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A fascinating book that ought to be taken seriously, even if rejected
on June 19, 2008
This is a difficult book - allow me to attempt to review it with the hope that someone reading this might be persuaded to temporarily ignore the John Birch Society atmosphere its conclusions engender. I believe it holds the key to certain geostrategic facts which an astute reader will infer, although they are too difficult to describe in a short book review.
Golitsyn is an important and controversial defector (1961). This book, however, allegedly provides evidence of his profound paranoia that his critics argue ultimately misled such officers as James Angleton at CIA counterintelligence and inflicted great harm on US national security. This may be true, and Golitsyn's conclusions here are unfalsifiable, but the fact is this is not the book a madman would write, and at least on that basis its propositions ought to be considered seriously if for no other reason than that he is a genuine defector who provided much valuable information to the CIA.
His main thesis is that after Stalin (d. 1953), and the German, Polish, and Hungarian revolts (last 1956), the Soviet state faced a profound destabilization. Stalin's power monopoly within the party was so complete there was a succession crisis following his death; his methods were so brutal re the newly created Soviet satellites that the populations took the opportunity of his death to revolt. Tito's rejection of Stalinism and Moscow's friction with Mao in particular also demonstrated dangers posed to the new Communist bloc's strategy of promoting revolution in the West and elsewhere. Lastly, and perhaps most urgently, the Soviet Union determined export by revolution through military means could never be accomplished in light of the advent of nuclear weapons and the West's determination (NATO, etc.) to unite against a united Communist bloc.
Golitsyn contends that these problems were all resolved by the time of several party congresses held in 1959-1960, when he was a major in the KGB's strategic development department. The strategy adopted was one of profound subversion: instead of military confrontation by a united Bloc as the main weapon, the Soviet Union and its satellite governments agreed, while maintaining a credible military deterrent, to project an image of internal disunity while dedicating all its intelligence apparatus - many many times the size of the CIA and utterly unbound by laws or human rights considerations - to subverting the West. By pursuing this project over a long period of time - decades - the West would be oblivious to it, since its political horizon is the 4 or 6 year election cycle of a republic. Moreover, this type of thinking is simply alien to a West bound deeply to its own national traditions. The Politburo, however, was not bound by elections, and its leaders could be in power for a generation or more. The Soviet/Bloc time horizon was therefore very much wider.
The purpose was this: by projecting an image of disunity and various fractures, the West was expected to relax its unified resistance to Communist advancement, and revert to its natural disunity along lines of national interest. This was of course a reasonable inference; the history of the West demonstrates it consistently. But there was a specific Soviet precedent to follow: Lenin's New Economic Policy following the Russian Civil War (1918-21). Lenin adopted this policy in order to reduce foreign hostility to Communist revolution; instead he projected an image of Russia embroiled in its own problems, that its force as a revolution-exporter was therefore spent, and in fact the country - having undergone WWI, the Revolution, and then the bloody Civil War - was starving. This last was in fact true - and Western powers, especially the USA, responded by sending massive food and material aid to the new Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks, whose power was inherently shakey following these events, used this food and material not to save all the starving people but to shore up its own base of support and consolidate its power. The Cheka - Soviet secret police - used the opportunity of many foreigners on its soil to infiltrate the aid organizations and to study the motives of its members, and then infiltrate the home societies. By 1923, the Bolsheviks were again attempting revolution in Germany, although that revolution failed.
Golitsyn contends that the strategy adopted in 1959-1960 is essentially this same strategy, but on a scale commensurate with the new reality of a huge new Soviet bloc.
This is just the basic thesis, and frankly it seems pretty plausible. The implications of the strategy are rather shocking, and this review is already too long, but given that the new Russia IS run by the KGB and there WAS NOT any de-Commmunisation - the same people (Yakovlev, Primakov, etc.) - are still in power, doesn't it stretch credulity to believe these people suddenly became non-Communists, in their 50th and 60th years, suddenly and irreversibly, over a couple days in 1991? I mean, c'mon, doesn't it? In any case, a fascinating, fascinating book. In light of the rather plausible case Golitsyn makes here, I think his critics protest too much - at least a little too much. Highly recommended, even if it is wrong.