Economic Situation


Economic Situation


Bullitt, William C. (William Christian), 1891-1967




1919 January 1


Proposed statement to the press on Russia.


Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia




Russia today is in a condition of acute economic distress. The blockade by land and sea is the cause of this distress and lack of the essentials of transportation is its gravest symptom. Only one fourth of the locomotives which ran on Russian lines before the war are now available for use. Furthermore, Soviet Russia is cut off entirely from all supplies of coal and gasoline. In consequence, transportation by all steam and electric vehicles is greatly hampered; and transportation by automobile aned by the fleet of gasoline-using Volga steamers and canal boats is impossible.

As a result of these hindrances to transportation it is possible to bring from the grain centres to Moscow only twenty-five carloads of food a day, instead of the hundred carloads which are essential, and to Petrograd only fifteen carloads, instead of the essential fifty. In consequence, every man, woman and child in Moscow and Petrograd is suffering from slow starvation.

Mortality is particularly high among new-born children, whose mothers cannot suckle them, among newly-delivered mothers, and among the aged. The entire populatinon, in addition, is exceptionally susceptible to disease; and a slight illness is apt to result fatally because of the total lack of medicines. Typhoid, typhus and smallpox are epidemic in both Petrograd and Moscow.

Industry, except the production of munitions of war, is largely at a standstill. Nearly all means of transport which are not employed in carrying food are used to supply the army, and there is scarcely any surplus transport to carry materials essential to normal industry. Furthermore, the army has absorbed the best executive brains and physical vigor of the nation. In addition, Soviet Russia is cut off from most of its sources of iron and of cotton. Only the flax, hemp, wood and lumber industries have an adequate supply of raw material.

On the other hand, such essentials of economic life as are available are being utilized to the utmost by the Soviet Government. Such trains as there are, run on time. The distribution of food is well-controlled. Many industrial experts of the old regime are again managing their plants and sabotage by such managers ahas ceased. Loafing by the workmen during work-hours has been overcome.


The destructive phase of the revolution is over and all the energy of the Government is turned to constructive work. The terror has ceased. All power of judgment has been taken away from the Extraordinary Commission for suppression of the Counter-Revolution, which now merely accuses suspected counter-revolutionaries who are tried by the regular, established, legal tribunals. Executions are extremely rare. Good order has been established. The Streets are safe. Shooting has ceased. There are few robberies. Prostitution has disappeared from sight. Family life has been unchanged by the revolution. The current story in regard to “nationalization of women” is, of course, an absolute lie. Indeed, the day I reached Petrograd was a national holiday in honor of wives and mothers.

The threatres, opera and ballet are performing as in peace. Thousands of new schools have been opened in all parts of Russiqa and the Soviet Government seems to have done more for the education of the Russian people in a year and a half than Czardom did in fifty years.


The Soviet form of Government is firmly established. Perhaps the most striking fact in Russia today is the general support which is given the Government by the people in spite of their starvation. Indeed, the people lay the blame for their distress wholly on the blockade and on the Governments which maintain it. The Soviet form of government seems to have become to the Russian people the symbol of their revolution and to have acquired so great a hold on the imgagination of the common people that the women are ready to starve and the young men to die for it.

The position of the Communist Party, (formerly Bolsheviki) is also very strong. Blockade and intervention have caused the chief opposition parties, the Right Social Revolutionaries and the Menshiviki, to give temporary support to the Communists. These opposition parties have both published formal statements against the blockade, intervention and the support of Anti-Soviet Governments by the Allied and Associated Governments. Their leaders, Volsky and Martov, are most vigorous in their demands for the immediate raising of the blockade and peace.

The following statement was made to me by Volsky, leader of the Right Social Revolutionaries, the largest opposition party:“Intervention of any kind will rprolong the regime of the Bolsheviki by compelling us, like all honourable Russians, to drop opposition and really round the Soviet Government in defence of the revolution. With regard to help to individual groups or Governments fighting against Soviet Russia, we see no difference between such intervention and the sending of troops. If the Allies come to an agreement with the Soviet Government, sooneþr or later the peasant masses will make their will felt and they are alike against the bourgeoisie and the Bolsheviki.

“If by any chance Kolchak and Denikin were ito win, they would have to kill in tens of thousands where the Bolsheviki have had to kill in hundreds and the result would be the complete ruin and collapse of Russia into anarchy. Has not the Ukraine been enough to teach the Allies that occupation by non-Bolshevik troops merely turns into Bolsheviki those of the population who were not Bolsheviki before? It is clear to us that the Bolsheviki are really fighting against bourgeois dictatorship. We are, therefore, prepared to help them in every possible way”.

“Grandmother Ekaterina Constantinovna Breshkovskaya has no sort of authority, either from the Assembly of Members of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly or from the party of Social Revolutionaries. Her utterances in America, if she is preaching intervention, represent her personal opinions which are categorically repudiated by the party of Social Revolutionaries, which has decisively expressed itself against the prermissibility of intervention, direct or indirect.”

Volsky signed this latter statement: “V. Volsky, Late President of the Assembly of members of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly.”

Indeed, the only ponderable opposition to the Communists today comes from more radical parties - the Left Social Revolutionaries and the Anarchists. These parties, in published statements, call the Communists, and particularly Lenin and Tchitcherin, “the paid bourgeois gendarmes of the Entente”! They attack the Communists because the Communists have encouraged scientists, engineers and industrial experts of the bourgeois class to take important posts under the Soviet Government at high pay. They rage against the employment of bourgeois officers in the army and against the efforts of the Communists to obtain peace. They demand the immediate massacre of all the bourgeoisie and an immediate declaration of war on all non-revolutionary governments. They argue that the Entente Governments should be forced to intervene more deeply in Russia, asserting that such action would surely provoke the proletariat of all European countries to immediate revolution.

Within the Communist Party itself, there is a division of opinion in regard to foreign policy; but this disagreement has not developed personal hostility or open breach in the ranks of the Party. Trotsky, the Generals and many theorists believe the Red Army should go forward everywhere until more vigorous intervention by the Entente is provoked, which they, too, count upon to bring revolution in France and England. Their attitude is not a little colored by pride in the spirited young Army. Lenin, Tchitcherin and the bulk of the Communist Party, on the other hand, insist that the essentiqal problem at present is to save the proletariat of Russia, in particular, and the proletariat of Europe, in general, from starvation, and assert that it will benefit the revolution but little to conquer all Europe if the Government of the United States replies by starving all Europe. They advocate, therefore, the conciliation of the United States even at the cost of compromising with many of the principles they hold most dear. And Lenin’s prestige in Russia at present is so overwhelming that the Trotsky group is forced to follow him.

Lenin, indeed, as a practical matter, stands well to the right in the existing political life of Russia. He recognizes the undesirability, from the Socialist viewpoint, of the compromises he feels compelled to make; but he is ready to make the compromises. he k; Among the more notable concessions he has already made are: the abandonment to a great degree of his plan to nationalize the land and the adoption of hthe policy of dividing it among the peasants:; the establishment of savings banks paying three percent interest, the decision to pay all foreign debts, and the decision to give concessions, if that shall prove to be necessary to obtain credit abroad.

In a word, Lenin feels compelled to retreat temporarily from his theoretical position all along the line.

The Soviet Government is ready to stop the forward march of its armies and to make peace at any moment. It is ready to pay its foreign debts, to stop foreign propaganda, and to meet any reasonable demands of the Allied and Associated Governments.




Bullitt, William C. (William Christian), 1891-1967, “Economic Situation,” 1919 January 1, WWP16139, Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.