The Greatest Failure in All History

by John Spargo. New York: Harper and Brothers. 1920. 12mo, xviii+486 pp. $2.50.
THIS is Mr. Spargo’s fourth book on Bolshevist Russia. Each succeeding volume has been called forth by new phases of the Russian revolutionary movement and by new evidence concerning its character and history. These studies now culminate in an indictment of Bolshevism based upon its own official records.
The author classifies his sources into five groups, of which three are documentary — published or authorized by the Bolshevist government — and two are evidence by Socialist witnesses. Atrocity stories and purely sensational incidents are omitted as not peculiar to the Russian struggle, except when they ‘ reflect the actual purposes, methods, and results of the régime itself.’ Broadly, the fourteen chapters and the appended documents cover the history of Bolshevist power, its evolution into a minority despotism, its relations with land, industry, and social institutions, and the Red terror.
Under political methods, the expulsion of the Socialist members from the New York legislature is noted as a mild measure compared with those adopted by the Bolsheviki to suppress even their Socialist opponents; an analysis of the present Russian constitution shows that it nowhere gives voters or parties the right to make nominations for office, nor is such right permitted to be exercised except by the present rulers; and representation is so apportioned that the vote of one soldier equals that of five workmen, and the vote of one workman equals that of five peasants. Under the Communist land-system the records show that ‘nationalized farms did not produce enough food to maintain the workers engaged on them.’
According to this Socialist author there is no capitalist country ‘in which such brutal methods of suppression were resorted to’ in order to crush strikes as in Bolshevist Russia. He traces the decline and extinction of the power of shopcouncils and soviets, —whether of soldiers, workmen, or peasants, — and the substitution for them of political despotism in government and state capitalism in industry. He quotes Bolshevist authority to the effect that soviet control of workshops ended in an intolerable ‘dictatorship of the unskilled laborers,’ which drove ‘ the flower of the proletariat, the most efficient workers,’ out of the factories. Official figures are cited to show that the Communist party, which monopolizes political power, represents only about one fourth of the city industrial proletariat, and less than one half of one per cent of the entire population. In this ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic’ intellectuals or government clerks have three times the voting power in proportion to their numbers that manual workers have.
The author’s social idealism makes him arraign the moral obliquity and insincerity, of which he accuses the leaders of Bolshevism, with a personal bitterness intensified by seeing the Socialist blessings of his own visions turned to ashes and corruption by the foul hands of false prophets. So his indictment tends to become an invective, and a strong argument is sometimes weakened by excessive polemic fervor. Occasionally be overdraws his picture, as in the sentence, ‘The Red Army is an army of slaves driven by terrorized slaves.’ But in the main his charges are sustained even by radical Socialists, such as Wilhelm Dittmann, the German leader of the Independents, who has just returned from the congress of the Third International at Moscow.
Summarizing Bolshevism, Spargo says,‘Promising plenty, it gives only famine; promising freedom, it gives only fetters; promising love, it gives only hate; promising order, it gives only chaos; promising righteous and just government, it gives only corrupt despotism; promising fraternity, it gives only fratricide.’
V. S. C.