Page 3


Franklin Jones in Russia \(This is the third installment of selections from the dispatches of Franklin Jones, the East Texas lawyer and our contributing editor, on his and his wife Huldah’s trip to Hotel Athenee-Palace, Bucharest The czars really asked for it, and had it coming. The terrific spread between intense wealth and well being of the nobility and the degrading poverty, hunger, and misery of the serfs produced explosion after explosion from 1825 to 1905-05 until the final one of 1917. In the Chamber of Armament there is displayed the physical evidence of the childish megalomania of the upper strata. It has left us palaces and object d’art galore, but it has also left us a social order that has swung from one dictatorship to another. That of the proletariat is, I fervently hope, doomed just as the earlier dictatorship was, but, again I hope, let it pass away gradually and without violence. There are those who see only the social aspirations of the communists and overlook the hard fact that Lenin made no bones about constructing a dictatorship, and not a democracy. The very term he employed, “dictatorship of the proletariat,” is an anomaly. The proletariat can dictate only through that last common denominator, man, and give man dictatorial powers and he becomes the dictator, not a fuzzily conceived proletariat. With a single dictator, or even an oligarchical one, the result is the same, a government subject to the worst vices of man, vices which flourish in a bed of absolute power. Perhaps Lenin was wise; the Russian people were not ready for democracy, and it was a question. of whether he took on the dictatorship or surrendered it to some 1917-model Franco or Trujillo. Let us hope that evolution is following revolution in the Soviet. The vice-president of Temple University, whose name I did not get, told me in Moscow that he had visited the Soviet in 1958 and that consumer goods were nil; that he was astonished at the goods on display in 1965 as compared with what he saw here in 1958. If these people begin to become aware of nicer things in the consumer field, they may some day work over the creaking monstrosity that is their government. In idea of its functioning may be gotten from consideration of the local soviet, which of course is subject to the control of the general soviet. Leningrad has six hundred deputies to the local soviet, chosen every two years. Imagine a city commission of six hundred members! But Moscow is worse with its 6,000,000 population. On a bench in Gorky park, removed from any listener, Angella told me that Moscow had 1,000,000 deputies in the local soviet. She was confused about numbers in English, and after a day or so came up with the 14 The Texas Observer number, 1,000; but imagine a city council of one thousand members. It seems that a third of the deputies are elected every two years. Just anyone does not stand for election. The good people get together, from the trades, workers and all, and pick out the best nominee. Just how this is done was not explained to me, but if I understood, when the “seemple workers” have selected a nominee, he is it; although there is a formal election. The people reserve the power of recall of a deputy if he does not “behave.” These local soviets meet three times a year, apparently to rubber stamp the action of an executive committee of some 25 members, which is selected from the local soviet at its first meeting. These must .be the boys who rule the roost, and it is safe to guess that the secretary or some officer of the committee rules them. An intriguing thing about the local soviet is the existence of the “standing committees.” It is considered a service to the state to be a memberof one of these committees, and they spawn petty officials that would be terribly obnoxious to me. I saw some wearing red arm bands and looking important: These committees are He Thought Everyone in Texas Carried Pistols numerous, having to do with housing, education, and all subjects of public interest. The one dealing with justice is the public court committee and constitutes itself as the guardian of justice and arbiter of proper behavior. Apparently it has no power to fine or imprison one who “misbehaves,” but does have power to hold him up to public ridicule. If he drinks too much or abuses his family, this is mouthed about by the committee and he is ridiculed. If the offense is serious enough, such as not paying into honor system coin receptacles for transportation, his picture may be posted in the neighborhood buses and tram cars with a full statement of the engaging facts which have caused its posting. The standing committees are accountable to the soviet of the city or district where they serve. The members of the committee may be deputies, or simply citizens. Before leaving the Moscow scene, I would like to set down a few incidents that gave us an at least peripheral taste of life under the Red Star. You are controlled, whether a Soviet citizen or a tourista. Sometimes the control is obvious and gruff, other times it is subtle; but mistake not, Big Brother is not only watching, he is planning from the top downward, and the bonds of control are unyielding. I have experienced an effort or so to change our travel plan from lower levels with regard to the simple calling of a taxi instead of a car and driver. The general outline could be multiplied, even to the detail of leaving one’s key at the desk. I considered it asinine for me to have to board the one creaking lift in our hotel on the tenth floor, to it stop on the eighth floor for me to turn in a key, reboard it, and descend. The reverse process would be necessary on coming back up. I put the key in my pocket, and refused to get out on eight and stow it away with an uncomprehending floor clerk. The first day I got by with it, but the next our room was not cleaned until I went through the silly procedure. Controls of like kind are applied at every turn. x In Bucharest all our meals were perfect. One need not tell me that the communist society is completely monolithic. Your Rumanian would likely enjoy our culture and trade more than that of the Red Bear, if he could but have it. Life seemed freer and easier to us in Bucharest, and there were well stocked open-air marketS, and a salute to Beauty, which we were beginning to believe had vanished from the earth, lovely flower markets and plots of growing flowers. We knew that the country was communistic, had its collectives and state farms, but the individual plots must have been worked hard to put so much food and produce on free-trade market shelves. In retrospection, did not Winston Churchill go too far in Fulton, Mo., in the forties when he dramatically described not only the Soviet as being behind an iron curtain, but the satellite countries as well? We put them behind the iron curtain, and forced them to turn to the Soviet, simply because their form of government was that of the Soviet. We have not been to Yugoslavia, but if in 1948 we could have helped all of the satellite countries as we did that country, I feel the world would be a better place. We could certainly profit from trade with every country, and it is worth remarking that Sir Winston’s own Britain does not hesitate to feed the Russian Bear at a profit. In a London Daily Mail we saw on a plane, I read the justifiable boast of a British engineering firm that it had just sold its largest order everto the Soviets. Then there was that little matter of buses for Castro not too long back. I have discovered on the personal level that money knows no language barrier. So it might be on the international level. As the country banker controls the ideology and expressions of his debtors, or tries to, so might we have influenced Nasser and Castro if we had become their bankers instead of defaulting to the Soviet. The Aswan dam in Egypt. Soviet claimed despite our contributions to its construction, and the present state of affairs-in