Secret reports from the GPU to the Central Committee (1922)
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7 August 1922.
The attached survey of the political and economic conditions of the RSFSR for May and June, 1922, includes information concerning the situation in the Republic on a regional basis. The basic material for this part of the survey involves summaries and generalizations of information regularly received by the department of state information in the Information Section of the GPU from all provincial and regional organs of the State Political Administration.
The second part of this survey comprises descriptions of the activities of counter-revolutionary parties and groups, based upon information which has been received from the Secret, Special and Eastern Sections of the GPU. The descriptions of each party and group includes not only its activity within the confines of the RSFSR, but also its foreign activities according to information supplied by the Foreign Section of the GPU.
The introductory part of the survey gives descriptions of the mood of the workers, peasants and soldiers of the Republic, based upon material provided by State Information, set out in daily special political summaries by the Information Section of the GPU.
Chief, Information Section GPU
GENERAL POLITICAL SITUATION
After years of revolution, a wave of crises and unrest had become a normal occurrence in the spring. The current wave of general economic and political crisis commenced in February, after what had been a comparatively favourable fall and winter, and reached its culmination in April. April signified the worst month of the crisis: a month of mass unrest among all sectors of the population, coupled with the worst of the famine and a steep decline in industrial output. In May, the worst was already past and by the end of the month the first faint indications of a developing recovery appeared. In June, this recovery was already clear and incontestable, and for most of the regions of the Republic a slow continual improvement in the general political and economic situation became the norm. By the end of June, it had become an unequivocal fact that the most difficult and most serious moment for us had finally passed. It is true that last year, during these same months, the country went through a transitional period even more swift and precipitous, yet this did not prevent the country from experiencing a series of disasters half a year later of an economic, industrial, agricultural, and financial nature. But this cannot prevent us from looking with such optimism upon the unfolding political and economic trends, which compel us to characterize the present day situation as a period of recovery in such a clear and decisive manner, thus distinguishing the present summer from last year. A first factor on which to base these conclusions lay in the good harvest, which now appears as an indisputable fact.
At the beginning of the month it was still impossible to speak with certainty about this, as there was still some suggestion of apprehension concerning the coming harvest and threatening signs of a possible disruption. The main concerns centered around significant damage done by hail, which took place at the end of May and beginning of June, and the appearance of mass numbers of locusts and grasshoppers. By the end of the month , however, there no longer remained any doubt that we had scored an enormous victory on this front.
A second factor which has had an influence in improving our economic and political situation and to the same degree as that of the harvest, has been the noted cessation in the growth of prices, which has made an indisputable appearance over the past two months.
The significance of these two factors is enormous. In the descriptions given below, it becomes clear how these two factors have impacted upon the mood of the most important sectors of the population - the workers, peasants and soldiers.
At the beginning of May, the mood was still almost universally unsatisfactory, marked by isolated incidents of unrest and strikes. From the beginning of June, an improvement began across almost the entire territory, and which continued to develop through the entire month.
Two areas which must be considered as not having joined the category of recovered or improved regions are the North-West of the Republic and the Ukraine. In these two regions, workers continue to remain embittered and actively hostile against Soviet power and the RKP right up to the present time. In the Ukraine especially, May and June were marked by a vast wave of strikes which sometimes took on the characteristics of an actual movement. These occurrences were especially intense in Odessa, where in the course of a short interval of time strikes succeeded in spreading to all the major enterprises, whether civilian, military or transport. By the end of May, the wave of strikes had spread to neigbouring provinces of Nikolayev and Kiev. This trend continued without weakening until the end of the current period.Only in the Khar'kov region of the northern Ukraine, did the wave subside earlier, calming down by the 20th of June. The mood of the workers in the North-West territory is also unsatisfactory, while in Petersburg it had worsened significantly by the end of June, with the entire month presenting an extremely unfavourable picture of the mood of the workers. A significant part of the increasing worker unrest in the north-western territory in general and in Petersburg in particular must be attributed to a corresponding increased activity on the part of anti-Soviet parties. As mentioned already, it has generally been calm in the other regions of the Republic, especially near the end of the current period. As before, the most significant cause of worker unrest has been the withholding of workers' wages and salaries. The considerable improvement registered in this regard must be counted as a major factor in the reduction of worker unrest. Another factor, which has agitated the working masses has been the unending rise in prices. Naturally, the cessation of further price increases cannot but reflect most favourably upon the mood of the workers. Another important consequence of this has been that it has somewhat alleviated the question regarding tariff rates. The establishment of more or less stable prices has given the workers the possibility of approximating a living wage at least to some small degree.
As mentioned above, one must consider the increased activity on the part of the counter-revolutionary parties as an additional factor in the worsening mood among some workers. This fact is indisputable. In the present June, there has been a noticeable rebirth of phenomena seemingly long since forgotten on the part of the proletarian population of the Republic: agitation and strikes of a political character. There have been several such strikes during the current month. First of all, one should mention the strike at the Prikhorovsk factory, where workers went out on strike to protest the arrest of six factory workers who were active social-revolutionaries. There has been unrest at the former Butnikov factory in Moscow for similar reasons. Moreover, there has been significant unrest at the Moscow factories as a result of Mehshevik agitation. Social-revolutuionary activity is also increasing in Petersburg, where they have managed to provoke a significant amount of unrest. In other regions, however, and with the exception of Georgia, the influence of counter-revolutionary parties and groups has been insignificant in June as it has been in the preceding period. The attitude of the workers towards the trial of social-revolutionaries has been highly supportive for the most part. This is confirmed by the splendid turn-out for the demonstrations which took place on June 20, as well as by the countless resolutions carried at workers' assemblies and meetings, which demand with one voice that the social-revolutionaries be subject to the most severe punishment.
The mood of the peasantry has generally been much better than that of the workers during the months of May and June. This is explained by the fact that after having suffering the strain and stress of war, epidemics and failed harvests, they may now focus their attention upon the restoration of their farms and fields. This is most directly dependent upon the harvest, which - as mentioned above - promises to be good. A second cause for the improvement in the mood of the peasants is that the famine, which has held more than one-third of Russia in its clutches, has finally been overcome. Russian and foreign relief agencies have played a major role in this. Also relevant is the fact that the harvest campaign has already begun in numerous places, and new bread has begun to appear.
The mood of the peasantry is calm across all of Russia, with a clear tendency towards further improvement. The only exception consists of the north-western territory, where the mood of the peasants' is poor due to a significant lack of sowing wheat and the demise of a major part of the winter crop.
As mentioned, other regions of the Republic provide a more encouraging picture. Not surprisingly, even in these areas instances of discontent are not infrequently encountered and in many places hostility to Soviet power is prone to break out from time to time. These cases, however, do not constitute a general picture of the Republic in any one area.
One of the main causes of peasant discontent has been the implementation of the labour service tax during the height of the harvest season. Considering the almost universal lack of horses nowadays, this poses an extremely onerous if not completely realizable burden for the peasantry in some places.
A second cause of discontent has been the now vigorously pursued collection of the tax on butter and eggs. This has provoked especially strong indignation in those areas, which have not officially been included among the famine regions. In these areas, the local population shoulders the entire burden of the bread tax while not taking advantage of the support provided by either the Soviet or foreign famine relief agencies.
A third cause of discontent has been the collection of the monetary taxes and requisitions In many areas, the impoverished peasantry have been forced to sell their last belongings in order to meet these payments.
These three principal causes of local peasant unrest are at the same time also the principal campaigns being waged in the countryside. In connection with this, one may remark once more, that the discontent they have provoked has been sporadic and that the campaigns themselves have generally proceeded in a satisfactory manner. The least successful, however, has been the collection of the general civil tax for famine relief, which has been negatively affected by the vast impoverishment of the countryside after two years of failed harvests.
Presently, the countryside is absorbed in field work. The harvest season is in full swing. At this moment the peasant thinks of nothing else, does nothing else.
The desire on the part of the peasants to restore their farms and fields is profound. Everywhere is remarked the intention of the peasants to increase the size of future winter crops and in many areas the peasants have switched to the crop rotation system at the first possibility. Early plowing of fallow fields is now practiced in the majority of regions. Everywhere, the peasants display their great desire to overcome agricultural ignorance.
Insofar as the peasantry has become strongly interested in agricultural endeavours, it has shown that the campaign regarding the confiscation of church valuables holds little or interest for it. The bread loan will still not have reached the countryside until July. There are, of course, isolated places where bonds are already being purchased by the peasants, but in the overwhelming majority of areas the peasantry does not even know what they are investing in and in any case does not have any notion about either its purpose or its benefits.
The situation in the famine provinces is gradually beginning to improve and the number of deaths attributed to it are slowly diminishing. The famine is mostly being felt in those provinces located along the Urals. This is explained by the fact that assistance for famine victims in these areas only commenced in the spring.
The soldiers of the Red Army remain the most reliable and most quiet segment of the population. The explanation for this lay in the fact that they are the only group in the Republic which is provisioned in a regular and timely fashion.
The one stark contrast to this picture of contentedness occurs only in one region. This would be Turkestan, which in the grips of an insurgent movement. The objective conditions of the territory would seem to require that if Red Army units are to be stationed there, let alone at a more privileged front, that they be supported at any case according to a standard norm. Yet it is in precisely this region of the Republic that the supply of military units is absolutely beyond merit. A similar, if not worse, situation exists in regards the political situation of the army (more will be mentioned about this in that part of the survey which examines the Republic on a regional basis).
As before, the situation remains poor at the garrison in Saratov.
TO BE CONTINUED