Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Wolfgang Leonhard


Q: In the history ofthe Cold War, who do you think won the battle for ideas and why?

A: On the first glance it is a victory of the West. It's the victory of the West over Communism. I'm not sure if it's a victory of ideas. It's primarily the victory of economic strength. The victory of market economy over a state-planned economy. And the victory of a multi-Party society, a pluralistic society, over dictatorial, monolithic society. In these two aspects it's absolutely clear, market economy over planned economy, pluralistic development of human beings against dictatorial one-sided. But I'm afraid the real serious battle of ideas, the real serious discussion has not yet started, or should really only begin. I will be very careful of rejoicing having a victory rejoicing. I think one needs a lot of thoughts also about some of the strengths of Communism, and about some of the weaknesses and problems of a Western democratic society. So I think there should be still a lot of thinking, discussion is to be done. Especially because it has shown that the Communist dictatorial systems have broken down everywhere from East Germany to Mongolia. But Communism not. This is strange thing that the Communists change and with new ideas, new slogans, new methods, in a pluralist democracy suddenly come up again and gain strength. So I think we should wait a little bit before we rejoice and do some critical thinking and analysis.

Q: Was the Cold War necessary? Was it -

A: Yes, I think so. I think it was necessary, it's not only a mistake. I think it was necessary, it was unavoidable. Some of the events maybe could have taken another shape, but in principle there's no doubt for me that the Stalin leadership ruling the empire had the firm aim of increasing its power and dominance. Not so primitive as sadly enough people in the West thought, that they would come with tanks. No, that's fascist, but not Communist. That's in extraordinary cases you do it, but no, no, no, cleverly with political strategy, thoughtful intermediate periods, like Khrushchev once said, 'we want to take it in such a way that the people don't even notice it.' That's what Communism is about. That they don't even notice what happens. So, I think this imperial design of Stalin and the Stalin leadership was existing, and if that was existing, and it was existing, there was no other way than to bring resistance, bring power against the fulfilment of this imperial design. And therefore then the Cold War was unavoidable. In one or the other instance, things could have been done differently, but the Cold War was a necessary development due to the imperial grand empire design of the Stalin leadership.

Q: How much of that design was ideological as opposed to Great Power politics?

A: It's always among Communists absolutely combined. Absolutely combined. If you have a very elaborate ideology which is able to explain and justify your actions, it is very easy to believe such an ideology, and to use the terminology of this ideology. It's very easy for a high Party official who has a lot of privileges to believe that cadres, which is the official term for officials, should deserve these privileges. It's not only allowed, you deserve them. So you can - you use this ideology almost automatically in the period of fulfilling your great power aims, and it's almost impossible to divide them, because there are intrinsic connection between both of them.

Q: In what way did Tito threaten this grand design?

A: Please?

Q: In what way did Tito threaten this view of the world by what he did?

A:He threatened Stalin's great aims, first because Communist leaders of any country have to obey Stalin. Have to refuse from any criticism of Stalin. Tito criticised Stalin. If he remains unpunished, that's Stalin's thinking, somebody else can start to, and then I'm getting criticism of all these local or regional or country communist leaders. That's threat number one. Threat number two, Tito had the imagination of a different kind of Communist or socialist system. Decentralised, more initiative, greater freedom for writers and artists, Workers Councils system. This could imply that the Communists of othecountries don't look to the Soviet Union any more, but look to Yugand its aim and inspiration, and thereby the leading role of the Soviet Union is at its end. And therefore, for Stalin, for these two reasons, Tito and the Yugoslav alternative were a mortal danger.

Q: What was the worst moment in the Cold War for you personally?

A: Now, the worst part, there I have to think, what.

Q: What was the worst moment in the history of the Cold War for you, your experiences of the Cold War? What was the worst moment, the moment of truth perhaps, or disillusionment or threat of danger? To you personally.

A: For me personally, the worst date was at the end of the Cold War. Sunday August 1961. We had a television discussion with Herzog on a Sunday morning and we got the news East Germany, with diplomatic support of the Soviet Union and Khrushchev builds the Berlin Wall. This was for me the worst moment, because I said if the Americans and the British don't immediately take counter actions the Berlin Wall will remain for decades. And contrary, if the British and American immediately take counter actions, immediately meaning another two hours before the first organisational things are made, before it really starts a threat or bringing troops, not into the Soviet sector, which could have been done, but to the border there, and giving out loud warnings, then it will be too late. If the West would have done that in the first hours, which was my greatest hope, my greatest hope, the Berlin Wall would not have been built. But sadly enough, the Western powers didn't do it. And when it became 12 o'clock, one o'clock, on the 13th of August in the morning, already at midday, I knew now it's too late. Now the Berlin Wall will remain. This 30th of August 1961 was for me the worst day of the Cold War, where the West, from my viewpoint was too timid and not reacted strongly enough.

Q: A final question. How much do you think the Cold War was really a pretext for the effective division of Germany for the best part of half a century, a way of solving the German problem but calling it something else?

A: No I don't think so at all. I think the German problem is one aspect of the Cold War. One aspect of it. But not the pretext of the whole Cold War. This is for me geographical thinking. The roots, the dimensions and the events of the Cold War go far beyond Germany. Germany is one aspect of it, not more.

Q: Mr Leonhard, thank you very much indeed.