Isaac Deutscher 1953

The Legacies and Heirs of JV Stalin

Source: The Reporter, 14 April 1953. Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

‘Stalin is dead, long live Stalinism!’ has resounded the cry from Moscow since Stalin passed away and Malenkov took his place. ‘No change in domestic or foreign policy’ has been the order of the day. Yet only a few hours after Stalin’s death, the professions of continuity were somewhat contradicted by tremors that shook the façade of the regime. Sweeping changes were decreed in the leadership of the party, in the government, and even in the Presidency of the Union. The cumulative effect of the changes was to concentrate power in Malenkov’s hands. As Stalin’s anointed successor, he at once elevated himself over the heads of Stalin’s Old Guard. He felt strong enough at once to offend Molotov’s pride and to reduce that senior member of the Old Guard in rank. Malenkov has come forward not as one of a triumvirate but as the autocrat’s autocratic successor.

It is true that barely a fortnight after Stalin’s death Malenkov gave up his office as Party Secretary to Nikita Khrushchev. It may be that the secretaryship, which Stalin used to build up his dictatorship, is no longer the seat of power it once was, and Malenkov’s withdrawal from it will give him the opportunity to concentrate on controlling the government machine, from which he has in the past kept more or less aloof. It is also of course possible that the Old Stalinist Guard, jealous of his ascendancy, has induced Malenkov to surrender the secretaryship, but certainly no one had previously suspected Khrushchev of being a strong man among Stalin’s Heirs.

The pattern of the triumvirate is a memory of the crisis in leadership after Lenin’s death, when the tradition of government by committee was still strong in Moscow. This memory has little to do with the realities of power in 1953, but the ghosts of 1924 still hover over the Kremlin. The pretence is maintained that the Central Committee of the party speaks with a collective voice. Only collectively, it is implied, can Stalin’s disciples and assistants fill the gap Stalin has left.

In 1924 the slogan was ‘Lenin is dead, long live Leninism!’, and Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev solemnly declared that only jointly could they replace the Leader. Least of all did Stalin then appear to claim Lenin’s mantle for himself alone. The Central Committee as a body vowed to speak with Lenin’s voice, as it now professes to speak with the voice of Stalin.

The world has thus witnessed an attempt to stage a repetition of an historical act played twenty-nine years ago. The repetition is not intended to be literal. The struggle over the succession of Lenin went on for a number of years before it was finally resolved in the great purges. This time, it is intimated, no such struggle should develop. Remembering his own experience, Stalin had eliminated even the possibility of any such struggle by removing or demoting Malenkov’s potential rivals. He had reduced Molotov to the role of elder statesman; he had demoted and disgraced Voznesensky, the most independent-minded and intelligent member of the old Politburo; Zhdanov had died in circumstances which still remain mysterious. To be sure, Malenkov’s prestige still needs some building up, but so did Stalin’s in the first years after Lenin’s death. Malenkov’s aim is to be proclaimed and recognised as the ‘Stalin of his time’, just as his predecessor was proclaimed and recognised as the ‘Lenin of his days’.

Such is the strength of inherited traditions, legends, totems and taboos that when events force new men to play new roles they pretend merely to repeat old performances, to go through the motions of outdated rituals, and to go on mumbling familiar magic formulas. Should we therefore assume that the pattern of Soviet succession remains unchanged?

The original act of Stalin’s succession to Lenin was very different from the account of it given in Stalinist legend. It is not true that Lenin had given no thought to the problem of the succession. His habits of thought did not allow him to say who should be his successor; but he did indicate, emphatically, the man whom he regarded as unfit for the job. That man was Stalin. But Lenin’s attempt to settle the issue indirectly and negatively failed. Stalin, with the self-assurance of a hereditary monarch, attempted in his old age to solve the problem of the succession directly and positively.

He behaved as if he were determined to awe history by a posthumous display of his infallibility. It did not occur to him that history, having so conspicuously ignored Lenin’s will, might treat his own even more cavalierly. Since his ascendancy he had rewritten and falsified so many chapters of history that he came to believe that he could go on filling its blank pages even from his grave.

Stalin and Malenkov: Stalin chose Malenkov as the most faithful projection of his own political ego. Of course, Malenkov did not have Stalin’s rich revolutionary experience. He had not gone through Lenin’s school of professional revolutionaries. His political mind and habits were moulded almost exclusively by Stalin. In the course of decades he carefully assimilated Stalin’s manner of dealing with men and situations, his administrative methods, and even his mannerisms and way of dressing.

Stalin deliberately fashioned Malenkov’s career so that it should appear as similar to his own as possible. He tried to project, as it were, certain landmarks of his own life into the life of Malenkov. He gave Malenkov the same assignments with which he himself had been entrusted by Lenin. During the Second World War he sent Malenkov to the same critical front-line areas that he himself had inspected in the Civil War, including Stalingrad, his old Tsaritsyn of 1918. Moscow’s propaganda machine will now begin busily weaving all these facts into the Malenkov legend.

One might say that Malenkov was Stalin’s political shadow, if such a description did not belittle Malenkov’s undoubted ability, shrewdness and drive. Despite the carefully assumed similarities, Malenkov’s manner is free from the incongruities and the ecclesiastical undertone characteristic of Stalin. It is more business-like, clear and modern; but it is even flatter than Stalin’s style. The new Soviet leader does not seem to suffer from the moral tensions and nervous strains that tortured and twisted Stalin’s mind beneath his outer self-possession. The perfect bureaucrat has not been burdened by the ballast of pre-Stalinist Marxism; this was one of the advantages that seemed to predestine him for the role of Stalin’s political reincarnation.

Something like a superstitious belief in the transmigration of the political souls of great leaders was essential to the Stalinist legend. Yet Stalin himself provided its most striking refutation, if any refutation was needed. In his deeds he repudiated Lenin at least as often and as strikingly as he professed the Leninist line. The further he moved away from Lenin, the more emphatically did he preach the Leninist orthodoxy, making of Leninism the party’s liturgical and canonical code, quite without reference to its temporal business.

Malenkov in his turn is likely to treat Stalinism in a similar way. He has gone through some – but only some – of the genuflexions and devotional ceremonies that Stalin staged over Lenin’s bier. For the time being, he has placed his master’s remains beside Lenin’s in the Mausoleum. He has been duly acclaimed as Stalin’s ‘closest associate’. But his advent marks the end of the Stalinist era just as surely as Stalin’s marked the close of the Leninist phase of the Revolution.

Even before Stalin’s body was carried down into the vault, Malenkov had upset the laborious work of organisation done by Stalin in his last months. Indeed, he began his rule with what in any normal state would be described as a coup d’état. He dismissed Shvernik, the nominal President of the Soviet Union, and Gorkin, who held something like the post of Vice-President, and after the event he ordered the Supreme Soviet to legalise the act. He kicked out a dozen Ministers and merged fourteen government departments into five. He reshuffled the directing bodies of the party. He brought back Marshal Zhukov, the conqueror of Berlin, whom Stalin had kept in the wilderness ever since 1946 – all of this within a few hours of Stalin’s death. He must have thought out his moves long before, at a time when he still acted the part of Stalin’s respectful and retiring assistant. On the first day of mourning he cast aside all discretion, as if he wanted to tell the world: ‘You think that I have been Stalin’s shadow only – I’ll show you that I have my own mind and my own will.’

Before attempting to decide whether a power as great as Stalin’s can be transmitted, we must consider the problems Stalin has bequeathed to Malenkov. We must also look at the wider background of contemporary Russia, which is more important than the personalities of the ruling group and any real or supposed jockeying for power in the Kremlin.

Marxism and Magic: A certain immediate crisis of confidence is unavoidable not only in Russia but throughout the Communist world. A regime based on a quasi-religious cult of a single hero inevitably exposes itself to shock at the moment of that hero’s disappearance.

The sophisticated members of the Communist Party may be largely immune from shock because of their certainty that the massive party machinery of which they are part will assure continuity. As a rule, the educated party members take a cynical view of the hero cult, seeing it as a device for keeping in submission the backward masses steeped in the spirit of Greek Orthodoxy and accustomed to look up to a symbolic ‘Father of the People’. Yet even the party stalwarts have felt more than once that the cult had its own momentum, capable of destroying those who took a cynical view of it.

Some leading Stalinists must now be anxiously wondering whether the cult is not going to have its final revenge on them. It is not altogether easy to offer the popular imagination a substitute for the image of Stalin, ‘The Wisest Man of all Times’, ‘Dear Father and Teacher’, ‘The Life-Giving Sun’. What is to happen now, when the Wise Father is no more and the Life-Giving Sun has set?

Among the mass of the people the shock must have been severe. Not for nothing did Malenkov try to justify the swiftness with which he overhauled the whole machinery of government by invoking the need to forestall ‘panic and dissension’. In this respect, the present situation differs from that which arose after Lenin’s death, when the pyramid was not yet so precariously balanced on its apex.

It may, however, be easy to exaggerate this aspect of the crisis. Modern propaganda machines can quickly build even an inconspicuous character into a demigod. Whether they will succeed this time depends on the state of the nation, the moods of its various social groups, and their willingness or unwillingness to accept the new totem handed down to them.

What made the Russian people accept the Stalin legend for so long? And are they now in a mood to accept a Malenkov legend?

Karl Marx once wrote that ancient mythology had sprung from man’s feeling of helplessness amid the blind forces of nature that he had not yet learned to control. It may be added that modern political mythology has its source in man’s sense of helplessness amid blind forces of modern society that he has not been able to master. If Stalinists had the courage to apply this Marxist idea to the Soviet Union, they would perceive that the flourishing of political mythology in that country was the unmistakable symptom of a moral enervation and depression of society. Stalinism throve on that enervation and did its utmost to deepen and perpetuate it.

The prostration came naturally in the early 1920s, after the titanic exertions of all social classes in the Revolution, the Civil War and the famines that followed. Exhaustion and the feeling of political helplessness made the climate of the formative years of Stalinism. In those years peasants working their tiny plots with antediluvian tools formed the overwhelming majority of the nation. The Marxist idea of socialism, as expounded by Lenin, was of Western European origin; it presupposed a modern, highly industrialised and civilised society. It did not and could not fit a semi-Asiatic nation whose emblem should have been not the hammer and sickle but the wooden plough.

The Revolution had to adapt itself to its environment, and Stalinism provided the adaptation. In it the alien socialist idea was wedded to the outlook of the barefoot and benighted Russian muzhik and to the primitive tribal magic of the Georgian highlander and the Kirghizian nomad. The marriage was as unnatural as it was inescapable, and its grotesqueness was reflected in all the antics of the Stalin cult. Marxian socialism, whether one likes it or not, has its highly modern inner logic. Primitive magic has its own poetic integrity. Stalinism, that mongrel of Marxism and primitive magic, has neither; it is a prodigy of incongruity.

The Plough, the Atom and Lenin’s Tomb: Can Stalinism survive Stalin? Or will the Soviet people abandon the totems and taboos of the Stalinist era?

The ultimate answer will depend on whether the Soviet people have outgrown or are on the point of outgrowing the social conditions in which primitive magic flourishes.

It was the chief contradiction in Stalin’s role that while he represented the ascendancy of native backwardness over Marxian socialism, he also represented the dictatorship of Marxian socialism over Russia’s backwardness. He subordinated the Marxian idea to Russia’s barbarous tradition, but he also forced Russia out of its economic barbarism and illiteracy, driving a nation of two hundred million people across the chasm between the epoch of the wooden plough and that of the atomic age. The leap is not yet completed. Nobody can count the myriads who have landed on one side of the gulf and those who are left behind on the other – or those who have fallen to their destruction. But there is no way back.

Russia is now the second industrial power of the world and is forging ahead with tremendous speed. This is no matter of mere material progress and organisation. Stalin’s industrial revolution could not have been achieved without an accompanying cultural revolution. Millions of skilled and semi-skilled workers had to be trained; the great mass of peasants employed in a highly mechanised agriculture had to be taught to use modern tools, to read and write; and a very numerous modern professional class of technicians, research workers, administrators, managers, doctors, teachers and military officers had to be created. This cultural revolution has been marred by all the vices of Stalinism, by the infusion of bureaucratic dogma and magic into science, by falsification of history, and so on. But all this has not nullified the cultural revolution: it has merely reduced its effectiveness.

Russia may still be mired up to its ankles or knees in the epoch of primitive magic, but it is not plunged in it up to its neck and ears, as it was a quarter of a century ago. Thus, Stalinism, even while it struggled for its self-perpetuation, was destroying the prerequisites of its self-perpetuation.

The death of a personality that dominates a whole epoch may become an historic turning point when that death coincides with the growth of other factors that make for a wider national crisis. Stalin died at a time when such factors were visibly gaining momentum, although their coming into the open may not be imminent.

The perpetual heresy hunts of recent years have provided abundant, if still negative, evidence of growing strains and stresses and of a new ferment of ideas in Russia. By means of these heresy hunts the primitive magic of Stalinism has been desperately trying to maintain its domination over a people coming of age culturally and politically. Will Malenkov try to prolong the domination of Stalinist magic?

Nobody can pretend to know the answer, and perhaps Malenkov himself does not know it. But he expressed his – and Russia’s – dilemma almost symbolically when, repeating his professions of allegiance to Stalin, he gave orders for the abandonment of the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square, that landmark and shrine of Stalinism, that monument which Oriental barbarism erected for itself in the very heart of the Russian Revolution. He could have made no more expressive gesture the day after Stalin’s eyes had been closed.

Stalin and Soviet Self-Containment: The death of Stalin has even more obviously coincided with a crisis in the attitudes of Stalinism towards the rest of the world.

Leninism lived in the hope of world revolution to be carried out by the independent action of foreign working classes. Stalinism had its origin in the frustration of that hope. To use now-fashionable terms, the dilemma of ‘liberation versus containment’ intensely occupied Bolshevism during the transition from the Leninist to the Stalinist era. The question then was whether Bolshevism should stake its future on the ‘emancipation of the world from capitalism’ or on the containment of capitalism at the boundaries of the Soviet Union.

Stalinism solved the controversy in favour of containment. ‘Socialism in one country’ was the formula of Stalin’s solution. Indeed, in that formula he announced to the world Bolshevism’s readiness for self-containment. He taught foreign Communist movements to bow to the sacred egoism of the Russian Revolution and to subordinate to it their own aspirations. He intended ‘socialism in one country’ to be his life’s work and to remain his party’s philosophy for a whole historical epoch.

The Second World War brought that epoch to an end much earlier than Stalin had expected. It drove Stalinism out of its national shell. It brought vast Soviet armies into a dozen foreign lands; and these armies could not help but carry the Revolution – a ‘degenerated’ Stalinist revolution, to be sure – on the points of their bayonets. The Second World War also brought into motion turbulent tides of social unrest and upheaval all over Asia.

Conservative minds in the West have seen in Stalin the evil plotter responsible for both the managed and the genuine revolutions of our days, because to the conservative mind revolution is always the product of conspiracy. The impartial historian will record that in the last decade of his life Stalin struggled desperately and unavailingly to save the wreckage of his policy of self-containment from the tempest of the time. He tried to stem the tides, and he bowed to them and then tried to ride them only when they threatened to submerge him.

At Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam he still made his policies essentially in terms of self-containment. This was the basis of his collaboration with Roosevelt and Churchill. True, this was to be self-containment within an area somewhat expanded in agreement with the Western Allies. He was confident that he would be able to keep his satellite Communist parties under control, and through them the social ferments of the aftermath of war. Presently he found out that he was mistaken.

We now learn from Tito that the conflict between himself and Stalin began when Stalin was urging Tito to consent to the reinstatement of the monarchy in Yugoslavia, when he tried to curb Tito’s hot expansionism and to divert him from Trieste, and when he urged Tito to withdraw support from the embattled Communist guerrillas in Greece. It is the ‘accident’ of Tito’s break with Moscow that has brought to light these episodes of Stalin’s struggle to preserve self-containment, episodes that might otherwise have been hidden in the archives for a long time. How many similar incidents still remain hidden?

We also learn from Tito – but not only from him – that Stalin tried almost to the end to stem the tide of the Chinese Revolution. He himself related to Tito’s Foreign Minister, Edvard Kardelj, how he advised Mao Tse-tung to come to terms with Chiang Kai-shek and to disband the Chinese Red armies; how, with an Oriental slyness that matched Stalin’s own, Mao listened reverently and nodded approvingly, promising to behave; and how then, totally ignoring Stalin’s counsel, Mao led Chinese Communism to its triumph.

And yet those who have held Stalin responsible for the spread of Communism are not altogether wrong. He did inspire, promote and sometimes even arm the satellite Communist parties. He had hoped to use them as instruments of Russian pressure upon foreign governments, as chessmen to be expended in the diplomatic game. But the chessmen began to play their own game. The magic wand that Stalin believed would enable him to control the revolutionary elements in the world broke in his hands.

To the end, Stalin pretended that he was still wielding that wand. The conservatives in the West believed him. Even now, John Foster Dulles tells us that ‘in Asia, Stalin’s plans, laid twenty-five years ago, achieved a dramatic success through the Communist civil war’. If this were true, Stalin would have honestly deserved the title of the greatest political genius in all history. Ex-Communists turned anti-Communists cooperated in a negative way in fostering the Stalinist myth. A man like James Burnham, who in the 1930s viciously attacked Stalin for betraying world Communism and even for selling out the proletarian revolution to ‘American imperialism’, made it his job to tempt that same American ‘imperialism’ to a crusade against Stalin, by whose fiat, he now claimed, world Communism lived and prospered.

The satellite Communist parties did, in truth, rally around Russia and submit to the Stalin cult. They did so most often with trembling and foreboding, and soon they had to sacrifice their own leaders to the Moloch of Stalinism. The explanation of their behaviour lay in their weakness and in their acute fear of counter-revolutionary forces at home and of the counter-revolutionary potentialities of Western policy. Stalin did his best to produce many Titos; and the West was doing its best to see that he produced only one Tito.

‘Socialism in one country’ had thus been buried long before Stalin died. It fell to Stalin himself to make the long-overdue funeral oration on it, and this is what his last public speech at the Nineteenth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party last fall amounted to.

The emergence of new Communist regimes had profound repercussions inside Russia. Stalinism had justified its despotism with the argument that Russia, the bulwark of proletarian revolution, was surrounded by a hostile world. The argument had great power; it disarmed or paralysed innumerable recalcitrant minds. It was, after all, true that twice within a single generation German armies had marched toward the Dnieper and the Volga. It was also true that in its first days the Revolution had had to struggle for its existence against French, British and even American intervention, against a blockade, a commercial and financial boycott, and a cordon sanitaire.

Stalinism throve on the popular memory of these unhappy events. It kept alive that memory, and it fanned the smouldering hatreds and fears that went with it.

The Second World War put an end to Russia’s isolation. Communist regimes in China and in Eastern and Central Europe formed vast ‘security belts’ around Russia. For the first time in decades Russia seemed geographically secure from foreign threats. It was no longer easy to invoke Russia’s isolation as justification for all the harshness of Stalinism.

Even a regime armed with all the machinery of totalitarian control needs its moral justifications; without them, popular disillusionment and resentment might slow the machine down. The sudden fear of American atomic supremacy helped to keep the wheels turning, but perhaps they weren’t turning with their old impetus.

It was significant that during Stalin’s last months there resounded throughout Russia a warning against those who argued that now, with Russia no longer the only Communist country in the world, the old ways and habits had become outdated. With one foot in the grave, Stalin heard his lieutenants raising the alarm about the recurrence in the party of the ‘Bukharinist and Trotskyist’ deviations; and Stalin himself, in his last published letters, had to rebuke young Soviet economists for a relapse into the long-suppressed heresies.

But let us return to the crisis of Stalinist foreign policy. Having swallowed so much more than he had intended to, Stalin was anxious to gain the time needed for digestion. He did not belong to that type of conqueror who tries to cure indigestion by swallowing more. He tried to revive his old formula and to devise a policy of Communist self-containment ‘on a higher level’ – as he himself might have put it.

He estimated that perhaps two more decades were needed to allow Russia to catch up with and to surpass the United States industrially, to attain a standard of living that would assure popular contentment, to strengthen Eastern Europe, and to allow Communist China to develop its economic resources to the present Russian level. He believed that once these goals had been achieved, the genuine attraction of Communism would become so overwhelming that nothing would stop Europe and the whole of Asia from turning Communist. He held that in the meantime it was on balance worthwhile for Communism to adopt a broad policy of self-containment within ‘one-third of the globe’. This was to be the Soviet corollary to American containment.

Stalin’s political testament may thus be summed up as the substitution of ‘socialism in one-third of the world’ for ‘socialism in one country’. He hinted at this idea in his last published work, The Economic Problems of Socialism, and he argued it out in detail and handed it down to Malenkov, to Mao Tse-tung, and to a few chosen Communist leaders in Eastern Europe.

There is reason to believe that Malenkov has unreservedly identified himself with this policy. On occasion he vigorously defended its implications against other members of Stalin’s entourage, and even against Stalin himself. If we are to believe Titoist sources, Malenkov was opposed to the blockade of Berlin in 1948, and on other occasions he urged Stalin to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards the West. His first political statement as Premier, made at Stalin’s funeral, lends credibility to these accounts, for in it he not only placed unusual emphasis on Russia’s desire for peace but studiously omitted any of the customary references to Western imperialism. He did the same in his next speech, at the opening of the Supreme Soviet on 15 March, when he declared: ‘There does not exist at present any controversial or unresolved issue which could not be resolved in a peaceful way by mutual agreement between the interested countries. This applies to our relations with all countries, including those with the United States…’

The Ghost of Bonaparte: But will Malenkov be able to stick to self-containment? Even if one were to assume that any single person or even any single government is still in a position to master the conflict that has rent the world, the answer may not depend on Malenkov alone or on the Soviet Communist Party.

A precondition for self-containment would be either Moscow’s dissociation from the Communist movements of the world or its complete control over them. Genuine dissociation is impossible for Moscow. Will Malenkov be in a position to enforce complete control?

As a theorist, ideologue or interpreter of the dogma, Malenkov has no authority with foreign Communist leaders. In this respect, Mao Tse-tung’s standing is infinitely superior. But this may be of no importance. Stalin’s statute in the Comintern of the middle 1920s was no higher than Malenkov’s is now. Even later, foreign Communist leaders took Stalin’s orders not because they were dazzled by his lucent pearls of Marxist thought but because he spoke on behalf of the party that had to its credit the first successful proletarian revolution. Later the satellite Communist rulers accepted Stalin’s supremacy because for domestic or foreign reasons they felt too weak to stand on their own feet. Tito rebelled because he was certain of strong domestic support and thought he could find safety in a neutral corner between the two power blocs.

As long as Chinese and Eastern European Communism feels threatened abroad or at home, it will take its cue from Malenkov as it did from Stalin. The conflict with Tito taught a lesson even to Stalin, who began to handle Mao Tse-tung with greater circumspection and tact. The lesson does not seem to have been wasted on Malenkov, who placed Premier Chou En-lai with Voroshilov by his side at Stalin’s funeral ahead of Molotov and all the other leaders of the Russian party. It seems plausible to expect that in the immediate future Malenkov should be able to impose upon the countries of the Russian bloc, though not without friction, policies conforming to the pattern of self-containment.

But beyond the well-defined boundaries of the Soviet bloc there are turbulent forces of upheaval over which Moscow’s control is less effective. And these forces may wreck Malenkov’s self-containment as they wrecked Stalin’s. There is no guarantee that sooner or later another Mao may not rise in another part of Asia or that even in non-Communist Europe another Tito may not reach out for power in defiance of Moscow.

Self-containment may also be frustrated by the dynamic of the Soviet state itself. The ghost of Bonaparte has haunted the Russian Revolution for three decades. Stalin had repeatedly wrestled with the ghost. As in Dante’s tale about the man who wrestles with the snake and in the struggle himself assumes the snake’s shape, Stalin himself assumed some features of a Soviet Bonaparte when, as Generalissimo, he placed himself above his generals. But this was in part a masquerade. Stalin remained the civilian party leader in uniform, representing only a diluted and adulterated Bonapartism.

The mere need for such an adulteration testified that the trend towards Bonapartism was latent in Soviet society; it was no mere invention of the lovers of historical analogy. Nobody can say whether someday a real general, whom the uniform of a Bonaparte would fit much better than it fitted Stalin, might not appear in Red Square. It is not irrelevant that the trend towards the rule of the sword is strongly at work in the non-Communist world as well. The day on which a real Soviet Bonaparte rises in the Kremlin may see the end of all self-containment, for this Bonaparte would disperse the party secretaries and ride in glory to the Atlantic.

There are as yet no signs of the advent of the Soviet Bonaparte. Voroshilov, whom Malenkov has put in Shvernik’s place as the titular head of the state, was a military failure, and at the age of seventy-two he is surely content with the prospect of a quiet and dignified close to his tumultuous life. In the background stand Marshals Zhukov, Vasilevsky, Konev and their like, about whose ambitions one cannot be quite so sure. But in the near future the marshals will remain in subordinate positions.

The prospects of Communist self-containment do not depend, however, only or even primarily on what happens in the Communist world. The continuance of Soviet self-containment would be in part a response to American containment – indeed, its delayed, unacknowledged and even unnoticed triumph. Yet the end of the Stalin era coincides with a crisis in that American policy.

If Washington were in all earnestness to abandon containment in favour of ‘liberation’, self-containment would become meaningless for Moscow.

The future of Soviet foreign policy lies therefore as much in President Eisenhower’s hands as in Malenkov’s. President Eisenhower may even be master of Malenkov’s fortunes in a wider sense. If a warlike threat to Russia were to come from the West before Malenkov’s regime became thoroughly consolidated, the day of the Soviet Bonaparte might dawn. On that day the bells would toll for the whole world.