The American Road to World Peace

By Alfred Zimmern | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 51: The Soviet Union

THE Soviet Union has not hitherto obtruded itself into these pages, except in the fleeting episode of its military excursion into China in 1929, because it is little concerned either with freedom or with order. It is, in fact, a negation both of freedom and of order, in the democratic and American sense of the latter word, as it is also, to use an expression which Gladstone once applied to another regime, a negation of God. But, at this stage of our inquiry, a short characterization of this strange political phenomenon would seem to be called for. It is not difficult to furnish this, since, on the one hand,all tyrannies are, broadly speaking, alike, and, on the other, the world has had thirty-five years in which to observe the Soviet Union and should by now be in a position to form a considered judgment upon its nature and conduct.

The Soviet Union is the last surviving example of the ancient empires of the Old World. It is a despotism like that of the rulers of Assyria and Babylon, unmitigated by the Greek influence which moderated the exercise of irresponsible power in the case of the Romans. Insofar as the Soviet Union has roots in Europe, those roots are Byzantine rather than West European. Its rulers have shown great skill and ingenuity in adapting for their rigidly centralized administration the latest scientific inventions of the West. While America has been learning how to use these in order more effectively to diffuse power, Stalin and his confederates have employed them in reverse, in order to concentrate power more effectually in their own hands.

The rulers of the Soviet Union have shown equal ingenuity in providing their regime with a camouflage of Western political principles, in order to conceal its true nature from lovers of freedom throughout the world. This was rendered possible for them by the circumstances under which they achieved ascendancy in 1917. They assumed power in the name of the European Socialist

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