Continuing with this piece by Evgeny Krutikov. Yesterday we learned that Krutikov’s grandfather got promoted almost out of the blue to very a high-ranking Soviet official, almost like #2 in the pecking order after Stalin. But it just seems to me that Stalin was playing games (as was his wont), promoting Krutikov over Mikoyan, because it knew it would get under the latter’s skin. I once had a boss who was just like that. And the coders even called him “Hitler” behind his back, although he reminded me more of Stalin. (Hitler was a better person than Stalin in that one respect, he was actually loyal to his underlings, most of the time, from what I have read.)
So, anyhow, if my boss disliked one of his team leads, or just wanted to mess with them; or if he thought somebody was getting too uppity and needed to be put in their place, then he would play this game with them; he would convene a big department meeting, make sure everybody was there, and make this big announcement: “I just promoted X over Y,” while looking Y right in the eye, to enjoy his reaction. That was an IT department, but it doesn’t seem to me that it differed all that much from the Kremlin in Stalin’s time. Well, to be sure, Y might feel humiliated and disgraced, but at least he didn’t have to worry about being arrested later that night, and shot. Although one of the humiliated web developers was so upset that he threatened to bring a gun into the workplace and deal out street justice. Good times…!
But returning to Krutikov Junior: Krutikov next takes on sheer speculation of the “What might have been” type. As in, What if Beria and not Khrushchev had won the Succession Challenge? Would history have gone a better way, perhaps? Or maybe worse?
Some experts claim that Beria was prepared to go all in on radical “Perestroika” of the Soviet system, 30 years early. Beria was even prepared to diminish the leading role of the Communist Party (in effect, allowing a multi-party system), while restoring “Socialist Legality” and augmenting the role of the Soviets and the government itself. This theory is offered without any documentation or proof. But it is a known and accepted fact, that the “Stalinist” system, along with its odious characteristics, had outlived itself and needed to be replaced with something else. Stalin and his functionaries had pretty much decayed to the point, where their main role was just self-preservation. In order to survive and thrive, the nation itself had to embark on massive economic growth, which meant shuffling off this stale bureaucratic layer.
In other words, the system that Stalin built was as doomed as Wotan’s Valhalla. That it would be replaced was an objective fact, Furries notwithstanding. This was not just a Succession Crisis, but an Ideological Crisis as well. The only question was: Replaced with what? The winner of the Survivor Challenge would be he who first stepped forward with a new idea. The winner of the propaganda war, in other words.
Now, who in this room actually believes that Beria was an ideological genius who knew his Hegel forwards and backwards? Raise your hands, please… Coming forward with a big plan to release the prisoners… That’s not exactly like writing one’s dissertation on the writings of Ernst Mach. Neither Beria nor any of the other Pretenders in this story gave a fig about the sufferings of Soviet prisoners; nor had they previously ever disclosed any “moral” or ethical qualities in their daily behavior. The liberalization was simply a pragmatic political step for them. And that’s okay, it’s safer for us schlubs when politicians are pragmatic rather than driven by ideals. But the point is: It seems unlikely that Beria truly had a master plan to save Socialism.
In the end, the Man with the Plan was just a random Village Idiot and Clown: Nikita Khrushchev. Nikita is the one who got all the credit, was partially lionized in the West; got all the brownie points, for starting to dismantle a repressive system. According to Krutikov, Khrushchev was so dumb that he couldn’t even write a sentence in Russian without a spelling mistake. Let alone write a thesis on Mach, etc. Yet to this day, Khrushchev gets all the glory (and all the hatred from the die-hard Stalinists) for the de-Stalinization and shutting down the GULAG, and all that jazz.
But What About Germany?
But, the discerning reader inquires, what about the rumor that Beria had a plan to reunify Germany? Would the world have not been a better place without all that drama of the Berlin Wall? Well, starting with 1946, the USSR continuously offered proposals along this vein. So, it wasn’t actually Beria’s idea at all. Here the problem lay not with the Soviet bureaucracy, but with the Western allies. Who would settle for nothing less than Total Control over the German prize. (Which, in the end, they got, thanks to Gorbachov’s treachery; all of Germany is now an American Protectorate and colony, pretty much.) Here one has to defend Stalin: As leader of the Soviet Union Stalin’s behavior towards conquered Germany was impeccable. But the poor guy came up against Westie revanchism and the Cold War. Not his fault, honest to god. It’s just that the West, primarily the U.S., never forgave the Soviet Union (and Russia) for defeating Hitler and surviving to tell the tale.
Hence, the necessity to split up Germany in partes duae, as Caesar might have written. As Krutikov points out, the Soviet emissaries sought frantically for a different outcome; consultations continued even after the two military blocs had been set up, dividing Europe into two major zones of influence. The Soviet Union cannot be held accountable for this division that split Germany down the middle. Chalk this up to Westie greed and stubbornness. In the end, the USSR had to do, what it had to do. And whatever Beria’s plan was, if he even had one, he would have come up against the same obstacles as did Stalin and the others. And in the end, he would have had to do, what he had to do. Not unlike Stalin, or anybody else in that position. See, in any equation, Westie hostility to the Soviet (and Russian) entity should be considered as a constant rather than a variable.
Next: But what about Beria’s internal reforms and de-Stalinization plan?
[to be continued]