Will the Soviet Union Survive until 1984
by Andrei Amalrik

Part two
 

THUS TWO IDEAS that the masses understand and accept--the idea of force and the idea of justice--are equally inimical to democratic ideas, which are based on individualism. To these must be added three more negative and interrelated factors: first, the continued low cultural level of the greater pa of our people, especially in respect to everyday culture; second, the dominance of the many myths assiduously propagated by the mass information media; and third, the extreme social disorientation of the bulk of our people.

The "proletarianization" of the countryside has created an "alien class" neither peasant nor working class. They have the dual psychology of the owners of tiny homesteads and of farm hands working on gigantic and anonymous farms. How this class views itself, and what it wants, is known, I think, to nobody. Furthermore, the mass exodus of peasants to the city has created a new type of city dweller a person who has broken with his old environment, way of life and culture and who is finding it very difficult to discover his place in his new environment and feels ill at ease in it. He is both frightened and aggressive.  He no longer has any idea to what level of society he belongs.

While the old social structure in both town and village has been completely destroyed, a new one is only just beginning to form. The "ideological foundations" on which itís being built are extremely primitive the desire for material well-being (relatively modest from a Western viewpoint) and the instinct for self-preservation. Thus the concept "profitable" is confronted with the concept "risky."

It is hard to tell whether, aside from those purely material criteria, the bulk of our people possess any kind of moral criteria such as "honorable" and "dishonorable," "good" and "bad," "right" and "wrong," the supposedly eternal principles which function as inhibiting and guiding factors when the mechanism of social constraint begins to fall apart and man is left to his own devices.

I have formed the impression, which may be wrong, that our people do not have any such moral criteria or hardly any. The Christian ethic, with its concepts of right and wrong, has been shaken loose and driven out of the I popular consciousness. An attempt was made to replace it I with "class" morality, which can be summarized as follows Good is what at any given moment is required by authority. Naturally, such a morality, together with the propagation and stimulation of class and national animosities, has totally demoralized society and deprived it of any nonopportunistic moral criteria. . . .

Thus the Christian ethic, which in Russia had a semipagan as well as official character, died out without being replaced by a Marxist ethic. (There is not space here to discuss at length, but it is worth mentioning that Russia received her Christianity from Byzantium, which was rigid and moribund, and not from the developing and dynamic young Western civilization. This could not but deeply influence subsequent Russian history.)  "Marxist doctrine" was revised and reversed to suit current needs too often for it to become a viable ideology. And now as the regime becomes ever more bureaucratic, it becomes ever less ideological.

The need for an ideological underpinning forces the regime to look toward a new ideology, namely, Great Russian nationalism, with its characteristic cult of strength and expansionist ambitions. Something similar took place at the beginning of the century, when the traditional monarchist ideology was replaced by a narrow nationalism.  The Czarist regime even introduced into everyday speech the expression "genuinely Russian people" in distinction to the simpler term "Russian," and inspired the creation of the Union of the Russian People.

A regime grounded in such an ideology needs external and internal enemies who are not so much "class" enemies for instance, "American imperialists" and "anti-Soviet elements") as national enemies (for instance, Chinese and Jews ). Such a nationalistic ideology, although it may prove temporarily useful to the regime, is very dangerous for a country in which those of Russian nationality constitute less than half the total population.

The need for a viable nationalist ideology is not only acutely felt by the regime, but nationalist feelings also appear to be taking hold in Soviet society, primarily in official literary and artistic circles (where they have evidently developed as a reaction to the considerable role of Jews in official Soviet art). Beyond these circles, these feelings have a center of sorts in the "Rodina" (Father1and) Club. This ideology can perhaps be called neoSlavophile," although it should not be confused with the "Christian ideology" partially tinged with Slavophilism which we discussed earlier. Its central features are an interest in Russianness, a belief in the messianic role of Russia and an extreme scorn and hostility toward everything non-Russian.

Since it was not inspired directly by the regime but arose spontaneously, the regime regards the new nationalism with a certain mistrust (an example of this is the ban on the film Andrei Rubliov), yet at the same time with considerable tolerance. It could become a force to be reckoned with at any moment. . . .

What, then, are the beliefs and guiding ideas of this people with no religion or morality? They believe in their own national strength, which they demand that other peoples fear, and they are guided by a recognition of the strength of their own regime, of which they themselves are afraid. (It goes without saying that most Russians approved, or regarded with indifference, the Soviet military invasion of Czechoslovakia. On the other hand, they resented deeply that the Chinese went unpunished for the March, 1969, clashes on the Ussuri River border between China and the Soviet Union.)

Under this assessment it is not difficult to imagine what forms and directions popular discontent will take if the regime loses its hold. The horrors of the Russian revolutions of 1905-7 and 1917-20 would then look like idylls in comparison.

There is, of course, a counterbalancing factor to these destructive tendencies. Contemporary Soviet society can be compared with a triple-decker sandwich: the top layer is the ruling bureaucracy; the middle layer consists of the "middle class" or the "class of specialists"; and the bottom layer, the most numerous, consists of the workers, peasants, petty clerks and so on. Whether Soviet society will manage to reorganize itself in a peaceful and painless way and survive the forthcoming cataclysm with a minimum of casualties will depend on how rapidly the middle layer of the sandwich expands at the expense of the other two and on how rapidly the "middle class" and its organization grow, whether faster or slower than the disintegration of the system.

It should be noted, however, that there is another powerful factor which works against the chance of any kind of peaceful reconstruction and which is equally negative for all levels of society this is the extreme isolation in which the regime has placed both society and itself. This isolation has not only separated the regime from society, and all sectors of society from each other, but also put the country in extreme isolation from the rest of the world. This isolation has created for all from the bureaucratic elite to the lowest social levels an almost surrealistic picture of the world and of their place in it. Yet the longer this state of affairs helps to perpetuate the status quo, the more rapid and decisive will be its collapse when confrontation with reality becomes inevitable.

SUMMING UP it can be said that as the regime becomes progressively weaker and more self-destructive it is bound to clas--and there are already clear indications that this is happenin--with two forces which are already undermining it: the constructive movement of the "middle class" (rather weak) and the destructive movement of the "lower classes," which will take the form of extremely damaging, violent and irresponsible action once its members realize their relative immunity from punishment. How long, though, will it be before the regime faces such an upheaval, and how long will it be able to bear the strain?

This question can be considered in two ways, depending on whether the regime itself takes decisive and forthright measures to rejuvenate itself or whether it merely continues to make the minimal necessary changes so as to stay in power, as it is doing now. To me, the second alternative appears more likely because it requires less effort, because it appears to be the less dangerous course and because it corresponds to the sweet illusions of today's "Kremlin visionaries."

However, some mutations within the regime are also theoretically possible for instance, a militarization of the regime and a transition to an openly nationalistic policy (this could be accomplished by a military coup de etat or  by the gradual transfer of power into the hands of the military.

Such a policy would no longer disguise the regime's actions beneath the cloak of "protecting the interests of the international Communist movement" in order to make some sort of gesture toward the independent and semi-independent Communist parties in the outside world; (As for the role of the army, it is constantly growing. This can be seen by anyone, for example, who compares today's ratio of military officers to civilians on the re viewing stand on top of Lenin's Mausoleum during parades with what it was ten or fifteen years ago. )

Another possible and very different mutation of the regime could occur through economic reforms and the relative liberalization of the system that would follow such reforms. (This could be achieved by increasing the role in the political leadership of pragmatic economists who understood the need for change.)

Neither of these possibilities appears unlikely on the face of it. However, the party machine, against which either  coup would in effect be directed, is so closely intertwined with the military and economic establishments that both groups, if they pursued the aim of change, would very soon bog down in the same old quagmire. Any fundamental change would require such a drastic shake-up in personnel from top to bottom that, understandably, those who personify the regime would never embark on it. To save the regime at the cost of firing themselves would seem to them too exorbitant and unfair a price to pay.

On the question of how long the regime can survive, I several interesting historical parallels may be cited. At present, at least some of the conditions that led to the first and second Russian revolutions probably exist again a caste-ridden and immobile society, a rigid governmental system which openly clashes with the need for economic development, general bureaucratization and the existence of a privileged bureaucratic class, and national animosities within a multinational state in which certain nations enjoy privileged status.

Under these same conditions, the Czarist regime would probably have survived quite a while longer and would possibly have undergone some kind of peaceful modernization had the governing class not fantastically misjudged the general situation and its own strength, and pursued a policy of foreign expansion that overtaxed its powers. In fact, had the government of Nicholas II not gone to war against Japan, there would have been no Revolution of 1905-7, and had it not gone to war against Germany, there would have been no revolution in 1917. (Strictly speaking, it did not start either of these wars itself, but it did its utmost to see that they were started.)

Why regimes that have become internally stagnant tend to develop a militantly ambitious foreign policy I find hard to say. Perhaps they seek a way out of their domestic problems through their foreign policies. Perhaps, on the other hand, the ease with which they can suppress internal opposition creates in their minds an illusion of omnipotence. Or perhaps it is because the need to have an external enemy, deriving from internal policy aims, builds up such momentum that it becomes impossible to halt the growth of hostility. This view is supported by the fact that every totalitarian regirne decays without itself noticing it.

Why did Nicholas I need the Crimean War, which brought down the system he had created? Why did Nicholas II need the wars with Japan and Germany? The present regime, curiously enough, embodies traits of the reigns of both Nicholas I and Nicholas II, and, in its internal policy, probably that of Alexander III also. . . .

[At this point Amalrik develops a scenario in which the Soviet Union will become involved in a nonnuclear war on its southern border within about ten years. Of this war he says "All signs thus point to a war that will be protracted and exhausting, with no quick victory for either side."  In this war, he speculates the United States will not support the Soviet Union. Then he asks:  "And what will our European allies do?"

After the Second World War the Soviet Union succeeded in creating along its western frontier a chain of neutral states, including Germany, and thus guaranteed its security in Europe. Such states, with "interim" regimes like the one in Czechoslovakia until 1948, for instance, might have served as buffers between the West and the Soviet Union and guaranteed a stable situation in Europe. Their basic difference from the buffer states of the period between the world wars would have lain in the fact that they could have served not as a cordon sanitaire for the West against the Soviet Union, but as a connecting bridge with it.

However, the Soviet Union, by pursuing the Stalinist policy of territorial expansion and the deliberate fostering of international tension, extended its sphere of influence a to the farthest possible limit and thereby created a danger for itself. Inasmuch as the existing situation in Europe is maintained only through the constant pressure of the Soviet Union, it may be assumed that as soon as this pressure lets up or disappears, considerable changes will occur in Central and Eastern Europe. This pressure, we may observe, is sometimes deliberately intensified as in the Berlin crises, and sometimes it takes on a purely hysterical character.

Now as soon as it becomes clear that the military conflict between the Soviet Union and China will be protracted, that all the forces of the Soviet Union are being transferred to the East, and that the U.S.S.R. cannot look after its interests in Europe, Germany will surely be reunited. It is entirely possible that West Germany, in order to hasten this process, will extend support in some form or another to China.

It is hard to predict whether reunification will come about through the absorption of East Germany by West Germany or whether the leaders of East Germany who will follow Walter Ulbricht, understanding what is at stake, will agree to a voluntary merger with Bonn in order to preserve some of their privileges. Whatever the case, a reunited Germany with a fairly pronounced anti-Soviet orientation will create an entirely new situation in Europe

Clearly, the reunification of Germany will coincide with a process of de-Sovietization in the East European countries and will considerably hasten this process. Paradoxical as it may seem, the Soviet Union can already rely more on President Nixon, the leader of "American imperialism," than on such allies as Ceausescu of Rumania or Dr. Husak of Czechoslovakia. The situation in Eastern Europe today somewhat resembles the situation after the revolutions of 1848, when the democratization that was hoped for did not come about and yet the old regime was shaken.

It is difficult to say how the de-Sovietization of Eastern Europe will proceed and whether it will assume the "Hungarian," the "Rumanian" or the "Czechoslovak" form.  However, it will surely result in national-Communist regimes, which in each country will somewhat resemble their pre-Communist regimes liberal democracy in Czechoslovakia, a military-nationalist regime in Poland and so forth. Meanwhile, several countries at least, such as Hungary and Rumania, will promptly follow their pro-German orientation.

The Soviet Union could evidently prevent all this only by a military occupation of all Eastern Europe aimed at creating a safe rear area for its Far Eastern front. In fact, however, such a rear area would become a second front, that is, a front against the Germans, who would receive the help of the peoples of Eastern Europe something the Soviet Union could not afford

It is more likely, therefore, that the de-Sovietized countries of Eastern Europe will dash around like horses without their bridles and, finding the Soviet Union powerless in Europe, will present territorial claims that have long been hushed but not forgotten: Poland to Lvov and Vilna, Germany to Kaliningrad (Konigsberg), Hungary to Transcarpathia, Rumania to Bessarabia. The possibility that Finland will lay claim to Viborg and Pechenga is also not to be excluded. It is probable, as well, that as the Soviet Union becomes more deeply involved in the war, Japan, too, will present territorial claims, first to the Kurile Islands, then to Sakhalin and later, depending on Chinaís success, even to a portion of the Soviet Far East.

Apparently the leaders of the Soviet regime are aware of the threat from Germany and Japan that would arise in the course of a conflict with China, and they might be inclined to take drastic steps toward a rapprochement with those countries. Yet because of the bureaucratic nature of the regime, Moscow cannot be expected to take any decisive steps in this direction.

Briefly, then, the Soviet Union will have to pay up in full for the territorial annexations of Stalin and for the isolation in which the neo-Stalinists have placed the country. However, the events most important to the future of the Soviet Union will occur within the country itself.

NATURALLY, the beginning of a war against China which will be portrayed as the aggressor, will cause a flare-up of Russian nationalism "We'll show them!" simultaneously raising the hopes of the non-Russian nationalities within the Soviet Union. As the war progresses Russian nationalism will decline while non-Russian nationalism will rise. Indeed, the war will go on for some time without having any direct effect on the emotional perceptions of the people or their way of life, as was the case during the last war with Germany, but all the while exacting a mounting toll of lives.

Eventually the conflict will give rise to a steadily deepening moral weariness with a war waged far away and for no apparent reason. Meanwhile, economic hardships, particularly related to food supplies, will appear, which will be felt all the more deeply because of the recent slow but steady rise in the standard of living.

Since the regime is not lenient enough to permit any legal channels for the expression of discontent and thus its alleviation, and since at the same time it is not brutal enough to rule out all possibility of protest, there will ensue sporadic eruptions of popular dissatisfaction, or local riots, caused, for instance, by shortages of bread. These will be put down with the help of troops, which, in turn, will accelerate the collapse of the army. Naturally, the so-called internal security troops will be used and, if possible, troops of a nationality other than that of the population that is rioting, but this will merely sharpen enmities among the nationalities.

As the regime's difficulties mount and as it appears ever more incapable of coping with its tasks, the "middle class" will grow increasingly hostile. The defection of allies and the territorial claims advanced in both West and East will increase the feeling of isolation and hopelessness. Extremist organizations, which will have made an appearance by this time, will begin to play an ever greater role. Simultaneously, the nationalist tendencies of the non-Russian peoples of the Soviet Union will intensify sharply, first in the Baltic area, the Caucasus and the Ukraine, then in Central Asia and along the Volga.

In many cases, party officials among the various nationalities may become the proponents of such tendencies, and their reasoning will be "Let Russian Ivan solve his own problems." They will aim for national separateness for still another reason: if they can fend off the growing general chaos, they will be able to preserve their own privileged positions.

Meanwhile, the bureaucratic regime, which, with its customary half-measures, will be incapable of simultaneously pursuing the war, solving the economic problems and suppressing or satisfying popular demands, will retreat further and further into itself, losing control over the country and even contact with reality.

A major defeat at the front, or a serious eruption of popular discontent in the capital, such as strikes or an armed clash, will be enough to topple the regime. Naturally, if by this time complete power has passed into the hands of the military, the regime, thus modified, will hang on a little longer. But if it fails to solve the most urgent problems, which in time of war are almost insoluble, it I will then fall in an even more terrible manner. If I have determined the time of the outbreak of war correctly, the collapse of the regirne will occur sometime between 1980 and 1985.

Obviously, the Democratic Movement, which the regime through constant repression has prevented from gathering strength, will be in no condition to take control into its own hands in any event, not long enough to solve the problems of the country. The unavoidable "deimperialization" will take place in an extremely painful way. Power will pass into the hands of extremist elements and groups, and the country will begin to disintegrate into anarchy, violence and intense national hatred.

The boundaries of the new states which will then begin to emerge on the territory of the former Soviet Union will be extremely hard to determine. The resulting military clashes will be exploited by the neighbors of the Soviet Union above all, of course, by China.

But it is also possible that the "middle class" will prove strong enough to keep control in its own hands. In that case, the granting of independence to the various Soviet nationalities will come about peacefully and some sort of  federation will be created, similar to the British Commonwealth or the European Economic Community. Peace will be concluded with China, which will also have been weakened by the war, and the conflicts with European neighbors will be settled on mutually acceptable terms. It is even possible that the Ukraine, the Baltic Republics and European Russia will enter a Pan-European federation as independent units.

A third possibility also exists namely, that none of these things may happen.

But what will, in fact, happen? I have no doubt that this great Eastern Slav empire, created by Germans, Byzantines and Mongols, has entered the last decades of its existence. Just as the adoption of Christianity postponed the fall of the Roman Empire but did not prevent its inevitable end, so Marxist doctrine has delayed the break-up of the Russian Empire, the third Rome, but it does not possess the power to prevent it.

Carrying this analogy further, one can also assume that in Central Asia, for instance, there could survive for a long time a state that considered itself the successor of the Soviet Union, a state which combined traditional Communist ideology, phraseology and ritual with the traits of Oriental despotism, a kind of contemporary Byzantine Empire.

But although the Russian Empire has always sought maximum isolation from the world, it would hardly be correct to discuss its fall in a context unrelated to the rest of the world.

Scientific progress is generally considered the fundamental direction of contemporary development, and total nuclear war is regarded as the basic threat to civilization. And yet even scientific progress, with every passing year I consuming progressively more of the world's production, could become regressive and civilization may perish with 1 out benefit of a dazzling nuclear explosion.

Although scientific and technical progress changes the i world before our very eyes, it is, in fact, based on a very narrow social foundation. The more significant scientific successes become, the sharper will be the contrast between those who achieve and exploit them and the rest of the world. Soviet rockets have reached Venus, while in I the village where I live potatoes are still dug by hand. This should not be regarded as a comical comparison; it is a gap which may deepen into an abyss.

The crux of the matter is not the way in which potatoes are dug but the fact that the level of thinking of most people is no higher than this manual level of potato digging. In fact, although in the economically developed countries science demands more and more physical and human resources, the fundamental principles of modern science are understood by only an insignificant minority. For the time being this minority, in collusion with the ruling elite, enjoys a privileged status. But how long will this continue?

Mao Tse-tung talks about the encircling of the "city" meaning the economically developed countries by the "village" meaning the underdeveloped countries. In fact, the economically developed countries constitute only a small part of the total world population. But what is more, even in the developed countries the "city" is encircled by the "village" the village in the literal sense of the word or former village dwellers who have only recently moved to the city. And even in the cities the people who direct modern civilization and benefit from it are an insignificant minority.

Finally, in our inner world, too, the "city" is encircled by the "village," the "village" of the subconscious and at the first disruption of our customary values we immediately feel it. Is not, in fact, this gap between city and village the greatest potential threat to our civilization?

The threat to the "city" from the "village" is all the greater in view of the fact that in the "city" there exists a  noticeable tendency toward the ever greater isolation of the individual, while the "village" is aspiring to organization and unity. This gladdens the heart of Mao Tse-tung, but the inhabitants of the world's cities have reason, as I see it, to worry about their future.

Meanwhile, we are told, Western prognosticators are indeed worried by the growth of the cities and the difficulties brought on by the rapid pace of scientific and technological progress. Evidently, if "futurology" had existed in Imperial Rome, where, as we are told, people were already erecting six-story buildings and children's merry-go-rounds were driven by steam, the fifth-century "futurologists" would have predicted for the following century r the construction of twenty-story buildings and the industrial utilization of steam power.

As we now know, however, in the sixth century goats were grazing in the Forum just as they are doing now, beneath my window in this village.

April-June, 1969 Moscow and the village of Akulovo