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Yet though Stalinism may have been a needless tragedy for both the Russian people and communism as
an ideal, there is the intellectually tantalizing possibility that for the world at large it was, as we shall see, a
blessing in disguise. As the state possessing the largest and richest land mass, inhabited by pliant yet very
creative people, as the carrier of a strong imperial tradition, as a society skilled in warfare and statecraft, with or
without Stalin the USSR was destined to emerge in the front ranks of world powers, with only another
continental power, the United States, as its peer. It is thus highly unlikely, given Russia's traditions and the
ambitions that the availability of power inescapably stimulate, that postWorld War I Russia would have long
remained stagnant, mired in a morass of inefficiency.
The question that therefore arises is what kind of Russia might otherwise have emerged. A democratic
Russia, either liberal or socialist, does not seem to have been a real alternative. It would have required an
unprecedented leap from autocracy to democracy—without an intervening period of democratic gestation— and
in a setting of enormous social deprivation, dislocation, and confusion. It is difficult to see how postWorld War
transportation the American performance has been spectacularly more impressive.
Soviet achievements in space, in weaponry, or in the magnitude of its overall industrial growth have been admirable. Moreover, the Soviet
Union has made impressive strides in education, mass culture, and social services, and it has created a solid and extensive scientific base for
the country's further development. Thus, it ranked first among the developed nations in the number of doctors per hundred thousand
population, and it provided the highest percapita annual socialsecurity benefits (Statistical Office of the European Communities, Basic
Statistics, Brussels, 1967, pp. 131, 153).
At the same time, it is useful to recall that in many respects the Soviet Union is a relatively average society as far as socioeconomic
development is concerned. The previously cited study by Black provides useful rankings of the Soviet Union in comparison with other states
in such fields as education (in the 519 age bracket the Soviet Union ranked thirtyninth among 124 countries for which information was
available in 1960), communications (in 1960 the Soviet Union ranked twentysixth in newspaper distribution per capita among 125
countries), in public health (in life expectancy the Soviet Union was thirteenth among 79 countries), and so on.
In regard to such indicators of modernity as the availability of air communications, radios, telephones, cars, highways, or computers, the
Soviet Union was again in the lower ranks of the more developed countries. Thus, when compared with the more developed twentyone
countries (including the EEC and EFTA nations, Greece, Turkey, Finland, Spain, the United States, Canada, and Japan), the Soviet Union
ranked twentieth in the number of telephones, seventh in the number of radio receivers, and twentieth in the number of passenger cars.
The Soviet lag in the more complex areas, such as computers, is equally striking. Thus, it has been estimated that by 1968 the United States
had approximately 50,00070,000 computers in use, of which (according to Paul Armor, "Computer Aspects of Technological Change,
Automation, and Economic Progress," The Outlook for Technological Change and Employment, Appendix Vol. I to National Commission on
Technology, Automation and Economic Progress, Technology and the American Economy, Washington, D.C., 1966, pp. 220223) only 10
per cent were in use in the Defense Department, AEC, and NASA; the corresponding nonmilitary Soviet figure was somewhere between
2000 and 3500, or approximately as many as were then operating in Japan or West Germany, or the United Kingdom, respectively (see the
comprehensive estimates in Richard V. Burks, Technological Innovation and Political Change in Communist Eastern Europe, RAND
Memorandum, Santa Monica, Calif., August 1969, pp. 89). For a fuller discussion of the current problems of innovation in the Soviet Union,
see pp. 155159 of this book.
Kurowski shows by projecting rates based on those from 1870 that Russian steel production would have grown between 1914 and 1920 to
11 million tons. In 1929 Soviet steel production had only reached the 1914 level, and by !935—after Stalin's First FiveYear Plan and the six
years equivalent to those that separate 1914 from 1920—it reached 12.6 million (Stefan Kurowski, Historyczny Proces Wzrostu
Gospodarczego, Warsaw, 1963, pp. 132133.) Moreover, Kurowski compares Soviet and Japanese growth rates during both the 19281940
and the 19501962 periods in great detail. Again, he demonstrates striking regularities in rates of growth (pp. 134, 138, 175).
I Russia, torn by national dissension, class conflicts, competing ideological appeals, and sheer physical misery,
could have effectively institutionalized a democratic system, when such systems have failed in countries
endowed with stronger democratic traditions and functioning under circumstances much more propitious to
Given the massive political awakening of the Russian people that had been stimulated by the
industrialization of the preceding decades, by the beginnings of literacy, and by the experiences of the war, the
only other alternative appears to have been an openly chauvinist and intensely imperialist dictatorial regime.
When linked with economic expansion, similar phases in the political development of other great nations—
Germany, Japan, the United States—resulted in aggressive, dynamic imperialism. Expansive nationalism
provided the basis for popular mobilization and for a highly assertive, even aggressive, foreign policy. At the
very least, Russia, in all probability aided by foreign investments (economic investment in states that
subsequently became political enemies was characteristic of the capitalist era), *
led by a modernizing, chauvinist
dictatorship, might have experienced a burst of imperialist, nationalist energy that would also have made it a
world power, perhaps both at lower domestic cost and in a fashion more threatening to the world.
This point deserves some elaboration. Stalin consummated the marriage of MarxismLeninism and
Soviet—particularly Russian —nationalism. The increasing stress on Great Russian state traditions, on frontiers,
on national aspirations, on Russia's civilizing mission visavis the nonRussian Soviet nations, and the like,
went hand in hand with the physical transformation of the Soviet communist party from one dominated by a
rather mixed lot of cosmopolitan and internationally oriented intellectuals of Russian, Jewish, Polish, Baltic, and
Caucasian origin into a party dominated primarily by Russian, and to some extent Ukrainian, peasants turned
party apparatchiki. To these men, the Soviet political system simultaneously represented the source of their own
social advancement and of their political power. Their loyalty to the system was not unlike that of many peasant
priests (usually the youngest sons, for whom no land was left) to the Catholic Church in traditional societies: it
was more institutional than intellectual. Ideology provided the integrative, intellectual perspective, but it was not
the principal source of motivation and commitment as it had been to the internationalminded intelligentsia who
Accordingly, the new Soviet elite tended to be both conservative and nationalist, even when they
sincerely believed themselves to be the advocates of an internationalist ideology. They could thus act in a
manner essentially dictated by their own interests and nevertheless consider themselves true internationalists. To
them Stalin's famous dictum that the test of a true internationalist is his loyalty to the Soviet Union was the ideal
resolution of the tension that developed between Soviet nationalism and communist internationalism. No wonder
that Brezhnev in effect revived the dictum in 1968 to explain the occupation of Czechoslovakia.
The cumulative result of this situation has been a pattern of mixed motivation and behavior, dominated
since Stalin by state considerations that often cynically exploit the ethical universalism of Marxism. But the
latter has also had to be kept alive, if only because it mobilized foreign sympathy for the Soviet Union and
because it tapped the idealism of Soviet youth, making it easier for the regime to recruit adherents. Though the
Soviet Union did exploit its Eastern European vassals, and though its financial and technical aid to China was
not politically disinterested, the Soviet people genuinely believe (as they occasionally grumble to visitors) that
the Soviet Union has aided both Eastern Europe and China as part of its obligation to communist solidarity.
Moreover, the internal violence employed by Stalin and the educational effect of the communist ideology—even
if initially not accepted by the masses—had a restraining effect on unbridled nationalism. At first both Stalinist
terror and ideologically induced social changes perplexed and often alienated the people. The unprecedented
19361938 massacre of the top Soviet political, economic, military, and intellectual leadership inevitably
reduced the vitality of Soviet society. Literally several hundred thousand of the most talented and besttrained
people perished during those years. In addition, though the principle of internationalism was often violated in
practice, it did restrain the inclination toward Great Russian nationalism, if only by forcing more covert behav
ior. Domestically, that principle helped to preserve nonRussian nationalities, despite Stalin's purges of their
intelligentsia. Internationally, it helped to shape in Soviet leaders a state of mind that worked against the
incorporation into the Soviet Union of Poland, Finland, and perhaps even other Eastern European states (at one
point the Yugoslavs themselves volunteered for membership in the Soviet Union, and some Slovak communists,
including Gustav Husak, proposed the same for Slovakia). This is a temptation that more traditionally nationalist
and PanSlav Russian leaders might have found difficult to resist.
Paradoxically, therefore, though Soviet ideology has subsequently been reinforced and perhaps even
increasingly dominated by the nationalism of the masses (particularly since World War II), the historical
function of Stalinist communism may have been to restrain and redefine a phase in which the Russian people
went through an intense nationalist, even imperialist, awakening. It forced that new mass nationalism to pay at
least lip service to international cooperation, equality of all peoples, and the rejection of racism. Marxism not
For impressive evidence of Western participation in the early phase of Soviet economic growth, see Antony C. Sutton's Western
Technology and Soviet Economic Development, 19171930 (Stanford, Calif., 1968), which argues that "Soviet economic development for
19171930 was essentially dependent on Western technological aid" (p. 283), and that "at least 95 per cent of the industrial structure received
this assistance" (p. 348).
only provided Russia with a global revolutionary doctrine but infused it with a universal perspective derived
from ethical concerns not unlike those stimulated in the West by the religious and liberal traditions.
Despite its monumental achievements, Stalinism sapped the human and emotional resources of the
Russians, and a postStalin Russia may therefore eventually enter into the world community as another spent,
postimperial power. Finally, by creating a particularly despotic model of communism and by insisting that all
other Communist parties submit to it, Stalin not only set in motion the process of fragmenting communism but
also vitiated much of communism's appeal at a time when the susceptibility of the more advanced West—the
area originally seen by Marx as ripest for the historical transformation—might have made communism the truly
dominant and vital force of our time.
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