Russia in the Post-War World


By Admiral WILLIAM H. STANDLEY, U.S.N.R., Former United States Ambassador to Russia

Delivered at a dinner of the Society of the Plastics Industry, New York City, November 14, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 162, 174-178.

THE subject of my discussion tonight is "Russia in the Post-War World." In the course of my remarks, I shall endeavor to show how the U. S. S. R. and the U. S. A. in the immediate post-war future can be mutually helpful. This possibility should be of vital interest to the members of this convention, for the destiny of both the U. S. S. R. and the U. S. A. will be influenced by the progress and success of their industrial effort. Moreover, someone has said that the industrial future of the world is encompassed in steel, wood, and plastics.

I shall give you what I believe to be a realistic and fair picture, and my statements must in no way be assumed to be the opinions or views of any other Government individual or agency.

Opinions of responsible persons in our country regarding the U. S. S. R. and her people are almost as varied as the persons expressing them. There are a number of reasons for this. In the first place, there is a limited and controlled Russian press; there is strict censorship of news coming out of that country. Travel in Russia is restricted. The Russians themselves are very secretive and loath to discuss internal affairs with foreigners. Then, the U. S. S. R. has suffered much through the inaccuracy of many books by authors who may have spent much or little time there. Usually, such writers are prejudiced for or against, and considerable harm has been done to Russo-American industrial relations by these overstatements, whether in support of or against the Russian system. Wholesale condemnation is equally inaccurate and harmful as wholesale commendation.

I have personally observed much in the Russian scheme of things which, in my opinion, has improved the general standards of living of her people. On the other hand, I have read statements in books, periodicals, and pamphlets which I know from personal observation to be so extravagant as to be stamped almost wholly false. They may, and probably do, represent aims and ideals, but the realities in many cases fall far short of these imaginative pictures. Particularly is this true of statements regarding scientific research and development. Russian scientists have done much in their field to advance civilization and to alleviate the pain and trials of suffering humanity. Their work is known world-wide, and they do not need overstatements and propaganda to advertise it.

We are familiar with the achievements of such men as Peter Kapitza, the engineer in the Urals who developed a large-scale production method for hydrogen; Alexix Baikov, who obtained fertilizer from the remnants of burnt coal; Lysenko, the botanist who discovered a way of making plants ripen from two to six weeks sooner by subjecting the seeds to certain treatment—a process utilized in Siberia where the summers are too short for the full development of crops such as wheat—and with the achievements of Alexei Favorsky (synthetic rubber inventor), Postov (geneticist) and Professor Stepan B. Pavlenka (endocrinologist). These men are leaders in their fields and need no eulogy.

An illustration of the tendency to idealize Soviet progress, and of the facility with which commentators can paint a picture far more glowing than the reality is the following example of applied industrial technique—a new method of mining. In 1881, Professor Ramsay suggested a means by which coal could be turned into gas as it lay in the unhewn seams of the earth. Lenin knew of Ramsay's method and conceived it, in his way, as one which might liberate the labor of miners through reduction of their working hours and render their work more hygienic. In 1931, experiments began in Soviet Russia; in 1938, gas from underground gasification had been supplied to the boiler furnaces of a chemical coking plant; by 1939, the Gorlovka station in the Don-bas was supplying 15,000 cubic metres of gas an hour. Since then, its output has increased, and a plant at Lisichank has been designed to supply 100,000 cubic metres an hour.

The process is as follows: A shaft, driven above the seam, at the far end of the coal to be operated on, admits air to a controlled fire within the shaft. This fire transforms the coal into a gas, which finds its way along a second shaft driven below the coal seam, to emerge finally through its outlet on the surface. Thus, we have a more or less U-shaped construction, shafts being cross-connected underground through the coal vein.

The technical problems in the application of this principle, as for instance the proportion of air and oxygen needed to produce gas of different qualities, some suitable for lighting and some for heat and power, have been overcome. And the writer continues: (I quote) "Mining operations and the transport of coal are proportionately eliminated, whilst the cost of gas has been cut by fifty per cent. Workers are freed from dangerous tasks. Valuable national material is economized. Labour is saved. Skies grow cleaner and the air purer. Health improves."

From this description, one might believe that the process had become common practice and that the mining of coal was a lost art. As a matter of fact, the method is very limited in its application and the vast quantity of coal used is still mined in the old orthodox way.

Although we have not had observers at the front, we donot lack ample evidence of the effectiveness of the Red Army and the war production which backs it. I myself have visited the aircraft factories in Moscow and Kuibyshev, and I know these factories are turning out aircraft. I have visited the machine shops at Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk, and I know these shops are producing tanks and guns. I have visited the precision shops and observed Russian women and girls turning out the most delicate instruments. I have visited the steel plant and strip mills at Magnitogorsk, where the Blast and Martin furnaces are producing thousands of tons of steel each day. I have visited the State farms and the collective farms and have observed their progress from planting to fruition.

I have flown over much of the Russian country from the Caspian to Moscow, to the Urals, and to the Tashkent Country, and have observed the effectiveness of Soviet efforts in agriculture. I have visited the schools, the nurseries, the orphan homes, and observed their care of the children and their efforts toward education. I have attended their operas, their ballets, their movies, their concerts, and their galleries.

The Russians have done and are doing much in all these fields, but in most of them there is still much to be done. No one realizes this better than the Russians themselves. It is possible that to frequent overstatements can be ascribed the hesitancy on the part of the Russians to let visitors see how short of perfection they really are—for the Russians are a proud people.

They are justly proud to reveal the successful fruits of their planning and labor, however, and I shall illustrate this by describing a representative collective farm, which at the same time will give you some idea of Soviet agrarian economy, before proceeding to the larger subjects and industrial development and potentialities.

Collective Farm

In the summer of 1943, I visited a collective farm, specializing in grain production. It is called "Pobeda," meaning "Victory", and is located near the town of Dmitrov, about 70 kilometers due north of Moscow.

The town officials accompanied us to the farm. There the farm officials—the president, the agronomist (who, incidentally, was a young woman) and others—greeted us. The president explained the objectives, the organization, and the procedure of the farm. This, by the way, is normal practice in the Soviet Union, whether on a collective farm or a State farm or in a factory.

The farm had been organized in 1929 from 80 homesteads, comprising 1,224 acres, of which more than half were under plow, the rest in meadows and pasture land. Before the war, the farm work was done by 224 workers, of whom 120 had since gone to the front, leaving 100 women and 24 older men to carry on farm operations. Ordinarily, in time of peace, the women performed only the lighter tasks and usually took afternoons off for work about the homestead. The Machine Tractor Stations do half of the plowing, seeding and harvesting.

The collective farm worker's compensation is based on his ability to produce and not on the time involved. A unit of work in any operation—whether it be cutting hay or picking blackberries—is prescribed, for which there is a unit of compensation. The collective farm worker receives this unit of compensation for the unit of work, whether he performs it in an hour or in a week, and at the end of the year he is paid accordingly. The farmers themselves by mutual agreement fix the "norm"—the unit of work—and the unit of compensation.

On this collective farm, the unit of compensation—or "trudo-dyen" as they call it—was composed of 200 grams of grain, 60 grams of potatoes, 3 1/2 kilograms of vegetables, 4 kilograms of hay, 5 kilograms of straw, and 3 roubles cash.

The quantity of grain which goes to make up the "trudodyen" in any one year is determined as follows: First, grain is set aside for seed; second, the compulsory delivery of grain to the Government at a fixed price is made; third, payment is made to the Machine Tractor Station for its work; fourth, a reserve is set aside against crop failure; fifth, a quantity is set aside for the pension and insurance fund. The grain remaining is apportioned according to the total number of work "norms" performed by the members of the collective farm labor.

The ownership and use of private property in the Soviet Union is more extensive than is generally believed. This does not apply, of course, to land or productive equipment, but on the collective farms, each household occupies a small plot of land which it cultivates independently of farm operations. It may have its own livestock and it is entitled to communal pasturage. The individual farmer pays the government land tax on his land, and he can sell the produce or the unconsumed surplus of his day wages to whomsoever he pleases for whatever price he can obtain.

The collective land of the farms is divided into sections under the care of brigades, and these sections carry on competition with each other. This leads me to emphasize the great impulse which, second to the Russians' love of their own soil and their faith in their land and its people, motivates them in their extraordinary job of producing for the war. This impulse is the principle of competition, both individually and by groups, which is practiced at every stage of Russian life—on the farms and in the factories.

Each collective farm and each manufacturing plant compete with every other one in a given area, but also groups within the larger units vie with each other in surpassing production quotas. So prevalent is the spirit and practice of competition that one might say all Russia is engaged in a perpetual contest, like one of our Bond Drives. Such a zealous spirit bodes well for Russia's industrial development in future.

Industrial Picture

Before stressing our post-war opportunities with the U. S. S. R., I should like to convey to you a very general idea of her industrial potentialities and mention briefly my personal observations. Each of you has an over-all picture of Soviet wealth and industry. Perhaps many of you have made professional studies of this subject.

You are generally familiar with the vast, frozen stretches of tundra or barren wilderness in the far north, and with the taiga or fir forest lands. The latter compose nearly half the coniferous forests of the earth—1,900,000 square miles of them—which yield an endless supply of pine, fir, spruce, and larch, and also furs such as ermine and sable. To the south of these are mixed forests, while still further south are the rolling, treeless steppes, of great fertility. At the far south, Russia touches the sub-tropical zone, from the extreme west to the shores of the Caspian and thence eastward across the sandy area of Kara-Kum and Kizil-Kum to the central Asiatic oases of rice and cotton fields, vineyards, and orchards.

Looking at the Soviet Union from west to east, we find a territory divided by the Urals, 2,000 miles from the Polish border—European Russia to the west of these mountains, and Asiatic Russia, formerly undeveloped, to the east.

The Soviet authorities have made a survey and inventory of their national wealth and resources. This survey has been complete and thorough. Soviet geological research has

extended far into the Arctic for minerals—and found asbestos in Novaya Zemlya, non-ferrous metals on Vaigach Island, coal in Fridjof Nansen's Land, and mica and oil on the Taimir Peninsula. Apatite and nepheline have been discovered in quantities on the Kola Peninsula, north of the Arctic Circle. And nickel has been discovered here, as well as in the Urals.

As you know, 12 per cent of the world's gold is yielded by Russia, from the Vitim-Lena and Aldan fields of Eastern Siberia, and a lesser amount from the Urals. Oil has been found from the Arctic to the Caspian Sea. In addition, these surveys show a number of localities where there is a concentration of resources. For example, agriculture is centered in Eastern Russia. The area Leningrad, the Kama and Volga River valleys, and the Ukraine is the granary of Soviet Russia, though there is an agricultural belt in Central Russia and on the Amur River far to the eastward, and irrigation projects in Soviet Central Asia give promise of extensive future development here in textiles and fruit.

The mineral concentration is found chiefly in the Donetz Basin, the Urals, Novosibirsk, the Kuznets Basin, the Caucasus Mountain, and in Soviet Central Asia. In these areas are to be found in abundance, to a greater or less degree, nickel, coal, iron ore, bauxite, copper, chrome, and manganese.

Russia's petroleum output is second to that of the U. S. and over 10 per cent of the world's supply. Eighty-five per cent of her petroleum comes from the Batum and Baku fields in the Caucasus and the balance chiefly from Grozny, Maikop, Emba, Ural, and Central Asian Fields. Beyond Eastern Siberia lies Yakutsk, an immense area as yet undeveloped.

In addition to the above resources, there are great hydroelectric potentialities. The Dnieper Dam was already in operation but was partially destroyed and rendered inoperative by the Russians to prevent its use by the Germans. However, it is now being repaired. There are projects for power stations at the Samara Bend on the Volga and for the use of the fall of the Aangara, Yenesei, and other rivers of the North to produce electricity for the Far Eastern Territories of the Soviet Union. However, except for the Dneiper Dam, none of these projects have gone beyond plans and dreams.

What science found, industry set about to exploit and, while the surveys have been exhaustive, we must accept the estimates with caution.

As previously stated, I have flown over much of the country not occupied by the Germans, from the Caspian to Moscow, to the Urals and to the Tashkent area. I have visited and personally observed the factories at Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk and the steel plants at Magnitogorsk. I have visited the Emba oil fields. There is abundant evidence that Russia possesses a wealth of resources—next to the United States, she is the most nearly self-supporting country in the world—but in what quantity is yet to be determined.

I also found confirmation of industrial development, but in no place did I find such extensive development as has been asserted. We do know, however, that Russia has created a great war machine. What she can do in peacetime production is still to be proven, for she has never directed all her efforts to this task.

After the revolution of 1917, when the condition of the Russian people was little improved, except mentally—with much hope in plans for better living as a whole, with faith and confidence in a future whose benefits all would share, and thus with great impetus to the people's work and striving—security was given first priority. Efficient industrialization for war was the primary objective, improved livingstandard the ultimate goal.

Russia was beset from within and without. The weakness coincident with peacetime concentration on domestic effort could not be afforded by the revolutionary state at the outset. And Russia's plans for her domestic industrialization, with its goals of improved living conditions, could not develop freely and fully until threat from the outside and enemies within were eliminated.

The everyday needs of the people were, if not forgotten, given a secondary place. The Russians were quite without what we have come to consider necessities, in the quality and quantity we consider necessary. The stores were starved for streamlined modernity in all its phases. The few importations of modern inventions, like refrigerators, automobiles, trucks, articles of personal adornment, (such as up-to-date dresses, silk stockings, stylish shoes, etc, which appeal to the vanity and pride of both sexes—for these people are human) made them realize that such necessities and luxuries do exist and are enjoyed more or less generally by other people and particularly by the American people.

Prior to the outbreak of the present war and the attack by Germany on Poland, the Soviet Government had completed a considerable amount of industrialization, as a result of which as early as 1927 the Russian people had begun to receive some benefits in the way of consumers' goods and to realize that the promises of their Government were on the way to being materialized. The standards of living of the masses had already been somewhat improved. And then came the war.

Marshal Stalin has said that, when he signed up with Germany in 1939, he knew that the Red Army was the eventual target of the German war machine, and events bear out the fact that he lost no time in taking positive action. From that moment, every effort was directed toward preparation for war. Factories and industries of every kind were turned to war production. Gains which had been made in standards of living were lost.

Actually, during this war, which has demanded from the Russian people untold hardships and suffering, sacrifice inconceivable to us here, consumer goods of every category have almost entirely disappeared. Outwardly, the country and everything in it is in a bad state of preservation. Repairs, upkeep, and maintenance, such as we know them, are almost non-existent. Many buildings and structures are obsolete and in need of repairs. Inadequate water services and lighting, disorganized and overloaded transportation, and lack of essential facilities are encountered everywhere. There is scarcity of farm machinery and utensils. Industry and agriculture have been entirely geared to sustaining the military power, and the evacuation resulting from German occupation has fully served to increase the difficulties of living.

But any dissatisfaction and grumbling which might have ensued were dissipated and replaced by a patriotic fervor, combined with confidence in their leaders, which has resulted in a stupendous war machine. Every man, woman, and youth in the Soviet Union has demonstrated a self-sacrificing devotion, a tenacity and power of resistance which the world hardly imagined possible. This is the guiding spirit and driving power which motivates the entire country—the Government, the military, and the people behind the lines—and which has resulted in the success of our Soviet Ally. But this complete unity of purpose, this magnificent spirit and stubborn fortitude in the face of what we should call insupportable privations—while it has brought the Russians victory—leaves them with a peacetime task of reconstruction which is monumental.

The objective of the Soviet Government, headed by Marshal Stalin, is to raise the standards of living of the Russian people. Once victory is finally attained and the stimulus of war is removed, these people will want and expect immediate action, and Mr. Stalin himself will want to satisfy his people and proceed at once toward the fulfillment of his mission, but he will be faced with a terrific problem. He has an enormous military machine and an industry geared to supplying that machine. The industrialization of his country has been stopped by the war effort, and before he can satisfy the hopes of his people he must demobilize the military and convert his industries, factories, and efforts to peacetime needs. But here again priority of effort must be given to removing and replacing the ravages of war, and for a considerable period of time his existing industries will be fully employed in replacing obsolete and worn out structures and in repairing and improving her basic utilities, such as transports, communications, power, housing, and other essential services and facilities, in supplying farm machinery and utensils, and in the manufacture of heavy machinery needed to continue the industrialization of his country. Even with the immediate demobilization of the military there will be considerable delay in proceeding with the problem of relieving the conditions of the Russian people. Given time, the problem can be solved, but time will not wait and the Russian people will become impatient at delay. Therefore, Russia will need help to tide her over the conversion period. This aid must continue for some time, but will cease when Russia can get her industry adjusted and her economy adapted to full peacetime needs. Marshal Stalin knows this. He knows he needs help and he and the Russians are looking to America for this help.

Our plastic industries in particular can provide those products which are greatly desired and acutely needed by Russia, products which would relieve the terrible pressure now upon the Russian people for the attainment of the barest necessities in the way of clothing and housing, machinery, and other equipment, to enable them to carry on a normal existence. The extent to which such products could be utilized there is almost incredible, when we take into consideration the products' variety as well as the Russians' enormous needs.

This all-embracing field of plastic production, which provides building materials as well as the most delicate materials for clothing, which provides essential material in our mechanical construction and electrical industries, which provides the material of which airplanes are made, as well as composition for the tiniest ornaments, which provides furniture, artificial leather, toothbrushes, and phonograph records—to outline only roughly its limits—is a field from which Russia will buy highly developed products, consumer goods for which she is starving and which her own industry will not be able to provide her for many years.

During the banquet at the Teheran conference in December of last year, Marshal Stalin gave a toast. This toast was, "Without American machines, the United Nations could never have won the war."

He is equally aware that, without American products, the Soviet Union will not be able to realize her peacetime goals. She will not achieve the living standard which is her objective. She will not become a flourishing country—one which has no more need for the overstatements of idealists and for misrepresentation of fact—because she is woefully impoverished now in all that comprises our general living standard.

Russia is the largest country in the world with a comparatively small density of population. She is, next to the U.S.A., the most nearly self-sustaining in raw materials of any country, but she lacks the technical skill and the machinery with which to make the best and immediate use of these raw materials, some of which she has in excess of her own needs. We have the technical skill and the machinery, and we need certain of her raw materials.

Here in our own country the war has also resulted in a general upsetting of the peacetime efforts and industry is geared to war production. But we have an economy which has been comparatively little disturbed by the war effort, an abundance of consumer goods as compared with Russia, and services in good state of preservation. Demobilization will return to our labor market millions of men and women who have been engaged in war activity, and we may be confronted by an unemployment condition which could be serious. For a short time, we can absorb some of the surplus labor in production of consumer goods and heavy machinery, but we cannot depend on this activity indefinitely.

With our war experience and with full-time employment, we can supply in one month after adequate reconversion enough consumer goods of nearly every category to meet the needs of our own people for a year or longer. It is in this situation that we turn to Russia as well as others. We should be able to supply Russia at once with consumer goods and thus help her and, at the same time, help solve our own unemployment problem during the conversion period. On both sides, this outlet for our products will be most welcome.

But to accomplish this we must assume two important premises. First, that Russia's security is vital to her and that she cannot turn to industrialization and development of her raw material resources unless she has that security. The accomplishment of her ultimate goal of improved living conditions not only requires a return to peace status, but an extended continuance of that status. Hence, while the immediate, primary objective is winning the war, the second objective is providing for security which will insure an extended period of peace. Herein lies the motivating intention and desire of Marshal Stalin. This will enable him to demobilize his military forces in order to continue industrialization and development. And only then will he be upon the direct road to the improvement of the living standard.

I should like to mention here, by way of an aside, that consideration of the foregoing sequence and plan will account for the seeming vagaries of the Soviet Government, and indicate the absolute necessity for Russia's post-war cooperation with the other three Great Powers. No other course is consistent with the announced purpose of the Soviet program. After victory, security is their next consideration. Unless a world organization is set up which will provide them with real security, they will have to proceed on their own to provide it.

The second premise which we must assume in our relations with the Soviet Union in future is that the Russian conception of economy excludes the profit system. We cannot expect great profits in our negotiations with the Russian market. The market itself will be of profit to us assisting in the handling of our own employment problems after the war and lending an impetus to our industry, which might otherwise lag dangerously in that period.

Again, particularly in the realm of plastics, the market or demand itself is of profit, since the development of these industries appears to have run immediately behind the requirement for their existence, and the development of organic chemistry through these industries seems limitless. Progress in this remarkable field may yet be in its early stages.

I feel confident that we are on the threshold of a post-war period of collaboration in the fullest sense of the word. Andthe ties which we have forged in battle will be transformed into even closer unity of effort and cooperation in peace. The Anglo-Soviet Treaty and the Soviet-American Agreement of last May are firm foundation for the development of such collaboration. These agreements were signed in battle and are being strengthened by the ever-increasing deliveries of war materials to the U.S.S.R. I am confident Marshal Stalin will agree that, when victory is finally won, it will be our duty to transform this fighting alliance into a concordat dedicated to peacetime construction and to the betterment of the commonweal.

The U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. can, within certain limits, be of assistance to each other in their post-war requirements and abilities, and will continue in that status for quite a period of time. I am sure that, by the end of this period, we shall have evolved plans to stand on our own feet and to provide useful employment for all our people.

In conclusion, I would like to leave this parting thought. We are fighting a war to prevent an ideology contrary to our own being forced down our throat through force of arms. As a united people we are winning this war. When the war is over and we return to normalcy, we will be in peaceful competition with various world orders, some of which are just as opposite to our own as the one we are now waging war against. As a united people we can also win this competition with labor, industry, agriculture, Government, and the consumers united. We need not fear competition in the economic field. But unless we have that united effort, if labor and industry and Government and agriculture and the consumers persist in going their separate and different ways, we have lost this competition before we start.