J. V. Stalin

Coexistence, American-Soviet Cooperation, Atomic Energy, Europe

April 9, 1947

Source: For Peaceful Coexistence: Post War Interviews
Publisher: International Publishers, New York, 1951
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid

[Interview with Harold Stassen, April 9, 1947]

Stassen: Generalissimo Stalin, on this European trip I am particularly interested in studying conditions of an economic nature. In this regard, of course, the relations of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. are very important. I realize that we have two economic systems that are very different. The U.S.S.R. with the Communist Party and with its planned economy and socialized collective state, and the United States of America with its free economy and regulated private capitalism are very different. I would be interested to know if you think these two economic systems can exist together in the same modern world in harmony with each other?

Stalin: Of course they can. The difference between them is not important so far as co-operation is concerned. The systems in Germany and the United States are the same but war broke out between them. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. systems are different but we didn’t wage war against each other and the U.S.S.R. does not propose to. If during the war they could co-operate, why can’t they today in peace, given the wish to co-operate? Of course, if there is no desire to co-operate, even with the same economic system they may fall out as was the case with Germany.

Stassen: I believe, of course, that they can co-operate if they both have the desire to, but there have been many statements about not being able to co-operate. Some of these were made by the Generalissimo himself before the war. But is it possible, now that the fascist axis has been defeated, that the situation has changed?

Stalin: It’s not possible that I said that the two economic systems could not co-operate. Co-operation ideas were expressed by Lenin. I might have said that one system was reluctant to co-operate, but that concerned only one side. But as to the possibility of co-operation, I adhere to Lenin who expressed both the possibility and the desire of co-operation. As to the desire of the people to co-operate on the part of the U.S.S.R. and the Party, it is possible—and the two countries could only benefit by this co-operation.

Stassen: That last part is clear. The statements I referred to are those made by you at the Eighteenth Communist Party Congress in 1939 and the plenary session in 1937—statements about capitalist encirclement and monopoly. I assume from your statement now that the defeat of fascist Germany and Japan has not charged that situation.

Stalin:There was not a single Party congress or plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party at which I said or could have said that co-operation between the two systems was impossible. I did say that there existed capitalist encirclement and danger of attack on the U.S.S.R. If one party does not wish to co-operate, then that means there exists a threat of attack. And actually Germany, not wishing to co-operate with the U.S.S.R., attacked the U.S.S.R. Could the U.S.S.R, have co-operated with Germany? Yes, the U.S.S.R. could have cooperated with Germany but the Germans did not wish to co-operate. Otherwise the U.S.S.R. could have co-operated with Germany as with any other country. As you see, this concerns the sphere of desire and not the possibility of co-operating. It is necessary to make a distinction between the possibility; of co-operating and the wish to co-operate. The possibility of co-operation always exists but there is not always present the wish to co-operate. If one party does not wish to co-operate, then the result will be conflict, war.

Stassen: It must be mutual.

Stalin: Yes. I want to bear testimony to the fact that Russia wants to co-operate.

Stassen: I wish to point out with reference to your earlier statement that there was a great difference between Germany and the United States at the time Germany started the war.

Stalin: There was a difference in government but no difference in the economic systems. The government was a temporary factor.

Stassen: I do not agree. Yes, there was a difference of economic systems too. Imperialism, the development of state monopoly, and the oppression of workers are the evils of capitalism practiced by the Nazis. It seems to me we have been successful in America in preventing the monopoly of capitalism and the imperialistic trend, and that the workers have made greater progress through use of the strength of their vote and their freedom than Karl Marx or Frederick Engels thought they could make-and this regulation of free capital and prevention of monopoly and freedom of workers in America makes the economic situation quite different from that which existed in Germany.

Stalin: Let us not mutually criticize our systems. Everyone has the right to follow the system he wants to maintain. Which one is better will be said by history. We should respect the systems chosen by the people, and whether the system is good or bad is the business of the American people. To co-operate, one does not need the same systems. One should respect the other system when approved by the people. Only on this basis can we secure co-operation. Only, if we criticize, it will lead us too far.

As for Marx and Engels, they were unable to foresee what would happen forty years after their death. But we should adhere to mutual respect of people. Some people call the Soviet system totalitarian. Our people call the American system monopoly capitalism. If we start calling each other names with the words monopolist and totalitarian, it will lead to no co-operation.

We must start from the historical fact that there are two systems approved by the people. Only on that basis is co-operation possible. If we distract each other with criticism, that is propaganda.

As to propaganda, I am not a propagandist but a business-like man. We should not be sectarian. When the people wish to change the systems they will do so. When we met with Roosevelt to discuss the questions of war, we did not call each other names. We established co-operation and succeeded in defeating the enemy.

Stassen: That sort of criticism has been a cause of misunderstanding after the war. Do you look forward in the future to a greater exchange of ideas and news, of students and teachers, of artists, of tourists, if there is co-operation?

Stalin: This will happen inevitably if co-operation is established. For an exchange of goods will lead to an exchange of people. . . .

Stassen: As I see it, then, you think it is possible that there will be co-operation provided there is a will and desire to co-operate. Stalin: That is correct.

Stassen: In the development of the standards of living of the people, mechanization and electrification have been of major significance. The new development of atomic energy is of very great importance to all peoples of the world. I feel that the matter of international inspection, effective controls and outlawing the use for war of atomic energy is of supreme importance to all peoples of the world. Do you feel that there is a reasonable prospect of working out agreements for the long-term future for the peaceful development of atomic energy?

Stalin: I hope for this. There are big differences of views among us, but in the long run I hope we shall come to an understanding. International control and inspection will be established, in any view, and it will be of great importance. The peaceful use of atomic energy will bring great technological changes. It is a very great matter. As for the use of atomic energy for war purposes, this in all probability will be prohibited. It will be a problem in the long run that will be met by the consciences of the people and it will be prohibited.

Stassen: Yes, that is one of our important problems and if solved it can be a great boon—and if not, a great curse to the people of the world.

Stalin: I think we shall succeed in establishing international inspection and control. Things are leading up to it.

Stassen: I appreciate the opportunity of talking with you.

(The interview had now lasted forty minutes and Stassen prepared to take his leave. However, Stalin indicated a willingness to continue the discussion. The remainder of the conversation dealt with prevailing economic conditions in Europe and the United States.—Ed.)