And Can There Be Peace?

And Can There Be Peace?

Mr. Deutscher’s able paper raises a number of problems which certainly go far beyond the immediate purpose of his analysis; yet they go right to the heart of the question which prompts him and others to discuss the future of the Soviet system, namely, the possibility of co-existence between such a power and others. Strangely enough, all disputants seem to be agreed on one proposition—that developments inside the Soviet Union, whether through the viciousness of the Bolshevik ideology or the ambition of the members of the Politbureau, whether the greed of the ruling bureaucracy or the political harrassment of a (possible) Bonaparte, may bring war. Vice versa, those who feel that co-existence, or at least the absence of a shooting war between the major powers, might be possible over a number of years, base their argument on the assumption that such compulsive factors, projecting the inner tensions in the Soviet Union to the outside, are not powerful enough, or even may be waning in the structure of Soviet society.

Both sides to the controversy pursue their analysis as though the Soviet Union were a self-sufficient entity, living in a vacuum and becoming aware of its external enemies only when it suits her rulers to go to war. Least of all Mr. Deutscher needs to be reminded of the objections which the notion of “socialism in one country” provoked as soon as it was promulgated. Indeed, was it not Trotsky himself who pointed out that Stalinism was as much a consequence as it was a cause of isolation? Does not Marx, too, assume a (pardon me: “dialectical”) interrelation of foreign and domestic affairs? Since Mr. Deutscher justly rejects the idea that Stalin personally created Stalinism, he certainly must count the pressure of Russia’s foreign relations among the conditions which caused the rise of the bureaucracy, the degeneration of a socialist into a defense economy, the shifting of emphasis from consumer goods to means of production, the high rate of capital accumulation provided in the five-year-plans, the frantic drive to fulfill them in four years, in short the very exploitation which resulted in the serious stress of all economic, social and political relations and in the ruthless police methods used to overcome them, in the smashing of all resistance (technological or social) and of all nuclei of opposition. Other 242 • DISSENT • Summer 1954 conditions certainly were cooperating in bringing about the specific features of this dictatorship, but the threat of capitalist encirclement remained the constant justification of the system and of the most hideous acts of its terrorism.