General Dutoff, as I have previously recorded, had informed us that Bolshevist agitators had passed through our lines on this treacherous mission, and for months nothing had been heard of these emissaries of mischief. Now that we were approaching the critical point of the 1919 operations rumblings of an unmistakable character were heard in all directions. The necessary military measures had been taken, but in our English eyes suppression was not enough. We have learnt in our country that the workmen are the backbone of the State, and that when labour is badly paid the heart of the State is diseased. Russia has no ideas about labour at all. The autocracy never gave it a moment’s consideration. The last Tsar’s idea of labour reform was to abolish good vodka, and he lost his life. The officer class, that forms so large a proportion of Russian life, never gave the subject five minutes’ consideration. There is not a single general labour law upon the statute book of Russia, and the horror of it is that those who have hitherto pretended to lead the Russian workman refuse to demand laws to protect their labour. They believe that “law” is the last thing that a workman robbed of the most elemental rights should think about; that the only way for a workman to obtain rights is to abolish all “law.” And this they have done with a vengeance! The professional Russian labour leader is an anarchist and nothing else, and in Bolshevism he has given a glimpse of his policy in practice.
This, then, was the problem with which we had to deal, and with only a few weeks at our disposal. To the Russian workman it was a social question; to us it was both social and military. Finally, General Knox asked me to undertake a pacific propaganda along the railway to see if it were possible to persuade the workmen to keep at work and give the best service possible to their country to secure the restoration of order. I came to the conclusion that if anything could be done to give a more staple and practical outlook to the Russian labour mind it was well worth trying to accomplish it.
At the outset I was faced with the difficulty of not being in a position to offer anything definite to the workmen in return for their willingness to assist the combatant branch of the Russian service in its new crusade against anarchy. With nothing to offer it seemed hopeless to ask for so much. The only man who could pledge the Government was the Supreme Governor himself, so I wrote to him as follows:
4th February, 1919.
To His High Excellency, Admiral Koltchak, Supreme Governor.
Sir,—I have been requested by Major-General Knox, Chief of the British Military Mission, Siberia, to undertake a tour of the railway works along the Siberian Railway to address the workmen, and appeal to them as a British Labour representative to give their best service to the Russian State during the present and coming military operations, and to join no strike movement, or do anything to hamper the transport of men and supplies until the military operations against the enemy are completed.