The US State Department now has a decidedly different take on food conditions. Countless reports arriving from many different sources converge with a single message. It’s bad, very bad. Felix Cole transits from Riga dispatch No. 543 on July 11, 1932, “Economic Conditions in Russia in the Second Quarter of 1932”. This time Cole’s dispatch is recognized for its importance: four copies of the memo are circulated through the administration to “MID”, “Com” (Secretary of Commerce sic), and “Agr” (Secretary of Agriculture sic). Cole gets straight to the crux of the alarming food scarcity. For some unexplained reason or lack of one it takes two weeks before Kelley stamps it with his initials on July 25. Bullitt is somewhere between Moscow and Berlin. Stimson is back and forth between Highhold and Woodley. The Secretary is too preoccupied with Geneva disarmament issues, Japanese encroachments in the Far East and regular meetings with Fed and British bankers to give Ukraine any serious attention.
The Soviet harvest and Stalin treatment of the peasants is apparently now of paramount concern to the White House. Or, so it might seem, at least to a few cabinet members.
As though he sought to shake Washington out of its mid-summer doldrums, just when the harvest season gears up, Cole writes “the attention of the Soviet public and of foreign observers has been centered particularly on the important developments in Russian agriculture and the changes in the Government’s peasant policy”. Cole calls “the agricultural situation” since the beginning of the year “scarcely favorable”.
Cole describes conditions in more detail: “There was a general lack of agricultural products, which made itself felt in numerous difficulties with the food supply and with the supply of seed grain to certain districts. There seems to be no doubt that these difficulties in the food supply were of a more serious nature than any that have occurred in several years, particularly in the Ukraine and in those districts which had poor crops last year. (italics added)
In addition to this, the decline in the quantity of live stock, which had been noted since the beginning of extensive collectivization in 1929, had apparently continued apace during the first part of this year… It may be said that in general the circumstances were much more favorable this year for a successful completion of the sowing campaign than was the case in 1931. There were more agricultural machinery; the new collective farms had the benefit of last year’s experience; finally, the campaign was begun two weeks earlier than last year. Nevertheless, the results were on the whole less favorable. While the Soviet press hailed the completion of the campaign as a success, this position was based chiefly on the fact that the acreage sown by collective farms and tractor stations increased proportionately, as compared with that sown by the individual peasants. The fact remains that taken in its entirety, the sowing campaign progressed even more slowly than last year, lagging anywhere from one to four million hectares behind last year’s record, as the quarter progressed. The sowings of individual peasants fell far below the planned figures.” (italics added)
Cole quickly gets to the heart of the problem which will break wide open with the Holodomor peak next spring. The American diplomat writes, “The situation in the Ukraine was particularly unfavorable and if it had not been for successful sowing operations in some of the newer agricultural regions, the failure of the Ukraine would have presented the country with a very serious situation. As it is, the sowing of cereal crops for the country as a whole appears to have been very unsuccessful. On June 20, when the period for wheat sowings may be considered to have elapsed even in most of the northern districts, the area sown to wheat was over 3,500,000 hectares less than last year, whereas a difference of only 1,800,000 hectares had been foreseen in the plan. The area sown to wheat, barley, oats and corn together was 7,285,000 hectares (about 15 per cent) less than in 1931, whereas the plan had provided for a decrease of only 2,550,000 hectares. Even the relatively successful sowing of non-cereal crops could not offset the generally unfavorable result.” (italics added)
Cole relies on Soviet state figures, dubious and not to be trusted but what else can he do in these circumstances? Hay-harvesting also suffers badly in spite of the good weather. Cole states results are poor due to “the rapid collectivization”. Referring to soviet steps to increase the crop yield, Cole describes the surprisingly sudden soviet step back to ease the grain quota and tax burden on the peasants described as “numerous administrative measures designed to encourage the productive efforts of the agricultural population” with collective and individual peasants now “granted the right to take a certain of their products to the towns and cities and to sell them there on the open market at whatever prices they could get.” But the new tactic is not working to sufficiently increase the harvest and avoid disaster. If the great achievement of Soviet socialism is still an experiment promising a golden future the peasants aren’t buying it.
The new socialism of the Bolsheviks is no better than the old capitalist past. Instead of collective abundance of socialist prosperity the peasants suffer increasing penury and servitude worse than before the war and revolution.
Nor is Cole duped by this staged stop-gap measure, knowing well that the peasants have little food and wish even less to part with it or send anything to the cities already straining from the rural scarcity. The American Consul scoffs at reports of a breakthrough in the agricultural imbroglio that cite Stalin’s reforms as done “in the foreign press as the ‘little NEP”, referring to Lenin’s program before he was physically incapacitated. He writes, “This is of course an exaggeration. The mere fact that the Government, having permitted the peasants to bring these products to the market and sell at free prices, has not relinquished its strict control over the further distribution and is determined to prevent the reappearance of the private middleman, – this fact alone is sufficient to distinguish the new system from the conditions prevailing under the New Economic Policy.” Nor is it “new”. Duranty has frequently briefed the State Department on food conditions. Now with the severe strain impacting a hard-pressed reality the embarrassment could hardly compensate for the negligence forecasting alarm under the duress and pain of death en masse imposed either by starvation or Stalin’s shock brigades.
Cole, nonetheless, spins it. Never panic. Remain calm, detached, disinterested. Alarm is mixed with restraint. Opposites blend. Black and white turns gray. Millions of peasants will disappear in that dark gray of disbelief and indifference. The socialist leaders will deny any contradiction in socialist method. Linguistic artifices of rhetoric and ambiguity engulf the Terror-Famine with the skill to describe as well as to deceive casting truth in illusion so that in the end Cole depicts Stalin’s killing assault on the countryside as “a far-going change, which will affect not only the peasants, but the entire Soviet economic structure, and the results, which cannot yet be foreseen, will warrant the closest attention.” Diplomatic speak or a mouthful of crock. However you wish to call it, it’s classic Cole. Subterfuge. A concerted urgent call for remedial action is blunted by the Department tacit “Do Nothing, Wait and See” stance. Nevertheless odd and strangely out of character it may appear to the outsider, the government’s man on the scene doesn’t allow himself to act as though he might or ought to understand the tenacity of the wolf in the Kremlin. Yet, Cole declares that “the measure was adopted at so late a date that it can scarcely affect the sowing campaign”. Unwilling to admit the incredible severity of repression but unlike his friend Lord Strang over at the British Embassy Cole makes it clear enough in his dispatch: the Ukrainians are doomed and the State Department knows it.
Indications elsewhere point to general economic breakdown. Steel production continues to slump. Conveyors at tractor assembling plants, for instance, at Stalingrad, Kharkov and the AMO works cease to operate. Productivity levels plunge at the giant Kharkov tractor plant falling “50 per cent less in June than in April”. Worse, Stalingrad’s show-case Tractor Plant, a gemstone of progress in the Kremlin’s showcase of industrial capacity “was out of operation most of the month of June”. The new Automobile Plant, at Nizhi Novgorod northeast of Moscow nearly the size of all of Ford’s factories at River Rouge (sic) has closed entirely since the first half of April. Attempts failed to operate during the first quarter due largely to the departure of American skilled workers who ran the plant in 1932 when “summer production averaged 29-30 cars per day” and near the end of the year “increased to about 50 cars”. The plant reopened on April 15 with resumed productivity. By July 1 the plant was producing about 1,000 machines. But typically they “were incomplete”.
You see, reader, this is incredible, really! This gigantic Nijni-Novgorod plant has been built precisely on the lines of the Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit. Soviet workers, however, are unaccustomed and untrained for the particular level of mechanization necessary to operate it. Three months after the plant opened production grinds to a halt due to complete disorganization. Similar shutdowns push Stalin’s miracle of state socialism over the edge. Soviet industrialization planned by the Soviets and the Consortium is a general disaster. The Americans evidently had no idea what they were dealing with getting mixed up with revolutionary Russia. Plants like the Konstantinovsky zinc factory, the Rostov agricultural machinery plant, the Moscow ball-bearing plant, the Petrovsky Iron Foundry, the Dnyeprostalh Trust Works et cetera all of these suffer breakdowns. Plans for the Soviet tractor industry in 1933 with already severely lowered targets aimed at only 43 % of its capacity “amounting to 65,000 machines”. But this high figure is due to the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant put into operation. (Rosja Sowiecka / Soviet Russia, Jan. 31, 1933). In the same issue sent by the US Embassy in Warsaw, the writers ask, “Is the soviet Village Dying?” East European embassies know that many skilled Americans continue to leave because of indigestible food and soup no better than “dishwater”. (SDDF 861.50/785; 861.5017-Living Conditions/ 607)
About this time the Consortium cover-up takes another twist into the bizarre. Something must have seemed very out of sync and certainly raised eyebrows evoking grotesque grimaces about a wierd request during the wretched famine. It’s sent to the Riga Legation and circulated to top officials in the Russian Division. The government asks each officer to write a memorandum for their boss in Washington. This time it’s the head of the Legation who is instructed to act as the chief officer in this episode. Robert F. Skinner circulates a memorandum on July 30 titled “Success or failure of the Russian Experiment” and sends it back home in dispatch No. 650. It shows precisely how dangerously warped some minds have become under the Kafkaesque nightmare of the Holodomor. (Robert F. Skinner memorandum July 30,1932, US State Department files)
Bob Skinner’s American subordinates at Riga are individually instructed to go on record. That includes Messrs. Cole, Gwynn, Kennan, Harrison, Lehrs, Callman, and even the boss Skinner, himself too. Their response is destined to “HLS”, the Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson himself. Skinner writes that he had taken it upon himself to ask his team to contemplate “the spiritual values” of the United States. Who could have thought that the story should come down to a single question in their heads? It deserves a place in the annals of State Department history as one of the most specious and mundane idiocies of this perverse and insane period ever produced by the upper rank of the diplomatic corps. How utterly inane it must have seemed to the well-informed staff trapped in the crossfire of the Consortium cover-up and Ukrainians in the former Romanov empire and other oppressed ethnic peoples dying in the most miserable conditions, exterminated by forced starvation and terrorized by Stalin’s paranoia. Yet Skinner is absolutely serious and he intends to collect in a few words the doubt and guilt of the highly suspect individual. These are strange times my friend and all is not well indeed in the hearts and minds of men.
This is not some harmless prank of an innocent buffon! (Or is it? How many times has the Soviet prisoner been taken out of the cell to be shot only to find see it again! What wonderful bliss to hear the metal door shut and that reassuring turn of the jailers key!) Assuming the severity of Department officialdom in such matters Skinner is no less inspired by a moral travesty of bureaucratic dementia testing the Legation’s spin-doctor and his loyal servants. Yes! It was a good mental and moral test. How is everyone on the team holding up? Time for a reality check! (in an utterly unreal and make-believe fantasy land) where the gravity of life and death is not found in questions but answers! And if you don’t have it quick, then to the devil with you. They have them all ready for you. Sign!
“It is clear enough to all who are following Russian affairs,” Skinner declares, “that materially a great deal has been accomplished, much more planned, and that Russia must soon become unrecognizable as contrasted with life not so long ago under the Czar. But what of contentment, what of the spiritual values? There is something going on in Russia not wholly incomparable with the recent industrial advancement of the United States; there is work for everybody; economic organization comes on apace; mines, industry, and agricultural lands are coming into productivity; but in all of this, there is little of communism, and the success realized is obviously the consequence of a fairly rapid return to the old wicked capitalistic system. There is no need for us to be deceived by stock phrases about the proletariat and Karl Marx. Russia, economically, is as certainly tied to the gold exchange as any other country, and with gold moving out steadily, with credits more and more restricted, with much waste and incompetency despite progress, it seems not improbable that eventually an economic crisis may overtake Russia such as has overtaken the western world. This should follow upon the completion of the immense producing establishments when there will be more goods than the country can absorb, when it will be as difficult to find work for labor as up to now it has been difficult to find labor for work… Can present day enthusiasm survive such a test?”
Skinner observes that Russia’s religious and moral faith had been replaced by “a purely bread-and-butter conception of life”. He writes, “Beauty and sweetness no longer seem to count”. God Almighty! These people were struggling to stay alive! How bourgeois and conventional of Mr. Skinner, obviously not mentally equipped to debate with the Marxist dialectic antagonist determined to expose the capitalist parasite feeding off the backs of the working class. Still, Skinner concludes, “On the whole, Russia presents an ugly picture, and it is difficult for us with our training quite to convince ourselves that the Russians have found happiness in contemplating it, yet the truth is a great many of them do.” It’s obvious that Skinner had no idea of whom or what he was trying to describe, the aggressor or his victim? Had he even read The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels? He doesn’t say nor does it matter anymore… (SDDF 861.5017 Living Conditions/510, classified as 861.00/11496).
Responding from his distant perch George Kennan on August 19 produced a remarkable tract titled “Memorandum for the Minister”. Kennan was elegant with his choice of words, a valuable quality for the Consortium which took notice and didn’t hesitate to use his literary skills to write the acceptable public record of the American armed intervention in Russia’s Civil War, a two-volume study still considered the reference book or masterly white-wash of America’s undeclared war and secret support of Lenin and the Bolshevik regime. Now Kennan is careful not to admit that all is lost under Stalin’s system of labour death camps, general socialized terror, collective farms, depopulation, and arbitrary prison terms denigrating any trace of individuality under the present depravity of the communist system of Soviet regulations, arrests, and executions. He is careful not to remark about starvation, or the Holodomor and extermination of the Ukrainians. All is not over he says. Things are not as bad as they seem. It can’t be. The Consortium has yet to accomplish its goals. The great work of Comrade Stalin is still unfinished. With repression comes more repression. There is no room for liberalism, no deviation from the orders that come from Moscow. (George Kennan, “Memorandum for the Minister”, Aug. 19, 1932, US State Department)
Kennan reveals his own uncertainty and a peculiar unwillingness to concede that the Consortium socialist experiment in monopoly of resources and labor under Stalin’s absolute system of socialized repression has been a colossal pathetic failure of which he has played no small part with his benign servitude to US policy and procedures. Life in the Soviet Union was not so bad! There were always new orders from Moscow, new production plans to be fulfilled, progress in every step forward! Everything for the Plans! After the Holodomor, what’s next? The worst is yet to come. And he was right. World war is only a few years away. German factories turn day and night. The Nazis Reich is arming and mobilizing its invasion force near the border. But Kennan doesn’t speak of production quotas, armaments and war plans. Instead Kennan here offered a cagey warning, “Russia can become over-night the worst moral chaos.”
In this extract, Kennan added, “In a country which for nearly twenty years has lived in a continual state of extreme social and political tension, – where fifteen to twenty million people have been killed in military operations, exiled to prison camps, forced to emigrate or deprived of all civic rights for political reasons, – where the ideals, principles, beliefs and social position of all but a tiny minority have been forcibly turned upside-down by government action, – in such a country it is obvious that there are infinite degrees of attitude towards environment, varying from the most complete misery and bitterness to the most exalted enthusiasm.” Between the extremes and 150 million people held at the point of a bayonet and machine guns the possibilities are unlimited. So much has been built, with great losses but so much more can be accomplished with even greater communist sacrifice and socialized hard work under the collective system. But then Kennan conceded the contradictions of power tearing apart the fabric of Russian life woven over centuries. “It must be remembered in this connection that most every detail in the life of every individual in Russia is regulated by a centralized political power which is unparalleled in modern history, and that this power is not at present being exercised in the interests of the welfare and happiness of the present generation.” The country, Kennan concedes, is dictated to by “a single group”, with life “still being administered in the interests of a doctrine … the inevitable violent communist revolution in all countries… ” Kennan, Kelley and a great many others still believed it but not Stalin or the Consortium. A total economic fall-out of the system, Kennan warns, is not unlikely. Kennan confirmed the Consortium concern behind Roosevelt’s tactic of official diplomatic recognition of Stalin and de facto approval and legitimization of his repressive measures to bring iron-clad stability to prevent further deterioration of the general disorder pervading communist Russia. Of course there is the constant card now of the Japanese menace in Manchuria on Russia’s southern eastern flank. But it is never amounts to more than that. For his part Kennan admits that the Plans had been a particular social and economic disaster. “The policy of rapid and forced industrialization turns out to be an economic mistake. The rate of construction cannot be maintained. Collectivized agriculture cannot reabsorb the masses of transient labor released from the construction projects, not do these masses, uprooted and inspired with vague political hopes, wish to be reabsorbed by the countryside. They pile into the big cities. Discontent and increasingly government expenses do their work. Foreign credit breaks down. Depreciation gains the upper hand over production. The system falls to pieces… From the most morally unified country in the world, Russia can become over-night the worst moral chaos.” What is he talking about, this junior diplomat in the US? What does he mean and what are his intentions? The Consortium plan for monopoly of a state socialized system based on cheap slave labor exploiting ignorant illiterate peasants controlled by a minority of Jewish intellectuals never dreamed of the sort of liberation and happiness that catches Kennan by his tongue. Fully aware that the end is near for the Ukrainians and Russians in other territories of the Soviet Union now undergoing worsening conditions of famine Kennan has shifted into damage control to distance himself and the embassy as far as the imagination can bear with any link of responsibility by the West for catastrophe falling down on their heads.
From afar in the offices of the Riga Legation the American Russian observers have read too many depressing reports about Bolshevik state terror, and murder. Kennan and his colleagues know the crisis has reached critical mass and nobody can hide the damage in terms either of economic waste or human collateral. These diplomats are observers and analysts, not policy makers. It’s now a numbers game and pointing fingers at multiple causes none of which will ever do the Ukrainians any good. But Kennan still has a job to do. He cannot any longer fight back the current and any attempt at that would just look too ridiculous. Better now not to restrain his pessimism, so he turns the table around. “If it is true,” he concludes, “consequently, that there is a portion of the population which is now in a happy and enthusiastic frame of mind, there is nothing to show that this fortunate situation is based on any permanent foundation, or holds any particular promise for the future.” Kennan must be remembered for uttering not a word of concern or compassion for the millions of displaced peasants who have lost their farms and families, besieged by the Terror-Famine, the concentration camps and forced labor of a people driven to national resistance in the Ukraine and elsewhere in order to preserve their human dignity before all traces of that too are expunged from them. That is exactly what the Consortium and The Five-Year Plans had done to them in what Solzhenitsyn calls it “the monstrous cattle drive of collectivization” in the hands of Stalin.
Kennan will be rewarded for his artful taciturnity. In a few years the Germans Reich will move east sacking the Ukraine, surround Leningrad, Moscow, the Volga, descend the foothills of the Caucasus. Solzhenitsyn remembers these days in The Gulag Archipelago: “Everything for the Front!… And still the camps held, security officers were holding back the Fifth Column, holding back Hitler!” With orders to shoot any deserter or suspect collaborator giving aide or shelter to the Nazi invader.
Late January 1933 with the new Democratic President-elect preparing to occupy the White House in a whirlwind of bank failures Kennan will reconfirm this report with a lengthy memorandum to the Department that industrialization and collectivization have failed. In it he states “conditions at the present moment are more unfavorable than at any time since the notable famine of 1921”. But his shot across the bow of the ship of State comes too late. The famine has sealed their fate and the Ukrainians are doomed. So, in the end, Kennan is writing not of the future. It is about the past, a past that has shaped what is to come for these peasants–and what has been done to them. Kennan will survive long enough to meet with Solzhenitsyn. Had he ever cared to sit down and debate with the Nobel writer? What a great show it would have been to see them with William F. Buckley on Firing Line. Does any film exist of these icons in the rubble of what would have had to have been a classic encounter of “the Big Lie” then and for posterity?
US Consul L. M. Harrison sees a rise in the standard of living in this “new culture” and enjoyment by the masses of consumer goods as the “spiritual” path to contentment and security. Such a fine way to condone terror and death by hunger! This was their mission and they did it well. “For the past five years,” Harrison declares, “the Soviet state has paid its wages largely in hope. It is still paying largely in the same coin. This cannot continue indefinitely or the youth of Russia will develop into embittered and disillusioned men. …” But Stalin would never allow that to happen, Mr. Consul Harrison! He has misjudged Stalin, this is not the Party line of the collective spirit. Doesn’t the Consul know how Stalin’s forces respond to this sort of “counterrevolutionary” provocation? Come on guys, what are you doing in the embassy rooms, reading comic books? Don’t you remember when hundreds of Ukrainian cadets refused to punish the peasants, he sent them all to the Sovolski Monastery. And not to pray! They would learn the virtue of Soviet discipline. Harrison will fall on his head and maybe recover his wits but Stalin is a nightmare from which the Ukrainians could not wake up.
Picture the scene in this first harvest season of the Holodomor but you have to experience it to know it. The Ukrainians were hoping for relief or a quick death! There is unrelenting Genocide spreading in all directions with a terror that leaves nothing untouched. Villages are ransacked for hidden grain sealed behind walls, under floors, in attics, buried in the ground, behind the house, in distant fields. Spies are everywhere. Brainwashed youth who don’t know better, have had their minds bashed in with incessant propaganda for their glorious new socialist future inform on their fathers and mothers, guardians of the evil old ways, symbols of the old and decrepit counter-revolutionary past. Those who resist have their brains bashed in with the butt of a gun. Enemies of the State! And there they are, these apparently well-fed bureaucrats and privileged but poorly paid career civil servants in the Riga Legation in Latvia, safely snug in their tiny office building hundreds of miles from Moscow, in the Baltic Republics, spying on the most diabolical and treacherous police state of organized terror in the world entrenched in the middle of a systematically man-made extermination of an national resistance of the Ukrainian population. They act as though their heads are buried deep in the sand knowing fully well who they are working for and what has transpired and their complicity in spinning a new twist on the hellish course plunging the Ukrainians and all fellow Russians deeper into darkness. Every day they read similar reports telling of the horrors, interviews with American visitors and workmen, eye-witnesses and participants of the ensuing Genocide. Harrison balks and then falls miserably into his bottomless pit again unable to provide a clear assessment of any utility that might alter the mindset at Foggy Bottom. Why didn’t these men go and see for themselves the truth of it all?
“This new culture,” Harrison writes, “is a definite break with the past, and there are no standards by which it can be evaluated as yet. It demands years of accomplishment before it can be judged.” Bravo! He passes the rhetoric test with flying colors! Read it again, where he says “before it can be judged”! As so, like with the murder of ten million people, it still remained, – this a decade after twenty millions Russians (actually many more but who is counting?) had perished in war, revolution and famine – and it’s still too early to judge, as though the world has no standards anymore, or has shifted morality to another paradigm of principles, leaving the reader to nod with indifference. These true believers will not tell you how the Soviet Empire just sort of happened, without any financial planning or assistance from the same gang behind their very own careers! Of course, it’s not an easy thing for them to admit. Well done, Consul Harrison. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you! Anyway its all too incredible to be true! Stand in line but keep your head down. Don’t be too inquisitive. Observe but not too much! Remember your place if you want a promotion! Career assured! Long live the bureaucrats! At least these government men won’t be shot. Not unless there is a war. Damn the peasants and their confounded traditions! Backward superstitions! The Soviets promise modernity, progress! …
Just as the British Foreign Office “received reports about the famine from a large number of different sources”, so, too, the American government through its channels are well informed. But there is a tendency in some analysts dispatches to be dismissive and worse, report that the oppressed “natives” of Ukraine’s indigenous agricultural population accepted with a certain complacency or leniency their Soviet oppressors much more “than they have been in the past to their former rulers.” Next in the line to get a good understanding of the thinking of American “experts” at Riga feeding Kelley and Co. useless information among the consuls, ambassadors, military spies, and undersecretaries is the very able John H. Lehrs, an able Russian hand ever since he was born there, multilingual, Vice Consul under Francis, Poole and Sumners during their coup in Petrograd and top adviser for Hoover in the Liaison Division of the Russian Unit of ARA Hoover. Would Lehrs at this moment be any more direct and honest in his understanding of the Russians? Lehrs refers to the peasantry and illiterate masses, writing, “The gulf between the educated class, or the ‘intelligentsia’, and the mass, or ‘the people’ (narod), as the two groups were commonly referred to in Russia, has never been bridged, and by broad analogy it is comparable with the lack of mutual understanding which frequently exists in colonial possessions between the natives and the government race.” Oh, yes, of course lets not forget that great divide between the “have nots” and the “haves”, the elites and those marginalized stupid masses. Lehrs describes the Bolshevik 1917 October coup as “essentially the overthrow by the masses of the hegemony of the intelligentsia”, when in fact the opposite was the truth, with the aid of the American capitalists whether from Schiff, Kahn, Warburg, or Crane, Davison, Thompson and others of the Anglo-American Consortium of industrialists, financiers and their agents in the field. Come on, guys! Who is fooling whom? (Go take another look at that detailed two-volume study by Kennan’s fairytale history of the 1917 Bolshevik coup and America’s armed intervention in the Russian Civil War. Do not be mistaken; Kennan is a cunning and clever with a literary wit and his superiors make good use of it. He owes his career to that one!)
Information is only meaningful and useful if others don’t have it. In the end, all their paper-pushing efforts and reports meant nothing except to leave a trail of complicity and denial – the conspiracy is elsewhere and more nefariously sheathed from obvious exposure. Lehrs writes of the dictatorship of the masses by the masses: “In view of this circumstance the Russian masses appear to be much more lenient to the Soviet regime and its officials than they have been in the past to their former rulers.” Again “Bravo” Johnny boy! No national uprising. He’s astounded at their passivity while not mentioning the utter barbarity of the tortures inflicted upon them, nothing of the kind which existed under Czar Nicholas or his strong father Alexsander III. And the best and strongest of them having been slaughtered in the First World War only to have their Revolution stolen from them by a foreign-backed coup d’état in Moscow. So, Consul Lehrs, just who is going to unseat the Bolshevik Commissars! Ha! And who put them there in the first place, John? Lehrs then gets lost in the contradictions again and can’t find his way out of the madness. Ha! He’s no master dialectician! Skipped his Marxist-Leninist lessons! The Party always has the right answer!
Eureka! Lehrs comes to his senses, conceding the Soviet leaders rule “with the aid of suppressive measures”. It requires a stretch of the imagination to take his report seriously; is he really catching on? No, this is another of the intentionally “faked” documents to divert. Lehrs neither speaks Ukrainian nor Russian. How could he possibly know these people he declares now to so well understand? And of Bolshevism he wouldn’t last five minutes in debate talking the “Bolsheviki” dialectic of reductio absurdum. But it does stink of the colonial racism of the superior Anglo-Saxon civilization of members in the Pilgrims Society, CFR and in the slew of foreign policy institutes, think tanks, university clubs …
At least Lehrs grants the peasants some status – in numbers – they “constitute four-fifths of the total population”. But of course Lenin and all the revolutionary Bolsheviks, and the Consortium knew that since the day of Tolstoy! That’s why it’s a gulag, John! Lehrs acknowledges that the Soviet leaders during the Five-Year Plan suppressed the peasantry “exiling several millions who actively opposed” Soviet dispossession “of all land, cattle, and implements” stripping them of ownership and “reducing them to the position of farm hands”. It’s the strangest thing that he then writes that this “collectivization of agriculture” failed to blow the whistle to draw attention to Stalin’s plan of extermination. Lehrs acknowledged that peasant resistance did not collapse at the point of bayonet or forced exile and he accepts that “even that has been unable to break the passive resistance of the peasantry.” Yet Lehrs is one of the few observers there openly disturbed by the ravages of Soviet propaganda, especially by those seductive pictures of smiling farm maidens sitting on top of Ford tractors on the state collective farms not far from unseen mass graves. “Foreigners who have traveled in Russia,” he went on, “have been impressed by the concentrated and troubled look of the people. Soviet propaganda has been attempting to eradicate that impression by the somewhat crude method of publishing pictures of ‘smiling faces’, and recently a national campaign has been inaugurated by the Soviet authorities to stimulate mirth in Russia.” Laughter, gaiety, joy! A new campaign – a real one, not a fake! – launched by the overfed, masters of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat!” Long live the Sotsialisticheskaya Industria! The American diplomat is not taken by the rituals of the new proletarian society of Party socialism.
“The Soviet press”, Lehrs tells his superiors “frequently refers to the enthusiasm with which, it is alleged, the masses are carrying out the Government’s economic program. The study of the developments in Soviet agriculture and industry, covering a period of several years, fails to produce any evidence that is the case. On the contrary, as has been stated above, there is ample evidence that the masses are dissatisfied and that they manifest their displeasure by passive resistance.” A new class of youthful tormenters and liquidators assumed positions of power and privilege. But Lehrs does not find these bloody-minded people outside the prison gates or in the embassies or corporations or banking investment firms of the west conducting the business that grinds othe wheels of forced labor of the Soviet death camps.
As he wrestles with his own culture of innocence with all the blaring contradictions inherent in bourgeois liberalism constantly attacked by the Marxist-Leninist dialecticians up and down the ranks of the CP, Lehrs found these same party members eager naturally “enjoying as they do privileges withheld from the rest of the people … pleased with their positions in life.” Why wouldn’t they be? What about him? Is self-enjoyment, even at the price of risking individuality, a perversion of Marxist-Leninism? What is better than for the working class to be in Stalin’s labor camps building canals, dams and giant factories if only fed and sometimes not fed deprived even a crust of bread? These were people on whom Stalin depends to build the great new socialist order. The Komsomol NKVD-led shock brigades of the Party nomenklatura descend into the countryside. Many of the leaders of the intelligentsia call them “vermin” and diseased minds as fatal as cholera and the plague destroying the Ukraine and Russia.
Consul Lehrs writes, “Members of the Communist Party and of the Union of Youth, soldiers of the Red Army, and men of the GPU police… Youths of 18 to 25, from among whom the majority of the directors of collective farms have been recruited, doubtlessly enjoy their positions of unlimited authority over hundreds of peasants.” Unfortunately, Consul Lehrs does not see the forest through the trees. He’s looking straight at the big picture but he doesn’t see the whole prison security blanket thrown over all of Russia and its vassal republics, nor does he understand the Russian temperament. Tensions rise with each passing month with the peak of the Holodomor around the corner to finish those too weak to survive the freezing cold of winter. And still there are people in the embassies who don’t hear the cry of the wolves moving in for the kill.
No man is immune from the chill of death when it is creeps near. Cole’s reply shows more respect of an enlightened observer. And what way out of his dream did he find from the absurdity of Skinner’s benign and servile callousness. He and his associates all know the famine will be terrible. It is no secret to either one of them and it hits each one way or the other, not without empathy more or less but they will never be able to grasp the hand of the victim with any real genuine compassion. Nor should they. It’s not their mission. The legacy of the crime is already evident before the next spring comes around with a fury. All the government’s men are resolute in their denial of complicity. That much is not in doubt. But Cole, like his boss and mentor in the White House, also takes the long view commensurate with his knowledge gained from experience of the past. In his seven-page official memorandum titled “Inside Russia since the last Tsarist summer of 1917” written during a most critical period of the Holodomor the American chargé d’ affaires Felix Cole embarks on a curious deflection of jaded cynicism whereby he finds himself comfortably aloof, not that he is looking away, off somewhere in the distance where he cannot see the victims of the Consortium intrigue crawling on the dry hard earth with outstretched arms. When he is asked to speak of the events in the Soviet Union resulting in the economic and social disaster of The Plans and its Holodomor Cole finds himself wanting to be somewhere else, indeed very far away. In the utter helplessness of the place, what would you do?
For that matter Felix Cole has always been somewhere else and no where at all in this land of mystery upon mystery. In fact he has nothing in common with the Russian or Ukrainian worker and when he says he has been with Russians “ever since the 1st of January 1913”, his human alienation from feeling their pain and suffering is that much more regrettable. It would be worse than sad if it were true. Rather, it would be utterly pathetic, rather. Does he dare grossly flatter himself?
Educated and cultured men of the Consortium endowed with too much privilege are capable of that peculiar disconnect. Its a smooth, stylish affair of deception for which they are well rewarded and they flatter themselves when they do it. What can be more revolting, reader, than such deliberate disregard for the truth marked by a twitch of compassion? It is what gives fascism its power to destroy the victim as well as the transgressor, both destroyed in that rarest of proximity of human transference. This is what is so dangerous about men who walk as though they own the world performing functions for a greater power that limits and controls freedom and expression of liberty without which there can be no goodness or happiness of the individual or society. Without the individual there is no true society. And they know it. The Russians know it too except they cannot admit it openly or risk the Gulag or be shot by orders of the Party and their perfect leader Stalin. These creatures of fascism are weary of that very thing as it encroaches upon their daily life. Borders do not keep it away. As with pestilence and disease corruption and moral decay is infectious, invisible, and often fatal. Like a poison infecting their minds, pulsating in their veins, these are old men who have cheated death once or so many times that they have so little life left in them they no longer can feel anymore. Imagine that, a life without feeling. That is a dead life, a most terrible contradiction. Even their victims are more alive than these people with their comforts and wealth and intimate “circle of friends”.