Who are the Russians?1
Revilo P. Oliver
EVERY AMERICAN carries in his mind a picture or a filmstrip labeled “the Russians,” and those pictures largely determine his opinions on some of the most important problems of national strategy.
The present military and economic strength of the Communist Conspiracy is almost entirely concentrated in the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union is, for all practical purposes, Russia. Now if we assume (and it is far from certain) that the Soviet Union has the equipment necessary to begin an open war with the United States, the likelihood that the Kremlin would risk such a war in any circumstances depends, for the most part, on the character of the Russian people. Would they rise in almost unanimous revolt against their Communist masters at the first opportunity? Or would they support or passively accept the Red régime knowing that the Kremlin would send the bulk of its armed forces into the satellite countries to quell or forestall revolts? And if the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes, where, precisely, does it lie?
The question is not confined to what would happen in the event of war. If the American people succeed in somehow obtaining a government in Washington that will act to defend the United States, one of the first questions to arise will be whether it is worthwhile to direct propaganda at, or to encourage subversive movements among, the Russians. If so, whom should we encourage and how should we try to persuade? That, again, is a question of what the Russians “are really like.”
There have been many attempts to answer that question – many more than any one man could conceivably find the time to read. One of the most convincing, and probably the one most widely known in this country, is Eugene Lyons’ Our Secret Allies (New York, 1953; now published by Meredith Press, Des Moines, Iowa; 376 pages $4.50). An important new work on this matter has just been published; Arsène de Goulévitch’s CZARISM AND REVOLUTION, translated from the French by N. J. Couriss (Omni Publications, Hawthorne, California; c. 272 pages, $4.00).
The author was born in Russia in 1900, fought in the loyal Air Force against the Communists in 1918, and served with the French armed forces during the Second World War. He now edits Exil et Liberté, the monthly publication of the International de la Liberté in Paris, an organization which seeks to coordinate the efforts of all anti-Communists from countries now held by the Conspiracy. (This journal, by the way, was the first to disclose, in July 1954, the interesting fact that Hitler’s “expert” on Ukrainian affairs, Alexander Sevriuk, was a Communist agent planted in the German service by Hitler’s Chief of Intelligence, Admiral Canaris. The Admiral is now known to have been a traitor and, in all probability, a Communist agent himself.)
M. de Goulévitch writes primarily to correct common misconceptions concerning (1) the Czarist régime, (2) the Bolshevik conquest of Russia, and (3) the nature of the Russian people. Since both he and Mr. Lyons were born in Russia and lived there for considerable periods of time, but have distinctly divergent political sympathies, the substantial agreement of the two authors on almost all essentials makes the two books corroborate one another.
A NATION’S CHARACTER is evinced by its history, and its history, in turn, to some extent moulds its character. Many an American’s conception of Czarist Russia has been formed by the purplish prose of Edgar Saltus’ Imperial Orgy. There is also a large residue left by the campaign of frantically anti-Czarist propaganda in the American press during the early years of the present-century agitation over an issue that will seem almost unbelievable to most of our contemporaries, who do not even know that half a century ago Americans could travel in almost any part of the world without a passport. Americans were so proud of their nationality that some felt that no nation in the world should presume to close its borders for any reason to even the most recently and superficially naturalized American citizen. Although the issue has been long forgotten, the propaganda for which it provided an occasion has left in the minds of many a grotesque picture of Czarist Russia as a nightmarish realm of oppression and terror that was not much better than Soviet Russia today.
Although the earlier history of Russia abounds with the horrors typical of Oriental despotism, the régime of the Czars after the accession of Alexander II in 1855 was unquestionably benevolent in intention and usually mild in practice. The events which aroused indignation in the United States fifty years ago seem so trivial today that no newspaper would devote a line to them. Our contemporaries, indeed, will find it difficult to believe that it was possible for some Americans to wax wroth over the “sad plight” of two or three hundred Russians, convicted of revolutionary conspiracy. They were exiled for a few years to towns in Siberia, where they were restricted so little that almost anyone who wished (e.g. Bronstein, alias Trotsky) had little difficulty in escaping abroad. Almost anyone who chose to remain (e.g. Ulyanov, alias Lenin) was able to rent a fairly comfortable house or apartment, install his family, and, if he found hunting, fishing, and local society insufficient to occupy his time, settle down to writing books. It is true that the exiles sometimes had to undergo unwonted hardships: it is recorded that Ulyanov’s mistress and fellow conspirator, who accompanied him to Siberia and there married him, had to do housework for several days when her maid left without warning and a suitable replacement could not immediately be found. But the tale of such hardships will moisten few eyes today; we are a hard-hearted generation.
It would be easy to reverse the old indictment and condemn the Czarist régime for excessive leniency and famous humanitarianism. In well-governed countries, criminals who commit murder while robbing banks (e.g. Dzhugashvili, alias Stalin) are promptly executed and society is thus saved from further depredations. But in Russia, where silly sentimentalists had abolished capital punishment even for murder, criminals were exiled to Siberia. And even when they escaped five times (as did Dzhugashvili) to resume their criminal careers, the Czars, who had no Alcatraz, patiently sent them back. Such laxity was indeed deplorable.
Mr. Lyons, who was interested only in showing hat the worst that could reasonably be alleged against the Czarist régime was the merest trifle in comparison with the normal procedures of the Bolsheviks, gave little space in his book to Imperial Russia. M. de Goulévitch’s primary concern is to vindicate the native Russian form of government, and he accordingly describes in some detail the whole political and social system. His presentation is effective, but he has overlooked one or two points that would have given added weight. He shows that the industrialization of Russia and development of her natural resources was the work of the Czars. But, he would have done well to extend his statistics to make it clear to the reader that the Bolsheviks were not able to reach the Czarist levels of production until some years after Franklin Roosevelt began to pump in American resources to save the criminals. And I should suppose that, for the average reader, nothing that can be said on behalf of the Czarist régime would be quite so convincing as the simple statistic that around the turn of the century emigration from Russia (largely to the United States) was about balanced by immigration into Russia, chiefly from Europe.
On the other hand, M. de Goulévitch’s book, as his translator remarks, “somewhat resembles a speech by defending counsel.” He sometimes overstates his case, somewhat in the manner of an inexperienced attorney. In his eagerness to refute the silly notion that Soviet policies are just a continuation of Russian imperialism, he claims that Czarist Russia had no imperialistic ambitions at all. And, he even tries to resurrect the old myth that the First World War was planned and contrived by the sinister forces of “Prussian militarism.” However the main outlines of the historical record are clear and well-known. Responsibility for the catastrophic and fratricidal madness that swept over Europe in 1914 must fall on many shoulders, including those of professedly “idealistic” politicians in France and England. The Czar and his advisers (who thrice deceived him) cannot escape a share of the responsibility distinctly greater than that which falls on the German government.
M. de Goulévitch is equally inept when he advances the claim that the régime of the Czars was “democratic” because it represented the “will of the people” and maintained an “open society” in which persons of the humblest origin could be educated at government expense and attain the highest offices. That abuses language in the manner of the Schlesingers, Salingers, and other official manufacturers of boob-bait in the United States.
The government of Russia was an unlimited autocracy until 1905, when it became, as was made clear by official definition (e.g. in the Almanach de Gotha for 1910), an autocracy voluntarily limited by the autocrat during his own good pleasure. Some local activities, which our author carefully enumerates, were permitted. All effective power was concentrated in the central government, by which the whole of Russia was so administered that nothing of importance anywhere could be done without its permission. Hence practically nothing was ever done except on initiative from St. Petersburg. It is true that Nicholas II and his immediate predecessors were benevolent men and did not have to worry about buying votes from suckers, but their government was essentially the same as that which our “Fabian Socialists” and their allies are trying to fasten upon us. It is also true that the Russian bureaucracy was far less numerous, and probably had better intentions, than the hordes of arrogant and cunning little men whom we now pay to kick us around and drive us into our stalls. We must admit that the Russian bureaucracy never dared, and perhaps never wished, to enact scenes such as those now commonplace in our country, where gangs from Washington frequently descend on American farmers and confiscate their property to teach them that they have become serfs. They dare not grow even a blade of wheat without permission from their masters. But at the very least, the rule of the Czars had the defects and evils that are inherent in every centralized government. And no American mindful of his heritage can contemplate such despotism with other than repugnance so long as it is presented as a political form that might be applicable to himself.
M. de Goulévitch would have done well to eschew sophistries about “democracy,” and to confine himself to his other argument for the defense. No one would dispute the evidence that he cites to prove “our historical development differs from that of the West.” The very facts of that development strongly support the conclusion that it is “the salient characteristic of our race to venerate an individual as the incarnation of executive power. If that is true, then M. de Goulévitch is right when he says that Russians “stand more in need of authority and discipline” than some other peoples, and that for a Russian “to be led is a necessity.” On this basis it can be argued very cogently that the régime of the Czars was the best régime possible for the inhabitants of Russia in the circumstances. And the author should not have been afraid to rely on that argument. Few Americans today – at least among those who can read books – are so ignorant as to suppose that all the peoples of the world are like themselves or think in the same way.
MR. LYONS and M. de Goulévitch differ markedly in their attitude toward the preliminary revolution of March 1917. The former regards the Kerenski government as “the first democratic society in Russian history,” as it doubtless was in the intention of some of the participants. M. de Goulévitch regards it as a flimsy façade that served only to cover the Bolsheviks while they prepared to capture the state – which is what it was historically. The two authors differ as greatly in their view of the White Russians, who fought long and valiantly against the Communists. Mr. Lyons, although admitting that they were infinitely preferable to their adversaries, has scant sympathy for them, while M. de Goulévitch argues that they, as the legitímate government of Russia, had a moral right to all possible support from Russia’s allies in the war. We need not argue the moral claim, for it is abundantly clear that the governments of at least France, England, and the United States were obligated by their own national interests to prevent the Communist Conspiracy from capturing one-sixth of the inhabited globe.
In their descriptions of the Bolshevik conquest, the two authors are in complete agreement on every important point Russia was captured by a tiny gang of incredibly vicious and inhumanly depraved criminals. The largest nation on earth, in terms of territory, was captured by a few degenerates, just as a robust man may be destroyed by a few spirochaetes that are visible only under the microscope. The criminals took over Russia because (a) they had mastered the art of universal deceit, and (b) they were lavishly financed from nations that regarded themselves as the leaders of Western civilization.
Of the two authors, Mr. Lyons gives the fuller description and analysis of the conspirators’ use of total deceit, by which they were able to persuade influential members of every segment of society that it was possible to profit from cooperation with the conspiracy. What Mr. Lyons accurately describes as an “obscene record of complex deceit” that makes the most shameless of Hitler s propagandists seem “paragons of candor by contrast” will teach a lesson that many Americans have yet to learn: that every profession of interest in the proletariat or any other class or group made by a Communist or crypto-Communist is made with a purpose identical to that with which you may affix a worm to a fishhook. Further, it is made with the same confidence that the fish are too stupid to refuse the bait. Until the criminals capture a government, their only real weapon is highly organized and specialized lying. For there are always many Communist lines, each specifically prepared and baited for one species of fish or, in some cases, for individual fish whose idiosyncrasies have been carefully studied. And we can only admire the consummate skill with which the conspirators keep their many divergent lines from becoming entangled with one another. Few have any conception of the sheer intricacy of the operations – the multiple and successive deceptions and betrayals. The Bolsheviks divided and subdivided Russia into hundreds of reciprocally antagonistic groups that fought one another rather than their hidden enemies and thus delivered their country and themselves into the power of the rabid enemies of mankind. In comparison with their triumph in Russia, the Bolsheviks’ recent successes in the United States – where they were able to mobilize purblind opportunists, simple-minded sentimentalists, and even some sincere but gullible anti-Communists for their desperate offensive against anti-Communist Americans – seem both paltry and elementary.
Of the two authors, M. de Goulévitch gives the fuller account of the international support that made possible the criminals’ success in Russia. He is understandably bitter toward Germany, which was in this connection really guilty of a war crime. For, it transported Lenin and some of his fellow criminals across its territory in precisely the spirit in which it might also have transported and loosed on Russia a swarm of rats infected with the bubonic plague. He also notes the curious fact that in this operation Germany enjoyed the cooperation of the government of nations with which it was at war. As everyone knows, Lenin’s gang was matched by one led by Trotsky from the United States. This shipment of rats was intercepted by the British and interned at Halifax, but soon released in obedience to pressures from Washington. But Great Britain is by no means blameless, for it seems certain that her Embassy in St. Petersburg actively cooperated with the Bolsheviks. And since none of the persons in charge of that embassy was later tried for treason, it is an almost unavoidable inference that they were at least protected by politically powerful persons in London.
The conquest of Russia was, of course, financed from outside. In addition to the subsidies which they received from the German treasury, the criminals received lavish contributions from supposedly private sources in Germany, France, England, and the United States. Several individuals are reported to have contributed sums ranging from ten to twenty million dollars from their own pockets. The total amount of money thus furnished the criminals must have been enormous. So far as I know, however, no one has attempted to estimate, even tentatively, either the total obtained from all sources or the percentage of that money that was used for the simple and obvious purpose of buying treason in Russia.
It is no exaggeration, therefore, to say that the depraved monsters who captured Russia were an expeditionary force sent out by the International Communist Conspiracy and supplied by it from bases in Western Europe and the United States. On this point depends the major thesis advanced by both of the authors we are considering here: Communism is not Russian. As Mr. Lyons puts it, Russia was merely a “beachhead for the conquest of world dominion.” More than that, he quotes with approval a Russian writer who argues that the theory of Communism, as well as the reality, was imposed on Russia from the West. He describes the Soviet as “a negation of things primordially Russian.”
In advancing this thesis, of course, neither author would deny that the Communist Conspiracy, which had a strong underground organization in Russia before Ulyanov and Bronstein began their criminal careers in the 1890’s, had its antecedents in the frenetic revolutionary agitations of the Nineteenth Century. But both deny that these antecedent phenomena, which seemed peculiarly Russian to Europeans and Americans of the past century, were the product of distinctively Russian tendencies. Indeed, what seemed so bizarre in Russia a century ago corresponds closely to tendencies of which we are only now becoming aware in the United States. After all, the young “revolutionary intelligentsia” of Czarist days, ignorant, feckless, and endlessly loquacious, closely resembles – even in such externals as the uncouth conduct and slovenly dress of the long-haired males and short-haired females – the “beatniks” and other waste products of American schools. As for the Russian terrorists, whose ferocious crimes shocked the world, did they differ in any significant way from the many members of the Communist Conspiracy now active in the United States? (except that the latter, under orders, are for the moment deferring indulgence of their lust for blood and destruction.) Conditions in the Russian Empire favored the development of those manifestations of social disease, but the disease is one to which no nation is immune. Any nation in similar circumstances might have been afflicted as was Russia.
M. de Goulévitch modifies this proposition by granting that the Russian people did exhibit a peculiar tolerance of, and even a perverse sympathy for, all forms of crime. Thus they did, to a certain extent, create the conditions that permitted the Communist Conspiracy to gain a foothold in Russia and eventually to capture the country. I doubt that Mr. Lyons would concur on this point, which he does not specifically consider in his book. M. de Goulévitch cites Dostoevski and could have produced much other evidence in support of his position. But Mr. Lyons, if pressed, could point to the almost geometrical increase of crime in the United States in recent years. It is, of course, largely the work of the young criminals, euphemistically called “juvenile delinquents,” who are bred in our schools by methods that must have been designed for that purpose, and are then systematically protected and encouraged by sniveling do-gooders and muttonheaded “Liberals.”
Both authors agree that the Soviet régime, even in theory, violates the innate instincts of the Russian people, who are held in subjection only by the vicious efficiency and unspeakable ferocity of their present masters. They would therefore rise in revolt at the first prospect of success. The beasts in the Kremlin, so long as the rest of the world cooperates with them in “co-existence,” can maintain themselves in Russia by terrorism. But all around them, in Mr. Lyons’ vivid phrase, “the inflammable stuffs for a conflagration are piled high” – a conflagration that the American people, should they succeed in forcing their government to oppose the Communist Conspiracy instead of financing it, could quickly kindle.
THE ANALYSIS OF Russian character given by Mr. Lyons and M. de Goulévitch is strongly corroborated by many other writers, including those who have had quite recent and intimate experience of life in Russia. The Hidden Russia (see AMERICAN OPINION, June, 1960, pp. 45f.), a book by N. N. Krasnov Jr. deserves study in this connection. The analysis cannot but be enormously encouraging to all Americans. For, in effect, it promises us that if we can defeat the Communist Conspiracy in our own country, we shall be able to destroy it easily in Russia and hence in the rest of the world. We must note, however, that there are serious objections to the validity of the analysis.
The writers who offer us that optimistic view all assure us that the Russian people, although retarded by “historical misfortunes, like the long subjection to the Mongols,” are essentially European and therefore fundamentally like the residents of a small town in Iowa or Wales. That, of course, flatly contradicts the widely held view that the Russians are basically Asiatic.
They certainly seem non-European. Englishmen or Americans, for example, traveling in Russia have always found themselves in a land that was utterly foreign, in a sense in which they found nothing foreign in Spain or Germany or Italy. The same impression is conveyed by Russian literature despite the fact that it is the work of a cultivated class deeply influenced by European literature. The characters that we meet in Turgenev or Goncharov (the author of Oblomov) or even Merezhkovski (when, as in The Antichrist, he deals with Russians) are simply as alien to us as the characters of the Chin P’ing Mei or the Brhatkathâ, though in different ways. When we read Bulwer Lytton’s Eugene Aram – if we read it at all these days – we smile indulgently at the familiar follies of Romanticism and refer to Miss Edgeworth, Victor Hugo, and perhaps the younger Dumas; but when we read Dostoevski’s adaptation of the story (Crime and Punishment), we are immediately aware that we are in the presence of something which, whether we find it attractive or repulsive, is outlandish, abnormal, and morbid. Sologub, Balmont, and Bryusov strive sedulously to imitate the French Decadents and Symbolists. But their closest imitations could never have been produced in Western Europe, not even by artists consciously striving for the weird and perverse.
It is not remarkable, therefore, that some of the most lucid minds of our time, including Henri Massis in his famous Défense de l’Occident, have regarded the Russians as an Asiatic and anti-Western nation. Oswald Spengler in his great historical system describes Russia as a nascent civilization now in a stage of development corresponding to pre-Homeric Greece or pre-dynastic Egypt and animated by the concept that appears in what is sometimes called the “primitive Christianity” of Dostoevski. Now without attempting to debate cyclic theories of history or to imagine how anything more stable than a tribe of nomads could be based on an incoherent and morbid sentimentality, we necessarily listen to Spengler with the greatest respect. We do this both because his was undoubtedly one of the great minds of our century, and because his analysis of contemporary tendencies in Asia and Africa has been triumphantly vindicated by subsequent events and is now seen to have been obviously right. And although we know that no man could handle such vast and complex materials without error, we are impressed when Spengler identifies the diving force of the emergent Russian spirit as an implacable hostility toward the West. And although Spengler does not say so, some readers plausibly extrapolate from his observations to reach the conclusion that the Russians endure Communism with all its horrors in order to destroy us.
A scarcely less discouraging view is presented by Nikolai Berdyaev (see AMERICAN OPINION, February, 1961, pp. 30-34), who presumes to speak for the “Russian soul” and – apparendy without being in the least aware that he is saying anything that would astonish or alarm us – draws a picture in which no critical reader can fail to see the Russians as a vast mass of barbarians actuated by a messianic lust to “regenerate the world” by abolishing civilized mankind. And unfortunately it is impossible to dismiss Berdyaev as merely a madman or a cunning propagandist. He supports his case with copious quotations from Russian writers. Anyone who has read much of the literature can supply others for himself, from Chadaiev’s admission, “We bear in our blood a principle that is hostile and refractory to civilization,” to Dostoevski’s insane pronouncement that “All men must become Russians.” (At other moments Chadaiev boasted that Russia was “destined” to solve “all the intellectual, social, and moral questions” of Europe, while Dostoevski complained that “our trouble is that we are incapable of moderation” – but proofs of schizophrenia will scarcely reassure us!)
There is obviously some basis in fact for the grim prognoses of Spengler and Berdyaev. And one cannot refute them by citing the names of a few eminently sane Russians, such as the distinguished historian, Rostovtzeff. But apart from one’s legitimate suspicion of grandiose generalizations, one is entitled to inquire whether there is a “Russian people” about whom one can generalize at all. In the original sense of the word, of course, there are no Russians. For the Rus, the Vikings who introduced order and government when they settled down to rule the barbarians around Kiev in the Ninth Century, were a numerically insignificant aristocracy that was shattered by the Mongol conquest. Their blood has long since been absorbed in the multitudinous race of the territories they once ruled. Some of these are very old; the Scythians and Sarmatians must have left descendants. And no one who observed the conduct of the brutish females in uniform who occupied Bucharest and other parts of Romania in 1914 and 1945 could resist the inference that the prehistoric savages who gave rise to the legend of the Amazons had left a copious genetic heritage. Other racial elements were left by the successive invasions and migrations that swept over the steppes and plains until recent times. The term Russian is now specifically applied to the people, predominantly Slavic but with an unmeasured admixture of Mongol and other blood, who form about half of the population of the territory that is called Russian. The term ‘Russian’ is also applied indiscriminately to all the inhabitants of that territory, and it is often impossible to tell exactly what a given writer means when he refers to the “Russians” as though he were speaking of a single people.
Now a priori it is highly improbable that the colluvies nationum on Russian territory could have a collective “soul” or a common purpose. And there is ample evidence that they do not. Despite M. de Goulévitch’s claim that the Czars “unified one hundred and forty races,” Russia has always suffered from a fatal racial diversity which naturally produces deep and ineradicable antagonisms. Even the Communist régime has had to recognize this by the creation of a series of fictitiously autonomous “republics.” These hatreds persist among the refugees from the Soviet, and Mr. Lyons, who very properly warns Americans of the extreme and apparently hopeless complexity of cross-purposes, gives some good examples. Even M. de Goulévitch cites a leader of the Georgians who opines that the Russians, in the limited sense of that word, are all mad dogs. And I note that one of the Ukrainian publications in this country recently expressed the hope that the vile Russians could be exterminated by atomic warfare.
Equally striking lack of unanimity may be found within the part of the population that is (so far as one can tell) Russian in the restricted sense. In fairly recent publications, for example, some survivors of the Kerenski régime not only exhibit the normal “Liberal” determination to learn nothing from experience, but obviously still cherish all the furious hatreds of their own countrymen that animated them in 1912. They are but examples. The confused Nineteenth-Century schism between “pro-Western” and “anti-Western” Russians (multiplied by controversies over what really is “Western”) seems to be still going on in slightly different terms. One could even raise the question whether the Russians, when not under some form of authoritarian rule, have in common a sufficiently large body of values to enable them to cohere as a nation of their own accord.
Such indications warrant the suspicion that Berdyaev’s horrendous “Russian soul” may be just one of the apparitions commonly seen by “intellectuals” when they become feverish. At the worst, it represents but a strain of madness in a variegated population. And we may ask whether Spengler’s prognostication concerning the idée maîtresse of a future civilization is more than a conjecture colored by too much reading of Dostoevski and his kind.
An entirely different approach is taken by Dr. John M. Radzinski in his recent book, Masks of Moscow (Regent House, Chicago; 268 pages, $4.50). Dr. Radzinski, a psychiatrist who enjoys a high reputation among the sane minority in his profession, studies national “behavior patterns” in the light of Russian history from the Principality of Kiev to the present. Although he takes account of innate differences, he finds that these have been partly supplanted by a process that has gone on in Russian territory, with few intermissions, for centuries: the various populations have always been under the rule of despots – Mongols, Dukes of Moscovy, Czars, and now Soviet Commissars – and centuries of oppression accompanied by selective extermination have bred, as the predominant type, essentially dehumanized beings who combine an animal submissiveness with a bestial cruelty. Now undoubtedly Dr. Radzinski, whose analysis of Soviet policies after the Second World War is both acute and discerning, has correctly described the type which the Communists are consciously striving to produce by selective extermination – that, indeed, is the primary purpose of the slave labor camps in which millions are condemned to work and die. But the reader will be less satisfied with his interpretation of the earlier history of Russia, during most of which the purpose, if present at all, must have been unconscious and its execution must have been highly unsystematic. At the very worst, the process was certainly interrupted under the later Czars. Furthermore, although it is obvious that the Communists, if given enough time, can eventually accomplish their purpose, we should not overestimate what they have been able to accomplish thus far.
The views that we have examined are largely speculative, involving either intangibles or data which, if they could be observed and collected, would be so complex that our best digital computers would blow their fuses in despair. Against them we may set one clear piece of evidence: the joy with which the German troops were almost everywhere received when they invaded Russia. They were hailed as deliverers by both rural and urban populations. They were greeted, it would seem, with more or less equal enthusiasm along the whole line of invasion, which, extending from north to south, crossed the territories of a considerable number of Russia’s many races. Whole divisions of Soviet troops, despite the efforts of the frantic commissars, surrendered happily to the Germans. And what is really significant, about two and one-half million men volunteered to fight with the Germans against the Soviet. Of this number, the Germans, astonished, short of equipment, and suspicious of both the loyalty and military capacity of such multitudinous volunteers, appear to have used only some eight hundred thousand. These appear to have been on the whole resolute and courageous troops.
The Germans not only discouraged recruiting, but, under the stimulus of fanatics like Alfred Rosenberg and crypto-Communists (such as the “Ukrainian expert” we mentioned above), perversely did almost everything in their power to alienate and humiliate as Untermenschen the inhabitants who had received them with such enthusiasm. It seems likely that with just a little good judgement the Germans could have induced a revolution inside the territory still held by the Soviets that would have swept the criminals away despite the utmost efforts of Franklin Roosevelt to save them. There is an obvious element of uncertainty in all arguments as to what “would have happened, if…” But Mr. Lyons makes an excellent case for his blunt contention that “Hitler saved Stalin.”
It is reasonable, therefore, to conclude – with, of course, the reservation that here, as so often in human affairs, the true situation can be ascertained only by trial – that there still exists within the Soviet Union a potential of great importance to us. If the pro-Communist hogwash that we now subsidize through Radio Free Europe and the like were replaced by propaganda directed against the Kremlin, the latent spirit of resistance in Russia could be excited to multiply the Kremlin’s problems. And defeat of the Communist Conspiracy anywhere – its forced retreat from any part of the territories it has conquered in the world – would be far more effective than any stream of words, however persuasive.
In these circumstances, it seems unlikely that the Kremlin, if it lost control of Washington, would risk a real war under any circumstances short of a direct attack by us on their own seat of power. Their satellites are, of course, expendable, and the situation in Russia is not so precarious that they could not hope to retain, by retreat elsewhere, their control of Russian territory or some part of it, at least
WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND the peoples of Russia, and that, as M. de Goulévitch reminds us, presupposes a reasonably accurate knowledge of their history. But we must not forget that our primary purpose as Americans at the present time is to predict, as closely as we can, what those peoples will do in given situations – not to praise or blame them for their conduct at any point, much less for such vaporous Hegelian abstractions as national “souls.” We need to understand them, not to love them, as Mr. Lyons, who ends by overstating his own case, exhorts us to do. International crushes are apt to be spurious and certain to be dangerous; national survival depends on coolly objective and rational appraisal of realities.
We live in a world in which men must usually act upon calculations of probability, not certainties. Though it is less conclusive than we could wish, the evidence of internal weakness in the Soviet Union, when considered in conjunction with the evidence from all other parts of the world, leads us to one conclusion: If the Communist Conspiracy loses the United States, it loses the World. That explains not only the venom of the propaganda campaign against “extremists” in the United States, but the indecent and reckless haste with which the Conspiracy’s agents in Washington are trying to disarm, impoverish, and “internationalize” us. Nor is their desperate and revealing haste unreasonable. For they know that if they do not break and imprison the American people now, they will eventually have no refuge on earth.
1 This article was written for, and is reprinted here from, American Opinion for July-August 1962. It is presented here in memory of Professor Revilo P. Oliver’s 87th birthday on 7 July 1995.
SOURCE: Liberty Bell, July 1995