961.61/1–450: Airgram

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


A–6. Pravda lead editorials at the turn of the year are of more than ordinary interest because they sum up Soviet achievements and prospects. A comparison of the editorials for December 31, 1949, and January 1, 1950, with the corresponding ones for 1948–49—selecting the strongest statements on each topic—yields the following results:

Domestic Affairs. The editorials at the turn of 1948–49 say the preceding year has been the “decisive year” of the postwar five-year plan, demonstrating that the plan will be fulfilled ahead of time and giving rise to the slogan calling for fulfillment in four years. Specific achievements, however, are cited chiefly for the iron and steel industry, which has surpassed prewar levels. A few other branches of industry are said to have fulfilled their plans for the year. The Soviet people enters the new year with “unshakeable faith in its powers”; before it stand “grandiose tasks” on a “scale hitherto unequalled.”
The editorials for 1949–50 devote much less space to domestic affairs but they cite more extensive data on economic progress: total volume of industrial production for the past year was over 40% above that of 1940; the level of production for the fourth quarter was 50% above prewar; “the grain problem is already solved.” So Soviet people “had something to rejoice about” for New Year’s: “living has got better, living has got gayer.” Correspondingly a bolder note of confidence is sounded: “We can build our plans, set ourselves tasks, daringly and confidently—the plans will be fulfilled, the tasks will be solved. Everything that was intended for the year 1949—all has been accomplished.” “Our people is rightly called a victor-people.…1 There are no fortresses [Page 1076] it cannot overcome, no affairs which are beyond its power.”
Approach to Full Communism. The 1948–49 editorials speak briefly and abstractly of the full victory of communism as incentive for further industrial progress, and as guaranteed by the wise leadership of the Party. The 1949–50 editorials are more confident and specific: “The ‘distant communism’ of which generations dreamed is already becoming a near reality; traits of communism are clearly showing through Soviet actuality”—e.g. differences between physical and mental labor, between country and city, are being eliminated; cultural abundance is being created, the conditions of labor eased.
Soviet Leadership of “Progressive” Humanity. The 1948–49 editorials include only one brief passage on this topic, saying that the past year has witnessed new growth in the “international authority” of the USSR, which is vanguard of all forces fighting for peace and democracy. The 1949–50 editorials devote twice as much space and more glowing words to the subject. “The Moscow Kremlin has become the center of attraction for the feelings, thoughts and wills of millions of people. All roads in the 20th century lead to it.” The Soviet land has become the great example from which other peoples are learning how the basic problems agitating mankind are solved. “Our people head the invincible and victorious march of humanity on the road of true civilization and true progress.” The USSR is “carrying aloft the shining torch of communism over the whole world.”
Weakening of the “Imperialist” Camp. The 1948–49 editorials are brief and lack particulars. The “General Crisis of Capitalism” is undermining the rotten structure more and more. There is unemployment, impoverishment of workers, degradation of culture, warmongering. But no mention is made of a specific economic crisis, nor of imminent threat of war as a capitalist last resort. The 1949–50 editorials speak more positively and at length. A new economic crisis is actually under way—U.S. production statistics are cited as evidence, and the economies of England, France, Italy and other countries are said to be steadily declining; the figure of partially or totally unemployed in “bourgeois” countries is put at 40,000,000; the wrath with which these oppressed millions are rising to fight for bread and freedom is capped with a rousing declaration which Victor Hugo cast in the face of French and other “reactionaries.” Finally, the “imperialists,” seeking a way out of their increasing difficulties, are rabidly preparing a new war for world mastery, and the savagery to which they are prepared to go is illustrated by the Japanese currently being tried for bacteriological warfare.
Strengthening of the “Socialist” Camp. The 1948–49 editorials again speak briefly and in general terms. The forces of the socialist camp are growing daily and constitute an invincible obstacle to the warmongers, whose plans are being unmasked and wrecked. The 1949–50 editorials have much more to say. The “popular masses of Europe and Asia are going from victory to victory”; there is an organized “peace front” of 600 million; formation of the German Democratic Republic has marked a turning point in the history of Europe; China has been won; “we hear the sounds of the Indian Marsellaise.” In short, “the camp of peace and socialism is immeasurably stronger today than the camp of capitalist reaction.”
Nearness of World Victory. Though the 1948–49 editorials say the capitalist system is rotting to pieces and doomed to destruction, [Page 1077] they say nothing that suggests the end will come in the next few years. By contrast—in addition to the general effect of the statements summarized above—the 1949–50 editorials indicate that the capitalist world is speedily approaching its demise: “This world is no longer moving but flying headlong to its end.” If it resorts to war to restore its position, that war will lead “to the full and final destruction of capitalism.” “History has already pronounced its sentence” on the world of capitalist slavery.

Analysis of corresponding editorials for 1945–46, 1946–47* and 1947–48 yields similar contrasts between 1949–50 and earlier dates. The 1947–48 editorials show some heightening of world-revolutionary perspectives in comparison with adjacent years, but remain far below 1949–50. Thus the editorials with which Pravda greeted the new half-century reinforce the evidence, supplied by other recent pronouncements (Embassy’s A–1266 Dec. 282), to the effect that the Kremlin is now more expansively confident than at any time since the end of World War II. And since the war left the USSR in far stronger relative position than ever before, it seems probable that the present time marks the highest point of Soviet optimism since the early days of the Revolution.

  1. Omission in the source text.
  2. Pravda for Dec. 31, 1946, is not available at the Embassy. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Not printed.