...I think it was on the following morning that I was the guest
of an American metallurgical engineer, Mr. J. Stanley McClenahan of
New York. A few miles out of Moscow and off the tourist trail he had
redesigned an old smelter and considerably increased its capacity with
German machinery. He explained that he had preferred American equipment
but that American manufacturers could not extend the necessary credit.
Possibly Mr. McClenahan wouldn't have invited me had he known how
it was going to affect me. Perhaps I should have guarded my emotions
a bit more. As soon as I saw McClenahan's "junk pile" behind the smelter
a queer, resentful depression filled me.
These images were not Tunney & Davenport's
book, but they would have been representative of what Tunney
There in a bold broad hill lay the bells of Russia--some of them.
They were the bells that I had hoped some day to hear. I had read
of them and travelers had told me about their sonorous evening song.
Perhaps they never would have sounded as sweet in my ears as in my
imagination. It doesn't matter. Some were smashed, some were being
smashed, others were still intact--beautiful things wonderfully molded
From Bells to Bullets
To a great extent they had been cast from metal donated by the peasants--copper,
bronze, gold, silver. They had been gorgeous works of art, decorated
with bas-reliefs of the saints, the apostles, of Christ, of His parables.
Here was a huge bass bell on the sides of which the story of the Annunciation
had been told by a sculptor; and near it was another beautified with
the story of Bethlehem.
"Probably they'd laugh at me," I said to McClenahan, "but this seems
unnecessary. What a shame. How many tons have you in this hill?"
"I don't know," replied McClenahan, "but thus far we've smelted
six hundred thousand tons of them for their bronze, gold, silver, copper
and so on. The theory is plain enough: the bells were made for the churches
out of the metals donated by the peasants. Now they've taken the bells
from the churches and returned the metal to industry--to the workers."
"Any of the metal go into ammunition?"
"Oh yes, most of it," he said. "These metals given to the church
were supposed to provide protection for the soul of the peasant. Converted
into bullets and shells it now may protect the body of the peasant from
the invader. Some of course goes to the peaceful arts."
McClenahan was merely the technical director of the smelter--the
expert engineer. He had nothing to do with the workers whose leader
was the president of their local workers' council. A most matter-of-fact
man this president, to whom sentiment was mere weakness.
"You must realize," said he, "that the workers of this country are
the rulers of the Soviet Republic. All that these bells symbolize is
done--gone. The workers willed it that way. These things are of no use
to us. We have abolished what these bells stood for--superstition."
And more along that line. He was still talking when I noticed what
were bundles of icons of brass, gold, silver and platinum; candelabra
of the same metals; holy vessels and altar pieces. They were all in
machine-pressed blocks ready for the furnace. On top of this mound I
saw what seemed to me to be a man asleep. The figure was clumsily covered
with canvas or something of the sort and so sure was I that it was one
of the workers taking a siesta out of hours that I asked the president
of the workers' council about it.
For the first time he grinned. He winked at another Russian and,
catlike, leaped up the hill of confiscated altar pieces. A shout from
him made us step back. He raised his right foot and rolled the prostrate
figure over with a thrust of his heel. It teetered on the edge and then
came rolling down, crashing in a moment at our feet.
It was a great bronze figure of Christ, a magnificent sculpture.
It was more than life size and apparently had been wrenched from its
The president looked at me squarely, his face wider than ever with
the grin he had for my frown. I was astounded. Perhaps my resentment
was even stronger than that.
"That," I protested, "is awful. The whole thing's ghastly. Why is
this beautiful work of art destroyed? Even if there is no respect for
religion and its symbols, you should, I think, preserve the art."
"We workers," he said coolly, "will no longer tolerate this nonsense.
We were the slaves of the church for centuries. That's all over. We've
abandoned superstition. We're struggling out of the old ignorance. This
hurts you? We can't help that. This is only a little part of our plan.
This figure symbolizes what we have decided is not necessary to our
life. We workers--"
"But I, too, was a worker," I said. "My father was a worker--his
"The day will come," he said, "when even you will understand."
Perhaps, perhaps; but I'm not convinced. I don't believe that after
they have established themselves and proved their theory, organized
religion can be kept suppressed. Humanity must release its emotions
somewhere. When calm comes to Russia, they're going to find emotional
outlet in some form of church. I left the smelter thinking of Voltaire's
"If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."
I saw no reason to agree with those who predict the collapse of
Soviet Russia. I saw nothing but a tremendous striving to compel success.
But neither did I see the sparkling eyes of happiness that the pro-Soviet
writers insist upon. Just a doggedness, a mechanical plodding, a huge
pressing force crushing forward. I saw nothing to indicate pity, kindness,
thoughtfulness nor compassion. The whole scene was as colorless and
as inexorable as a grinding machine.