the developed countries or the richest of the underdeveloped countries. It is not poor the way Algeria is poor, nor is it rich the way France is rich. Soviets like to hear Americans refer to them as “the other super-power” or to be in any way addressed as America’s equal. But the truth is that the USSR is a far poorer nation than ours. I doubt that it will long remain so. Its potential, untapped wealth of natural resources is almost incalculable. The only reason the Soves are currently our “equals” is because that which they choose to give priority in their five-year plans gets done right well. Almost nothing else gets done at all and certainly not well. They have chosen to give priority to building missiles and sputniks. On detente: While I can’t say that I have finished this tour with a greatly improved opinion of the USSR, I have certainly concluded it with a far stronger, not to say obdurate, opinion on the desirability of detente between the USSR and the USA. It is my amateur opinion that detente is good for them and good for us. I think what we get out of detente is peace, than which there is no whicher. I think what they get out of detente is some stuff they urgently need, like technology, capital, wheat, and Pep si-Cola. I must admit that I am become a hard-liner on some things. For example, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Last year, when Senator Fuibright proposed cutting off our government’s subsidy to V.O.A., I thought, “Good man. This is probably some Cold War hangover that seems to irritate our Soviet chums, and since we’d like to get along with them, let’s cut it out.” No and double no. V.O.A. matters like hell to those folks. Provided we keep it clean, i.e., keep it up to standards of professional journalism and don’t let it degenerate into propaganda, it’s the best “propaganda” we’ve got going for us. Tell you a story. One night our delegation was rapping with the Young Artists and Intellectuals of Nobosibirsk. This was not long after the infamous case of the Moscow art show that got bull-dozed by some Soviet bully-boys who decided that modern art was unpatriotic. “And how many bull-dozers do you have here in the artistic circles of Nobosibirsk?” inquired one of my right-wing colleagues, which I thought was fairly tacky of him. “Ah,” said a Nobosibirskian, “you know our government has granted permission to the Moscow artists who had this misadventure to hold another art show, with approval, on the 28th of this month.” None of us had heard about this interesting intelligence and we all expressed great wonder. “Why, yes,” said our friend, “It is true.” And then, with the air of one producing an uncounted trump, he added, 6 The Texas Observer “I know this because I heard it on Voice of America.” The vibrations from his Soviet colleagues were distinctly frosty. On Soviet journalism: For years I have had a tendency to be professionocentric; that is a word of my own invention meaning that I hold my own profession responsible ‘for an exceedingly large share of the world’s ills. I am not sure the media are as guilty as I usually think they are of aiding and abetting in Western civilization’s woes, but I am absolutely sure that the Soviet media are responsible for some of the most depressing and repressive aspects of Soviet society. The best, meaning the most enlightening, exchanges our delegation had in the Soviet Union, have been with our Soviet counterparts. Soviet journalists from newspapers, news agencies, youth papers, literary magazines or what have you have given us our clearest insights into this society, not so much because we understand or agree with them, but because their assumptions are so different from ours. In the USSR, the word propaganda has no negative connotations. The visiting journalist is not infrequently introduced to, “Ivan Ivanovitch, the second-ranking member of our Ministry of Propaganda,” and expected to bow and scrape as though this Soviet bureaucrat were a journalistic colleague. Let us begin with what is NOT news in the USSR. It is, in many ways, a wonderful system, in that so much of life’s unpleasantness is simply obviated. In the USSR, and in most of the socialist bloc nations, there are no, repeat no, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, droughts, volcanic eruptions, early frosts that kill crops, famines, plane crashes or automobile accidents. In the capitalist world such unpleasant phenomena occur with depressing regularity and are, of course, acknowledged in the Soviet press. In the Soviet press, bumper harvests, factories that overfulfill their quotas, and workers who exceed their quotas to a dazzling extent are all recognized. As far as I know, underfulfillers are never news unless they confess to being traitors of socialism. It is something new to my experience to read a newspaper that doesn’t tell you what’s going on. A jaundiced view of what’s going on I’m accustomed to, but a paper that gives you no earthly clue is different. In the Soviet press, there was no mention whatever of Watergate until Nixon resigned. The Soviet press then carried his resignation speech and Ford’s inaugural address. That was it. As has been observed by folks far wiser than myself, one of the troubles with technology is that it multiplies the power of authoritarians. If you’ve got a hundred head of swordsmen in your hire, you can keep X number of people under submission. A hundred head of machine-gunners can keep X times a hundred under control, and a hundred head of tanks can keep X times a thousand. But if you’ve got control of all the information going to X times a million people, you don’t need swords, or machine guns, or tanks. Soviet control of information takes a number of interesting concrete forms, one of which is the use to which the Soves put their suffering in the Great Patriotic War. Free advice to the Soviet Ministry of Propaganda: if ya’ll are really keen about detente, like ya’ll keep saying, how about letting the Soviet people in on the fact that they had a little help in winning the Great Patriotic War? We know that you all suffered more than we did. As an American, I can’t claim that our 290,000 dead compares to you all’s 20 million. But you might, for the sake of detente, give just a little credit for the 290,000. I saw a touching film in Leningrad about the agony of that city during the Great Patriotic War. I am most minded to just stand off in pain and honor your dead. But I must admit that I am somewhat offended by the fact that you give no recognition \(honor we don’t ask for, just mention tanks that broke the siege of Leningrad were powered by fuel from my home state of Texas. I’d appreciate a mere mention of the fact that the Soviet Army was mobile in the last years of the war only because of American equipment. I brought this up with a Soviet friend of my age, and he sneered, “0 yes, you sold us the oil on which we ran our tanks.” As though it had been at high interest rates. “Bullshit, we sold it to you,” I told him, “we gave it to you.” If you folks at Propaganda could just clue your young people in on a couple of things like that, as I said, we’d appreciate it. One unqualified hurrah for the Soviet Union: Maybe this is, instead, a miserably damning indictment of America. I can’t say I cared much, or at all, for much of what I saw of the Soviet system, but this much I can say: if I were old, alone, sick, and poor, I think I’d be better off in Moscow, USSR, than in New York City, USA. Given the same circumstances, I can’t say that I’d prefer Moscow to Oslo or to London, and that, it seems to me, is especially damning of America that a country so rich should have done so little for those who need help most. How to get ahead in the Soviet Union: The Soviet system does provide for equal opportunity all little kids can join the Octobrists, a sort of Brownie and Cub Scout organization. And all bigger kids can join the Young Pioneers, your basic Girl and Boy Scout organization. Young Pioneers, who run to about age 14, do lots of normal after-school stuff sports, crafts and hobbies. They also do lots of patriotic stuff, like standing guard at war memorials, policing the grounds in public places, and other character-building stuff. If you are an outstanding Young Pioneer, you are likely to be asked to join Komsomol, which is a sort of junior Party. Komsomol membership is by invitation only that is,
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