Half the truth is often a great lie.

苏联行为的根源

文化 rock 8498℃

19300000421423136143760387710_950
(美)乔治·F·凯南 著 张小明 译

【译者说明】凯南是美国政治现实主义的代表人之一。《苏联行为的根源》发表在《外交季刊》1947年7月号,因署名X,故有“X论文”之称。X论文提出了著名的“遏制”战略,是乔治·凯南第一个公开发表的、阐述其政治现实主义思想的著述。虽发表的时间较久,但仍有一定的参考价值。

【作者背景简介】

乔治·凯南(George Frost Kennan,1904年2月16日 – 2005年3月17日)是美国著名的外交家和历史学家,曾任美国驻苏代办、大使,后在美国普林斯顿大学任教,出版了17本著作,其中两部获得普利策奖。凯南是美国对苏实行“遏制政策”的创始人,对美国在二战后对苏联外交政策的制定具有重要的影响。

凯南的一生跨越了整个20世纪,经历了两次世界大战以及美苏冷战,其一生的主要时间和经历都被耗在处理美国对苏联的外交事务以及对苏联的研究上。1925年,凯南毕业于普林斯顿大学,1929年至1931年在柏林大学学习俄罗斯文化,后在苏联和欧洲国家从事外交工作。1946年2月22日,任驻苏联代办的乔治·凯南向美国国务院发了一封长达8000字的电文,对苏联的内部社会和对外政策进行了深入分析,提出并最终被美国政府所采纳的对付苏联的长期战略,也就是遏制政策,对20世纪后半叶的世界政治产生了重大影响。

我们今天所看到的苏联政权的政治性格是意识形态和环境的产物:苏联现今领导人从产生他们政治背景的那个运动中继承下来的意识形态和他们在俄国执掌已近三十年的政权的环境。很少有心理分析的工作比弄清这两种因素的相互作用及每个因素在决定苏联行为中的地位这个工作更难的了。尽管如此,为了理解和有效地对付苏联的行为,必须作这样的努力。

要概括出苏联领导人夺取政权时所带着的一整套意识形态观念是困难的。马克思的理论在俄国共产主义版本中总是在发生着微妙的变化。作为其理论基础来源的材料是广泛而又复杂的。但是1916年时,俄国共产主义思想的最主要内容可以归纳如下:(a)人类生活的中心因素是物质产品的生产和交换制度,它决定社会生活的性质与“社会面貌”;(b)资本主义的生产方式是罪恶的,它必然导致资本拥有者阶级对工人阶级的剥削,不能充分发展社会经济和公平地分配劳动者创造的物质产品;(c)资本主义包含着导致自身毁灭的种子,由于资本拥有者阶级不能适应经济的发展变化,它必然引起革命和使政权转移到工人阶级手中;(d)作为资本主义最后阶段的帝国主义必定导致战争和革命。

其他内容可用列宁自己的话来概括:“经济政治发展的不平衡是资本主义的绝对规律。由此就应得出结论:社会主义可能首先在少数或者甚至在单独一个资本主义国家内获得胜利。这个国家内获得胜利的无产阶级既然剥夺了资本家并在本国组织了社会主义生产,就会起来反对其余的资本主义世界,把其他国家的被压迫阶级吸引到自己的方面来,……”①应当指出,他们认为如果没有无产阶级革命,资本主义不会自行灭亡。为了推翻摇摇欲坠的制度,一定要有来自无产阶级革命运动的最后推动力。这种推动力被认为迟早是要到来的。

在俄国革命爆发以前五十多年中,参加革命运动的人们狂热地信奉这套思想。由于受挫、不满、无自我表现的希望(或急于自我表现)以及在沙皇统治制度的严密控制下选择流血的革命作为改善社会境况的手段此种行为缺乏广泛的支持,这些革命家们便在马克思主义理论中为自己本能的欲望找到了极为方便的理论依据。马克思主义理论为他们烦躁情绪、全盘否定沙皇制度下的价值观、追求权力的欲望和雪耻心理以及寻求捷径实现这些愿望的倾向提供了违反科学的理论根据。因此毫不奇怪,他们坚信马克思列宁主义教义是千真万确、合理有效的,因为这一教义迎合他们那种易冲动,激情感的心理。没必要怀疑他们的虔诚。这是和人性本身一样久的现象。爱德华特·吉本②说得最精辟不过了,他在《罗马帝国的衰亡史》中这样写道:“笃信到欺骗,这一步是非常危险而又不知不觉的;圣贤苏格拉底告诉我们,聪明的人可能为自己欺骗,善良的人可能愚弄他人,人的良心正是处于自我幻觉和有意欺骗的混和的中间状态。”正是带着这一整套观念,布尔什维克党夺取了政权。

应当指出,在整个准备革命的时期,这些人的注意力,跟马克思本人一样③,更多的放在击败竞争对手而非今后社会主义所采取的形式上,在他们看来,前者先于后者。一旦掌权,他们对应该实施的纲领的看法很大部分一上是模糊的、空想的和不切实际的。除了工业国有化和剥夺私人大资本外,没有一致的纲领方针。他们对待农民的办法(根据马克思主义的公式不同于对待无产阶级)在俄国共产主义思想中就是一个含糊不清的问题,在共产党执政的最初十年中,一直是一个引起争论、举棋不定的问题。

革命后最初一段时期的环境一一内战、外来干涉以及共产主义者仅仅代表着俄国人民中极少的一部分——这使得必须建立独裁政权。“战时共产主义”和过急消灭私人生产与私人商业造成了不良的经济后果、招来了对新生政权更多的敌视。暂时缓慢俄国的共产主义化过程是以新经济政策为标志,减缓了某些经济困难,达到了一定目的。然而它也表明,“社会中的资本主义因素”总是设法从政府放松政策中谋取好处,如果允许其继续存在的话,他们始终是威胁苏维埃政权的强大的反对力量与竞争对手。个体农民的情况也类似,尽管力量很少,他们亦属私有生产者。

如果列宁在世的话,为着俄国社会的最终利益,他或许会以伟人的气魄调和这些相冲突的力量,当然我们不能确定他真的会这样做。即使列宁会这样做,斯大林及其在争夺列宁继承权斗争中的追随者们也不会容忍他们所凯觑的政权下存在着竞争的政治力量。他们的不安全感太强烈了。他们那种特有的极度强烈的狂热性和戒备心理与盎格鲁——撒克逊的妥协传统格格不入,使得不可能实行长久的分权。从孕育他们的俄罗斯——亚细亚世界,他们形成了对于竞争力量长久地和平共处的可能性极度怀疑的心理。由于轻信自己教义的正确性,他们总是坚持竞争力量或屈从我或被消灭。共产党之外的俄国社会本身并不僵化。人们的任何形式的共同行为与组织皆受党的操纵。在俄国,不允许存在其他具有活力与感召力的组织。只有党具有严密的组织结构。除了党之外,便是无组织无目的的杂乱的群众。

苏联党内,情况亦如此。党员群众虽然可能参加选举,参与制订、讨论和执行政策,但是他们参加这些活动时并不是从自己的意愿出发,而是要仰上级党的领导的鼻息,揣摸“指示”的含义。

应当再次强调的是,这些人搞专制主观上或许并不是出于个人的目的。他们无疑相信——并且很容易这样相信一一自己知道什么是于社会有益的,一旦权力获得稳固和不可改变的地位,就会努力为社会谋福利。为了达到权力稳固的目的,他们不顾上帝规条与人类道德;不择一切手段。只有等到他们觉得安全时,才会开始考虑如何使信赖自己的人民过得幸福与舒适。

关于苏联政权最突出的环境即,迄今为止,该政权的政治巩固过程尚未完成,克里姆林宫的人还深陷于巩固和强化他们在1917年所获得的政权之斗争中。他们这样做的主要目的是对付俄国内部的反对势力,但也有对付外部世界的意图。因为意识形态教导它们,外部世界是敌视苏联的,最终推翻境外的政治势力是他们的历史使命。俄国的历史与传统支持了他们的这种认识。最后,他们自己挑衅性的不妥协行动惹来了外部世界的反应。于是他们,用吉本的另一句话来说,又被迫应付自己所挑起的敌对行为。通过把外部世界描绘成自己的敌人从而证明自己正确,这是每个人所具有的、无可否认的特权;因为如果他经常地、反复地这么认为并将之作自己的行为基础,那么他必定是正确的。

由于他们精神世界和意识形态的特点,苏联领导人从不承认敌对他们的行为含有合理的、正义的因素。这种敌对行为,从理论上说,只能来自反动的、顽固的和垂死的资本主义。只要官方承认俄国尚存资本主义的残余,这就可以被当作维持独裁政权的原因。但是,当这些残余开始逐渐消失,独裁政权之合理性就越来越站不住脚了,而且当官方正式宣称这些残余已被最后清除之后,其存在之合理依据就完全丧失了。这促使苏联统治集团采取新的手法,因为俄国已不存在资本主义,同时又不允许处于其统治下的人民自发产生的严重的与广泛的异己力量之存在,这样就有必要通过强调国外资本主义的威胁,为继续维持独裁制度提供合法依据。

这种做法很早就己开始。1924年,斯大林特别指出,维持“镇压机关”(主要指军队和秘密警察)是因为“只要存在资本主义的包围,就有被干涉的危险和由此引起的一切后果。”根据这种理论,从那时起,俄国国内的一切反对力量均被描述为敌视苏联政权的国外反动势力的代理人。

同样地,他们极力强调社会主义和资本主义世界存在着根本的对抗这一共产主义观点。

许多事实证明,这是毫无根据的。由于一方面国外确实存在由苏联哲学与行为所引起的敌视心理,另一方面历史上某些时候军事强国特别是三十年代的纳粹德国和日本确实有侵略苏联的计划,真实的情况被掩盖了。但事实上,莫斯科强调面临着外部世界对苏联社会的威胁,并不是因为真有来自国外的敌视的现实,而是为了给维持国内独裁制度制造借口。

因此,维护苏联现政权即在国内建立至高无上的权威,和由此而来的编造外国敌视的神话,这一切决定了我们今天所看到的苏联政权机器的特征。未能适应上述目的的国内机关逐渐被裁减与取缔,反之则不断膨胀。苏联政权的安全是建立在党的铁的纪律、无所不在和严厉残暴的秘密警察以及牢固的国家经济垄断的基础上的。苏联领导人得以对付竞争力量以求得安全的“镇压机关”,很大程度上成了人民(他们应当服务的对象)的太上皇。今天,苏联主要政权机关的任务是完善独裁制度和在民众中维持这么一种观念,即俄国处于包围之中,敌人就在城墙下。组成权力机构的上百万官僚们必须尽一切努力在人民中维持这种观念,否则他们自己就是多余的了。

从目前看来,俄国统治者不会取消镇压机关。建立专制政权的过程己经进行了近三十年,这在当代是空前的(至少从范围之广这一点来说),它除了引起国外的敌视外,亦导致了国内反抗。警察机关强化的结果,是使反对政权的潜在力量越来越强大与危险。

俄国统治者决不会放弃他们借以维持独裁政权的神话。因为这个神话己成苏联哲学不可分割的一部分,通过比单纯的意识形态力量还大的纽带,它己深深地嵌入苏联思想体系之中。

前面谈了这么多的历史背景。那么它是如何反映在我们今天所看到的苏联政权的政治性格上呢?

传统的意识形态理论尚未被放弃。他们仍然坚信资本主义是罪恶的、必然要灭亡的,无产阶级的历史使命是促使资本主义灭亡,将政权掌握在自己手中。但他们更多的强调关系到苏联政权本身的一些观念上,即作为黑暗、误入歧途的世界中唯一的、真正的社会主义政权的地位及其内部之权力关系。

在这些观念中,首先他们强调资本主义与社会主义之间固有的对抗。我们己经看到,这个观念是如此之深地嵌入苏联政权基础中。它对作为国际社会一员的苏联的行为有着深远的影响。这意味着苏联总不可能真正地相信自己与资本主义强国的目标有一致的地方。莫斯科总是认为,资本主义世界的目的是敌视苏联的,因而也就是违背它所控制的苏联人民的利益的。如果某个时候,苏联会在违背这一观念的协议上签字的话,这只不过是对付敌手的策略手段而已,苏联的做法是“买主自行当心”。苏联人声称这种对抗仍然存在。这是虚构的。由此产生了克里姆林宫对外政策中许多令人迷惑的现象:躲躲闪闪、守口如瓶、欺诈蒙骗、疑心重重以及不怀好意。在可见的将来,这些现象不会消失。当然,其程度与侧重点会有所不同。当苏联人有求于我们时,上述这种或那种行为会有所收敛;这种时候,总有些美国人会欣喜若狂,认为“俄国人变了”,甚至有些人竟以所谓的自己带来了这种“变化”而居功。我们切不可为策略手段所迷惑。苏联政策的这些特征以及导致其产生的观念,与苏联内部政权性质密切相关,只要苏联政权性质没有改变,我们就必然要面对着这种行为,不管是明示的还是暗示的。

这意味着,在今后很长时间内,苏联仍是很难打交道的。但并不是说,苏联要进行你死我活的斗争,以便在一个确定的时间内推翻我们的社会制度。值得庆幸的是,苏联关于资本主义最终必然灭亡的理论包含这样一层意思,即它并不急于实现这一目标。进步势力可以为最后决战作长期的准备。在此期间,至关重要的是,国内外的共产主义者应当热爱与捍卫“社会主义祖国”——已经取得胜利的、作为社会主义力量中心的苏维埃社会主义联盟,促进她的繁荣,困扰与消灭她的敌人。在国外推行未成熟的、“冒险的”革命计划,会使莫斯科处境难堪,因此被视为“决不能原谅”甚至是“反革命”的行动。莫斯科所定义的社会主义事业,就是支持和发展苏联的力量。

我们再来看苏联的第二个观念,即克里姆林宫是一贯正确的。在苏联权力思想中,不允许存在除党之外的独立组织,因此就必须在理论上把党的领导作为真理的唯一源泉。如果其他地方亦有真理的话,那就应允许其他组织存在与自由表达其意志,这是克里姆林宫不能也决不会允许的。

因此党的领导总是正确的,甚至自从1929年斯大林通过宣布政治局一致原则从而正式确立他的个人权力以来,亦是如此。

由于党一贯正确,因而便有党的铁的纪律。事实上,两者是互为依据的。建立严格的纪律需要承认党的一贯正确,党的一贯正确要求遵守纪律。两者一起决定了整个苏联政权机器的行为。如果不考虑第三个因素,还不足以理解这两者的作用,即党为了策略上的考虑,可以在任何时候随心所欲地提出某种理论,如果它被认为有益于其事业的话,并且要求全体党员忠实地、无条件地接受这种理论。这就是说,真理不是永恒的,它实际上可以由苏联领导人自己根据需要与目的创造出来。真理可以每周不同、月月有异,它不是绝对的、不可变更的——非产生于客观现实。这仅仅是某些人当时智慧的表白,因为他们代表着历史的规律。这些因素造成了苏联政权机器的目标是僵硬与固执的。这种目标可由克里姆林宫随意改变,而其他国家则无法做到这一点。一旦在某个特定的问题上制定了党的路线,整个苏联政府机构包括外交机关,就像上满发条的玩具汽车沿着既定的方向前进,直至遇到不可抗拒的力量才停下来。组成这个政权机器的个人,不为外来的论点与理由所打动。他们受到的全部教育就是教导他们不信任与怀疑外部世界。就像留声机前的白狗,他们只听“主人的声音”。只有主人才能改变他们的目标。因此,外国使节不可企望他的话会对苏联领导有所影响。他们至多能希望的是自己的话会被传给苏联最高领导阶层,只有他们才能改变党的路线。但是,这些人不可能会为资产阶级代表通常的逻辑所动摇。由于目标不同,思维方式亦不可能一致。因此,事实比言辞对克里姆林宫更有说服力,只有以无可辨驳的事实作后盾的言辞,俄国人才听得进。

但是,我们已经知道,意识形态并没要求他们急于实现目标。和教会一样,他们只经营意识形态概念(具有长远意义),可以耐心等待目标的实现。他们决不会为了虚幻的未来而冒丧失目前所得的风险。列宁本人就教导说,追求共产主义目标既要谨慎又要灵活。这种告诫由于俄国历史上的教训更显重要:在毫无防御的广阔平原上与游牧民族进行了几个世纪的混战,谨慎、考虑周全、灵活与欺诈是非常有用的品质;这些品质为俄罗斯和东方民族所崇尚。因此,俄国人并不因为在比自己更强大的敌手面前退却而觉得丢面子。由于没有一个达到目的的确定时间,他们不会为进行必要的退却而不安。俄国的政治行为就像一条不停流动的溪流,朝着一个既定的目标前进。它主要关心的是灌满世界权力盆地中可以达到的每一个角落和缝隙。如果在前进的道路上遇到不可逾越的障碍,它会达观地接受并适应这一现实。重要的是永远朝着一个最终的目标前进。在苏联哲学中,并无一定要在一个确定时间内实现目标的思想。

因此,对付苏联外交比对付诸如拿破仑和希特勒等极富侵略性的首脑人物的外交既容易又困难。一方面,他们对敌手的力量更敏感,当觉得对方力量太强大时,更愿意在外交上作出让步,因此在权力逻辑与语言上更有理智。另一方面,敌方的一次胜利并不能击败他们或使他们丧失信心。由于它坚定固执,对付俄国不能靠偶而采取的、反映民主世界公众舆论某个时候要求的行动,而要执行明智的、具有远见的政策——它在目标坚定、执行中方式多样与灵活应变上都不比苏联的政策逊色。

在这种情形下,很清楚,美国对苏政策最主要方面就是长期的、耐心但坚定和保持警惕的对俄国扩张倾向的遏制。应当指出,这种政策与装腔作势是不相容的,它并不等于威胁、恫吓或摆出“强硬”的姿态。虽然说克里姆林宫对政治现实的反应基本上是灵活的,但这决不意味着它会不顾自己的声誉。跟几乎所有其它政府一样,苏联政权不会在笨拙的恫吓行为面前退缩。俄国领导人很了解人类的心理,他们知道大发脾气和丧失自控决非政治活动中力量的源泉。他们会极力利用敌方这种弱点。因此,为了有效地与俄国打交道,外国政府绝对必要在任何时候保持冷静与镇定,要以不易损害其威望的方式向俄国提出要求。

根据上面的分析,很清楚,苏联对西方世界自由制度的压力,可以通过在一系列变化着的地理与政治点上,随着俄国政策和手法的变化,灵活、保持警惕地使用反抗力量而被遏制,不能以魔力或劝说使之消失。俄国人期望万古长存,并且看到自己已经取得了巨大的成就。应当记住,曾经有一个时期,共产党在俄国国内比苏联今天在世界更缺乏代表性。

如果说意识形态使俄国统治者认为真理在他们一边,他们可以耐心等待最终的胜利,那么我们则不受这种意识形态的约束,可以自由地、客观地判断这一论点是否站得住脚。苏联这一理论意味着它不仅完全不允许西方对其经济命脉的控制,而且设想俄国在很长时间能保持团结、纪律和坚韧不拔。把这种假定变为现实,如果西方以足够的资源和力量对苏联政权遏制10一15年,这对俄国将意味着什么呢?

苏联领导人利用现代技术给专制带来的便利,使得人民在其政权下服服贴贴。很少有人对他们的权威进行挑战,就是有也都在国家镇压机关面前败下阵来。

克里姆林宫亦证明自己能不顾居民的利益,在俄国建立起重工业基础,虽然这一过程尚未完成,但是它仍在继续发展中,并且日益接近主要工业国家的水平。所有这些,不管是维持国内政治安全还是建立重工业,都是以人民生活受压抑、期望未实现、精力被耗费为代价的。它要求使用强迫劳动,其规模与程度在和平时期的现代社会是空前的。它造成忽视和损害苏联经济生活的其他方面,特别是农业、消费品生产、住房建设与交通运输。

此外,战争又使得财产损失巨大、人员伤亡惨重和民众疲惫不堪。所有这些,使得今天的苏联人在肉体和精神上都极为疲乏。人民群众感到失望并且不再轻信上当,如果说苏联政权在国外还有一些吸引力的话,那么它的国内已经不像过去那么具有魅力了。在战时为了策略方面的原因而给予宗教的苟延残喘的机会被人民以极大的热情紧紧抓住了。这一事实雄辨地证明了人民对这个政权的目标没有表现出多少信仰和献身的精神。

在这种情况下,人民的肉体与精神力量都是有一定限度的。如果超过了这个限度,就是最残酷的独裁政府也无法驱使他们。强制劳动营地和其他强制机关以临时性的条件强迫人民工作,劳动时间超过了劳动者意愿与单纯的经济压力所允许的范围;即使他们能幸免于难,那时他们也已衰老了,成了独裁的牺牲品。在上面任何一种情况下,他们最主要的力量都未能用于造福社会和为国家服务。

希望只有在年轻一代的身上。青年一代尽管历尽磨难,但是他们数量众、有活力;况且俄国民族是一个很有才能的民族。不过还有待于观察儿童时代苏联独裁政权施加的并随战争增长的精神压力,于他们成年时的行为有什么样的影响。除了最边远地带的农场与村庄,诸如家园安全与和平的观念在苏联已经不存在了。至今尚不清楚,这是否对现在正在走向成熟的新的一代的全面能力产生影响。

另外,苏联经济虽取得了某些惊人的发展,但其发展是不平衡的、有缺陷的。说“资本主义发展不平衡”的俄国共产党人,当想想自己的国民经济状况时,应该觉得脸红。苏联经济的某些部门如冶金和机器制造业所占的比重大大超过其他部门。当它还没有称得上公路网的东西仅有一个原始的铁路网时,就竟然想在短时间内成为世界上的工业强国之一。他们虽然已做了不少工作努力提高劳动生产率,教很原始的农民一些机器操作常识,但是整个苏联经济严重管理不善,建设投资急、质量次,折旧费必须很大,在广大的经济部门,尚未把西方熟练工人具有的生产观念与技术自尊运用于生产中。

很难相信,这些弊端可能为一个疲惫的、士气低落的人民在短期内所克服,他们在恐惧和压力的阴影下生活。只要这些弊端未被克服,俄国就将仍然是一个经济上脆弱的、并且在某种意义上虚弱的国家,它有能力出口它的热情和发出那种奇怪的政治魅力,但是不能维持那些靠真正的物质力量和繁荣的产品的出口。

同时,苏联政治生活也极不稳定。这种不稳定是由于权力从一个人或集团转移到另一个人或集团而形成的。

这主要是斯大林个人地位问题。我们应当知道,斯大林代替列宁成为共产主义运动的领袖,仅仅是苏联第一次个人权威的转移。这一转移花了12年时间才巩固下来。它使得上百万人丧生,从根本上冲击了这个国家。其影响达及整个国际革命运动,极不利于克里姆林宫自己。

有可能下一次最高权力转移会是静悄悄的、不惹人注目的,不会引起其它地区的反响。但是用列宁的话来说,这很可能促成从“巧妙的欺诈”到“野蛮的暴力”的迅速转变,这是俄国历史的特点,它将从根本上动摇苏联政权的基础。

但这不仅仅是斯大林本人的问题。自从1938年以来,苏联政权高级领导阶层中,政治生活就有着危险的死气沉沉的局面。理论上说,全俄苏维埃代表大会是党的最高权力机构,至少每三年开一次会。然而,从上次代表大会以来已经块整整八年没开会了。在此期间,党员数量增加了一倍。战争中大量的党员丧生;今天一半以上的党员是在上次党代会以后被吸收的。而同时,在民族经历了剧烈的变动后,仍然是原来一小批人踞于最高地位。确实,有某些原因使战争给西方每个大国的政府带来了根本的政治变动,造成这种现象的原因也基本上存在于费解的苏联政治生活中,但是,这些原因在俄国尚未得到承认。

即使在像共产党这样具有高度纪律的组织里,大批只是最近参加共产主义运动的党员群众与终身踞于最高领导地位的小集团之间在年龄、观点和利益上的差异也势必扩大,大部分党员群众从未见过这些最高领导人,从未与他们谈过话,也不可能与他们有密切的政治联系。

在这种情况下,谁能肯定党的领导新老交替(其发生只是时间问题)能够顺利地、和平地进行,或者竞争对手们不会为了自己的目标而寻求这些尚未成熟的、缺乏经验的群众的支持?如果真的出现这种情况,将产生难以想象的后果,因为一般说来全体党员历来习惯于铁的纪律与服从而不适应妥协与和解。如果团结遭破坏从而使党瘫痪,俄国社会将会出现难以描述的混乱和虚弱。因为我们知道,苏联政权只是装着一群乌合之众的容器外壳而已。在俄国根本没有地方政府这类东西。目前这一代的俄国人从不知道自发的集体行为。假如出现一些情况,破坏了作为政治工具的党的团结与效率,那么苏联很可能会在一夜之间,由一个最强大的国家变为一个最弱的、最可怜的国家之一。

因此,苏联政权的未来根本不会像克里姆林宫主义所幻想的那么安全。他们表明自己能够保持政权。他们能否平静地、顺利地完成政权的新老交替,尚有待证明。同时,国内政权的淫威和国际生活的动荡己经严重地挫伤了该政权赖以依靠的伟大的人民,使他们丧失了希望。十分令人惊奇的是,今天,苏联政权的意识形态力量在俄国境外即在它的警察力量所及的范围之外,其影响更大。这种现象使人想起托马斯·曼在他的著名的小说《布登勃洛克一家》④中所用的一个比喻。托马斯·曼认为,人类组织在其内部已经严重衰败时,往往外表上显得十分强盛,他把处于极盛时期的布登勃洛克一家比作一颗向地球发着最亮的光但事实上早已不存在的星体之一。谁敢否认,克里姆林宫洒向西方世界失望不满的人民的强光不是事实上行将消失的星座的余辉?既不能证明是这样,也不能证明不是这样。但是存在这么一种可能性(作者认为这种可能性很大),即苏联政权,正像他们所说的资本主义世界,本身包含着衰败的种子,这个种子已经萌芽滋长。

显然,美国不可指望在可见的将来与苏联政权保持密切的关系。在政治舞台上,应继续将苏联当作竞争对手而非伙伴。苏联今后不可能真心热爱和平与稳定、不相信社会主义世界和资本主义世界可以长期地、友好地共处,而是谨慎地、不懈地施加压力,削弱与瓦解所有竞争对手的影响与力量。

然而,俄国虽然总的说来是敌视西方的,但是至今它仍是相对弱的国家,它的政策很灵活,苏联社会包含着衰败的种子。这就要求美国对坚定的遏制政策充满信心,在俄国人露出侵害世界和平与稳定迹象的每一个点上,使用不可更改的反击力量。

但是实际上,美国的政策并不是纯粹的维持现状以及守株待兔。美国安全可能通过自己的行动影响俄国内部乃至整个国际共产主义运动的发展(俄国政策主要依此而制定)。这不单单指在苏联及其它地方搞些情报活动,尽管这也很重要。最主要的是,美国要在世界民众中树立这样一个印象:目标明确、能够成功地解决国内生活中的问题、可以承担起一个世界强国的责任和在目前几个主要的意识形态潮流面前保持自己的信念。倘若做到这一点,俄国共产主义目标就如堂吉柯德想法无望实现,莫斯科追随者们的希望与热情必逐渐减退,将给克里姆林宫对外政策增加新的困难。因为资本主义必然衰亡的神话是共产主义哲学的基石。甚至二战以后,美国并未经历红场乌鸦们所预言的一场衰退,这一事实就将引起共产主义世界强大的、深远的反响。

同样地,如果美国表现出优柔寡断、纷争不和以及内部分裂的迹象,这也将极大地鼓舞整个共产主义运动。如果上述任何一种倾向出现的话,共产主义世界将大受鼓舞、兴高采烈;莫斯科会显得得意洋洋;莫斯科在国外的支持者将增加;以及大大加强莫斯科在国际事务中的影响。

说美国单独就能对共产主义运动的命运起决定性的作用并很快使苏联政权在俄国垮台,这是夸大其词的。但是美国确实能够对苏联的政策施加极大的压力,迫使克姆林宫的行为要比近年所为更加温和与明智,从而最后导致俄国政权的垮台或逐渐软化。因为,任何神秘的救世运动—特别是克里姆林宫的救世运动—如果不使自己适应于事态发展的逻辑,就必然遇到挫败。

因此,决定权很大程度上落在美国的身上。苏美关系从本质上是对作为世界民族之一的美国的价值之考验。为了避免毁灭,美国只需达到其民族之最好传统,并证明值得作为一个伟大的民族而生存下去。

确实,没有比这样对民族素质的考验更公平的了。在这种情况下,有头脑的苏美关系观察家没有理由埋怨克里姆林宫对美国的挑战。他应当感谢上帝,上帝使美国人民受到这种无法改变的挑战,从而使美国全民族的安全依赖于他们的团结及接受历史要求他们负有的道义和政治领导的责任。

注释:

①列宁:《论欧洲联邦的口号》,1915年8月,《列宁全集》中译本第21卷第321页,1959年人民出版社。
②爱德华·吉本,1737一1794,英国历史学家。——译注。
③本文之“社会主义”指马克思主义者或列宁主义者的社会主义,不是第二国际的自由社会主义。——原注。
④托马斯·曼,1875—1955,二十世纪最杰出的德国小说家,1929获诺贝尔文学奖,1944年加入美国国籍。1900年他因小说《布登勃洛克一家》问世而一举成名。这部小说描写一个资产阶级家庭三代人和他们商号的兴衰史。——译注。

译文原载《政治研究》1988年第1期

The Sources of Soviet Conduct
By “X” (George F. Kennan)

I

The political personality of Soviet power as we know it today is the product of ideology and circumstances: ideology inherited by the present Soviet leaders from the movement in which they had their political origin, and circumstances of the power which they now have exercised for nearly three decades in Russia. There can be few tasks of psychological analysis more difficult than to try to trace the interaction of these two forces and the relative role of each in the determination of official Soviet conduct. yet the attempt must be made if that conduct is to be understood and effectively countered.

It is difficult to summarize the set of ideological concepts with which the Soviet leaders came into power. Marxian ideology, in its Russian-Communist projection, has always been in process of subtle evolution. The materials on which it bases itself are extensive and complex. But the outstanding features of Communist thought as it existed in 1916 may perhaps be summarized as follows: (a) that the central factor in the life of man, the factor which determines the character of public life and the “physiognomy of society,” is the system by which material goods are produced and exchanged; (b) that the capitalist system of production is a nefarious one which inevitable leads to the exploitation of the working class by the capital-owning class and is incapable of developing adequately the economic resources of society or of distributing fairly the material good produced by human labor; (c) that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction and must, in view of the inability of the capital-owning class to adjust itself to economic change, result eventually and inescapably in a revolutionary transfer of power to the working class; and (d) that imperialism, the final phase of capitalism, leads directly to war and revolution.

The rest may be outlined in Lenin’s own words: “Unevenness of economic and political development is the inflexible law of capitalism. It follows from this that the victory of Socialism may come originally in a few capitalist countries or even in a single capitalist country. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and having organized Socialist production at home, would rise against the remaining capitalist world, drawing to itself in the process the oppressed classes of other countries.” [see endnote 1] It must be noted that there was no assumption that capitalism would perish without proletarian revolution. A final push was needed from a revolutionary proletariat movement in order to tip over the tottering structure. But it was regarded as inevitable that sooner of later that push be given.

For 50 years prior to the outbreak of the Revolution, this pattern of thought had exercised great fascination for the members of the Russian revolutionary movement. Frustrated, discontented, hopeless of finding self-expression — or too impatient to seek it — in the confining limits of the Tsarist political system, yet lacking wide popular support or their choice of bloody revolution as a means of social betterment, these revolutionists found in Marxist theory a highly convenient rationalization for their own instinctive desires. It afforded pseudo-scientific justification for their impatience, for their categoric denial of all value in the Tsarist system, for their yearning for power and revenge and for their inclination to cut corners in the pursuit of it. It is therefore no wonder that they had come to believe implicitly in the truth and soundness of the Marxist-Leninist teachings, so congenial to their own impulses and emotions. Their sincerity need not be impugned. This is a phenomenon as old as human nature itself. It is has never been more aptly described than by Edward Gibbon, who wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “From enthusiasm to imposture the step is perilous and slippery; the demon of Socrates affords a memorable instance of how a wise man may deceive himself, how a good man may deceive others, how the conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud.” And it was with this set of conceptions that the members of the Bolshevik Party entered into power.

Now it must be noted that through all the years of preparation for revolution, the attention of these men, as indeed of Marx himself, had been centered less on the future form which Socialism [see endnote 2] would take than on the necessary overthrow of rival power which, in their view, had to precede the introduction of Socialism. Their views, therefore, on the positive program to be put into effect, once power was attained, were for the most part nebulous, visionary and impractical. beyond the nationalization of industry and the expropriation of large private capital holdings there was no agreed program. The treatment of the peasantry, which, according to the Marxist formulation was not of the proletariat, had always been a vague spot in the pattern of Communist thought: and it remained an object of controversy and vacillation for the first ten years of Communist power.

The circumstances of the immediate post-revolution period — the existence in Russia of civil war and foreign intervention, together with the obvious fact that the Communists represented only a tiny minority of the Russian people — made the establishment of dictatorial power a necessity. The experiment with war Communism” and the abrupt attempt to eliminate private production and trade had unfortunate economic consequences and caused further bitterness against the new revolutionary regime. While the temporary relaxation of the effort to communize Russia, represented by the New Economic Policy, alleviated some of this economic distress and thereby served its purpose, it also made it evident that the “capitalistic sector of society” was still prepared to profit at once from any relaxation of governmental pressure, and would, if permitted to continue to exist, always constitute a powerful opposing element to the Soviet regime and a serious rival for influence in the country. Somewhat the same situation prevailed with respect to the individual peasant who, in his own small way, was also a private producer.

Lenin, had he lived, might have proved a great enough man to reconcile these conflicting forces to the ultimate benefit of Russian society, thought this is questionable. But be that as it may, Stalin, and those whom he led in the struggle for succession to Lenin’s position of leadership, were not the men to tolerate rival political forces in the sphere of power which they coveted. Their sense of insecurity was too great. Their particular brand of fanaticism, unmodified by any of the Anglo-Saxon traditions of compromise, was too fierce and too jealous to envisage any permanent sharing of power. From the Russian-Asiatic world out of which they had emerged they carried with them a skepticism as to the possibilities of permanent and peaceful coexistence of rival forces. Easily persuaded of their own doctrinaire “rightness,” they insisted on the submission or destruction of all competing power. Outside the Communist Party, Russian society was to have no rigidity. There were to be no forms of collective human activity or association which would not be dominated by the Party. No other force in Russian society was to be permitted to achieve vitality or integrity. Only the Party was to have structure. All else was to be an amorphous mass.

And within the Party the same principle was to apply. The mass of Party members might go through the motions of election, deliberation, decision and action; but in these motions they were to be animated not by their own individual wills but by the awesome breath of the Party leadership and the overbrooding presence of “the word.”

Let it be stressed again that subjectively these men probably did not seek absolutism for its own sake. They doubtless believed — and found it easy to believe — that they alone knew what was good for society and that they would accomplish that good once their power was secure and unchallengeable. But in seeking that security of their own rule they were prepared to recognize no restrictions, either of God or man, on the character of their methods. And until such time as that security might be achieved, they placed far down on their scale of operational priorities the comforts and happiness of the peoples entrusted to their care.

Now the outstanding circumstance concerning the Soviet regime is that down to the present day this process of political consolidation has never been completed and the men in the Kremlin have continued to be predominantly absorbed with the struggle to secure and make absolute the power which they seized in November 1917. They have endeavored to secure it primarily against forces at home, within Soviet society itself. But they have also endeavored to secure it against the outside world. For ideology, as we have seen, taught them that the outside world was hostile and that it was their duty eventually to overthrow the political forces beyond their borders. Then powerful hands of Russian history and tradition reached up to sustain them in this feeling. Finally, their own aggressive intransigence with respect to the outside world began to find its own reaction; and they were soon forced, to use another Gibbonesque phrase, “to chastise the contumacy” which they themselves had provoked. It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.

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Now it lies in the nature of the mental world of the Soviet leaders, as well as in the character of their ideology, that no opposition to them can be officially recognized as having any merit or justification whatsoever. Such opposition can flow, in theory, only from the hostile and incorrigible forces of dying capitalism. As long as remnants of capitalism were officially recognized as existing in Russia, it was possible to place on them, as an internal element, part of the blame for the maintenance of a dictatorial form of society. But as these remnants were liquidated, little by little, this justification fell away, and when it was indicated officially that they had been finally destroyed, it disappeared altogether. And this fact created one of the most basic of the compulsions which came to act upon the Soviet regime: since capitalism no longer existed in Russia and since it could not be admitted that there could be serious or widespread opposition to the Kremlin springing spontaneously from the liberated masses under its authority, it became necessary to justify the retention of the dictatorship by stressing the menace of capitalism abroad.

This began at an early date. In 1924 Stalin specifically defended the retention of the “organs of suppression,” meaning, among others, the army and the secret police, on the ground that “as long as there is a capitalistic encirclement there will be danger of intervention with all the consequences that flow from that danger.” In accordance with that theory, and from that time on, all internal opposition forces in Russia have consistently been portrayed as the agents of foreign forces of reaction antagonistic to Soviet power.

By the same token, tremendous emphasis has been placed on the original Communist thesis of a basic antagonism between the capitalist and Socialist worlds. It is clear, from many indications, that this emphasis is not founded in reality. The real facts concerning it have been confused by the existence abroad of genuine resentment provoked by Soviet philosophy and tactics and occasionally by the existence of great centers of military power, notably the Nazi regime in Germany and the Japanese Government of the late 1930s, which indeed have aggressive designs against the Soviet Union. But there is ample evidence that the stress laid in Moscow on the menace confronting Soviet society from the world outside its borders is founded not in the realities of foreign antagonism but in the necessity of explaining away the maintenance of dictatorial authority at home.

Now the maintenance of this pattern of Soviet power, namely, the pursuit of unlimited authority domestically, accompanied by the cultivation of the semi-myth of implacable foreign hostility, has gone far to shape the actual machinery of Soviet power as we know it today. Internal organs of administration which did not serve this purpose withered on the vine. Organs which did serve this purpose became vastly swollen. The security of Soviet power came to rest on the iron discipline of the Party, on the severity and ubiquity of the secret police, and on the uncompromising economic monopolism of the state. The “organs of suppression,” in which the Soviet leaders had sought security from rival forces, became in large measures the masters of those whom they were designed to serve. Today the major part of the structure of Soviet power is committed to the perfection of the dictatorship and to the maintenance of the concept of Russia as in a state of siege, with the enemy lowering beyond the walls. And the millions of human beings who form that part of the structure of power must defend at all costs this concept of Russia’s position, for without it they are themselves superfluous.

As things stand today, the rulers can no longer dream of parting with these organs of suppression. The quest for absolute power, pursued now for nearly three decades with a ruthlessness unparalleled (in scope at least) in modern times, has again produced internally, as it did externally, its own reaction. The excesses of the police apparatus have fanned the potential opposition to the regime into something far greater and more dangerous than it could have been before those excesses began.

But least of all can the rulers dispense with the fiction by which the maintenance of dictatorial power has been defended. For this fiction has been canonized in Soviet philosophy by the excesses already committed in its name; and it is now anchored in the Soviet structure of thought by bonds far greater than those of mere ideology.

II

So much for the historical background. What does it spell in terms of the political personality of Soviet power as we know it today?

Of the original ideology, nothing has been officially junked. Belief is maintained in the basic badness of capitalism, in the inevitability of its destruction, in the obligation of the proletariat to assist in that destruction and to take power into its own hands. But stress has come to be laid primarily on those concepts which relate most specifically to the Soviet regime itself: to its position as the sole truly Socialist regime in a dark and misguided world, and to the relationships of power within it.

The first of these concepts is that of the innate antagonism between capitalism and Socialism. We have seen how deeply that concept has become imbedded in foundations of Soviet power. It has profound implications for Russia’s conduct as a member of international society. It means that there can never be on Moscow’s side an sincere assumption of a community of aims between the Soviet Union and powers which are regarded as capitalist. It must inevitably be assumed in Moscow that the aims of the capitalist world are antagonistic to the Soviet regime, and therefore to the interests of the peoples it controls. If the Soviet government occasionally sets it signature to documents which would indicate the contrary, this is to regarded as a tactical maneuver permissible in dealing with the enemy (who is without honor) and should be taken in the spirit of caveat emptor. Basically, the antagonism remains. It is postulated. And from it flow many of the phenomena which we find disturbing in the Kremlin’s conduct of foreign policy: the secretiveness, the lack of frankness, the duplicity, the wary suspiciousness, and the basic unfriendliness of purpose. These phenomena are there to stay, for the foreseeable future. There can be variations of degree and of emphasis. When there is something the Russians want from us, one or the other of these features of their policy may be thrust temporarily into the background; and when that happens there will always be Americans who will leap forward with gleeful announcements that “the Russians have changed,” and some who will even try to take credit for having brought about such “changes.” But we should not be misled by tactical maneuvers. These characteristics of Soviet policy, like the postulate from which they flow, are basic to the internal nature of Soviet power, and will be with us, whether in the foreground or the background, until the internal nature of Soviet power is changed.

This means we are going to continue for long time to find the Russians difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of capitalism has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of progress can take their time in preparing the final coup de gr?ce. meanwhile, what is vital is that the “Socialist fatherland” — that oasis of power which has already been won for Socialism in the person of the Soviet Union — should be cherished and defended by all good Communists at home and abroad, its fortunes promoted, its enemies badgered and confounded. The promotion of premature, “adventuristic” revolutionary projects abroad which might embarrass Soviet power in any way would be an inexcusable, even a counter-revolutionary act. The cause of Socialism is the support and promotion of Soviet power, as defined in Moscow.

This brings us to the second of the concepts important to contemporary Soviet outlook. That is the infallibility of the Kremlin. The Soviet concept of power, which permits no focal points of organization outside the Party itself, requires that the Party leadership remain in theory the sole repository of truth. For if truth were to be found elsewhere, there would be justification for its expression in organized activity. But it is precisely that which the Kremlin cannot and will not permit.

The leadership of the Communist Party is therefore always right, and has been always right ever since in 1929 Stalin formalized his personal power by announcing that decisions of the Politburo were being taken unanimously.

On the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the Communist Party. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire Soviet apparatus of power. But their effect cannot be understood unless a third factor be taken into account: namely, the fact that the leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of that thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the Soviet leaders themselves. It may vary from week to week, from month to month. It is nothing absolute and immutable — nothing which flows from objective reality. It is only the most recent manifestation of the wisdom of those in whom the ultimate wisdom is supposed to reside, because they represent the logic of history. The accumulative effect of these factors is to give to the whole subordinate apparatus of Soviet power an unshakable stubbornness and steadfastness in its orientation. This orientation can be changed at will by the Kremlin but by no other power. Once a given party line has been laid down on a given issue of current policy, the whole Soviet governmental machine, including the mechanism of diplomacy, moves inexorably along the prescribed path, like a persistent toy automobile wound up and headed in a given direction, stopping only when it meets with some unanswerable force. The individuals who are the components of this machine are unamenable to argument or reason, which comes to them from outside sources. Their whole training has taught them to mistrust and discount the glib persuasiveness of the outside world. Like the white dog before the phonograph, they hear only the “master’s voice.” And if they are to be called off from the purposes last dictated to them, it is the master who must call them off. Thus the foreign representative cannot hope that his words will make any impression on them. The most that he can hope is that they will be transmitted to those at the top, who are capable of changing the party line. But even those are not likely to be swayed by any normal logic in the words of the bourgeois representative. Since there can be no appeal to common purposes, there can be no appeal to common mental approaches. For this reason, facts speak louder than words to the ears of the Kremlin; and words carry the greatest weight when they have the ring of reflecting, or being backed up by, facts of unchallengeable validity.

But we have seen that the Kremlin is under no ideological compulsion to accomplish its purposes in a hurry. Like the Church, it is dealing in ideological concepts which are of long-term validity, and it can afford to be patient. It has no right to risk the existing achievements of the revolution for the sake of vain baubles of the future. The very teachings of Lenin himself require great caution and flexibility in the pursuit of Communist purposes. Again, these precepts are fortified by the lessons of Russian history: of centuries of obscure battles between nomadic forces over the stretches of a vast unfortified plain. Here caution, circumspection, flexibility and deception are the valuable qualities; and their value finds a natural appreciation in the Russian or the oriental mind. Thus the Kremlin has no compunction about retreating in the face of superior forces. And being under the compulsion of no timetable, it does not get panicky under the necessity for such retreat. Its political action is a fluid stream which moves constantly, wherever it is permitted to move, toward a given goal. Its main concern is to make sure that it has filled every nook and cranny available to it in the basin of world power. But if it finds unassailable barriers in its path, it accepts these philosophically and accommodates itself to them. The main thing is that there should always be pressure, unceasing constant pressure, toward the desired goal. There is no trace of any feeling in Soviet psychology that that goal must be reached at any given time.

These considerations make Soviet diplomacy at once easier and more difficult to deal with than the diplomacy of individual aggressive leaders like Napoleon and Hitler. On the one hand it is more sensitive to contrary force, more ready to yield on individual sectors of the diplomatic front when that force is felt to be too strong, and thus more rational in the logic and rhetoric of power. On the other hand it cannot be easily defeated or discouraged by a single victory on the part of its opponents. And the patient persistence by which it is animated means that it can be effectively countered not by sporadic acts which represent the momentary whims of democratic opinion but only be intelligent long-range policies on the part of Russia’s adversaries — policies no less steady in their purpose, and no less variegated and resourceful in their application, than those of the Soviet Union itself.

In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies. It is important to note, however, that such a policy has nothing to do with outward histrionics: with threats or blustering or superfluous gestures of outward “toughness.” While the Kremlin is basically flexible in its reaction to political realities, it is by no means unamenable to considerations of prestige. Like almost any other government, it can be placed by tactless and threatening gestures in a position where it cannot afford to yield even though this might be dictated by its sense of realism. The Russian leaders are keen judges of human psychology, and as such they are highly conscious that loss of temper and of self-control is never a source of strength in political affairs. They are quick to exploit such evidences of weakness. For these reasons it is a sine qua non of successful dealing with Russia that the foreign government in question should remain at all times cool and collected and that its demands on Russian policy should be put forward in such a manner as to leave the way open for a compliance not too detrimental to Russian prestige.

III

In the light of the above, it will be clearly seen that the Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the western world is something that can be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy, but which cannot be charmed or talked out of existence. The Russians look forward to a duel of infinite duration, and they see that already they have scored great successes. It must be borne in mind that there was a time when the Communist Party represented far more of a minority in the sphere of Russian national life than Soviet power today represents in the world community.

But if the ideology convinces the rulers of Russia that truth is on their side and they they can therefore afford to wait, those of us on whom that ideology has no claim are free to examine objectively the validity of that premise. The Soviet thesis not only implies complete lack of control by the west over its own economic destiny, it likewise assumes Russian unity, discipline and patience over an infinite period. Let us bring this apocalyptic vision down to earth, and suppose that the western world finds the strength and resourcefulness to contain Soviet power over a period of ten to fifteen years. What does that spell for Russia itself?

The Soviet leaders, taking advantage of the contributions of modern techniques to the arts of despotism, have solved the question of obedience within the confines of their power. Few challenge their authority; and even those who do are unable to make that challenge valid as against the organs of suppression of the state.

The Kremlin has also proved able to accomplish its purpose of building up Russia, regardless of the interests of the inhabitants, and industrial foundation of heavy metallurgy, which is, to be sure, not yet complete but which is nevertheless continuing to grow and is approaching those of the other major industrial countries. All of this, however, both the maintenance of internal political security and the building of heavy industry, has been carried out at a terrible cost in human life and in human hopes and energies. It has necessitated the use of forced labor on a scale unprecedented in modern times under conditions of peace. It has involved the neglect or abuse of other phases of Soviet economic life, particularly agriculture, consumers’ goods production, housing and transportation.

To all that, the war has added its tremendous toll of destruction, death and human exhaustion. In consequence of this, we have in Russia today a population which is physically and spiritually tired. The mass of the people are disillusioned, skeptical and no longer as accessible as they once were to the magical attraction which Soviet power still radiates to its followers abroad. The avidity with which people seized upon the slight respite accorded to the Church for tactical reasons during the war was eloquent testimony to the fact that their capacity for faith and devotion found little expression in the purposes of the regime.

In these circumstances, there are limits to the physical and nervous strength of people themselves. These limits are absolute ones, and are binding even for the cruelest dictatorship, because beyond them people cannot be driven. The forced labor camps and the other agencies of constraint provide temporary means of compelling people to work longer hours than their own volition or mere economic pressure would dictate; but if people survive them at all they become old before their time and must be considered as human casualties to the demands of dictatorship. In either case their best powers are no longer available to society and can no longer be enlisted in the service of the state.

Here only the younger generations can help. The younger generation, despite all vicissitudes and sufferings, is numerous and vigorous; and the Russians are a talented people. But it still remains to be seen what will be the effects on mature performance of the abnormal emotional strains of childhood which Soviet dictatorship created and which were enormously increased by the war. Such things as normal security and placidity of home environment have practically ceased to exist in the Soviet Union outside of the most remote farms and villages. And observers are not yet sure whether that is not going to leave its mark on the over-all capacity of the generation now coming into maturity.

In addition to this, we have the fact that Soviet economic development, while it can list certain formidable achievements, has been precariously spotty and uneven. Russian Communists who speak of the “uneven development of capitalism” should blush at the contemplation of their own national economy. Here certain branches of economic life, such as the metallurgical and machine industries, have been pushed out of all proportion to other sectors of economy. Here is a nation striving to become in a short period one of the great industrial nations of the world while it still has no highway network worthy of the name and only a relatively primitive network of railways. Much has been done to increase efficiency of labor and to teach primitive peasants something about the operation of machines. But maintenance is still a crying deficiency of all Soviet economy. Construction is hasty and poor in quality. Depreciation must be enormous. And in vast sectors of economic life it has not yet been possible to instill into labor anything like that general culture of production and technical self-respect which characterizes the skilled worker of the west.

It is difficult to see how these deficiencies can be corrected at an early date by a tired and dispirited population working largely under the shadow of fear and compulsion. And as long as they are not overcome, Russia will remain economically as vulnerable, and in a certain sense an impotent, nation, capable of exporting its enthusiasms and of radiating the strange charm of its primitive political vitality but unable to back up those articles of export by the real evidences of material power and prosperity.

Meanwhile, a great uncertainty hangs over the political life of the Soviet Union. That is the uncertainty involved in the transfer of power from one individual or group of individuals to others.

This is, of course, outstandingly the problem of the personal position of Stalin. We must remember that his succession to Lenin’s pinnacle of pre-eminence in the Communist movement was the only such transfer of individual authority which the Soviet Union has experienced. That transfer took 12 years to consolidate. It cost the lives of millions of people and shook the state to its foundations. The attendant tremors were felt all through the international revolutionary movement, to the disadvantage of the Kremlin itself.

It is always possible that another transfer of pre-eminent power may take place quietly and inconspicuously, with no repercussions anywhere. But again, it is possible that the questions involved may unleash, to use some of Lenin’s words, one of those “incredibly swift transitions” from “delicate deceit” to “wild violence” which characterize Russian history, and may shake Soviet power to its foundations.

But this is not only a question of Stalin himself. There has been, since 1938, a dangerous congealment of political life in the higher circles of Soviet power. The All-Union Congress of Soviets, in theory the supreme body of the Party, is supposed to meet not less often than once in three years. It will soon be eight full years since its last meeting. During this period membership in the Party has numerically doubled. Party mortality during the war was enormous; and today well over half of the Party members are persons who have entered since the last Party congress was held. meanwhile, the same small group of men has carried on at the top through an amazing series of national vicissitudes. Surely there is some reason why the experiences of the war brought basic political changes to every one of the great governments of the west. Surely the causes of that phenomenon are basic enough to be present somewhere in the obscurity of Soviet political life, as well. And yet no recognition has been given to these causes in Russia.

It must be surmised from this that even within so highly disciplined an organization as the Communist Party there must be a growing divergence in age, outlook and interest between the great mass of Party members, only so recently recruited into the movement, and the little self-perpetuating clique of men at the top, whom most of these Party members have never met, with whom they have never conversed, and with whom they can have no political intimacy.

Who can say whether, in these circumstances, the eventual rejuvenation of the higher spheres of authority (which can only be a matter of time) can take place smoothly and peacefully, or whether rivals in the quest for higher power will not eventually reach down into these politically immature and inexperienced masses in order to find support for their respective claims? If this were ever to happen, strange consequences could flow for the Communist Party: for the membership at large has been exercised only in the practices of iron discipline and obedience and not in the arts of compromise and accommodation. And if disunity were ever to seize and paralyze the Party, the chaos and weakness of Russian society would be revealed in forms beyond description. For we have seen that Soviet power is only concealing an amorphous mass of human beings among whom no independent organizational structure is tolerated. In Russia there is not even such a thing as local government. The present generation of Russians have never known spontaneity of collective action. If, consequently, anything were ever to occur to disrupt the unity and efficacy of the Party as a political instrument, Soviet Russia might be changed overnight from one of the strongest to one of the weakest and most pitiable of national societies.

Thus the future of Soviet power may not be by any means as secure as Russian capacity for self-delusion would make it appear to the men of the Kremlin. That they can quietly and easily turn it over to others remains to be proved. Meanwhile, the hardships of their rule and the vicissitudes of international life have taken a heavy toll of the strength and hopes of the great people on whom their power rests. It is curious to note that the ideological power of Soviet authority is strongest today in areas beyond the frontiers of Russia, beyond the reach of its police power. This phenomenon brings to mind a comparison used by Thomas Mann in his great novel Buddenbrooks. Observing that human institutions often show the greatest outward brilliance at a moment when inner decay is in reality farthest advanced, he compared one of those stars whose light shines most brightly on this world when in reality it has long since ceased to exist. And who can say with assurance that the strong light still cast by the Kremlin on the dissatisfied peoples of the western world is not the powerful afterglow of a constellation which is in actuality on the wane? This cannot be proved. And it cannot be disproved. But the possibility remains (and in the opinion of this writer it is a strong one) that Soviet power, like the capitalist world of its conception, bears within it the seeds of its own decay, and that the sprouting of these seeds is well advanced.

IV

It is clear that the United States cannot expect in the foreseeable future to enjoy political intimacy with the Soviet regime. It must continue to regard the Soviet Union as a rival, not a partner, in the political arena. It must continue to expect that Soviet policies will reflect no abstract love of peace and stability, no real faith in the possibility of a permanent happy coexistence of the Socialist and capitalist worlds, but rather a cautious, persistent pressure toward the disruption and, weakening of all rival influence and rival power.

Balanced against this are the facts that Russia, as opposed to the western world in general, is still by far the weaker party, that Soviet policy is highly flexible, and that Soviet society may well contain deficiencies which will eventually weaken its own total potential. This would of itself warrant the United States entering with reasonable confidence upon a policy of firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counter-force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world.

But in actuality the possibilities for American policy are by no means limited to holding the line and hoping for the best. It is entirely possible for the United States to influence by its actions the internal developments, both within Russia and throughout the international Communist movement, by which Russian policy is largely determined. This is not only a question of the modest measure of informational activity which this government can conduct in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, although that, too, is important. It is rather a question of the degree to which the United States can create among the peoples of the world generally the impression of a country which knows what it wants, which is coping successfully with the problem of its internal life and with the responsibilities of a World Power, and which has a spiritual vitality capable of holding its own among the major ideological currents of the time. To the extent that such an impression can be created and maintained, the aims of Russian Communism must appear sterile and quixotic, the hopes and enthusiasm of Moscow’s supporters must wane, and added strain must be imposed on the Kremlin’s foreign policies. For the palsied decrepitude of the capitalist world is the keystone of Communist philosophy. Even the failure of the United States to experience the early economic depression which the ravens of the Red Square have been predicting with such complacent confidence since hostilities ceased would have deep and important repercussions throughout the Communist world.

By the same token, exhibitions of indecision, disunity and internal disintegration within this country have an exhilarating effect on the whole Communist movement. At each evidence of these tendencies, a thrill of hope and excitement goes through the Communist world; a new jauntiness can be noted in the Moscow tread; new groups of foreign supporters climb on to what they can only view as the band wagon of international politics; and Russian pressure increases all along the line in international affairs.

It would be an exaggeration to say that American behavior unassisted and alone could exercise a power of life and death over the Communist movement and bring about the early fall of Soviet power in Russia. But the United States has it in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy must operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and circumspection than it has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the breakup or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power. For no mystical, Messianic movement — and particularly not that of the Kremlin — can face frustration indefinitely without eventually adjusting itself in one way or another to the logic of that state of affairs.

Thus the decision will really fall in large measure in this country itself. The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.

Surely, there was never a fairer test of national quality than this. In the light of these circumstances, the thoughtful observer of Russian-American relations will find no cause for complaint in the Kremlin’s challenge to American society. He will rather experience a certain gratitude to a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear.

[1] “Concerning the Slogans of the United States of Europe,” August 1915. Official Soviet edition of Lenin’s works

[2] Here and elsewhere in this paper “Socialism refers to Marxist or Leninst Communism, not to liberal Socialism of the Second International variety.

Foreign Affairs, July 1947

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