The Editors of DISSENT have invited me to wind up the controversy which has gone on on these pages over my views on the present state of Soviet society. Before replying to my critics I would like to make a preliminary remark about the origin of this controversy. The essay which appeared in DISSENT under the title “The Future of Soviet Society” was originally published in the French Esprit under the title “A Reply, to Critics”-it was not in fact intended to cover a subject as wide as the future of Russian society. The Editors of DISSENT introduced the essay with the words that it was “perhaps the most systematic and concise exposition of [my] theories.” While I appreciate the kind intention which prompted them to make this remark, I cannot claim to have attempted anything like a systematic exposition of a theory. To my mind it is still too early for any serious analyst to develop a systematic theory on the transition period through which the Soviet Union is passing. I have only sketched a highly tentative analysis and a working hypothesis.
In saying this I am not prompted by conventional modesty but by the overwhelming sense of our being placed right in the middle of a deep, confused, and fluctuating historic tide; a position from which it is legitimate and necessary to try and gauge the main direction of the tide, its impetus and its cross-currents, but from which it may well be impossible to measure faultlessly impact, distance, flux and reflux, and to obtain a clear view of the horizon. After the French revolution at least half a century had to elapse before historians and social analysts had gained enough perspective to be able to see and judge the meaning and the effects of .the revolution, to grasp the discrepancy between its objective significance and its subjective reflections in the minds of its contemporaries, and to decipher the conflicting class interests hidden behind universal symbols, ideas, and slogan!;. Yet it took the great French revolution only a quarter of a century before it had run its full course. The Russian revolution, for all the diversity of its successive phases, is, towards the end of its fourth decade, still with us; and it will be with us for a long time to come. We are still placed in relation to it in a position much more comparable to that from which people viewed the French revolution in the early years of the 19th century than to that from which Marx or Tocqueville could look back on that revolution. However convinced I may be of the correctness of my views that conviction is always mingled with an uneasy awareness of a possible or even inevitable discrepancy between the objective aspect of the Russian revolution and our subjective ideas or illusions about it. No open-minded student of Soviet developments can fail at present to see them in a perspective different from that in which he viewed them ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. And who can say how the image of the revolution wi...
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