Winter in Moscow, a novel by Malcolm Muggeridge. Anti-Semitic?
© Rae West 2000[Case Against Judaism | Home Page]
Malcolm Muggeridge: Biographical notes
Or go directly to notes on his controversial Winter in Moscow
Malcolm Muggeridge was born in 1903, into a lower middle class household, a fact he liked to repeat. Nevertheless, he graduated from Cambridge in a subject he never specifiedpresumably English. His attitude to education and careers is shown in his description of Anthony Eden: '.. every promise of a brilliant career.. distinguished record in the 1914-18 war, a first at Oxford in Oriental languages, impeccable family antecedents, an elegant appearance and an earnest disposition..' Muggeridge taught English in India, and settled to journalism. He worked for the Manchester Guardian just before Winter in Moscow was published, after which he moved (or was moved) to Egypt. I think this novel must have failed; at any rate, almost all his other books are factual, in a journalistic way (for example The Thirties, published in 1940).
His writings are based half on newspaper stories. These are fragmented and peppered with anecdotesWodehouse, unemployment, the gold standard, Hitler, James Joyce, Lindbergh kidnapping, Kreuger the match king. He resembles those comedians whose material is taken from films and TV, or those American women writers whose life is product brand names. The other half of his writings come from his own experiences: his war on the Mediterranean, including north Africa, as a Major in Intelligence; editing the notoriously reactionary Daily Telegraph for about two years in the 1950s, before editing Punch, which was (and continued) in decline. Accordingly, these topics include English (e.g. Indian English, Somerset Maugham, Orwell), newspaper lies (e.g. fake eyewitnesses, servile reporters), hotels and people in France and Italy (e.g. mass holidays, Beerbohm in Rapallo), people he'd met, or perhaps felt he'd met (Churchill, the Webbs, Cockburn, de Gaulle, Ian Fleming), and spies and intelligence (Philby, Secret Service). Despite an admission that he'd had sex with prostitute(s), he became puritanical"What are your views on birth control sir?" "Eh err well Ay do believe that those who preach birth control as AN END in ITSELF are err offensive." He was, or imagined he was, religious: this may explain his interest in Samuel Butler, along with such topics as Buchmanism, the Rector of Stiffkey, and Catholicism. On retiring, he turned more to religion: for example, he toured the US, lecturing to almost-all-women audiences. He was part of the 'Mother Teresa' cult.
He came to realise that authority wasn't omnipotent or omniscient. But he had a complete lack of interest in what should have been done, or might have been done. He had little scientific or artistic interest. His descriptions therefore, to give the impression of colour and dynamism, had to be extreme: the word 'bizarre' occurs in almost every chapter of one of his books. His pose was world-weariness, an attitude which clashed laughably with the fact that he was frequently granted TV interviews.
Winter in Moscow
His novel of the 'Russian Revolution' (the Jewish Coup) presents disagreeable charactersprovincial English trade unionists, inarticulate sloganising Americans, fat lecherous women, technicians talking of hydro-electric plants and concrete, Jewish bureaucrats... Muggeridge curtails his unattractive descriptions only for one type of character, the amiable bumbling English writer...
Winter in Moscow is long out-of-print. Biographies of Muggeridge say it's anti-semitic, typically adding remarks such as: 'later he came to see the dangers of this'. The following selections contain all the references to Jews, Jewishness, and Judaism in this novel, so you can judge for yourself.
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WINTER IN MOSCOW. Thirteen selectionsBy Malcolm Muggeridge. Published Feb 1934 by Eyre & Spottiswoode, London. Selections © Rae West 2000.
Pp 19-20: The vast army of sympathetic critics of the Soviet regime have done more to enhance its prestige than all its paid agitators and subsidised publications put together. By being sympathetic they have accepted its premises; and once the premises are accepted, criticism becomes irrelevant. As a Jew in the Soviet Foreign Office said to me once, with a wink, "Those that are not against us are for us." I quite agreed. It is no more possible to describe the Dictatorship of the Proletariat dispassionately than to describe a mad bull rushing round a field dispassionately. The moment you become dispassionate you automatically make the false assumption that the bull is not mad, and thereby vitiate anything further you may have to say about the matter. Of all the accounts of the Soviet regime that have been written and spoken, the falsestthe ones least related to the factsare by people who affect to have no prejudices or convictions either way.
It was as though the Salvation Army had turned out with band and banners in honour of some ferocious tribal deity, or as though the organ of a vegetarian society had issued a passionate plea for cannibalism.
In the classified list of stupidities and brutalities which I did not make, and which is not worth making (stupidities and brutalities, being universal, are neither here nor there), is one item which I have always promised myself the pleasure of stressing if ever I had the occasion. I refer to the position of foreign journalists in Russia, and to the manner in which news about Russia reaches outside. There is a stiff censorship, of course; but it is not generally known that foreign journalists in Moscow work under the perpetual threat of losing their visas, and therefore their jobs. Unless they consent (which most of them do) to limit their news to what they know will not be displeasing to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, they are subjected to continuous persecution, varying from tiresome reproaches from petty Jewish Foreign Office officials to the imprisonment and exiling of any friends or relatives they may have who are unfortunate enough to be Soviet citizens. The result is that news from Russia is a joke, ....
Pp. 22-23: "Her book, Sex and the Soviets, made a great sensation in the States."
Beatrice was a veteran in the revolutionary struggle. It appeared that Trotsky had once made advances to her in a taxi. He had, she often recounted, rested his historic hand on her knee; and she, perhaps mistakenly, had withdrawn the knee from his grasp. Besides this, she had stood shoulder to shoulder with the toiling masses of Russia for no less than ten years in their struggle to create a classless, socialist society.
"How do you like being back?" she shouted gaily to Claude Mosser, a Jew with a soft, romantic face; somehow a little hard, even shifty, underneath its softness.
"Marvellous," he answered. "How stimulating everything is! How exciting! Admit the faults; but the life, the movement, the exhilaration of it all! A new society going through its birth pangs. A new civilisation."
Beatrice nodded. This kind of thing was her speciality. She hoped Mosser was not going to encroach on her territory.
"I suppose you'll be visiting the old village and the old folks again?" she said, her voice solemn, religious.
Mosser had already written three books about revisiting the old village and the old folks. It was just like Beatrice, he thought, to imagine that a theme was never exhausted. The books had been excellent sellers, certainly; but there was no point in flogging a good horse to death. Besides, ever since it had been suggested, unkindly and quite groundlessly, that the Treaty of Versailles had put his birthplace in Poland he had been touchy about the old village and the old folks.
Pp. 30-31: It was Jefferson, a journalist, rapping out his opinions; his face shiny and his eyes alcoholic; two massive, tremulous chins.
"It's always been my viewpoint," Claude Mosser answered, "that the Cossacks deserved to suffer. Look what they did before to the Jews."
He was not going to let this business about the old folks being Poles prevent him from having opinions on the peasant question generally.
The clatter of Jack Wilson's heavy Russian boots broke into their conversation.
"This sort of show makes me sick," he was saying to Fay, a heavily built American Jewess on the staff of the Moscow Tribune. "Jesus Christ, what is it? Shop-window dressing. Give me Magnetogorsk. Twenty-four hours' work a day, and more. Peasant boys who couldn't read or write five years ago handling complicated machines. That's the real thing. Jesus Christ, yes."
Fay looked up at him respectfully through horn-rimmed spectacles; a blond giant; very sure of himself; very pleased with himself. Genuine proletarian, she thought; the real stuff; better even than Boris who lived with, and on, her.
"Oh! Mr. Wilson," she said, "I wish you'd take me to Magnetogorsk one day."
"I tell you, sir," an American voice boomed, "that I know a bit about electrical undertakings; and this power-station at Dnieprostroi is a big thing. As I figure it out this whole experiment in the Soviet Union is mighty interesting and mighty important. Yes, sir, a big thing."
P. 33: "Geoffrey," Mrs. Trivet shouted to him, "this is wonderful. I must write it all down at once. Come, Geoffrey. A memorable evening."
At two o'clock Lily Jones was sitting between the director of the press department and his immediate predecessor in that office. The one, Ouspenski, was short and dapper, with gold teeth and layers of curly hair; the other, Mikhailov, was florid and plump, with grey hair brushed smoothly back from his forehead. Each with an arm round her waist, the two Jews fenced together across Lily's body.
Mikhailov said that it was a great relief to him to get away from the trivial routine of the press department, and to be in the provinces actually at grips with the problems of socialist construction.
Ouspenski retorted that, as a student of human nature, and as a man with a diplomatic career in front of him, he found his work in the Foreign Office fascinating.
Pp. 64-66: "The woman, wife of an exiled kulak; herself a notorious counter-revolutionary, lured Comrade Babel to her house with false promises. . . . Murdered him in the loft with an axe. . . Three soldiers waiting downstairs suspected of complicity. . . Symptomatic of new tactics of kulak elements. . .. Apparent submission used as a cloak for sabotage and other treasonable activities. .
Work sometimes from within collective farms; sometimes even from within Party organisations.
New propagandist campaign and sterner measures against class enemies needed to root out this evil."
He was a Jew; formerly a shoemaker; almost bald, and with a beard trimmed like Lenin's.
As he lay in his bath he brooded on the report; soft limbs, white and hairy, relaxed in hot water; red pate glowing in a mist of steam; little eyes half closed. Enemies at work everywhere; secret underground enemies, corroding the Dictatorship of the Proletariat; enemies in the Party, perhaps even in the Polit-Bureau; enemies all round him night and day, intriguing, sabotaging. After all, he knew the ways of secret underground enemies since he had been one himself; since he had cobbled away in the sunshine on a bench outside his little shop in Kiev with a printing press hidden in his cellar, and at night had printed leaflets that were passed from hand to hand in the factories; since he had decayed a social order from within until it fell like ripe fruit.
A great wave of feeling swept him along. The ingratitude of it! The pity of it. Oh! the pity of it!
"We have done everything for them, and they answer our kindness with hate. We have saved them from landlordism and usury, and, instead of gratitude, we get stabs in the back."
His Jewish religious heart swelled; and his eyes filled with tears.
"But their plots will be unavailing. Already our achievements are great. They will in the future be greater still. By drawing the entire mass of poor peasants into collective farms we have succeeded in raising them up to the standard of middle peasants. This is a great achievement; such an achievement as not a single state in the world has ever before secured."
Now he was triumphant, prophetic; mouthpiece of the Lord of Hosts; very Lord of Hosts.
"Comrade Babel must be numbered amongst our blessed dead; but we, the living, will see to it that his death shall not have been in vain."
Pp. 82-86: "What?"
"Nothing!" His voice rose angrily. "Nothing. An emptiness." The women, doing their housework in the room, were frightened.
"He'll get himself into trouble and us as well," one of them said. "Why can't he speak quietly and play his concertina? If he wasn't my brother-in-law I'd complain about him myself and have him sent away."
She picked up the concertina and put it in his hands. He sat down and began to play it.
"It's the only battle I've ever run away from," he mumbled. "Running away from the Kronstadt revolt I met the Cheka running back. Not Russians. Jews and Letts and Poles who'd been frightened when the trouble first started, and now were running back to get their teeth into the pride and the glory of the Revolution." He spat and played a mournful tune; a sentimental dirge; trivial, mean music that made his despair seem trivial and mean.
"Free elections and a secret ballot; liberty of speech and of the press; the right to form trade unions; the liberation of political prisoners; the equalisation of food rations,' he told off again on his fingers; then, picking up is concertina, his voice merged in its wail.
"If it all happened again?" I asked
He made no answer, and seemed to have forgotten I was there.
The women in the room obviously wanted me to go. "If anyone heard him!" one of them said, and crossed herself piously.
Afterwards I was haunted by the thought of the Cheka racing back to be revenged on the Kronstadt sailors. I saw them like fiery monsters rising out of slime; little eyes flaming; mouths frothing; teeth gnashing as they raced through the night. Dark shadows made up of the fear and hate and fury and envy that hid in the soul of Mr. Aarons, of Kokoshkin, of Mrs. Eardley-Wheatsheaf, of Stalin, of Bill, of myself. Symbols of the new religion Mrs. Trivet described to a sympathetic clergyman friend. Proletarian mysticism.
* * * * The monsters sometimes went after smaller game than the pride and the glory of the Revolution. Anna Mikhailova, a teacher, lived in her own little corner without interfering with anyone. She had an ancient edition of the Forsyte Saga, and a book on architecture, and an ikon beneath which in summer she sometimes put a bunch of flowers that she'd picked in the country. Years of vegetarianism had dried up her skin. She pecked little morsels of food secretly when no one was looking, and had views on education. This secret, furtive life had made the texture of her body disgusting. It had wrinkled and faded like old newspapers stored in an attic. She was fond of animals, and had a particular voice that she used when she spoke of little children; and she believed that languages should be taught by the direct method, and that co-education was a very good thing.
"I am not," she often used to say, "against the Revolution."
In fact, she had in the earlier stages been for it because she had thought that through its agency women would be emancipated (she had wanted to be emancipated), and many good causes find their consummation. Even now, like Cooley, she felt hopeful about the reinstatement of Goldilocks.
When the monsters opened their jaws she trembled, but with great courage said to the three members of the Ogpu who visited her in her room, "I am afraid of mice but not of you." One of them was a Jew with a small dark face; one a blond Esthonian [sic], and one a Russian. They stared suspiciously at her ikon, and asked her searching questions about her class antecedents. The Jew, she thought, looked funny in uniform. She told them that she had been a governess before the Revolution, and that she had lost her papers.
Certain of her pupils, it appeared, had complained that her teaching tended to be romantic. The ikon seemed to bear out the charge.
"Are you a practising Christian?" the Jew asked. She said she was.
He nodded significantly and made a note.
"My religion," she said, "is my own affair."
"As a person, yes; as a teacher, no," he answered.
The Esthonian read from a paper in a husky voice, "On February 28 you used the phrase, 'Beauty is truth; truth, beauty.'"
"It was a quotation," she said, "from a poet."
"I don't care," he answered. "It's opposed to correct Marxist thinking, and is not allowed. In any case it's nonsense."
She turned to the Russian. "What is correct Marxist thinking?"
He was eager to reply at length, but the Jew interrupted, "Read Lenin instead of bourgeois poets and you'll understand."
She decided not to press the point. On the whole, she thought, I've held my own fairly well.
They were not quite sure what action they had better take. Her room was small, and on the cold side of the house; and her life altogether was so small and contemptible that it scarcely seemed worth bothering about. Was it conceivable, they asked themselves, that such a creature could influence students? Her miserable indeterminate idealism would seem as bloodless and futile as herself. She was a good advertisement of its idiocy.
"You realise," the Jew said, "that from now on you will be under observation, and that any further complaints will have serious consequences."
The young man in shorts who was connected with the I.L.P., and whose name was Roden, stared moodily out of the window. He was troubled with conscientious scruples. In the quiet correctness and prosperity of his Quaker home the case had seemed unanswerable. As stated in the New Leader it had seemed unanswerable.
"The Ogpu worries me a bit," he said to Carver, a Russian Jew who, like Mosser, had re-emigrated from America to join the old folks.
"I've seen hundreds like you go down one after the other," Carver answered gloomily. "You need strong nerves and a hard heart to get on in this place."
"It seems to be a very powerful organisation, and very much in evidence," Roden went on. "I found a little girl crying the other day . . ." .
"You can't tell me anything about it," Carver interrupted. "I'm an authority on the subject." Then, lowering his voice so that Mr. Aarons, who was gently patrolling up and down the corridor, should not overhear, he whispered, "I've served three years for espionage myself."
Pp. 147-152: In most Russian towns there are certain shops whose windows are well stocked with food and clothing. They are called Torgsin shops. People stand outside them in little wistful groups looking at tempting pyramids of fruit; at boots and fur coats tastefully displayed; at butter and white bread and other delicacies that are for them unobtainable. They cannot buy in the shops because only gold or foreign currency is accepted, and most Russians possess neither. Even if they do possess a little gold it is dangerous to disclose the fact. The shops are mostly patronised by foreigners and by Russian Jews who receive remittances from relatives abroad. For the general public, like the special Ogpu stores, and the special Red Army stores, and the special stores for important Communist officials, they are closed shops.
One day an elderly man drove up in a droshky to the main entrance of a Torgsin shop in the centre of Moscow. It was a cold day; and the man seemed to feel the cold. His face was grey and pinched, yet decided. He wore an old blue coat with gold braid round the sleeves. Something strained in his whole bearing; white gums and tight dry skin suggested under-nourishment. He was, like many another in Moscow, starving. Before the Revolution he had been the captain of a small merchant ship. Now he earned a poor living by teaching languages. His friends still called him Captain Andreyev, which he liked because it reminded him of the past when, it seemed to him now, he had been very happy.
He paid the driver of the droshky generously, giving him nearly all the money he had, and, carrying under his arm a large parcel done up in newspaper, went into the shop. People were waiting at the counters to be served, and a long queue was waiting at the pay-desk. Captain Andreyev joined this queue. Everyone in it was holding something; a few foreign currency notes; a gold watch or ornament.
"They say people are taking gold stoppings from their teeth and bringing them here," someone in front of Captain Andreyev whispered to him.
A peasant woman in the queue overheard. "When you're starving," she said, "you've got to do something." Captain Andreyev nodded. He was not one to chatter with casual acquaintances.
The shop smelt of scent; and somewhere a gramophone was playing. In the pay-desk a Jewess; her face heavily powdered and rouged; a grotesque swollen mask, weighed gold; examined currency notes, and paid out Torgsin bonds. By her side sat an expert whom she consulted when she was in doubt. The expert wore rimless pince-nez and had a long straight nose. Captain Andreyev shuddered and fortified himself by looking round at the counters where food was arranged. He and his family had eaten nothing but bread; very little of that, for some months. The Jewess's manner was supercilious. She scarcely liked to touch the articles or the grimy creased notes that were handed to her; picked them up daintily in pincers; spoke only when it was absolutely necessary, and then in insolent monosyllables. Between one customer and another she looked at her pink finger-nails.
An old woman; wizened, bent, a shawl over her head, stood muttering to herself while the Jewess examined a tiny gold coin she had given her. When she handed back the coin and shook her head, the old woman pleaded: " Please take it. It's gold. I know it's gold."
The Jewess ignored her and looked enquiringly at the next in the queue.
"You pig! You devil! You filthy Jew!" the old woman shrieked, her voice cracked and venomous. Then, when she noticed the doorkeeper; an old man in a brown uniform and with a divided beard, move towards her, she slunk out of the shop and joined the little crowd staring at its window display in the street outside.
It was a tragic pawnshop whose goodwill was famine and whose management was terror. It was Ouspenski's promised land adapted to the circumstances of an economic collapse. It was penitents laying capitalist offerings at the feet of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The Jewess's swollen face was an idol and the shop a shrine where sacred rites were held; creased, grimy pieces of paper, and gold and jewels, clutched in the fists of the devout, then humbly laid on the shrine. It was Ouspenski's glory and his kingdom.
"I have," Captain Andreyev said when his turn came, "some gold to sell. Rather a lot."
He unwrapped his parcel and displayed the model of a ship; made of gold; each detail perfect; even the name Katya printed in minute letters on its prow. The Jewess half rose from her place; and the expert examined the ship eagerly, taking off his rimless pince-nez and screwing a magnifying glass into his eye.
"You'd better come and see the manager," he said. The manager was polite. He laughed nervously, and said, "If you don't mind we'll go and see the director. It's a lot of gold. Too much for me to handle."
They drove in a car to see the director, the gold ship on the seat between them. When the car drew up at the headquarters of the Ogpu, Captain Andreyev smiled. "I thought the director probably lived here," he said. An orderly showed them into the commandant's office. He was in uniform; very smart; scented like the Torgsin shop; a dark, quick man whose features seemed to push out of his face and whose body seemed to push out of his uniform. He began to question Captain Andreyev.
"How do you come to have so much gold when you know the Government needs it?"
"I've got papers," Captain Andreyev answered, producing them.
The commandant looked over the papers.
"I see the ship was a presentation."
"Yes, from an American liner. It caught fire; and I was able to be of some service."
"So it appears. In fact, you saved the lives of the crew and passengers."
"Some service," Captain Andreyev muttered. There was a pause. The commandant seemed to be thinking.
"Why didn't you sell it before?" he suddenly asked.
"I was fond of it. Such a lovely thing. So perfectly made. So accurate. And I liked to have it in my room, and to show it off to people. Besides, it's an exact copy of my own ship that I sailed for twenty years."
Passion swept over Captain Andreyev's face like a wind, twitching his mouth, trembling the corners of his eyes, drawing the skin over his cheekbones.
"Now I need food. My wife and children need food very badly. She persuaded me. But I should have sold it in any case."
An orderly brought in a dossier, and the commandant looked it through quickly.
"I see there has already been a house search and a cross-examination."
"I begged for the ship, and told them it was made of brass and no use to anyone except to me. They let me keep it."
The commandant shut up the dossier and gave Captain Andreyev back his papers.
"You're liable to arrest for having hoarded gold," he said. "Also the gold is liable to confiscation. As a class enemy with bourgeois antecedents you'd get a long sentence if I charged you. In view of the circumstances, however, I shan't charge you; and I shall allow you to have a third of the gold's value in Torgsin bonds."
He smiled patronisingly. Captain Andreyev did not smile back, but bowed stiffly and left the room.
Pp. 169-171: Carver was more cautious. He was a Soviet citizen and knew what would be, for him, the consequences of a too rigid application of principles. "I don't want to lose my press card," he said. "Besides, Ouspenski's an old friend of mine. We've worked together. We've made love to girls together. We've been drunk together. That makes the position rather different in my case.
Balliger, a little Central European Jew, sat quietly in his place. He had had difficulties before over sending forbidden messages to his newspaper. There had been an interview with Mr. Aarons. "A shocking message," Mr. Aarons had said. "A really shocking message. You! to send such things. You of all people."
(You; one of us; one of the family, he had meant.)
"Shocking but true," Balliger had replied. "It was an official document. I've got the document; and I'll show it to you if you like."
"You've been misinformed," Mr. Aarons had gone on; "and I shall have to ask you to acknowledge the fact in your newspaper. Otherwise you'll be persona non grata here." Otherwise, Balliger had thought, I'll have to go away. He had a wife and children, and a living to earn. The two Jews had understood each other perfectly, and wanted to adjust matters in a decent respectable way without any unpleasantness. They had searched about in their minds for a formula that would enable them to make their little deal without hurting each other's feelings. The formula had occurred to both simultaneously. He's got a wife and family. Poor chap! he's got a wife and family. I mustn't make things difficult for him, they had both thought.
"Very well," Balliger had said; "since you've got a wife and family, and since I know you'd get into trouble if I didn't contradict the message, I agree."
"Of course I realise," Mr. Aarons had said, "that you wouldn't have done it unless you had a wife and family to consider."
They had shaken hands and smiled, satisfied; friendly journalist and Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Thus, for Balliger, too, it was less a matter of principle than for Hartshorn. "It's a good opportunity for making a protest, don't you think?" he whispered to Rosenfeld, representative of a Jewish news agency. Rosenfeld nodded without enthusiasm. His head was yellow and hairless.
"By the way," Balliger went on, "you don't happen to have any roubles, do you?"
They settled down to an earnest discussion about roubles...
Pp. 223-224: Cavendish stretched himself with a grunt on the floor. "I may be bourgeois," he seemed to be saying; "and a member of a bourgeois parliament with hopes of one day becoming an under-secretary of State; but at heart I'm on your side. I know the kind of behaviour the Dictatorship of the Proletariat expects of me when I'm on its premises." Wraithby found Paul's flat a home from home. The same cushions and books. The same pictures. The same bottles. The same people. One more farewell party, he thought bitterly. One more. A Spanish woman sitting on a sofa by herself bared her teeth at him. To protect himself he leant his head against the shoulder of a bare-legged Jewess.
Three of the girls with fringes and high-waisted dresses grouped themselves round Prince Alexis. He looked at them mournfully; a dark bearded man with a decaying mouth; savage and unhappy and lonely. "Tell us," the girls chanted together like school-children reciting a multiplication table, "how you, a prince, an aristocrat, became a Communist." Prince Alexis made noises in his stomach. How aristocratic he is! they thought. How interesting! How Russian!
Pp. 227-228: He asked shyly for a bath.
"The fact is," he went on, "where I live there's no bathroom."
"Of course," Wraithby said.
He watched Prince Alexis dry himself. His body was white and tender like a boy's. The head; so battered and decayed, did not seem to belong to it; like an old worn hood on a new motor-car. All the wear and tear of living seemed to have gone into the head, leaving the rest of his body fresh and new.
"Do you really believe," Wraithby asked, "that these awful plays are good; these wretched people happy; these revolting Jews, great leaders and prophets; these decrepit buildings, fine architecture; these dingy slums, new socialist cities; these empty slogans bawled mechanically, a new religion; these stale ideas (superficial in themselves and even then misunderstood), the foundation and hope of the future?"
"You don't understand in the least," Prince Alexis said, drying himself slowly as though reluctant to cover up his body and leave only his stained head exposed. You're a fool. Plays and people and leaders and buildings and slogans have nothing to do with it. They don't matter in the least."
"What does matter then?"
Pp. 234-235: Wraithby was not surprised to find Bramwell Smith and a Jewess sitting in the hotel lounge one evening. It was inevitable that Bramwell Smith should some time or other find his way to Moscow. "You'll be happy here," he said, "and appreciated here. It's just the place for you." Bramwell Smith told him that he was off to the Krimea. His small, blond, acute head was fastened on to his body without a neck. As he spoke his fingers splayed over the Jewess's knee. "Doris and Olga and Derwent and the children are coming out, too... he said. Already he saw himself advising the Dictatorship of the Proletariat; finger on its pulse; head cocked on one side; prescribing. "And you?" he asked.
"I hate it," Wraithby said.
"Some people can't see beneath the blunders and mistakes," the Jewess murmured.
"I know," Wraithby said. "Back of this and back of that."
"I felt bad myself when I first came," she went on. "Little things annoyed me. For instance, it annoyed me that they couldn't make beds. It got on my nerves so that I thought I'd have to leave. Now it doesn't any more. Isn't it queer that they can't make beds?"
Like Muskett, she had her grievance against the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
"Why do you hate it?" Bramwell Smith asked.
"Not," Wraithby answered, "because they're starving; or because they live in filthy nearness to one another; or because their lives are dull and unhappy; or because of the din of monotonous, shoddy propaganda; or because the bosses are megalomaniac fools and the rest terrorised into imbecility; or because you like it. In its very texture something absurd and trivial and barbarous. Every stale idea vomited up again. Everything that you believe in and that I hate. All the dingy hopes that have echoed and re-echoed over Europe for a century and now are spent. The poor little frightened soul of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is what I despise. Not its works."
"Supposing two or three million peasants do die this winter," the Jewess said mechanically, getting up. "What of it?"
She was off to a lecture on the Film and the Class Struggle. As she revolved with the revolving hotel doors, red lips flashing like a lighthouse lamp, Wraithby understood pogroms.
Pp. 240-241: A party of German Jews sometimes drove out to the next-door house. They were fat, jolly men who played ball and did exercises in the garden. After dinner they would light their cigars, and drink a liqueur or two, and put on the gramophone. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat was irrelevant as far as they were concerned. They had their motor-cars and their girl friends, and did business in Moscow. In all conceivable circumstances, Wraithby thought, they'll have motor-cars and girl friends and do business. Like empire-builders who dress for dinner in the jungle they preserved their standards in Mr. Aarons's Soviet Union; hair glossy; girls slim and blond and elegant; business lucrative; motor-cars swift and tidy; bright toecaps peeping, like buds, out of the foliage of a spat. These, Wraithby thought, are a constant. They survive everything. He liked them.
Pp. 248-249: Later in the evening he dined with representatives of the Rostov Soviet and of the Rostov Press and of the Rostov Vox. A little Jew with long hair and a crumpled shirt front took the head of the table. "We had Sir Webb here the other day," he said. "Such a nice man!" They ate and drank cheerfully together. The little Jew never let the cognac bottle stray far out of his reach. He had been a political exile in Germany. "Ask us questions," he said to Wraithby.
Wraithby had no more questions to ask. He knew all he wanted to know about the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. He felt, however, that something was expected of him. "About agriculture?" he began.
Everyone spoke at once. He could distinguish phrases here and there. "Sown area increased by forty per cent. . . wall newspapers . . . spring sowing campaign . . . As the factories in 1920, so now the farms ..."
When the noise had abated, he said, "Thank you. Now I understand." He wanted to ask them, "Boys, dearest boys, are you sure that the parallel is correct? Factories and land? Isn't agriculture somehow more sensitive? Lending itself less to statistical treatment? Will peasants whose lives have been torn up by the roots make things grow even if you drive them into the fields at the end of a bayonet?" But he knew that it was as impossible to argue against a general idea as against an algebraic formula. So instead he said, "Ask me some questions."
Coyly; head on one side; wagging a finger, the little Jew asked, "When will the revolution come in England?"
Wraithby, too, was coy; he wagged a finger. "Who knows?"
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