First Published in New Politics, Spring 1962.
Transcription, Editing, & HTML markup by Tom Unterrainer and D. Walters in 2009 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.
Public Domain: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Trotskism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
WHAT SOCIALISTS HAVE to offer today by way of peaceful solutions to the Cold War impasse depends on what one means by socialism. The term has become so abused that definitions are called for in a symposium on socialism and thermonuclear war.
Socialism, as I understand it, is a revolutionary philosophy of opposition and democratic affirmation. It resists the rule of oppressive minority classes and places no trust in their self-redemptive evolution. Economic dislocations and inequities and the frustration of human creative impulses are seen as endemic to these class societies; and unjust wars are viewed as a proclivity of noxious social systems.
Socialism places its hope in the ability of the mass of people to reach high levels of political consciousness and to substitute its rule for the authority of a propertied or dictatorial class.
As democratic affirmation, socialism offers as its fundamental contribution to the cause of peace a society with constantly expanding perimeters of political and social democracy. Obvious enough, but it tends to elude socialists at times. Applied more concretely, however, to the American peace movement, socialism implies a special commitment to the idea of democracy. A peace movement need not have well defined political principles to be effective, but it must, at a minimum, adhere to the broad concept of political freedom.
As revolutionary opposition, socialism suggests resistance to both sides in the Cold War. Spelled out a bit, this means:
Against Testing and For the Unilateral Initiative in Disarmament, It is unfortunate that so much discussion in radical circles centers around total unilateral disarmament, a proposal that is unreal and difficult to defend. Actually, only a few raise this demand, even in the pacifist movement.
A demand that is real and if achieved might serve to relax Cold War tensions, is that this government, unilaterally, undertake the initiative in disarmament. A first step in this direction would be the unilateral commitment to cease all testing.
That I do not propose that the United States unilaterally junk its nuclear armaments does not mean that I am for deterrents any more than left wing socialists in less complicated periods, who did not demand of their respective governments that they scrap their armies and navies, meant that they were for an armaments program.
A further move would be for the government unilaterally to dismantle a portion of its nuclear equipment. (There would still be enough kill, over-kill and over-over-kill left to satisfy the goriest of deterrent dispositions.)
The positive effects that such moves could have for peace should not be underestimated. This is primarily a political approach, one that could undercut Communism’s popular appeal. But it requires a minimum of political imagination that we are not likely to find in American governing institutions or political parties.
Opposition to Civil Defense Programs. Civil defense is illusory and the bomb shelter program is, above all, dangerous. It is self defeating in that its consequences would be the intensification of the arms race, bigger bombs and in the event of war a devastation of such vast proportions that all terrestrial life might be consumed by fire or destroyed by radiation. What is no less – an objection is that to submit to the idea of a bomb shelter program – even a “good” one – means to accommodate oneself to the idea of nuclear war, to deterrent politics and, conversely, to abandon the struggle for peace and against the war makers at home.
Opposition to NATO. No socialist can afford to equivocate in his opposition to NATO. This American controlled nuclear army is an integral part of American capitalism’s increasingly aggressive nuclear strategy. As a means of defending Europe from Russian nuclear aggression it is point less; it makes the European continent an immediate nuclear target in the event of war; it includes perfidious Portugal and involves obligations to fascist Spain (which is not formally a member of NATO but provides it with military bases); it is a threat to the integrity of countries in and out of the Pact; it provides the Communists with an excellent propaganda target; it interferes with the possible evolution of a united Europe which could serve as a needed neutral barrier between the two war camps.
Opposition to the two war camps does not, in my opinion, carry with it any dogmatic refusal to see a limited merit in negotiations, summitry, disarmament conferences, etc. More important, socialists need to take a more positive attitude toward the United Nations as against the militant, and justifiable, opposition of socialists in earlier days to the League of Nations. The UN can provide at least temporary compromises in many specific areas of conflict that might otherwise erupt into total war. And the United Nations also offers the means for neutralist and unaligned nations to coalesce into a more effective counterweight to the two imperialist camps.
Socialism, as opposition to the two war camps, is not fed by theoretical considerations alone. It is confirmed by the experiences of two wars and reinforced by the unique character of the Cold War. It is with such questions that I am primarily concerned in the rest of this article.
IN 1914, RIGHT WING FRENCH socialists rallied to the Tricolor to stamp out the militarism of the Hohenzollerns – necessary, they said, for the victory of European socialism. Right Wing German Social Democrats preferred a Kaiser-led industrial nation to a Czarist-led semi-feudal despotism and they goosestepped to their death with Marx’s earlier call for a German crusade against the Romanoffs inscribed on their banner.
As it turned out, the Kaiser was overthrown, but not by the French socialists; the Czar fell, but not at the hands of German “Marxists.” Instead, the glorious strains of the Marseillaise and the imperious tones of Deutschland Über Alles were subdued by the realities of a four year long war with its toll of 12 million dead. The rewards the living inherited from the dead: a twenty year interregnum, between Versailles and the Blitzkrieg; highlighted by Entente efforts to destroy the Russian Revolution, imperialist penetration of the Ruhr, mass unemployment in Europe, a crippling economic crisis in the United States, the rise of Hitlerism and the consolidation of Stalinist counterrevolution.
In World War II the tragedy was repeated as the world socialist movement rallied to the war of “democracy against fascism,” Many pro-war socialists in the second war conceded that pro-war socialism was wrong during the first war. But that war was different, it was argued. And much. of what they said was true. In 1914-1918 there was, indeed, little to choose from. One would be hard put to prove that had Wilhelm dictated the peace to Clemenceau the world would have been a sorrier place to live in. There was no similar balance of evil in the Second World War. Had the Blitzkrieg achieved its objectives, Europe would have been subjected to forms of savagery that only Hitlerite or Communist societies seem capable of inflicting. However, the small pockets of socialists who remained in political opposition during the last war did not base their opposition on any false equation of the Allied forces to the Nazis, or deny that it would make a difference who won. Instead, socialist opposition reflected a profound disbelief that capitalist governments – in alliance with a Stalinist system not a whit less brutal than Hitlerism – could produce a victory that would bring either peace or freedom. The war, it had to be said, was not a war for democracy, the peace would be neither stable nor democratic. Socialists could rightly give no political endorsement to the “lesser evil” and were obliged to resist all efforts to subordinate the interests of the people – the no-strike pledge, for example – in the name of a united war effort.
Seventeen years have passed since the second crusade concluded with a peace signed in Potsdam no less cynical than the one signed in Versailles, and with another peace treaty sealed by the fiendish blasts in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. (Is Truman any less a war criminal than those who faced the Nuremberg tribunal?)
Among the rewards of both V-Days –
The Cold War began before the shooting war ended, and erupted in the bloody Korean conflict.
- Nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population is now under direct totalitarian control.
- The West remains reactionary and inept, even with the leadership of the liberal politician, Kennedy, who extends his New Frontier to the Bay of Pigs with the blessings of liberal statesman Adlai Stevenson (a fact that seems to carry less weight with liberal intellectuals than Stevenson’s ability to quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald).
- Many newly emerged and neutralist nations are compromising them selves as their ruling elites, gravitate toward the totalitarian camp in world affairs and to authoritarianism at home in the absence of a dynamic, democratic counterpull in the West.
- The socialist movement today is confused and disorganized. It does not understand the nature of Communism; in it, apologias for Communism abound along with parallel distortions of the democratic and humanist content of socialism. This is, in large measure, the responsibility of socialists who supported the war and either toned down their opposition to Stalinism, at best, or benignly embraced the big Russian bear, at worst.
- As topping to these fruits of “victory,” the human race is now threatened with annihilation by all the victors in the war for democracy.
IF REASON PREVAILED, this aftermath to World War II would inspire some soul-searching, loss of equanimity, embarrassment or similar human reaction among those socialists who contemptuously dismissed their anti-war opponents; at the very least, some hesitation before taking up the intellectual cudgels in the name of Western democracies and once again trying to overwhelm radicals who do not share their enthusiasms. Apparently, human nature is as perverse as politics is illogical; for the same style, the same rationalizations and often the same voices are again raised to rally support for the democratic capitalist war camp against the totalitarian enemy.
Take the case of Sidney Hook, the most effective exponent in radical circles of pro-war socialism in the last war who writes without perturbation about the justice of his position then and the need to rally to the West today.
In a recent article in Partisan Review, Hook – who interests us only as a prototype of a school of thought – presents a more explicit picture of his own. ideas on the Cold War. It is worth some examination.
It is Hook’s wont to hurl logical thunderbolts at artificially created targets. He writes, for example, that “it is the sheerest dogmatism to predict that all life and civilization will be destroyed” in a nuclear war. Actually, few “predict” that “all life and civilization” will be destroyed. But so much life will be destroyed that it raises the spectre of annihilation; and civilization will be disfigured, possibly obliterated. In Cold War dialect, he continues with broadsides against “the assorted groups of pacifists, unilateralists and indifferentists [!] who are so intent on peace that they would sacrifice our freedom for it” and follows through with vulgarities such as the admonition to opponents to “cease the macabre death mongering which exaggerates all dangers beyond measure.” (“Death mongering”! A fine contribution to the Cold War vocabulary.)
There is political method to minimizing the effects of nuclear war; it is ideological softening for its possible occurrence. As Hook notes in one ominous euphemism: “... mankind has often paid a heavy cost in defence of freedom.”
But what if the defense of freedom heralds the end of civilization? Then the operational consequences, to borrow a phrase, of supporting the “lesser evil” in a nuclear war, is hardly distinguishable from supporting either the greater evil or neither side. The easiest way out of the dilemma is simply to pooh-pooh those who foresee unimaginable destruction as “sheerest dogmatists” and “death mongerers.” That way, nuclear deterrent socialists can evade the responsibility of thinking through the special and unique problems raised by the new technology of nuclear weapons.
In the opening sentence of this Western clarion call, Hook tells what the Cold War is, and is not, all about: “What is at stake in the cold war is not free enterprise but human freedom ... the same cluster of freedoms which the West defended against Hitler.” The assertion that what is at stake “is not free enterprise” can only provide either the extreme of mirth or panic among Hook’s devotees in the State Department. Of course free enterprise is at stake. As for “human freedom,” that and more is certainly at stake; but the question remains whether it can best be defended by supporting either side in the Cold War.
Hook, of course, believes that defense of human freedom means defense of the West and to reinforce the virtue of his side, he writes that “in almost every respect, the state of freedom and public welfare today in the West is far healthier than when we resisted Hitler.” Here, the issue is begged, for even if the state of the Western world is more agreeable than twenty years ago-and this needs qualifying – the real problem resides in the fact that this so-called free world’s domain of political influence is rapidly shrinking and the Communists’ expanding.
Hook’s passion for the West blinds him when he writes:
It is sometimes said that the West is fearful of disarming not so much because it distrusts Soviet bona fides but because it shrinks from peaceful competition on. the ideological, economic and social plane. I can find no warrant for this statement. Why should we fear such competition? (Emphasis mine.)
Here, reality is totally by-passed; the character of the Cold War completely missed. Someone should inform Hook that “we” do fear ideological competition with the Russians because “we” are losing it And the warrants for this statement are everywhere – in the events in Indonesia, Indochina, Cuba, India, and most of the newly emerging nations of Africa – among millions of people in all the continents who have repudiated the West arid either favor or tolerate the Communist East, The ideological successes of Communism are yet more pervasive than this, manifested in a widespread mood and politics, that can be defined as neo-Stalinoidism.
Despite Russia’s totalitarian structure, her empire, the Hungarian suppression, Berlin brinkmanship, unilateral resumption of atmospheric testing, the Kremlin overcomes temporary reverses and its popularity continues. Its successes are not due solely to its achievements or propaganda skill; they relate no less to the nature of the enemy. The Kremlin finds it relatively easy to project its false counter image as a progressive, socialist alternative to the decadent, unimaginative, capitalist, imperialist West. In this sense, Hook notwithstanding, the Kremlin needs the West as a lever to advance its own imperialist designs.
It should be added that in the sense that the Kremlin needs the West, apologists for Russia need men like Sidney Hook for opponents. They would have a field day in vague liberal and non-conformist circles if. all they had to contend with were the nuclear-deterrent socialists.
THE FREEDOMS THAT DO EXIST here are indeed precious, and the West is certainly preferable to the East. Precisely for these reasons it is impermissible for socialists to defend a West that cannot defend either itself or its freedom in ideological and political competition with totalitarianism.
Since the end of the war we have had a moderate Democrat in the While House, followed by a liberal Republican and now a liberal Democratic President. Under all three, we have seen foreign policies that are reactionary, dishonest, hypocritical, imperialist: brinkmanship, support to dictators, bigger bombs, nuclear threats, a war in Korea, several troop landings in Asia, a sponsored invasion in Cuba. Even with the Alliance for Progress, capitalism cannot execute its beneficence with dispatch or without political and economic stipulations.
Of the three administrations, the present is the most dangerous from the point of view of global peace. Consider some of the accomplishments of the Kennedy administration, surrounded as the President is with authors, poets, lecturers, theoreticians – some of the best brains in the country, I am told.
The Cuban invasion. This imperialist crime, conceived under Eisenhower but consummated by Kennedy, only served to disorganize the forces of democratic resistance to Castro and provided a propaganda bonanza to the Kremlin.
With the Cuban disaster still fresh in everyone’s mind, Kennedy turned his attention to Laos, Here, the administration was all set to intervene directly with American troops in Laotian jungles to defend a corrupt ally from the Russian backed, Communist-led Pathet Lao guerrillas. And, as recently revealed, Kennedy was – prepared to make this move although he knew it might very well bring on a nuclear war.
In Vietnam the corrupt Ngo Dinh Diem regime, which would never survive a free election, is propped up militarily by an American government whose policies have succeeded only in driving native neutralist forces toward the Communist camp. The Communist Viet Cong, fighting American trained and equipped troops, may well find themselves fighting specially trained GIs: Kennedy has personally spurred the program for training thousands of troops in this country in guerrilla and jungle warfare. Thus the anomaly of American troops training here – thousands are already in Vietnam – in preparation for armed intervention in distant lands to fight in defense of hated dictatorships against “subversive” Communist troops recruited from among the native population. This, some nuclear deterrent socialists tell us is part of the struggle, not for free enterprise but for the defense of human freedom.
Where nuclear strategy and disarmament are concerned, Eisenhower at least gave a verbal commitment that the US would never be the first to drop the bomb. And it is possible that he meant it. Kennedy has reversed this policy and made it clear that the United States is prepared to use the bomb first. “In some circumstances,” Kennedy told reporter Stewart Alsop, “we might have to take the initiative [in dropping the Bomb]”. In the same vein: “in some circumstances we must be prepared to use the nuclear weapon at the start, come what may.”
What happens to nuclear deterrent socialism’s enthusiasm for the West now that nuclear weapons as a deterrent strategy has grafted onto it the threat – “in some circumstances” – of nuclear aggression?
Both camps propose world nuclear disarmament. But each has a pretext for not moving in that direction. The Americans insist upon inspection teams to guarantee against weapons’ testing in violation of a disarmament treaty. The Russians reply that this is only a trick to get spies into Russia and, anyway, inspection teams are not necessary since there are now devices which can detect atmospheric explosions, even smaller underground blasts. The evidence mounts that the Russians are right about the superfluousness of inspection teams. And they are right when they cite this as evidence that the United States does not really want disarmament. America would rather rely on its nuclear striking power and the threat of nuclear aggression to achieve political objectives.
Of course, the Russians fear disarmament, too. The Kremlin feels less threatened, in fact, by inspection than loss of its big bombs. The Geneva conference provides the rare spectacle of Russians and Americans voting together to defeat the neutral nations’ proposals that both Great Powers agree to a prohibition of launching nuclear weapons into space. Geneva is for manoeuvring, not disarming.
THE SOLUTION TO AMERICA’S reactionary foreign policy transcends electing either a Republican or Democratic administration with a better foreign policy. Most of Ike’s babbits have been, removed from Washington; bright young liberal professors and sophisticates have taken their place – and the change has been for the worse. Nevertheless, there are socialists, who do not share Hook’s chauvinism but still identify with the West in the absence of a viable socialist camp. It is possible, they say, that a genuinely liberal, although capitalist, administration could come up with a democratic and appealing response to the totalitarian threat. But the evidence is already in, sampled above, that the limits to what a brainier President, scholarly advisors, energetic and clever diplomats can do are set by the system to which they are committed. Capitalist policies can vary, of course, some may be better than others, but the degree of flexibility of capitalist politics in the Cold War is established by the nature of the beast that is being defended. Not only does Capitalism as an abstract economic and social system delimit its democratic anti-totalitarian potential, but American capitalism is singularly handicapped given its distinctive historical origins and evolution which has made of it a uniquely primitive, narrow, unthinking, violent class.
What is called for in Washington is an administration that consistently fights against all forms of imperialism; that shows respect for the rights of other people; that promotes democratic movements abroad and sets the democratic example at home; that is capable of making an effective political appeal to the oppressed peoples behind the Iron Curtain; that is really for a unified Germany and prepared to disengage its troops in Western Europe; that is ready to give assistance without strings attached to underdeveloped countries.
To believe that an American capitalist government – even a good Democratic one-is capable of such a course is the height of self-deception.
What is more, an effective political war against totalitarianism – in Asia, Africa and for the peoples under Kremlin rule – has as its precondition the positing of an alternative to capitalism. This is not theory but a fact proven by the trend in newly emerging nations and by the direction of the Hungarian revolution. No matter how sophisticated a capitalist administration in Washington, it is hardly going to champion social alternatives to capitalism, i.e., to itself, in the interest of a democratic political war against Communism. That is why the needs of peace and freedom and practical politics requires socialists to clearly separate themselves from the framework of capitalist politics and contribute their energies to the realization of a democratic Third Camp, opposed to the camps of capitalism and Communism.
LEFT WING SOCIALISTS CAN NO longer afford to dismiss pacifism as a “utopian tendency” that “sows illusions” and is therefore “socially reactionary.” In the US the recent growth of the pacifist and the broader peace movement (the two are not synonymous) calls for a positive response on the part of socialists. (In Europe, there are large socialist movements, and for all their flabbiness and compromises, they do have the possibility of emerging as significant socialist-peace movements. In the United States, by contrast, there is no socialist movement while a large peace movement is evolving and organized pacifist groups accrue strength.) No less important is that pacifism is made relevant by the new nuclear technology which makes war unthinkable.
A positive response does not mean relinquishing socialist criticisms; a movement that is just for “peace” is inadequate. In a sense it is even more Utopian today than, say, forty years ago. The reason for this resides in the different character of international rivalries today compared to the earlier period.
During the early part of the century, international alliances were fluid. A year before the outbreak of World War I one could not predict with certainty on which side of the trenches in the impending war all the great powers would be aligned. This element of uncertainty is alien to the Cold War. For all the maneuvering within each bloc, we know in advance which great powers will be on which side in the event of war. Also, in World War I, to a lesser extent in World War II, the warring nations were relatively secure as social and national entities regardless of the outcome. This time the vanquished will belong to the victor, the East will swallow the West or the West absorb the East – assuming that anything is left of either. The reason for this is that the struggle is between two competing and irreconcilable social systems; if you will, it is a class struggle, no mere contest between cynical politicians with insatiable imperialist appetites. Summitry can relieve Cold War tensions but never free the world of the special anxieties and threat of war as long as capitalism and Communism remain.
Recognition of this new, permanent character of international rivalries must be a starting point for any movement dedicated to peace and freedom. It is at the starting point, unfortunately, that pacifism reveals its inner weaknesses, For, in the main, the pacifist solution emanates from moral absolutes at the expense of probing in any depth the nature of the Cold War. It is a, Western phenomenon that responds too exclusively to the imperialism visible to it in the West, failing to assess properly the fact that in the East pacifists would be treated as criminals. It is a terrible tribute to the ideological force of Communism to admit, therefore, that where Russia is concerned whole sections of the pacifist movement have been neutralized. From this neutrality many individual pacifists, in violation of their own moral precepts, become victims of the ideological pressures of the Cold War and shift into a school of apologetics for Communist foreign policy. The process does not always end with rationalizations for Russian strategy and lopsided presentations of American culpability; Communism as a social system begins to look more acceptable, even appealing, to some. The ultimate absurdity of this devolution can be seen when one wing of American pacifism – morally opposed to all forms, of force and violence – becomes militant Fidelista and abuses other radicals and pacifists who resent this posture, describing them, in Stalinist fashion, as supporters of American imperialism.
ONE MAJOR MISCONCEPTION about Russia which disorients many pacifists and radicals (non-radicals, too) needs to be dealt with briefly. This is the all too common view that as Russia liberalizes internally, its foreign policy grows more flexible, the Kremlin’s new rulers become more susceptible to reason, willing to negotiate differences, to compromise and, most generally, shed themselves of the aggressive methods and imperialist ambitions of Stalin.
The theory is wrong from beginning to end. The reforms in Russia are real and welcome; but they must also he understood. The reforms are not only consistent with imperialism but further impel economic and political penetration of areas of which Stalin never even heard.
The Communist ruling class in Russia did not spring full blown from Stalin’s brow. It had neither a history nor a clear initial purpose. But the early Stalinist cadres understood that to consolidate their power in the Communist Party they had to dispose of active and potential opponents at home. And to establish their economic base, they had to industrialize Russia the only way they could – through force and terror. Both tasks required Russia’s peaceful co-existence with the rest of the world. Stalin could not carry on a war on two fronts: against the people at home and against capitalism abroad. That was the real meaning of Stalin’s theory of “socialism in one country” and that is why it was Stalin, not Khrushchev, who first promoted the phrase “co-existence with capitalism” (Stalin wrote a booklet called Peaceful Coexistence) and applied that policy even in a period when the term was not in fashion.
Stalin’s ruthlessness was matched by his xenophobia; his concern was Russia and to consolidate Party and state hierarchies over which he would rule supreme, he was prepared to make concessions to foreign capitalist powers that Khrushchev would not dream of making today.
Stalin ordered the French Communist Party to vote for war credits to help secure a treaty with French imperialism. He ordered the American Communist Party to extend its “hand of friendship to J.P. Morgan” to advance Russian-American friendship. Earlier, he averted revolutionary situations from coming to a head in Germany and China to keep other centers of world Communism from developing and to maintain the peaceful status quo he needed for building “socialism in one country.” He held the Communist Party in check on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power; better Hitler than a revolutionary upset to Europe’s peace. Seven years later he sought salvation via his infamous pact with Hitler.
This was Stalin’s policy of peaceful co-existence until the war. After the war Russia descended upon the world scene like a poisonous vapor, driven by the winds of new political and economic ambitions. Through systematic plundering of its possessions in East Europe, Russia’s economy was rebuilt. A detente followed Stalin’s death with the ascension of Matenkov. With the rise of Khrushchev and the subsequent de-Stalinization, Russian imperialism took on new vigor. The ruling class not only continued to guard the initial foreign conquests made under Stalin (with the generous assists from Churchill and Roosevelt) but accelerated the drive to penetrate politically the colonial and semi-colonial world. It needed to expand its spheres of influence to satisfy the new needs of the economy, to raise the living standards of the Russian people, to increase the economic, political and moral well-being of the ruling class as a whole; and Khrushchev, particularly, needed victories outside of Russia to increase the power of the Party apparatus, and sustain his authority in it.
Reforms in Russia, then, did not reduce Russia’s imperialist appetites; they whetted them. Khrushchev’s diplomatic style, of course, is different from Stalin’s; it is also more effective. At any rate, imperialism is less a matter of style than the direct or indirect subordination of the interests of weaker peoples to stronger nations.
Where, concretely, are the signs that Khrushchev the “reformer” is less imperialistic than Stalin, the oriental despot? Khrushchev has abandoned none of Russia’s possessions, and has not the slightest intention of doing so. Hungary made that quite clear. And his imperial visions extend to continents never explored by Stalin.
Other evidence of the new, intensive and dynamic form of Russian imperialism today is the manner in which the Kremlin is economically integrating and incorporating East Europe through the instrumentality of COMECON , a dead letter under Stalin but most alive today. It is an extraordinarily interesting and important development. It tells us much about Russia as an imperialist power, what Khrushchev means by peaceful co-existence and the limits of reform. It is a pity that those who seek – with the best of motives – their own form of personal political co-existence with the totalitarian monolith seldom concern themselves with such details.
THE NOTION THAT RUSSIA is not a dynamically driven, pugnacious, imperialist society is often invested in a reactionary version of “co-existence” that has never been made more explicity, to my knowledge, then in Erich Fromm’s book, May Man Prevail? Fromm writes:
What, then, is the realistic basis for an American-Russian understanding? Actually, the answer is eminently simple. The basis is the mutual recognition of the status quo, the mutual agreement not to change the existing balance of power between the two blocs. (Emphasis in the original.)
The answer may be eminently simple; it is certainly unreal and blessedly so.
What Fromm proposes is a chemically pure imperialist solution: in effect, representatives of the two war camps sit around the table fingering an enormous globe and saying to one another: this part for you, this for me.
But what about the people? They might prefer to be on a side other than the one to which they have been assigned, or, hopefully, on neither side.
The cynicism of this plan is more apparent in relation to the Russian camp than for the West. Russia has a vast empire in East Germany, East Europe, the Balkans and Baltics, whose peoples yearn for release from the totalitarian oppressor. With this plan they are doomed. But their national aspirations have been intensified by the reforms in Russia and in the satellites. What is Fromm’s solution, given his scheme, for another Hungary or Poland that makes a break for freedom? The answer is inescapable, though it is not made this explicit; suppression, as in 1956, for the greater good of maintaining the status quo.
We might also ask how the neutral nations would fare? Are they obliged to give up their neutrality – by force if necessary – in this operation? And if they are to be permitted their freedom of action what happens to the status quo if they express a preference for one camp as against the other or grow more militant in their neutrality, more competitive, economically and politically, with either of the frozen spheres?
What is ironical about this proposal is that it denies the real hope for peace coming from the East. That hope is not in Khrushchev’s reforms but in the enormous discontent brewing in the empire, released, paradoxically, by the de-Stalinization. This discontent in the Communist world from below, and the schism in the Communist world from above, each in its own way, opens up the possibility of the internal collapse of totalitarianism. It is such developments which should give us heart and need our encouragement – not imperialist panaceas which condemn mankind to either Communism or capitalism.
WHATEVER THE DIFFERENCES among socialists in the first and second World Wars, they shared the assumption that socialism could influence the course of the war and the war affect the future of socialism. A similar brief cannot be made for the relevance of socialism during all-out nuclear war. Whoever survives the holocaust will be confronted with problems of physical existence and social organization on such primitive levels that discussion of a postwar possibility for socialism strikes this writer as absurd on the face of it.
But if socialism is to be relevant today it must present a policy for peace and freedom. Peaceful solutions can be offered short of freedom but they can not be socialist solutions (nor do I believe they can assure peace) because socialism is freedom and a policy which denies freedom, denies socialism.
1. Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, organized by Stalin in 1949 to help, presumably, the economies of Russia and her satellites.
Last updated: 21 February 2010