chapter  XXXV
8 Pages

In Moscow, 1927–28

O n e of my friends, David Riazanov, a former Russian refugee, who had worked for years in the British Museum Reading Room, was after the October-November Revolution of 1917 commissioned by Lenin to organize in Moscow a Marx-Engels Institute. The Palace Dolgoruki, situated on the left bank of the Moskva in the district between the Arbat and the Kremlin, was requisitioned for that purpose. Adjacent to the Palace stood a large dilapidated eighteenth-century house, built from timber on a brick substructure, in which Marshal Ney resided during the fateful autumn of 1812. The lane leading from the Arbat district to the left bank of the Moskva, was renamed Ulitsa Marksa-Engelsa. Leaving this lane we face from a short distance the high stone battle­ ments and frowning towers of the Kremlin. Riazanov pos­ sessed quite an exceptional knowledge of the international Labour and Socialist movement, its history and its literature, to which he had devoted about thirty years of painstaking research and indefatigable study. As a bibliographer of Marxiana he had no equal. A great linguist and bibliographer, he was the right man to organize such an institute. These qualities caused Lenin to overlook Riazanov’s attitude, which was not strictly Bolshevik and has apparently never become so. He told me once: “ The Union of Soviets is a dictatorship mitigated by Riazanov,” for he used to intercede with the Soviet authorities on behalf of prosecuted Mensheviks. Poor as Russia was in the first years after the war, no sum

was too large for the new rulers to spend on collecting old manuscripts, incunabula, books, pamphlets, and periodical publications which had any relation to social and Labour movements. And of any rare book that was only extant in a few copies in London, Paris, or Leipzig, Riazanov procured

a photostatic facsimile. The libraries of the Russian nobility, so rich in seventeenth-and eighteenth-century books, par­ ticularly in the French language, were ransacked for the Institute, which is now unique with regard to literature dealing with the critical epochs of recorded human history. It is in this respect incomparably richer than the British Museum library. And the organization and cataloguing are at least as good as in the British Museum. All this is the work of Riazanov. Riazanov was bom in 1870 of poor and hard-working Jewish

parents in Odessa, and at the age of fifteen joined the Narodniks. He shared the usual fate of the Russian revolutionariespersecution, arrest, prison (over five years5 solitary confine­ ment), then escape and exile in various European countries, with occasional illegal visits to Russia. His sojourn abroad gave him the opportunity to enlarge his knowledge, learn languages, observe capitalist civilization, and discuss in meetings and write in illegal papers. Besides working in London and Paris, he was also active in the archives of the German Social Democracy in Berlin, obtaining photostatic reproductions of all the manuscripts of Marx and Engels, manuscripts of the Capital and correspondence. It is due to Riazanov’s industry in collecting and copying that repro­ ductions of these manuscripts are still available, for the originals fell into the hands of the Nazis in Berlin, when they came to power in 1933. In the autumn of 1927 Riazanov met me in Berlin, and

invited me to come to Moscow as chief librarian of the English and American Department of the Marx-Engels Institute. I was at that time planning a history of British economic thought from the Schoolmen up to Adam Smith. Such a book, I saw, could not be written in Berlin or in any other German University town, for their libraries are poor in English sixteenth-and seventeenth-century economic pamphlets, so prolific in seminal thoughts. A stay in London

for that purpose was from financial considerations out of the question, since the collecting of the necessary materials required at least twelve months’ hard labour. Riazanov promised to get me a photostatic facsimile of any book or pamphlet at the British Museum library which I might need for my work. Besides, I desired to see Bolshevism at work, and to come in contact with the new Russian life. I gladly accepted his offer, and in the middle of November, 1927, I arrived in Moscow. After London, Paris, New York, and Berlin, the first

impression of Moscow is not very favourable; but later on I came to like this strange city on account of its historical associations and the great variety of its architecture. I often visited the Red Square abutting on the Kremlin wall, lined with a row of graves of the fallen in the revolutionary fighting, with the Lenin Mausoleum in their midst. Strange to say, I never entered the Mausoleum. I am by nature not given to hero-worship-the London Phrenological Society, having in 1906 invited me to give its members a sitting in order to examine my cranium, which, as Dr. Bernard Hollander said, was very much like Kropotkin’s, found it to be completely deficient in the bump of authority-but I read all the writings of Lenin, as far as they are available in the German language. The foreign chief-librarians of the Institute were lodged

in a building situated in the vicinity. In the time of the Dolgorukis it was a servant’s house, and fairly well arranged. I had a room for myself. A Bolshevik peasant woman was our cook and parlour-maid, who, though illiterate, was very shrewd and of much dignity; she knew exactly how to treat each of us. She worked daily for eight hours-from 8 to 12 a.m. and from 2 to 6 p.m. I had for Sunday a chicken at the price of eighty kopeks, which lasted me three days; good white bread with izumen (raisins) was cheap; the best caviare (dark and ziemisty) two roubles a pound of fifteen ounces. Only vegetables were rather expensive, particularly

in the cold winter days when frost and snow interfered with transport. The Marx-Engels Institute employed about one hundred

and seventy persons, male and female, nearly all linguists and some being distinguished scholars in economics, sociology, and philosophy. About forty were Bolsheviks, the rest were Mensheviks (Social Democrats) and Liberals. My assistant, a Russian lady, spoke French and German fluently, English fairly well. Some of the lady assistants were daughters of intellectuals who had lost the positions which they had occupied under the old regime or in the Kerensky period, and were now supported from the earnings of their daughters. Some of the departmental chiefs were often consulted by

the students of the various academies on their courses of study, sources of research, methods of literary work, and deciphering of manuscripts. Students of the various Asiatic tribes and States used to call for advice or for books of reference, or for the explanation of some philosophical term. I met, on such occasions, some very interesting young scholars, particularly Chinese of a very refined and aristocratic appearance. In the spring of 1928 Riazanov organized an exhibition

of Socialist, Social reform, and Radical books, representing in chronological order the history of Socialist thought. In order to make it as authoritative and complete as possible, he deemed it necessary to obtain Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, editio princeps (Louvain, 1516). I opposed his suggestion, saying that the Institute possessed about a hundred Moreana of various editions and translations, among them the famous second edition of the Utopia, Basle, 1521. But Riazanov was not to be denied. We made inquiries in various bookselling centres of Europe. Mr. John Bums possesses two first editions of More’s Utopia, but he refused to sell. A Leipzig firm offered a copy at the enormous price of 8,000 marks (£400 at par). Riazanov applied to Stalin, who without delay signed an order for the 8,000 marks to be paid. The exhibition proved

a great attraction for the University students and scholars of the U.S.S.R. I did not visit any manufacturing works or agricultural

districts, but I talked a good deal with non-Bolsheviks on the economic prospects of the U.S.S.R. I met several German workers, who had been employed since 1921 in Soviet engineering works. They informed me that the cost of pro­ duction in Soviet works was still about 30 per cent higher than in Germany, but they could see a steady improvement in manufacturing, and that as soon as the nation had trained a sufficient number of technicians and skilled workers of its own, the Russians would go ahead, as their zeal was great. The rhythm of work was, however, still agricultural: slow, leisurely, and extensive rather than intensive. The old generation of industrial workers had perished in the civil wars with Denikin, Koltschak, the Czechoslovaks, Wrangel, and the Poles. They had formed the spearhead in those battles, and it was not easy to train a new generation of factory workers. I liked the life in Moscow. I had plenty of books, a whole

library to myself; my simple tastes could easily be satisfied. I tried to induce my wife and children to leave Berlin for Moscow, and to settle there for good, but they refused to take my advice, and asked me, instead, to return to them to Berlin. I yielded, knowing that, used as they were to English and German standards of civilization and being either non-political or anti-Communist, they would not be able to adapt themselves to the simple and restricted life of Moscow. One must have the will, either from idealism or from Party considerations, to undergo some privation or inconveniences in assisting the Russian people to build up a new social order. As for myself, I felt that the Russian people were the only

ones in Europe who could undertake, and ultimately succeed in, such a vast experiment, which demanded a degree of selfabnegation and self-sacrifice not attainable by the mass of Western Europeans. We are too individualized, too liberalized,


too materialistically civilized, to stand a regime of enforced collectivization, with its material and spiritual discomforts. We have become too comfortable for that. The Russian workpeople are more primitive; their collective spirit has not been extinguished by the atomization which Western com­ petitive economic life has produced. I believe that the collective spirit in Russia is also due to religious influences; the Chris­ tianity o f the simple Russian is surely nearer the Sermon on the Mount than that of practising Roman Catholics or Protestants in Central and Western Europe. No other modern Christian nation has produced a Dostoievsky or even a Tolstoy; and I do not believe that any Western novelist could have written on Tolstoy’s personality as Gorki did. I used to attend meetings in Moscow where simple working-men spoke. Listening to their speeches, I was struck by the pulpit tone into which they unconsciously fell. The Gospel spirit and the Russian Church culture, I often thought, must have contributed their share to the advance of the Bolshevist experiment. “ Let us live in community!” This is what the simple Russian worker knows of Bolshevism. He does not like isolation; he prefers to eat and drink and live together with his friends and comrades. And let my British readers not be offended. In the mass

of the British Labour Party there is the leaven of English, Scottish, and Welsh Nonconformity, of the Primitive Chris­ tian spirit of the Chapel. The old Independent Labour Party, with its leaders, Keir Hardie and Bruce Glasier, and Ebenezer Elliot’s verses as hymns, was essentially a Nonconformist chapel, with primitive Christianity as its creed. That was one of the main factors in its success, while the Social Democratic Federation, with its economists and philosophers arguing on economic-scientific grounds, never appealed to the British workman, whose real Socialist academy was the Chapel and its pulpit his Oxford Union. All the sophistry of some theolo­ gical writers will not avail to eliminate the spirit o f the humble

poor and their longing for community, which lent so much propagandist force to the primitive Christians in their amazing advance through the Roman Empire. I left Moscow in the middle of April, 1928, and took with

me the conviction that the Russian people will sooner or later succeed in their work. They can stand suffering, and know the purifying effect of suffering and of spiritual strife. In the years 1929-30 I worked mostly in Frankfort-am-

Main at the Institute of Social Research attached to the University. This Institute was established by a few liberalminded Jewish merchants, with a view to promoting indepen­ dent research, and to assisting poor, but gifted, university students to finish their studies. A large part of the funds was earmarked for the purchase of German private libraries, which in the years of inflation might otherwise have been bought by foreign booksellers, book lovers, libraries, and scientific institutions, particularly by Japanese and Dutch agents, who invaded the German book market and carried off some of the finest libraries. The Jewish founders of the Institute saved many of those libraries for Germans. There I wrote for the publishing department of the Institute

a two-volume work, in the form of a concise encyclopaedia, on the leaders and men of action and objects of the various social and Labour movements, with special reference to the last hundred and fifty years. This Institute and the Rothschild Library in Frankfort offered to students great facilities for work. Both are now in the hands of the Nazis, who dismissed the Jewish officials and removed all Hebrew and Jewish books. The rise of the Nazis in 1930 made it inadvisable to have my work published, and it is extant only in manuscripts, which I saved in time from confiscation. A similar fate has befallen my work on Social France 1815-1930, which I wrote for the Secretariat of the Labour and Socialist International. O f all my work done in the years 1929-32, only the articles written for the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (Columbia

University, New York City) have been published. In the catastrophe which befell the German Jewry I had my full share. It frustrated the best part of my literary endeavours in 1929-32; while under the pressure of the growing racial sentiments many mixed families-“Nordic” and Jewishdissolved, and amongst them my own family, which had been harmonious for over twenty years. My wife went Germanic, one of my daughters joined Zionism and settled in Palestine, the other children dispersed, some returning to their land of birth-England-some remaining Germanic. It was as in the old times, when the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile, but with the roles reversed. Ezra and Nehemia, in reorganizing the Jewish nation, enforced the dissolution of mixed Jewish marriages in order to safeguard “ the holy seed” from being contaminated by the foreign demotic elements. The Nazis, the imitators of the Italians and Russians, are also imitating the non-Aryan leader Ezra (Chaps, ix and x), the creator of post-exilic Judaism.