and in achieving a political constitution.
It is, therefore, almost a duty for people in those capitalist countries who have been preaching Socialism in the wilderness to go over and find out exactly how the thing is being done and how it came about.
‘It is full of surprises, and when I give you a rough and chatty description of what it is, I do so with a consciousness that, if the Soviet leaders were present here, they would regard me as one of the most monstrous paradoxes, to say nothing of liars, that ever existed.
Sovietism is Fabian Socialism in Practice
‘For instance, the first thing I dis covered with great gratification is that the Socialism which has established itself is Fabian Socialism. (Laughter.) You see, you laugh, but I am perfectly serious. What is more, Stalin and Trotsky would laugh, because they regard a Fabian as a harmless person who is not a revolutionary.
The Fabians have turned out to be perfectly right, and the system which has established itself is a Fabian system. I didn’t say that to them, by the way. That was one of the things which I observed.
Real Religion in Russia
‘The other thing which I did say quite freely to Stalin’s intense and great amusement is that it is a definitely religious system. Russia is a religious country. They could not imagine that we were serious when we said, that the Third International is a Church, distinctly and unmistakably, but it is perfectly true. But i say it is Fabian Socialism, and its inspiration is a religious one all through. And here I am speaking the exact and careful truth.
Essential Differences Between Capitalism and Communism
‘There is so much to be said that I can only take odd bits and scraps to illustrate. It is amazing the rate at which things have changed. The fact that they are making a success of it is not so enormously creditable to them in comparison to us as it may seem.
I don’t want to grudge them credit, but you must remember that they are working under conditions which are almost ideal. They are working the machines with oil in their bearings, while we are working our machines with sand in the bearings, and the friction is enormous.
That friction does not exist in Russia. Here you have private proprietors and a proletariat which lives by selling its labor. The principle of the whole thing here is that, the capitalist’s business is to get as much as he can out of the proletariat and to give the people as tittle as possible in return, and the principle of the proletariat is to get as much as possible, and to give as little as it can.
‘While I was in this factory a young man, with an air of conscious virtue, was presented to me. He had an Order of some sort pinned to his coat, and he was the young man who had set the pace in that factory in the carrying out of the Five-year Plan.
He had done more than any other, and I said to him, ‘Young man, if you were in England, and you set up about double the pace of your fellow-workers, you would not be a popular character, you would be called a ‘slogger’ — at least, that was the old-fashioned word, I don’t know ? what it may be now — and you would run the risk of a brick being dropped on your head in a dark lane.
” If you are going on in this way, my friend, you stay in Russia.” Certainly there the young man was popular. He led for efficiency.
Russia’s Lead in the Five-year Plan
‘Taking the Five-year Plan in the lump evidently we want a Five-year Plan here very badly. They want a Five-year Plan very badly in America. ‘Why is it they can’t have it? They have it quite easily in Russia.
‘Put your back into it,’ they say there. ‘Starve yourself a bit, don’t expect any luxuries, work as hard as you can for the next five years.’ But put that to the workers here, say to them. ‘Make a splendid effort for the next five years.’ They would say, ‘Go short for five years in order that the idle and rich class may become idler and richer than ever? My job as a worker is to get as big wages as I can, but to give as little as I can for it.’
In Russia it is simple. They know in Russia that what comes out of the Plan they will get.’
A Comparison in Landlordism
After referring to certain Russian habits, he (Shaw), said he couldn’t sleep if there are other people in the room, but the Russians can’t sleep unless there are other people in the room, and sometimes as many as ten; and, pointing out that money in Russia bears interest as in other countries, though it cannot be taken out of Russia, Shaw referred to rent.
‘The difference between Britain and Russia in the matter of rent,’ he said, ‘is that in Britain you pay it to the man who, for all you know, may go and blow it at Monte Carlo.
But in Russia it is paid to a local Soviet and employed for public purposes, of which you get the benefit. ‘If all the rents of London were paid to the L.C.C. there would be no rates, and there would be a good deal to spend on amusements and amenities. ‘But in London this is Bolshevism, Socialism, Communism, everything frightful and horrible. In other words, people in London are fools and the people of Moscow are sensible people.
A Hell-Fireproof System
‘The Russians’ system is fireproof — hell-fireproof. Nobody could go and see what they are doing, even hardened Conservatives, and wish that the Five-year Plan could fail.
The success of the Five-year Plan is the only hope of the world.
Our plan is certainly running us to the abyss, and they know it perfectly well.
Ruthless and Humane Characteristics
‘In sonic respects the Government is ruthless, in others extraordinarily humane. There is no capital punishment. Capital punishment is absolutely abolished, and you can do a murder on very reasonable terms, four years, for in stance, is about what they give a murderer. Possibly for a very bad one indeed, it might be five.
‘But although there is no capital punishment, there is shooting for political offences.
If a man begins to sabotage, if he begins speculating, if he trios to take advantage of the system in any way to enrich himself, then that man disappears.
After a few days his relatives are told* he might like them to send him some food, and after a few more days he either comes back, or his relatives are informed that he does not require any more food, and a few days more they are definitely in formed that he has been shot. On all these points they are entirely ruthless.
Short Shrift for Speculators
‘The speculator in Britain is the man you admire. You send him to represent you in Parliament, you send him to the House of Peers.
Some years ago speculation began, and just as after the war certain misguided people here began to hoard German notes, so they began to hoard currency in Russia, and commerce was almost paralysed by the fact that money disappeared.
It was dealt with very simply. They searched about a thousand people whom they had reason to suspect, and then they shot two of them in every one of the principal centers of population, and almost the next day money flowed back.
‘The reason why we can’t do any thing in this country for the public is that we have a Parliamentary system which is the pride and ‘wonder of the* capitalist world, and which has reached such a pitch of tremendous efficiency that it takes thirty years to do hall an hour’s work, no matter how urgently necessary.
In Russia half an hour’s work has to be done in half an hour, and no mistake about it. There is no Parliament and no nonsense of that sort.
There are bodies which do discuss policy, but when a job has to be done it is always by a dictator. That is, some* one is made to do it on his own responsibility.
If he goes wrong, he crashes. He knows while he is there he must deliver the goods, and if he doesn’t he must make way for somebody who can. No man can turn round having made a mess of a job and say, ‘I’m democratically elected, and there is nothing to be done about it.’
No Class Distinctions
‘There is no danger of Stalin choosing a man who is the eldest son of a Duke, or because he met him at dinner last week. That motive has gone.
You can’t discover any other motive. They cannot enrich themselves, they cannot keep themselves in their position except by delivering the goods. And as a result there is no fear of class selection as we have it here.
And that, of course, is a complete reversal of our system. What we call democracy, instead of creating responsibility, absolutely destroys it, and the only people who do anything are those who have the corrupt motive of making themselves rich.
And when we get Socialism here, we shall have to introduce that system from beginning to end.
Religion Versus Priestcraft
‘I want to say one word about Lady Aster. She said they could not do without God, and they must come back to religion.
There is no need for them to come back to it. They are full of it. The Greek Church and the Russian Church were hopeless churches.
People here are horrified when they hear that one of the great cathedrals has been turned into an anti-theological museum, but I assure you I went through that museum, and I wished I could get Martin Luther back from the dead. Or a group of Christians from Belfast. The whole thing is an attack on priest craft. The priests took and took, and the people got nothing out of it.
A Religious institution
‘But the point is that the whole institution is necessarily religious. It is not saying to the people, ‘You will have enough to eat and a shorter working day, but the people who are managing it are filled with a purely spiritual impulse.
An irreligious man is a man looking after himself, looking after his own stomach, seeing that he has a pleasant house to live in, a man who does not feel that his fate is bound up in the fate of the community around him.
A man who is religious is a man who is bored with himself and wants to make the world better. Who is looking forward to a future better than the past. Working for something greater and larger than himself.
That is the essence of religion, to be working for things outside yourself, and it is not sacrifice. You are living far more abundantly because of it.’
An old-age pension is not charity.
In an overwhelming majority of cases it is merely the delayed payment of a social debt. Every person who earns his living pays taxes, whether he knows it or not, and makes besides a contribution to the general welfare, not the less real because no one ever has found a way to measure it.
Old-age pensions are the return which society, makes for these services ; and the debt does not depend on the pauperism of the creditor.
‘Labor’ (Washington). – THE RUSSIAN EXPERIMENT – Worker, Brisbane, Wednesday 14 October 1931, BIG ESSAY IN NATION BUILDING, GEORGE BERNARD SHAW’S OPINION OF SOVIETISM – http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/71176081 .
Socialists could now take pride in a state that had at last found the courage to act, though some still felt that such action should be kept a secret.
A Fellow Fabian of George Bernard Shaw In 1932, Beatrice Webb remarked at a tea-party what “very bad stage management” it had been to allow a party of British visitors to the Ukraine to see cattle-trucks full of starving “enemies of the state” at a local station.
“Ridiculous to let you see them”, said Webb, already an eminent admirer of the Soviet system. “The English are always so sentimental” adding, with assurance: “You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.”
Fabian Socialist George Bernard Shaw In His Own Words
George Bernard Shaw asks that all humans must face a panel to justify their existence
Progressive Icon,, Soviet propagandist, celebrated,, heralded,, evil . .