The Future of Russia
by Harry Braverman
Macmillan, 192 pp., $5.00
The New Face of Soviet Totalitarianism
by Adam B. Ulam
Harvard, 233 pp., $4.95
How Russia Is Ruled
by Merle Fainsod
Harvard University Press, 684 pp., $8.95
Prediction in politics is a dangerous pastime. One has to be very bold to engage in it, or perhaps the boldness comes from a failure to realize all the pitfalls. Mr. Braverman is certainly more courageous than most of us. He tells us what Russia is going to be like, and no nonsense about it. What puzzles me is whom he is trying to convince.
“The most characteristic Western view of the Soviet Union,” he tells us, “sees it as a fixed and immobile dictatorship which will never change until compelled to do so by an external force.” But where is this extraordinary view to be found? Among millions of readers of tabloid newspapers, no doubt—but they are extremely unlikely to read Mr. Braverman’s book. There can be, after all, scarcely any informed student of the Soviet Union who is unaware of the major changes in the U.S.S.R. in the past ten years, and they are the most likely readers of a book of this kind. They will find a highly optimistic projection of the Russia of the future, for Mr. Braverman believes, as do many others, that the economic development of the Soviet Union will inevitably bring in its train greater liberty, rationality, and general relaxation. The trouble with this kind of economic determinism is that forty-six years of Soviet rule have conclusively proved the primacy of politics over economics—there is no reason to suppose that this primacy will disappear in the future, so long as the Communist Party remains in power. That is not to say that there will be no development—after ten years of continuous change further modifications of the system can confidently be expected. They may be in the direction foreseen by Mr. Braverman—or they may not. But they will depend on quite different factors—the need of the party to adapt to the requirements of a modern society, the skill with which it maneuvers to keep the kind of monopoly of power which neither logic nor reason justifies, and a whole lot of quite unpredictable human factors, which Mr. Braverman does not take into account—the personality of the next autocrat, for example, in a country in which this factor has for centuries been predominant in political life.
Professor Ulam, though also much concerned with the changes which are taking place in the U.S.S.R., more wisely avoids the pitfalls of seeing, as he puts it, “in certain political trends the inevitability of the future.” The seven articles of which this book is composed (six of them reprinted from previous publications) deal with different facets of change or contrast. One of the changes which he discusses in several essays is the decline or even death of ideology: he believes Marxism to be a spent force as a doctrine, but drawing new strength from practical successes which are, rightly or wrongly, and presumably wrongly, attributed to it. In his last essay he uses with effect Boccaccio …