For the sake of argument

Let’s stop being polite to the Russians

LIN YUTANG URGES October 11 1958
For the sake of argument

Let’s stop being polite to the Russians

LIN YUTANG URGES October 11 1958

Let’s stop being polite to the Russians

For the sake of argument


The Communists have a fighting language. The Free World hasn't. Communist Russia has created a

striking, extraordinary language, a

fighting language of ideology which even Hitler did not have. Of course the West cannot have a

language when it does not even know what this present world conflict of ideas is about. The average man’s conception is merely that

the Communists are championing a world revolution and are intending to break down the capitalist

system of the Free World, and that the capitalist countries do not like it. And the Free World let that impression stand. The fact is. this is neither a conflict of social systems, since both are capitalist, nor

of national conflicts, but is of a

universal character. The general

impression is that while Russia finds a lot of faults with the capitalist world, the West finds no faults with “socialist” Russia.

Cold war of words

The spectacle of either Dulles or Macmillan having a tilt with Khrushchev always gives me the

hilarious feeling of watching a

gentleman wearing a bowler hat

and striped pants and carrying a

cane, having a bad time of it at the

market square against a crowd of village drunks and broads. He

does not talk their dialect; he uses

the wrong words and has a wrong accent. Khrushchev can say to

Western diplomats, “We will bury you”; the Western diplomats cannot possibly do that.

But in a cold war of words, as in an electioneering campaign,

every weapon of rhetoric is allow-

able—wit, abuse, derision, mockery, malicious exposure—the ob-

ject being to cause the embarrassment and discomfiture of the op-

ponent. The more embarrassment you can cause your opponent, the

more convincing you are. Malice

Aforethought is the great thing.

Dulles is professorial—what Wes-

tern diplomat does not aspire to be?—and Macmillan is good for answering questions to MPs. They have fouled up the whole show.

Whatever is wrong about the tactics of rabble-rousing, there is in it a ground principle of all oratory—the speaker must be imaginative, he must be able to put himself in the place of his listeners and talk their language. One should not enter the cold war of ideas unless one has a fighting program and unless he has an imaginative understanding of the minds and psychology of the foreign peoples caught in a wave of revolutionary fervor and wavering at the moment at the crossroads. This is what the West hasn't got.

So it has come about that the Western diplomats are the world’s worst propagandists for themselves. While the Americans’ technique for selling detergents ranks first in the world, they are acknowledged failures in selling deterrents. They cannot “sell” democracy. They are almost inarticulate in presenting the case of freedom to the people of Asia, Africa and South America. They have violated the first law of publicity, of studying the psychology and attitudes of their prospective buyers. This psychology of the uncommitted countries is a completely neglected field.

Communist propaganda has always followed a line carefully thought out and mapped by the Comintern decades back. It has made propaganda into a science, subtly playing on the psychology of the people it wishes to convert. Wherever communism won new friends, it has done so, first, as a champion of the masses against an oppressing class and, second, as a champion of national independence against oppressing foreign countries. That is briefly the communist arsenal in the cold war of propaganda. And often it is terribly effective. The enslavement and

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“The American appeal to Asian youth is a call to lie down on beds with box-spring mattresses”

exploitation of labor and the liberation of countries under an imperialist yoke are exactly the kind of topics to arouse the idealism and revolutionary ardor of young students and intellectuals.

In contrast to the communist call for heroism and sacrifice, the American call, an appeal to prosperity, is a call to lie in beds with box-spring mattresses. The communist call is like a call to burn down a house or a bridge: the American approach to propaganda is practically an exhibition of soft mattresses and an invitation to look on the screen at a kidney-shaped swimming pool in Hollywood. The Americans do not realize this sort of thing leaves the Asiatics cold because it is so remote and unreal. If American propaganda tells the Asiatics the story of a shoeshine boy in downtown Eastside who gets an even chance in schooling, the Asiatics understand it and will like it. But if somebody tells me that the air of Banff is like champagne,

1 may say fine. I would like to go there someday, but for the present the foul city air of Manhattan is good enough for me.

The perfectly sincere desire lor peace on the part of the West must be separated from the fear of saying anything offensive to Russia as necessarily leading to war. Russia, I suspect, no more desires war than we, yet that has not stopped Russia from continually hurling charges against the West in a challenging aggressive tone. Exchange of countercharges leads to mounting tension, it is true, but the ban on exchange of invective must be two-sided, and there is no evidence whatsoever that Russia is willing to reverse its practice.

Myth of the unblemished Reds

Fundamentally, the proposal to stop countercharges is meaningless because it cannot be done. Even it Russia is called upon to renounce world revolution, she cannot do it. And she will not do it. The moment she officially gives up the evangelical mission of crusading for world revolution, her propaganda battle will have lost its sting. In that case, communism will have lost its fighting message and the peoples of Asia will not be impressed. I he wind of revolutionary fervor will have been taken out of its sails. Communism, it must be realized, is a fighting doctrine; the moment it ceases to be an ever-progressing fighting doctrine trying to convert the world, it is dead.

There is no reason why in the war of propaganda Russia should have all the advantages. Quite the contrary. I he aim of communist propaganda has always been to embarrass the West at a timely moment, and Russia might be surprised to find that she could be woefully embarrassed, too. if the West so chose. The fact that the West has so far refrained from doing so creates a cocksure impression that Soviet Russia is ever-confident, ever-progressive, and free from moral or political blemishes. If so, she is due to find out a great many things about herself. There is no need of smears; what is needed is merely the willingness to call things by their right names.

An anti-communist international united policy must take a firm stand on the liberation of nations subjected at pres-

ent to Russian imperialism, both in Eastern Europe and in Central Asia. The principle of national liberation must be affirmed sincerely and unequivocally. If Russia agrees to the principle, so much the better; arguments as to whether Hun-

gary or Poland, etc., is independent now can come later. The more arguments, the more will Russia be exposed. The greatest contradiction which threatens the structure of the Russian state is its rule as imperialist power holding at least

twenty independent peoples in subjection, and in any one of these are sparks which may kindle into a flame.

Actually today, Russia is in a more vulnerable position than Great Britain in this respect. She should be put on the

defensive, and not be permitted to go about peddling anti-imperialist talk like a champion of national liberties. She need not look so comfortable and we need not assist her to look comfortable. The West will protest, for instance, that the Polish government is not independent hut obeys the behests of Russia. Russia will deny it, and the West will protest again. Russia will vehemently deny it again, and the West will insist that it is a puppet government. That generates an issue. That is the whole point of psychological warfare. Again, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are as much entitled to free elections as Poland and Hungary, and so are Uzkelkistan and Kazakhstan. Russia will say angrily that free elections have been held, and the West will say that they have not. That brings out another issue and creates discussion. Especially if Russia insists that these countries are independent, there is no reason for her to look upon them as her own and obstruet a United Nations supervision of free elections. This is psychological warfare par excellence. No war is risked just because you say you believe Poland is under the colonial rule of Russia.

The Western democracies have consistently missed this point. They will not even talk about national liberation of these countries unless, they say, they are prepared to go to war with Russia over the question of these countries. They have thus completely misunderstood psychological warfare. SEATO is an excellent example. It practically counts the Asiatics out, although a few are thrown in grudgingly, and indicates that the white men alone are going to shoulder the responsibility for defending the status quo of Southeast Asia. It never enters their heads that what the Asiatic peoples think has anything to do with the matter, and similarly what the peoples of Eastern Europe think is practically ignored as of no strategic advantage. It’s all just a military fight, and nothing else. On the other hand Russia is winning on the psychological approach alone.

An anti-communist international policy must include exposure of oppression of the masses, which in Russia is car-, ried out with every form of skulduggery, every form of beastliness and prostitution of human dignity and degradation of human nature. For the second great contradiction of the Soviet rule is its necessary and inevitable oppression of the masses and enslavement of the working class, and the use of despotic methods and rigid control of thought for this purpose. These methods have been carried to extremes beyond the Czars, and they show that a “perpetual civil war beween the government and the people” exists. It is a highly unstable and unsound situation. The West should call upon Soviet Russia to stop the inhuman enslavement of labor and to encourage the freedom of opinion which her constitution promises. If Russia does not like it, so much the better.

Russia and Poland in 1956, and Red China in 1957, have tried liberalization of censorship and have found it necessary to clamp it on again. 1 hey cannot afford to hear what their people say. It is likely that even a slight relaxation of censorship may be dangerous to communist rule wherever it may be. As in Poland, once the people have a foretaste of freedom, they are likely to demand more.

The anti-communist campaign must educate the people about Soviet subversive tactics. It must be pointed out that Soviet methods of infiltration and propaganda include two elements, conciliation and intransigence, used suc-

cessively or even simultaneously according to the psychological mood of the chosen victim at the time. Communists are more dangerous when they are conciliatory. Conciliation, in the form of United Front or "peaceful coexistence,” or “peaceful evolution,” has only one single aim, to disarm opposition. Subversion, by its very nature, is stealthy, double-faced and conspiratorial, and is afraid of exposure. Russia hates, above all, exposure of her double-faced tactics. Her technique of conquest of the six European countries must be exposed until every schoolchild knows it. because she is bound to repeat the same standard technique in every country where communism is not yet strong enough to take over. Officially, Russia is committed to the doctrine of World Revolution. World revolution and peaceful coexistence are by definition mutually exclusive. On Russia's choice of these alternatives depends ultimately whether there is going to be more or less world tension. The democracies have every right to demand to know, when Russia talks about "peaceful coexistence,” whether she means to renounce world revolution. If she refuses, she is unmasked as an international subversive agent and responsibility for increasing world tension rests squarely upon her; if she accepts, she already suffers a defeat, admitting her false position, and betrays original Marxism, thus losing the whole weight of her propaganda appeal. At present Khrushchev wants both; he can’t have both. It’s our own muddy thinking which allows him to have both. This should be the centre of negotiations between the East and the West, and the West’s terms for peaceful coexistence are Moscow’s official recantation and renunciation of world revolution. All else—the suspension of tests, inspection zones, disengagement zones, disarmament—-is futile.

Above all, the Russian Soviet rule is decadent, reactionary, anti-Marx and anti-labor. By her own admission, she is not communist; by the facts of her record, she is not even socialist. This is the most important truth which takes decades to reveal itself to full clarity and certainty. In common, popular terms, she has revealed herself as an oppressor of the masses and as the enemy of the working class. At every international conference, she should be put to defend herself against this charge, to prove that she does not oppress the poor and does not degrade labor. The coat of com-

munist ideology has been wearing threadbare and her armor is -full of holes. A sham is always afraid of exposure. In fairness to the facts, she should not be allowed to get away with calling herself "socialist” and should be so challenged at every step.

It will be noticed that Khrushchev has been talking and boasting a great deal about Russian “productivity," but Khrushchev cannot and will not talk about the sweatshop conditions of the Russian workers and the means by which such “productivity” is brought about. I strongly fear that Khrushchev’s recent bid to "beat" the capitalist countries in the production of consumer goods will be the new pretext for another wave of cracking of whips and lashing of backs of the Russian workers in the grotesque Stakhanov fashion. In the same breath in which Khrushchev makes this boast. Moscow announces the increase of work quotas for the workers and prevention of ruinous costs of labor.

A war of ideology, unlike a political conference, is not to settle issues, but to raise them. An agreement to bury the issues is to call the cold war olL But one can only pretend that there are no fundamental issues between the communist and the anti-communist world, which would be to delude oneself. Even if. for instance, the disarmament issue is settled, ideological conflicts will remain which can be resolved only in favor of one side.

A purely defensive war in ideology is a war lost already and because of this a war of ideology should not be conducted with the hope, or even the idea, of "relaxing international tension." lí should be so conducted as to seize and retain the initiative in choosing the issues to be fought about, and in timing these issues.

An ideological war should be instilled with a high moral passion against evil and against all forms of oppression. It should have a faith which can stir men’s souls. It should have a direct, immediate appeal. The voice of propaganda should be the voice of conviction in certain eternal principles, and of certainty (like communist faith in the materialistic evolution of history). Unlike diplomatictalks, it need not llinch at evil, or avoid mentioning it, or shut its eyes to it. ★

This article was excerpted from Dr. Lin's new book, The Secret Name, to he published soon by Ambassador Hooks.