“What do you think about détente, Mr Bukovsky?”
In 1976, when I had just arrived in the West, this was one of the first and most frequent questions I was asked. To begin with I simply did not understand what people were talking about. The Soviet media did not use the word “détente” but a large and clumsy construction: razryadka mezhdunarodnoi napryazhyonnosti (relaxation in international tension). More simply it was referred to as “relaxation” (razryadka). I knew nothing about Western debates on the subject. If my response to “détente” and (a related issue) “socialism with a human face” was negative, however, I immediately sensed a chill and at times a hostility from moderate newspapers, not to mention left-wing publications. In veiled hints, cautiously at first and then ever more brazenly, there were attempts to discredit and smear me.
“Ah! He’s been influenced by right-wingers…” What right-wingers? I looked about me in astonishment and, naturally, could not see any “right-wingers” close at hand. “He talks just like Solzhenitsyn…” Aha! They had caught me red-handed. Within a few years, the wave of publicity that greeted my arrival in the West began to subside and so did the protection it had given me. The need for caution on my part also vanished. They began referring to me not only as a right-winger but as an “extremist” – I must be an extremist if I rejected “moderate” improvements to the Communist system and did not want socialism, even “with a human face”.
To begin with, it is true, there were attempts to tame me. I was now in the civilized West, but the methods differed little from those of the craftier “godfathers”, in charge of gathering intelligence in Soviet penal colonies.
I can recall a dinner in New York, soon after my arrival, with the directors of the Ford Foundation. They listened attentively and for a moment I believed it might be possible to explain things to them, and that once they heard what was really going on they might do something worthwhile with the millions of dollars at their disposal. Towards the end of the meal, however, the board chairman of the Ford Foundation asked his one and only question: “Suppose you knew that someone was the victim of terrible persecution, but if you published that information it would stop the signing of an arms reduction agreement. What would you do?”
God help us. If it had been the camp “godfather” I would have told him where to go. Scarcely trusting my ears (I was in the West now) I began most politely to explain that the entire Soviet ploy of “arms reduction” was not worth a bent farthing. It was a sham. The directors of the foundation had been listening attentively. Now I could see their eyes glaze over. I received nothing more from them after that. Not even a Christmas card. I attended countless such meals then, sometimes with Rockefeller himself. Each had the effrontery not to listen or learn anything new. They had no desire to understand the goals of the system that had its missiles trained on the West: they wanted me to serve THEIR purposes and to say what THEY wanted to hear. No matter whom I was with, I would wait in gloomy anticipation for the inevitable question: “Won’t a fuss in the West harm those who remain in the USSR?” Hundreds of times I explained this was not the case, offering myself as the best example to the contrary. It was no good. My audience would ask the same question again and again.
There were those in the émigré community who faltered and could not resist the temptation of being accepted and well received. “Yes,” they gave the desired answer, “it would harm them…” This statement was then repeated in all the newspapers and gained a place on the front page. When no one with a sufficiently imposing name could be found among Russian oppositionists to support “socialism with a human face” they began fabricating dissidents out of thin air. Certain dubious Czechs who longed for a “Prague Spring” throughout the world; immigrants from the USSR who, only yesterday, had dutifully paid their Party membership fees – these were the “real” dissidents, the good ones. They were printed in the newspapers and given university teaching posts.
Imagine, if you will, that when Nelson Mandela left prison after a lengthy public campaign for his release someone asked him, at the very first press conference: “What is your attitude to apartheid with a human face?” Imagine how disgruntled his questioner would be that Mandela liked neither apartheid “with a human face” nor “peaceful coexistence” with such a system: “Well, he’s an extremist, what could you expect?”
Imagine that every time Mandela spoke on television a moderate “apartheid specialist” from an American university would also be invited, to ensure a balanced picture – or, better still, some collaborationist from Pretoria. The public cannot listen only to extremist views, the programme must be balanced. “You have suffered too much at the hands of apartheid,” they would tell Mandela, sympathetically: “Of course, you cannot be objective.” The objective view, so helpfully proffered by the “moderate apartheid specialist”, would be that blacks in South Africa have no “tradition of democracy” (to put it simply, they are savages) and so apartheid cannot be abolished overnight. It must be reformed gradually. Consequently, it is not only pointless but harmful to condemn and boycott apartheid, and obstruct its existence. What was needed, on the contrary, was to develop cooperation with the apartheid regime, exerting a “civilising influence” and seeking change through “diplomacy behind the scenes” …
No, it is impossible to imagine treating Nelson Mandela in that way. If any reckless Western politician had the nerve to say such things (not face to face, of course, but dropping hints behind Mandela’s back), he would be committing political suicide and vanish in a storm of public indignation. Yet what was apartheid compared to communism? It did not aim nuclear missiles or columns of tanks at the heart of the West; it did not want to impose a “radiant future” on all humanity; it did not try to export its model; and it did not have zealous supporters (open and covert) in every part of the world. The desire to be rid of communism, it might seem, should be quite as strong as the humane urge to see an end to apartheid. It was not Mandela, however, but ourselves who had to put up with the insulting nonsense of the Western elite. We were forced to claw our way, rebutting slander and libel, through the unheeding resistance of the Western establishment. We had to endure their frank hatred as though we, and only we, needed to be rid of communism – as though it was a local problem of concern to us and nobody else.
Of course, this was not due to the West’s naïveté, as it was then politely described, or a result of its stupidity (as we sometimes angrily said to ourselves). It was a conscious policy of the Western establishment and “stupid” only in the broad sense that the idea of socialism was itself stupid. For, to my great astonishment, the Western establishment was and, to a great extent, remained pro-socialist or at best moderately social-democrat and was in favour of State intervention in all parts of society. It was irrelevant who was in power at any given moment: the press and money (as in the Ford Foundation) remained in the same hands. The authority of the establishment in a democracy is far greater than that of the government, especially in the life of the intelligentsia.
Of yet less significance was what any political party called itself. During the 20th century, under the influence of intellectual fashion and the concentrated propaganda of the socialists, the political spectrum moved so much to the left that the British Conservatives could hardly then be distinguished from Social Democrats of the early 1900s. Margaret Thatcher was an exception, and did not represent the majority in her party. Much more typical of the day’s Conservatives was Edward Heath, Willy Brandt’s like-minded colleague on the North-South (“Brandt”) Commission, who shared his grandiose idea of transferring the “wealth” of the North to the “poor” South. It is amazing that this openly socialist proposal could have been discussed anywhere outside a congress of the Socialist International. Yet not only was it seriously discussed: during the early 1970s, Western banks disbursed over a trillion dollars to Third World countries in the form of loans and credits, fully aware that the money would never be repaid.
Suspecting none of this, we Russian dissidents with our tale of human rights abuses, prisons and psychiatric hospitals arrived in a world where socialism was already triumphant and the State had penetrated every part of society. The only debate behind the scenes concerned which form of socialism would predominate. It was as if you noticed burglars in someone’s apartment and ran to inform the police, not suspecting that the police were themselves in league with the intruders. “That’s interesting,” the policeman responds. “Are you sure they are burglars? Perhaps they are the home-owners moving to another flat? Perhaps, there’s nothing wrong. Who exactly are you, by the way? Are you a relative of those people?”
It took me a year or two before I began to understand the way people talked in the West. At first I wondered why I was unable to explain things properly. Perhaps my English was not good enough: perhaps the problem lay elsewhere? The simple fact was that people could not understand me (or I did not understand them). It was as though we weren’t talking the same language: the words were the same, apparently, but their meaning was quite different. I grew amazed, for instance, by the abstract way that concepts were used, torn from any context. These meaningless words or brief slogans affected the Western public like the bell affected Pavlov’s dog, i.e. it resulted in the secretion of digestive juices without any visible cause. Say the words “peace” or “cooperation”, for example, and everyone would break into a joyful smile. It was a purely Pavlovian reaction, for neither term has any meaning outside a specific context. In an abstract sense, the most peaceful place on earth is a graveyard; if you cooperate with criminals, meanwhile, you may be an accessory to a crime, an offence punished by law in any country. Surely that was obvious? Yet explaining these elementary truths to the Westerners with whom I talked was beyond me. It proved impossible to overcome Pavlovian reactions inculcated over decades. To this day, for example, there exists such an absurdity as the Nobel Peace Prize. Peace with whom, one may ask, and at what price?
What then did this famous détente, this daydream of a “relaxation in international tension” really mean? Why should we fight against “tension” but not against its source? What was the root of the problem and what was the sense of trying to ease the tension if it would constantly reappear? This was an area in which logic had no effect. The response would be another Pavlovian reaction: “There is no alternative to détente.” ‘How could there be no alternative?’ you would object. There is an alternative to everything in this world. The art of politics is to create alternatives. The reply produced yet another Pavlovian reaction: “We must recognise political reality.” For one whole hour, I tried explaining to someone who repeated this phrase that “political realities” should not be recognised but created. If I were to recognise political reality in the USSR, for example, it would mean I accepted the necessity of joining the Party and collaborating with the KGB. Instead I had created a political reality, and was now sitting before him in the West. It did not help. Towards the end of our conversation, his digestive juices now in full flow, he asserted, “We must have peace and cooperation.”
You think I exaggerate, that I am simplifying?
Our debates about “détente” with the Western establishment proceeded in just such an idiotic fashion. It was a dialogue with the deaf, since none of the supporters of détente made the least effort to back up their doctrine. They lied and wriggled, fending us off with such slogans, but were unable to explain, in simple and accessible terms, why they needed détente. It was impossible, of course, to explain why they must supply credits, commodities and technology to a totalitarian regime that openly declared their destruction to be the goal of its existence. There are no arguments in human logic to justify such behaviour. All that remained was dishonesty and lies.
“The idea is to make it easier to influence the USSR and force it to respect human rights,” said the proponents of détente, with a conspiratorial wink. “We shall bind them to ourselves and make them economically dependent on the West; then we can influence them.” When the time came to wield this influence – for example, after the Soviet Union violated the Helsinki Accords by invading Afghanistan – it turned out that the West was more dependent on the USSR, “than they on us”. We could not declare a boycott or impose an embargo but they were quite capable of using economic blackmail against the West. Was this stupidity or an accidental blunder? It could be neither one nor the other since, in the same breath, they now proposed making themselves yet more dependent (!) on the USSR by laying a pipeline to transport Soviet gas to the West.
What concern could there be for human rights if the Ostpolitik of the German Social Democrats reduced this problem to people-trafficking. The East German authorities were paid up to 40,000 Deutschmarks by the Federal Republic of Germany for each prisoner released. Naturally, this only stimulated arbitrary new arrests, and led to the emergence of an entire industry. “We Germans must show concern, first and foremost, for our Eastern brothers.” As a reward for pumping millions of Deutschmarks into the economy of the GDR, certain individuals were graciously allowed to visit their relatives in the East. There was tear-jerking footage of elderly men and women who, thanks to détente, could see each other again. At the very same time those who tried to escape across the Berlin Wall were shot at by the “Eastern brothers”, chased by dogs and killed by landmines. The Wall ran through the heart of the city, but it was not the done thing to notice it, let alone talk about it – that would be “Cold War rhetoric”.
“Détente means peace and cooperation.”
Was it Stupidity? Cowardice? No, it was Betrayal.
I had always believed that the détente of the 1970s was invented in the Kremlin. I was wrong: it was the invention of the German Social Democrats. My mistake is understandable. Periods of tension and relaxation defined the history of East-West relations, and the shifts between one and the other were always initiated by the Soviet side. Beginning with Lenin’s New Economic Policy in 1921, through the years of the “Great Alliance” during World War Two (after 1941, that is), and ending with Khrushchev’s “peaceful coexistence”, the decision to relax or ratchet up the tension was taken in Moscow. The West merely accepted the game thrust upon it.
Each time, the strengthening of Soviet influence, its seizure of new territories, and the intensification of its subversive activities startled the West and made its hackles rise. This reaction did not last long, as a rule, but there followed a period of Cold War, cursed by all progressive mankind. Western policy towards the Soviet Union, no matter how it has been presented by left-wing propaganda, was always passive and defensive. At the very height of the Cold War, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the predominant doctrine in the West was one of “containment”, which left all the initiative in the hands of the Soviet leaders.
In time the USSR tired of confrontation and, having exhausted many of its resources (while wearing down the nerves of its opponent), it began a “peaceful offensive”. Periodically Moscow wanted to catch its breath in the arms race, and it needed Western credits and technologies, and a more favourable environment for extending its influence. There was not a single occasion when the West rejected these demands for “friendship”, although the Soviet regime never concealed its unaltered nature. Khrushchev’s famous promise, “We shall bury you!”, alarmed the West more than the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, but he was saying nothing new. He merely repeated, in his own words, the Marxist dogma that the “proletariat are the grave-diggers of capitalism “. Unlike Khrushchev, Brezhnev put nothing into his own words. Yet he also repeated, everywhere and on all occasions, that “détente does not in the slightest degree abolish, nor could it abolish, the laws of class struggle” . The statement was opaquely phrased and disturbed no one.
Naturally, these periods of détente all ended the same way, with the next invasion, the Soviet occupation of another country, and threats and open hostility to the West. Western countries reacted like a troupe of monkeys when a tiger has carried off one of its members: after a brief period of excitement, they calmed down. The cycle then resumed with the sole difference that over time it became shorter and shorter. The Soviet regime could tolerate less tension and its economy could not survive without Western investment. The periods of relaxation, however, became ever more dangerous since without “tension” Moscow began losing control over the various parts of its empire. There were more than sufficient reasons, in other words, to think that the détente of the 1970s was also the result of a Soviet initiative. Moreover, it proved very timely for the Brezhnev leadership. After crushing Czechoslovakia, it found itself isolated just as it embarked on the Kosygin reforms, when it was particularly in need of Western aid. Facts are stubborn things, however, and the little I found in the archives astounded me.
Let us cast our minds back to a document quoted at the beginning of this book (1.1 — “Who cares?”), about a meeting between a “KGB source” and Count Zedtwitz, the “trusted agent” of Egon Bahr, one of the leaders of West German Social Democracy (9 September 1969*, 2273-A). It marked the beginning of “unofficial contacts” between the Social Democrats and the KGB. The shameful policy of detente began in a shameful way, as a plot concealed from the German nation and conducted through “KGB channels”. There are many examples in history, people may say, when it was necessary to act in secret, and that is not the most important aspect of this story: the document refutes all the lies later invented by the Social Democrats to justify their new policy. The dependence of the German Federal Republic on the Soviet Union, for example, was subsequently described by the SPD as a “reality” that they “had to take into account”. As we shall see, the dependence was their own conscious creation. Later came the hoarse assertions that their Ostpolitik was helping to “save humanity from nuclear war” and their declaration that there was “no alternative to détente”. In 1969, West Germany faced no new threat, and the notorious “international tension” had not yet begun to dominate the world. There was no need to seek an alternative. On the contrary, the tension appeared in the 1970s as a result of détente when, exploiting the magnanimity of the West, the USSR began to build up its military strength.
Finally, let us not forget that West Germany was a member of NATO and, until October 1969, the Social Democrats formed part of the governing coalition: by holding discussions with Moscow behind the backs of their allies and coalition partners they were engaged in treachery. In a democracy, of course, no one could forbid them to change their policy of supporting NATO – or become allies of Moscow if they so desired. First, however, they should have left the coalition and openly announced their new approach. Without doing one or the other, they became Moscow’s “agents of influence” within NATO. Germany gained nothing substantial because of this policy, but for years relations between East and West were infected by the virus of capitulation.
In his September 1969 report Andropov recommended a balanced approach to relations with the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. This was no more than a game. Three months earlier the following report was sent to the Central Committee (27 May 1969*, 231-Z):
In accordance with the decision of the Central Committee Secretariat (St‑57/59) of 16 September 1968, the KGB passed photocopies of archival documents to the GDR Ministry of State Security in October 1968, concerning the Nazi past of West German Chancellor Kiesinger.
GDR State Security [the Stasi] is presently requesting the temporary loan of the originals of additional documents in the preparation of its measures to compromise Kiesinger. We consider it expedient to meet this request and to transfer the above-mentioned documents … (held in the Main Archival Directorate of the USSR Council of Ministers) to our German Friends for temporary use.
Moscow’s strategy was quite clear. If it could not blackmail the Christian Democrat Chancellor into cooperation, then it would get rid of him and seek the support of the Social Democrats, his partners in the grand coalition. And that is what happened. In 1969 Willy Brandt became Chancellor and Kurt Kiesinger retired, because of the measures taken to smear his name – and not without help from his Social Democrat partners, who skilfully provoked a government crisis.
It is much harder to understand why the Social Democrats voluntarily put their heads in the Soviet noose. Subsequently, they talked a great deal about their noble mission to defend human rights which, supposedly, could not be achieved without making certain concessions to the USSR and engaging in “mutually-beneficial” contacts with Moscow… This was a smokescreen, however, or, to put it bluntly, a lie: the main concessions they made to Moscow specifically concerned human rights. The entire game began only six months after Soviet tanks had crushed the “Prague Spring” and the world had not yet tired of expressing its outrage. The very idea of establishing “special relations” with the aggressor at that moment was a major concession, if not outright treachery.
Having begun on such a note, it is not surprising that their “neue Ostpolitik” became a betrayal of human rights and that West Germany, by the early 1970s, had become a second Finland. A 1972 report to the Central Committee by Andropov illustrates the “human-rights” activities of the FRG government (30 April 1972*, 1176-A):
“On 5 March 1972 Mikhail Voslensky (born 1920, Russian, non-Party member, single), a senior research associate at the USSR Academy of Sciences’ Institute of History, travelled to the FRG on a private visa at the personal invitation of [West German] President Heinemann.
“On 29 April 1972 State Secretary Frank at the FRG Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed Comrade Falin, the Soviet ambassador in Bonn, that Voslensky had requested the FRG authorities to extend his visa to stay in the country for 2-3 years, and asked for help in extending his Soviet foreign travel passport for the same period. In support of his request Voslensky said he wanted to engage in scholarly activities and did not express any political motivation. Frank said that Voslensky’s behaviour has aroused suspicion and, consequently, the FRG government does not want to prolong his stay in the country. At the same time the West German side cannot openly refuse to extend his visa. It fears that Voslensky could make a public appeal and it cannot exclude the possibility that, as a last resort, Voslensky might go to the police and ask for asylum with all the consequences that entails.
“In the present complicated political situation within the country, such a turn of events, in Frank’s opinion, would be extremely undesirable. In view of this, Frank stated that, in the opinion of the West German side, the best solution would be to prolong Voslensky’s Soviet [foreign travel] passport and West German visa for 2-3 months. … “Bearing in mind that Voslensky is in the FRG at the personal invitation of President Heinemann it would seem expedient to agree to Frank’s suggestion about prolonging Voslensky’s visa, on condition that the West German agencies take measures to ensure there are no undesirable acts on his part.
“At the same time, we should suggest to the West German side, through the Soviet ambassador in Bonn and KGB contacts, that Voslensky be secretly removed to the Soviet Union if the need arises.”
By 1972, in other words, the West German leadership was engaged in a conspiracy with Moscow, against its own society and the West German police, as concerns those same human rights . Two years later this “confidential cooperation” had become so strong that the forcible expulsion of Solzhenitsyn from the USSR was, in practical terms, jointly agreed by the Soviet Politburo and the FRG’s socialist leaders (without, it would seem, consulting their Free Democrat coalition partners).
The Solzhenitsyn affair was a headache for the Soviet leaders. At its meeting early in 1974 (7 January 1974* (Pb) and see 3.7 — “What to do about Solzhenitsyn?”), the Politburo had apparently agreed to put the writer on trial, but they all realised (especially Andropov and Gromyko) that such a flagrant abuse of human rights would seriously damage their successes in the international arena. They were particularly concerned about the forthcoming Helsinki Agreement, under which they promised, in exchange for the “recognition of post-war borders” (i.e. the legitimation of the Soviet occupation of half of Europe), to give all kinds of guarantees about human rights – without, of course, the slightest intention of observing them. It was one thing to violate an agreement after it had been signed, however: quite another matter to do so beforehand. Arresting Solzhenitsyn at that moment could wreck their whole strategy and it would be hard to expel him from the Soviet Union, as Andropov suggested, without finding a country that was ready to receive him. It was then that they thought of Willy Brandt. Who better to ask for help than the party most interested in détente?
In a personal note Andropov informed Brezhnev (7 February 1974*)
“… Brandt has made a statement that Solzhenitsyn can live and work freely in the FRG. Today, 7 February , Comrade Kevorkov is flying to meet Bahr to discuss the practical aspects of deporting Solzhenitsyn from the Soviet Union to the FRG. If Brandt does not waver at the last minute, and Kevorkov’s negotiations are successful, then by 9-10 February we shall already have a joint decision and I shall let you know without delay. If agreement is reached then, I believe, no later than 9 February the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet should issue a decree depriving Solzhenitsyn of his Soviet citizenship and deporting him from the country (a draft of this decree is attached). The deportation itself could then be carried out on 10-11 February.
“It is important to do this all quickly because, as our sources indicate, Solzhenitsyn is beginning to suspect what we are planning and could issue a public written statement that would place us and Brandt in an awkward position.”
Two days later Andropov informed Brezhnev that they had been successful :
“… On 8 February, our representative met with Brandt’s trusted agent to discuss the practical aspects of Solzhenitsyn’s deportation from the Soviet Union to the FRG. The following decision, suggested by the FRG representative, was reached as a result of this discussion [my emphasis, V.B.]. On the evening of 12 February, the Soviet ambassador in Bonn Comrade Falin will contact State Secretary P. Frank (specifically) with a request to receive him on urgent business at 8.30 am on 13 February.
“On 13 February at 8.30 am Comrade Falin will be received by Frank, who should make an announcement about Solzhenitsyn’s deportation. (The text of this announcement is to be presented separately, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.) A meeting of the Cabinet begins at 10.00 am. Brandt will instruct Bahr, Frank and a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to adopt a positive decision. At the request of the West German authorities the plane carrying Solzhenitsyn must be a regular flight, and arrive at Frankfurt-am-Main at 5 pm (local time) on 13 February.
“From the moment Solzhenitsyn leaves the plane Soviet representatives will cease participating in this operation… If at the last minute Brandt, despite all his assurances [my emphasis, V.B.], changes his decision for one reason or another, Solzhenitsyn will remain under arrest and the procurator’s office will investigate his case.”
This may be called “cooperation” only in the sense that agents cooperate with headquarters. What is described here is collusion and conspiracy.
By the time the Helsinki Accords were signed later that year the German Social Democrats knew perfectly well that the USSR did not intend to respect its obligations concerning human rights and, for their part, they had no plans to protest about this. Without doubt, and despite all their public assertions to the contrary, détente as they conceived it was in no way linked to the issue of human rights. It was not just a question of the German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, but of his party. In 1977, furthermore, when the world campaign for human rights in the Soviet Union reached its peak, and the new US President Jimmy Carter joined that campaign, the German Social Democrats ceased referring to the issue as the foundation of their Ostpolitik. Carter’s campaign scared them to death. What would happen if, suddenly, human rights truly became the central issue in relations with the USSR?
In its report that year the Soviet embassy in Bonn wrote (21 June 1977, No 263) ,
“The beginning of President Carter’s activities has caused the SPD leadership much alarm and anxiety. A lack of clarity about the future course of the new US administration on issues of disarmament, relations with the USSR and the most important aspects of economic and financial policy, has made it difficult to draw up a programme for the Social Democrat-Liberal [Free] Democrat coalition and has had a negative influence on the activities of the new Schmidt cabinet.”
Brandt and Bahr made a hasty trip to Washington to teach Carter the subtleties of European politics and ensure that any mention of those wretched “human rights” was accompanied by endless qualification. As Ambassador Falin reported to Moscow (2 March 1977*, No 124) :
“On the one hand, they are obliged to uphold a reputation as champions of ‘human rights’ and cannot allow themselves to fall behind their own domestic rivals or their allies. After the publication of Carter’s letter to Sakharov, Chancellor Schmidt issued a statement (20 February 1977) that the [US] president’s motives did not differ from those of the West Germans and that the FRG government ‘also intends in the future to act in appropriate ways to ensure that people who express different opinions are not subject to discrimination and persecution’. In the same context [foreign minister] Genscher described respect for human rights ‘on a world scale’ as the central goal of the liberals and reminded his audience of his own proposal to create an ‘international court for human rights’.
“On the other hand, there is reliable information that the SPD leadership is alarmed by Carter’s approach to the issue of the dissidents. Schmidt may talk about an intention to act ‘in an appropriate way’ but Bahr, who went to the USA, was instructed to give the new administration a more detailed account of SPD opinions concerning such ‘appropriate ways’ that would not throw détente overboard. This subject, probably, will be raised by Brandt and [Horst] Ehmke during their coming meetings with Carter and Vance. … In unofficial conversations, West German politicians from the government camp express their concern about the developing situation yet more frankly…”
The SPD and their European socialist allies were spreading the lie that, contrary to the dissidents’ own opinion, “fuss in the West will harm the dissidents”; and they were behind other lies about us and, willingly or not, became “KGB channels” through which various “measures to compromise” certain individuals were implemented. Falin was quick to inform his superiors about their successes in this “work” (21 June 1977, No 263) : “We would like to draw your attention to the useful efforts of Schmidt, Brandt and Werner to give H.D. Genscher a better understanding of the foreign policy conceptions of the Social Democrats. The Social Democrats emphasise that under this influence the foreign minister has begun to show greater restraint as concerns statements unfriendly towards the USSR.”
The forces of European socialism were mobilised to save détente – from the problems raised by human rights. Or, more simply, to save detente from us: from a handful of people who had defended those rights at the cost of their own freedom and, sometimes, their lives. When I was writing this book the forces of European socialism remained considerable: in the 1970s they were formidable. In 1977-8 our campaign reached a critical moment , and the fate of our arrested comrades, members of the Helsinki Groups, was hanging by a thread. Most West European governments at the time were socialist, to say nothing of the socialist influence in the press, the intelligentsia, the trade unions and business circles.
Is it any wonder that they triumphed? Or, to be more precise, that they betrayed us and the idea of human rights? It cost them nothing, of course, to join forces and make Carter abandon his human-rights approach in dealings with the Soviet Union. That was not all, however. Well in advance of the Belgrade Conference in October 1977 to “verify” observation of the Helsinki Accords, the European socialist parties met secretly in Amsterdam, behind closed doors, and adopted a decision “not to demand too much from the USSR” at the conference. When the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Belgrade closed six months later its participants demanded nothing. People had placed such hopes on the conference, counting on the West to maintain a firm position, but it closed with a neutral communiqué which did not so much as mention repression in the socialist countries.
It was an act of betrayal from which our movement would never fully recover. Dozens of Helsinki Group members were sent to prison and labour camps where many died , paying with their lives for the fraud that was the Helsinki Accords – a solemn promise by the West that in its dealings with the East it would establish an inseparable link between security, cooperation and human rights. Europe’s socialists did not just betray us or this idea, but their own countries and civilisation as well. They betrayed themselves, for without struggling for human rights in the socialist countries détente simply meant capitulation; and by sacrificing those human beings “socialism with a human face” was no longer a utopia but a conscious fraud. What did Bahr, Frank and their kind hope to gain from a strengthening of Soviet influence in Europe? To become the Quislings and Gauleiters that Moscow imposed? That was the depths of naïveté. The Kremlin leaders had prepared their own Honeckers for this purpose.
Following in the footsteps of all socialists who have helped the communists to power, they would have ended their days in the Gulag. “There was no convoy with machine guns standing behind the delegates in Amsterdam”, I said, speaking at the Berlin Wall in May 1977 , “the guard-dogs were not snapping at their heels: they themselves chose slavery.”
Another “human-rights” justification for détente, a concern for our “Eastern brothers”, was perhaps quite sincere to begin with. Yet this concern, too, was very quickly sacrificed to détente and itself became another form of camouflage. When the German Social Democrats signed the Moscow and Warsaw Treaties in 1971 and 1972 they still believed, perhaps, in their slogan “change through rapprochement” (Wandel durch Annäherung). Very soon, however, it would prove that coming to power, as they did, through a variety of intrigues was one thing; staying in power, while preserving their goals and principles, was another.
Socialist ideas proved good only in theory. The popularity of the SPD began to fall and by 1977 the party’s authority, as assessed by the Soviet embassy in Bonn (21 June 1977*, No 263), had “reached its lowest point” since it came to power in 1969
“… there are never-ending discussions in political circles, about the fate of West German Social Democracy and, also, about the viability of the Social [Democrat]-Liberal [Free Democrat] coalition as a whole. Numerous meetings and conversations with embassy representatives in social-democrat circles show that the SPD leadership is stubbornly seeking ways to achieve positive results in its foreign and domestic policies and to raise public confidence in its political approach.”.
In these circumstances, the embassy reported, “… foreign policy activities … are regarded by the SPD leadership as one of the decisive preconditions for consolidating the party’s influence in the country.” The Social Democrats, to put it simply, had become the hostages of their Ostpolitik, the success of which lay entirely in the hands of the Soviet leaders. Such “rapprochement” entirely suited Moscow, enabling it not merely to influence the West German government but to dictate what its policies should be. A visit to the FRG by Brezhnev became an event awaited in this NATO country with greater trepidation than would have been the case in Warsaw .
“The SPD leadership places great hopes on a successful visit by Comrade Brezhnev to the FRG. They expect that new impulses for further improvement in Soviet-West German relations will permit them to remove the unhelpful impression that the activities of Schmidt’s cabinet in the political sphere since May 1974 have done almost nothing to advance those relations. SPD leaders believe that the Soviet-American dialogue about a second agreement on strategic arms limitation, Comrade Brezhnev’s visit to the FRG, and the constructive course of the Belgrade Conference, should become important, mutually-linked stages during this year, leading the way to a further deepening of détente.
“It is noteworthy that, as preparations are made for Comrade Brezhnev’s visit, the Social Democrats are avoiding active participation in noisy anti-Soviet campaigns about ‘human rights’, and denounce their organisers in the CDU-CSU.”
This was at a time when certain Communist Parties (those in France and Italy) did not do much to restrain their own criticism of the Soviet Union’s repressive policies. The SPD found itself more dependent on Moscow than West European Communists, and the FRG was hardly less responsive to the Kremlin than a country like Bulgaria. Why talk of the USSR, when the miserable puppet regime in East Germany could tell its “Western brother” what policies to follow. The embassy report continued: 
“The SPD leadership is stubbornly working to remove the main arguments of the opposition that the policy of the government led by Schmidt has lost its way and revealed itself to be wholly ineffective in inter-German affairs. The Chancellor’s office is making energetic efforts, through various channels, to induce the GDR to discuss a wide range of measures: if agreement on these measures could be reached it would allow the FRG to ‘create a positive balance’ in its dealings with the GDR. The political and ideological aim behind these measures is described quite frankly: to create such a dense network of mutual interests that under no circumstances could the GDR break away without damaging itself. It is necessary, G. Werner declares, to ensure that ‘the confrontation between the FRG and the GDR gradually develops into an existence alongside one another, as loyal neighbours’.
“The Chancellor is well aware of all the difficulties involved in resolving this task and does not nurse great illusions on this score. The SPD leaders constantly emphasise the necessity of caution and patience in dealings with the GDR and, most important of all, note that the ‘fundamental changes’ that have already happened must not be threatened by any demonstrative and thoughtless actions. By this they chiefly mean the increased opportunity for contacts between the citizens of the FRG and the GDR. The increase in the number of FRG citizens visiting the GDR in 1976 to 8 million is regarded by the SPD leadership as ‘an improvement in the position of people in a divided Germany’ and one of the main achievements of FRG policies since 1969 in inter-German affairs.”
Concern about their “Eastern brothers” was thus reduced to the paradox of the GDR’s “model of successful socialism” being artificially supported by the money of West German taxpayers, 8 million of whom were allowed once a year to admire the results. It is not hard to understand whose “influence” prevailed during this form of “rapprochement”. The report by the Soviet ambassador could not avoid irony when referring to this as the “most important achievement” of the Social Democrats’ policies after seven years of détente.
Towards the end, when neither human rights nor influence on the GDR could be seriously offered as the basis for their policy, a quite different rationale for détente appeared: peace and disarmament. This also does not sound convincing. In 1969, when the Social Democrats devised and began to implement their new Ostpolitik the threat of war in Europe was far less than it would be as a result of that policy in 1980. Despite such results, they continued to support détente with a manic determination, while constantly concerned to extend Soviet influence in West Germany and on the SPD. They funded it themselves, moreover (16 March 1977, No 99/360) , using
“… such a propaganda channel as the Social-Democrat Friedrich Ebert Foundation to support and fund trips to the USSR by an additional number of journalists from the FRG, and organise talks to West German audiences by Soviet speakers. It would also be possible to establish the necessary contacts with the SPD through the Ebert Foundation. As the SPD chairman Willy Brandt commented, the activities of the Foundation have been thoroughly re-examined over the last few years. It no longer engages in activities and events that the GDR might have earlier regarded as damaging to its interests, but works under the oversight and on the instructions of the SPD leadership. In Brandt’s opinion, the Foundation could act as a channel between the countries, supervised by the SPD and the CPSU.”
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan greatly sobered public opinion in the West, but had little effect on the policies of West Germany’s Social Democrats. The main task, as before, was “to save détente “. From Brezhnev? No, from a “poorly conceived and exaggerated reaction that did not correspond to the nature of the events and would thus lead to an even worse situation”. With good reason the Politburo sent a personal message to Brandt after the invasion, rightly counting on him to help overcome the Soviet Union’s consequent political isolation (1 February 1980*, Pb 182/2): “The main task is to find a common language about an issue that for many years has been a subject of your concern and of ours: how to strengthen international security.” For some reason this quest for a common language, however, was conducted in the most unexpected areas. By 1981, for example, cooperation had already begun between Neue Gesellschaft, the theoretical journal of the SPD, and Kommunist, a periodical published by the CPSU Central Committee, that discussed the “theory of the construction of socialism” (27 January 1981, St 247/13). What on earth was this for? What connection could this have to peace and international security?
What, in fact, was this policy of détente, “relaxation”, “Ostpolitik” or whatever it was called? Stupidity, cowardice and KGB infiltration of the SPD undoubtedly played a role, but can hardly explain its wider popularity because the policy was not just adopted by the Germans. Almost all the socialist and social-democratic parties of Europe supported it to one extent or another. Apparently non-socialist governments in France (Giscard d’Estaing) or the USA (Nixon and Kissinger) did not see any “alternatives to détente”. To be more precise, they did not seek them and fully accepted the tactics and arguments of the socialists. What goals, then, did the social democrats of Europe set themselves when they dreamed up détente and foisted it on the world? For these were not the harmless games of idle politicians, but an extremely dangerous venture that could well cost the nations of Western Europe their freedom. It prolonged the life of communist regimes in the East by at least ten years. The lives of hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Central America and the Middle East might have been spared. What were the ideals that doomed them to die? Why did these socialists condemn the people of the USSR and Eastern Europe to slavery for another ten years?
At first it was for the sake of “socialism with a human face”, a utopia into which they planned to drive a wholly unsuspecting humankind. It was for the sake of convergence, whereby (they believed) Soviet communism would acquire a human face and the West would become socialist. And, behind these and all other justifications, there was the undying Menshevik ambition of bringing the Bolsheviks back into the bosom of Social Democracy, an idiotic hybrid between a kindergarten and a concentration camp. From Russian history we know, however, that the Mensheviks propose but the Bolsheviks dispose. There are no examples in history when the former outplayed the latter, and countless examples of how the Bolsheviks exploited the Mensheviks.
As one elderly Social Democrat, a man of exceptional honesty, rightly told me: Social Democracy has no right to exist until its policy is based on a consistent anti-Communism. Otherwise it will degenerate into the temporary rule of Kerensky and his kind. The first stage of the “Cold War”, in the 1940s and 1950s, kept Communism at bay because European social democracy remained firmly anti-Communist. They say that Brandt, mayor of the frontline city of Berlin and until then a consistent anti-Communist, lost his will to fight in 1961 when he saw that the allies were ready to sacrifice the city and would do nothing in response to the building of the Berlin Wall. He himself wrote as much : “In subsequent years my political views were to a considerable extent influenced by that event, and it was as a protest against the circumstances in which it occurred that my ‘Ostpolitik’ initiatives in the field of disarmament appeared.” Perhaps that is true. I was not there and am not prepared to sit in judgement. Brandt should still have remembered the example of Kerensky in 1917, for it was his détente with Lenin that, in the final analysis, brought the Communists to Berlin in 1945.
Whatever the reason, by the end of the 1960s the policies of European social democracy began moving leftwards, towards cooperation with the communists. Purely tactical considerations played their part (joint campaigns against the Vietnam War, apartheid and, later, the Pinochet regime); so did the Khrushchev “thaw” and the schism between Moscow and Beijing, after which the “Soviet model of communism” began to appear as the lesser evil. The temptation to collaborate was further strengthened by the appearance of Eurocommunism, which restored old socialist dreams of a possible evolution of the communists towards social democracy. Most of all, however, I think that cynical and opportunistic considerations were at work: only a growth in the influence of the communists, and a growth in Soviet influence, would make the social democrats an acceptable and inevitable alternative in the eyes of the West.
By the 1960s, the social democrats must have realised, socialist ideas might remain the religion of the “elite”, but they did not strike a response among the public as a whole. Their beloved Third Way, a course charted by Social Democracy between “the extremes of Communism and Capitalism” would be chosen by the Western world only as a lesser evil. Only an intensification of Soviet influence could make them the desired intermediaries between East and West, “saviours of humanity”, who could (so they thought) influence both sides: gradually the ideological contradictions would be smoothed away, leading the opposed worlds to peace, cooperation and convergence. So, when the socialists asserted that their policy of détente was aimed at ensuring peace, security and improved conditions for people in the East through respect for human rights and other advances, they were lying only in part. Those were truly their dreams, but they were not altruistic ambitions. They did not say that the realisation of these dreams would require all of us to adopt their version of socialism and accept them as our more or less constant rulers and saviours.
Keeping quiet about this, and aware that most people would not accept their utopia, the socialists went further. They consciously agreed to a strengthening of Soviet influence, but kept this hidden from their fellow citizens, their allies and their partners in various government coalitions. Just as certain members of the Soviet intelligentsia, with naïve self-confidence, tried to play games with the KGB (“We’re cleverer than they are, we can outplay them”), so Europe’s social democrats entered secret dealings with Moscow and found themselves caught in a trap. Moscow, of course, was only too happy to play such games. If there was one lesson the Bolsheviks had learned from their own history, it was how to make proper use of the Mensheviks and other socialists. They dealt with all internal periods of relaxation, beginning with the New Economic Policy of 1921, by attracting various “reformist” left-wing organisations to help implement Bolshevik policies, often creating United Fronts that were managed behind the scenes by the communists. Official cooperation was skilfully combined with unofficial infiltration of Communist agents and left-radical activists who joined these moderate movements to manipulate them. It was the same this time.
Soviet leaders greeted this “cooperation in the name of peace, progress and socialism” enthusiastically. Brezhnev, speaking at the 25th Party Congress in 1976, did not fail to mention the enormous significance of closer relations with Western socialists. In the World Marxist Review the then head of the International Department, Boris Ponomarev, noted with yet greater enthusiasm the positive changes in the social-democratic movement through the influence of a wide range of international debates . In a special article in Kommunist, the CPSU’s theoretical publication, timed to coincide with the congress of the Socialist International in 1976, Ponomarev wrote : “Constant, broad cooperation between communists, socialists and social democrats can become one of the decisive factors of peace and social progress.”
Meanwhile, the KGB was given the task of concentrating its activities on these parties. The head of foreign intelligence at the KGB, General Kryuchkov, gave the following instructions to those running spies in Western Europe (26 August 1977*, No 644/54) :
“The new balance of forces in the international arena, the development of the process of détente and constructive changes in the international situation have presented the leaders of the Socialist International, and its members, with the necessity of making changes in their political approach and tactics.
“The last congress of the Socialist International (November 1976) gave overall approval to the results of the  Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and expressed a readiness to help implement the principles of its Final Act. …
“Overall the congress adopted a constructive position on the issue of disarmament. The resolution included the following text: ‘Disarmament and control over armaments and their proliferation are vitally important issues for the entire world in view of the escalating arms race and the worsening economic conditions in most countries’.
“The congress was in favour of the rapid conclusion of talks between the USA and the USSR to reach agreement on a qualitative and quantitative reduction in strategic weapons and emphasised the great importance of the discussions being held in Vienna about the mutual reduction of arms and armed forces.”
However, there was an “ambivalence in the political position of social democracy” that remained characteristic of the movement, said Kryuchkov. The Social Democrats were incapable of overcoming “the eternal problem” of the discrepancy between their words and deeds.
“… the social-democratic leaders of the major States of Western Europe, who play a leading role in the policies of the Socialist International, continue to support their previous policy regarding the consolidation of NATO. Furthermore, they are participating in the transformation of the EEC into a military and political community, in this respect promoting the demagogic slogan: ‘Let us transform Europe of the monopolies into the Europe of the workers!’”
An analysis of the activities of the new leadership elected at the last Congress of the Socialist International (Kryuchkov named Willy Brandt and Bernd Carlsson) suggested that it was making efforts to develop a new programme.
“The social democrat leaders, in particular, through the wide introduction of the theory of ‘democratic socialism as the Third Way’ (opposing it to capitalism and communism) have put forward the idea of a ‘socialist strategy for the Third World’ and have started a campaign to spread their influence among various strata of the national-liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
[…] The issue of the normalisation or development of cooperation with communist and workers’ parties was avoided in the congress resolution. As we know, this issue is the subject of profound disagreement within the international social-democratic movement. Nevertheless, the Socialist International has been forced recently to restrain itself from adopting sanctions against those parties that, in one form or another, have been attempting to establish contacts, or to cooperate, with the communists. […]
“In studying these problems, it seems expedient to consider and evaluate the emerging opportunities to take active measures to support and strengthen the actions of those leading activists and functionaries of social-democratic (socialist) parties and associated organisations who support a widening and intensification of the process of détente, limitation of the arms race, and international cooperation.”
The Centre was interested, therefore, to hear the suggestions of “its agents abroad” as to how it might best use dissension within social democracy in the pursuit of Soviet interests. It specified:
disagreements between parties belonging to the Socialist International over particular issues of ideology and the tactics of the movement (different approaches to economic problems, to capitalist monopolies, to the political concept of a ‘United Europe’, to cooperation with communist parties);
rivalry to take a leading role in the Socialist International between the leaders of the Social Democrats in Germany, the Socialists in France and Austria, the Social-Democratic Workers Party in Sweden and the British Labour Party;
contradictions between the statements and real policies of social democracy;
particular examples of the egotistic neo-colonial policies of social democrats from highly developed industrial countries towards countries of the Third World, and so on.
Communist intelligence agencies in West Europe were given the task of entrapping socialists and social-democrats so as to turn their movements into an instrument of Soviet policy :
“Suggestions should be issued for the wider and more effective use of the existing network of agents, both for obtaining the necessary secret information and for taking active measures. In particular, suggestions are important as to how to carry out work in future with existing agents and confidential contacts from among representatives of the social democrats. We need information that gives us an opportunity to employ the new, notable and active figures in this movement as agents or confidential contacts and use them to penetrate the leadership of the movement and its propaganda and information outlets.”
How could the intellectual chatterboxes of the socialist parties resist such a powerful onslaught? It was like “a schoolboy scrapping with a streetwise hoodlum” (Vysotsky).
Least of all, however, would I like to reduce the problem of such betrayal to KGB infiltration, leaving Europe’s social democrats in the morally convenient position of idealistic simpletons. General Kryuchkov was right about the traditional Menshevik disparity between words and deeds. They were not just “incapable” but unwilling to overcome the gap between what they said and what they did. With reason Lenin called them “social traitors”. The disparity was not incidental, what’s more. Its origin lay in the intelligentsia custom, and that of the Left in particular, of cloaking far from altruistic goals in noble words.
The problem of human rights in Communist countries was not a subsidiary “humanitarian” aspect of détente. It could not be temporarily disregarded while advancing towards to the dream of convergence. On the contrary, détente presupposed change on both sides of the Iron Curtain: a necessary condition was the appearance of a “human face” on the Soviet model of socialism. The most naïve and idealistic simpleton must have realised that the idea of détente had lost all meaning when the Soviet regime refused to acquire such a “face”: after making a substantial concession (legalising the USSR’s post-war expansion) in exchange for an obligation to respect human rights, the Helsinki Accords at that point lost their purpose. A key moment, and a test for the Helsinki deal, was the persecution of the Soviet Helsinki Groups led by Yury Orlov, for the very text of the Helsinki Accords included the right to public oversight of their implementation. By arresting Orlov and his colleagues, Moscow issued an open challenge to the whole world: the West, when it swallowed this pill, capitulated in the Cold War. The most naïve and idealistic simpleton realised he was betraying his own principles by continuing the policy of détente and cooperation with the Soviet Union as if nothing had happened. No infiltration by the KGB can change that circumstance or excuse such behaviour.
Western public opinion, it must be said, was perfectly aware of this dilemma, as the British newspapers showed. On 16 May 1978, the day before Orlov was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, The Daily Mail wrote , “The Foreign Office has expressed ‘concern’ at the trial of Orlov. … It would be much better if Western governments showed that the era of weak-willed reactions is over. … The global chess-players in the Kremlin will be impressed not by gestures but decisive actions.” Other usually moderate circles were no less sharp in their condemnation. “Evidently, not only the trial of Yury Orlov but also the agreements in Helsinki were a game of some sort, in which the Kremlin pretended that an ideological system based on force … could respect human rights, without threatening its own existence,” commented The Financial Times. “The Orlov trial is undoubtedly a challenge to Western countries participating in the Helsinki agreement. … Now it depends on the West, how to respond to this.” The Economist wrote
“The parody of Orlov’s trial … has clearly showed the cynical attitude of the Soviet regime to its international obligations. … In 1975, no one imagined that the Soviet government would immediately implement all the obligations to which it had committed itself. There were grounds for hoping, however, that there would be signs of a movement in the necessary direction. At the Belgrade Conference Russia had every opportunity to provide such evidence but did nothing of the kind. The most outrageous of its anti-Helsinki actions was the persecution of a group of Soviet citizens who had been monitoring the observation of the agreements. … The Orlov conviction clearly shows that Brezhnev does not consider it necessary to pretend that the 1975 agreements will be implemented. … Western countries must use all available means to make the Soviet regime begin to respect the agreements. … Every Western scientist or specialist in another field must ask himself: Should I disregard the persecution of the bravest of my Soviet colleagues, or should I help to end this persecution by breaking off all professional contacts until the government stops ignoring its obligations?”
Hundreds of academics and scientists all over the world announced that they would boycott the USSR and refuse to take part in official contacts and exchanges. Public indignation at the reprisals against the Helsinki Groups was so great that Communist Parties in other countries simply could not ignore it. Moreover, it affected not just the larger parties, such as those in France and Italy: smaller parties, much more dependent on Moscow, openly expressed their disagreement. Only the social democrats and the socialists limited themselves to expressions of “concern” as in the statement issued by the European Community:
“With regard to the recent sentences imposed on citizens monitoring the implementation of the Final Act, signed in Helsinki, including the case of Yury Orlov, the governments of the nine member-countries of the European Community wish to make the following statement:
“These nine countries have united in a determined effort to promote détente in Europe. They have demonstrated their resolution through active participation in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and in the period since that gathering took place.
“These nine countries, believing that the Final Act of the Conference in Helsinki is an action programme for securing détente, recall that in this document signed by heads of State or government the participant-countries agreed to respect human rights and fundamental liberties and confirmed the right of the individual to know his rights and obligations and act in accordance with them.
“For that reason, the governments of the nine countries find it incompatible with the Final Act and détente that a person could be prosecuted and imprisoned for demanding that the Final Act be implemented in his own country.”
The Labour government in Britain, considered among its socialist colleagues to be the most conservative, did not go further than phrase-mongering. The “sentence imposed on Orlov was ‘severe and unjustified’,” said David Owen, the Foreign Minister, adding that this “threatened the policy of détente” (The Financial Times, 19 May 1978).
In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister James Callaghan declared:
“Public condemnation of the conviction of Yury Orlov should not upset relations between the British and Soviet governments. There is no justification for finding him guilty, but relations between States must be built on different grounds to those occupied by Members of Parliament and private individuals who express their disgust, and rightly so, about what has happened. We are two of the world’s great States and must either live together or perish together.”
Such a dramatic presentation of the issue, however, had no bearing on reality. No one had declared war, so far as anyone knew. On the contrary, at that moment a Soviet trade delegation was visiting the country. As The Daily Telegraph reported on 20 May:
“The deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers, Vladimir Kirillin, who is presently in Britain with a trade delegation, yesterday proposed that Prime Minister Callaghan discuss Anglo-Soviet trade relations and progress in détente. Callaghan expressed disapproval of the treatment of Dr Yury Orlov and his sentence but confirmed that it was essential for there to be normal trade and governmental relations with the USSR.”
The Sunday Mirror, traditionally a Labour-supporter, could not endure it:
“Such was the cruelty and illegality of this court that even the British Communist Party was shocked. That is better than the behaviour of the British government. We did not deliver an official protest, although we are signatories of the Helsinki Accords and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Our government’s position is clear. We fear the Soviet Union and so we will not risk offending it. We believe that official protests can do no good. We are mistaken on that score … The thugs in the Kremlin are not always as decisive as they seem … The Kremlin only respects force and determination. Appeasing the Kremlin is just the same as appeasing Hitler. There is no difference between the savage dictators in Moscow and the fascists.”
Those were the views of the British Labour party, of moderate socialists. What could be expected of the others? Of course, they did not fail to express their “concern” and hint that this would “damage the cause of détente”, but in exclusively conciliatory terms. If they had behaved sufficiently well in the past some of them received replies via the Soviet embassy (3 July 1978, St 114/39):
“A telegram addressed to Comrade Brezhnev has been received from R. Steen, chairman of the Norwegian Labour Party, and the Party’s general secretary I. Leveraas, requesting a re-examination of the case of Soviet citizen Yu. Orlov, convicted of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.
“R. Steen belongs to moderate circles within the party, which support the establishment of official contacts with the CPSU and the development of good-neighbourly relations and cooperation between Norway and the USSR.”
The International Department gave its recommendation: “We consider it would be expedient to send Steen and Leveraas a reply concerning the above matter via the Soviet embassy in Norway.” The petitioners were sent several pages of open and shameless lies and, evidently, that satisfied them .
Others did not receive that much. Five years later the head of the Austrian socialists, Bruno Kreisky addressed this obsequious letter to the new General Secretary Yury Andropov (4 August 1983, 110‑A):
“Friends and acquaintances have repeatedly asked me, and continue to request, that I appeal on behalf of Soviet citizen Yury Orlov who has been in prison since the beginning of 1977. … Naturally, it is far from my intention to interfere in the internal affairs of the USSR. If I make such a request it is exclusively motivated by compassion and a firm hope of your magnanimity. I believe that a magnanimous gesture in this case during a period of growing tension (a reduction in which we are both, I know, interested in seeing) would have a positive effect.”
“Yury Vladimirovich,” noted Andropov’s aide: “I think we should leave Kreisky’s request on behalf of the dissident Orlov unanswered.” Below this note the Soviet leader added, “Agreed, Andropov.”
I would also have left such a loyal address unanswered, simply from a feeling of revulsion. Why did Kreisky make himself so agreeable, as if he were asking for a loan? As if to say, my friends have been pestering me – I would not myself have had the courage. Forgive me, your highness, that I am disturbing you with my trifling request. We fully understand it is a matter of your “internal affairs” and so on. Do people really make requests in that form, especially when international agreements suppose that they should be making demands? Andropov, accordingly, treated him like a servant…
There were good reasons why the supporters of détente always insisted, with such determination, on “secret diplomacy” with Moscow when it was a matter of human rights. In public, they would have been forced to express themselves with more dignity and act as though they were equal partners in the game, something Moscow could not have tolerated. They hoped that no one would find out about the servile nature of their relationship. Having secured someone’s head as a sop, they could wave it in public, demonstrating the “successes of détente”. They needed something to justify their “special relations” with the Kremlin.
Moscow, for its part, also insisted on “secret diplomacy” because, following its KGB habits and quickly attempting to corrupt its partner, it understood very well that “confidential contacts” were a first step towards recruitment. In September 1973, for instance, the Central Committee informed Ron Hayward, the general secretary of the Labour Party, through the Soviet ambassador in London, that his request to Suslov on behalf of the refuseniks Levich, Lerner and Slepak had not been acted on: their case would be re-examined only in two-three years’ time. He could draw comfort, however, from the fact that the cases of two other refuseniks would be resolved in late 1973 or early 1974. Hayward was not left empty-handed and had something to boast about . The Central Committee, however, instructed its ambassador to “stress the confidential nature of the information”. We are doing this for you, lads: see that you justify our confidence. And they, gratefully, kept quiet. In private it was possible to boast before those interested in the men’s release – but please, don’t say a word or you’ll spoil things.
The willing accomplices in the Labour Party, naturally, did not fully grasp how deftly and professionally they were being played by Moscow. It seems, moreover, that they did not make any great effort to understand, for at that moment they were negotiating with the CPSU about establishing “special relations” between the two parties. In Moscow, a delegation of Labour MPs led by Hayward and made up of W. Simpson, Renée Short and Ian Mikardo, spoke enthusiastically of its intention to “secure a change for the better in relations with the USSR” and gave a “critical assessment of certain aspects of the Labour Party leadership’s previous policies”. On behalf of the delegation, Ron Hayward spoke about the striving for détente, especially in relations with Moscow. The aim of the visit, he said, “… is to establish contacts with the CPSU and exchange opinions about international issues. It has been noted that we share similar views (on economic cooperation, the European Conference on Security and Cooperation, the importance of the FRG’s treaties with the GDR and Poland, aid to Vietnam, support for developing countries, and support for Allende in Chile) and that our positions on issues of détente are close.”
Differences, of course, were also noted in ideology, over the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and “a lack of clarity about attitudes towards the Chinese People’s Republic”. These were trifles, however, compared to the similarities. There was no limit to the delegation’s enthusiasm. Soviet demands that the Labour Party cooperate more closely with the British Communist Party and “rebut slanderous and anti-Soviet campaigns” did not meet serious objections from the three MPs and the party’s general secretary. It was difficult to cooperate with the British Communist Party, they replied, but they were prepared to support “good personal relations with Communists”. Moscow noted, in a detailed message to John Gollan, the general secretary of the British Communist Party , that the “tone of this reply is much less harsh than before”.
When they shared such “similar views”, what significance did human rights have? The very mention of this subject or a public request on someone’s behalf was treated as an “anti-Soviet campaign”. Moscow would allow no one to strike a pose at its expense (26 December 1980*, St 243/57).
“The chairman of the Danish Social Democratic Party, Prime Minister A[nker] Jorgensen has sent a telegram to the International Department in which he requests help, in the name of his party, to ‘re-unite the family’ of Soviet citizen V.L. Brailovsky. Brailovsky was recently arrested and is under investigation, accused of systematically distributing slanderous allegations against the State and social system of the USSR .
“Since the CPSU maintains inter-party relations with the leadership of the Danish SDP we consider it would not be expedient to leave Jurgensen’s telegram unanswered. The reply could be sent via the Soviet ambassador in Denmark.
“Bearing in mind that Jorgensen’s telegram was widely distributed by the media in the West we should act on the assumption that our reply may also be published.”
After providing the petitioner with a detailed “explanation” of the kind of scoundrel on whose behalf he was appealing, the Central Committee did not fail to reprimand him: “At the same time, we cannot help but express regret that the circulation of your telegram even before we had received it has already given rise to speculation in the media of various countries.” Remember who’s boss, in other words. Don’t expect any indulgence if you won’t play by our rules. Moscow was also quick to turn human rights into a way of subverting European socialists, rewarding only those who were ready to enter “close” relations.
What of the socialists themselves? Could they not see where their games with Moscow were leading? At the beginning of détente it was still possible, though it strains credibility to make that supposition. By 1977-8 the “disparity between words and deeds” had become obvious to the most short-sighted and dim-witted. How could they continue their “secret diplomacy” after the Soviet Union took demonstrative reprisals against the Helsinki Groups? How could they maintain such “rapprochement” when experience showed that it led to no “change”? Yet the necessity to improve inter-State relations was used to justify closer contacts between their parties and the CPSU. By the early 1980s most socialist and social-democratic parties had established special “party-to-party” relations with the Soviet Communist Party. This meant, apart from anything else, very wide contacts between party organisations from the regional down to the district level. You could not get closer than that – and what was the result? It greatly simplified KGB infiltration which in certain parties attained fantastic levels: in Finland and West Germany, for example, it is hard to say where the KGB ended and the Social Democrats began. Japan’s Socialists, as we recall, had entered into such “close contact” with the CPSU that their election campaigns were funded by the Soviet Union (3 March 1972*, St 33/8). After this could anyone still seriously believe that “close contacts” would “influence” the Soviet side?
By 1978 there could no longer be such idealistic simpletons among ordinary members of the social-democratic parties, let alone their leadership. Yet they did not honestly declare their rejection of détente and admit its failure. In April 1978, on the contrary, a few weeks before the members of the Helsinki Groups in the Soviet Union were put on trial – and there was no longer any doubt about the verdict – the Socialist International held a conference about disarmament in Helsinki (a more symbolically appropriate venue could not have been chosen!) They invited a Soviet delegation led by Boris Ponomarev. There was no word about human rights, no allusion to the forthcoming trials: from now on détente would mean only disarmament. Naturally, there were, once again, noble declarations but now they concerned “saving humanity from nuclear catastrophe”. Those in attendance gave their favourable attention to Ponomarev as he accused “the countries of NATO, led by the USA” of causing the arms race and suggested a dialogue with Brezhnev as the means of salvation . And – can you believe it? – the next year, in October 1979, a delegation from the Socialist International paid a visit to Moscow to discuss disarmament with Leonid Brezhnev.
Then misfortune struck and they did not manage to disarm before Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. A period of “black reaction” and “cold war” began, so intolerable to the progressive-minded part of humanity, and the supporters of détente lost power in almost all the countries of Western Europe. They retreated into a surly opposition and took up the “struggle for peace”. They had not established socialism throughout Europe after selling out to the Soviet regime. Unlike the Gypsy in the old story, who decided to teach his horse to stop eating, they did not carry the experiment through to the end. They came very near to success, however, and the horse, apparently, was already refusing to eat, but then it died. Almost all of them forgot about the Helsinki Accords, so solemnly signed in July-August 1975 by 35 countries. No one had formally annulled the agreement, of course, and the Madrid Conference to verify observation of the Accords opened in 1980 and dragged on for almost five years. Yet who – apart from us – paid it any attention? The convicted members of the Soviet Helsinki Groups remained in prison and forced-labour camps, and by that time four of them had already died.
The Soviet Union continued to enjoy the one-sided advantages which the agreement had given it. Finally, in 1985, on the tenth anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, twenty-two dissidents issued a joint appeal for an end to this mockery of common sense. An agreement that had become a farce should be revoked, we said :
“We have done everything on our side to enable the Helsinki Final Act to serve the cause of peace and democracy. However, we see no possibility for ourselves to continue supporting an agreement that has not only failed to implement its humane goals but could not even defend its most sincere supporters and has become an oppressive weapon in the hands of the Soviet rulers. We appeal to the governments of Western countries to revoke and annul the Helsinki Final Act.
“We continue to believe that peace throughout the world can and should be based on human rights. Therefore, until the Soviet Union proves its readiness to respect human rights by specific actions, any agreement with the USSR concerning peace or arms control will be mere self-deception.”
I hardly need add that our appeal was met with indignation by “all progressive humanity”.
This account of détente in the 1970s will not be clear or complete if we do not consider, however briefly, the role played by the USA; and without some idea of the psychological atmosphere and political culture of America at that time we shall not understand why it behaved as it did.
I must confess, here and now, that I may not be the most objective observer. I do not like the United States and that dislike began from the very minute I found myself there. Delivering my first lecture in February 1977 at some American university, it was enough to look at those forever gaping or chewing mouths, at eyes radiating idiotic enthusiasm (and unperturbed by any idea) for me to understand: I would never be able to explain anything to such people. Anyone who made an appeal to logic, reason and intellect, would encounter the same obstacles. After living in the United States for several years I expanded and refined this first observation, but did not refute it.
It takes a stay in America, apparently, to make you appreciate that Europe and its culture are a distinct and unified entity. Living in Europe we are usually not aware of this and fail to notice anything in common between the British and the French, or the Italians and the Germans. Once you are in the USA, however, you are glad to spend time with a Chinese visitor, and find much more in common with someone from Japan than with the locals. This has nothing to do with America being a young nation that is yet to develop its own distinctive culture. Somehow, I doubt it will have acquired much of a culture a thousand years hence. That is not what Americans are about: they are engaged, as their Constitution puts it, in “the pursuit of happiness”. I would not know how to translate that into Russian. It would acquire a mocking tone, implying the futility of such an occupation, and the concept would certainly not be fit to serve as a constitutional right.
Yet the “pursuit” of an illusory happiness seemed to be the main occupation of this eternally youthful nation. Since the time of the Romans Europe has been cynically aware that you cannot escape from yourself (“omnia mea mecum porto”), and that it takes sustained effort to improve one’s lot in life. Those who fled to the New World, however, were the ones who blamed their own shortcomings and failures on the old Europe. It is hardly surprising, then, that their descendants had a sacred faith in the “American Dream”, i.e. a belief that an individual can start life over, from nothing, as if turning the page. When total happiness did not result, why then, they gathered their belongings, saddled up and obeyed the command, “Go West, young man!” Somehow when I was there I felt my steps did not echo and my body cast no shadow. Try as you might, you could change nothing. It was as though you spent your life walking beside the sea and the waves washed away your footsteps…
It was normal and good to be “pragmatic”, to be an opportunist and a conformist. For America was truly a country of extreme conformism, of a herd instinct, driven by constantly erupting epidemics of a clearly hysterical origin. Suddenly everyone began jogging. It was good for the health, supposedly. It mattered nothing that the man who started this fashion died at the age of 55 (when he was out jogging). Forty million Americans continue to jog and the earth shudders beneath their pounding feet. Suddenly salt was declared the source of ill health and you could not find salt in any American restaurant. Just try asking: they looked at you as though you were suicidal. When I was leaving the USA another wave of hysteria, this time about “child abuse”, had just begun. It was a modern version of the old witch-hunt. Dozens of schoolteachers and kindergarten staff were investigated; hundreds of children were forcibly removed from their parents. It was madness. Grown men and women – members of Congress! – shed tears in public and described how they had been abused in early childhood, an age of which an adult can remember nothing. I was overjoyed to be leaving and no longer obliged to remain in America: simply living there felt like an act of collusion.
In the early 20th century, perhaps, the USA really was the “land of the free”. I don’t know. In the 1980s it was impossible to hear those words without laughing. It would be hard to conceive of a nation more enslaved by the latest idiotic fashion. As for success, when understood in such a timeless way it could only be profoundly materialistic and not extend beyond our saying, that it is “better to be healthy but rich, than poor but sick.” In Russia, the proverb is ironic. For Americans, there was nothing funny about the statement: it expressed their life’s programme. Health was the greatest of their concerns or, rather, it was an obsession taken to absurd limits. It is as though they considered death not the inevitable end of life but merely the consequence of an individual’s shortcomings: he had not kept to a “proper” diet, done the right exercises, or followed the doctor’s instructions. Wealth was, and remains, the natural criterion of success.
The American mass media catered for such an undemanding public. They created celebrities from nobodies and then knocked them off their pedestals by fabricating, just as artificially, some scandal linked to their names. It was all phoney, fake and unstable, like a mirage in the desert: if you closed your eyes for a minute (or switched off the television) nothing real, genuine or stable remained. Most Americans struck me as deeply unhappy people, dissatisfied with their fate and often besieged by problems of their own making. They were constantly “in search of themselves” and found nothing. This explained why they were prey to all kinds of sects, to gurus, psycho-analysts, and other guides who save people from themselves, saviours without whom more than a third of Americans cannot live. At times, you got the impression that Americans, unable to bear the burden of freedom, were simply seeking a master to whom they can surrender.
In this “anti-culture” the intelligentsia, the stratum within a country’s population that is usually engaged in accumulating culture, barely existed. The “intellectuals”, the local American substitute, were the most illiterate and, at the same time, the most loathsome part of society. I don’t know what was there to begin with: in the past, after all, the USA gave the world not a few outstanding writers, scientists and scholars. The intellectuals that I encountered in the USA were appalling. They had more than their share of the defects of the US anti-culture I have just described. In addition, American intellectuals had all the flaws of the European intelligentsia – excessive self-admiration; a belief in their mission of enlightenment; an assurance of their right to a privileged, elite position in society; and a Leftism of the crudest kind. At least the leftist stance of the European intelligentsia, apart from its “class” basis, had two hundred years of public debate, revolution and war behind it, and it was possible to have a discussion with them. Their American colleagues had little other than naked emotions that rapidly descended into a kind of frenzy. What kind of debate could you hold with such people?!
The Communist ideology, I came to believe, could never conquer the USA. It was simply too complicated, too abstract and presupposed at least some knowledge of history. It is a sickness that affects culture and intellect, and neither of the latter are present in sufficient quantities in America for the epidemic to take hold. (If a totalitarian system ever were to become established in the USA, on the other hand, it would endure forever because of the country’s dreadful conformism.) Imported during the French Revolution, probably, Leftism in the United States had not been enriched during the subsequent two centuries or advanced beyond the ideas of the Enlightenment. The American elite still believed in the “noble savage” and that a basic human goodness had been distorted by bad institutions. It adhered to an equally antiquated egalitarianism although barely one in a thousand would be able to name the source of these ideas correctly. Admirers of the socialist utopia in its most basic form, America’s intellectuals knew nothing about the subsequent evolution of socialist ideas, let alone of their failure. The country I found was a kind of intellectual nature reserve that might fittingly be named after Jean-Jacques Rousseau – just as North Korea merits the name of the Josif Stalin theme park .
Did they really believe in this nonsense or were they just pretending? It was as hard to say as whether Andropov believed in Communism. It was advantageous to express such views in the USA and, indeed, essential for those in intellectual occupations if they were to be successful in their careers. For however much our American utopians might pose as rebels, oppositionists, and defenders of the public interest they had already become part of an establishment more powerful than the government. Their common interests had turned them into a deceitful and lying clique clinging to its privileges as fiercely as the Soviet nomenklatura, and woe to the brave soul who decided to uphold his own views against the will of this intellectual mafia.
In voicing such unflattering views of American society I am not claiming, naturally, that all Americans are the same. It is a large country with a very varied ethnic population, a great many of whom are recent immigrants who still retain their former culture. Among the settled population one can also find other kinds of people. Furthermore, as we shall see, it was in the USA that those able to organise resistance to Soviet influence in the world were found. The misfortune was that they themselves were, so to speak, under siege and on the fringes of society, a scattered minority in an America then dominated by the herd. This would all be of academic interest if the USA, because of its geographic situation, had not become “the leader of the free world” at the most critical moment in the confrontation with Communism. America came through the initial period of Cold War with honour, during the creation of NATO, the Berlin Blockade, and the Korean War, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. By the end of the 1960s, however, the country was coming apart at the seams.
In the 1940s, and in the 1950s, America’s intellectuals were left-wing and a significant proportion was pro-Communist in their sympathies, although they had not then managed to establish the influence over society that they later enjoyed. The storm of indignation in the American establishment over Special Tasks (1994), the memoirs of “super-spy” General Pavel Sudoplatov, illustrates this very convincingly. What was astonishing is not so much the book’s mention of famous physicists (Oppenheimer, Fermi, Szilard and others) who willingly shared nuclear secrets with Stalin but the ease with which Soviet spies could operate among the American Left. They did not search for accomplices; they could choose whom they wanted. As for the physicists, the indignation of their colleagues at these revelations struck me as affected: as if their pro-Soviet sympathies would not be known without Sudoplatov’s revelations. The Manhattan Project itself arose on their initiative. The imaginary threat that Hitler might get his hands on nuclear weapons so disturbed them that, forgetting their pacifism, they forced the US president to authorise the creation of the atom bomb. The news that Stalin had such a weapon did not worry them in the slightest: on the contrary, from that moment onwards they again became pacifists and fought “against nuclear weapons” (those held by the West, naturally).
For all the evil done by Oppenheimer and co they aroused my distaste far less than their present defenders. The former at least believed in what they were doing and were prepared to take risks for the sake of their convictions. Their latter-day supporters were simply defending their own comfortable position as part of the elite, and were not in the least ashamed of outright lies. It is not the good name of their deceased colleagues that disturbed them, so much as the need to bear responsibility for their shared sin. The participation of left-wing American intellectuals in Soviet nuclear spying is only one example of their complicity in the crimes of Communism. If that was admitted, however, it would also have to be accepted that the anti-Communist campaign of the late 1940s and early 1950s, termed McCarthyism, was far from being a witch-hunt. One can regret that, like everything in America, it took a hysterical form but it is beyond dispute that it was quite justified.
I can remember how happy I was when, in 1967, I could tell my judge to his face everything I thought about the Soviet political system. Sentenced to three years in a labour camp, I did not consider myself to have suffered in the least. In the USA, they did not face the threat of forced-labour and torture, let alone summary execution. At worst, they would lose their jobs. Curious to relate, the majority cracked under cross-examination in the most shameful way, denouncing friends and neighbours, lying under oath. Only a handful refused to speak. And they, I am told, were heroes and martyrs! For decades, their “tragedy” has been constantly regurgitated by the press, by television and film. Hollywood has created dozens of films on the subject: when I first wrote this book Guilty by Suspicion (1990) with Robert de Niro in the leading role, had not long been released. Since this book was published in Russian and French there have been still more films and TV programmes in this genre.
There has yet to be a comparable film about the hundreds of millions who truly suffered under Communism. Look at the output of Hollywood, that citadel of the American Left, over the past fifty years and you will realise that there has not been one film that reflects, honestly and seriously, the major tragedy of the 20th century. We have been offered either openly pro-Soviet apologia or a more subtle and refined deceit that plays on the ignorance of the public at large. If a historian was forced to judge our age solely according to the films made in Hollywood he would understand nothing. Probably he would conclude that we spent the entire 20th century threatened either by fascism or insane US generals. If Communism was present in that celluloid world it was somewhere far away, as a background that menaced no one. The fearless James Bond fought more often not against the KGB but in alliance with Soviet spies to defeat the threat of instability posed by some mythical all-powerful company led, as a rule, by a demented capitalist. The very idea that communism could be a menace to humanity was rejected: the only danger lay in our reaction, in our resistance, not in the adversary himself.
Raised on such propaganda, the American elite was a natural ally for the USSR long before the beginning of détente. In the USA, unlike Europe, ideological sympathies did not form the basis of this alliance since the great majority of American intellectuals had no conception of Communist ideology, even those who proudly called themselves Marxists. Instead, it was founded on an “oppositionist attitude” to their own government. The Vietnam War was no different to that in Korea, 15-20 years earlier, but it served as a catalyst for the emergence of such attitudes in society. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the USA was pro-Soviet because it had become anti-American: the anti-war hysteria of the Left “elite” had been fanned into paranoia and split the country, making anti-American sentiments more widespread there than in Europe. The “elite” needed this frenzy to assert itself and seize a dominant position in society. Like the Biblical herd of pigs possessed by demons, millions of young Americans adopted these attitudes from pure conformism: with their marijuana, rock music, empty eyes, and protest, the youth revolt became as fashionable as material success and, later, as jogging, ecology and an obsession with health.
It was a catastrophe for the rest of the world. If it had simply lost its leader it would not have been so bad. However, that leader signed up to detente and betrayed the world.
The Soviet Union kept a close eye on what was happening in the USA and, naturally, did what it could to “aid” these developments. The war in South-East Asia and the anti-war hysteria were encouraged and supported by Moscow and its success in both respects indicated that the time had come for decisive action. The game of détente proposed by European social democracy could not have been more timely. Almost no obstacles remained in the path of a “peaceful offensive” by the USSR. Issuing his “Programme for Peace” in March 1971 at the 24th Communist Party Congress, Brezhnev declared, “The balance of forces on the world arena has shifted towards socialism”.
In Communist Newspeak “peace” did not mean what ordinary people understood by the term, but the triumph of Communism throughout the world. Central Committee documents leave no doubt that the “class character of the USSR’s foreign policy” had not changed at all in the period of détente: they conceived the development as an opportunity for “a new form of class struggle aimed at strengthening world socialism, the international communist, workers’ and national liberation movement, and the entire anti-imperialist front”, (24 July 1973*, St 88/1). Contrary to common assumptions, Moscow never considered it preferable to secure a military victory over the “class enemy”. Doctrine demanded the “liberation of humanity from the fetters of capitalism” through “class struggle”, not through nuclear annihilation. This presupposed revolution and revolutionary wars that brought the “victorious proletariat” of the country to power, i.e. the Soviet Fifth Column. From a pragmatic point of view, if the Soviet Union wanted something from the West in the early 1970s it was not limitless expanses of scorched earth but industrial investment and technology. Therefore, local forces, “Friends”, had to begin the process of “liberation” and the Soviet Army would merely complete the process, by coming to the aid of its class brothers.
The goal of Soviet foreign policy, therefore, was “a strengthening of the positions of world socialism and the creation of conditions favourable to the international communist, workers’ and national liberation movement”. The chief object of desire, as always, was industrially advanced Europe. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia was an aberration, strictly speaking: Lenin and, to a yet greater degree, Marx thought that revolution would first take place in the industrially developed countries of Europe, thereby providing a base from which socialism could triumph throughout the world. In leading a revolution in St Petersburg in November 1917 Lenin was simply trying to speed up the revolution in Europe. It was a miscalculation. The workers’ riots and uprisings in Germany, Italy and France did not amount to a revolution and in 1921 the Red Army came to a halt outside Warsaw. Russia was left to build socialism “in one country”.
Lenin’s apprentices and successors knew very well that without Europe’s industries there could be no serious talk of socialism. The only way they could create “favourable conditions for the activities” of their European friends was by destabilising a Europe that had begun to recover from the First World War. This explains certain of Stalin’s apparently contradictory actions: on the one hand, he helped Hitler come to power and restore the Wehrmacht while, on the other, he aided the republican side in the Spanish Civil War. The Soviet leader intended Hitler to be the “ice-breaker of revolution”. By destroying the old order and prompting a consolidation of anti-fascist forces led by the “Friends”, the Fuhrer would assure the Red Army of a noble role, simultaneously liberating the European continent from Nazism and the chains of capitalism . When Hitler seized the initiative, however, Stalin was forced onto the defensive, something for which he had not prepared. Meanwhile, the Americans entered the war and by 1945 had acquired nuclear weapons. Stalin ended the war in Berlin but there was no dazzling liberation of the entire continent.
The post-war confrontation did not change the nature of the Soviet Union’s goals but merely shifted the emphasis of its foreign policy. There was no point in thinking about destabilising Europe while its stability and security were assured by the US presence, its nuclear umbrella and economic influence (the Marshall Plan). It may be said, without exaggeration, that this saved post-war Europe from Communism. The USA thereafter became “Enemy No 1” for all progressive humanity, which made the “struggle against American imperialism” its main concern – just as the “struggle for peace” and nuclear disarmament was aimed against the real military superiority of America. The aim of this struggle was not so much to change the social system in the USA, or undermine its influence in other parts of the world, as to force the Americans to leave Europe. A global confrontation proceeds according to its own laws, however. From Sudoplatov’s account we know that Stalin organised the Berlin crisis of 1949 to divert US forces from the war in Korea . The war in Vietnam did not begin with the aim of weakening American influence in Europe but that was its result.
To be more exact, it was not the war that achieved this so much as the anti-war hysteria that it provoked. The protests drew Europe’s communists and socialists together and led to the spread of pro-Soviet sentiments in American society. The USA ceased to be an effective counterbalance to the USSR when it allowed the Soviet Union to begin its “peaceful” offensive. In Europe, the USSR found allies among the social democrats. In the USA, they were to be found in left-liberal circles and Soviet policy was consciously targeted at them. A few years before Brezhnev announced the “Programme for Peace” official Soviet delegations were instructed to “use your visit to the USA to widen contacts with liberal and opposition circles; speak in favour of a normalisation of relations through a US renunciation of ‘cold war’ policies and the arms race; … stimulate the interest of business circles… and criticise as widely as possible the obstacles raised by the USA to an improvement in relations, and above all the arms race, the intervention in South-east Asia, and support for Israel “.
To this period belong the measures proposed by Andropov “to strengthen and broaden the Negro protest movement in the USA “. It was of interest to Kremlin strategists only in so far as the Black Panthers “will create difficulties for the ruling circles in the USA and distract the Nixon administration from conducting a more active foreign policy” (28 April 1970*, 1128-A; 1.4 — Intellectual shenanigans). Everything was calculated to push America into détente or, at least, self-isolation. By 1973 when the “Principles of relations between the USSR and the USA” and the “Agreement to Avoid Nuclear War” were ceremoniously signed the situation had become yet more tense. The Arab oil boycott led to a sharp decline in the Western economy and the prospects of winning the war in South-East Asia looked increasingly hopeless.
After Brezhnev’s visit to the United States in 1973 the Central Committee adopted an extensive programme of propaganda events that reflected this strategy. The Central Committee offered this summary (24 July 1973*, St 88/1) 
“… the turn towards a relaxation of international tension [détente] is happening at a strategically favourable moment for us. The general crisis of capitalism is growing deeper and modern capitalism is being forced to adapt to a new situation because of the numerous defeats of aggressive imperialist policy, the crisis in the financial system of capitalism, the relative weakening of American imperialism around the world, and the fall in the prestige of the US political system. In these circumstances, as class and ethnic contradictions within and between imperialist powers intensify, business circles in capitalist countries are showing an increasing interest in establishing trade and economic relations with the Soviet Union.”
A hastily summoned gathering of all in charge of Soviet organisations and Soviet representatives in international “democratic organisations” received instructions concerning their tasks and the issues affecting the development of links with NGOs and movements in the USA so as to strengthen Soviet influence on the wider American public. 
“All organisations involved in producing information and propaganda should strengthen the offensive character of our propaganda in every way. The deep changes in the international situation should not give rise to unfounded illusions, complacency or passivity. We must show that there are certain forces in the world opposed to a relaxation in international tension [détente], and there remain dangerously explosive hotbeds of aggression and war. Avoiding stereotypes inherited from the Cold War period, we must focus attention on a comparative analysis of the two systems. We must reveal in every possible way the superiority of socialism, socialist ideals, and its moral and spiritual values, without overlooking the real difficulties of our development. …
“We must wage a resolute offensive against anti-Communist, anti-Soviet, Zionist and militarist forces – against all those who are opposed to détente, support a return to the Cold War, are in favour of the arms race, and those who sow the seeds of hostility and mistrust between nations.
“Constant attention must be given to the exposure of attempts by hostile ideological centres to enliven conceptions aimed at encouraging an erosion’ of socialist ideology (among them the various ‘theories’ of convergence and the end of ideology). Any attempts to interpret the relaxation of international tension as “confirmation” of such theories must be rebutted. We must persistently reject the conflation of the “Cold War”, as a definite but by no means fatally inevitable stage in the relation between States, with ideological struggle that is a form of class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, arising from the contradictions between the two social systems.
“While providing a systematic exposure of the provocative meaning with which bourgeois propaganda invests the thesis of the ‘free exchange of ideas, information and people’, we must show, using specific illustrations, that the Soviet Union has always been in favour of developing cultural ties that facilitate the mutual spiritual enrichment of nations, and has achieved significant successes in this field […]
“In all our propaganda work we must expose the inadequacy of various petty-bourgeois leftist trends that have become current among a certain section of the young in capitalist countries, showing that the ‘youth revolt’ has no future unless it is linked to the liberation struggle of the proletariat, and the real problems and contradictions of capitalist society. We must emphasise that only socialism opens the way to a genuine liberation for the younger generation. Technocratic theories and views and other approaches that supposedly underpin the special role of the intelligentsia in leading contemporary society, and various types of speculation about ‘the freedom of creativity’ under socialism, must be firmly rebutted.”
A “Plan of organisational and propaganda measures” was confirmed embracing almost all spheres of activity . Most important of all would be the wide use of Western media to disseminate Soviet propaganda. The USSR State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, for instance, was instructed (cf. 1.6, Fellow travellers and sympathizers)
– to make use of the opportunities that have opened for widening contacts and ties with TV and radio organisations in the USA, France and the FRG to promote Soviet TV material, prepare co-productions, and paying sufficient attention to establishing ties with local TV and radio organisations;
– to organise invitations to leading American TV and radio journalists to visit the Soviet Union so as to make radio broadcasts and TV programmes about the Soviet Union under the supervision, and with the participation, of the State Committee;
– with the agreement of the Central Committee Propaganda Department […] to consult with TV and radio organisations in fraternal socialist countries to coordinate … propaganda broadcasts to the USA and to other capitalist countries in Europe, and to determine the main trends in propaganda with reference to the conditions in certain European countries, and clarifying the broadcast schedules;
– to organise regular counter-propaganda broadcasts, that expose the fabrications and insinuations of the bourgeois radio propaganda of Maoist, Zionist and revisionist views.”
The Novosti news agency was instructed
– to prepare articles by Party, State and public figures in the USSR for influential American newspapers, clarifying various aspects of the CPSU’s domestic and foreign policy;
– to aid leading American journalists in preparing materials when they make such requests;
– to continue joint productions with US TV organisations (ABC, CBS, NBC), and also the TV news agency UPI, of reports, bulletins and programmes devoted to the achievements of the Soviet Union and the life of Soviet people. To prepare and ensure the promotion abroad of the TV documentaries “The newspaper Pravda”, “The Supreme Soviet”, “The Party Committee Secretary”, “Progress and environmental protection”, and others.”
The USSR State Committee for Cinematography was tasked to
“develop specific proposals for the co-production of films made by Soviet and American studios …”
The USSR State Committee for the Press was instructed to
“systematically translate into Russian the works of progressive American writers and commentators, and collections of speeches and articles by noted public figures and journalists, which give an objective account of the political and socio-economic processes in the USA and are in favour of cooperation with the Soviet Union …”
The tasks entrusted to the USSR Academy of Sciences were yet more demanding. It was
“to study the possibility of attracting new major American scientific figures to the Pugwash Movement, including a possible personal appeal from noted Soviet scientists;
“to widen its research into: the economic, political and social situation of the USA and the issues surrounding the struggle of the workers’, communist, ethnic and other mass movements in the USA; to intensify its study of the contemporary state of American academic disciplines (philosophy, economics, history, sociology, the law, psychology, literature and literary studies) and of the ideological struggle within the fields of research, scholarship and art;
“to prepare a situational analysis of issues concerning Soviet-American relations, in relation to the new stage in their development and influence on the situation in the world; also, the relations in these new circumstances between the USA and its West European allies;
“to activate contacts with research organisations in France, the FRG, Japan and other countries that are concerned with American Studies.”
The Academy of Sciences, in other words, was being allotted the role of gathering and analysing intelligence as if it was a branch of the KGB. Academicians Arbatov, Primakov, Inozemtsev and Millionshchikov were instructed to work on the members of the American elite, hence the Soviet-American colloquia and symposia that were periodically held to discuss bilateral relations and “other issues in the social sciences and the humanities”.
This was a mass offensive of Soviet propaganda and disinformation, using all possible channels and methods, governmental and non-governmental structures. This included developing the “twinned cities” movement, and work to “create a wide public organisation in the USA that favoured the development of friendly relations with the Soviet Union.” Literally every organisation was set in motion to attain this goal – youth and women’s organisations, war veterans, trade unions.
Even the Main Directorate for Tourism was ordered
“to adopt measures to explain, in the widest terms, to tourists visiting the USSR from the USA and other countries the successes of the Soviet people in communist construction and the practical steps taken by the CPSU Central Committee and the Soviet government to implement the Peace Programme. For this purpose, active use should be made of propaganda lectures, meetings with the Soviet public, showing of Soviet films, and visits to cultural events.”
Soviet tourists visiting the USA, on the contrary, were ordered to participate in
“information and propaganda work among the US population, such as organising meetings with the American public, press conferences, lectures and reports on radio and television.”
At the very same time the strictest measures were taken to ensure that the West could not have any influence on the Soviet population. Any “cultural exchange” was turned into a form of deception as the Ministry of Culture maintained an unfaltering watch over its “ideological content”. As a result, Soviet propaganda was exchanged for the “progressive culture” of the West.
Meanwhile repressive measures against dissidents did not ease and, to use Ronald Reagan’s apt expression, the rules of the game imposed by Moscow were a “one-way street”. Soviet propaganda, disinformation and subversive activities were all somehow legitimised under the guise of “the free exchange of people and ideas”. They were treated as quite permissible aspects of “ideological struggle “. Any attempts by the West to resist or conduct its own “ideological struggle”, however, were inadmissible as “interference in the internal affairs of the USSR” or a “return to the habits of the Cold War “.
In 1980 when detente was already over, one of its architects, former US President Richard Nixon, wrote in The Real War 
“The Soviet Union today is the most powerfully armed, expansionist nation the world has ever known and its arms build-up continues at a pace nearly twice that of the United States. There is no mystery about Soviet intentions. The Kremlin leaders do not want war, but they do want the world. And they are rapidly moving into position to get what they want.
“In the 1980s America for the first time in modern history will confront two cold realities. The first of these is that if war were to come, we might lose. The second is that we might be defeated without war. The second prospect is more likely than the first, and almost as grim.
It is a pity that this realisation came to Nixon too late, when the policy of detente which he had helped to launch, had already produced such fruit. In 1980, moreover, he still did not wish to recognise the link between detente and these results. If the situation were not tragic, Nixon’s explanations would sound comical. On the one hand, he seemed to understand that the nature and ideology of the Communist system and the goals of its leaders have not changed: “Neither Brezhnev nor his predecessors engaged in negotiation to achieve peace as an end in itself. Rather they sought peace so that they could use it to extend communist domination without war in all areas of the world”. Yet speaking before Congress on his return from Moscow in 1972, Nixon had declared, almost like Neville Chamberlain in 1938 , that if he did “not bring back the promise of instant peace but we do bring the beginning of a process that could lead to a lasting peace.”
After such a statement, he blamed his failures on the “unjustified euphoria” of Western public opinion. What could be expected of the public if a US president with the reputation of being an anti-Communist believed in the possibility of establishing a lasting peace with the USSR by signing an agreement? After surrendering every Western position that he could, Nixon now tried to justify himself by saying he was misunderstood and that he did not consider detente as an alternative to the Cold War but merely as an additional policy.
“The meaning of detente, as originally envisaged by my administration, has become so distorted, both by Soviet behaviour and misunderstanding in the United States, that the term has lost its usefulness as a description of Soviet-American relations. When detente is said to be ‘the alternative to the Cold War’ it even becomes an obstacle to clear thought.”
Yet who was to blame for a “misunderstanding” that almost cost humanity its future? The Soviet leaders with their improper behaviour? On the very next page, Nixon himself wrote
“If the Russians think they can get away with using detente as a cover for aggression, either direct or indirect, they will try. In recent years, they have not only tried but succeeded, just as they have succeeded in using aggression as a cover for shifting the military balance in their favour.”
Nothing else could be expected of them, in other words. So, this means that the “misunderstanding” which arose in the USA was to blame? However, it was Nixon and Kissinger who created that “misunderstanding”
“The hope arose that if the USA limited its own arms then, other powers – particularly the Soviets – would follow. But the Soviets did not perform according to theory. In fact, during the same period when this arms-control doctrine was winning favour among American theorists, and the theorists were winning influence, the Soviet Five Year Plans were charting ever greater increases military spending, clearly guided by coherent strategic objectives. The Soviets were not bogged down in theory, they were driving towards supremacy.”
Yet who, if not Nixon and Kissinger, had unleashed all these “theories”, this crazy philosophy of “arms control” through treaties, agreements and other nonsense that did not commit the Soviet side to anything.
Whether directly or indirectly, trade with the Soviets strengthens them militarily. Even trade in non-strategic items frees resources for them to use in other ways. We must never forget that doing business with the Soviets includes these costs; it is only justified when the benefits outweigh the costs. Trade with the Russians must be used as a weapon, and not as a gift.”
In 1980, however, Nixon was still arguing that his attempt to give the USSR Most Favoured Partner status was entirely justified, although it would have given the Kremlin almost unlimited access to cheap credit: “As long as the Soviets continue on their present aggressive course […] we should remember that trade is something they want which we can give or deny depending on their behaviour.”
While Nixon and Kissinger appeared to understand the total absurdity of détente and, perhaps, suspect how dangerous such games could be they kept on hopping, like mesmerised rabbits, towards the gaping jaw of the python .
“The primary purpose of arms control is to reduce the danger of war. But arms control by itself cannot do this. Political differences, not arms, are the root causes of war and until these are resolved, there will be enough arms for the most devastating war no matter how many arms-control agreements have been reached. […]
Trade and arms control must be linked with the settlement of political disagreements if the danger of war is to be reduced. Only if we use linkage in this way will we be attacking the root causes of war.”
We can agree with this if we remember that the main “political disagreement” in this case was the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, and there were no material benefits that would induce the Soviet leaders to give it up. Nixon apparently understood this because he returned to the subject throughout his book. Where then did the Nixon administration think the advantages of detente lay, advantages that outweighed the shortcomings? Where was the quid pro quo? I fear that the reality was a great deal more prosaic than the elaborate argument former US President Nixon built in his own defence. Finding itself in a difficult position, America was trying to buy off the Soviet aggressor .
“It was during the transition period between my election in 1968 and my first inauguration as president in 1969 that Henry Kissinger and I developed what is now widely called the concept of linkage. We determined that those things the Soviets wanted – the good public relations that summits provided, economic cooperation and strategic arms limitation agreements – would not be gained by them without a quid pro quo. At that time, the principal quid pro quos we wanted were some assistance in getting a settlement in Vietnam, restraint by them in the Middle East, and a resolution of the recurring problems in Berlin.”
Note that the dangers in all these areas had been quite consciously created by Soviet aggression. Any payment to remove that danger was, therefore, no wiser than paying a racketeer. The venture was yet more suicidal, because payment involved providing the USSR with strategic advantages: military superiority, credits, technology, and the appearance of a peace-loving, respected partner of the West. This strange deal might give the West a short breathing space but placed the future of humanity in the hands of the Kremlin gangsters.
As happens with racketeers, they did not provide the promised breathing space. Having received their pay-off, it did not occur to the Soviet leaders to meet their promises. The USA had to drain to the bitter dregs its defeat in South-East Asia and flee, leaving its allies to mercy of the enemy; Soviet influence in Europe attained its maximum during those years; and the terrorist movements it supported threatened Europe with political destabilisation. It would be still less convincing to say that the USSR displayed any restraint in the Middle East. One only has to recall its channelling of aid to Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian terrorists, the role the USSR played in the destruction of Lebanon, and the 1973 war against Israel. The Berlin problem, meanwhile, simply became a permanent source of hard currency for the GDR.
Let us consider what this decade of “détente” cost humanity.
By the end of the 1960s strategic armaments were equally balanced, roughly speaking, between East and West. By the late 1970s the USSR had achieved superiority in this type of weapon. During the two post-war decades, the Soviet empire had been in crisis and was forced to suppress disturbances in Eastern Europe – the GDR in 1953, Hungary in 1956, and Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1968. During the decade of detente, the empire was stabilised and then began to expand in all directions.
Before 1970, Communism spread to only two countries outside Europe – Cuba and North Vietnam. During the decade of detente, a dozen non-Communist States vanished from the face of the earth: Angola, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, South Yemen, Somalia, Mozambique, Laos Cambodia, South Vietnam, Burma, and Nicaragua. This does not include the pro-Communist regimes in little known territories such as Grenada, the Cape Verde Islands, or Madagascar, while “national-liberation” movements became active in another dozen countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Lebanon, Namibia, Chile, and others). This affected hundreds of millions of people.
The most terrible result of detente, however, was the paralysis and lack of a will that afflicted Western countries. It was an epidemic striking at their morality but operated like HIV: countries that were to all appearances well and healthy had lost their immunity to a hostile virus. The position adopted by the USA was of considerable importance because Europe’s Social Democrats could not have achieved as much on their own. Nixon writes
“Other nations have much longer experience than we have in the use of power to maintain the peace. But they no longer have the power. So, by default, the world looks to the United States. They look at us with nervous apprehension as the bulwarks against Soviet expansion crumble in one country after another, and as the United States appears so lost in uncertainty or paralyzed by propriety that it is either unable or unwilling to act.”
For all their mistakes, it would be unjust to blame just Nixon and Kissinger. They had come to power at the height of the anti-war hysteria or, to be more precise, at the height of a revolt when the old elite had almost given in and the new elite could not wait to take its place, whatever the cost. The Nixon administration tried to restore calm by reaching a compromise, above all with the new elite. Soviet expansion in Europe, let along in Third World countries, receded into the background – it was simply shelved. America had been torn apart and needed saving. This accounts for the schizophrenic character of US foreign policy during that period and for the fall of Nixon himself, which symbolised the triumph of the new elite and the subsequent destruction of the old institutions of presidential power, the army and the CIA.
Power shifted to institutions that were traditionally controlled by the Left: the press, television, NGOs and, to the extent that it was under the control of the new elite, Congress. Naturally this new American elite, which was born of the sin of an anti-American campaign (of a betrayal of Western interests and, especially, those of its own country), was pro-Soviet. Though it would still not be wise to say such a thing aloud in the USA: another McCarthyite witch-hunt, they would exclaim. Nixon did not mince his words when describing the new US elite but he would not go that far :
“If America loses the Third World War it will be because of the flaws of its governing class. In particular, it will be thanks to the recognition, praise and rights granted to certain ‘know-alls’, those over-praised dilettantes who announce the latest ideas, promote new-fashioned protests, and are feted by the mass media which created them.”
This may appear correct but for some reason the “fashions” Nixon refers to invariably suited Soviet interests and often even the main trends in Soviet propaganda outlined above by the Central Committee. It is not so important whether we call this a conspiracy. If it was conformism that led the majority to follow that fashion, the “trend-setters” themselves knew perfectly well what they were doing. Their mendacious behaviour was too obvious, and they were too determined and systematic in their efforts to fill the minds of Americans with pro-Soviet “theories” intended to justify any crime of Communism. Pick up, at random, almost any book of the time about the Cold War and relations between East and West and you will see what I mean . Even the first “cooling of relations” after the war, when Stalin not only swallowed up six European countries (not counting the Baltic States and one third of Germany) but was actively preparing to “liberate” the next round of countries, was interpreted in such works as Western “paranoia”. Stalin, you must understand, was merely building up his defences, and Truman and Churchill misinterpreted what he was doing. “What if the communists falsified the election results in Poland and Czechoslovakia?” these authors said, without batting an eyelid: “The Western allies did just the same in Italy and Belgium.”
When it came to détente, such commentators depicted the period as one of constant Soviet peace initiatives in response to US paranoia. At best, they describe the situation as a struggle between two “super-powers” for world domination and not at all as the resistance of humanity to the Communist epidemic. As a result, the two sides were regarded as equals and the writer appeared a wise figure floating above the conflict like a bodiless spirit over that vale of tears. Here, picked at random, is a most striking example of this genre :
“Despite the consequences of the Sino-Soviet split, the war was conceived as before as a bi-polar conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. The elite of both countries was blinkered by a generally-accepted belief in the superiority of its own State system. Despite the use of various means on both sides, such as tension reduction and detente, the goal of each country, the triumph of its own ideology, remained unchanged. In pursuit of this goal both sides tried to keep their populations under control, and those of other countries, their allies and hangers-on. In the heat of their ideological fervour, with regard to the “free world” or the “communist world”, both sides directed their citizens, and manipulated their allies to the same end, without a moment’s hesitation.”
This mendacious approach would later be termed the “doctrine of moral equivalence”. It was very typical of the Left, especially in academic circles where the same method would be used in the 1980s to equate the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with the US operation in Grenada. Continued left-wing reluctance to admit, years later, that there could be no “moral equivalence” with the totalitarian monster, was very revealing. In the 1920s and 1930s one could still talk about a naive faith in the ideals of socialism and the sincere but misguided beliefs of its supporters. After the war, however, and in the 1970s and 1980s it was a matter of conscious deception and falsification. The difference was as great as that between a crime passionelle and a cold-blooded murder for personal gain. The change from one to the other, in my view, came during the years of détente, after which no honest leftists could have survived.
Recalling those years today, and reading through the Central Committee documents, one can have little doubt that detente was the most dangerous period for our civilisation. Communism then needed to do little more to establish its complete domination over the world.
Sure of final victory, and confident that time was on their side, the Soviet leaders did not want to rush things. Patiently they awaited their moment, removing the final obstacles. It is strange now to realise that we and our campaign for human rights were then almost the only obstacle in their way. It was all the more tiresome to face such opposition since in their eyes our protest was truly insignificant: from a Marxist viewpoint, after all (and they knew no other way of interpreting the world), the West was already in their pocket, since both the “capitalists” and the “ruling circles they controlled” had capitulated.
It was a subtle strategy, however, and required caution so as not to stir the victim, who was in such a delicately balanced state of hypnosis that the persistent buzzing of a fly could ruin their efforts. We proved to be that gadfly, circling over the forehead of the drowsy victim. Furthermore, we forced them onto the defensive which, given our insignificant forces, was a miracle. And in an ideological struggle, he who shifts onto the defensive has already lost.
Their two-dimensional “Marxist” understanding of Western democracy also played a part, since they barely considered such a classless force as public opinion and human conscience. It may sound strange in our cynical or quite amoral days, but in the 1960s and 1970s there were still quite a few people who took human rights seriously. Moreover, and this was yet more important, perhaps, such idealists were to be found on the left and on the right, among ordinary people and those with a position in society, in a fashion quite unpredictable from a purely class or political viewpoint. No matter how cynical the leaders of European Social Democracy and, yet more so, of Europe’s Communist Parties, there were enough idealists within their parties and, especially, among voters in those countries, to make the leaders wary of their reaction.
Our movement was then of a rare multiplicity, and did not fit within accustomed categories of right and left. For example, if the “right-wing” government of Giscard d’Estaing had thrown itself into the embrace of Leonid Brezhnev, the left intelligentsia in France were our closest ally. Theirs was the first European country where the intelligentsia, led by the New Philosophers who had been influenced by Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, began to reflect on its own responsibility for the crimes of Communism. In the summer of 1977, during Brezhnev’s visit to Paris, this movement reached its climax in the “handshake of the century”. At a reception in the Salle Recamier organised for us by the French intelligentsia, Jean-Paul Sartre and Raymond Aron shook hands for the first time in many a decade.
In West Germany or Britain, on the contrary, where the government was left-wing, our ally was the conservative opposition, although, of course, that was not the full extent of our support. There were always honest people of any political persuasion. This was particularly striking in Italy. There the Communists also believed it their duty to show Moscow their dissatisfaction. The liberals, the socialists and, later, the radicals all made their contribution to our cause. Western public opinion was on our side during this war, whether the establishment liked it or not.
In the USA, the elite longed for friendship with Moscow but it, too, had to take our views into account. The issue of human rights proved to be the catalyst for setting in motion the most varied forces and tendencies in America. There the struggle concentrated around the “Jackson-Vanik amendment”, which forbade the US government to give the USSR the status of most favoured trading partner because it was restricting emigration from the Soviet Union. Although this was quite a narrow issue concerning limited groups of people, everyone understood perfectly well its fundamental importance. Such a status would give the USSR unlimited access to credit and facilitate a strengthening of Soviet military might. This was already in itself undesirable. The idea of linking detente to political changes in the USSR, meanwhile, had already been suggested and common sense indicated that an obligation to respect human rights should be a condition for widening contact between West and East, especially economic ties. Despite all the objections of the US establishment and the efforts of the Soviet leadership, they were unable to prevent Congress considering the Jackson Amendment.
The efforts on both sides were considerable. The fate of detente, supposedly, depended on the outcome of these debates. At the height of the battle over the Amendment, not long before the final vote in Congress, our old acquaintance Zhores Medvedev appeared, as if by command . His views, as we remember, often coincided with those of KGB Chairman Andropov (3.12 — “The Party’s most powerful weapon”). Now he was invited to testify in August 1974 before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and its long-serving chairman, the well known liberal Senator Fulbright.
Medvedev began by saying that he was not speaking just for himself but was “in effect representing a certain group of liberals in the Soviet Union” (whom did he mean by this? His brother Roy, perhaps?)
He informed the senators of the following: pressure on the Soviet leadership from abroad was effective only when it came from a “friendly” country that was an important trading partner of the USSR; the dependence of the USSR on foreign aid was greatly exaggerated and it was mainly ordinary people who would suffer from any restrictions on trade; the Jackson Amendment would thus be seen by the Soviet government and most the population as a deliberate insult. In his testimony before the Senate Committee he said :
“The amendment will be perceived by the Soviet government as a provocative act that aims to put an end to the positive advances that have appeared as a result of the US policy of the last few years.
“Therefore, I consider that if this amendment becomes law it will not only fail to push the Soviet Union towards further concessions but forced the Soviet government to reject the positions it has adopted at the present moment and emigration will be gradually reduced to nothing. It will be more difficult to push forward with other liberal reforms and, in my view, the result in the Soviet Union will be negative rather than positive.”
Zhores Medvedev also assured the senators that talk of political repression in the USSR was greatly exaggerated
“… simply because foreign countries are taking much more interest in the domestic problems of Soviet life and want to support those who have been subject to repressive measures, and so even the most insignificant facts are regarded as examples of the totalitarian policies of the Soviet Union […] It is widely known, after all, that the Soviet Union is not in the least a democratic country. That being the case, the Soviet government is continuing to use force and repressive measures against certain groups of dissidents. We cannot ignore the fact, however, that there are other dissidents who also criticise the government from political, scientific and economic viewpoints, which would have been unimaginable several years ago. And they have been given the chance to freely express their views and publish their works in the foreign press without any serious consequences for themselves.”
(Who could he be referring to here but his brother Roy?)
All this, in Medvedev’s view, was thanks to detente which “had contributed to a liberalisation of the views of the government so that those who find themselves in difficulties now will discover that it will be less dangerous, henceforth, in the Soviet Union to criticise the government from political viewpoints”. Censorship in the USSR, though still fierce, “is becoming less and less active, and since an improvement is possible in the relations of the Soviet Union with other countries, in future censorship will weaken still further”.
And detente had no other purpose but to improve the living standards of ordinary people. “The ruling elite, which overthrew Khrushchev, has taken more serious steps to improve the economic situation in the Soviet Union and raise standards within the country. In my view, this above all is the reason why the Soviet government is trying to improve trading relations with the United States and other countries”.
The Communist ideology, meanwhile, existed merely for internal consumption, as a means of controlling the population. The Party itself was already not a monolithic structure:
“Therefore, I think that the Soviet Union now is a country where the political situation is changing, and it is changing mainly in the direction of some kind of democratization, slowly, very slowly, and the fact that this process is slow is disappointing. This disappointment is realized in the form of outcry from the West and from Russian liberals who want very quick changes. But I think that quick changes are unrealistic, and we must agree that even slow democratization of the Soviet Union is a very good sign of progress in the world and the only hope that the relations between the Soviet Union and America can be improved in the future.
“I hope that I will witness these results because I think that they are slow, but not hopelessly slow, and I think that within 3 or 4 or 5 years we will witness more serious changes within the Soviet Union. I think that if the obstacles to this development are not created by the other party, unnecessary obstacles which mainly satisfied neither the American national interest nor Russia, I think that relations between our countries will be improved slowly.”
If such unnecessary obstacles (for example, the Jackson Amendment) are created “the failure of these policies will lead to the appearance of tougher politicians” through a change in the Soviet leadership.
In his written testimony to the Senate Committee Medvedev was still more frank about the prospects for change
“The limits on democracy that exist in the Soviet Union, cases of repression and persecution of dissidents, hypersensitive action by censors and other sad developments are not a necessary aspect of socialism as a system, but are hangover[s] from the past – the result of inertia. The pathological fear of communist aggression sometimes noticeable in the United States is also the result of inertia from the years of the “cold war”, when even in America many democratic principles were violated.
“It is impossible to ignore here the idea which is often put forward by the critics of the natural development of normal trade relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. This is the notion that the USSR will receive great benefits from this development, and will thus strengthen its military potential, and this amounts to strengthening an uncontrollable military enemy. Specifically, this idea was suggested by Andrei Sakharov in an interview with Western correspondents that he gave on 21 August 1973.
“The idea is too abstract. […] is it possible to call the current Western policy towards the Soviet Union a “new Munich”? I think this is a mistake.
“Without regard to the Soviet Union, one can find numerous historical examples which show that when a totalitarian society meets economic problems “which it cannot solve for itself” that this situation leads militarisation and, eventually, to military conflicts. A country that can solve its economic and other internal problems cannot be aggressive. […]
It could not be clearer. However, Senator Fulbright wanted more:
Chairman (Fulbright): “If I may make an observation. You feel that better overall relations between the Soviet Union and this country will gradually tend to a democratisation, I believe you said, within the [Soviet Communist] party? There will be no opposition but the party itself will undergo changes which lead to a less repressive domestic policy, if I correctly understand you.
Dr. Medvedev: “Yes, I think that if the policy of detente fails, this would prompt more negative development within the ruling group of the Russian Soviet Communist Party in the Soviet Union. […] Therefore, I think that improvement between the Soviet Union and America would encourage those groups in the party who are more liberal than others. […]
Chairman (Fulbright): “You are saying within the Party, and even within the highest areas of the organisation, there is considerable diversity? They are not all the same? It isn’t a monolithic government at all?
Dr. Medvedev: “Yes […] it is not a monolithic government. […] In the Politburo you could find some kind moderate people who could be considered as pro-American, pro-détente persons, and some more hardliners, who still believe that the Soviet Union must have a strong leader and must have a monolithic party. […]
Chairman (Fulbright): “You lead me to believe the Soviet government is not interested in revolution in other countries; they are not a revolutionary country. They want stability in other countries. Is that correct?
“Dr. Medvedev: “Yes, I think they want stability in other countries. […]
The Chairman (Fulbright): I believe that not too long ago Erich Fromm said that the Soviet Union was reactionary, conservative. Do you think that is an accurate portrayal of it?
Dr Medvedev: The Soviet Union is reactionary?
The Chairman [Fulbright]: Reactionary, conservative, is the way he characterized it, I think. […]
He was speaking of foreign relations. In other words, his view was inconsistent with what you said. […] They prefer friendly countries to have stable governments. They are not trying to generate revolution within those countries.
Dr. Medvedev: Yes, I think this is the case. They would prefer a stable government but would prefer the stable government mostly of the democratic kind of government, stable government, like, for example, Britain or America or others. They do not prefer stability like exists in Spain or –
The Chairman: Portugal?
Dr. Medvedev: Yes, or in Uganda or in other dictatorship countries. […]
Chairman (Fulbright): Since emigration has been such an important issue here in this country, you said, a good deal about the effect of our great interest in emigration. If I understood you correctly, you said emigration was not so important, it was the overall freedom to go and come, and especially to return. You considered that far more important. I would gather that you felt that what has taken place in the Congress has been negative in its effects upon the Soviet Government, that the Jackson amendment has been provocative and that they feel that this does not promote better relations, nor does it even encourage or promote greater freedom of emigration.
Is that a correct statement?
Dr. Medvedev: Yes, this is correct. […]
Chairman (Fulbright): Do you think that most favoured nation status is all that important to the Russians? Is it important to them in a trade sense or is it a matter of prestige?
Dr Medvedev: I think the matter of prestige and prestige not only for the Soviet Government but also for Russia, for Soviet official description of American Government. […] If this amendment is introduced and this treatment is rejected for the Soviet Union, this, first of all, would be, of course, a disappointment for the ruling group.
Chairman (Fulbright): […] To return to a question we discussed some moment ago, you feel that the concept of what we call détente – more normal relations between our country and Russia – would not lead to greater repression in Russia, as some have alleged, as those who opposed the movement towards détente have said. I believe you think that more normal relations would leader to greater internal freedom and greater freedom for trips [abroad], for example. Is that correct?
Dr. Medvedev: Yes; this is correct and I think that this would mean more influence you could enjoy in this issue and more influence your institutions like American Academy and others, could have when they protest against some repressions among intellectuals in the Soviet Union. Therefore, I think that better relations the Soviet Union and America would reduce repression in the Soviet Union, but worsened relations could influence the Soviet Union to become a more closed country where repression is much more likely as a means of internal policy, not speaking even about the possibility of increasing power from more conservative circles.”
It is amusing to read this testimony, knowing the events that followed. Today it is no more than a curious footnote. Then, however, at the height of the struggle, there was no room for laughter. For this was not a Soviet spokesman like Arbatov or Primakov but a famous “dissident scientist” who did not fail to mention, once in a while, his friendship with Andrei Sakharov and with Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It was being said, moreover, not just anywhere but before the US Senate which held in its hands the fate of detente.
This was just what the left-liberal establishment in the USA wanted to hear. The Sovietologists went away and wrote about the “hawks” and “doves” in the Politburo, and their conflict one with another. Nothing must be done to harm the cause of the “doves” – although Dr Medvedev did not say who exactly was a dove and who, a hawk. Having read the minutes of the Politburo debates, we now know that the greatest “dove” of all was KGB chairman Vladimir Andropov. He was also the greatest “hawk”.
Happily, there were other people in America apart from those who dreamed of radically improving human nature in collaboration with the Kremlin. Thanks to their efforts the Jackson Amendment was adopted in 1974 and the campaign to defend human rights in the USSR only grew stronger. This was one reason why the obligation to respect human rights was included as an inalienable part of the 1975 Helsinki Accords.
This was undoubtedly a concession to public opinion. It was an act of hypocrisy because both sides knew very well that the promises would remain on paper. It was just at this moment, we may recall, that Andropov was telling the Politburo (3.8 — “External costs”) that the Soviet regime could not survive without repression. The arrest of members of the Helsinki Groups in a few years time only stirred the “concern” of Western governments. The power of public indignation was so great, however, that it was impossible not to include human rights in these agreements.
In the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate period, moreover, the idea of human rights was something that would unite a divided America. At least, the success of Jimmy Carter, who had made human rights his platform in the 1976 presidential election campaign, was attributed to that issue. Even the new American elite could not ignore human rights, since, to a great extent, it had been shaped by the movement for black civil rights. The result was the paradoxical situation whereby the arrest of a handful of Helsinki Group activists in the USSR was a challenge to the whole world and threatened the entire process of detente and its “achievements”. “The Kremlin has let the West know that human rights are its own affair,” wrote the International Herald Tribune . “Perhaps, the Kremlin has made a mistake here. […] By negating a third of the Helsinki Accords, the Kremlin has wiped out all the rest and dug a chasm between itself and the West.”
Thousands of Western academics declared a boycott against the USSR and there was a flood of parliamentary resolutions. In the US Congress, there was a serious discussion about the United States withdrawing from the Helsinki Agreements, ending cultural exchanges with the Soviet Union and, halting the SALT-2 talks on the limitation of strategic weapons.
“I believed it was worthwhile giving it a go in Helsinki,” declared Senator Packwood . “The Soviets wanted to confirm the borders they had established by force and we agreed to this, unwillingly, because we considered that progress had been achieved in the sphere of human rights. The USSR is not behaving as it promised and therefore the USA must take the initiative and, together with our allies, recognise the Helsinki Agreements for what they always were – empty and unreal.”
Finally, at Senator Jackson’s suggestion, the US Senate nominated the arrested Helsinki Group members for the Nobel Peace Prize, and this was supported by parliaments in many countries . The reaction in the USA was far stronger than in Europe and the American representatives at the CSCE gathering in Belgrade were effectively isolated: they alone demanded open condemnation of the USSR. A representative of the AFL-CIO trade unions, Sol Chaikin, who was included in the US delegation, was the target of attacks by the Soviet representatives for “trying to poison the atmosphere”. All he had done was to pass on an invitation from George Meany, the head of the AFL-CIO, asking Andrei Sakharov to be a guest at the union’s forthcoming congress and – can you imagine such insolence? – had demanded a reply. The Europeans were also not very happy. Everything would have gone so smoothly and with such decorum had it not been for that Yank.
For it was not the capitalists or reactionaries who blocked the path to detente in the USA but those, like George Meany, who had risen from the most ordinary background to pronounce his sentence on this policy of capitulation and betrayal : “Detente is a fraud”. That vigorous old man began his working life as a plumber and rose to become the head of a body that united 16 million American workers. To me he embodied all the good and admirable qualities that had once made a great country, the leader of the free world.
At the same hearings before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs where Zhores Medvedev talked about the “doves” in the Politburo, Meany commented :
“We live in strange times. A person who has built his entire political career as a vehement anti-communist [Richard Nixon] can today become president and tomorrow become the chief advocate of one-sided concessions to the Soviet Union. We lived in an epoch when the president of the Pepsi-Cola company can be enthralled by Leonid Brezhnev and declare that this man had struck him ‘with his candour and sincerity, and also his open commitment not only to the cause of peace, but also […] his striving to make life better in his own country’.”
Lacking a university education or other academic awards, Meany understood international politics a great deal better than all the American professors taken together : “I do not intend to lay all the blame for the world’s problems on Henry Kissinger but, in the final analysis, I am convinced that the issue of human rights on earth depends on the economic, military and moral strength of the USA. If we falter, freedom everywhere will stumble.”
Our success was short-lived, of course. By the end of 1979 both the Soviet and the Western establishment had fully recovered. President Carter was also unable to withstand such pressure from all sides and he softened his policies. The Washington Post commented :
“These policies were toned down in part because of the increased awareness in Washington that the Kremlin would not back down from its intentions to take vengeance on those whom the Americans were supporting. […] it is necessary to combine support for human rights abroad with an understanding of the conditions in which they could be implemented. This requires a certain self-discipline during disagreements that arouse the anger of Americans about abuses that occur in other countries, especially the USSR. The United States should not help to create martyrs. All that can be done is to widen the scope of individual freedoms and to achieve that the possibility must be preserved for progress in other fields.”
A point of view not very different from the ideas of Zhores Medvedev and his “liberal” friends in the USSR had triumphed. It was not a matter of ideas, however, but of the coincidence of interests between the Left American establishment, their socialist “allies” in Europe, and the Soviet leadership. Carter simply capitulated when faced by their joint onslaught.
By 1979 the Soviet leadership had found a way of circumventing the academic boycott, which reached unprecedented levels. A Central Committee resolution acknowledged (3 April 1979, St 153/13)  that it was “inexpedient to engage in a polemic with the organisers of the new anti-Soviet campaign” since “many leading American scientists and research centres are showing an interest in Soviet science and in cooperating with our scientific institutions”.
In late 1978, early 1979, the USSR Academy of Sciences negotiated with those in charge of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Bureau of Standards and the Phillips Petroleum company. A session of the joint Soviet-American commission on the World Ocean took place. During these negotiations, the American side took note of the constructive approach to further development of “our” scientific cooperation. New long-term agreements were signed.
Meanwhile, Western human rights organisations which had played such an important role in our campaign were gradually taken over by the Left-wing establishment in the West. For the sake of “greater objectivity”, it took up the cause of human rights, mainly in non-socialist countries. There came into being an entire human rights branch within government bureaucracy that excluded us because of our “lack of objectivity”. It became impossible to say anything critical about the Soviet Union, unless you said ten times more about South Africa, Chile or Iran. An organisation like Helsinki Watch published a report on human rights violations around the world, listing three violations in the USSR and 11 in the USA. Where had these “rights activists” come from, you had to ask?
The US establishment adapted and found a way to bury the whole subject, while engaging in its own fictive activities. Commissions for the rights of native Americans, women, Mexicans, Micronesians and other “minorities”, real and imaginary, were set up. (I counted two dozen such organisations, leagues, funds, associations and unions at the 1979 hearings of the US Congress Helsinki Commission .) The subject of “human rights” had been stolen from us and for a long while became the rallying banner of the Left. We were no longer admitted.
It is easy to imagine how the 1980s might have turned out if it had not been for our persistent buzzing. We forced the Soviet strategists to waste time on us and, most important of all, to lose the initiative in their “world offensive”, if only for a short period. What would have happened if the USA, riven by internal conflict and forced to suppress “revolutions” in its Latin American backyard, had proved unable to guarantee the security of Western Europe? What would have happened if the oil wells of the Persian Gulf and the mineral resources of South Africa had fallen under Soviet control, through the actions of the surrounding pro-Soviet regimes? Then defenceless Europe, socialist and neutral, would have been ruled by communist Quislings and served, whether it wished or no, as the industrial base for a universal paradise.
What neither Lenin and his world revolution nor Stalin and his war of liberation had been able to achieve, might well have proved feasible for Brezhnev and his detente. It was too late, however. The most dangerous times were already past. Soon there followed the occupation of Afghanistan; then in 1980-1981 events in Poland shook the world. A new era began, the epoch of Reagan and Thatcher with their arms programmes, their active anti-communism and the dismantling of socialism in the West. The world had entered the final straight in its resistance to the Communist threat.
A decade later it was hard to believe that the future of the world had hung in the balance and was saved only thanks to a handful of people who still listened to their conscience.
 Speech at 25th Congress of the CPSU, Moscow, 24 February 1976.
 Voslensky remained in West Germany and four years later was deprived of his Soviet citizenship (5 November 1976, Pb 33/2) see 31 December 1981* document in Bukovsky Archive online.
 9 February 1974 (388-A)^.
 2 March 1977 (No 124), pp. 3-4.
 Issue 44 of the Chronicle of Current Events (16 March 1977) led with “Reprisals against the Helsinki Groups”: the arrests of Alexander Ginzburg, Yury Orlov, Mykola Rudenko, Alexei Tikhy, and Anatoly Shcharansky and searches at the homes of Ginzburg, Ludmila Alexeyeva, Lydia Voronina and Orlov.
 The text was reprinted in The Times (London), 9 May 1977.
 Ibid., pp. 4-5.
 7 April 1977, p. 2.
 Willy Brandt, People and Politics: The Years 1960-1975, Little Brown: London, 1978.
 World Marxist Review, May (5), 1976.
 Kommunist, November 1976.
 See also Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky (ed.), Instructions from the Centre: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations, 1975-1985, Sceptre: London (pbk), 1993, Chapter 8, “The Socialist International”, pp. 244‑249.)
 Ibid., pp. 5-6; Andrew & Gordievsky, op. cit., pp. 245-249.
 See Valery Chalidze, The Orlov Affair, Khronika Press: New York (in Russian), 1980, pp 252‑267 for this and all other quotations from the press.
 Reiulf Steen (b. 1933), chairman of the Norwegian Social Democrats between 1975 and 1981.
 Bruno Kreisky (1911-1990) led the Austrian Social Democrats and, from 1970 to 1983, was Chancellor of the Austrian Republic.
 18 September 1973 (St 97/61)^.
 15 June 1973 (St 84/58)^.
 Boris Ponomarev, Selected speeches and writings, London: Pergamon Press, 1982. Pergamon Press was a publishing house run by Robert Maxwell.
 “Exiles say ‘Nullify Helsinki Pact’”, Wall Street Journal, 8 May 1985.
 “News from the Lavrenty Beria memorial park”, was a famous samizdat publication by Ukrainian dissident Valentin Moroz.
 Victor Suvorov, Icebreaker, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1990 (published in Russia in 1992 as Ledokol, New Times: Moscow).
 Pavel Sudoplatov, Special Tasks: Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness, London: Little, Brown, 1994.
 Instructions to Soviet delegation to conference on US-Soviet relations (23 April 1970, St 96/126)^.
 The Real War, New York: Warner Book edition (pbk), 1980, pp. 2-3.
 Ibid., p. 54.
 Ibid., p. 289.
 Ibid., p. 309.
 Ibid., p. 311.
 Ibid., pp. 5-6.
 Ibid., p. 225.
 Ibid., p. 226.
 Ibid., p. 292.
 Ibid., p. 290.
 Ibid., p. 3.
 Ibid, p. 263.
 Hugh Higgins, The Cold War, London, 1980.
 Higgins, op. cit., p. 123.
 In the preface to his written testimony Medvedev was described as a distinguished and courageous Soviet scientist: “Since the Soviet government deprived him of his citizenship in August 1973, Dr Medvedev now lives in London and travels with British documents”.
 “Détente: Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate”, Ninety Third Congress, Second Session on United States’ relations with Communist Countries, August-October 1974 (Printed Washington 1975).
 See The Orlov affair, p. 276.
 Ibid, p. 284.
 Ibid, pp. 285 & 288.
 Sol Chick Chaikin, Another Opinion. A Labor Viewpoint, Monroe (USA): Library Research Associates, 1980, p. 165.
 Archie Robinson, George Meany and his Time, A Biography, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981, p. 401.
 Ibid, p. 398.
 Ibid, p. 339.
 See The Orlov affair, p. 265.
 3 April 1979 (3213-A), p. 3.
 “Hearings before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe”, Ninety-Sixth Congress: First Session on implementation of the Helsinki Accords, Vol. VIII, 1979.