While doing some research for work, I came across a condensed transcript of a speech to The Commonwealth Club of California eight decades ago in which an American clergyman and journalist reports on his trip to the Soviet Union. He went with expectations of finding wonderful things, but his experience is pretty awful. I found it fascinating to read his commentary, especially in light of the worship of Russian communism by Western marxists, as well as all of the post-Cold War revelations of how monstrous life was in the time of Lenin and Stalin.
I wanted to share this speech, so I figured I should get permission to run it here – and then I thought, hey, I'm the VP of media and editorial at The Commonwealth Club; I'm the person who grants reprint permissions. Thus, I granted myself permission. (I think the Pope feels like this sometimes.)
I don't know how accurate some of this is, such as the 18-times married woman, but much of the rest (and much worse) has been confirmed long since.
"The Spirit and Face of Bolshevism"
October 17, 1930
Dr. Louis Richard Patmont
When I started for Europe this past winter, I looked with favor upon the experiment that was there taking place. Like many other Americans, I was a victim of the favorable propaganda that has been spread over the United States.
Perhaps Russia was a paradise for the worker. I was inclined to discredit unfavorable reports, and to give those reports which put Russia in a favorable light my full credence.
Getting into Russia, I found to be my great problem. In Berlin, the Soviet Embassy refused me a visa because I was a minister and a newspaperman. But they kept the money which I had advanced.
In Warsaw, Poland, I met with equal success. And in Latvia, again; and in Esthonia [sic], again. I decided then to get in Russia, cost what it may.
It was in desperation that I finally attempted to obtain a Russian visa on my passport. I decided to change my occupation. Last year I was fortunate enough to have been engaged in some paleontological work in Mexico, so for the benefit of the Russian embassy, I became a paleontologist.
I told them I intended to study the bones of some mammoths. And I refused to speak in Russian. And so they let me in.
I had been in Russia previously during the Czarist regime. The contrast was striking. When I was in Leningrad this last time, streets were out of repair, houses were dilapidated, people in rags.
I avoided the tours that are arranged for American tourists. Most visitors are virtual prisoners while in Russia. They see only what they are allowed to see.
Throngs of people, four abreast, waited for food all day outside the 'magazines.' Little red tickets were in their hands, allowing them so much bread. It was a pitiful sight. Hundreds were hungry. …
Several families lived in the same room. Little girls, of from 12 to 15, babes in their arms, walked the streets, victims of the loose moral code.
In Moscow I went to one of the big American hotels. The next morning the secret police called. An American tour was starting. Luckily I had a toothache, and for several days I searched for a dentist, absorbing meanwhile all the intimate details of this Soviet city.
People lived in dugouts and in sewers. Children crowded into the railroad station for shelter. Russia is suffering, and there are millions who are ready to throw off the soviet yoke.
As I left Moscow, I saw hundreds of freight cars, loaded with prisoners. These men were on their way to the White Island in the White Sea, where they will be interned. They were contra-revolutionists.
I met a woman who said she was on her way to be married. She had been married eighteen times previously. Marriage is easy in Russia, and a divorce can be secured within ten minutes after the marriage ceremony. Merely register at the police station, and direct a postcard to your former wife, telling her you have secured a divorce.
Fatherless children are cared for in homes. They are raised scientifically, say the Russians. Sickness, they say, is unnecessary because medicine has been socialized. But the children are huddled together without regard for sex, and social disease is prevalent. Most of them run away when they can.
There is a three-fold war going on in the Land of the Soviet. First, there is a war against the peasant or property-holder; second, a war against family; third, a war against religion.
And despite lack of food, despite deplorable living conditions, Russia has the most efficient, well-organized army in Europe. She is a menace to the world, this spreading sore of humanity.