3. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 10–58


The Problem

To appraise the intensity and scope of dissidence and resistance in the Sino-Soviet Bloc, and to estimate the resistance potential in times of peace and war.

Introductory Note

Like its predecessor,1 this estimate is a brief appraisal of the causes, nature, and extent of anti-regime dissidence and resistance within the Sino-Soviet Bloc. It is based upon eleven country studies prepared by the inter-agency Resistance Intelligence Committee established by the IAC. These studies, which analyze dissidence and resistance in each country of the Bloc, have been noted but not individually approved by the IAC; they are appended as annexes to the estimate itself.2

In the estimate and the annexes, the following terminology is used:

  • Dissidence—a state of mind involving discontent or disaffection with the regime.
  • Resistance—dissidence translated into action.
  • Organized resistance—resistance which is carried out by a group of individuals who have accepted a common purpose, agreed upon leadership, and worked out a communications system.
  • Unorganized resistance—resistance carried out by individuals or loosely associated groups which may have been formed spontaneously for certain limited objectives, without over-all plan or strategy.
  • Passive resistance—resistance, organized or unorganized, which is conducted within the framework of the resister’s normal life and duties, and involves deliberate nonperformance or malperformance of acts which would benefit the regime, or deliberate nonconformity with standards of conduct established by the regime.
  • Active resistance—resistance, organized or unorganized, which expresses itself in positive acts against the regime. It may or may not [Page 8] involve violence, and may be conducted openly or clandestinely. It may take such forms as intelligence collection, psychological warfare, sabotage, guerrilla warfare, assistance in escape and evasion, open defiance of authority, or preparatory activity for any of the above.

With the progressive consolidation of Communist control, however, active resistance has in general tended to take less the forms mentioned above, and to be expressed more in such forms as strikes, demonstrations, and open manifestations of intellectual and other dissent. While in many cases these activities are not wholly motivated by anti-regime attitudes, they nevertheless have anti-regime connotations.


Scope and Intensity of Dissidence and Resistance

Dissidence continues to be widespread in the Sino-Soviet Bloc. Improvements in living standards and such relaxation of regime controls as took place during the last three years have been, except perhaps in the USSR, insufficient to reduce substantially general [Page 9] discontent. Save in semi-independent Poland, nationalist anti-regime feelings in Eastern Europe are as strong as ever. In addition to common grievances, various population elements harbor special resentments, such as those of peasants towards collectivization, workers towards Communist labor discipline, intellectuals and students towards enforced ideological conformity, believers towards anti-religious measures.
The scope and intensity of dissidence, however, varies widely from country to country. One of the most important distinctions in both peacetime and wartime resistance potential is whether or not the regime is viewed as representing the national rather than an alien interest. Except among certain of its own national minorities, the Soviet regime has succeeded in identifying itself among its own population as a legitimate national government. But Communist regimes in the Far East have made somewhat less progress in this respect, and those in Eastern Europe, again excepting Poland, have failed almost completely. In the divided countries, the existence of a functioning alternative government exercises some attraction which operates to increase dissidence, but this appears to be a major factor only in East Germany. Other variations in resistance potential arise from differences in national character, in historical traditions, in economic conditions, and in religious attitudes.
In the last few years most Bloc regimes have sought to reduce popular discontent and to narrow the rifts between the regimes and their peoples. The leashing of the Soviet secret police, the decollectivization of Polish agriculture, and efforts to improve living standards are cases in point. These policies have had some success. On the other hand, the very trend toward relaxation of controls and resulting confusion as to regime policies have given greater scope to overt manifestations of discontent. Sharp criticism arose, for example, among Moscow writers and Chinese intellectuals when the regimes experimented with a looser application of controls. In Hungary and Poland, inhibitions upon the use of police terror and serious splits within the Communist parties permitted dissidence to swell into active resistance, in Hungary on a mass scale. In reaction, the Bloc regimes have tightened their controls, and in Hungary after the bloody suppression of the revolt the regime reverted to harsh repression. The Bloc leaders have striven to insure party unity, to circumscribe the range of permissible criticism, and to provide various reminders of their physical power. As a result, organized active resistance is negligible in the Bloc at the present time.

Resistance Potential in Peacetime

During the next few years, conditions of life probably will not improve sufficiently to reduce dissidence significantly in most countries of the Sino-Soviet Bloc. This dissidence will probably continue to be expressed primarily in various forms of passive resistance—noncompliance with regime orders, economic malingering, other low-risk ways of expressing individual opposition. So long as the regimes do not revert to all-out repression, there is also likely to be some continuation of those forms of active resistance—strikes, demonstrations, open expressions of intellectual dissent—which have characterized the past few years. In particular, such manifestations are likely in parts of Eastern Europe. In Communist China, some disturbances by peasants and ethnic minorities are also likely.
Moreover, many Bloc regimes recognize that the cultivation of popular support and the eliciting of broader initiative would require not only economic betterment but some degree of liberalization of controls. However, they also recognize that such steps increase the difficulty of maintaining party unity and complete control over the populace. Thus they will probably accede to popular pressures only in those cases in which they regard it as relatively safe to do so. But any relaxation of controls will tend to give dissident elements opportunities to press their grievances in indirect ways.
Further, each regime’s problems may be increased and complicated by developments elsewhere in the Bloc and influences from the Free World. The repercussions of the USSR’s de-Stalinization campaign and the events in Hungary and Poland have agitated dissidents throughout the Bloc, in some cases to the point of stimulating various forms of resistance. Intra-Bloc variations in ideology and policy have contributed to dissatisfaction and ferment among intellectuals and students. As contacts with non-Bloc countries increase, unfavorable comparisons will arise. In consequence, campaigns against dissidence, [Page 10] while primarily concerned with its domestic sources, must also contend with unsettling influences from abroad.
The difficulties of dealing with dissidence, various forms of resistance, and foreign influences may lead to policy vacillations between “hard” and “soft” lines or to intra-party disputes. These developments might evoke greater [Page 11] resistance activity. This activity, however, would tend to be directed towards the elimination of specific grievances rather than to the overthrow of the existing regimes, since the latter course would seem highly unpromising unless there were a serious prior weakening of party and police.
For these reasons we regard major outbreaks of active resistance as unlikely, although these cannot be excluded in certain volatile situations in Eastern Europe. Sporadic local outbreaks will probably recur, but they will almost certainly be within the capabilities of security forces to repress. The regime’s counter-weapons—primarily the monopoly of physical force (coupled with an evident willingness to use it) and a near-monopoly of means of communication—will remain formidable. In Poland the regime has shown less reliance on these weapons, but a primary safeguard against violent resistance is the widespread recognition, to which the Catholic Church lends important support, that it would provoke Soviet intervention. Here, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolt and the absence of Western assistance have underlined the futility of violent resistance.
Emigre organizations of former Bloc nationals have, in general, lost effective contact with their homelands and are little known to Bloc populations. Virtually all of them have suffered from internal bickering, and many have been penetrated by Communist agents. Emigre groups do not significantly contribute to resistance potential, and with rare exceptions their leaders would not be welcomed to positions of power after liberation.

Resistance Potential in Event of General War

At the outset of a general war, patriotism would act to diminish sharply the resistance potential in most of the USSR and to some extent in Communist China, though in the latter case this would depend more on the nature of the conflict. In the Far Eastern satellites, any increase in resistance potential probably would be only marginal. But in the satellite states of Eastern Europe, as well as in certain minority areas of the USSR and Communist China (e.g. the Baltic States, Georgia, Western Ukraine, Tibet), the outbreak of war would rekindle hopes of liberation and immediately increase the resistance potential. This potential probably would be highest in Poland, Hungary, and East Germany. We believe, however, that unless the tide of war ran sharply against the Bloc and its military and security forces were significantly weakened, resistance activities of a para-military nature could be prevented or at least confined to manageable proportions.
While we conclude that resistance activities probably would not be a major factor so long as the outcome of the main conflict remained dubious, resistance activity probably could be expected, especially in Eastern Europe, in the form of intelligence collection and transmission, aid to Western personnel in escape and evasion operations, and minor sabotage. The level of such activity would vary considerably, because of differences in resistance potential, and also as a result of the amount of outside assistance available and the location of battle lines.
Only conjectures can be made concerning the impact on resistance activity of the use of nuclear weapons. Much would depend on such factors as the extent and locale of the attacks, the types of weapons used, the damage caused, the extent to which regime controls were disrupted, etc. Among population groups suffering direct losses, survivors probably would first be stunned, then concentrate their energies exclusively on problems of personal survival. In areas sufficiently distant from attack to be largely unaffected, resistance might increase as dissident elements found that Communist controls had been weakened; on the other hand, they might conclude that nuclear weapons were so decisive that extensive resistance was irrelevant or unnecessary. Groups outside the attack area but sufficiently close to be caught in the resulting chaos would be subject to all these effects. It is possible that, in certain cases, attacks against selected targets might weaken the regime’s anti-resistance capabilities more than they impaired resistance potential.
The question of responsibility for the initiation of general war probably would not substantially affect the will to resist the regimes in the Bloc countries. Nor would the nationality of attacking forces be likely, in the majority of cases, to have great bearing upon the cooperation offered by resistance elements. Exceptions would be cases in which long-standing national antipathies might conflict to an important degree with anti-regime feelings, e.g. (a) German forces in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the USSR; (b) Yugoslav, Greek, and Turkish forces in Bulgaria; (c) Greek, Italian, and Yugoslav forces in Albania; and (d) Japanese forces in North Korea and Communist China. On the other hand, in the divided countries anti-regime resistance might increase if military forces of the non-Communist government were used.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR–NIE Files. Secret. According to a note on the cover sheet, this estimate was submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence and concurred in by the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC) on March 4. The Atomic Energy Representative to the IAC and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained because the subject was outside their jurisdiction.
  2. NIE 10–55, “Anti-Communist Resistance Potential in the Sino-Soviet Bloc,” 12 April 1955. [Footnote in the source text. NIE 10–55 is not printed.]
  3. None printed.