AGREAT deal of interest has been aroused by the recent appearance in a Soviet publication of an article dealing with fundamental elements of the capitalist and Socialist economic systems. The article, "Some Questions in the Teaching of Political Economy," which appeared in the periodical Under the Banner of Marxism,[i] has been taken to be an authoritative pronouncement of the most far-reaching importance, representing a radically-changed appraisal by the Soviet Government of the nature of capitalism and Socialism, fraught with bright prospects for the future relations between the U.S.S.R. and the capitalist countries. Is this interpretation correct and are the happy expectations which are based upon it justified?
There can be little question of the importance of the article, even though there is considerable misunderstanding in this country about the "official" character of anything which appears in Soviet publications. To judge from some comment, one would almost suppose that Stalin or at least his personal representative censors everything which is published in the Soviet Union. It is perfectly true that no one in Russia would publish anything which he thought would be viewed unfavorably by Stalin, since the consequences would probably be serious indeed. This fact does most importantly condition the nature of everything which is printed. Though a Soviet writer knows that Stalin or anyone close to Stalin will read only a small proportion of what appears in even the more important books, periodicals and newspapers, he will not disregard the possibility that his product will receive such attention. Nevertheless, very little which is published in Russia can automatically be considered an authoritative pronouncement, even though practically every author in the U.S.S.R. writes with the earnest intention of avoiding conflict with any state or party official more powerful than himself.
It is perfectly possible that the position taken by the writers of the article in question might later be sharply repudiated by Stalin without anyone feeling that such action meant that Stalin had changed his
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