A Critical Comment

A Critical Comment

In publishing this article more than one year after it was written, the editors are most uncharitable to the author. But they may be doing a service to those who shared his illusions during the time of the million flowers. It is too obvious that all the tenses in Mr. Fejto’s article now are wrong, and a floored fighter does not have to be knocked down again. In retrospect, the friends abroad of the so-called revisionists inside the Soviet empire appear to have been led into a tragic error by personal loyalties and information from onesided sources. It was only natural that these friends and partisans of the reformist intellectuals in Hungary, Poland, and even in Russia, should have overestimated the importance and the prospects of those for whose victory in inner-Party conflicts they hoped; they had more than an intellectual stake in their cause. And inasmuch as confidence is a prerequisite for success, or even for the conception of a strategy, their error today looks much nobler than the bland pessimism of those who had no policy vis-a-vis the turmoil of the Thaw and now can gleefully say, I told you so. The fact that Mr. Fejto was wrong does not make his opponents look any better; nor does the fact that Mr. Djilas is a martyr make his theories any less simplistic than they are. To have been right in this discussion, either way, should be no source of pride.

But neither is there any virtue in clinging to positions which no longer are tenable. The head of Mr. Fejto’s school, Isaac Deutscher, recently has published interpretations of current Soviet policies which read not like an analysis of reality, but like an attempt to justify his earlier mistakes. To do so he makes it all a question of personalities. Khrushchev, he now asserts, was a good man inspired by the best of all intentions, but Suslov and other evil spirits unfortunately defeated these intentions; or adverse circumstances made enemies (for Khrushchev) among the economic bureaucracy and elsewhere, which, in combination with sinister visits to Moscow by the exiled Molotov, forced poor Khrushchev to resort to Stalinist methods. Mr. Fejto likewise puts great emphasis on the personal dispositions and intellectual abilities of the leaders—as though it depended on Khrushchev’s insight to liberalize the regime, or on the zeal for reform among the intelligentsia to guide the evolution of the totalitarian state into a more democratic socialist. commonwealth!