Soviet Politics After the 22nd Congress

Soviet Politics After the 22nd Congress

Khrushchev always reminds me of Prussia’s Sergeant-King, Frederick William, who used to exclaim “but ye ought to love me” while caning his subjects. No doubt, he would rather be loved than feared and prefers voluntary to forced assent. Unfortunately he fears dissent more than he needs democratic concurrence, or more accurately: The power structure of the Communist regime is endangered every time an opposition finds a focus for discussion. The regime must therefore alternate between relaxation and tightening, democratization and vicious attacks on the opposition, decentralization and recentralization.

In the days when the Marxist phraseology had not yet worn thin, these zigzags of Soviet policy were discussed in ideological terms, with factions presenting “platforms” and advocating distinct “lines.” Even then a naive observer outside the Party’s inner circle might experience some surprises, with left oppositions adopting rightist platforms, Stalin carrying out the program of his opponents and the latter forming “unprincipled blocs.” Looking back upon the history of the twenties and thirties, we now see that much of it was a struggle for power rather than a fight for a policy. By now even the ideological trimmings have been discarded; the brutal, naked fact of one man’s drive for pre-eminence is frankly avowed, and its methods are exhibited for all to see. In the days of Stalin an opposition was at least allowed to publish the platform to be denounced; today we read the condemnation but have no way of knowing what is being condemned. People are vilified, accused and shamed for crimes which no one knows.

We hear that certain figures are “anti-party,” but all we know is that they are leaders capable of offering alternatives to Khrushchev. We are supposed to believe that Molotov of all people—the same Molotov who was not afraid to deal with Hitler and was the engineer of Stalin’s coexistence policy after the war—is opposed to Khrushchev’s policy of coexistence; or that Albania of all the major powers threatening to launch us into a nuclear holocaust is eager to declare war on the United States. What coexistence? All we know is that Molotov, while in power, was a rather cagey man who for all his knottiness somehow managed to find a modus vivendi with the Chinese as well as the Western powers. His successor, Khrushchev, rekindled the threat of war over Berlin which Molotov had put to rest, and for all his coexistence talk cannot get along with the Chinese. It was not Molotov who allowed the disarmament talks to fail and who interrupted negotiations about the test moratorium with a bigger blast than ever. It was not Molotov who threatened a dozen countries with extinction and spoke of states within reach of his medium range ballistic missiles as “hostages.”

Again we are supposed to believe that the Chinese are spoiling for ...