Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Prof. R Tucker


Q: What was it in Stalin's speech that caused worry in the embassy with Kennan? What was it that Stalin was saying that was sending alarm bells?

A: I'm not sure that Stalin's speech (coughs) aroused distinct and widely shared worry in the embassy for one simple reason. It was a long and boring speech, like most Soviet speeches. It had a lot of statistics in it. It it didn't use any phrase such as 'Cold War'. It was not a belligerent speech. So that if you simply looked at it in print, and it appeared in Pravda the next day in full, there was nothing in that speech that said well this is a declaration of cold war and a month later, on the 5th of March Churchill would speak in Fulton, Missouri and give the famous speech talking about an 'iron curtain having come down across eastern Europe' which was looked upon by many as a kind of (coughs) recognition of the fact of the Cold War and was held by the Soviet media, and by Stalin in a statement to the media to be a declaration of Cold War, which it was not.

Q: What was the response of the Soviet media and of Stalin to Churchill's Fulton speech?

A: (false start) I want to say something more about Stalin's speech. If you read it carefully, and this is what an attaché in the embassy that was what the work consisted of doing, what was the speech saying? He said that the war had demonstrated that the Soviet social system, the Soviet order as it existed before the war, was the best of all social systems. Ideal social system. This said, by implication, no change. That all the Russian popular hopes for an easing, a liberalisation what would, under Gorbachev be called a perestroika. And tragically, the Russians in 1945, as a people, soldiers, others, were waiting for perestroika. They were waiting for a Mikhail Gorbachev who came 40 long years later. But who was there was Stalin. And what Stalin was saying in February 9, 1946 is that because of the nature of imperialism, as it was called, wars are inevitable. They will usually begin between two sets of imperialist states. As World War Two had begun between the British and the French on the one hand, and the Germans and the Italians on the other. But, as the experience of World War Two showed, he didn't say this in the speech, one of these sets of belligerents had then turned upon Russia in 1941 when Hitler launched his aggression. So if you talked about how wars were inevitable given the existence of a system that would presumably go on existing for a long, long time, it meant that one needed to look forward to future wars, of some kind. And, in the light of this, he said: 'in order to prepare for all contingencies', and what would all contingencies mean other than war? 'We must have three or more new five year plans. Emphasising heavy industry. And war industry.' This was the gist of the speech. This meant that the post-war period was being projected as a repetition of the 1930s. And the 1930s, with their five year plans, stressing the development of heavy and war industry at the expense of consumer goods, were time of great hardship for ordinary Russian people, for the working class that supposedly was the beneficiary of something called Socialism. And therefore the projection of the post war period in this speech was the projection of a repetition of the pre-war period ending 15 years down the line perhaps in another war. So that if you look carefully at it, while it was not a declaration of cold war, it foresaw what would come to be called a Cold War. And for many Russians who listened to this speech, it was a dreadful experience because they, if they were ordinary skilled workers, as it happened the father of of my wife to be was, they remembered those 5 year plans of the early 1930s and all the privation and hardship associated with it, so it meant that they could look forward but - in the rest of their lives to nothing but a repetition of it. And therefore it was a dreadful, dreadful message that it carried. But it didn't carry that message to other people than those who either were Russians and knew what the 1930s were like, or who were Americans capable of interpreting between the lines of the speech. Consequently it was not seen in the west, or even necessarily in the American embassy. I don't know what general interpretation might have been sent of this speech other than a summary of it, as a declaration of the Cold War. But when, a few weeks later Churchill spoke up in Fulton, Missouri with this speech about the Iron Curtain, immediately after that Stalin came out with answers to a foreign correspondent's questions in which he compared Churchill to Hitler. And decried Churchill's speech as a belligerent call to arms against Soviet Russia, which it was not. It was a call - the Fulton speech was a call to take account of the problems that had arisen between the West and the Soviet Union. And to be prepared to resist any further advance of this Iron Curtain to the west. In other words, Churchill saw the need for a new approach to the east/west problem. And the speech was a way of calling

Q: Tell me, how did Stalin affect the ordinary life? What was the effect of the Stalin of this period on ordinary Russians?

A: Stalin's effect on Russians in the '45 and '46 period was that these Russians could see the beginnings of a return to the 1930s. A beginnings of hardship. Above all, a lack of fulfilment of the expectations that they had been encouraged or at least not discouraged from having during the war years. During the war years, they had been given full freedom to assume that after the war things would be different. Like would become better, freer for intellectuals, maybe opportunities to write without censorship or with less censorship. Opportunities to commune with one's coabroad. Perhaps opportufor students to study abroad. So what the early post war years meant to masses of Russians was that their expectations had been false. That they had been deceived. And this - we were deceived echoes down the post war years in the voices of those few who either escaped or defected and in one way or another, left their impressions in the west, in published form.

Q: Stalin was rarely seen, he was in the Kremlin. How was it then that his man had such a presence in life and amongst ordinary Russians at this time. Tell me something about how that was put into effect. How did it work?

A: Stalin had a constant and pervasive presence among ordinary Russians through the media. although he rarely spoke, when he did it was prominently featured on the front pages of all the Soviet papers. and his portrait, oftentimes in generalissimo uniform, would very frequently appear on the front pages of these papers. So that and when any prominent Soviet figure, any member of the government, any prominent cultural dignitary gave a speech on any important question, he would quote Comrade Stalin's wise words bearing on that question. So that whoever spoke, Stalin figured in what was said. And consequently, he was an omnipresent figure. He was pervasive everywhere, even though he rarely spoke up. Like Orwell's Big Brother he actually wasn't seen.

(End of roll)