RUSSIA AND THE WORLD
THE first ten days of the United Nations Assembly have left the solution of the problem of Russia further off than ever. The problem is twofold, and it needs to be restated periodically in the light of the events of the moment. The first question is what Russia is really aiming at ; the second, what the attitude of this country and the rest of the world should be. The answer to the first question is simple. Russia's aim is to maintain in her own territories, and to spread in other lands by any means possible, the Communism in which a small but powerful minority of her people fanatically believes. There is a sense, no doubt, in which most of Russia believes in Communism. A governing group in command of all the means of publicity and instruments of informa- tion—the Press, the radio; the film—and able by hermetically sealing the frontier to prevent knowledge of the higher standards of living in the so-called capitalist countries from becoming known, must be far more inept than anyone would accuse the governing group at Moscow of being if it cannot imbue the mass of the people with the beliefs it wishes them to hold. That the people is largely fed on lies, or those forms of lies which consist in the perversion or suppression of salient facts, is patent to the world, for the lies are printed in Pravda and Izvestia and other officially-sponsored organs for foreign correspondents to read, and telegraph, them as freely as Russian citizens can do the former. It is not surprising in such circumstances that Russia is in fact a largely Communist country.
To decide what Communism fundamentally means, or what the Russian form of it means to-day, would be too long a business to be undertaken here. But one thing it necessarily and essentially means—conflict with the capitalist system everywhere. The Communists " openly declare that their aims can only be achieved by the violent overthrow of the whole contemporary social order." So proclaimed the historic Communist Manifesto close on a hundred years ago, and the menace has never been repudiated yet. In the achievement of the aim any means are justified. Many have indeed been applied, but with little success outside Russia itself. There is no doubt about the violence of the overthrow of contemporary society there, or of the modified violence represented to-day by the methods of the N.V.K.D. and the systematic replenishment of the concentration camps, mostly beyond the Urals, in which millions of men are condemned to the living death of forced labour. This, of course, is only one aspect of Russian life. There is Russian art, Russian literature, Russian industry and Russian military achievement. And the wqr inevitably brought contacts, unknown since 1917, with the outside world. Russian politicians, generals, administrators had necessarily to collaborate with politicians, generals and administrators from Allied States, and in 1945 Russia, having first armed herself with the paralysing weapon of the veto, went so far as to join in found- ing the United Nations. The hope that the Russia which between the wars maintained a defiant isolation, and in 1939 made the war inevitable by rejecting an alliance with Britain and concluding one with Hitler, had taken a new and more hopeful turn seemed for the moment justified.
That hope finds no justification to-day. Russia has survived the war, thanks to her own courage and endurance and the immense suffering to which she reconciled herself, and thanks also to the help extended to her unstintingly by Britain and the United States at great sacrifice and with no recognition. But fundamentally she is the same Russia, governed by the same oligarchy in the Kremlin, inspired by the same determination to spread Communism through- out, the world by any means, aiming still at the overthrow of the whole contemporary social order, if not by violence, by a subtle permeation in places of authority in every country. What is essen- tial to her purpose is to create or extend chaos everywhere. It by fishing in troubled waters that Communism prospers. There- fore the waters must be troubled wherever they can be, and an organisation like the League of Nations, devoted to the establish= ment of international order, must in no circumstances be per- mitted to succeed. Thanks to the veto and other instruments of . obstruction it can be prevented from succeeding, and at the same time a platform is provided from which the Vyshinskys and the Gromykos can be represented to the Russian people as reducing their British and American opponents to humiliating impotence. Mr. Marshall criticised Russia ; M. Vyshinsky pulverised him from the tribune. Mr. McNeil had the temerity to make a rejoinder to some of M. Vyshinsky's arguments ; M. Vyshinsky pulverised him in a Press conference assembled for the purpose. So at least every Russian reader of the daily papers, and every Russian listener to the radio is unquestioningly convinced. As a result of it all the United Nations might almost as well never have been born.
All this is matter, not for indignation, which does no good to anyone, but for dispassionate consideration. Russia, of course, is perfectly entitled-to be Communist. Nobody questions that, any more than anyone questions the right of Mr. Pollitt and Mr. Horner to be Communists in this country. But people who do not share Communsit enthusiasm for the overthrow, violent or other- wise, of the whole contemporary social order do well to be alert to Communist activities and counter them by all constitutional means available. The danger is much greater in other western European countries, notably France, than it is in our own, though sober trade unionists here are guilty of culpable indolence or in- difference in allowing Communists to gain key-positions in the unions. One of them sounded an opportune warning on that on Monday. That is part of the recognised technique, and it is very necessary to thwart it. But Communism—and Russia—in the international sphere is the important question to-day. A good deal of the belligerent rhetoric can no doubt be discounted. That, too, is part of the stock-in-trade. Even in Russia a score of men cannot succeed in controlling the destinies of nearly two hundred millions without such adventitious aid as the cry of the Fatherland in danger. Unity must be perpetually forced by the fictitious menace of an enemy at the gates. It may be Britain, it may be the United States. Better still, it may be both. And the pretence is at the same time provided for insisting on " friendly," i.e., Communist, governments in all the countries adjacent to Russia, to form a glacis behind which the coming attack may be resisted. And of course the iron curtain must never be lifted lest the people of Russia (whom the Soviet administration has, to its credit, made largely literate) should learn the truth about the world they live in. That is why the undertaking to treat Germany as an economic unit must be jettisoned. That is why cooperation in response to the Marshall Plan must be rejected. That is why the continent of Europe must be riven in two.
In such circumstances what course is the non-Communist world —which means, apart from a large section of China, the world outside Europe, and all Europe west of the Stettin-Trieste line— to follow ? First, alarmism must be rigorously eschewed. For all Russia's routine talk about the inevitability of war in a mainly capitalist world, war with Russia, or war precipitated by Russia is in no sense inevitable. It is not even probable, whether Russia possesses atomic bombs or not, unless the rest of the world, and Western Europe in particular, invites it by palpable military weak- ness. On the other hand it is by this time abundantly clear that in international affairs Russia has resolved to be resolutely and consistently non-co-operative. Her policy is what Carlyle would have called The Everlasting No. When she does appear to co- operate it is mainly to secure better opportunities for obstruction. Chaos, it must be remembered, is her hope, order her fear. Under such conditions the only course for the rest of the world is to go steadily forward with Russia or without her, closing no door against her but never halting salutary action because she declines to take part in it. There are, of course, limits to this. Germany cannot be treated as an economic unit if Russia refuses so to treat it. The Security Council cannot function while Russia practises her wanton and irresponsible use of the veto. But many other organs of the United Nations can. The association of European States con- cerned in the Marshall Plan can. By such means progressive action in many fields can be pursued. And above all things con- solidation of the relations, not necessarily formal, between Britain and the Dominions, and between all the Commonwealth and the United States, is fundamental. Given firmness and patience, and a united military strength adequate to support the firmness, Russia's perversities and provocations can be faced without undue concern, till force of circumstances compels her to change her attitude and her satellites one by one take courage to be masters of their own destinies.