A Word to the Reader:
We believe the present work is very timely for Americans.
Due to the many genuine and troubling internal problems such as the drug and abortion issues, the national debt as well as the budget deficit, the instability of the stock market, the capital gains tax debates, flag burning and the like, sectors of our nation pay little attention to international affairs.
In view of this, the American TFP considered the topic of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s recent article published in the Correio Braziliense, a daily of the Brazilian capital, to be of great importance, and brings it, therefore, to the attention of the American public.
In fact, the media informs us that Gorbachev is maintaining himself in power by gradually clearing away the numerous obstacles to glasnost and perestroika. The American reader merely gives this a cursory glance and accepts it without further ado. Consequently, he forms the mental habit of no longer viewing international communism as an important danger, because Gorbachev holds the red bear on a short leash.
This subconsciously creates an atmosphere of ease in our country, as well as in the whole world, and induces countless people into a reckless confidence in the final results of Gorbachev’s pacifism. And Americans will instinctively do everything possible to maintain this belief.
The aforementioned elements tend to produce, in the short or long term, the notion that the communist danger has virtually disappeared from the face of the earth. In light of this, anticommunism loses its reason for being.
As the number increases of those who confide in Gorbachev as the guardian of the West—his presence in Russia averting the catastrophe of a nuclear war—anticommunism is seen as a vigilant and combative psychological attitude which events have made obsolete, useless, and even disagreeable.
That this optimistic and superficial view is unrealistic is what the author’s analysis demonstrates. The arguments presented are not based solely on the fickleness and deceptiveness of daily events, but also, and more notably, on a panoramic view comprising the notion of glasnost and perestroika, their relationship to the ultimate goals of the worldwide communist revolution, and the general historical lines which communism has implacably followed throughout its sometimes more and sometimes less authentic transformations from Lenin to our days.
By spreading these timely considerations, the American TFP fulfills its obligation of bringing to the attention of public opinion the necessity of maintaining a state of sagacious and constant anticommunist vigilance. We deem this imperative, at least until the facts in the Soviet Union become clear and their repercussions in the West may be evaluated with serenity, prudence and assurance.
THE average man in the street is not necessarily uneducated. He is typically a person who has completed high school and may even have a college degree. He, therefore, has a certain culture; he reads the newspapers – although not all of the extensive weekly supplements, of interest only to specialists or those so fond of the subject as to make it a pastime.
His lifelong experience – personal, familial, social, professional -and those responsibilities which compel him to worry and to think impart a certain intellectual ascendancy that affords him an indisputable influence in his circles. In short, he is a ponderable factor in public opinion.
His common sense naturally helps to counterbalance the influence – otherwise valuable in so many respects – of intellectuals, technocrats, and bureaucrats whose excesses cause them to tend toward a technical, bureaucratic and bookish totalitarianism, and whose exclusivism frequently leads them to plan and conceive solutions in an unrealistic, utopian, and confined atmosphere.
Within such an atmosphere, vitality is stifled; the subtleties of reality escape and vanish; unilateral and senseless ideologies assault and conquer public opinion. The latter could, in turn, be thrown into such a turmoil of confusion, contradictions and dramas that whole nations could agonize for decades or even centuries.
Soviet Russia: A Well-Known Stage for Political Melodramas
This is precisely the case of Russia today. Political melodramas revolving around bookish interpretations of the works of Marx, Engels, Trotsky, and other theoreticians from communism’s first phase are commonplace. These are followed by utopian politico-ideological debates on Lenin’s real or alleged infidelities to the school of Marx. The same thing happens as regards Stalin’s infidelity to the teachings of Lenin. And then Khrushchev and Brezhnev (just to mention the principal figures) are similarly questioned in the same vein.
And, finally, the drama now engulfs the whole Soviet empire. On the one hand are the radical communists, the hard-liners of state capitalism. On the other are the supporters of self-management who avidly seek to dismantle state capitalism (and the private capitalism of the West as well). Both sides argue as to whether it is the case to replace both capitalisms with self-managing socialism. This new system is touted as being innovative and invigorating, and its proponents envision a fabric of cellular human groups as the ideal social organization for today. Each cellular group would manage itself with a utopian and imperturbable internal harmony, with everything held in common: goods, work, the fruits of one’s labor, and even – as some state or imply with much likelihood – “spouses” and children.
Gorbachev Slowly Steers Toward Self-Management
How can this internal and intergroup harmony be explained? Utopian intellectual “purists” do not linger long with such problems. These groups – forming immense magmas that are peaceful, primitive and pastorally simple – are their utopian goal, the aim of their wishful thinking. Ardently desiring this ideal, they begin to dream about how to attain it.
Some, possibly influenced by the goal set forth in the Preamble of the Soviet Constitution,1 would have Gorbachev painstakingly steer frail ships like perestroika and glasnost through the murky waters of the new Russia toward self-management. And so the drama would go on. It is not surprising, then, that he may have to eventually face a dangerous reaction to self-management waged by “conservatives,” those advocating the present Soviet state capitalism.
Separatist Movements: A Brouhaha of Unknowns
While this is taking place in Russia, the rest of the Soviet empire is coming apart at the seams. Separatist movements rock such distant “united republics” as Estonia and Armenia, and extend from Ukraine to Kazakhstan and even as far as Siberia. At the same time, impetuous centrifugal tendencies toss about “sovereign” communist republics such as Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, and, above all, Poland.
What will become of all this?
Nobody knows. Nor could one know, because this scenario is an immense brouhaha of unknowns that convulsively churn, clash or collaborate under the penumbra of ever more somber news.
The Optimist’s Utopian Dreams Tend Toward Total Convergence
However, there is someone who thinks he knows “the answer.” He lives in the West. It is not one man, but a legion of men to be found in that Western current of opinion comprised of optimists. Foremost among them are prominent figures in various specialized fields who live almost exclusively in the stuffy precincts of libraries, laboratories, macro-bureaucracies, or even in the offices of big corporations.
Were it not for the overwhelming support of the majority of the media, the mere influence of these intellectuals and technocrats, detached as they are from reality, would have no bearing on the course of events. Given this support, however, these individuals are able to transmit their wishful thinking to the not-so-negligible portion of men in the street who habitually have some trust in the media.
This legion of optimists take their utopian dreams as “prophetic” intuition and interpret reality today as if self-management will usher in an era of perfect concord and eternal peace for a world finally liberated from the great structures. To this end, many utopians aspire to the fusion of all nations, all philosophical and religious schools of thought, and all ideologies, no matter how mutually conflicting they might be. This would be the fruit of the “fall of ideological barriers,” ushering in an era of universal consensus free from polemics and dissension. Thus, total disarmament would no longer appear reckless and instead become alluring. This would be the ecumenical era of dialogue wherein everything is resolved harmoniously. By becoming self-managing, communism would wane as a danger to the West, and the West would no longer be a danger to the communist world. All humanity would sing, at long last, the hymn of total convergence.
With the Death of Communism and Anticommunism, a World Freed from the Nuclear Threat Would Emerge
In turn, the death of communism would bring about – Oh! delight of all optimists! – the death of anticommunism. With the sickness gone, the doctors who specialize in treating it become useless.
These are the sentiments of many men in the street (the optimists) who obsessively dream of global plenty in a world rid of the foreboding specter of a nuclear holocaust.
Freed from his nightmares, the bourgeois Westerner would then be able to indulge in the delights of the dawn of an absolute, frivolous, and fickle relativism which would be his heaven on earth.
However, men are frequently ashamed of dreaming and, therefore, do not make their dreams clear even to themselves. To know them, it is necessary to sound out their opinions on current events. These opinions are frequently found in the daily conversations of the optimistic man in the street. By analyzing such commentaries, the course of their utopias can be determined.
Since this article is written to dialogue with the optimistic men in the street, I will now consider several aspects of their dreams, allowing me to expose their various aspirations.
For brevity’s sake, I will elaborate on the matter through successive statements. First the optimists’ proposition is presented and then the TFP’s unmasking rebuttal.
Trust Cannot Be Based Only on Personal Impressions
1. Optimists: To the lucid and intuitive observer, Gorbachev’s and Raisa’s personalities suggest that they are “good people,” friends of their people, wishing to afford them as much abundance as possible, eliminating police despotism and suppressing the specter of nuclear war.
TFP: This is the typical way the optimist thinks. A mere personal impression or some strong sympathy he feels toward another buys his confidence and allows for delightful dreams.
All it takes is a mere photograph in a newspaper or magazine or a fleeting assessment of a person flashing across the television screen to spark the rashest acts of confidence by the optimists – be they individuals, groups, or multitudes.
Evaluating and analyzing the person’s background, writings, or deeds, all of this matters little. It is enough to see his picture or hear his voice in order to judge him.
It Is Rash to Trust Someone’s Good Intentions Without Knowing His Background
2. Optimists: Because of their popularity, Gorbachev and Raisa are omnipotent and can do as they please. They want what we want. That is, they desire unlimited prosperity for all peoples of the world. There is no cause for worry.
TFP: Once again, the optimists’ same weak point can be seen. Knowing nothing of a person’s background, they nonetheless find it easy to attribute the most generous and disinterested of intentions to those they “feel good about.”
In this way, entire multitudes in the ’30s, inside and outside Germany, raved over a mere wall painter they had seen and heard and immediately “felt good about.”
Whether Nazi, fascist, communist, or whatever, demagogues and demagoguery have an easy victory when the number of optimists is great.
Long Oppression May Accustom a People to Their Slavery
3. Optimists: It is quite natural that Gorbachev be firmly entrenched in power since it is absurd to think people do not avidly yearn to be rich after 70 years of misery.
TFP: Such could actually be the attitude of a people subjected to prolonged misery. However, it is also plausible that a people treated thus could instead feel crushed, discouraged and accustomed to the dismal life of slavery.
Why should one suppose that Soviet Russia’s immense population has a unanimous attitude toward their misery? For example, it could well be that the oppressed peoples along the Baltic Sea are enraged, while those along the Black and Caspian Seas lazily yawn their conformity. Consistent with his propensity to optimism and without further evidence, the man in the street affirms that they are all enraged. From this he draws conclusions which are themselves optimistic. Among these: communism is no more. Does this frivolous manner of thinking deserve further refutation? We think not.2
Only Time Will Tell If the Russian Masses Are Really Enraged
4. Optimists: The police state suppressed the hungry and enraged people’s possibility to revolt. Gorbachev freed the beast and no one can stop it now. Misery’s aggressiveness is invincible and has justly made Gorbachev known as the paladin of abundance and champion of liberty. A man who holds the irresistible tide of public opinion in his hands cannot be overthrown.
TFP: “Enraged people”? Misery and oppression do not always cause outrage; rather, they can sometimes weaken a people. Only impending events will tell if the Russian masses are really enraged or lamentably weakened. The revolt in China aptly illustrates how a dispirited majority actually submitted to the oppression (at least thus far) that was re-instituted with the victory of the hard-line “conservative” communists.
“He cannot be overthrown.” Since this prediction is based on the emptiness of an unproven premise, it is as worthless as the premise itself.
The Frenzy of Helping Gorbachev Suggests He May Fall Without the Support of the West
5. Optimists: All Gorbachev’s plans are viable and will prevail. All his promises are sincere and will be fulfilled. All his assurances of disarmament deserve our absolute trust. It would be absurd to believe otherwise. This leads the West (governments, politicians, capitalists, intellectuals, and the media) to painstakingly support Gorbachev (and rightly so). In this way, they provide immense support to his prestige and power in Russia.
TFP: The West’s easy-going optimism really does help Gorbachev stay in power. Alarmingly large public and private loans; blindly confident disarmament agreements without serious verification clauses; all sorts of international business deals enhancing Gorbachev’s prestige; international trips that are no less prestigious and propagandistic; all these are furnished by a West “drugged” with optimism and help Gorbachev effectively resist internal opposition.
This frenzy of surrendering and retreating before Soviet power and favoring Gorbachev in every possible way does not augur well. The Western frenzy seems motivated largely by the fear that Gorbachev may fall if not given these torrential handouts and gigantic perks.
“A beggar is suspicious when the alms are too great.” Are not such abundant alms to Gorbachev sufficient grounds for suspicion? Yes, a suspicion that behind the abundant aid to Gorbachev is the panic of his defeat in Russia’s hinterlands, together with the frivolous optimism of his benefactors. A minor outburst denouncing his weakness could then be enough to make it no longer economically and politically expedient to support him. With this, both handouts and perks would avariciously disappear. And then woe to Gorbachev!
After 70 Years, It Is More Likely Than Not That Communist Slavery Will Continue
6. Optimists: The present state of misery in Russia is essentially unstable in the eyes of the bourgeoisie and of the masses of the West. These consider tragedy improbable or, should it occur, only fleeting. Thus, Gorbachev will naturally maintain the reins of power. Should his hard-line enemies obtain some victory, it will be short-lived. This victory will backfire, resulting in a catastrophe for the culprits and a happy ending for the victims. Stalinist “conservatism” is destined to catastrophe, and perestroika and glasnost to triumph. These are the inevitable results of historical destiny. Admitting the contrary would render unbearable the life of the philanthropic Western optimist. Therefore, Stalinist forms of oppression will have to disappear once and for all.
TFP: It is astonishing that someone would uphold as indisputable the optimists’ premise that the state of misery and oppression in Russia is ephemeral. Czarism fell in 1917. Since then, the so-called Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which includes the vast Russian state, has languished in blackest misery. It is a misery bound to doleful slavery and which was rightly called “this shame of our time” in a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presided over by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation,” of August 6, 1984).
Slavery is undoubtedly the other face of the Soviet empire’s misery. If we consider the politically motivated death sentences, the hellish Lubyanka, the unending prison terms in Siberia, the awesomely dreadful psychiatric hospitals, the incessant and ubiquitous police oppression, how can this nightmare of horrors from which Russia has been unable to extricate itself for over seven decades be qualified as ephemeral? This is nothing more than a blatant denial of the most evident historical facts.
Why waste time on this argument? Let it suffice to disdainfully look upon it and continue on. “Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa” (The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto III, v. 51). Thus did Virgil counsel Dante. As Dante followed that counsel, let us do likewise.
Unleashing Liberty Does Not Necessarily Produce Order
7. Optimists: It is not, however, that difficult to normalize the situation in Russia. Just liberalize everything. Then, order and abundance, irrigated by liberty, will sprout everywhere.
TFP: Liberty is a great good, as the Holy Catholic Church has always taught. Regarding this matter, Leo XIII may be especially cited for his encyclical Libertas Praestantissimum. However – and the Church also teaches this – liberty is only good in the measure that it is limited by the principles of Christian morality and the natural order. Observing these principles; finding the perfect measure of human behavior in the concrete application of each of these principles; endowing the proper authority with the necessary power to fulfill its mission without excess; delineating the limitations of authority, and, to this end, establish a complex and judicious system of intermediary groups between the state and the individual; and, finally, balancing the relations between these intermediary groups and individual liberties; this herculean task would be impossible to undertake without the inestimable and precious help of God’s grace.
To abstract from all this and imagine we need only unleash liberty for everything to spontaneously fall into place is to imagine a primitive utopia.
Gorbachev’s Prestige Is Also Shaken by the Separatist Movements
8. Optimists: The separatist movements do not really threaten Gorbachev. The Soviet empire is so immense that it can stand to lose the greater part of its non-Russian territories and still remain vast. As for the communist republics that are not part of the USSR, several of them could also leave the Soviet bloc and the latter’s size would still be considerable.
TFP: The optimists are looking at the problem from the wrong angle. To observe more and more sections of this Moloch uncontrollably failing like decaying flesh from a leper can only create an extremely disturbing and profoundly embarrassing impression in those accustomed to seeing the Soviet empire in its present vast dimensions. The devastating effect of this process also shakes Gorbachev’s prestige to the degree that these pieces of “flesh” fall from the area he rules.
It Is Rash to Trust Yesterday’s Enemy Without Guarantees
9. Optimists: Communism is dead. Whence arises an even greater joy: anticommunism, the repugnant prophet of misfortune, the disagreeable preacher of austerity, reflection, coherence, and seriousness, will vanish from the earth.
TFP: Truly, as a classical proverb states, whom God wishes to condemn, He first makes mad: “Quos Deus perdere vult, prius dementat.”
The delirious Western optimists precipitately savor the Russian leader’s victory even before the fact. Nothing guarantees that Gorbachev is not just paying us lip service and that he is not making plans he knows could only be realized in a utopia. In the West, the die-hard optimist trusts yesterday’s enemy, who presumably is still his enemy today and will be so tomorrow.
On the contrary, he wishes at the same time to distance himself from the anticommunists, the dedicated and unflinching paladins of Western and Christian civilization. If Western magnates maintain this mentality, one thing is certain: Regardless of who triumphs, communists or anticommunists, these optimists will fall. They are always the real losers of history. And new elites raised by Divine Providence will deservedly replace them to direct, with uprightness, the affairs of this world.
- “The highest goal of the Soviet state is the building of a classless communist society in which social communist self-administration will be developed” (Constitution [Fundamental Law] of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in Aryeh L. Unger, Constitutional Development in the USSR (New York: Pica Press, 19821, p. 233).
In his book Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), Gorbachev calls attention to the present Soviet system’s shortcomings:
“Little room was left for Lenin’s idea of the working people’s self-management. Public property was gradually fenced off from its true owner, the working man…. This was the major cause of what happened: at the new stage the old system of economic management began to turn from a factor of development into a brake that retarded socialism’s advance.”
“An educated and talented people committed to socialism could not make full use of the potentialities inherent in socialism, of their right to take a real part in the administration of state affairs.
“It goes without saying that in these conditions Lenin’s valuable ideas on management and self-management, profit-and-loss accounting, and the linking of public and personal interests, faded to be applied and develop properly” (pp. 47-48).
As Gorbachev amply explains in his book, perestroika is merely a continuation of Lenin’s ideas. Therefore, the plan for economic reform presented during the June 1987 Plenary Meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Committee “provides for the creation of new organizational structures of management, for the all-round development of the democratic foundations of management, and for the broad introduction of the self-management principles” (p. 84).
Perestroika is no retreat from communism, as some may think, but rather a step toward the realization of the final goal of the Marxist-Leninist utopia. Gorbachev misses no opportunity to state loudly and clearly in his book that people of the West should not be deluded in this regard (see pp. 36 ff.).
About this topic, see the Message of the TFPs “What Does Self-Managing Socialism Mean for Communism: A Barrier? Or a Bridgehead?” by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira (The Washington Post, 12/9/81; The New York Times, 12/13/81; The Los Angeles Times, 12/13/81; Dallas Morning News, 12/13/81).
Moreover, press reports clearly show how deluded the optimists really are regarding Russia’s supposed march toward the restoration of the right of private property.
Deputy Prime Minister Leonid Abalkin told Izvestia that “economic difficulties are causing deepening social tension and a lack of interest in the reforms” (Jornal da Tarde, Sao Paulo, 10/2/89). As a remedy, he foresees the privatization of the bankrupt state-owned companies, putting them under the control of worker cooperatives (see Jornal da Tarde, 9/25189). This is a far cry from the restoration of the right of private property.
Thus, when Prime Minister Nikolai Rizhkov introduced a bill in the Soviet Parliament proposing a new commercial law, he made it very clear that there are plans only to “denationalize the economy by creating new types of socialist property” (Jornal da Tarde, Sao Paulo, 103/89). The bill calls for a system of cooperatives and industries controlled by groups of citizens but excludes the possibility of sole proprietorships (see Jornal da Tarde, 10/3/89).
In a statement equally opposed to the idea of the right of private property, Prime Minister Rizlikov commented: “Presently, there are few private properties belonging to only one person. Most of them belong to corporations. How can we return to the past?” (O Globo, Rio de Janeiro, 10/3189).
As for rural property, Rizhkov noted that land leased by the state to family units can be inherited, but never sold. The land remains collective property (see Jornal do Tarde, 10/4/89). It is clear that this leasing of rural land is not to be confused with private property.
Similarly, all other bills proposed by the government are based on the absence of private property (ibid.).
The old communist concepts have not mellowed with time: “We [Russians] have a suspicion of the very word ‘rich,’ Soviet author A. Vasinsky wrote recently in Izvestia. “It’s a kind of allergy, cultivated since our student days” (Newsweek, [international edition] 10/9/89, p. 18).
Symptomatically, unhappy deputies stopped Deputy Prime Minister Abalkin short as he was praising the private cooperatives in the Soviet Parliament; instead, they requested that the cooperatives be severely restricted or simply closed. Even Gorbachev, who had authorized them, complained of their high prices and warned: “We have to take into account the mood of the people” (Newsweek, international edition] 10/9/89, p. 18).
- Bernard Leromte’s article “Gorbachev in Danger” in L’Express (7/7/89), demonstrates that three dangers hover over the Soviet leader’s head. One of these is “the conservatism … of a population which has been stunned, annihilated and terrorized by means of a prolonged fight between an old system of values and the criminal utopia of the ‘new man.’ Seventy years of communism have made these people apathetic and irresponsible. Behind an intellectual elite … there are 286 million Soviets who do not believe in the reforms. How will Gorbachev make this society, which is becoming the most conservative society in the world, evolve?” (p. 30).
It is well to bear in mind that this “conservatism” is the fruit of accommodation and apathy in face of an anti-natural and despotic regime.
In this same issue of L’Express (p. 38), Vladimir Berelovitch underscores the same idea by describing “the inhabitants of Russia’s hinterlands” as “submissive, terrorized, and irresponsible humans who have been molded by despotism for decades. Do we expect this population to have initiative and to approve the reforms? … General apathy characterizes this population.”