Thinking About the Unthinkable in Ukraine
What Happens If Putin Goes Nuclear?
It was only towards the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to realize that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy.-Czeslaw Milosz
FOR four and one-half decades we have waited for the Soviet Union to mellow. Repeatedly, we have thought we were witnessing the longed-for change, of dynamism, direction or heart, which would make Communist totalitarianism in power just "one state among many"-different of course, but a member of the comprehensive genus of orderly, constituted governments, content to tolerate orderly neighbors and act according to the not-too-generous rule of live and let live by which governments, reluctantly, indifferently or a little contemptuously, suffer each other's presence on the same earth.
A review of the judgments of statesmen and analysts over these 45 years makes melancholy reading. From the notion that Lenin's régime would last but a few weeks or months (Lenin shared this view for a while) to the certitude that power and responsibility always sober; from Lenin's N.E.P. to Stalin's "socialism in one country" and Khrushchev's "thaw"; from the celebration of Russia's entry into the League of Nations through the shock of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to the Grand Alliance that was to build "one world"; from Stalin's "peaceful coexistence" to Khrushchev's "peaceful competition"; from the "collective leadership" following Lenin's death to that following Stalin's, to the personal rule of Khrushchev-at every zig we have proclaimed, "At last it has come," at every zag muttered, "Surely it cannot last!"
In London I chanced some time ago on the diary of a deceased noble lady, one entry of which noted that Fridtjof Nansen had come to tea, bringing glad tidings: "Our troubles with Russia are over: Lenin is returning to capitalism." The entry was made in 1922, the lady's informant being one of the most knowing of Soviet experts in his generation.
Four decades after that entry, I read in a work of an American political scientist a rejection of the very conception that "totalitarianism is a radically new social form," which, while it exists as such, will continue to maintain "its combative posture vis-à-vis democratic societies."
Even on a simpler intuitive basis, [the writer continues] one can question the basic assumption of the theory-namely, that society becomes completely atomized and rule is anomic and direct. In a crisis situation, a state can fragment all social life, and through terror, perhaps, mold a people to its will. But can a society live in permanent crisis? Can it hold such a rigid posture without either exploding into war or relaxing? The basis of all social life requires not only a minimum of personal security but the reasonable expectation by parents that their children will be educated, develop careers, and so forth. To that extent, a tendency towards "normalization" is at work in any crisis state.[i]
Leaving aside the assumptions which our theme prevents us from considering (viz. that rule by secretaries, cells and transmission belts is "direct rule;" that totalitarianism is "anomic," i.e. either unstructured or without a value system, merely because these are given from above; and that militant totalitarianism is incompatible with giving children "education and careers"), the passage cited touches on the heart of the questions which will concern us in this article.
How can a régime which arose through a crisis (in Russia and our civilization) endure for 45 years? How does it differ from the usual "crisis régime?" How has it been able to prolong its "crisis" for close to a half-century? Is there a built-in eroding factor which will compel it, before too long, to "explode into war or relax into 'normalization'?" Is the "simple, intuitive basis" of Western thought a proper tool for understanding a society so different from the one in which that intuition was formed? Or is its concept of "normalization" applicable to the ideology and structure of militant totalitarianism?
Conversely, is the opposite extreme tenable? Can we deduce the twists and turns of Soviet policy by simple transposition from its ideology and totalitarian structure?
Or, as this article will seek to suggest, is not Soviet conduct a composite of disparate and conflicting forces, namely: (1) the influence of the traditional situation of the nation upon those who usurped power there; (2) the alterations forced upon them by recalcitrant reality; and (3) the drives and preconceptions of the intensely held ideology which they possess, and which possesses them?
Forty-five years, it goes without saying, have brought important changes- cumulative changes which come from expanding power, lengthening experience in power, and changes in the outside world. Hence a central question of this analysis must be: Are there discernible, amidst these changes, fundamental features of the ideology and institutional framework which have endured, which are decisive for the shaping of foreign policy, and with which we are likely to have to continue to reckon for the foreseeable future?[ii]
Let us begin with the easiest part of the problem: the influence on Bolshevik policy of the imperial heritage.
Lenin seized power, not in a land "ripe for socialism," but in a land ripe for seizing power. "It was as easy," he wrote, "as lifting up a feather." His coup was supposed to touch off a European socialist revolution; but while the revolution "matured," the opportunity presenting itself was to seize power in the Great-Russian Empire. "The point of the uprising," he chided those who hesitated about Russia's "ripeness" for his blueprint, "is the seizure of power. Afterwards, we will see what we can do with it."
Many of the things Lenin and his successors had to do were those which any new tsar would have attempted after an interregnum, a ruinous war and a shrinkage of empire: namely, to reëstablish order (their kind of order); to identify Russia's interests in the minds of their subjects with their rule; to subdue and reconquer seceding provinces and peoples;[iii] to end the war as best they could, reëstablish Russia's frontiers, and resume under new forms and for new purposes Russia's secular expansion.
In so far as there appears to be identity between the policy of the stronger tsars and that of Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev, this springs from the fact that, more often than not, the same territories constitute the objectives of reincorporation or conquest. Georgia, Poland, Finland, the Ukraine, Belorussia, the Baltic States, Bessarabia, the Balkans, the Dardanelles, Persia, the Turkic Empires, Sinkiang, Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea-all these have appeared in the pages of Russian history before.
The same geographical situation gives the same neighbors. The Soviet Empire is still the Eurasian heartland, subject to pressure from East or West or both at once, capable of exerting pressure on East and West-on one at a time under the tsars with their limited aims-on both at once under the Bolsheviks with their unlimited ones. As before, Russia is the great land power, many of whose policies are conditioned by the traditional contests between land power and sea power. As before, in moments of strength, this land power still strives for control of its bordering seas.
If the dream of controlling the Pacific proved a wild chimera and Alaska and California had to be abandoned, the Caspian proved easy. With a little luck-and the Dardanelles!-the Black Sea would prove easy, too.
The conquest of the Baltic Provinces and Finland had started Russia's way around the Baltic. Stalin's desperate effort to seize Hamburg, his annexations in East Prussia, his claim to fortify Bornholm, would have startled us less had we borne this inherited appetite in mind. Certainly it explains more concerning Russia's "geopolitical" attitude toward her bordering seas than does the journalistic cliché of "hunger for a warm- water port." Not as exporter or importer but as the great land power blocked in its secular ambitions by surrounding sea powers does Russia look on her bordering seas.
The military advantage of the land power is its interior lines of communication (providing its transport and logistics are adequate). But one disadvantage is that the sea powers are more mobile and can strike at any of its many frontiers, or several at once, compelling Russia to keep large armies in reserve at all her borders. This is further complicated now by airpower; by the radar, plane and missile bases all around the empire; by the missile-launching submarine.
Another preoccupation of the power sprawling across the open Eurasian plain is the "rectification" of its frontiers to get more defensible lines. The Pripet Marshes were one such to the west, which was too bad for Poland since a more defensible line for one meant a less defensible for the other. The Carpathians played a similar role to the southwest. To the historian there was no novelty in Stalin's partition of Poland with Hitler, fumblingly reconfirmed by the Grand Alliance. The novelty was the military ignorance (or was it faith in Hitler?) that led Stalin to station his main armies in front of the river and swamps, so that these served to hinder not the Wehrmacht's advance, but the Soviet armies' retreat.
The "rectifying" of borders is, of course, a traditional objective. Kutusov, between 1812 and 1815, urged his sovereign to take advantage of Russia's advance on Paris to "rectify" Russia's borders along the Carpathians and the shortest line along the Oder to the Sea, and "compensate" the Prussian King-as Stalin was to "compensate" Poland-by lands to the west. Actually, Alexander I had too much consideration for his brother sovereign, the King of Prussia, and for the diplomatic practices of his day. His forbearance arose out of the code of personal conduct of nineteenth-century sovereigns, "cousins" all, and the generally limited nature of the aims which characterized the European system from 1815, when Napoleon fell, until 1914, when peace fell.
Despite a certain archaism carried over from the days of Russia's isolation, the foreign policy of the tsars was the customary policy of a great national state. Its vague ideological overtones were no different from those of other nations. The belief that the tsar's power and duty came from God is analogous to the divine right of kings. The idea of the "Third Rome" played no larger role, indeed not as large as the doctrine of the Holy Roman Empire played over the long period from Charlemagne and Barbarosssa to Napoleon. France, like Russia, concerned itself with the "protection of the Holy Places," while St. Petersburg's fluctuating interest in the Ottoman Slavs was less intense than Austria-Hungary's absorption with Slav stirrings inside and below its Empire. Panslavism and Slavophilism remained feverish fantasies of isolated intellectuals, suspect at court, analogous to, and not as influential as, Pan-Germanism in the German Empire.
Though the diplomacy of the tsars resembled that of Stalin and Khrushchev in its freedom from the overt and organized pressure of public opinion and the natural inclination of autocrats to engage in summitry and personal settlements, Russia's diplomacy as a whole was conventional, employing professional diplomats, following the practices of a world-wide diplomatic tradition which has almost vanished from memory now that conferences and negotiations are habitually put to the uses of a revolutionary power. Foreign policy aims were limited, pursued on the whole circumspectly and in a certain sequence, expressed in the prevailing terms of national interest, balance of power, concert of Europe, spheres of influence, rectification of frontiers, protection against incursions, respect for engagements and alliances, readiness to take into account the opinions and pressures of the other great powers (as in the various settlements with Turkey).
Just as autocracy, though it claimed absolute power, did not dream of totalist power within its own realm, so it had no global aims in foreign policy, no all-embracing plan for the world, no over-all unifying idea. Neither an ideocracy, nor insurrectionary, its generals brought no plans for revolution in their baggage. It had no fifth column as its servant, no world to bury and no world to win. Though it might prefer autocracy in its neighbors, it did not feel impelled to set up a replica of its own régime wherever its armies entered; nor did it feel "insecure" and "provoked" unless all the world should consist of autocracies.
Alexander I marched into Paris at the head of the most powerful armies in the world, then withdrew leaving no permanent traces of his occupation and the essential France much as before. The same was true of the other countries he occupied en route. If Stalin could have possessed such overriding military power and led his armies to Paris in 1945, the result would have been startlingly different, for he would have brought with him a set of rulers for each occupied country and a set of rules, an ideology covering the whole of life, a totalitarian structure and single-party rule.
It should be clear, then, that the men who make policy in the Soviet Union think and act differently from the tsars, and that we neglect their ideology to our peril.[iv] Once this is recognized, it might perhaps seem that all we need do is study their ideology to discover their "operative code" and foresee their every move. But ideology is not a set of Euclidean theorems.
Even for Communists there is no automatically "correct translation," no one- to-one correspondence, between any segment of ideology and any particular act. Their doctrine combines a religion and eschatology of salvation; a vast accumulation (from pre-1848 to the present) of political commentary and judgments, most of them out of date if they were ever valid; an economics now irrelevant; a historical sociology and critique of economic and social institutions, much of which is still suggestive; a philosophy which is little more than verbal casuistry. To make matters worse, every assertion in the voluminous, contradictory writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin is held to be part of a single science, a canon of which any sentence may be treated as having probative value. Hence the application of the doctrine to any given situation is subject to argument, and it is not always easy for the Communist leaders themselves to deduce from it the appropriate conclusion or action.
If it is hard for them (they solve their problem by forbidding factional controversy and developing the institution of the infallible leader as sole authorized interpreter at any given moment), how much harder is it for us!
"What matters," Sir Lewis Namier once wrote of political ideas, " is the underlying emotions, the music to which ideas are the mere libretto." All we can master is the words; to their music we are tone-deaf.
Though the doctrine operates persistently and powerfully to shape their vision, passions, thoughts and actions, it does not operate in a vacuum. It must be applied, in fragments and contradictions, to a real world of which even the doctrinaire, and particularly the adepts of this doctrine, take account. The masters of the doctrine have inherited from Lenin-and continued to develop-a distinctive Bolshevik blend of dogmatism and empiricism.
Nothing could be more deceptive than the inclination to answer from within ourselves the questions: "What would I believe if I accepted this proposition which they accept? How would I act in the situation facing them if I held their beliefs?" The illusion that we can easily "put ourselves in their place" contains a built-in trap, that of tending to put them in our place and tending to think that they think and feel as we do.
When we do pay attention to their ideology and its emotional context, we tend to be so impressed by its dogmatic character that we forget that it is dogma applied to reality. It is true that this application has its ambiguities. When they study the world for "theoretical" purposes, dogma has priority over reality, which has orders to confirm and reinforce their faith-"confirm the truth of our science." Thus filtered, it does. Still it is their contention that their dogmas are derived from the empirical study of society and the universe. And it is their pride that the science enables them to appraise reality, react properly to it, judge the exact extent to which the "concrete, objective situation" and "real relations of power" permit them to advance on the path marked out for them by it.
Moreover, we do them wrong to imagine that they will abandon this path and choose rather to blow up the world when given no other choice than open retreat. This Götterdämmerung frenzy or petulance was a constituent of Hitler's spirit but not of Lenin's. Lenin was as proud of knowing "when to retreat" and "how to retreat in good order" as he was of knowing when to advance and push to the limit. For him, offensive and defensive, retreat and advance, probing and holding actions, open frontal attacks and simulated withdrawals and outflanking man?uvres were all precious elements of a strategy of protracted conflict which was to last until final victory. For every battle, his favorite adage was taken from Napoleon: On s'engage, et puis-on voit!
Within rather strict limits, contact with refractory reality has forced upon these men adaptations ("creative extensions") of their doctrine. "Facts are stubborn things," Lenin would say. They could not, of course, refute "science." But they could show him that a particular tactic or plan of a given moment had to be abandoned, or a particular proposition reinterpreted.
Lenin and his successors are always at pains to show that their "creative extensions" do not constitute a "revision." This is more than mere casuistry, for it corresponds to a genuine psychological and political need and possesses an underlying meaning.
Though Marx's views of his last years were different from those of 1848, there was an enduring framework of dogma and continuity of spirit which made it not unwarranted for disciples to make of his teachings an "ism" and an orthodoxy. More fearful of "revisionism" than the founding fathers, the "orthodox" sought to turn every possible aspect into a dogma. Yet, most dogmatic of Marxists though he was, Lenin found it needful, consciously and unconsciously, to transform what he adopted, give it a Russian cast, put on it the stamp of his own temperament.
Repeatedly he "creatively developed" the doctrine, so that the Leninism of the foundation period (1902-14) was profoundly different from the Leninism of the First World War (1914-16). In 1917, he made even more drastic changes, so that he had to fight all the old leaders of his party-they quoting the Lenin of the foundation period against the living Lenin. Still more startling was the next transformation: from the pronouncements of the six months from spring to autumn of 1917 (anarchistic, decentralist, spontaneous mass-actionist, syndicalist, equalitarian) to the Leninism of firmly established power. Each of these stages represents a significant break in strategy and tactics against the background of an even more important and fundamental continuity of dogma, spirit and long-range aim. Moreover, all these variform pronouncements of Lenin, like those of Marx, are now held to represent a single sacred canon. Yet each of these "creative extensions" in its day caused not only opponents but often devout disciples to believe that Lenin was "abandoning Leninism."
With these complexities in mind, let us enter the thicket of Communist doctrine, to see what trails we can find leading from dogma to policy.
Marxism-Leninism is a "science," indeed a super-science of the laws of motion of both nature and society. It makes a science of history, politics, sociology, social and individual psychology, and all the subtle realms of the spirit.
Its God is personified History, the Future His Word and His Kingdom. Its mythology, as Herbert Lüthy has observed, has an astonishing "conceptual realism," which puts on the stage of history as living, thinking and acting personages such abstract concepts as Capitalism, Imperialism, Socialism, as in the morality plays of the Middle Ages Jealousy, Slander or Avarice were accustomed to appear. Those who can juggle with these puppets and possess this conceptual wisdom are masters of the plot, bearers of History's will, beneficiaries of History's guarantees, executors of History's judgments.
A predictive science, it works to fulfill and is destined to fulfill its prophecies. As it includes its own verification, so it includes its own morality-what history intends being at once scientifically and morally right. Whoever and whatever hastens the coming of the future is thus doubly sanctioned; whoever or whatever gets in the way is both unscientific and immoral.
The final victory of history's millennial intentions will usher in a state of absolute grace in which history-as-conflict ceases and loses its imperatives of harsh struggle; man can at last become human and humane, love can replace hatred, and all be made whole. This exempts "correct," i.e. scientific and moral, action from the possibility of wrongdoing.
Weltgeschichte ist Weltgericht, but in this court justice is not blind, for judge's bench, jury box, attorney's stands, courtroom public and executioner are provided by the Party. Only the accused is an outsider, known in advance to be guilty as charged, undeserving of mercy. Mastery of the law carries with it the ability to penetrate subjective disguises and recognize the "objective meaning" of the assertions, acts, illusions and very existence of the accused. Doubt, question, deviation, uncertainty, opposition, indifference or willful attempts to escape the judgment, absent one's self from the spectacle, or any impulse of sympathy with the accused, are impermissible. "If we do not allow freethinking in chemistry," as Comte once wrote, "why should we allow it in morals or politics?" Why indeed if morals and politics are science?
The chief significance which the infallibility of the ideology and its adepts has for foreign policy is the combination of strength and flexibility which comes from knowing that you have History on your side. This goes far to explain the unresponsiveness to argument, the stubbornness and repetitiveness of Communist negotiators, the lack of communication in dialogues which are only ostensible dialogues. How can there be genuine dialogue without some consensus? How can there be give-and-take between that which is self-evidently and totally right, and that which is self- evidently wrong, both scientifically and morally?[v]
Marxism-Leninism is a combative ideology. At the core of things, it finds conflict, antagonism, clash. Progress (development) comes only through struggle. In this development the most important moments are those when accumulated tension and clash go over into open struggle, the highest point of all being apocalyptic, chiliastic and eschatological. Toward this all history moves. With it history as "the history of class struggles" will come to an end.
Until then, in the unending war, there can be frequent pauses, indeed must be pauses. The ideology gives its possessors the wisdom to know when pauses are necessary, the pride to "crawl in the mud on your belly" without a sense of humiliation, the skill to "keep a clear line for man?uvring," for "retreating when possible and necessary" lest you lose all you have gained, for "renewing the attack" when that becomes possible, for "using treaties as a means of gaining strength," bringing up "fresh forces," obtaining a "better rather than a worse peace as a respite for another war," a "breathing spell."[vi]
Even the Apocalypse is divided into stages. That is the meaning of the discussions on the possibility of "victory at first in several countries, or one country taken separately," of "socialism in one country," and of the scholastic distinctions between stages in "the construction of socialism," "the extended construction of Communism," and the "attainment of complete Communism."[vii]
Ebbs and "compromises" are "necessary" then, but necessary only in an evil and wretched sense, because the enemy is tough and strong, and man is refractory material for the great experiment. The long war is made up of many campaigns and armistices before "final victory;" the road to revolution is "not as straight and smooth as the Nevsky Prospekt."
But Lenin trained his disciples to hate compromise for compromise's sake. His Hell is full of "compromisers," "opportunists" who do not seize opportunities to advance, conciliators, procrastinators-"Verily, procrastination is like unto death." The lowest circle of Hell is reserved for those who would compromise in order to come to real agreement, settle matters or call off the struggle in favor of permanent and enduring peace. They would not succeed, for history decrees otherwise, but they must be cut off as dead limbs lest they spread rot.
Clearly, in our relations with the Soviet Union we are not dealing with a "crisis" régime that will settle down to "normalcy" as soon as it has solved the crisis which brought it to power. Lenin managed to seize power because of a crisis in another régime. His purpose was not to resolve the crisis, but to use the new-won power as a mighty base for waging the war to which he was committed-a twofold war: on his own people, until he had remade them according to his blueprint (the New Soviet Man in the New Communist Society); and a struggle for the world, until that too is reconstructed to the same blueprint. That is the meaning of all the gentle little homilies with which Nikita Sergeyevich assures us that "Your grandchildren will live under Communism" and "Do whatever you will, we shall bury you." This is not a "crisis régime" seeking to end the chaos caused by total war and economic breakdown (that crisis has long been ended), but a state-of-siege régime seeking to conduct its own total twofold war until it achieves that total victory promised by its ideology.
In this war, though armistices and temporary agreements are necessary, the essence of any agreement is that it is temporary, not that it is an agreement. The struggle may have to be continued "by other means" for a "shorter or longer period." But war itself is only the continuance of the politics of peace, and peace the continuance of the politics of war, "by other means." This is the wisdom which Lenin has distilled from Clausewitz.
To continue an undeclared war or to launch an open war, no casus belli is needed, only fresh breath and favorable circumstances. The war itself has been decreed by history and was declared by Marx once and for all in 1848 when he wrote: "The Communists scorn to conceal their aims . . . the forcible overthrow of all existing conditions . . . a world to win."
Between irreconcilable opponents, one of whom is destined by history to be destroyed, the other to conquer, agreement-like dialogue-can be only ostensible. It cannot form the basis of an enduring peace, for it aims only at respite and advantage, or the limiting of disadvantage, in a continuing and scientifically and morally correct struggle.
The implications of these views are manifold, and too all-pervasive even to be listed here. At the least, however, they suggest that in every encounter we remind ourselves that "negotiate" and "agree" have different meanings for them than for us. To them lulls cannot conceivably or decently be preliminaries to all-out peace. Nor are separate issues really separate, except in the sense that they have been separated out for strategical or tactical convenience from the general context of struggle. Every negotiation, every issue, even every day's session they regard primarily as a move in that irreconcilable conflict. While we doubtless must, according to our aims, treat each negotiation and issue on its own terms, we will be lost if we forget what it means in their aims, and what "negotiation" and "settlement" mean to them.
Only if we bear this in mind will we be less likely to be caught off guard by broken treaties (how many our government has noted in the past decade!); by agreements which, on the day after adoption, prove to be disagreements on what was agreed; by the helplessness of "neutral" "enforcement" commissions; by the "irregular" or "volunteer" or "guerrilla" detachments, officially disowned but quite openly recruited and supplied, which continue the efforts to unsettle what has been "settled." Only then can we remind ourselves that all "agreements" must be defined with more than "Byzantine" rigor, and be self-enforcing-which, generally speaking, means that they must contain arrangements for ourselves and our allies to have the forces at key places to defend our interests.
Finally, this awareness should enable us to avoid the trap which we have set for ourselves by the practice of conventional diplomacy: to call off actual combat when negotiations are on, "in order to create an atmosphere favorable to peace." Theirs has been the revolutionary practice: to step up hostilities when negotiations begin, prolong them if the battle is going favorably, seek to gain by combat the most favorable position for a possible status quo, and the best jumping-off place for the eventual renewal of the conflict.
In all politics, Lenin taught his followers, there is one central question. This he expressed in lapidary form: "Kto kogo?-Who whom?" In Russian no verb is needed; here the first word is subject, the second object. But besides the compact form, Lenin's works supply various verbs in different contexts: Who beats whom? Who takes advantage of whom? Who uses whom? As long as the question "Who whom?" has not been finally decided by the victory of Communism on a world scale, tension is the breath of life.
Even the atom bomb and intercontinental missile do not permit of the conflict's being called off, although they require more care than ever in preventing it from going over into all-out war. Early in 1961, Khrushchev said:
Liberation wars will continue to exist as long as imperialism exists. . . . These are revolutionary wars. Such wars are not only admissible but inevitable . . . the peoples can attain their freedom and independence only through struggle, including armed struggle. . . . We recognize such wars and will help the peoples striving for their independence. . . . Can such wars flare up in the future? They can. . . . But these are wars which are national uprisings. . . . What is the attitude of the Marxists toward such uprisings? . . . The Communists fully support such just wars and march in the front rank with peoples waging liberation struggles.[viii]
Like Lenin and Stalin, there are two things that Khrushchev tries with all his might and skill to avoid: all-out war and all-out peace. Because time is "on their side," and because they set the highest value on power and their possession of a great power base from which to accelerate history and fulfill their mission, they will not voluntarily jeopardize its possession. Hence all-out war has always been avoided. Fission and fusion bombs and missiles have only served to further strengthen this determination. But they have not persuaded the Soviet leaders to tolerate all-out peace.
For a movement whose essence is struggle, the most dangerous periods are those of comparative relaxation, entailing as they do the perils of loss of vigilance, acceptance of peace as natural, passivity, complacency, letdown, the danger of being "influenced" by the too "friendly" and persuasively powerful enemy-in short, the menace of spiritual demobilization and ideological disarming. "Revolutionary Social Democracy," Lenin wrote in mid- 1906 when the high tide of the previous year seemed to be receding, "must be the first to enter on the path of the most decisive and relentless struggle, and the last to have recourse 'to methods that are more roundabout.'"
Methods that are more roundabout-Lenin abounds in instructions for going roundabout toward the unabandoned goal when it is clear that, for the moment, you cannot break through. Far from "losing face," a Bolshevik is tested above all by his ability to retreat in good order, and show skill in methods of struggle that are more roundabout.
To carry on a war for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie [Lenin admonished the Communist International], a war which is a hundred times more difficult, prolonged and complicated than the most stubborn of ordinary wars between states, and to refuse beforehand to man?uvre, to utilize the conflict of interests (even though temporary) among one's enemies, to refuse to temporize and compromise with possible (even though transient, unstable, vacillating and conditional) allies-is not this ridiculous in the extreme? Is it not as though, in the difficult ascent of an unexplored and heretofore inaccessible mountain, we were to renounce beforehand the idea that at times we might have to go in zigzags, sometimes retracing our steps, sometimes abandoning the course already selected and trying out various others?[ix]
It is these "retracings of steps" and "zigzags" that have been the undoing of so many of our analysts. At each retreat, we have been told: "This is for good; now relaxation has set in." At each zig, there have not been lacking those who saw in it the longed-for permanent change. They extrapolated the zig, prolonged it in a straight line out towards the horizon. Caught in outer space by the zag, they have rushed back to the turning point, only to prolong the zag on a straight line towards the other horizon. Perhaps this explains, as Leonard Schapiro once observed, the noiseless and not unwelcome obsolescence of so much of our Sovietology.
An awareness that the ascent of the mountain is tougher than they thought carries with it no reassurance that they have abandoned the ascent. Lenin's retreats and zigzags were meant to circumvent impassable ravines, not renounce the climb. Flexible tactics can be undertaken without misgiving precisely because Bolsheviks are inflexible (certain) about their goal, and have history's guarantee that they must reach it. The peculiar Bolshevik blend of dogmatism and empiricism, tactical flexibility and goal-seeking inflexibility, action-affirming myth and pragmatic ability to take account of the "real relations of power," are all part of, and reinforced by, a peculiar blend of rationality with what can only be described as a paranoiac vision of self and "enemy" and reality that is not subject to rational refutation. And all these "blends" are at the heart of their movement and ideology, having been there from the beginning and having been reinforced by their long war.
I cannot therefore take comfort, as Chester Bowles does in his interesting article in the preceding issue of this review, that "the power of indigenous forces, the pressure of events and the increasingly pragmatic response of Soviet leaders have been steadily eroding the ideological foundations of Communism," thus creating "a crisis of faith" or at least a "private doubt" in the leaders about the usefulness of the ideology as a guide to the long war, and to the man?uvres and zigzags of each particular stage.[x]
In the past 45 years has history not encouraged them to believe that they are the future and we the decaying past? At the outset-unless it should be saved by World Revolution-Lenin barely ventured to hope that his rule would "last longer than the Paris Commune." It is rounding out four-and-a-half decades secure in its might, the second power on earth straining to be the first, the stronghold of a "socialist camp."
What reason does a man looking with Khrushchev's eyes have for abandoning the view that "capitalist-imperialism" is decadent when it is losing all its colonies, did not show the resolution to protect Hungary's freedom or complete the unification of Korea, failed to make the military moves to prepare its sort of peace during World War II, thereby letting maimed and bleeding Russia pick up all of Eastern Europe, half of Germany, win powerful allies and partners in Asia, expand the "camp of Communism" from one-sixth of the earth to one-fourth, with one-third of the earth's population? We may offer our explanations of all this. None of them would seem to him to refute his simple explanation of "decadence" and "progress."
Khrushchev and his lieutenants were born in the ambience of their ideology, like a fish in water, and educated in that ideology's tenets and techniques. This ideology-technique guided his upward path from rabfak graduate and local student secretary to a place as one of Stalin's most vociferous and active claque-leaders, to wheelhorse of the post-Stalin machine, to sole authorized interpreter of the doctrine. In a world where power is knowledge, his power to interpret the ideology-after consultation or off-the-cuff-has given him knowledge of all things from breeding sows and raising corn to directing poets and philosophers and space-probers.
The monopoly power of the machine he heads, and the institutional framework through which it operates, are given legitimacy (in so far as the word is applicable) by the ideology which is the well spring of the Party's power, and its image of the world. The Party is the word made flesh: Khrushchev cannot permit its well spring to be polluted; it is the source of his emotions, his sense of the meaning of life, his insight into it, his vision of himself, his power and worth. What would give him the claim to rule over a great and ancient people and have his voice heard with awe in the councils of the mighty, if not his mastery of the remarkable machine rooted in this ideology?
The vagueness of the ideology should not blind us to the definiteness of its myth-affirmed will to action or the intensity of the passions it evokes. It nourishes not so much love of the future, which is vague, as hatred of the present, which is clear and visible. Until the millennium, the god of history is a god of wrath. Only after Judgment Day's dreadful work has been completed will there be room for love among the saved. "Class hatred," wrote Lenin, "is the prime mover of revolution." Since hatred for "the oppressor" predominates over hatred of oppression as such or love for the oppressed, the movement finds no obstacle to sweeping away all existing restraints on power and developing a tyranny of its own, more systematically, pedantically, profoundly and all-embracingly ambitious in its oppression than history has hitherto known. Since there cannot be evil in this system, the paranoid mechanism of projection attributes all evils, and evil itself, to capitalism-imperialism. Domestic shortcomings can be but "vestiges" and "survivals" of the enemy that has not yet been totally rooted out, or the work of conscious or unconscious agents.
But the mechanism of projection is notoriously invulnerable to fact and argument. The doctrine teaches that the enemy must be conspired against, subverted, overthrown: therefore the enemy must surely be conspiring, subverting, striving to overthrow the system which spells his death. In that field the dogma is not shaded by the ambiguities of self-doubt or self- understanding. When the enemy offers gifts, fear him; when he offers kindness, then is he most suspect.
If the principle of reality could have penetrated this paranoid barrier, the Grand Alliance of wartime would have done it. "Experience" should then have said: "After all, there is not a single enemy; the imperialists have not formed a 'single, hostile camp;' they did not gang up to put an end to us, their mortal foe; instead, the best and mightiest have offered alliance and friendship." When the Axis should be obviously beaten, it might look as if Communism were at last without an enemy!
But the ideology was equal to this, potentially the gravest crisis in its history. Even before the tide turned, as General Deane, Churchill, Djilas and others have testified in their reminiscences, the men in the Kremlin were determined to keep it what it was to them: a "strange alliance." They could hardly wait until the tide had in effect securely turned at Casablanca and Stalingrad to begin the "cold war" within the United Nations before the dying hot war was over. Even in 1943 they began to subjugate where their armies had liberated, to create by their acts, or recreate, the enemy whom even as "ally" they had so carefully kept out of their citadel. The Zhdanov campaigns completed the rearming of those who had yielded to the illusion that Communism was now without a mortal enemy. When the "two camps" were separated once more by a no-man's-land, the infallible interpreters of the infallible doctrine felt comfortable again in their totalist power at home and their total aspirations abroad.
Khrushchev's main accomplishments in this have been two: domestically, to reëstablish the clear lines of party control of all transmission belts (including police, managers, officials and army) which Stalin's "many hats" and manias had somewhat blurred; externally, to apply Lenin's and Stalin's teachings about "depriving the enemy of even the weakest allies," in a new world of neutralist infant nations.
Finally, there is one aspect of the Communist ideology which distinguishes Leninism from all other varieties of Marxism and it is central to our problem: namely, Lenin's absorption not with the dream of socialism but with the mechanics and dynamics of organization and power. In a world where most intellectuals were in love with ideas and accustomed to the gap between dream and deed, Lenin's idea was organization. He was an organization man, the organization man of whatever movement he participated in. An enemy alike to the dawn-to-dusk discussions of the intelligentsia and the "unreliable," "spontaneous" flareups and subsidings of the masses, he was all his life at work on a machine to control untidy, unreckonable, detestable "spontaneity."[xi]
Organization, control and centralism were the sacred tripod of power. "Now we have become an organized party," he early wrote, "and that means the creation of power, the transformation of the authority of ideas into the authority of power, the subordination of the lower party organs to the higher ones." When a delegate to the 1903 Congress spoke liturgically of the Central Committee as "Spirit, one and omnipresent," Lenin shouted out from his seat, "Not spirit, but fist!" This prosaic, repetitive, monotonous orator and crabbed writer was in his own way a poet: a poet of organization, centralism, control and power.
It was on these issues that Lenin split the Social Democratic Party at its "unification Congress." They are the unifying thread running through all he has said and written, down to the occasional scraps. The party he created was made in this image: a party of apparatchiki-men of the machine- concerned with seizing power, holding power, extending power over all the spontaneous, free and uncontrollable aspects of life, power to crush what must be crushed, to confine, direct and control the rest. "We must organize everything," Lenin said in 1918 after he had power, "we must take everything in our hands." To the authoritarian trend inherent in an infallible doctrine, he added the further dream of an apparat, a machine with "transmission belts," penetrating and using all organizations to "organize everything, take everything into our hands," make wayward, refractory life totally malleable and totally controllable. Out of this totalitarianism was born. Totally organized power over everything is the real core of its ideology.
In place of seeking to close our eyes to this, I am afraid we must learn to keep it in the center of our thinking for the foreseeable future. For of all the appetites of man, the appetite for power is the one most known to grow by what it feeds on, the least likely by its exercise to diminish, be sated or "erode."
[i] Daniel Bell, "The End of Ideology." New York: Free Press, 1960, p. 308- 9.
[ii] This last phrase, by implication, tells all that I shall have to say in the present article concerning our own foreign policy in dealing with the Communist powers. As to the enduring elements of the institutional framework, I have discussed them in my paper, "The Durability of Despotism in the Soviet System" (contained in readings of Inkeles and Geiger, Boston: Houghton, 1961; of Dallin, New York: Columbia University Press, 1960; and in my "Communist Totalitarianism," Boston: Beacon Press, 1961). The present article deals only with the enduring elements of the ideology.
[iii] Twenty-eight years ago in this journal, Karl Radek wrote: "The attempt to represent the foreign policy of the Soviet Union as a continuation of Tsarist policy is ridiculous. . . . Tsarism, or any other bourgeois régime in Russia, would necessarily resume the struggle for the conquest of Poland and the Baltic states. . . . The Soviet Union, on the contrary, . . . [considers] their achievement of independence a positive and progressive historical factor." (Foreign Affairs, January 1934, p. 194.) Alas, poor Radek . . .
[iv] See Donald MacRae, "The Appeal of Communist Ideology," in Inkeles and Geiger, "Soviet Society: A Book of Readings." New York: Houghton, 1961, p. 104-13.
[v] "They say," Khrushchev declared in Albania on the eve of the Foreign Ministers' Conference of 1959, "that 'with the U.S.S.R. you must negotiate in the following fashion: concession for concession!' But that is a huckster's approach! . . . We do not have any concessions to make, because our proposals have not been made for bartering. . . . [Their] proposals do not contain a single element for negotiation. . . . They are not based on a desire to find a correct solution."
[vi] All the expressions quoted are from Vol. VII of Lenin's Collected Works (London: Lawrence, 1962), where he discusses the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. Similar views are found throughout his works. Analysts who become aware of the apocalyptic element in Communism are apt to overlook this realistic, calculating, pragmatic element. This is one of the main sources of our continual misunderstanding of Communist peace man?uvres, retreats and "agreements." Lenin taught his disciples: "If you are not able to adapt yourself, if you are not ready to crawl in the mud on your belly, you are not a revolutionist but a chatterbox." Neither Lenin nor Stalin was a chatterbox. Khrushchev, despite his unending chatter, analogous to a stage magician's line of patter, is not a chatterbox either.
[vii] The first formula in quotes is Lenin's, the second Stalin's, and the others have been used by Stalin and Khrushchev.
[viii] Speech of Jan. 6, 1961, "For New Victories of the World Communist Movement." It was originally delivered at a closed meeting in the Kremlin and released for publication abroad some ten days later. Khrushchev has returned to the same thought a number of times since.
[ix] Collected Works," v. 10, p. 111-12. London: Lawrence, 1962.
[x] Chester Bowles, "Is Communist Ideology Becoming Irrelevant?", Foreign Affairs, July 1962.
[xi] Lenin even created heresies of his own such as khvostism ("tailism")- "dragging at the tail of the spontaneous mass movement," and "slavish kowtowing before spontaneity." In 1920 he wrote: "Petit-bourgeois spontaneity is more terrible than all the Denikins, Kolchaks, and Yudeniches put together!"