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This is people under communism a series of documentaries interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. The series is presented transcribed by the National Association of educational broadcasters in consultation with scholars from the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. The Russian Institute of Columbia University and the Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University. The program you're about to hear in people under Communism is an analysis of the loyalty of the Soviet people by Dr Moreau thing sought after thing Zod is Professor of Government at Harvard and the author of books on American government. He's also known for his writings about the government of the Soviet Union is traveled in Russia interviewed many former Soviet citizens who escaped the west and is director of political studies at Harvard's Russian Research Center. Up Tomorrow famed sod speaking on the loyalty of the Soviet people
claims concerning the political loyalty or disloyalty of the Soviet population ran a startlingly wide gamut of disagreement. At one extreme is the official line of Soviet propaganda with its insistence that the peoples of the Soviet Union are solidly identified with the regime at the opposite extreme is the view that the Soviet population is completely alienated from the regime and that only the terror apparatus of the state prevents it from revolting. My own analysis of the available evidence in the form of hundreds of interviews with former Soviet citizens who have fled from their homeland leads me to believe that neither of these extreme views will hold water. I should like to present my conclusions from these interviews in a series of five propositions. My first proposition is this that the political attitudes of different
groups and individuals in Soviet society vary substantially depending on the degree to which they have or do not have a vested interest in the perpetuation of the Soviet system. The Soviet system has developed its elite and its deprived categories. And by and large the elite identify with the regime the regime turns for its basic backing. In three directions. First it leans heavily on the support of those who occupy the key positions in Soviet society. They include the administrative and managerial elite the officer corps and the upper stratum of the artistic literary and scientific intel against the administrative and managerial elite embraces not only the higher level bureaucrats and plant directors and managers but also reaches
down to include many of the engineers and chief technicians. The collective farm chairman and even the workers aristocracy of foremen and staccato vide workers. In order to consolidate the support of these groups who play key roles in the administrative structure the party leadership treats them as a privileged category and pays them well. It seeks to draw them into the party itself and to identify them actively with party affairs. A second basic support of the regime is of course the party organisation itself with its more than six million members and more especially the hard core of the party. The operators are party functionaries for whom party work is a full time job. The party operates as an instrument of indoctrination of leadership and of control. The third basic support of the
regime is its repressive element the MGB or secret police and its supporting formations in the MVD whose authority extends into every corner of Soviet society and who like the party functionaries and the managerial elite occupy a privileged position in Soviet society. It is I think not without significance that we have had very few Soviet escapees from the upper stratum of this privileged group. The highest administrator whom I interviewed was an ex official who occupied a position roughly equivalent to that of a bureau chief in Washington. The highest ex party official whom I met was a district party secretary. The great bulk of the escapees come from the middle and lower ranges of Soviet society. It is there that the burdens are more deeply felt and the grievances accumulate.
The kind of forced draft industrialization program on which the Soviet Union is embarked involves the sacrifice of mass welfare objectives after armaments and capital investments are taken care of. There is relatively little left over to satisfy consumer needs and the sacrifices and austerity is imposed on the workers and peasants in the way of shortages of food clothing housing. Do generate tensions and dissatisfaction. Every effort is made to assure the masses that these sacrifices are temporary that they will eventually reap a rich reward in the form of a greatly improved standard of living that they have been hearing that Kao since 1928 too long to lay the promised better life invites disillusionment and ideological
slogans which are offered as substitutes wear thin with reiteration. If one excludes the millions in the forced labor camps whose vested interest in the destruction of the Soviet regime can be taken for granted. The largest degree of dissatisfaction appears to be concentrated among the peasants or collective farmers. It is I think interesting that when ex-Soviet citizens are asked to list the least desirable occupations in the Soviet Union. There is almost universal agreement in placing collective farmers at the bottom of the list when they are also asked to indicate what features of the Soviet system they would abolish if they were free to do so. Collective farm organizations are at the top of the list together with secret police and party controls. The exploitation of collective farm labor which has been the accompany him and
of the program of rapid industrialization. As left a residue of bitterness which is hidden in the Soviet Union behind an outer facade of apathetic resignation. But the bitterness appears to be deep seated. And it is an important factor in weakening the political cohesiveness of the Soviet system. Beside the collective farmers there are other groups whose vested interest in the perpetuation of the Soviet system is low. The large group of unskilled and semi-skilled labor who are unable to obtains the kind of status and the nonparty intel against poorly paid teachers office workers and other government employees represent elements whose material stake in the survival of the Soviet regime is small. Even those in the upper Strait m of Soviet society whose material wants are relatively well cared for by the regime.
Find themselves home dead by a sense of insecurity. In my interviews with ex Red Army officers and middle level administrators and Soviet military government in Germany I was impressed over and over again by the large role which the desire to get out from under the atmosphere of fear and surveillance played in the decision to escape. In general however the elite groups tend to identify with the regime. I want to turn next to my second proposition. The political attitudes vary with the age span but indoctrination registers its maximum influence on the younger age groups and that the communist leadership turns to the oncoming youth formations for its firmest support. Now some of the testimony which I gathered in the course of my interviews challenge this hypothesis. One school teacher who had taught for nearly 25 years
in Soviet schools insisted that the effectiveness of communist indoctrination on Soviet youth tended to be greatly exaggerated in the West. She pointed out that there was a great difference between the revolutionary ideology of the early days which appealed to use idealistic and utopian instincts and the official ideology of today which insists on conformity. Stalin isn't in its present day farms she said has become an official ideology. It is didn't the end of the children day after day but many she claimed instead of becoming imbued with it became bored with it and turned for escape toward literary cultural sport and technical interests. Another very intelligent escapee himself a former Komsomol Communist Youth League member who had worked professionally with youth groups for many years
insisted that it would be a mistake to assume that all Soviet children came off the young pioneer and Const. Komsomol assembly lines as on thinking and unquestioning tools of the regime. Life contradicted official propaganda. Crowded conditions at home food shortages lower living standards the arrests of friends and relatives. The difficulty of obtaining a higher education when no scholarships were available. Compulsory labor service these and other elements of life in the Soviet Union planted doubts which my informant said proved embarrassingly difficult to handle. When youngsters in their early teens came to him to discuss their problems. While I feel reasonably confident that the points raised by these informants have validity for some part of Soviet U. At the same time when we put the question to the escapee as to who would
fight to defend the Soviet regime in the event of war the majority agreed that the bulk of Soviet youth would be numbered among the defenders. Many supported their answers by emphasizing the power of indoctrination and the strong pull of patriotic propaganda in cementing the allegiance of youth to the regime. Others stress the career opportunities open to youth who identify themselves with the regime. Still others pointed to the pressure of the secret police operators and discouraging deviant behavior. In the years since the revolution the attrition of loyalties among the middle aged in the old has been counterbalanced by the capacity of the regime to indoctrinate a part of each new generation of youth with its own values. Each new generation as it grows to maturity offers the party
leadership a fresh opportunity to imprint its stamp on it. The capacity of a totalitarian regime to mold the minds of the young while they are still plastic and malleable is a formidable weapon. Its power should not be under-rated. Whether or not this indoctrination survives the trials and tribulations of later life it has played. And it may continue to play a role of crucial significance in replenishing the Life Energies of the regime. I turn now to my third proposition. The political attitudes vary with national affiliations but the current tendency to emphasize the primacy of the great Russians inspires resentment among the so-called lesser nationalities and that national disaffection tends to be strongest in the areas which have recently been incorporated in the Soviet Union
but that it is by no means confined to such areas. There are few subjects more complex than that of Soviet nationality politics and in the time at my disposal I shall have to confine myself to a few rather general observations. The Soviet Union as you know is a museum of nationalities. There has been a widespread tendency to assume that Soviet nationality policy constitutes one of the great strengths of the regime. This faith apparently survived the shock of the great purge in 1936 1938 when a substantial proportion of the top political and intellectual leadership of the National Republics was liquidated. Another shock came during World War Two when certain national republics prove themselves conspicuously less loyal than the inhabitants of the great Russian heartland. The dissolution of the
Volga German autonomous republic early in the war and the deportation of its population to the east. May be viewed as a preventive measure. But along with the Volga Republic. The Soviet government also dissolve the Chechen English the Crimean and the binational Republic of the cab bards and Bell cars. In these instances the Soviet government frankly admitted that the minority nationalities had been disloyal. At the end of the war we had authenticated reports of large scale deportations from the border regions of the Baltic states in the western Ukraine and Bessarabia. Stalin's toast to the health of the great Russian people at the end of the war. It was followed in due course by the campaign against the rootless cosmopolitans with its strong anti-Semitic overtones and by purging the national republics which is still
raging. These events as well as interviews which we have had with representatives of many minority nationalities suggest that the political cohesiveness of the USSR is still subject to severe nationality strains. I would not want to convey the impression that the nationality politics of the Soviet regime has not had its successes. The people from the less developed national minorities whom we interviewed pointed to very real positive achievements in the direction of increased educational opportunities racial equality and technological and industrial advance. But they also emphasized a darker side of Soviet nationality policy which has been less frequently noted abroad. One of the most serious points of tension in Soviet nationality policy involves the position of the new Soviet trained native intel against Syria. Once they
have been educated for administrative and other responsibilities they aspire to real as well as to formal authority. And they become increasingly restive under the rigid external control to which they are exposed from Moscow. When they express their arrested in this they are charged with nationalist deviations removed from office and subject to the most drastic punishments the decimation of the native intel against during the great purge of 36 38 was explained by some of the persons interviewed in these terms. This phenomenon of internal Tito ism has been little noted yet it would appear to be of considerable significance and it constitutes an interesting counterpart to the problems encountered by Western colonial powers in dealing with the native intel against in their colonies. I now turn to my fourth proposition. But some policies of the regime
command widespread approval even among those who deem themselves intransigent opponents of communism and other policies or characteristics of the regime meet widespread disapproval even among those who've identified their fate with the survival of communism. When we asked skate B what features of the Soviet regime they would retain if they were free to build a new order in Russia. There was a surprising uniformity of response. Almost all chose Free schools and free medical service. They tended to agree that the state would have to retain ownership and control of the basic industries and transportation. And that it ought to guarantee employment or provide for unemployment. Now to the extent that such policies evoke approval even among those who are solidly opposed to the Soviet regime we can assume I believe
that there are at least some features of the regime which command widespread support and which operate to build a bond of unity between leadership and people within limits. Moreover the regime can maneuver to relax tensions and broaden its area of consent during the war for example hatred of the Nazis unleashed a genuine national upsurge of feeling which the party leadership was shrewd enough both to stimulate and exploit by opening the churches and tapping the wellsprings of national sentiment. The regime strengthened its popular roots this capacity to maneuver constitutes an element of strength which should not be overlooked. At the same time there are other characteristics of the regime which meet widespread disapproval even among those who are clearly identified with its survival.
It fell to my lot to interview a number of former party members and even a few ex party officials. One of the striking impressions which I carried away from these interviews was the extent to which the fear and insecurity which pervades Soviet society penetrates the party itself not merely the rank and file but even the officialdom no feature of the Soviet system is more widely hated both in party and in nonparty circles than the arbitrary authority of the secret police. Yet it has become an indispensable part of the system of power on which the top ruling group relies to sustain its control of Soviet life. The consolidation of personal rule in a totalitarian system depends on the constant elimination of all actual or potential
competitors for supreme power. The existence of the secret police helps to make certain that Soviet society will remain divided atomised and fragmented. I come now to my fifth proposition that the behavior of many groups in Soviet society will show wide variations depending on whether they feel the full impact of Soviet controls. That is our fully enclosed in the Soviet system. Or whether they find themselves in a position where they can choose a more attractive alternative. Even those Soviet citizens who are most dissatisfied with the system under which they are compelled to live show little inclination toward martyrdom. Under ordinary conditions their conduct tends to be adaptive. It is largely regulated by the desire to survive and improve their status in the
only setting which is available to them. It is only when they are given a choice of a different setting that the factor of rejection of the Soviet regime can come into play. In my interviews with Escapees I was impressed over and over again by the fact that it was largely the accident of World War 2 or occupation duty after the war which made it possible for them to register their protest against the Soviet regime. Some frankly admitted that their eyes had not been opened until they found themselves abroad. Others who reported that they had harbored hostile sentiments toward the regime for many years were equally frank to admit that the position in which they found themselves inside the Soviet Union made it impossible for them to transform their sentiments into action. Many of them made no bones about the fact that they suppress their resentment were overtly pro regime and
went through the motions of conformity in order to make their way in Soviet society. These qualities of cynical career ism and of apathetic resignation in the face of the power of the state constitute the less attractive veneer of the new Soviet man. But before we condemn room too harshly it's important to understand the pressures under which they operate. The omnipresent danger of arrest by the secret police confinement in a forced labor camp for those who deviate from the straight and narrow path of conformity to the state's demands. It's also important to emphasize that most of the persons interviewed discounted the possibility or probability of any organized or spontaneous inside revolt to unseat the communist regime in the near future. There seemed to be
general agreement among them the party and police controls were too all pervasive and that the opportunity for an effective organization of revolutionary forces inside the Soviet Union was at the present time virtually nonexistent. In the light of this evidence it would seem to me unwise to count on the processes of spontaneous combustion to dislodge the communist regime from power. Indeed I see very little opportunity for the forces of internal opposition to organize and become affected short of a major crisis of leadership which gave them a free field of action or of a defeat in war. In the course of which party and police controls broke down. In the time that remains I should like to comment briefly on the implications of some of my observations for American policy. The burden of my remarks
adds up to the proposition that a substantial internal opposition exists in the Soviet Union but that it is thoroughly disorganized anathema and so far as surface behavior goes it largely expresses itself in passive adaptation to the regime. In addressing this group through the Voice of America or other channels at the present time. It would seem to me to be the height of unwisdom to call for active revolt. Those who might be courageous enough to answer our call would stand very little chance of avoiding decimation by the secret police. About all we can do now it seems to me is to keep them informed of world developments to continue to express our sympathy for them. To indicate that we are prepared to welcome escapees and to hold out a hope that liberation may come at some future time. Even this much
is calculated to give the Soviet ruling group pause. The existence of internal disaffection is no secret to the party leadership. It is one factor which that leadership has to take into account along with other considerations in shaping its war plans. The knowledge that we are prepared if necessary to exploit disaffection aggressively may serve as a deterrent in precipitating an all out war. At the same time such successes as we may enjoy in encouraging defection from the Soviet armies of occupation or military governments in Europe can be useful not only in providing much needed information but in serving as a constant reminder that the Soviet system has its Achilles heel and that we are prepared to aim our thrusts in that direction. There are some who hold the view that we can count on the forces of internal discontent in the Soviet Union to
solve all our problems for us within the very near future. I would like to believe it but I cannot square it with the evidence which I've been able to examine. It is I believe important to exploit the sources of internal disaffection which exist in the Soviet Union. But it is not the magic wand which will solve all our problems. Our major efforts must continue to be directed elsewhere toward rally the military political economic and moral strength of the West to resist Soviet aggression. It is in the non Soviet parts of the world that the great opportunities for creative and constructive action beckon. It is there that our major energies must be concentrated. As long as the Communist ruling group retains its firm control of the police party and administrative apparatus of the Soviet state our efforts to undermine the political
cohesiveness of the Soviet Union through propaganda can be of only partial of affected us. The loyalty of the Soviet people and analysis by Dr Moreau thing side director of political studies in Harvard's Russian Research Center after a feint SOB's talk was another transcribed program in the series. People under communism. The series as a whole was prepared in consultation with scholars from the Russian Institute of Columbia University the Hoover Institute and library Stanford University and the Russian Research Center Harvard University. Your program producer was Ralph telling me this is Parker Wheatley. These programs in people under communism are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters and are made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the Ford Foundation.
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People under communism
Loyalty of the Soviet people
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents a talk by Professor Merle Fainsod of Harvard University: "The Loyalty of the Soviet People".
Series Description
A series of documentaries, interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union.
Broadcast Date
Politics and Government
Public opinion--Soviet Union--History--20th century.
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Advisor: Hoover Institute and Library on War, Revolution, and Peace
Advisor: Columbia University. Russian Institute
Advisor: Harvard University. Russian Research Center
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Wheatley, Parker, 1906-1999
Producer: Tangley, Ralph
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Fainsod, Merle, 1907-1972
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-38-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:30
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Chicago: “People under communism; Loyalty of the Soviet people,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “People under communism; Loyalty of the Soviet people.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: People under communism; Loyalty of the Soviet people. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from