The Zoroaster Complex Chandler Davidson “The peril involved in nuclear war is one which affects all mankind and one, therefore, in which the interests of all mankind are at one. Those who wish to prevent the catastrophe which would result from a large-scale H-bomb war are not concerned to advocate the interests of this or that nation, or this or that class, In his plea for sanity in the face of nuclear destruction, Bertrand Russell puts his finger upon the crux of the matter: Until nationalism is to some extent overcome in both the East and the West, no feasible program of peace can come into being. Thus, many people in the liberal camp in this country are inconsistent when they speak of the absolute virtues of the American way of life and the absolute wickedness of the Russians, and in the same breath advocate disarmament. If we are as laudable as our Fourth of July orators paint us to be, and the Russians as evil, any attempts at negotiation are futile. Some people, instead of describing the Russo-American conflict in absolute terms. admit that there may still exist in the American system a few relatively minor flaws, and that a few inconsequential virtues are discernible in Russia. But they hasten to add that the American way of life is indescribably more desirable than the communists’, and that Americans and their leaders are far more honest, peaceloving, and generous than their Russian counterparts. And so, despite the appearance of a more moderate point of view, the judgment is the same: We are the good guys, the communists are the bad guys. Is this really the case? The very least one can do in attempting to evaluate Russia and America is to go back carefully through the history of East-West relations since the Russian Revolution. \(Ideally, he To an objective observer, the image of the battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness breaks down very quickly. The rise of Hitler and World War II, for example, can be traced clearly to the greed and stupidity of the Western capitalist nations, on the one hand, in the draconian measures imposed upon Germany following the treaty .of Versailles; and to the stupidity, dogmatism, and divisiveness of the communists as exemplified in their failure to help hold the Weimer Republic together by a coalition with the socialOnly an extreme naif would explain the cold war as an attempt by a peace-loving West to bring liberty and justice to the world, only to be thwarted by Eastern attempts at world conquest. Certainly Stalin had a large hand in determining the situation as it now exists. His failure to accept our offer of the Marshall plan was tragic, especially as the plan came as close as any U.S. program ever has to being motivated by charity. But one can point out, as James P. Warously initiated the Truman Doctrine of “world containment” made any American good-will offer rather suspect in Stalin’s eyes. Stalin can justifiably be blamed for refusing to accept our offer to share peacefully atomic secrets, before Russia had the bomb. But the blame falls just as rightly on the U.S. for backing out of what seems to be a sincere plan by the Russians for disarmament in 1955. Stalin’s imperialism in Europe following World War II was totally wrong. But by understanding his motives, any American with a modest knowledge of U.S. history will feel less secure in his self-righteousness. It seems probable that post-war Russian imperialism was due to economic needs, and is thus closely akin to American It is at this point that a patriot inevitably arises and objects: “Certainly, if the motives of Russia and the U.S. were the same, then our attempt, say, to overthrow sovereign Cuba would be no more right than the Russian suppression of the Hungarians. But the motives are not the same. We are motivated by a desire to uphold freedom, and the Russians, by a desire to tyrannize the world. Thus, our interferences with the sovereignty of other nations are justified, while those of Russia are not.” It is ironic that the very people who argue, in this instance, that the ends justify the means, are -the ones who shout loudest about the “brutal opportunism” of socalled Marxists. But this observation is only an aside. Not being a pacifist in principle, I will admit that in some cases violence is justified; it is the lesser of two vant: Is American violence more justified than communist violence, i.e., are our motives purer than those of the Russians? Such an assessment is extremely hard to make. But there are vistas open to those who seek them; and if one is willing to forego his utter dependence on the daily newspapers, T.V., and the “slick” magazines, he can at least make an educated guess. It is significant, I feel, that five of the most lucid contemporary commentators on world affairsGeorge Kennan, C. W. Mills, Isaac Deutscher, Erich Fromm, and Bertrand Russell–profess to be baffled to some degree as regards making an assessment of Russia and the U.S. None of them says explicitly that one is “better than” the other. Rather, all of them break the question down into components: Which nation has acted more honorably in a particular circumstance? Which facets of American or Russian behavior are being considered? What phase of the various systems are we talking about? . American capitalism in 1850? Russia in the thirties? America and Russia as they will probably exist in 1984? Once these questions are broadened, the problem becomes more complex. And it becomes obvious, once these questions are answered, that there is serious doubt as to who is the good guy, who the bad. As regards, for example, domestic problems in the two states, considec distribution of incomes. In Russia, the Managerial class, as in the U.S., generally earns several times. as much as the common worker. There does not seem to exist, however, such an overall disparity of incomes as in the U.S. For example, one per cent of the U.S. wealth owners own 28 per cent of Although the percentage of under-$4,000 families decreased by two thirds between 1936 and 1960, their share of the national income dropped a great deal morefrom reduction of poverty in the U.S. has slowed down. And within the category of the nation’s poor, which Michael Harrington estimates in his book, The Other Amercia, to be between 40 and 50 million Americans \(one June 14, 1963 7
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