The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State

No. 240

The Ambassador has the honor to report that the Soviet press currently devotes considerable attention to the internal affairs of the [Page 817] Communist Party and, in particular, to two themes which have been stressed with varying intensity ever since the end of the war.

The first of these states that Party members must get out of the everyday operations of the Soviet system, both economy and government, and return to the classic plan of Party control by supervision from outside. This doctrine is succinctly expressed in the following quotation from the lead editorial of Pravda’s February 13 issue:

“All Party leaders still have not understood that it was necessary after the end of the war to change the methods of wartime, when Party organizations, by force of circumstances, frequently took upon themselves the operating direction of the economy. They have not understood that these methods, applied under the conditions of the postwar period, lead to negative phenomena—to the substitution (by Party members) for governmental and economic organs, to the neglect of internal Party work.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The present emphasis on this subject shows that Party members have not yet removed themselves from the operating field despite the prolonged drive which the Party rulers have made toward that end. Their failure to obtain results is probably due not only to the normal (and exceedingly great) inertia of Soviet bureaucracy but also to the Party members’ reluctance to give up jobs which often carry valuable compensations and perquisites.

The second theme which Party propaganda currently stresses states that the Party must cease the rapid expansion which it undertook during the war years and concentrate instead on raising the level of “political education” of its membership. An article in the “Party Life” section of the January 15 Pravda expresses this doctrine concisely:

“The principal task is now not the forcing of further growth of the Party ranks, but a strengthening of ideals, a raising of the political level of Communists. In the end quality is more important than quantity.”

As even its top leaders have admitted openly since the end of the war, the Party has too many and too poorly indoctrinated members in order to function efficiently as a selfless tool of Soviet dictatorship. This unsatisfactory (from the Stalinist viewpoint) situation arose from the Party’s wartime policy of absorbing outstanding members of the armed forces and thus hedging against any loss of its authority to the latter. Since the end of the war the Party rulers have already made considerable efforts to correct this situation—to reduce the numbers and increase the quality of the Party membership by weeding out undesirables and by a vigorous campaign of political indoctrination designed to impregnate the new members with a willing subservience [Page 818] to authoritarian control and a thorough command of Marxist dialectical jargon. However, the present emphasis on this subject shows that these efforts have not yet been fully successful and that further pressure is being exerted in an attempt to solve the problem. In addition to press propaganda, the Party rulers are apparently making use of the current series of Party conferences (reference Embassy airgram No. A–220 of March 41) to drum into the Party rank and file the policy that “quality is more important than quantity.”

Some of the criticism of the Party’s own propaganda machine’s faults in handling this subject illustrates how hard it is for the lower levels of the authoritarian and rigidly organized Party system to absorb a sudden shift of emphasis. Under the pressure of war losses and its own inefficiency, the Soviet dictatorship has long indoctrinated the Party membership with the necessity to concentrate on economic progress, but now the leaders criticize because the Party membership has learned too well its economic lessons, but in so doing has neglected ideology. The following quotation from Pravda offers a good example of this theme:

“Many orators speaking at the (Ashkhabad oblast Party) conference also preferred to speak of economic successes; they did not find time for the criticism of deficiencies in the organiaztional-Party and ideological work.”

The whole picture of these difficulties and criticisms makes it clear that the Party has not yet mastered the problems which the war created within its ranks, as well as in the USSR as a whole. However, in the long run, the Embassy believes that there is no reason to anticipate that the Soviet dictator will be any less successful in overcoming the present difficulties within the Party than he has been in earlier and more serious crises.

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