Courtesy Reuters

Stalin's Successors

It is common ground that something roughly describable as "re- Stalinization" has been taking place in the Soviet Union over the past five years. More precisely, the present leaders are re-Stalinizing in the sense that they are consolidating the Stalinist institutions (a little shaken by Khrushchev's various reorganizations); preserving the rule of Stalin's chosen personnel ; restoring the rigor of his doctrines; putting a stop to the exposure of any more indecent facts of Soviet history; and tightening up the ideological and political disciplines required by his system. They are not reinstituting (and are occasionally and mildly deploring) those elements of Stalin's technique which were directed to terrorizing the party apparatus itself. Nor are they practicing indiscriminate repression against the population. Stalin, to atomize society and build his new system on its ruins, relied on creating total insecurity among friend and foe alike. The present rulers have neither the need, nor the will, to do this: only their critics have anything to fear from them. Stalin revolutionized a society; the present-day "Stalinists" wish to consolidate the new one. The aim is different: but above all the mood is different-a timid (though sometimes panicky) mediocrity has replaced a raging will.

In a world of rapid communication an impression is given of greater cultural unity than anyone would have suggested 100 or 500 years ago. Where every political leader wears trousers, it seems to be felt that basic cultural differences cannot exist as they would have been understood to do between a turban-clad Sultan and a periwigged Hanoverian King. It is always tempting for us to take the unconscious assumptions of our own society as natural and universal. The polity created by Stalin and inherited by the present leaders does not have the norms of our own (though in many respects it claims to have them, thus further confusing the outside observer).

The Soviet leaders speak, in however debased a form, one of the political dialects of the West. In it they constantly imply that the

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