by G.H. Wells
Herbert George Wells is often called the great English writer who looked into the future. He was the first to warn the bourgeois world that if the countries of the world went on living without state planning, and people did not develop a feeling of responsibility for the fate of others, then future generations would meet with great suffering and destruction.
The Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 shook Wells to the core. In the autumn of 1920 he made a trip to Russia with a view to organize help for Russia from the capitalist world. He had a conversation with Lenin which is described in his book "Russia in the Shadows". The title meant that Russia was as yet unknown to the western world, but it would soon develop its resources and culture and come out into the sunlight.
My chief purpose in going from Petersburg to Moscow was to see and to talk to Lenin. I was very curious to see him, and I was disposed to be hostile to him. I encountered a personality entirely different from anything I had expected to meet.
I had come expecting to struggle with a doctrinaire 2 Marxist. I found nothing of the sort. Lenin has a pleasant, quick-changing, brownish face,
with a lively smile and a habit (due perhaps to some defect in focussing) of screwing up one eye as he pauses in his talk; he is not very like the photographs you see of him because he is one of those people whose change of expression is more important than their features; he gesticulated a little with his hands over the heaped papers as he talked, and he talked quickly, very keen on his subject, without any posing or pretences or reservations, as a good type of scientific man will talk.
Our talk was threaded throughout and held together by two-what shall I call them?-motifs. One was from me to him: "What do you think you are making of Russia? What is the state you are trying to create?" The other was from him to me: "Why does not the social revolution begin in England? Why do you not work for the social revolution? Why are you not destroying Capitalism and establishing the Communist State?" These motifs interwove, reacted on each other, illuminated each other. The second brought back the first: "But what are you making of the social revolution? Are you making a success of it?" And from that we got back to two again with: "To make it a success the Western world must join in. Why doesn't -it?"
In those days before 1918 all the Marxist world thought of the social revolution as an end. The workers of the world were to unite, overthrow Capitalism, and be happy afterwards. Lenin, on the other hand, whose frankness must at times leave his disciples breathless, has recently stripped off the last pretence that the Russian revolution is anything more than the inauguration of an age of limitless experiment. "Those who are engaged in the formidable task of overcoming capitalism", he has recently written, "must be prepared to try method after method until they find the one which answers their purpose best."
For Lenin, who like a good orthodox 3 Marxist denounces all "Utopians", has succumbed at last to a Utopia, the Utopia of the electricians. He is throwing all his weight into a scheme for the development of great power stations in Russia to serve whole provinces with light, with transport, and industrial power, Two experimental districts he said had already been electrified. Can one imagine a more courageous project in a vast flat land of forests and illiterate peasants, with no water power, with no technical skill available, and with trade and industry at the last gasp? Projects for such an electrification are in process of development in Holland and they have been discussed in England, and in those densely populated and highly developed centres one can imagine them as successful, economical, and altogether beneficial. But their application to Russia is an altogether greater strain upon the constructive imagination. I cannot see anything of the sort happening in this dark crystal of Russia, but this little man at the Kremlin can; he sees the decaying railways replaced by a new electric transport, sees new roadways spreading throughout the land, sees a new and happier Communist industrialism arising again 5. While I talked to him he almost persuaded me to share his vision.
In him I realised that Communism could after all be enormously creative, and this amazing little man, with his frank admission of the immensity and complication of the project of Communism and his simple
concentration upon its realisation, was very refreshing. He at least has a vision of a world changed over and planned and built afresh.
He wanted more of my Russian impressions. I told him that I thought that in many directions, and more particularly in the Petersburg Commune, Cofhmunism was pressing too hard and too fast, and destroying before it was ready to rebuild. That brought us to our essential difference, the difference of the Evolutionary Collectivist and Marxist 6, the question whether the social revolution is, in its extremity, necessary, whether it is necessary to overthrow one economic system completely before the new one can begin. I believe that through a vast sustained educational campaign the existing Capitalist system can be civilised into a Collectivist world system; Lenin on the other hand tied Himself years ago to the Marxist dogmas of the inevitable class war, the downfall of capitalist order as a prelude to reconstruction, the proletarian dictatorship and so forth. He had to argue, therefore, that modern Capitalism is incurably predatory, wasteful and unteachable, and that until it is destroyed it will continue to exploit the human heritage stupidly and aimlessly, that it will fight against and prevent any administration of national resources for the general good, and it will inevitably make wars. I had, I will confess, a very uphill argument. We parted warmly.
"He is wonderful", said my companion.
I was not disposed to talk as we made our way back to our Guest House. I wanted to think Lenin over while I had him fresh in my mind, and I did not want to be assisted by the expressions of my companion.
1. The text "The Dreamer in'the Kremlin" is an example of the pub-licistic style in which political, social and economic articles, essays and books are written. The general aim of publicistic style is to influence public opinion. This is achieved by its characteristic logical argumentation and emotional appeal.
The text under study is characterized by the following specific features: a) the use of the first person singular, which justifies a personal approach to the problems treated, b) the use of direct speech which makes the text more emotional because of its individual element, c) the use of complex sentences with a whole number of clauses and connectives, which help to grasp several ideas.
2. doctrinaire: of, or relating to a doctrine; devoted to an idealistic programme, esp. of government, also dogmatic about, the practical applicability of one's own theories
3. orthodox: generally approved; conforming to a standardized or formulated doctrine
4. Utopia: the title of a book by Sir Thomas More, published in Latin in 1516. It pictures an ideal state, where all is ordered for the best of mankind as a whole and the evils of society-poverty, misery, etc.- have been done away with. The book has been much read ever since it appeared and has given the generic name to all the pictures of ideal states created by social philosophers and visionaries.
5. ... he sees the decaying railways replaced by a new electric transport, sees new roadways spreading throughout the land, sees a new and happier Communist industrialism arising again ... : Parallel constructions which are typical of the text are often backed by repetition of words. In this case they are "sees" and "new". Here it is meant to emphasize Lenin's prophetic vision of the world.
6. That brought us to our essential difference, the difference of the Evolutionary Collectivist and Marxist ... : The sentence may serve as an illustration of reduplication (also known as anadiplosis), a device in which the last word of the phrase is repeated at the beginning of the next part, thus linking the two parts. Here it is used to fix the attention of the reader on a different approach of the two persons towards the social revolution.