Barriers to Foreign Influences in Russia
It seems that Russia is aware of its basic weakness and tries to shield itself by restricting contacts with foreign countries. In an article published in the June issue of The Soviet Union, Mr. Stephen King-Hall, a member of the British Parliament, reported his impressions based on his recent visit to Russia. He wrote that the Russian Government did not wish that the Russian people should be exposed to Western ideas or thinking. He went on to say that it was only through official channels—not directly—that one could get an idea of the Russian way of life, and that this state of affairs would continue for some time. Russian isolation was evident during the recent visit of a group of Russian experts who came along with some Americans to this country. The Russians were surprised to find that in India one could travel freely, while in their own country, people had little money to travel on their own. They felt as though they had been transported to a different world. This instance reflected Russia’s lack of exposure to other countries. Obviously, the Russians cannot be kept in ‘cold storage’ indefinitely; one day the wall of isolation would crumble and the world would witness a profound transformation.
Russian Claims of Practising Equality Among its Citizens Are Not Credible
I have my doubts about equality in Russia, but since the information about the actual situation is very scanty, one cannot be sure. I do know that ordinary Russian soldiers wear worn-out uniforms. I have learned this from our Ahmadi officers and soldiers who were posted in places where they had contact with the Russian army. According to them, the uniforms worn by the soldiers from the Asian part of the Soviet Union were particularly shabby. By contrast, the uniforms worn by Russian Marshals—as can be seen from their pictures in the newspaper—are elegant and resplendent with very expensive medals. The cost of these medals alone dispels any notion of equality in the Soviet Union. The state of equality in Russia can be gauged from a banquet Mr. Stalin gave in honour of Mr. Churchill when he visited Moscow during the war. Mr. Churchill, upon his return to England, said that he wished his capitalist country could afford to feed him on the same sumptuous scale as he had seen in a country with a proletarian government. If equality really exists in Moscow, does an ordinary Russian get the same lavish dinners as are offered at state banquets? If not, it is evident that Russia has not resolved the problem of inequality, nor is there a prospect that it will in future. The lavishness displayed at state banquets cannot be rationalised on grounds of necessity. During the war, state banquets in England were quite simple. Russia could have kept the banquet simple, but their real motivation was to impress Mr. Churchill with Russia’s grandeur. It is this attitude that frustrates the spirit of equality. This incident also suggests that the notion of equality itself has undergone change over time, and a new class of rich is emerging that is rooted in the power and influence within the Communist Party. In short, inequality persists in the Soviet Union, but its form has changed. While reviewing the manuscript for the speech, I came across a piece of news relating to the absence of equality in Russia. I reproduce it below because it throws light on the subject and lends support to my assessment. It was reported by the Canberra correspondent of The Sun, a well-known Australian newspaper, that the Australian Ambassador to Russia gave a statement before a parliamentary party during his holidays in which he stated:
1. A new class of wealthy people is emerging in Russia because the influential members of the Communist Party, as well as those considered technical experts, get far better treatment than ordinary people.
2. In restaurants the food served is graded into five classes, tickets for which can be obtained according to party influence or the nature of a person’s job.
3. In consequence, the difference among individuals is as evident today as it was during Czarist Russia.
4. While in other countries the black market is run by the shadier segments of society, in Russia it is in the hands of the authorities themselves.
5. As a consequence, important people can obtain whatever they wish, while the ordinary labourer has to do without many necessities of life.
The Australian Ambassador subsequently expressed regret at the publication of the report on the ground that it was likely to upset Australia’s relations with Soviet Russia. However, he did not contradict it. This suggests that the expression of regret was politically motivated and was not a contradiction of the statement itself. This report also confirms my expectations regarding the future of Russia, as described earlier. It was inevitable that a new class of wealthy people would emerge in Russia, for the differences in individuals’ capacity and calibre cannot be ignored. Because Communism lacks the restraints on power, privilege and wealth—as ordained in Islam—the new class is bound to drag Communist governments to the old ways. The only consequence of the Communist Revolution would be to give Russia a prominent place among imperialist nations in exploiting the profitable opportunities wherever available. The hope of a proletarian world government would turn into an unrealisable dream. This is so because Communist philosophy was not anchored in human sympathy, but in the goal of settling scores with the Czarist government.
Unanswered Questions About Claims of Equality
I would like to say something here about the moral and cultural standard of the ordinary Russian soldiers. I learned of the case of a train carrying drums of benzene oil through Iran. When one of the drums leaked, some Russian soldiers mistook it for rum or beer, and started drinking it. About one thousand Russian soldiers ended up drinking benzene, which resulted in the death of dozens of soldiers while hundreds were taken ill. It was a display of total lack of commitment to national service; the soldiers forgot their sense of duty and responsibility to protecting their country’s property, i.e. the benzene. It also shows that the soldiers assigned in Iran were not paid enough to resist temptation and they had not benefited from Russia’s economic progress. With respect to Russian industry, the question arises of whether the nature of work is similar in every industry. Clearly, a coal miner’s work is quite different from that of a shopkeeper. Similarly, a tailor’s needs for capital are different from the needs of a man who wants to start working as a jeweller. How does Communism propose to resolve these differences? Does the government own all the capital of the shopkeepers and control all their transactions? Further, is an incompetent doctor or a lawyer entitled to charge the same fees as other doctors and lawyers? If the fees can vary according to ability, how can the presumed claim of equality be established? And if the best doctor or lawyer cannot charge a higher fee, would everyone not rush to them for service? In this case, how can they attend to everyone? In short, as soon as the Communist principle of equality is put into practise, a host of questions arise. We are not in a position to know how these questions may be answered in Russia. But so long as satisfactory answers are not forthcoming, the conclusion must remain that the Communist proponents of equality are wrong in their claims.
A Proper Economic System
After reflecting over these important matters, a reasonable person would conclude that a practical economic system must leave room for religion. Short term economic considerations must not permit that the longer term consequence of an economic system be ignored. Only that economic system would be beneficial to humanity which fulfils everyone’s basic needs, but also promotes healthy competition among individuals while curbing unhealthy rivalry. The fact is that Communism was a reaction to past tyranny. That explains why this philosophy spread to areas where people were oppressed, but it did not take root in such countries as Great Britain and the United States. Similarly, it has not been successful in countries where nationalist or socialist governments were in power. Some time ago, an American newspaper posed an interesting question to the working classes: Do you consider yourself to belong to the capitalist class, the middle class or the poor class? The majority of the respondents said that they considered themselves to be in the middle class. This suggests that it does not occur to an American worker that he is poor. This is the reason why Communism was an even bigger failure in the United States than in Great Britain. On account of the abundance of wealth in America, the labouring class does not feel that they are impoverished and are in need of a system that redresses their complaints and meets their basic needs. Thus, the real solution to the problem is that:
1.In accordance with the Islamic teaching, the rights of the poor should be safeguarded; and
2.The hopes and aspirations of people should be fostered.
In Germany and Italy, people were not distributed money, but their aspirations were nurtured. As a consequence, they started viewing themselves as victorious and triumphant. Hope and aspirations are vital for national progress. A nation, where people no longer have aspirations or where its poor are denied basic rights, is inevitably destined to its ruin.