on the World today
THE denunciation of Stalin and the “cult of the personality,” renewed at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party last fall, followed much the same pattern as the speeches at the closed session of the 20th Congress in 1956. The West is well informed about the evils of Stalin and Stalinism; and Khrushchev, Mikoyan, and the lesser luminaries of the Soviet scene added little to the record. For the Russian people, however, the new attacks were sensational.
The earlier charges were made at secret sessions for restricted Party audiences. Eventually the West learned the full story, but the Soviet public got its version secondhand and well watered down. This time the Russians learned to their surprise that Stalin was so wicked that Lenin could not rest comfortably beside him. His memory was too vile to be linked any longer with heroic cities such as Stalingrad, though its inhabitants protested that their sacrifice, and not Stalin, had immortalized the name and that no one would ever pause to remeber Volgograd.
In the Lenin mausoleum, the place that Stalin once occupied beside Lenin now gapes like an empty socket. Lenin, it seems, has not been moved back to his original resting place in the center of the mausoleum, the better to emphasize Stalin’s denigration for the tens of thousands who file past the tomb. Stalin, now cremated, has been relegated to a place near the Kremlin wall. But, whereas Kalinin, Zhdanov, and his other new companions are remembered here with marble busts, Stalin merits only a slab, bearing his name and the dates of his birth and death, and a bunch of flowers, which the unknown donor replaces with fresh ones each day.
To many Russians, the curious factor in the denunciation of Stalin was its identification with the cult of the personality rather than with his catalogue of crimes. As one Russian put it, “People say, isn‘t Khrushchev quite a big man? What about his cult of the personality?” Pravda led the press and radio in an explanation of the difference between Khrushchev’s “authority of leadership” and Stalin‘s “cult of personality,” and pictures of Khrushchev on boardings and elsewhere have become noticeably less numerous.
Neither the explanations nor the playing down of Khrushchev has put an end to the doubts that have arisen among the Soviet people. There is psychological confusion, even among Party members. Many students do not appear to have been impressed by the Party‘s logic, and the state of Georgia, which has regarded Stalin as a symbol of nationalism, is especially disturbed.
The breach with Peiping
The denunciation of Stalin obviously went further than anyone expected. But whether it was initiated as the opening round of the new battle with the Chinese, who are now quite openly referred to as Stalinists, or was directed against the little Stalins of the Soviet Union, who have never ceased to ride roughshod over the factories and farms, is unclear. As the conference developed, however, the Stalin issue and the Chinese — and, of course, the Albanian scapegoats — became inseparable.
One view is that Khrushchev saw in China’s current economic troubles a unique opportunity to assert his authority over Peiping. The blow-byblow account of the Congress and the mounting anger on both sides tend to confirm this theory. Chou En-lai, in his speech to the Congress on October 19, when he criticized Khrushchev — though not by name — for his attacks on Albania, said pointedly that, if necessary, China could handle its economic difficulties alone. The wreath addressed to Stalin, a “great Marxist-Leninist,” which Chou En-lai placed in the Lenin mausoleum was an even more eloquent statement of China’s position.
The removal of Stalin’s remains from the mausoleum was, under the circumstances, inevitable. He could not logically and consistently be revered and reviled at the same time. In fact, there are suggestions that the Russian leaders have begun to doubt the wisdom even of preserving Lenin for public inspection. His presence in illuminated glory during this protracted debate with the Chinese on the inevitability of war directs too much attention to what the Chinese and their followers regard as a basic article of faith which cannot be discarded merely because of the development of new weapons of war.
The Chinese made no public protest against Stalin’s removal; it was scarcely in their province to do so. But the pointed diplomatic moves and exchanges in the closing days of the Congress and events since have left little of the Sino-Russian unity that only twelve months before had been proclaimed to be as high as the Himalayas, as deep as the Pacific, and as strong as a wall of bronze. The Soviet press published a short formal message from Chou En-lai to Khrushchev in which he referred to the friendship of the Soviet and Chinese peoples but omitted any reference to the friendship and unity of the two parties.
Khrushchev, without naming Mao Tse-tung, ridiculed the Chinese leader as he has never been ridiculed before within the Communist community. Taking another of Mao’s articles of faith, the theory that all imperialists are paper tigers, Khrushchev said that imperialists were, on the contrary, like real tigers, and predatory. In the jungle, however, the tiger did not dare to attack an elephant. The Soviet Union was such an elephant. Then, heaping insults on top of one another, he added that sometimes, in India, rajas used to like to go shooting tigers from the backs of elephants.
Russians, who are now quite willing to discuss the breach with China, are contemptuous both of the “war-mongering” Chinese and of the Chinese communes, which they regard as an attempt to recreate a precapitalist form of society. Mao Tsetung’s fourth volume of selected works, which was published with fanfare in Peiping on October 1, 1960, as a definitive interpretation of Lenin’s works and a justification of the theory of the inevitability of war, has neither been translated into Russian nor distributed in Moscow. Likewise, Khrushchev’s twenty-year program has evoked no word of praise either from Mao Tse-tung or the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
The question of Berlin
In Moscow both Russians and Westerners agree that the compelling need each side feels for the other will prevent an absolute break in the alliance. It is taken for granted that if war comes, the allies will stand together. Whatever doubts and suspicions they have about each other are outweighed by their doubts and suspicions of the West. These doubts exist at all levels and center in Moscow on the German issue, which is, and seems likely to remain, Khrushchev’s surest internal propaganda weapon. When he says the Germans are dangerous and pose a threat to the Soviet Union, he is believed absolutely.
The midsummer war alarms that swept through the Communist bloc and even caused the Poles and the Czechoslovaks to withdraw their bank savings have not been repeated, however. In fact, Prime Minister Nehru’s visit after the conference of unaligned nations at Belgrade and Khrushchev‘s speeches at the 22nd Congress, though in some respects representing a toughening of the Soviet attitude, contributed to a lessening of tension.
Western embassies believe that Khrushchev is genuine when he says he does not want war. They are less happy about the quality of the Soviet intelligence agencies and the advice on which Khrushchev may base his tactics when it comes to negotiations over Berlin. Soviet factual intelligence is regarded as sound, but Soviet psychological intelligence is handicapped by the system. Reports of peace demonstrators in Trafalgar Square or shelter panic in Los Angeles are evaluated in terms of what such events would mean if they occurred in the Soviet Union, thereby leading to conclusions about Western stability and unity that are as dangerous as they are erroneous.
Since the area of possible negotiation over Berlin is small and the chances of reaching an agreement are estimated at less than fifty-fifty, the dangers of war by miscalculation are obviously great and will become much greater if Khrushchev does not know the Western state of mind. In this situation, the do-gooders who advocate reaching an agreement with the Russians at almost any price are as dangerous as those who advocate an up-and-at-’em policy.
Despite the confusion that now exists over the China dispute and the cult of the personality. Khrushchev’s position, both in terms of power and personal following, appears unassailable while the danger of war continues. The 22nd Congress’s decision to reduce the size of the Presidium resulted in the dropping of four members elected in 1957 presumably as a reward for their support for Khrushchev against the anti-Party group. At the same time, the Secretariat has been expanded from five to nine, and the new members are all Khrushchev men. F. R. Kozlov, whom Khrushchev has named as his likely successor, has become second in command to Khrushchev in the Secretariat. The main lines of Khrushchev’s policy have won full support.
So far as the Russian people are concerned, especially the more sophisticated Muscovites, the very human tendency to wonder what Nikita was doing while Stalin was busy with his brutal activities appears to be overshadowed by Khrushchev’s personality and the crisis of the times.
The challenge to Khrushchev
Khrushchev is a natural politician. He has all the qualities that would have assured him leadership in any labor movement, anywhere. But the challenge to his ideological leadership within the Soviet bloc is serious. Yugoslavia, on the one hand, and China and Albania, on the other, have elected to go their own different ideological ways. All the Far Eastern and Australasian Communist parties, Outer Mongolia’s alone excepted, risked Khrushchev’s displeasure by sending greetings to the Albanian Party during its anniversary celebrations last November,
The European Common Market represents a political, economic, and ideological challenge. It casts doubt on Khrushchev’s concept of a peaceful transition to Communism. With the possible exception of Czechoslovakia, the European satellites have been poor advertisements for socialism. Once the Market is fully established as a going concern, the way to peaceful Communist expansion in Europe will be closed.
On the home front, the twenty-year program has failed to capture the imagination of the Russian people, and it has not enhanced Khrushchev’s reputation as a MarxistLeninist theoretician. The scientific developments under Khrushchev are an understandable cause of national pride; but his virgin-lands agricultural program, on which he set great store, has been a sorry failure.
Yet, the Khrushchev rule has been the best and the most benign the Soviet people have ever known. Materially — in Moscow, at least — improvements are noticeable all the time. Prefabricated concrete apartment houses six stories high go up at the rate of four a day. Assembled like castles made of cards and dropped into position by cranes, they are badly finished and ugly in appearance, and provide, even for the largest families, a maximum of three rooms. But it takes only two months to build and prepare them for occupancy, and though they seem certain to be the slums of the future, they are better by far than the log-cabin slums they replace.
There is also ample food in Moscow, at prices which are roughly comparable with those of western Europe. Clothing is in short supply and fearfully expensive; the bestquality heavyweight topcoat would cost the worker $300, or three months’ man-hours of work. But rent for an apartment, with heat supplied from a city main, costs only 4 or 5 percent of wages or salary. Given such differences as these, comparisons with Western standards of living are all but impossible. In general, however, the average is considerably lower than the western European low.
Moscow, as the crowds of out-oftown visitors lining up at the Red Square branch of the GUM, the large department store, testify, offers more and better of everything that it has had in the past. The city’s population of roughly seven million includes about a million who, for reasons of skill or influence, are technically illegal residents. It is the mecca for all good Russians. “Maybe in some cities, like Stalingrad, you can get the things that are not readily available here, but who would want to live in Stalingrad?” said a Muscovite. “Call it Volgograd, and it would be worse.”