No. 545
Memorandum from E. Lewis Revey of the Office of Policy and Plans, United States International Information Administration, to the Assistant Administrator of the Office (Connors) 1



  • “The Succession”.

The history of the “Succession” issue begins with departmental consideration of US information policy with respect to the 19th Soviet Party Congress convened in Moscow, October 5, 1952.

In a memorandum, dated August 24, 1952, and addressed, I believe, to P–Mr. Phillips, EE–Mr. Barbour and IPO–Mr. Connors, Mr. Kretzmann of IBS/NY set forth some of the ideas, relative to the 19th Congress, which emerged in VOA/NY staff discussions. These ideas were submitted to Washington appropriate departmental consideration.

A meeting was held in Washington on September 9 to consider the IBS proposals. The following officers were present at this meeting: P–Mr. Phillips; EE–Mr. Barbour, Mr. Thurston, Mr. Davis and Mr. Pratt; EUR–Miss Kirkpatrick; IPO–Mr. Connors, Mr. Hickok and Mr. Revey; IBS–Mr. Kretzmann and Mr. Wolfe.2 The meeting ended in general agreement, reflected later, on September 24, in an IA Special Guidance entitled “Interim Guidance re 19th Soviet Party Congress”.

One of the ideas discussed at this meeting concerned preparation by IBS of a script conjuring up a “Stalin Testament” similar to the Lenin Testament. It was the sense of the meeting that IBS should proceed with preparation of such script but that it should not be broadcast before submission to and clearance by the Washington policy offices concerned.

An IBS/NY script (in two parts) entitled “Stalin’s Testament” was prepared by the Russian Unit and submitted to Washington for clearance in the latter part of October.
In view of the failure of the “All Union Congress of the Soviet Communist Party” to clarify the Succession problem, IBS–Mr. Kretzmann, on October 24, 1952, addressed a memo to IPO–Mr. Connors on the subject of the Succession. This memo predicated upon the assumption that Stalin had chosen Malenkov as his successor, [Page 1081] requested Washington to make decisions with respect to two questions: (a) “Is the theory” (of Malenkov’s ascendancy) “plausible enough so that we would not risk our creditability [credibility] by advancing it” and (b) “Do we wish to engage in this type of psychological warfare against the Kremlin”. Attached to the Kretzmann memo were two draft scripts.
On October 23, before receipt of the Kretzmann memo, IPO–Mr. Revey, drafted a memorandum to IPO–Mr. Connors (copy to EE–Mr. Pratt) discussing the IBS position on the Succession and recommending conditional approval of the IBS project to handle the Succession theme. On October 28, EE–Mr. Pratt addressed a memo to EE–Mr. Barbour and Mr. Boster 3 (copies to EUR/P–Miss Kirkpatrick and IPO–Mr. Revey) commenting on the IBS memo of October 24. A few days later DRS–Mr. Harvey addressed a memo to EE–Mr. Pratt commenting on the IBS memo and the scripts attached thereto.
On the strength of the EE memo and the oral comment of DRS to EE (committed to writing November 4) IPO–Mr. Connors, on October 31, addressed a memo to IBS–Mr. Morton, setting forth interim information policy with respect to the IBS proposals relating to the Succession. The essence of this guidance was that the theme of Succession should be discussed generally, rather than in specific terms of Malenkov’s ascendancy, and that each script on this complex subject should be submitted to IPO for clearance.
Meanwhile, on or about November 5, EUR/P sent to IBS–Mr. Kretzmann, copy of the EE and DRS memos which commented in detail on the IBS proposal.

On November 7, IPO–Mr. Connors addressed a second memo to IBS/NY—this time to Mr. Kretzmann—on the subject of the Succession. This memo, based on the judgments of EE and DRS answered the two questions advanced in the IBS memo of October 24. It stated:

That the theory of Malenkov’s ascendancy could be advanced with caution and in general terms but that it would be prudent to employ alternative interpretations as well.
That tentatively, at least, we could engage in psychological warfare on this subject.
That the complex subject of the Succession was under study in the Department and elsewhere (PSB) and we could not be sure in advance what conclusions their study would reach.

This communication also advised VOA (as suggested by EE and DRS) not to use the script “Stalin’s Testament” as submitted.


In a circular telegram on Soviet purges (doctors’ plot), IPO on January 30, 1953,4 issued further guidance relating to the Succession. This guidance (cleared by C–Mr. Bohlen, P–Mr. Phillips, EUR–Miss Kirkpatrick and IPO–Mr. Haden) pointed out that the purges may well reflect political or power problems in the highest echelons of the Soviet hierarchy, but that they do not necessarily relate to the Succession, since conceivably they might reflect taking of important policy decisions, resulting, as is customary in the Stalinist system, in the discrediting and liquidation of the losing faction and its adherents.

The important thing in all this is that IPO’s actions, in this matter, were based upon detailed consultation with other areas of the Department. The memos to IBS were based on the considered judgments of the responsible substantive and research offices of the Department, while the instructions (both 19th Congress and purges) were fully cleared by all areas of the Department concerned.

  1. Unless otherwise indicated in appropriate annotations, the memoranda and papers referred to have not been found in Department of State files.
  2. Officers mentioned in this paragraph and not previously identified include: James W. Pratt and Robert C. Hickok.
  3. David E. Boster.
  4. The circular telegram is not printed. Regarding the doctors’ plot, see footnote 2, Document 539.