Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?
The New Russian Tragedy
The Demonstration in Pushkin Square
Message From Moscow
Russia: Hopes And Fears
War Between Russia and China
The Masaryk Case
Report On My Husband
It is Lenin year. This month, it is one hundred years since there was born in Simbirsk on the Volga that impatient, redheaded person who changed the world more fundamentally than any other man since Mohammed. In Moscow, the Caliphate has already stupefied its subjects with Leninolatry: thousands of little dead-white busts, a billion chocolate cakes and puff pastries bearing in relief the face of the man from Simbirsk, countless speeches and articles maintaining that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as presented by Messrs. Brezhnev and Kosygin is precisely that socialist fatherland which Vladimir Ilyich would have wanted to see. In China, the Moslem Brotherhood of Peking dismisses the Moscow celebrations as an obscene smear and claims Lenin for its own. In the pagan West, the game of quotations is played to suggest that Lenin, were he to awaken in his mausoleum, would repudiate everything he found about him.
That is unbalanced. Lenin would likely be satisfied enough to find the state he founded militarily secure, technically advanced, and adequately fed. His criticisms would be secondary, but acid nonetheless: the tendency toward chauvinism and bureaucracy against which he fought so desperately in the last months of his life has not been overcome, but instead has produced both the absurd quarrel with China and the internal reluctance to undertake economic experiment or change.
Above all, the “cultural revolution” which he considered so necessary has not been carried through beyond limited social groups. This, from a very different standpoint, is the theme of Andrei Amalrik’s Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?, an essay unusual among Russian dissident writings in that it is aimed primarily at Western public opinion.
To call Amalrik’s book pessimistic would be a pale reflection of this prophecy of doom. Amalrik, a young historian, suggests that there is little chance of fundamental reform from any foreseeable Russian leadership. The division between the “middle class” of specialists and functionaries, weakly agitating for a more genuine rule of law, and the “uncultured” masses below will widen. War will break out with China between 1975 and 1980, a prolonged wasting war which will drain the Soviet Union of its strength. Eastern Europe and a reunited Germany will press greedily upon a weakened Russia from the other flank. Eventually the system will collapse. The middle-class “democratic” reformers will be swamped, however, by the masses’ terrible frenzy for destruction.
“I have no doubt,” Amalrik pronounces, “that this great Eastern Slav empire created by Germans, Byzantines and Mongols has entered the last decades of its existence.” This sort of language is instantly evocative of the Kulturpessimismus of the old German generation of conservatives. Amalrik lacks their morbid nationalism; he is detached. But the cultural pessimism is unmistakable, and with it—as so frequently—the very nineteenth-century valuation of race as a political factor. It is no coincidence that Amalrik first got into trouble by reaffirming that the Kievan state was of Viking, rather than of Slav, origin. The Russians, he is …
This article is available to subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.