It is surely a suggestive irony that just at the point when younger American historians had made serious intellectual headway with their reinterpretation of the cold war, fixing historical responsibility in terms of the mistakes, delusions and imperatives of United States policy, the Soviet Union astonished friends and foes by overwhelming Czechoslovakia and turning its clock of history backwards. If the cold war has not revived, small thanks are due the Soviet leaders. Their extraordinary nervousness, their man?uvres to propitiate both the outgoing and incoming American Administrations, indicate very plainly how much they have feared political retaliation; this in itself is a comment on where responsibility for the cold war today should rest. That Prague should have been the vortex in 1968 as it was in 1948 of critical problems within communism is uncanny, but on deeper examination it may not be fortuitous.

After all, the least credible explanation of Moscow's desperate attempt to resolve the crisis within its own system of states and parties is the one which pictures Czechoslovakia as the helpless Pauline at the crossroads of Europe, about to be dishonored by West German revanchards, with agents of the CIA grinning in the background, suddenly saved by the stalwart defenders of socialist honor and morality. Today this type of argument is reserved within the communist world for its most backward members-that is, for the Soviet public and the fringes of the most insignificant and expendable communist parties. Yet arguments of this kind had wide currency a generation ago. New Left historians would have us believe that Stalin was simply reacting to external challenge. In their view, the cold war might not have set in if small-minded American politicians had not been determined to reverse bad bargains, if congenital imperialists had not been mesmerized by the monopoly of atomic weapons which statesmen and scientists knew to be temporary. Since all this is so plainly a half-truth when juxtaposed to events of today, then clearly the half-truth of yesteryear will hardly explain the whole of the cold war.

Sophisticated communists, both East and West, are asking why Czechoslovakia, which escaped the upheavals in Poland and Hungary of 1956 after a decade of Stalinist pressure, then experienced such a mounting crisis in the subsequent decade of relative détente and peaceful competition. How is it that twenty years after communist rule had been secured in February 1948 basic verities are now placed in question-whether centralized planning may not be counterproductive, whether a one-party régime can really articulate the needs of a politically evolved people, whether the inner relations of such an unequal alliance as that administered by the Soviet Union are not so inherently antagonistic as to become explosive? Indeed, why did the rebirth of Czechoslovak political life in the first half of 1968-viewed with hope and excitement by Western communists-raise such menacing ghosts from the past and such fearful question marks for the future that supposedly sober-minded men in Moscow took fright?

Twice within a dozen years the unmanageability of the communist world has been revealed. The crisis which shattered the Sino-Soviet alliance after manifesting itself first in Eastern Europe now rebounds at the supposed strong-point of Czechoslovakia. And it has done so both in conditions of intense external pressure and times of relatively peaceful engagement. Perhaps it is here, in the dimension of communism as a contradictory and intractable system, that one may find the missing element in the discussions thus far on the origins of the cold war.


That world history would someday polarize around two great nations, America and Russia, was a de Tocquevillean insight with which communists were familiar a long time ago. Stalin gave it what seemed like a very clear definition back in 1927 during a talk with an American labor delegation. He envisaged that a socialist center would arise "binding to itself the countries gravitating toward socialism" and would engage the surviving capitalist center in "a struggle between them for the possession of the world economy." The fate of both would be decided by the outcome of this struggle. What appeared at first glance as a sweeping projection was, however, profoundly ambiguous on close examination. Stalin did not spell out how the countries "gravitating to socialism" would get there. Good communists believed this could come about only by the formulas of the October Revolution; yet even Lenin, in 1922, had lamented that perhaps a "big mistake" was being made in imposing Russian precepts on foreign communists. Nor did Stalin elucidate how new nations recruited to socialism would order their relations with Russia as the hub of the socialist center. Presumably "proletarian internationalism" would replace the domination of the weak by the strong which was, in their view, the hallmark of capitalism. Yet even by 1927 the Russification of the international movement had brought catastrophic results-in Germany and China.

Stalin did not, moreover, meet the fundamental intellectual challenge of whether "the struggle for the possession of the world economy" necessarily had to be military in character. On this crucial point, everything could be found in the Leninist grabbag. "Peaceful coexistence" is there, but so is the expectation of "frightful collisions" between the first workers' state and its opponents; the caution that socialism had to be secured in one country first is to be found along with pledges that once socialism was strong enough in Russia, it would raise up revolts in the strongholds of capitalism.

The one possibility which Leninism did not anticipate was a stalemate between rival systems, precluding a "final conflict." The notion was not even entertained that an equilibrium between contending forces might set in, that the subsequent evolution of both contenders under the impact of this equilibrium could alter their distinguishing characteristics and therefore outmode the original Leninist theorems.

Out of such doctrinal ambiguities the Second World War created policy choices affecting most of humanity. The Soviet Union and the international communist movement found themselves allied with democratic-capitalist states among whom public power had grown drastically in an effort to overcome the great depression; the welfare state was expanded by the very demands of warfare while democracy was in fact enhanced. Keynes had made a serious rebuttal to Marx. Would capitalism in the West collapse in a repetition of the crisis of the 1930s after withstanding the test of war? Or had the war itself changed something vital within the workings of capitalism? Moreover, the first global war in history led to the end of colonialism and hence a new relation of metropolitan states to subject peoples. Would the former necessarily collapse because, in Lenin's analysis, they had depended so heavily on colonies? Or might they undergo transformations-short of socialism-to make them viable? Would the countries of the underdeveloped world make socialism the indispensable form of their modernization or might they, dialectically enough, find a new relation with capitalism?

Thus, the war brought on to the world stage a powerful Russia on whose survival a rival system's survival also depended. Simultaneously America came to center stage with a greatly expanded economy no longer limited by laissez-faire economics and inwardly altered by technological change created by the war. America was indispensable to Russia as an ally but formidable as a rival in a sense far deeper than its outward power. This wartime relationship was unexpected, and it challenged ideology and practice on all sides.

Something very particular happened within communism, considered as a most uneven system of a single state and a variety of parties. The fortunes of war, thanks perhaps to Churchill's postponement of the second front, brought the Soviet armies beyond their own borders where they had to be welcomed by the West if only because their help was also being solicited on the plains of Manchuria once Hitler was defeated. Yet at the moment of Russia's greatest need and harshest difficulties, the communist movements least helpful to her were those of Eastern Europe; in the one country outside of Russia where a decade before the communists had been a real power-namely, in Germany-the party lay shattered. No anti-Hitler force of any practical significance emerged. On the East European landscape there were only two exceptions. In Jugoslavia a handful of veterans of Comintern intrigue and the hard school of the International Brigades in Spain had succeeded in establishing their power-prior to the arrival of Soviet forces in the Danubian basin. In Czechoslovakia, a communist movement of a very different sort-that is, with a legal and parliamentary tradition-was joined by Slovak guerrillas. Both came to terms with the leadership of the government-in-exile, which both Moscow and the West recognized. A long-term coöperation of diverse social forces was implied.

On the other hand, the communist movements underwent a spectacular resurrection in a wide arc from Greece through Italy, France, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, while in widely separated corners of Asia they also flourished-in Northwest China, in the peninsula of Indochina, in the Philippines and Malaya. All of them were successful to the degree that they identified with the defense of their nationhood and either subordinated social issues or subsumed them in national ones; where this proved too complicated, as in India, long-term disabilities resulted. But all these movements grew at a distance from the Soviet armies; their postwar fate could not depend on physical contact. Even parties at the periphery of world politics showed striking changes. They entered cabinets in Cuba and Chile, emerged from prewar disasters with great dynamism in Brazil, became legal in Canada and stood a chance of legitimizing their considerable influence in Britain and the United States. In these latter countries, they could hope to achieve "citizenship" only by ceasing to be propagandist groups reflecting Soviet prestige, and only as they grappled with the specific peculiarities of their societies in rapid change.

Yet for all this success, and perhaps because of it, communism faced the gravest problems. The peculiarity of the moment lay in the fact that some definition of Russia's relation with the West was essential to assure the most rapid conclusion of the war in Europe, and this had to precede a common strategy in Asia. Hence Moscow was obliged to define relations with the communist parties. Simultaneously these movements-of such unequal potential and geographical relation to Russia-had to make a fresh judgment of their strategies in view of those changes within capitalism which challenged their own doctrine. Perhaps the most ambitious attempt to do this came in May 1943 with the dissolution of the Communist International.

Stalin, who had sworn at Lenin's bier to guard this "general staff of the world revolution" like the apple of his eye, was now abandoning it; and in so doing he signaled to Churchill and Roosevelt that he would project the postwar Soviet interest in essentially Russian terms. This decision was consistent with the fact that the Russian Communists had not been able to rely on ideology or internationalism in mobilizing their own peoples for the enormous sacrifices of the war. They had been forced to appeal to the Russian love of soil and the solace of the Orthodox faith. "They are not fighting for us," Stalin had once mused to Ambassador Harriman. "They are fighting for Mother Russia."

All of this would not, of course, make Russia easier to deal with. And in studying the details in the monumental accounts of Herbert Feis or W. H. McNeill, one is struck by Stalin's political opportunism and the enormous part which is played in his calculations by the need to exact material resources from friend and foe. Throughout 1944, Stalin dealt with anyone who would cease fighting, or mobilize men and matériel for the Soviet armies, safeguard their lines and pledge reparations; and everyone was suitable to Moscow in terms of these objectives-agrarians and monarchists in the Axis satellites, veteran communist-haters in Finland, a Social Democratic old-timer in Austria, Dr. Bene? in Prague or Comrade Tito in the Jugoslav mountains. Had the putsch against Hitler succeeded in July 1944, Stalin was prepared, by his committee of Nazi generals rounded up at Stalingrad, to bargain.

His only real complication arose over Poland. Here the Soviets had the tactical advantage that a generation earlier the victors at Versailles had been willing to establish the Curzon Line as Russia's western frontier. Churchill and Roosevelt were now obliged not only to ratify this line but to impose it on the intractable London Poles. Moscow's own dilemma lay in the fact that the pro-Soviet Poles, exiled in the U.S.S.R., had little political substance; they had one thing in common with their counterparts in London-lack of standing inside Poland. The Polish Communists had been decimated in the great purges and the Polish officer corps had been wiped out in the Katyn murders. Perhaps it was the need to shift the balance in his favor that led Stalin to such extraordinary measures as letting the "Home Army" be wiped out at the banks of the Vistula or continuing to murder Polish Socialists as they came to Moscow as guests. The earlier hope of some prestigious figure who would bridge the gap between Poles and yet be satisfactory to all the great powers had faded with the death in an airplane accident of General Wladislaw Sikorski.

But it is questionable whether this Soviet use of vestigial figures of Comintern experience should be viewed, as of 1944, in terms of "communization." Everything we know of the Kremlin at that time denies this. In the remarkable account by Milovan Djilas in his "Conversations with Stalin," the Kremlin was far from being a citadel of revolution, as this young Montenegrin idealist expected (like so many in Moscow for the first time, before and after him). The Kremlin was really a sort of Muscovite camping-ground such as the great Russian painter, Repin, might have portrayed. Crafty and boorish men, suspicious of all foreigners and of each other, contemptuous of communists who were non-Russian but expecting their obedience, were crowded around the maps of Europe as around some Cossack campfire, calculating how much they could extract from Churchill and Roosevelt, to whom they felt profoundly inferior.

Thus, when Ulbricht and Rakosi, Anna Pauker and even Dmitroff were being prepared to return to the homelands where they had previously failed, Stalin advised them not to spoil their second chance by their chronic leftism and adventurism.[i] They did not go back as revolutionaries. For all of Moscow's hopes that they root themselves in native soil, they were intended to be the guarantors of control, to stabilize this backyard of Europe and mobilize its resources on Russia's behalf. The troubles with the Jugoslavs began for the very reason that as revolutionaries they would not let themselves be used.

Was Stalin already building a bloc? To be sure he was. But he also knew that the onetime cordon sanitaire was a veritable swamp of historic and intractable rivalries and economic backwardness, even though wealthier in immediate resources than the U.S.S.R. itself. Hoping to transform this bloc, Stalin also entertained most seriously the idea of a long-term relationship with America and Britain based on some common policy toward Germany that would make its much greater resources available to Russia. Thus, when Churchill came to Moscow in September 1944 to work out a spheres- of-influence agreement, demanding 50-50 and 75-25 ratios in the political control of areas already liberated by the Soviet armies, Stalin agreed by the stroke of a pen. He did so without comment. He contemptuously left it to Churchill to decide whether the piece of paper should be retained by him or destroyed. The cobbler's son from Gori, the onetime seminary student, was giving a descendant of the Marlboroughs a lesson in Realpolitik.

But as he disposed of Greeks and interposed with Jugoslavs (without asking their consent) the Soviet dictator demanded no quid pro quo in Western Europe where the ultimate world balance could be determined, and where communist movements had powerfully revived, guided by intimates of Stalin- Togliatti and Thorez-whose work he respected. Molotov is on record as inquiring about the disposition of Italian colonies, but not about the operations of the American Military Government in Italy in which Russian participation was passive. At the moment when the French Communists were debating whether to turn in their arms, Moscow recognized the Gaullist régime and invited it to sign a treaty with what de Gaulle was to call "chère et puis-sante Russie." Churchill's assault on Belgian and Greek Communists was reproved, in private. But no Soviet leverage was employed to help them, and the Greek Communists were advised to strike the best bargain they could to avert civil war. Only much later, when assistance was useless to them, did the Soviets reluctantly help the Greeks, though their hapless plight was useful for cold-war propaganda. Even as late as February 1945, at Yalta, Stalin pledged to renew his pact with Chiang Kai-shek in return for special treaty control of Dairen and the Manchurian railways. Half a year later, the Soviet armies ransacked the industrial installations that were by right Chinese. In central Asia they dickered with warlords, advising them against joining the Chinese Communists. Stalin shied away from the governance of Japan, asking and getting its northern islands instead. All this was accompanied by rather snide references by Molotov to Mao Tse-tung's "margarine communists." American liberals and roving ambassadors may have been more naïve but they were also less offensive in believing the Chinese Communists to be "agrarian reformers."


How then did the communist parties respond to the Comintern's dissolution? Its final document had some curious and pregnant phrases, alluding to "the fundamental differences in the historical development of the separate countries of the world"-differences, it was now discovered, which had "become apparent even before the war;" communists were now told most authoritatively that they were "never advocates of the outmoded organizational forms." This suggests that a great watershed had been reached. The implicit self-criticism was bound to encourage those Western communists for whom the "popular front" of the 1930s and the experience of the Spanish Republic were not defensive deceptions but major experiments in skirting the limits of Leninism. The Chinese Communists, as the specialized literature shows, saw in the disappearance of the Communist International a ratification of their own "New Democracy," in which the peasantry and the "national bourgeoisie" had been credited with revolutionary potentials for which no precedent existed in the Russian experience.

The most interesting instance of how new systems of ideas and new organizational forms were bursting the Leninist integument came in the minor party of a major country-among the American Communists. Their leader, Earl Browder, concluded that peaceful coexistence had become obligatory; he saw such coexistence as a whole historical stage in which the contradictions between antagonistic social systems would have to work themselves out-short of war; it is curious that he ruled out war as too dangerous to both sides before the advent of the atomic bomb. To give this very novel view some inner logic, Browder postulated a new type of state power, intermediate between capitalism and socialism, which, he thought, would prevail between the Atlantic and the Oder-Neisse Line. Thus he anticipated the "people's democracy" concept which was to have wide currency in the next few years only to be brusquely rejected by the end of 1948, when the cold war demanded rationales of another kind.

To what extent Browder had sanction in Moscow, or only thought he had, or whether this sanction was ever intended to be more than temporary are all fascinating matters; but for our discussion what seems more important is the fact that Browder revealed the incoherence of communism and tried to overcome it. Perhaps America was not as backward as European communists traditionally assumed. The more advanced country was simply showing a mirror to the less advanced of the problems of their own future, to borrow an image from Marx.

One may put this dilemma in very specific terms. In 1944-5, a quasi- revolutionary situation prevailed in key areas of Western Europe and East Asia. The communist parties had become mass movements. They were no longer Leninist vanguards but had significant military experience. The old order had been discredited and few charismatic rivals existed. One of two options could be taken, each of them having its own logic. If the communists seized power they might be able to hold it, as in Jugoslavia, with great good luck. But as the Greek experience was to show, the success of a prolonged civil war would involve the rupture of the Anglo-Soviet-American coalition; and the war with Hitler was by no means over, while the Pacific war appeared only begun. To pursue this option meant to oblige the Soviet Union to assist revolutions at a distance from its own armies at a moment of its own greatest weakness and when it seriously entertained the possibility of a long-range postwar relationship with the West. Alternatively, the U.S.S.R. would be obliged to disavow its own ideological and political allies in an even more explicit way than the dissolution of the Comintern suggested. Stalin's entire diplomacy warned against revolution now. So did his opinion, in a speech of November 6, 1944, that whatever disagreements existed among the great powers could be overcome; he had said flatly that "no accidental, transitory motive but vitally important long-term interests lie at the basis of the alliance of our country, Great Britain and the United States."

On the other hand, to reject the revolutionary path meant for the Western parties (if not for the Chinese and Vietnamese) forgoing an opportunity that might not return; for a generation this choice caused intense misgivings and internal battles within these parties. To take part in the whole-hearted reconstruction of their societies on a less-than-socialist basis would have involved a revision of fundamental Leninist postulates, a fresh look at capitalism, and presumably a redefinition of their relations with the Soviet Union. Having taken such a sharply Russocentric course, could Stalin give his imprimatur to the embryonic polycentrism of that time? The U.S.S.R. was in the paradoxical position of trying to be a great power with a shattered economic base, and of trying to lead a world movement whose interests were quite distinct from those of Russia, both in practice and in ideas. The ambiguities inherent in communism, in Stalin's projections of 1927, had come home to roost.


If one tries, then, to make intellectual sense and order out of the bewildering events between early 1945 and mid-1947, the least satisfactory themes are the ones which have been so popular and have dominated the discussion of the origins of the cold war. The revisionist historians are so hung up on the notion that a meticulous rediscovery of America will reveal the clues to the cold war that they ignore the dimension of communism altogether. They have little experience with communism (and perhaps they are better off for it) but they have yet to show the scholarship required to explore it. To say this is not to deny the value of reappraising American policy, especially since so many of today's follies have roots in the past. Communists, anti-communists and ex-communists have all had troubles with the imperatives of coexistence. But this is quite different from explaining the cold war on one-sided grounds and succumbing to the elementary fallacy of post hoc, propter hoc.

On the other hand, the most sophisticated and persuasive rebuttal to the younger historians-that by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in these pages[ii]- suffered from the limitations of his own major premise: the assumption that communism was a monolithic movement which disintegrated only as the cold war was vigorously prosecuted. Certainly the monolith functioned in a pell- mell fashion after 1948 but one wonders whether its explosive decomposition in the late fifties, continuing to the events in Czechoslovakia, can be comprehended without realizing that all the elements of crisis within it were already present in its immediate postwar years. It was the futile attempts by Stalin and the communists who everywhere followed him (even if hesitantly and in bewilderment) to stifle the nascent polycentrism and to curtail the inchoate attempts to adjust to new realities which constitute communism's own responsibility for the cold war. Herein also is the key to communism's own disasters.

Thus, the events of 1946 and 1947 were in fact incoherent and contradictory, and for that very reason offer an important clue to the origins of cold war. For example, Earl Browder was roundly denounced by the French Communist leader, Jacques Duclos, in an article written early in 1945 (with data that was available only in Moscow), on the grounds that the very concept of peaceful coexistence and Europe's reconstruction on a bourgeois-democratic basis was heresy; yet the curious thing is that most of the communist parties continued to operate on Browder's assumptions- including the party led by Duclos. Such a state of affairs suggests that the Duclos article was not the tocsin of the cold war but one of the elements of communism's incoherence. By the close of 1946, only the Jugoslavs-and William Z. Foster, who had ousted Browder in the United States-were convinced that even the "temporary stabilization" of capitalism was unlikely. This concept was of course an echo from the 1920s. "Relative and temporary stabilization" was Stalin's own justification in the late 1920s for "turning inward" and seeking a truce in external affairs. Ruling out this concept in the 1940s, Foster went even further than Tito in raising the alarum over an ever-more-imminent danger of an American attack on the Soviet Union. It is not generally known that when Browder's successor visited Europe in March 1947 he was amazed to find that few communist leaders agreed with his views, and one of those who disagreed most sharply was Jacques Duclos.

In studying the French Communists of that period one finds unusual emphasis on the need for a policy of "confident collaboration" with "all of the Allied nations, without exception," and a declaration by Duclos that "we are not among those who confuse the necessity and fertility of struggle with the spirit of adventurism. That is why-mark me well-we ask of a specific historic period what it can give and only what it can give . . . but we do not ask more, for we want to push ahead and not end up in abortive and disappointing failures."

In this same year of 1946, it is sometimes forgotten that the Chinese Communists negotiated seriously for a long-term coalition with Chiang Kai- shek. They did so under the aegis of General George Marshall, which suggests that their own antagonism to "American imperialism" had its limits; their view that the United States was necessarily hostile to a unified China with a large communist component was a later development. During the recent Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Chinese historians blamed this coalition strategy on the now-disgraced Liu Shao Chi, alleging that he was under the influence of "Browder, Togliatti, Thorez and other renegades to the proletariat." But the official Chinese Communist documents show that at the time Mao Tse-tung took credit for it and was himself viewed as a "revisionist"-by the Indian Communists, for example. In those same months, Ho Chi Minh led a coalition delegation to Paris, trying to work out the terms for remaining within the French Union; it is a curious but revealing detail that Ho had the previous winter dissolved his own creation, the Communist Party of Indochina, in favor of an Association of Marxist Studies, without, however, receiving a rebuke from Jacques Duclos.

Throughout 1946, almost every communist leader in the West voiced the view that peaceful roads to socialism were not only desirable but were-because of objective changes in the world-now theoretically admissible. If in Eastern Europe this popularity of the "people's democracy" can be explained in terms of Stalin's attempt to stabilize a chaotic region of direct interest to Russia, in Western Europe it was part of a serious effort to implement the non-revolutionary option which the communists had chosen, and for which they needed a consistent justification.

Nor were the Soviet leaders immune to what was happening within communism. Stalin himself can be cited in contradictory assertions which also stimulated the diversity within the communist world as well as baffling some of its members. Early in February 1946 Stalin declared that wars could not be abolished so long as imperialism prevailed; this came in his election campaign speech which is viewed by Sovietologists as another tocsin of the cold war. Yet throughout 1946 Stalin gave interviews to British and American newsmen, and held a long discussion with Harold Stassen that spring, in which the key theme was the viability of peaceful coexistence. In September 1946 Stalin declared that the ruling circles of both Britain and the United States were not in fact oriented toward war-a view which communists from China to Italy hailed, although it baffled Tito and William Z. Foster. Stalin also told a British Labor delegation headed by Harold Laski that socialism might well come to Britain by parliamentary means, with the monarchy remaining as a genuine institution. Earlier in the year, in a polemic with a certain Professor Razin on the significance of the doctrines of Clause-witz, Stalin is quoted as believing "it is impossible to move forward and advance science without subjecting outdated propositions and the judgments of well-known authorities to critical analysis. This applies . . . also to the classics of Marxism." Significantly, this exchange was published a full year later-in February 1947-on the eve of cold-war decisions which made such thinking heretical throughout the communist movement.

Yet in 1946 Soviet diplomacy was in fact moving "with all deliberate speed" toward settlements of a partial kind with the West-as regards the peace treaties, the evacuation of northern Persia and other matters. Browder was cordially received in Moscow in May after his expulsion from the American party-a rather unprecedented detail in the annals of communism. The deposed communist leader was heard out by Molotov, at the latter's request, and was given a post which enabled him to work energetically for the next two years in behalf of the proposition that Stalin wanted an American-Soviet settlement.

All students of this period have paused on the famous Varga controversy. The title of the book which the foremost Soviet economist, Eugen Varga, published in November 1946 (it was completed the year before) in itself suggests what was bothering Russian leaders, namely: "Changes in the Economy of Capitalism Resulting from the Second World War." Within six months, Varga was under severe attack, which he resisted for the following two years. Major issues lay at the heart of the controversy. When might a crisis of over-production be expected in the United States? How severe would it be? And to what extent would rearmament or a program for rebuilding Western Europe affect capitalism's inherent propensity for crisis, which was, of course, taken for granted. Another question was whether the new role of governmental power, so greatly enhanced by the war, might not have a bearing both on the onset of the crisis and the terrain of communist activities. Varga did forecast an early crisis, after a brief postwar boom. In so doing, he surely misled Stalin into one of his most fundamental cold-war miscalculations. But Varga also clung to the view that something important had changed within classical capitalism; he insisted that "the question of greater or smaller participation in the management of the state will be the main content" of the political struggle in the West, and he deduced that people's democracy was in fact a transitional form between the two systems, replacing the "either-or" notions of classical Leninism. There was a plaintive protest in Varga's answer to his critics (one of whom was Vosnessensky, who would shortly disappear because of mysterious heresies of his own). "It is not a matter of enumerating all the facts so that they inevitably lead to the former conclusions of Marxism- Leninism," Varga argued, "but to use the Marxist-Leninist method in studying these facts. The world changes and the content of our work must change also."


In what sense, then, did all these crosscurrents determine Stalin's decision for cold war? It would seem that the matter turned on the incompatibility between immediate Soviet objectives and the real interests of the communist parties-or more exactly, in the particularly Stalinist answer to these incompatibilities. The Russians, it will be remembered, had set out to achieve rapid and ambitious reconstruction including, of course, the acquisition of nuclear weapons. They were most concerned with reparations. When it became plain that little help would come by loans or trade with the West (they had used up what was still in the pipelines after the abrupt cessation of lend-lease in mid-1945 and were not getting a response to their $6 billion request to Washington), they needed either the resources of Germany beyond what they could extract from their own Eastern Zone, or a desperate milking of their friends and former foes in Eastern Europe. At home, moreover, they could not rely on the ultrachauvinist themes which had served them during the war; rejecting liberalization of Soviet society, they tightened the screws and fell back on the doctrine of the primacy of the Soviet party, the purity of its doctrine and the universal validity of that doctrine. Consistent with these objectives, the Soviet leaders wanted to erase all sympathy for America which until then was widespread in the Soviet Union.[iii]

These objectives, taken together, ran counter to all the tendencies among the foreign communist parties. Both the revolutionary ambitions of the Jugoslavs, their jealous quest for autonomy as well as the emphasis on peaceful non-Soviet roads to socialism-that is, the "revisionist" themes so urgently needed by the parties in the West-could be countenanced by Moscow only if it were prepared to accept diversity within international communism. This very diversity (which they had themselves half entertained) now became an obstacle. The Stalinist premise that what was good for Russia was good for all other communists (a notion which he himself considered abandoning) was now reaffirmed.

The origins of the cold war lie deeper, however, than any analysis of Russia's own interest. Nor can they be understood only in terms of an attempt to prevent economic recovery and political stability in Western Europe. The cold war's origins must be found in a dimension larger than the requirements of Soviet internal mobilization or the thrust of its foreign policy; they lie in the attempt to overcome the incipient diversity within a system of states and parties, among whom the changes produced by the war had outmoded earlier ideological and political premises. The conditions for the transformation of a monolithic movement had matured and ripened. The sources of the cold war lie in communism's unsuccessful attempt to adjust to this reality, followed by its own abortion of this attempt. For Stalin the cold war was a vast tug-of-war with the West, whereby not only internal objectives could be realized but the international movement subordinated; its constituent parts went along-bewildered but believing-on the assumption that in doing so, they would survive and prosper. The price of the Stalinist course was to be fearsome indeed; and by 1956 the Soviet leaders were to admit that the cold war had damaged the U.S.S.R. more than the West, that a stalemate of systems had to be acknowledged, and ineluctable conclusions had to be drawn. Thus, the cold war arose from the failure of a movement to master its inner difficulties and choose its alternatives.

The analysis could be continued to the turning-point of mid-1947-the Marshall Plan decision and Stalin's riposte, for example, in humiliating his Czechoslovak and Polish partners, who thought in terms of what might be good for them, and indirectly for the Soviet Union. Such an analysis would take us through the near-insurrections of late 1947 in France and Italy, adventurist upheavals in Asia, the Berlin blockade and the coup in Prague in 1948. But this involves another subject-how the cold war was fought. It was indeed fought by both sides. But to say this cannot obscure the crisis within communism, where its origins lie. The record would show how recklessly entire communist movements were expended and to what a dangerous brink the Soviet Union itself was brought. In 1956, Khrushchev was to lament these miscalculations but he did so with such a desinvolture as to leave a memory-bank of disasters and skeletons that still rattle in communism's closets. Was the cold war but a test of strength between systems? Or has it not also been the process whereby communism disclosed such an intellectual and political bankruptcy that a dozen years after Khrushchev's revelations, the issues still agonize-as in Czechoslovakia-all the states and parties involved? A world movement claiming to comprehend history and accepting the responsibility for "making history" still grapples with the alternatives opened by the Second World War. It has yet to face what it has tried to avoid at such a heavy cost to coexistence- namely, understanding itself.

[i] Herbert Feis is the source for the famous and revealing anecdote that when Stalin said farewell to Dr. Benes, after signing a mutual assistance pact, he urged Benes to help make Klement Gottwald, the Communist leader now become Premier, "more worldly and less provincial"-an amazing piece of arrogance. Having themselves helped emasculate their foreign friends, the Russians now taunted them and hoped that perhaps the bourgeois world might make men of them. ("Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin," Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957, p. 569)

[ii] Foreign Affairs, October 1967.

[iii] This task was assigned to the late Ilya Ehrenburg following his 1947 visit to the States, when he deliberately oversimplified everything American with the crudest methods. The pattern for this had been set late in 1946 by Andrei Zhdanov.

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