The Mission of the Soviet Press
“The moral-political unity of Soviet society is one of the important 1 sources of the might of the U.S.S.R.” This quotation from the standard text on the Soviet Constitution is one of the basic teachings of the Communist government, the realization of which is the common goal of all Soviet publications, including those edited for the armed forces. If by moral-political unity we understand the psychological conditioning of the Soviet citizen to purely nationalistic thinking, with a consequent rejection of all that is foreign or non-Soviet, it will be seen that there is a certain deadly consistency in the apparently confused stream of propaganda originating in Moscow.
The Soviet military press shares the common tendencies of Pravda and Izveslia in this respect. In fact, except for the presence of articles on certain phases of life in the armed forces, the contents of Krasny Flot and Krasnaya Zvezda differ very little from those of Pravda and Izveslia.
There is little opportunity to learn much of a technical nature in any of the military publications, since the Russians out-do even the pre-war Japanese in their reluctance to put military data within the reach of foreign observers. Much of the data in Jane's Fighting Ships and Le Masson’s Flottes de Combat on Soviet sea and air forces is based on conjectures from neighboring countries, such as Sweden. However, it is possible to get some idea of the mentality of the Soviet reader from his literary diet, even if it is occasionally discernible only through the deficiencies in that diet.
The chauvinistic program of the Soviet press, which seeks to prove that all inventions of any importance have been anticipated by Russians, is proceeding apace in Krasny Flot. Soviet seamen are told that mines (torpedoes) and anti-mine devices (blister) were invented by Gulyev, parabolic projectors (searchlights) by Chikolev. Krilov took the first steps toward compartmentation in ships, and Popov invented the radio. Perhaps the most notable unsung hero to the outside world is Mozhaisky, whose airplane was flown successfully in 1885. Just when the Soviets discovered Mozhaisky is not clear, but the 1938 edition of the Bolshaya Sovietskaya Entsiklopedia fails to mention him under M. While the outside world begins to put less credence in the merit of Russian inventors because of this exaggerated form of nationalistic propaganda, the Soviet citizen is encouraged to look with reproach on westerners who, it is claimed, have falsified history in order to rob Russian genius of its share of glory.
History of World War II
Very little space is devoted in either the Zbornik or Krasny Flot to the history of World War II, and operations of the western Allies are mentioned in a derogatory tone to prove the baseness of our motives. Lend- lease, of course, remains a military secret among the Soviets. The basic argument against our leaders is that we place too much emphasis on weapons and on winning a war without excessive loss of personnel. The following excerpt from Professor General- Mayor N. V. Poukhovski is typical:
Attempts to find such a means of conducting war which might assure victory with the help of some one means, acting in a sure-fire and winning fashion, bear witness to the fact that bourgeois theoreticians fear a war which would demand huge strain on popular forces. They fear such a war, because every appeal to popular support, every attempt to put upon the vast popular masses the burden of conducting a war, pursuing anti-popular goals, may end in catastrophe for the ruling exploiting classes.
It is assumed, for purposes of internal propaganda, that all non-communist governments arc maintained against the will of the masses, who are apt to rise at any time in revolt against the ruling classes. When we consider the well-known Soviet disregard for casualties to personnel in the conduct of military operations, it is not surprising that they point the finger at us in the name of “moral-political unity of Soviet society.”
The long-awaited second front of World War II is a never-ending subject of reproach against the West. As early as 1946 a Soviet observer, Commander L. M. Eremeev, analyzed operation Overlord for Morskoi Zbornik as follows: “Time spent in preparation, excessive; excessive materiel gathered; the mere pursuit of ‘comfort’ took up needless time and effort; control of the air excessive, indisputable control of the air not needed; actually control of the air had been gained over the Channel long before 1944.” At the end of his 45-page article (Morskoi Zbornik, 1946, No. 2,1’eb.), Commander Eremeev concludes reluctantly: “It was a careful coordination of efforts in time and place; as such it deserves a long and detailed study by us. Experience of such a combined operation should be the subject of further study.” Since 1946, the landing in France is rarely discussed with even this much objectivity.
The official position on World War II, for mass consumption, may be judged from the treatment given that topic in the 1949 supplement to the Bolshaya Sovietskaya Entsiklopedia. France is disposed of in one sentence: “The pro-Fascist French government, fearing its own people more than the German invader, betrayed France.” The Soviet march through eastern Poland is described as “the Red Army’s liberating campaign for the purpose of taking under its protection the lives and property of the populations of Western Belorussia and Western Ukrainia who had been oppressed by the Polish pani.” 'The following is the entire account of Allied participation in the European operations:
In June, 1944, at the height of the Red Army’s offensive operations, the Allied forces effected a landing in France. At last the second front was opened in Europe. The opening of the second front had been delayed so long that it had prolonged the war. Neither the Allied operations in Africa nor the landing in Italy, which had been carried out with minor forces and could not weaken the Germans in the East, could have led. to the establishment of a second front. Despite the Allied landing in Italy in 1943, the German High Command continued to throw dozens of divisions from the West to the Eastern Front against the Red Army. Basic responsibility for delaying the opening of the second front in Europe lies with the British political leaders, with the leader of the Conservative Party, Winston Churchill. Only by mid-1944, when it was clear to the whole world that as a result of the victories of the Red Army the military situation had changed basically, and that the Soviet Union by its own power might defeat Germany, take her satellites out of the war, free France, and occupy Germany—was the second front opened. Even after the Allied landing in France, Hitler continued not only to maintain his basic forces against the Red Army, but also to throw fresh troops from west to east. Nevertheless, the second front in Europe did engage 75 German divisions. This lightened the Red Army’s task of finally routing the German-Fascist troops.
The Japanese campaign is presented as an all-Red Army operation, at least by implication. As soon as the German situation was well in hand, the Soviets are shown as sweeping through Manchuria and blockading Korean ports by sea. No mention is made of the American effort in this theater until we are suddenly informed that “2/1X/1945, the unconditional surrender was signed aboard the American battleship Missouri, which happened to be in Tokyo Bay.”
During the year 1949 special efforts were made by military lecturers to represent the taking of Berlin as an operation in which the Red Army faced the added handicap of a German plot to hand over their capital to the Americans without a struggle. In a recent lecture in Moscow, General-Mayor N. M. Zamyatin points up his argument with the statement: “The Fascists coined the slogan: ‘Better to surrender Berlin to the Americans than let it go to the Russians’. ” Prisoners related that officers admonished them: “Fight against the Russians with such stubbornness, with such calculation that the Americans will enter Berlin before the Russians.” This is in line with the constantly repeated theme that whereas the Soviets were seeking the complete annihilation of Fascism, the West wanted to keep up a business-as-usual policy via neutral countries even at the height of the conflict.
The recent creation of a separate Navy Department in the Ministry of the Armed Forces has aroused great interest in the American press. It should be remembered, however, that the Soviet unified Ministry of the Armed Forces was created after World War II. The Navy, which was much the junior branch of the service, had been headed by the recently created Admirals of the Fleet, Kuznetzov and Isaakov. Kuznetzov, who had been made People’s Commissar of the Navy at 38, and Isaakov disappeared from the scene with the creation of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, and the customary two-page orders-of-the-day are issued henceforth by Minister of the Armed Forces of the U.S.S.R., Marshal of the Soviet Union, N. A. Bulganin. Quite recently this political marshal was succeeded by Marshal A. M. Vasilevski, war-time chief of staff. Admiral Youmashev, Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Forces of the U.S.S.R., who had been discreetly reserved under Bulganin, will probably play an important role in building up the navy. It is quite possible that Stalin, having established the proper balance between military and political leadership, is anxious not to repeat the errors of Hitler and Mussolini by setting up a united staff organization in which the Army wields a preponderant influence. The German naval records show that in a dictatorship the interservice rivalry is especially detrimental to the creation of an effective navy.
Soviet Sources of Information
There is a widespread belief among American scholars that much of the Soviets’ apparently rash behavior is due to the lack of accurate information. One of our foremost authorities on international law recently told the writer privately that he felt we should subdue our aggressive talk about the Soviet Union, since the Soviet leaders in a paroxysm of fear might react belligerently and precipitate a conflict. He was convinced, he said, that the 1938 attack on Finland was made out of the extreme fear of the men in the Kremlin that Germany, abetted by the western powers, was about to attack Leningrad via Finland. While it is true that the masters of the Kremlin, like any other political bosses, are not likely to tolerate the presence of advisors who consistently oppose their views (Hitler, for instance, could take Raeder’s opinions on strategy for a limited time only), there is no evidence that the higher echelons of Soviet leadership do not have access to the most complete information in the world. In writing lectures and articles for public consumption, Soviet scholars bring in a wide sampling of the American press, quoted either from irresponsible writers or so much out of context that the original meaning is lost.
From these sources it can be proved daily that America is infested with gangsters of all sorts, our judicial system is completely inefficient, a tenth of our population is unemployed, and the negro is still in his pre-Civil War status. The same careful study that produces this misinformation can certainly produce very correct estimates of the real situation. As one of the largest clients of our government printing office, the Soviets certainly have the facts.
Military strategy and tactics are undoubtedly. studied in a competent fashion at the various military schools and academies. The Soviet press, however, rarely deals with such matters except in general terms. The thesis of the military press is that military science hardly exists outside of Russia, where it was created during World War II by Iosif Vissarionovitch Stalin. In western countries various attempts have been made, it is said, to codify the laws of war. Clausewitz, Jomini, Koch, and Fuller are all cited as examples of the western notion that battles can be won by some single means. A tie-up between Douhetism and the menace of the atomic bomb or victory through air power alone is one of the favorite targets of I lie military critics. Harking back to the “moral-political” basis of the nation, these writers point out that a war plan must be based on the calculation not only of the military, but also of the economic and moral potential of one’s own country as well as of the enemy. The assumption in this rather obvious statement is that in western countries the moral potential is absent, since bourgeois countries fight for the interests of the ruling classes only, and accordingly some single weapon must be found to win regardless of the enemy’s superior potential.
Operating on the assumption that the West will avoid war at all costs, the Soviets feel that they can provoke it indefinitely, while at home they can invoke the perpetual bogey of bourgeois imperialism and warmongering. In the unlikely event of actual conflict they are confident that they can lose ten men to the enemy’s one and come out ahead of the game ultimately, provided they can keep their populations convinced that every man’s hand is against them. This conditioning is so thorough that our Soviet acquaintances during the war would look at the inoffensive American headlines and exclaim automatically: “Opiat nas rygayut!” (“Cussing us out again!”). When there was nothing else to complain about they would try to find cause for offense in a headline mentioning the activities of the Reds. Even though “Red” was their official designation, they fancied some attempt to use the term as synonymous with nekulturni (uncultured).
The trend toward nationalism, which became apparent by 1940, has been steadily increasing since the war, and may be readily identified with the “moral-political” unity already mentioned. Up to 1940 the use of the term “Russia” instead of “Soviet Union” was considered a faux pas. In fact, Soviet officers whom we had occasion to instruct during the war admitted that they had been taught all their lives to call their country the “Soviet Union” rather than “Russia.” The naval leaders of Tsarist Russia have all been rehabilitated in the interests of nationalist prestige, and writers, like Novikov-Priboi, who were critical of admirals of the Russo- Japanese War, have been discredited. The position of the Russian people was slated by Stalin himself at a Kremlin reception for Red Army Commanders on May 24, 1945:
“I drink, first of all, to the health of the Russian people, because it is the most outstanding nation of all those going into the composition of the Soviet Union.
“I raise a toast to the health of the Russian people because it has merited in this war the general recognition as the leading force of the Soviet Union among all the peoples of our country.
“I raise a toast to the health of the Russian people because it is not only the commanding people but also has a clear mind, a staunch character, and endurance.”
Professor K. V. Basilevich, in his lecture on the Progressive Rôle of Russia in the political life of Europe, does not hesitate to point out that Russia has three times saved western Europe from fatal danger, from the Mongols in the thirteenth century, from Napoleonic despotism in the nineteenth century, and in the twentieth from the rule of Hitlerite Germany. He goes on to say: “Today, when imperialists, headed by the warmongers from the United States of America, prepare a new war for humanity, the Soviet Union, conscious of its invincible power, stands guard over peace, democracy, and progress. Millions of simple people of all countries, large and small nations, colonies, states enslaved by the ‘Marshall Plan,’ are inspired by the example of the Soviet Union in its struggle for liberation from the imperialistic yoke. . . . ”
In conclusion we must point out that the Soviet military press is intended to create and to maintain certain opinions rather than to inform the military personnel. Officers in key positions undoubtedly do have access to broader sources of information, but junior officers in the United States during the war used to express some surprise that any American could read Mein Kampf if he chose. Such material was restricted to high political officers in Russia. On the other hand, our Soviet students knew exactly which American books they should read: Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy,” Jack London’s stories, etc.
In a conflict of some duration there is a strong possibility that the restriction of information to the higher levels of military and political personnel might lead to serious errors of strategy. There is apparently little concept of the logistic problems involved in operations on a global scale. But the Soviet military program is oriented, for the time being at least, toward the maintenance of a perpetual state of aggression toward the non-Communist West. For this purpose a thoroughly conditioned mentality must be maintained in its people. This is the “moral-political” unity of the Soviet Constitution.
The ultimate political and social aims of the Soviet State are clearly reflected in its public press which, being controlled in minute detail, can hardly be said to express the individual views of writers. If there is confusion in the minds of our leading scholars today as regards the policies of the Communist leaders, it can only be because too many of them are unable to consult the proper sources at first hand or, in the case of many whose lifelong principles of history and international relations are threatened with extinction, it is because they are still engaged in wishful thinking, and hope by a simple analogy with earlier world history, the Protestant revolution, the Moslem expansionism, etc., to conjure away the spectre that has come to plague our 20th century existence as free men.