The Chinese-Soviet Rift: Origins and Portents

Courtesy Reuters

The long-heralded and twice-postponed conference between the Chinese and Soviet Communist spokesmen, held at Moscow in July, was overshadowed, at least for the outside world, by the dramatic publication of the exchange of letters between the two Central Committees. The breakup of the conference was hardly softened by halfhearted assertions of a mutual intention to continue the discussions. It is hard to discern any useful topics for new negotiations until one or another or both parties to the quarrel have made some rather drastic changes in their ideological claims or their practical policy aims. The two facets are inseparable, of course. Quarrels among Communists have been a recurring feature of a movement that claims political omniscience and a monopoly of messianic foresight, and are normally clothed in recondite scholastic terms. But their ideological disputes are always waged over real questions of power and policy.

From this latest phase of the Moscow-Peking conflict, what new can we learn of the nature of the rift? And, more dimly glimpsed, what does this clash portend for the future?

The exchange of charges has clarified in some respects, though obscured in others, the chronology of the conflict. Western analysts of the dispute have generally traced its devious course from the June 1960 congress of the Rumanian Party, or rather from the behind-the-scenes meetings held at that time in Bucharest, among representatives of some 50 Communist Parties, to discuss the clash of views that had arisen over the proper strategy of the international movement. The Soviet letter of July 14 assigns a somewhat earlier date. According to its account, the direct conflict began with the publication by the Chinese Party, in April 1960, of a collection called "Long Live Leninism!" This was, Moscow claims, a direct attack on several main points of the Moscow Declaration of 1957. In it Peking lashed out against the policy of coexistence, against the possibility of averting a world war, against the use of both peaceful and non-peaceful paths to the Communist achievement of power. Similarly,

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