FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT

March 24 1962

FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT

March 24 1962

FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT

Michael Bark way, a widely respected, writer on politics and economics, says : WE’RE STILL WRONG ABOUT THE RUSSIANS Barkway was assigned by Tass to give the Russians a Canadian view of the USSR's historic Third Program. He says this economic blueprint reads like an election speech by Diefenbaker or Kennedy—and that the real causes of World War III will be the imaginary dangers in our own bogy-riclden minds

I DON'T VERY OFTEN WORRY about my grandchildren, as the Hon. Howard Green and Dr. James Thomson do when they think about the cold war. I expect our grandchildren will be able to look after the world quite as well as their parents, and that will be considerably better than their grandparents.

The idea that the world may be devastated by nuclear war is appalling, because nuclear war is unnecessary and very unpleasant. But it is not the ultimate catastrophe. 1 don't see how any Christian can regard suffering or death as the ultimate catastrophe, because that makes nonsense of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection — and makes us hypocrites.

It isn’t nuclear war in itself that is intolerable to think of: the only really intolerable thing is that w'e may ourselves bring on nuclear war by being as proud, as unimaginative and as un-Christian as the people we so readily call our enemies. But we will make nuclear war inevitable if we create a bogy of communist wickedness, while we accuse the communists of making a bogy of capitalist imperialism.

In this sense the Cold War is imaginary. It only exists because the communists imagine us. and we imagine them, to be irreconcilable enemies committed to each other's destruction and embodying all the world’s political evil.

If you think that is exaggeration, read the recent book by George Kennan, analysing our dealings with Soviet Russia since 1917. (Kennan is the brilliant American expert on Soviet diplomacy, and former head of policy planning in the State Department.) He says: “You see what happens when people make policy on the basis of exaggerated fears and prejudices. Those dangers they conjure up in their own imagination eventually take on flesh and rise to assail them — or their children.”

This is my only worry about my grandchildren: that we may bequeath to them an irreconcilable monster which we have created out of our own fears and prejudices. We don't have to. There's still time to be sensible — but not much.

Ever since the Russian Revolution of 1917, Kennan shows, we have generally been ten years behind the times in our view of the Soviet Union. By the time Gouzenko and other notorious spy stories woke us up to “the rather normal phenomenon of foreign penetration and espionage” (Kennan’s words), the wave of communist subversion was already on the wane. By the time most of us woke up to the grim horror of Stalin's tyranny, Stalin was dead. If it takes us another ten years to realize the changes going on in the Soviet Union now, we may be too late. The dangers we imagine will take on flesh.

FORGET STALIN. WATCH TODAY’S RED DREAMS

Stalin has been dead and embalmed for eight years; now' he is even buried. Kennan doubts that the Russian people can ever again be bottled up as they once were. He talks of a “rudimentary parliamentarianism” now growing up. Edward Crankshaw, the British expert on Russia, says: “The Soviet Union is moving toward a species of democracy.” The London Economist, always well informed about the Soviet, noted in January “how difficult it is to get accustomed to the idea that the penalty for political defeat in the Soviet Union need no longer be jail or execution.” Our reflexes, it said, are still conditioned by memories of Stalin. Kennan adds that our memories ought to be “a marker of how far we have come since 1953, rather than blinding us to the realities of today.”

1 don’t think any of us have paid enough attention to the Third Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union w'hich was adopted last year as the official blueprint for Soviet economic policy in the next twenty years.

This isn't just another politicians’ election manifesto. It isn’t just another five-year plan. It is only the Third Program issued by the communists since the beginning of this century. The first was issued in 1903 by the insignificant Bolshevik party: it was their call for a revolu-

tion to overthrow the czars. It kept them going till the revolution took place in 1917, and the Bolsheviks managed to take charge of it.

Then they issued their Second Program in 1919 — after they were in power. It was devoted to “the task of building a socialist society” and was considered good enough to keep them going until last year. Then, after fortytwo years, the communists issued the Third Program.

Obviously it was intended to mark a decisive change of era, and if we pass it over as "just another windy communist statement" we are in no position to blame them for not knowing what is going on over here.

The Third Program boldly proclaims that the Second has been accomplished: socialism has been established; the “exploiting classes” have been abolished; the Soviet Union has entered the new era of “communist construction.”

It sounds like nonsense. None of the words means the same thing to us as to the Russians. We have to switch right out of our familiar world of thought and language, in which we've been nurtured since childhood, and try to get into a world of utterly different thought and language and presuppositions, in which the Russians have been nurtured since their childhood.

It ought to be easier for us than for them. In 1917 ninety percent of the Soviet people were illiterate. Those who are now of an age to exercise any political or economic influence have learned everything they know — from their ABC to their science, politics and philosophy — from the communist state. If there is an effort of understanding to be made, surely by every law of God and man it ought to start from our side.

I have just been learning how difficult it is — and I got a glimpse of how important it may be — through the curious circumstances which led me to study the Third Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It was the result of a journalistic assignment— unusual and, so far

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FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT continued from page 16

The new Soviet goals sound oddly familiar: “It is essential to lighten the domestic work of women”

as 1 know, unique for a Canadian newspaperman.

I was commissioned to write an article on the economic aspects of the communist Program for the official Soviet news agency, Tass. For the first time in my life I accepted communist gold. Or. to be more precise, I demanded it.

The Tass correspondent in Canada is a quiet, smiling, friendly man called Alexander Zhigulev. His cover name, at least around the Parliamentary Press Gallery, is Ziggie. We have said hello to each other dozens of times in the loose camaraderie of the Press Gallery. 1 have several times gone so far as to tell him that it was a cold day. and I don’t remember that he ever contradicted me. but the conversation never developed much further. So Ziggie’s proposition came out of the blue.

It was just after President Kennedy’s famous interview with the editor of Izvestia last year, and my first thought was “Me and Kennedy!” in the same moment I realized that like eighteen million other Canadians I knew nothing about the new Soviet economic Program. And even if 1 did, what could 1 possibly write in Canadian terms that would make sense in Russion terms? The vast gulf of thought and language loomed between us, and I despaired of bridging it.

My hesitation was immediately reflected in Ziggie's eager moon-face, which is far more expressive than his very halting English. The clouds came over the moon, and he looked worried. “Are you not a writer on economic affairs?” he asked, as though fearing that he had approached the wrong man. When I admitted that was my field, the smile immediately returned. “Then,” he said cheerfully, “of course you can write an article explaining how our plan compares with Canadian prospects.”

The request was so unusual, and clashed so directly with preconceptions about Tass as an official propagandist organ, that I felt suspicious as one always does about something one doesn’t quite understand. First 1 said 1 was a free-lance writer and would expect to be paid. “Of course,” he said, "1 understand. When I send the story to Moscow I will ask for the money.” Then I stipulated that 1 should be free to publish the same article in Canada. Ziggie agreed immediately.

When my piece turned out far too long — how can you bridge that gulf in 500 words? — he sat down beside me to get my approval for every cut; and still cabled twice what he had asked for.

I am very grateful to him: he made me study the Third Program. And, for a bonus, that expressive face of his, with three stumbling F.nglish sentences, gave me a glimpse of the excitement which a young Russian can feel about it. For the first time in his life. I realized, his government is promising to devote the country’s resources to consumer needs. Within twenty years, it says, the Soviet standard of living will catch up with the Americans’. “You will understand.” said Ziggie as he gave me a copy of the Program, “we can't have war.”

The F.nglish translation of the Program, running to 120 pages, is as full of verbiage as a collection of the resounding declarations of the U. S. National Association of Manufacturers and the Canadian Chambers of Commerce, plus selected speeches by Mr. Diefenbaker. Mr. Jodoin. Dr. James Mutchmor and certain bishops whom it would be invidious to name.

It is hard to get through the cocksure, doctrinaire arguments about communist theory, but 1 found it a help to recall the works of medieval theologians, of Luther or the magnificent John Donne. For that matter even papal encyclicals of the twentieth century are pretty tough going, and they are at least dealing with the same body of thought and the same basic doctrines that we were brought up with. The communists are wrestling with their sacred texts of Marx and Engels and Lenin, which are double-Dutch to us, and they are using words like “socialism” and “communism” with meanings as refined and perplexing as the meanings which Roman theologians give to transubstantiation or immaculate conception.

The astonishing thing — once you get past the jargon — is that the brave new world of the communists’ Third Program is much the same as the kind of ideal

world we sometimes dream about. I suspect it will elude them — and us — for a long time to come, and I’m sceptical about the precise economic goals which they set for the next twenty years. But surely these are far less important than their broad objectives and methods, which are described in terms that are almost absurdly familiar to us.

Efforts are to be concentrated on a rapid increase in output of consumer goods. I>eoplc are to get more meat, fruit and vegetables, attractive clothes and footwear, comfortable modern furniture, more cars, domestic appliances and electrical gadgets. “It is essential.” says the Program, "to lighten the domestic work of women."

Consumer goods must meet growing demand and conform with changes in taste. Good shopping facilities are “a necessary and important condition.”

Within twenty years all families, including newlyweds, are promised flats of their own. Small and middle-sized towns will be developed with “every amenity.” Public transport will be improved and eventually provided free. (It’s interesting that some American cities are also discussing free urban transit.) Shorter hours, better welfare services, more doctors and hospitals, higher old-age pensions and homes for old

people: all the election planks of a Canadian political party are there.

Even more significant, perhaps, are the methods proposed to stimulate all this economic growth. The Canadian politicians’ pet theme of “higher productivity” is high on the list. So is our emphasis on better education, “both vocational and general." Workers displaced by mechanization or automation must have "planned training” to fit them for "rational employment” in other jobs. Workers’ qualifications in every industry must be imprcTvcd systematically. labor productivity must improve faster than wages. Wages themselves must he geared to both the quality and the quantity of production. Incentives are to he provided for all workers—both material and moral.

Individual initiative, the price system, profits, careful use of capital, good financial controls, and improved management are all commended in terms that any chamber of commerce might approve. The Program says: “Such instruments of economic development as cost accounting, money, price, production cost, profit, trade, credit and finance play a big part.” Prices are to he based on costs (including "socially necessary" levels of wages) plus a margin of profit for each enterprise. Local enterprises are to get more and more independence within the national plan, and "the initiative of scientists, engineers, designers. workers and collective farmers in creating and applying technical improvements” is to be "promoted in every way.”

The Soviet Communist Party declares that its Program can he fulfilled in conditions of peace, warns that it will he set hack if worsening international relations call for another arms build-up, and promises that it would be surpassed if military expenditures could be reduced or complete disarmament achieved.

"It is possible to avert a world war,” the Program flatly states. It repeats over and over again that the Soviet Union stands for

peaceful coexistence, and says the main task of this generation, is to “ward off a nuclear war. to prevent it from breaking out.” The chapter on defense takes only two of the 120 pages; and if you change “socialist states” to “communist imperialists." and “capital imperialism” to “the free world,” you might mistake it for a policy declaration by President Kennedy or Mr. Diefenbaker.

The goals of the economic program sound fantastic. In twenty years the USSR wants to increase industrial output by 500 percent, average productivity by 300 percent and per capita incomes by 250 percent. Trying to compare these aims with Canadian forecasts for my Tass assignment. I had to keep saying how' far ahead we arc already until it sounded like: "Yah. we’re richer than you.” So I put in a couple of sentences which particularly pleased Zhigulev. I said: "Most Canadians don’t want to increase the difference in our living standards, hut to reduce it . . . This is the best form of rivalry — to see which of us can provide the best form of life for human beings.”

That’s platitudinous enough in all conscience. But maybe it needs saying more often. “Throughout all these years of anticapitalist and anti-American propaganda in (he Soviet Union,” says Kcnnan. "the Soviet peoples have remained touchingly well-inclined toward the United States.”

"Let us beware,” he says, “of wholly condemning an entire people. The great moral issues, on which civilization will stand or fall, cut across all military and ideological borders, across peoples, classes and regimes — across the make-up of the human individual himself.”

To forget this is to imagine the world into war: to conjure up the dangers which could take on flesh and assail our children. If we manage to spare them that. I’m quite content — like Bismarck — to leave them some problems to solve: otherwise they would be so bored, if