by Doubleday, Page and Company. 1924. 8vo, 322 pp. $3.50.Garden City, N. Y.:
by George H. Doran Company. 1921. 8vo, viii+322 pp. $3.00.New York:
THIS season’s books upon Russia strike a new note of objective understanding. Hitherto, writers describing the Bolshevist régime have recorded mainly — even though unconsciously — their personal liking or aversion for its theories and institutions.
Sir Paul Dukes has writ ten a thrilling, dramatic, autobiographical detective-story. The theme is his personal adventures in Petrograd and as a member of the Red Army, at a time when the Western world regarded Russia as a sealed book, with mysterious bloodstained leaves between the covers. The author is an Englishman, who knows the Russian people, speaks their language well enough to pass as one of them, and, like most Westerners who know them intimately, loves them and yields to the strange glamour of their country. Therefore, though he was an enemy or their revolutionary rulers, serving against the Communist dictators on perhaps the most perilous mission that the British mverinnent entrusted to any of its citizens, he went about among the workers and peasants as a friend, and the spirit of his labors was devotion to a truly liberated Russia as well as to the British cause.
This spirit, as much as his vivid portrayal of conditions and personal experiences, lends quality to the book. He has given us the best inside account of the organization and morale of the Red Army, and perhaps the best account of the Communist Party organization, which have been published in English. He asserts that Lenin, himself an ex-landlord, ‘has never ceased to believe, not only that the Russian bourgeoisie as a class is necessary to the state, but that the entire Russian peasantry is and always will be a class of small property-owning farmers, with the psychology of the petite bourgeoisie.’ He considers that the armed intervention of the Allies against the Bolsheviki was a blunder, and implies that it was, in some respects, a malicious blunder; he advocates resuming relations with Soviet Russia, to the extent of economic and philanthropic intervention, and ridicules the fears of those who dread a doctrinal contamination of Western workers by Moscow theories.
Mrs. Harrison has written the most informing book upon recent Russia, for the average reader, that has yet been published. She describes unassumingly — almost deprecating the unavoidably sensational character of her experiences — a sojourn of eighteen months in that country during 1920 and 1921. Nearly ten months of this lime were spent in prison. She saw the Polish front, — where she crossed the frontier without authorization, — Moscow and vicinity, and the Volga country. She met people of all rauks and positions — high Soviet officials, distinguished members of the old régime, workingmen, peasants, criminals, and, above all, remnants of the former middle classes, whom most of her readers will best understand. She holds a mirror up to Moscow, and lets us see people marrying, dining, going to church, attending teas, talking art and religion as well as politics, enjoying country outings and picnics. She tells us about the theatre, the press, the concerts, the welfare institutions, and the schools.
Evidently Mrs. Harrison has taken well to heart our soldier-boy motto, ‘Keep smiling.’ Plucky, sympathetic, and immensely charitable, she writes of even her harshest experiences without resentment. And her conclusions as to Russia’s future and the right relations of the outer world with Russia agree substantially with those of Sir Paul Dukes.
VICTOR S. CLARK.