By Julius Walstad
(Julius Walstad was the first official delegate to the Soviet Union to be elected by thousands of American farmers to join the delegation of ‘Friends of the Soviet Union’ to visit Soviet Union. He visited Soviet farming regions in the fall of 1934, a year in which severe drought had occurred in both the USA and the USSR In this pamphlet he reported what he saw as an American delegate while visiting the Collective Farms in an unscheduled manner how Soviet Agriculture was flourishing in socialism. This report is a testimonial of what Soviet socialism could achieve within 5 years of socialism and is a befitting reply to the canard spread by the imperialist-capitalist camp against Socialism and great Stalin. This report has been brought out by the AIKKMS in the form of a pamphlet. The report is reproduced below in instalments as it would help our readers to be acquainted with the remarkable advancement of Soviet Agriculture under Stalin’s leadership. This is the first instalment.)
How I happened to go
Going to Russia was the last thing any South Dakota farmer might expect to do and I certainly was no different. I’ve just come back, and Russia doesn’t seem so far away any more. Their plains are like ours, the soil is the same, even the same prairie grasses grow there. Yet everything is run different. And that is what I’m going to tell about.
No farm organization had ever sent an official delegate to Russia, and last spring the Friends of the Soviet Union, set up to spread information about Russia, forwarded an invitation to the Farmers’ National Committee of Action to include a farmer delegate in the group visiting the Soviet Union during the November celebration of the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Trade Unions had sent workers over before to look over the factories and to tell American workers how Russian workers were treated. After learning that the farm delegate would have special opportunity to investigate the conditions of farmers, the Farmers’ National Committee accepted this invitation and immediately wrote to a large number of different farm organizations asking them to elect a representative farmer.
I was nominated by the National Convention of the United Farmers’ League at Minneapolis last June. Members of 21 other organizations and groups endorsed this nomination. I don’t think that all of these groups had heard of me, but probably they did hear about how we fought the statewide injunction against the United Farmers’ League in South Dakota last summer and also that a fascist gang attacked me and the rest of our farm school. The National Executive Committee of the Farmers’ National Committee of Action held a meeting which confirmed my election and endorsement by all these different organizations. I am writing the story of my trip so that what I saw and learned can be distributed as my report to the membership of the farm organizations that sent me over. The cost of my trip over and back was $285. This amount includes round-trip bus fare from South Dakota to New York, and a round trip steamship ticket. From the time I left England in a Soviet steamer, and during the time I was in the USSR, 1 was a guest of the Trade Unions and had no expenses, except for the few things I bought to bring back home. Practically every bit of the $285 was raised by the farmers of this country through the sale of certificates sent out by the National Committee. More than 700 farmers and other friendly people from 24 states, covering the four corners of the United States, bought these certificates.
The rest of the delegates from the United States consisted of: Robert Whisner, Westinghouse worker from Turtle Creek, Pa., representing the workers of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. plant; Victor Majeski, textile worker from Paw tucket, R.I., member of the State Strike Committee of the U.T.W. of A., and endorsed by his local and by the Pawtucket local of the Socialist Party: Frederick Gunsser, textile worker from Philadelphia, Pa., Federation of Full-Fashioned Hosiery Workers of America, Local No. 1, affiliated with the U. T. W. of A. (A. F. of L.); Helen Glinski, representing coal miners from West Virginia; Mary Cozmauoff, representing Polish steel workers of Gary, Indiana, and Polish workers’ newspaper; James Sheffield, representing Boston locals of the Marine Workers Industrial Union; and Herbert Goldfrank, National Secretary of the Friends of the Soviet Union.
The trip over
I took a French boat to England, the Ile de France. Since we planned to take a Russian boat from there, I asked an old worker on the London dock about the Russian boats. He said, “They are the cleanest boats that come here, but under the Tsar they were the rustiest and dirtiest”. Sure enough, the Soviet boat, the Rykov, was clean as a whistle, but what surprised me even more were the working conditions. On the Ile de France the sailors worked 14 to 16 hours a day, while on the Rykov they worked 8 hours. On the Ile de France the men are laid off for 3 months a year without pay, while on the Rykov the men are given a month’s vacation with full pay. If they want to, the Russians can take special study courses during their vacations, to qualify them for better jobs. They have old-age pensions and trade unions. I saw the officers and the sailors eat together and treat each other as equals while off-duty, but this is not allowed to interfere with ship discipline. The crew sleep two in a cabin; on the Ile de France, where a common passenger like myself could not visit the sailors’ quarters, the sailors told me they bunked 20 to 32 in cabins below the water-level. If anything, the sailors’ food is better than the passengers’ on the Rykov, while on the Ile de France it was just the opposite.
I landed in Russia on November 1 and spent the first few days in Leningrad. The second day in the city we visited a turbine factory which before the revolution was owned by a German. He had employed four hundred workers. In the factory we met, by chance, an old fellow of about 55 who had worked there in the days of the Tsar. He told us that he had worked 16 hours a day before in very bad conditions. In 1917, as soon as the revolution was over, hours were cut to 10. Today they work 7 hours a day and there are thousands of workers in the factory. Seven hours, by the way, is now the regular working day in industry throughout the country, with the exception of some of the heaviest work, like certain types of mining, where it is 6 hours. This worker makes much more money in 7 hours than he used to make in 16. The workers in the factory belong to a trade union.
Located in the home of the former owner of the factory is the factory day nursery for children of the mothers who work during the day. Here the children are fed and cared for by experts, free of charge. There is also a laundry in connection with the factory. The workers in the factory have their own apartment house with one, two, and three room flats, depending on the size of their families. Rents are a percentage of wages. Very close to the apartment house is a school with playgrounds and small parks all close together. I learned that these conveniences are a regular part of every factory in the country.
Workers’ old-age pensions begin at 55 and they get medical care all the time. We spoke to the doorkeeper, a man of about 65, who was getting a pension of 200 rubles a month. He was working anyway ‘‘to help build Socialism’’ and earning an additional 100 rubles per month. One of the changes he mentioned since the old days was that women receive the same pay as men for the same work and are encouraged to learn the same work.
The next day we went to the former Tsar’s country estate just outside of Leningrad. Here he used to give big parties and entertain the diplomats and nobility of the world. This summer estate has now been changed into a “Children’s Village”. The same magnificent buildings with many additions and improvements have now become hospitals and rest homes for sick children who are sent here and cared for free of charge.
(To be continued)