PRE-REVOLUTION ORIGIN OF THE USSR
19 March 1958
INTRODUCTION--Dr. Marlin S. Reichley
SPEAKER--Dr. Carroll Quigley,
Professor of History,
School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.
Publication No. L58-126
INDUSTRIAL COLLEGE OF THE ARMED FORCES
Washington, D. C.
PRE-REVOLUTION ORIGIN OF THE USSR
7 March 1960
We have a very short time, and I am sure there are a lot of questions.
QUESTION: Dr. Quigley, from what you told us, it seems to me that there is not very much hope for
spontaneous objection on the part of the Russian people to the present system. From this understanding, can you indicate
if there are weaknesses in the present system that we should exploit by other than military means?
I am a historian, and accordingly don't know anything about the last 10 years. Your original assumption is one with which I agree. I see very little hope of any spontaneous uprising against the Soviet system. I think that the Soviet system would collapse only if certain rather unlikely contingencies occurred. I think that if they were defeated in a war obviously it would go, or if they had to arm their people with weapons which their people could use, without a very elaborate system of governmental supply--and that's very unlikely. I have hopes that weapons may develop in that direction, but at the moment they certainly haven't gone far in that direction. We're going to get space platforms next, or something.
As to what we can exploit, I would say, of course, that we must remain secure from the point of view of power, but we must make a much better effort to reveal the nature of the Russian system to the fringe people around. Now, I am quite sure that, when the Russians moved into Eastern Europe, as they did after World War Il, they were, to a considerable extent, welcome. The peasants of certain parts of Poland and other areas welcomed them because they thought that would help them get control of land and things of that kind. They have now, I think, been pretty bitterly disappointed. I don’t think that there is much they can do about it. But there is a very clear lesson that the Soviet system does not bring the things which it offers. Such a lesson, it seems to me, could well be given to the peasants of Iran (Persia), or India, or southeastern Asia, or any other place.
I think that, in general, we should talk a little less about communism as a danger, and talk a little more about the whole history of Russia and the failure of promises again and again and again in the Communist system, which certainly promised all kinds of things--democracy, a classless society, rising standards of living, economic plenty, and all of these different things which haven't been fulfilled.
I think that's one way in which it could be done. But the problem is really too large for me, and too contemporaneous.
My question is much along the same line, on your estimate of whether these devices, the influence of the ethnic groups, and other pressures from the outside, would tend to split them or to weld them even further. You have pretty well answered that, I think.
I'd say this, that I don't expect much from insurgent, dissident, nationalist groups. I think that all the trend is against them. One reason I feel that way is that in Russia communication, transportation, and the mobility of the population are steadily accelerating, and that is all against any local groups, such as the Ruthenians or the Uzbeks, or the Ukrainians, or any other group, forming a solidarity core of resistance against the Russian system. The technology of the situation makes it very unlikely, I would think.
I wonder if you would explain a little bit why their hatred against foreigners is so great.
Yes, didn't do much with that. The early Slav--we might as well start back in the earliest period--lived, as I say, a life of low subsistence. The peasant lived a life of immobility, generally, in one place. Any outsider, any stranger, was a danger. I think to a certain extent that is a peasant characteristic, to be suspicious of strangers who come into the village. This is particularly true in Russia, because, when a stranger came into a Russian village at almost any time in Russian history, he was either a tax collector or a recruiting officer. Accordingly, the peasant got out of the way, He didn’t want to meet the stranger. Sociability was not a Russian peasant characteristic. As one writer put it, “They have become very evasive and they are evasive both physically (they just get into the forest and hide behind the trees) and intellectually.” If a stranger, or even an important member of their own village, asks them a question, they don't seek the answer to the question; they seek the answer which will satisfy the questioner long enough for them to get away. When he turns away, they disappear. He may walk away and say, “That is not quite what I wanted.” He turns back and they are gone.
I think this is the rule, but this has been built up by writers, Pan-Slavists, and so forth, into the belief that Russia has a historic Messianic mission to civilize the world—the theory of the third Rome. There was the Rome of Rome, the Rome of Byzantium, and now comes the Rome of Moscow, the savior of the world. That to them means that all outsiders are drenched in sin. You find this in writers like Danilesvski, Dostoievski, and many others. Most of the writers that the Russians were likely to read were not cosmopolitans, they were not pro-Westerners. Even when they were most violently against their own system, they still despised the West as an evil, sinful, extraneous foreign system. This is built on the native peasant suspicion, which creates this attitude.
You mentioned, Doctor, the cycle of Russian leaders-reaction, reform, reaction. When are these Russians due to go to the next reform?
That cycle broke down. We face in Russia a danger whether they reform or not. If Russia were to reform, it would not be in the direction that we would regard as reform. I am pretty sure of that. It would not be toward democracy or liberalism to any great degree. Rather, if they were to reform, I think it would simply increase the efficiency of this despotism, rather than to give more freedom or liberties to the people. They are not going to adopt our system. They are not going to adopt our system for numerous reasons. I think one of the most important reasons is this: The Communist system has not been a success. If the Communist system had been so successful as to immensely increase its production, then they could have provided themselves with capital investment, military equipment, and rising standards of living. But they have not done these things, because the system has not been a success. Any little additional amount which the peasants produced was taken away from them, and then some, to give capital equipment to factories, or to get military equipment for defense, leaving little or nothing for rising standards of living.
Therefore, I don't see that reform would help, even if they are to reform to increase their production. It would probably not go to rising standards of living, but to one of the other two elements. The cycle broke down with Nicholas Il.
Do you foresee in the lack of a formal system of succession in the Soviet system that there is a possibility of internal disruption, either in Russia itself or in the satellite countries, which would give them the opportunity, in a period of disruption and succession, to break away from the system?
In a political system which does not have a system of public law to determine succession, this is almost inevitably going to occur to some extent. The real problem is not whether it will occur but whether, when it occurs, they can find a solution without disrupting what they have. It would seem to me that the real basic problem is-How long will the Party and the army succeed in compromising any differences of opinion regarding the succession? As long ag they agree, or as long as, when the occasion for succession arises, they can fairly rapidly find a common candidate there is going to be little disruption. The way Khrushchev took over--it took, you see, not the time it would take in the United States--one day--to transfer the succession; it took several years, But he was eventually fairly successful, and I think that phase of his success is based upon the fact that the Army did not really object.
The only hope is for a division between the Party and the army, because the army has weapons. I don't know if it will occur. I am not a prophet. You would like me to prophesy, I can see.
Will you comment on why communism developed in two essentially peasant countries--Russia and China, whereas it was thought by their writers that it would occur in the most advanced industrial countries?
The reason that that occurred was because Marx's analysis was totally wrong. He did not understand the nature of industrialism. To him industrialism was massed workers in factories using the equipment of capitalists. That is not the essential nature of industrialism. The essential nature of industrialism is using nonhuman sources of energy for mass production. That's the essential nature of industrialism. Now, if you do that, it means you are going to reduce the volume of necessary manual labor. Secondly, if you have mass production by an industrial system, the only way you can get rid of it is by mass consumption. If you have mass consumption, you've to give the workers an increasing share of what is being produced. It is this power production, leading to mass production, which leads to mass consumption, and thus to rising standards of living which destroyed the whole dichotomy of the class struggle.
Instead, this idea of Marx appealed to intellectuals in peasant countries, where exploitation of the peasants became so acute that, once the peasants got weapons, as they did in China and as they did in Russia, they could overthrow the system, and these intellectuals came in. But the intellectuals have had to adopt the ideolog and distort it and mistreat it in order to make it fit the system, which is a nonindustrial system. So Lenin had all sorts of variations on Marx to explain this.
You commented on the Russians’ concern with the Orient and on their being the historical enemy of the Chinese, specifically. How do you account for their apparent alliance today, or their leaning toward each other and helping and working with each other?
This is the bomb that we all try to stay away from in the Far East problem. My feeling on it would be this: The peasants of China were exploited even perhaps more intensely in many ways than those of Russia. They got weapons, and had to get weapons, with a mass army, in order to resist Japan. Once the Japanese threat went, the peasants had weapons and they used them to destroy the system, the system of landlords, bureaucrats, bankers, and so forth, which had been superimposed above them.
We in the West refuse to accept this change. By refusing to accept this change, which seems to me was inevitable in the structure of the system, of the situation, we made it necessary for the Chinese to seek support wherever they could find it. As a result, the Chinese trade--I see in this morning's paper--with Russia has risen from 3 percent of their total trade to 77 percent of their total trade. This is because of Western pressure on China, and Western refusal to accept the structural changes which occurred there when the peasants got weapons and were able to overthrow the oppressive despotism which was over them.
I gave a speech a while ago down in Norfolk, and the speaker just before me was a great authority on the Far East. At lunch we discovered that we didn’t agree on anything. So, if I speak in this way you will fully understand that I don’t really know much about the subject. He felt clearly that we must keep the pressure on China; that they then will make demands on Russia; Russia’s economic weakness, which I spoke of, will make it impossible for Russia to fulfill the Chinese demand, and the Chinese will become disillusioned with Russia in the Russian camp. To a certain extent it makes sense. I hadn’t thought of that. He almost convinced me at lunch. But I should indicate that it was a very good lunch.
Dr. Quigley, it seems to me that now, for the first time, we have arising in the USSR a very large mags of intelligentsia, due to their expanded educational system. What effect do you see this may have on the civilized control?
I would not agree with the use of the word intelligentsia. To me intelligentsia would be people who are pursuing the truth. I think rather what you are seeing is a very considerable increase in highly skilled technologists and things of that kind, rather than intelligentsia. I do not think that is a threat to the sys tern. If we had real intelligentsia, people who were growing up with a burning desire to find out what the truth of the world and the universe is, that would perhaps be a threat. Here instead we have very highly skilled people, in whatever avenue they are trained, who can only get ahead, by accepting the system, and who, furthermore, are getting ahead, because of differential wages and salaries. An outstanding engineer in Russia can up fast, probably just about as fast as he can in the United States, although, as you know, he can't get nearly the comforts and other remunerations for his income. But, from their vision and their past experience, what they can get is a tremendous reward for their work in preparing for this skill.
You give them credit for being able to train the skill side of a man without developing simultaneously high intellectual side. This seems to be rather a gross oversimplification of the issue. If you have improvement in education, improvement in mobility, and improvement of communication throughout Russia, you cannot cast this aside and say nothing will come of it. Something must come of it--either a better Communist system or a poorer one; one of the two.
I'd say a more dangerous one--better and poorer are not words I would use, I agree with you fundamentally, that you really can’t have a good engineer or a good scientist unless he has a wide vision. But they are getting around that to some extent by copying the technology of the West, making it quantitatively bigger by this mass training of skilled technologists who can do it.
The thrust of their sputnik is three times the greatest thrust we have, but that is simply because they copied Western rocket techniques and made it bigger, and they made it bigger by concentrating on the problem of the tremendous resources of a despotic state, But, whether they would be able to invent some entirely new methods is another question. I have discussed this with scientists. I always try to talk with people on subjects I know nothing about--I have the most supreme egotism or something. I mentioned to a scientist what seemed to me to be other kinds of alternatives than those that we are engaged in, in trying to put a platform on the moon, or something. I was able to do that simply because I am not a scientist. I don't know anything about the rocket technique that is being used. I know they are using molecular reaction. So I can at once say, “Well, there are these other things that could be a possibility.” And he can say, “Yes, it is possible, but we can’t do it today.”
In Russia that kind of idle dreaming which I am paid to do would not get a Russian anywhere, I think. You are quite correct. In the long run I think that they do have to copy much of our basic vision for new methods; but they are copying it with tremendous success by this narrow concentration on the technological problem and the problem of resources.
Carroll, I want to tell you that you came within 10 seconds of the 45-minute lecture on 1,500 years of history, and now you have come within 45 seconds of the allowed time on the question period. I want to tell you that I don't believe we could get a man to cover American history of only 175 years in 45 minutes and hit the high points as you have done with this great expanse of time.
Thank you very much.
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