ANTECEDENTS OF THE SOVIET REGIME IN RUSSIA
7 March 1960
INTRODUCTION--Mr. Michael S. Poluhoff
Member of the Faculty, ICAF
SPEAKER--Dr. Carroll Quigley,
Professor of History,
School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.
Publication No. 1.60-143
INDUSTRIAL COLLEGE OF THE ARMED FORCES
Washington, D. C.
COMPARATIVE NATIONAL CULTURES
7 March 1960
Dr. Quigley is ready for your questions.
Some time ago Professor Sorokin advanced the theory that in the rise and fall of civilizations over history the Slav people were currently in a period of ascendency and the western nations in a period of descendancy, and that this would probably be so even if communism had not risen to power there. Would you address yourself to this question, please?
As I look at the Russian system, I think very clearly it had passed its peak in 1914. I would disagree with Professor Sorokin, whom I know quite well. In fact I took a course with him for a year in sociology.
I think that what has happened there is this: that the Russian system had reached a peak, about 1900, as far as we can see, and had ceased to rise; and that this was the reason for much of the discontent. And then that system was knocked right out of the picture by the German Army in 1917, Without the defeat of the Russian ruling system by the German Army I do not see how it would have been replaced by this new system, which is a much more effective organization of the same plan.
You see, I didn't say that this system is different. It I s much more effective and efficient.
I agree that now that they have got this new reform autocracy, they will continue to rise for a very considerable period. And the solution which I would envisage for this is not that we can prevent that, I think the most we can hope to do is to keep reforming ourselves, keep ourselves as much as we can at the top peak of efficiency, which I am not satisfied we are doing; and I do tend to agree with Sorokin that we may well be descending.
But we've got to get assistance elsewhere, and that assistance has to rise from the land mass of Eurasia, close to the borders of Russia. And the places where I would hope it would arise perhaps would be India or even China, because I am not convinced that China, although it calls itself Communist, is going to continue to work eye to eye with the Russians. I lectured upon this subject to some extent here some time ago, maybe last year or several years ago, and at that time I spoke tentatively of a possible break between the Chinese and the Russians. At that time it looked so remote that most of the audience was skeptical. I think today we can see that it may be a possibility.
This what we have to do: Hold out, prevent war, keep our own system as effective as possible. That means that we have to get right to work reforming and improving it and hope that there will rise these other powers. The day I. would love to see is when the Russians come to us and ask our help against Red China.
Dr. Quigley, you said that in this private-property system that the Russians have, when there was a disruption of the succession, they went into a decline and had trouble. How do you account for that same system being in Russia today when they don't have any way of succeeding each other, and whenever a leader dies, there's a lot of trouble getting a new leader?
I don't know how the succession works right now in Russia. I have felt all along that this is one of the critical weaknesses in the system, because if a division of opinion should arise as to who is a legitimate successor, then there will be trouble; and when that period of trouble arises, my money is on the Russian army.
When the succession shifted from Stalin to Khrushchev, through a series of intermediaries and stages that we didn't quite understand at the time, the Russian army deliberately seems to have abstained, or at least it probably said, "We will remain benevolently neutral to Khrushchev." This is precisely the significance. How long will the Russian army continue to do that? They are being well rewarded, it is true. Will they have greater ambition? Through history, where we have had disputed successions, the man who had the allegiance of the army has generally succeeded in establishing the succession for himself. This is the mystery of the season. The word empire," which we use, is a translation of the word "imperator" or "Imperium," which means "Commander in chief."
Dr. Quigley; in a country that has had a long history for centuries of massive violence and great disruption and murder, it seems to me that there are great gaps from having decimated the leadership of the people over that period. In modern times many czarist Russians were killed in the revolution, in 1937 a great part of the best officers in the Russian army were murdered by Stalin. Over the long span of history has that had a significant effect on the development of the Russian people?
This has several aspects. If you believe in biological superiority of the ruling group--and I don't believe you do - then certainly if you decimated and eliminated the ruling group, you would be killing off the people who are biologically the better. This I don't accept. There is more talent in the masses of the Russian people than they will ever need to have.
But if by the rulers and the talented people, who keep the system going, you are referring to the educated group, I don't think the problem is nearly as acute and bad as it might well be. I can remember a friend of mine discussing this with me back about 1941. Russia had just been attacked, the 22nd of June, by Hitler, and I was saying: "I do not see how the Russian army can successfully resist, having liquidated their leaders," as you say. And the person to whom I was talking said: "This will make them stronger. The trouble with the West was that the French and British, particularly the French, didn't eliminate their leaders."
There is some truth in that, I think. It could be attributed both ways. You need trained men; but when you have men who are trained, they frequently are trained to do what they are trained to do and not to resolve the problems which face them. And when you see the relatively large amounts of military talent which appeared, for instance, in the Revolution--men like Trotsky--Trotsky had at least tremendous military organizational ability; I'm not so sure he had any tactical ability--but this kind of stuff appeared when it is needed, in many cases.
How have the northern countries managed to avoid being overwhelmed by the Russians? The Vikings first came down there.
Do you mean Finland and Sweden?
If you are speaking of back in history, the reason was that these people had an advanced system earlier than the Russians. The Vikings not only conquered Russia, but, as you know, they conquered England. You've heard of King Canute. They also went down and conquered parts of France. The Normans, for example, were Vikings, established in Western France in 911. They established a kingdom in Sicily. So they were very vigorous, effectively fighting people.
Later, when western technology became more important, Sweden had it, and had it in a degree much above the Russians. And if you study the history of military matters, you certainly cannot avoid talking about Gustavus Adolphus, who lived about 1620. Now, here was military talent, good organization, a high level of technology, so great that it looked for a while as if Sweden could conquer much of central Europe. The Baltic was, at the time of Gustavus Adolphus, entirely surrounded with Swedish territory.
If you are talking about today, how it is that Finland and Sweden and these countries are independent? I think
that you have here enunciated an assumption which I wouldn't accept, namely, that the Russians do want to rule
everybody. I don't think that necessarily they do wish to rule everybody. I think taking over these satellite
powers are to them lesser evils; and if they can get what they want without taking them over, then it's much
better from their point of view not to take them over. In other words, if they can get them to cooperate
economically, or if they can get them to remain neutral in the political sense, then they should be satisfied.
What influence do you feel Christianity has played since the Russians picked it up, and what influence may it play in the future.
In Russia or without?
You see, there are really two kinds of Christianity. This is a long lecture and would take a couple more
hours; so I can't give you more than a glimpse of what I'm talking about. There is the Christianity that
we got in the West, which is essentially a Christlike Christianity, in spite of the fact that it doesn't
seem to have many of that End of Christians at the moment, Basically the influence of Christ wag extremely
important. By that I mean that to the western Christians the body and thig world are important and necessary
roads to salvation. They are not evil and bad things; that we would not have been saved if Christ had not
become flesh, and therefore flesh is not bad. The incarnation is a central part of the Christian truth as
the West looks at it.
Similarly, the Catholic Church has always taught that salvation comes from two things - God's grace and good works.
You must work with your fellow men. It's a cooperative effort in this world.
Let me show how significant a turning point occurred. In 325 the first Church Council was called together.
It went into the question of the Arian heresy, and it condemned the Arian heresy, Basically, and in very broad terms,
the Arians felt that the spirit and the flesh were opposed to each other; that the spirit was good and the flesh and
the world were evil. The opposite group, which became the western Latin Christian outlook, believed that the world
and the flesh are not evil; that they are potentially good, and salvation can only be reached through them. They
signified thig at the Church Council at Nicaea in 325 in two ways. First, they condemned the Arians as a heresy.
Secondly, they drew up a creed in which they put some magic words - which nobody today would put in - "l believe
in the resurrection of the body." This is in the creed. Now, you could not believe in the resurrection of the
body if it is basically evil. You could not believe in the incarnation if the body is basically evil.
The Christianity, on the other hand, which went into Russia had an entirely different emphasis. It was much more
derived from what we call "Pauline" - from St. Paul - Christianity. It was much more subject to Greek philosophy.
And from these two sources you got that the world and the flesh are evil and opposed to the spirit; that these
are sinful things. From this comes the fanaticism, the ideas, the acting upon theory, and much of the other
things that you find in Orthodox Christianity. In a sense, if this is true, that the flesh is evil and the
world is evil, then the only way the sinful man can be made to behave in a sinful and evil world is by being
ordered around. So it becomes a bulwark of autocracy rather than a weakness of autocracy. Now, that is much
oversimplified; and I hope you will realize it.
Doctor, you have reviewed Russian history and come up with five results. Would you then say that we are not fighting communism per se, but we are fighting the culture of the Russian people; that communism is merely a tool that is being used by the present rulers to achieve their purposes?
I wouldn't want to put it that bluntly, but that is the direction in which I am inclining.
Russia is a danger to us because it is a great power. It's that simple. And it is a great and threatening power
to us because we liquidated, and had to liquidate, the two powers which were hemming its power in. We got rid of
Japanese power and we got rid of German power in 1945. These were the bulwarks that were holding the Russian
system in. Having eliminated them, obviously Russia's power can flow outward for very considerable distances
and become a threat to us. Now, as to Marxism; Marxism can become an immensely strengthening factor in the
Russian system if they interpret it and distort it in their way, which is what they have done. What they have
in Russia today is certainly not Marxism in the Marx-Engel sense. It is Leninism in the Leninist-Stalinist-Khrushchev
sense. They are not the same.
If we look at the Marxist-Engel ideology, I don't see how it could convince anybody, because everything that
Marx believed has proved to be untrue. He said that the poor would get poorer and the poorer and poorer-the
immiseration of the proletariat, he called it. He said the revolution would come in the most advanced, industrial
countries. He said that the revolution would come by very little violence at all simply because the rich would
get richer and richer and fewer in numbers, the poor would get poorer and poorer and more numerous, until
finally the poor simply overthrew the rich because there were so few of them.
Furthermore, he said that when you had established this dictatorship of the Communists, it would be only a
brief period in which it would be necessary to change the other aspects of society--ideology, education,
culture, the humanities, and so forth--to reflect a Communist economic system; and then they would go into a
fully Communist society, in which the State would wither away. None of this makes any sense; and if we had
time, we could go through Marxism as Marx looked at it and set up a series of half dozen points, all of which
have proved incorrect, and, indeed, now look foolish to us.
The Russians can adopt that only by changing it and distorting it. One example: The period of the dictatorship
of the proletariat, that is, the period of the transition from the establishment of the proletariat in political
supremacy, to the arrival of the classless society and full communism, was to be a very brief period, so brief
that Marx hardly mentioned it. In Russia it has become the dominant, permanent system. So it has strengthened
it because they have changed it into something else - into a Russian ideology.
You described that there was a cycle in the line of czars-of reform and improvement for the masses and then
troubles and then reactionaries. Krushchev is supposedly letting up on the masses and improving their lot.
What would you predict as the future communism based on that?
It might well be the case, if we followed the precedents of the 19th century. The movement toward reform
always led to uprisings and difficulties. I do not think that will happen under the present system.
Khrushchev is relieving the pressure which Stalin had put upon the people; but he's doing it because
he feels that necessary. I think you're familiar enough with the situation to know why it's necessary.
He is not forcing the people to do what he wants, as Stalin did. He is enticing them to do what he wants.
He is offering careers open to talent, with what is to a Russian fantastic heights that can be achieved -
a villa down in the Crimea, a large salary, an automobile to drive around in in a country where automobiles
are rare, and so forth. These are being offered to the highly trained technologists and other people who
will do what Khrushchev wants. And this I think is sufficient incentive to make it possible for him to
relieve the pressure, to shift, as I say, from force to enticement.
He has to do that, because under the system of force, which Stalin had used, they were getting a smaller and smaller reservoir of trained, devoted people; and you couldn't run a complicated, modern, military, industrial system with a decreasing reservoir of trained, devoted people. So Khrushchev may well be successful in this without uprising.
Doctor, I'd like to disregard your termination date of 1917, if I may. I was interested in your remark,
though I don't agree with you, that the Russians as Communists are not seeking world domination, because
I have some difficulty in reconciling that with the widely reported activities in places like Latin America.
It's hard for me to view Latin America as anything other than a nice target as far as the Russians are concerned.
Would you explain your remarks about that?
Yes, I can. Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Southern Asia, Indonesia- all of these areas are places where
the Russians can raise problems which will keep us so busy that we will relieve the pressure on them. Then they
can go ahead advancing along thig road which Khrushchev has laid out.
The fact that this is communism isn't really significant. Any ideology which you can offer to the peoples of
these backward areas which would promise them some help in facing their problems-they face terrific problems in all
of the areas-would be welcome. Simply to give you something with which you are already familiar, the death rate is
falling in all of these areas very drastically, but the birth rate is not falling. The population is skyrocketing.
The production of food is rising extremely slowly. Here is an insoluble, explosive problem. What can be done about it?
We are not doing much really. In fact, I pick up the paper every day and read where we're going to go out and exterminate
malaria in some of these countries, or do something else which will lower the death rate even more. I don't want to sound
like an inhumane person, but every time we go out in these various places and lower the death rate, we are creating a
bigger and more explosive problem for ourselves in the future.
Now, those people who are facing that problem need some kind of assistance. The system which we used to solve that problem
was private capital accumulation and private investment. Those people are so poor, and the events are happening to them in
such rapid succession, and in such an unfortunate succession, that they cannot solve their problems. They cannot produce
more and more food and the necessities of life by private capital accumulation and private investment. Not that I'm an
enemy of these things at all. We just haven't faced them.
So one way in which it seems to them they can do something about this problem is by government accumulation and investment; and the ideology of communism fits that problem extremely well. But you don't have to become a Communist to do it. In India they haven't become Communists and they are trying to do it.
Now, you have another thing that comes in here. Do the Russians actually want to go out and rule these areas? I don't think so. They are not aggressive in that sense. Do they want to stir up trouble there? Yes. The maximum of trouble in all these areas. If every one of them explodes, monthly, in sequence, the Russians would be completely delighted.
Doctor, would you give us a few words, since you obviously know the Russians pretty well and should know the Americans
equally well-you've seen what military and what diplomatic and what other forces and pressures we’ve put on the
Russians--would you analyze from your knowledge of the Russians and their history what effect these pressures are having on them?
I had listed there as point four, xenophobia, fear of strangers. I feel it's a very important element in the Russian system.
And you know, really, if you're utterly objective about it, how can you blame them? If we establish bases all around their
fringe-in Turkey, in Cyprus, and other areas, Africa, and everywhere that we can establish bases-and then we send up planes
with nuclear weapons in them, and these planes head for Russia, and then just before they reach the jumping-off place,
they turn around, and the Russians are watching them on radar, you can't blame them for being a little worried. How worried
we would be if the Russians succeeded in establishing bases-which they won't have to, because they're going to use
intercontinental ballistic missiles--but if they established bases, let's say, in Cuba, and set up short-range,
intermediary missiles, we would-be very worried. Now, this is a very important part of these programs, of the point of view.
I am in no doubt that they are fearful of us. This is some of the evidence.
But more important than this is the fact that Lenin taught them that the capitalist system inevitably would break down, as
it did in the depression of the 1930's; and when it broke down, it could only recover by government spending; and that
government spending could best be devoted and justified in terms of weapons and imperialist aggression.
Now, having that interpretation, which doesn't fit our outlook at all of our ideology, but which does fit many of the facts
which they observe, you can well see why they might be fearful.
I do think that the trips here by Mikoyn and Khrushchev and other Russians--not that last fellow who came over a week or so
ago--have been helpful in showing them that the American people, and even perhaps the American Government, are not aggressive
capitalist imperialists; that that is a fable which they have created. But they are still teaching that fable to their own
people to justify the pressures that they are putting upon them.
Even when they become convinced that it is a fable, that we are not going to go out and attack them--which should be obvious
to every— body; after all, we've had nuclear weapons for a long time and they didn't have them; and if we intended to attack
them, that's when we certainly would have done it. We would never have waited until they caught up; and now are they passing
us? The Democrats say "Yes" and the Republicans say "No." But we never would have allowed this situation to occur if we were
imperialist capitalist aggressors--but even when Khrushchev is convinced that we are not, I'm sure he's going to continue
to teach it or have it taught to the masses of the people.
Dr. Quigley, you have made a very fine and effective contribution to our course in international politics. On behalf of the
Commandant and the students and the faculty, thank you very much.
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