A Historic Opportunity

FEUER, LEWIS S.

U.S.-Soviet Harmony? Two View Now that Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan has returned home from his historic trip to the U.S., a calm, long-range appraisal of Soviet-American relations is...

...Lenin was bitterly disillusioned...
...The Byrnes proposals were rejected...
...Above all, their theories have tended to obliterate the fact that there have been critical moments in Soviet history when American policy could have made a difference...
...The Soviet Union is in the high tide of its recovery from the Stalinist terror...
...As late as March 5, when the Brest-Litovsk Treaty had not yet been ratified by the Soviet Congress, the Bolsheviks were asking whether they could rely on Allied help in case war with Germany continued...
...The first took place in the hectic, event-laden days of February 1918, when Trotsky had persuaded the Soviet Government to refuse to sign a peace treaty with Germany...
...One could never explain the McCarthyist anxiety as the outcome of autonomous, immanent forces in American life...
...A balance of power has this advantage for negotiation: equal mutual concessions don't disturb the relative positions of the two sides...
...The neanderthal men have been retired by the voters to their more appropriate wilderness: the Supreme Court has charted new principles of civil liberties in a domain where principle seemed to falter: and America has undertaken a reform in racial relations the like of which has never been seen in the history of the world...
...Parliamentary Debates, Commons, 1919...
...THERE HAVE BEEN at least three critical moments in Soviet history when American and Allied decision might have guided Soviet evolution toward a more liberal path...
...When Bolshevism, as we know it, . . . disappears, then the time will come for another effort at re-establishing peace in Russia...
...The Allied "nothing" was followed by an active military effort to destroy the Soviet Government...
...Little need be said of the corresponding failures of Soviet foreign policy to establish friendly relations with the democratic world when the crucial opportunities for doing so were at hand...
...a scientist such as Peter Kapitza emerged from the house arrest be had endured for his courageous one-man strike during Stalin's era...
...For once the chances for agreement on nuclear disarmament are high because both nations are bargaining from positions of strength...
...Louis Fischer, The Soviets in World Affairs, Second Ed., Princeton, 1951, Vol...
...Each side need yield no more than the other, and the habit of compromise may grow...
...The purge-anxiety in the Soviet Union fed on the country's isolation, and the last vestiges of free discussion were throttled...
...Lewis S. Feuer, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, is a long-time student of Marxism and has written for scholarly and other journals...
...They deny that American policy can contribute to guiding Soviet society toward a more liberal alternative direction...
...Thus the Western nations and the Soviet Union have played this bizarre game of gambling on each other's extinction, interchanging their roles, trading maneuvers for destruction...
...For according to our Soviet analysts, there are no real historical alternatives...
...The Russians wanted to hasten the collapse of European economy...
...The Bullitt Mission to Russia, New York, 1919...
...What has been the effect of this image of Soviet reality on American foreign policy...
...A necessitarian bias, from the first, tended to dominate the thought-processes of our official Soviet experts...
...The history of modem nations, however, is intergenetic, not autogenetic...
...The gap between the Soviet and capitalist worlds was then, as Louis Fischer writes, "undoubtedly bridgeable," for the Soviet Government, weak and struggling for life, was prepared to cooperate with the victorious Allies...
...Bullitt reported, indeed, an impression that the Communists "have the warmest affection for America, believe in President Wilson, and are certain that we are coming to their assistance...
...A false image, because it misperceives reality, prevents us from coping with a problem in accordance with our own interests...
...The fears on which the McCarthyist neurosis fed were not without some foundation: they were an exaggerated response to Stalin's attempt to break the will of the Western nations...
...We can verify the worst of the experts prognoses only because we have allowed them to blind us to other alternatives...
...The United States meanwhile has regained the sense of its basic liberal direction...
...No person, no country, is immanently self-determined...
...Soviet history, to them, is the evolution of a self-contained, self-generated order...
...1, p. 74...
...33-34...
...his article is the second part of a lecture on the Soviet system, which he delivered recently at the Naval War College...
...Our greater concern for the racial problem and, indeed, the principal force behind the movement toward racial desegregation, has derived from our desire to secure the good opinion of the non-Communist nations of the world...
...Nansen sadly recorded his conclusion: "I am convinced that if these negotiations had attained their object, the state of affairs in Europe would have been entirely different from what we see today...
...In 1919, the mission of William C. Bullitt to Russia reported that the Soviet Government was prepared, in return for recognition, the lifting of the blockade, and the withdrawal of Allied troops, to grant a general anUiesty to all political opponents...
...When, two years later, the Congress of the United States generously voted aid to the famine-stricken Russian people, a crucial political opportunity had been lost...
...Aid was linked with the attempt at the political ex-communication of the Soviet Union...
...The way a person grows up, the character he acquires, is never completely determined by his internal forces and desires...
...Whatever their differences of opinion among themselves, the analysts of the Soviet Union have shared one basic preconception...
...The Soviet Union, thanks to its missiles and thermonuclear capability, does not have to overcompensate for its national inferiority complex by being truculent...
...The United States has moved to the forefront again with its atomic submarine and intercontinental missile...
...Later years saw the very armament of West Germany which Russia had feared, and the legitimate Soviet desire for security now must make do with the rickety structure of the "peoples' democracies" of Eastern Europe...
...We ourselves endured the McCarthy era which, on a minor scale, exhibited the workings of those anxieties which have afHicted Soviet life for decades...
...It was a bewildered, confused response to such hostilities and hatreds in an external world as America in all its history had never encountered...
...They have envisaged that society as a closed system...
...When Nansen appealed for support of his famine relief plan in April 1919, the Allies were willing to help only if the Bolsheviks ceased hostilities against the armies ot Kolchak and Denikin...
...Similarly, every rebuff which Soviet policy met when it essayed a more liberal approach to the Western world tended to strengthen Soviet anxiety...
...Stalin's personality was paranoid, but the Soviet people's acquiescence in his leadership was, in part at least, based on the fact that foreign hostility gave some appearance of validity to the paranoid claim of a menacing external world...
...This was the second lost chance for the democratic nations to influence Soviet development in a basic way...
...They take it for grafted that the immanent character of Soviet evolution precludes the possibility of a creative foreign policy...
...Fridtjof Nansen, Russia and Peace, London, 1923, pp...
...p. 134...
...There have been critical moments when Soviet leaders stood before alternatives, uncertain, undecided and uncommitted, and when the weight of American decision in the proper direction might well have swayed the Soviet choice...
...In September 1946, Byrnes proposed to Molotov a treaty which would have provided for the demilitarization of Germany for 25 years...
...consequently, the Bullitt mission and Nansen's proposals for feeding the Russian people fell afoul of the Allied hope for the overturn of the Soviet Government...
...The following two articles present inherently conflicting views on these basic questions...
...What is the reality behind Mikoyan's oft-repeated assertions, while here, that Moscow genuinely desires to ease tensions...
...There were Allied representatives, Sadoul, Robins and Lockhart, who wanted strongly to make such an agreement with the fledgling Soviet Government, but they had no effective power to negotiate...
...When that happens, we can begin to say that the cold war is over...
...With the German army advancing toward Petrograd, Trotsky proposed that the Bolsheviks ask the Allies for military aid against the Germans...
...A necessitarian bias runs through the writings of our Soviet specialists...
...The change in spirit which has taken place among Soviet scientists in recent years may some day be known as the Khrushchevian scientific revolution...
...It was not an inevitable decision...
...Admiral Kolchak, at that time, seemed to be in a favorable military position against the Bolsheviks...
...James F. Byrnes, Speaking Frankly, New York, 1947, pp...
...To miss recognizing them when they do occur is to commit the worst of blunders...
...So on the word "nothing" was lost the first great opportunity to win the Soviet Revolution from its course of suspicion, mistrust and anxiety...
...Robins answered: "Nothing...
...This time, perhaps, the statesmen will not miss the boat...
...On the fateful evening of the second day of the Congress...
...Two View Now that Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan has returned home from his historic trip to the U.S., a calm, long-range appraisal of Soviet-American relations is more necessary than ever...
...The United States was at that time "firmly opposed to the revival of Germany's military power," and unwilling "to see Germany become a pawn or a partner in a struggle for power between the East and the West...
...Stalin, however, was ensnared by the necessitarian belief in the imminent collapse of the Western economy and was prepared to stake his whole foreign policy on the dogma that Western society was on the verge of disintegration...
...It is all the more important, therefore, not to allow an intervening mist of experts' analyses to distort our perception of reality...
...From 1934 to 1938, Maxim Litvinov, as Foreign Commissar of the Soviet Union, worked devotedly to achieve an accord of collective security with the Western Allies to halt the Nazi assault...
...Other pieces will appear in future issues...
...Winston Churchill denounced Bolshevism as a pestilence which had to be extirpated, while Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, explained why he refused to establish peace with the Soviets: "Bolshevism itself is rapidly on the wane...
...2943-2944...
...This was the root cause of the cold war...
...For the cold war, in large part, has been a struggle for moral superiority...
...subsequently, the proposed period was extended to 40 years...
...At that time, the Russians could have had all they now are vainly seeking, and even more...
...Bertram D. Wolfe is author of Three Who Made A Revolution and other studies of SoWet history and politics...
...it was a choice, for there were other alternatives...
...The debate was tense, but when Lenin endorsed Trotsky's proposal, it won the approval of the Central Committee of the Communist party by the narrow vote of six to five...
...We can adopt measures when the Huge Totality threatens us, but we can never hope to change its character, short of destroying it...
...The Allies, unfortunately, lent great credence to the argument of some Russian liberals that the feeding of their starving countrymen would bolster the Soviet Government...
...Lenin continued...
...do anything to influence Soviet objectives...
...Can the U.S...
...More recently, in 1945 and 1946, the Soviet Union lost the chance for opening a new era of international comity...
...Our Soviet specialists have become experts in composing litanies on the impotence of social science and the tragedy of social existence...
...At that time, as former Secretary of State Byrnes has written, "as a result of our sufferings and sacrifices in a common cause, the Soviet Union then had in the United States a deposit of good will, as great, if not greater than that of any other country...
...His efforts were spurned and came to naught...
...During the last generation, social scientists have been busily creating for us an image of the Soviet Union...
...We found all our motives, including the altruistic ones, questioned by an alien world which took human deceit as a postulate of behavior...
...And in this curicms equilibrium of demonstrated equality for mutual destruction, the "balance of terror" as it is called, the chance becomes high for an international social contract...
...A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY By Lewis S. Feuer IT IS WELL-KNOWN that We often respond to our images of things rather than to realities...
...They have assumed that the evolution of Soviet society has been basically determined by its internal necessities...
...100, 173-174, 193...
...Social scientists have created a picture of the Soviet Union as a kind of Huge Totality, a political cosmos like the Hegelian Absolute, immovable, unchangeable...
...But the Allies made no effort to build such a bridge, and instead dispatched troops and supplies to aid the armies of Kolchak, Denikin and Wrangel...
...For the Revolution at its birth was like a newborn child: Had it been welcomed to the comity of democratic nations, re-assured that there was no intention to strangle its new social form, given the guarantee of food and war materials, the Soviet Government, with a sense of security, might have evolved in a more rational, democratic direction...
...All that we can then hope to do, in the Soviet analysts' view, is essentially passive...
...Left to its own internal workings, the United States might well have persisted in the "separate but equal" interpretation of its constitutional law...
...This process must inevitably continue...
...The Soviet opposition to the Marshall Plan was still another lost opportunity to transform antagonism into cooperation...
...International anxiety might begin to dissolve, and political neurosis might terminate as the forces of rationality strengthened themselves...
...Our own recent history bears witness to how much our internal policy has been shaped by forces operative in the world outside us...
...Boris Pasternak has been denounced by scurrilous Party hacks, but Soviet writers can now rise to defend him: no one now suggests exile or execution for him...
...The autogenetic theory of the Soviet specialists becomes, in effect, a rationalization of the dogma that nothing that we could ever have done would have made any essential difference to the course of Soviet evolution, and furthermore, that nothing that we can do could be of more than ephemeral effect in dealing with the awesome, macroscopic massiveness of Soviet reality...
...Free discussion and interchange of ideas have burgeoned for the first time in many years at scientific congresses...
...The answer: "Nothing...
...114, pp...
...It is breaking down before the relentless pressure of economic facts...
...A country, however, is much like a person...
...Neither the American Government nor any of the Allied Governments," he said, "will co-operate, even against the Germans, with the workman's and peasants' revolutionary government of Russia...
...How different might the Soviet evolution, and the world's, have been if Litvinov had been able to achieve diplomatic success...
...But the time is not yet...
...It denied the need for commercial relations with the Soviet Union, on the ground that production could never revive under a socialist system, and that in the absence of Soviet capacity to export there was no basis for trade relations...
...The Hughes-Hoover thesis of 1921 dominated American policy for a decade thereafter...
...The third lost opportunity for Allied foreign policy is still fresh in the minds of many of us...
...The frightful accord with Hitler in the summer of 1939 needs no recapitulation...
...Just such a critical moment now presents itself to the United States and the Soviet Union...
...WE CAN UNDERSTAND others' experiences best when they have in some measure been our own...
...Such critical junctures do not often occur...
...What has Lockhart heard...
...Lenin asked Colonel Robins, the American representative: "What have you heard from your Government...
...The way others act toward him, especially in critical times of his life, has a crucial influence in determining both his character and development...
...If both were to abandon their commitment to necessitarian dogmas concerning each other, perhaps the game of extinction might be dropped, and tentative steps for new rules of cooperation and an end to suspicion might begin to emerge...
...You cannot carry on a great country upon such rude and wild principles such as those which are inculcated by the Bolsheviks...

Vol. 42 • January 1959 • No. 4


 
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