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Office of the Historian

49. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 10-61


The Problem

To assess the cohesion of the Sino-Soviet Bloc and among the parties of the world Communist movement, to identify trends in the degree of Soviet control, and to estimate the future implication of these trends.

Summary and Conclusions

General Considerations

According to Communist doctrine, it would be impossible for conflicts of interest to disturb in any basic way the relations between Communist parties in the international movement. This is so, it is argued, because the class interests which are the source of international conflict among non-Communist states have been suppressed by the new social order, and have been replaced by the fundamental identity of views and harmony of interests of the “classless” society. In fact, however, the appearance of unity in the Communist movement has been due, not so much to the absence of conflicts of interest, as to the overwhelming authority exercised by Moscow. This authority has rested on the great military and economic power of the USSR, on its historical precedence as the first Communist state, on the long personal ascendancy of Stalin over the international Communist movement, and on the tradition of dictatorial centralism in that movement. (Paras. 13-18)
In the period since World War II a number of developments have demonstrated the falsity of the simplistic Communist theory of natural harmony among Communist parties. When the Communist parties of Eastern Europe achieved state power they naturally acquired new interests and attitudes different from those they had reflected as small conspiratorial groups wholly dependent on the protection and support provided by Moscow. Yet they were small states in Moscow’s immediate sphere of power; therefore, whatever pretensions to independence they [Page 115]may have had were bound to be extremely circumscribed. The achievement of state power by the Chinese Communists was a different matter, however, because it meant that for the first time Communist theory on state relations had to be applied to the relations between two great powers. (Paras. 14-16)
Beyond this, there was in the postwar period a considerable growth in the number and in the size of Communist parties all over the world. Among them there were wide variations in the cultural and political environments in which they operated, in their tactical problems, and in the degree of their Marxist-Leninist sophistication and training. Over the years, moreover, there has been a tendency for a number of the more important non-Bloc parties to be increasingly concerned to see that their own local points of view are considered in policy deliberations of the international movement. (Paras. 14, 39-40)
All these developments have tested not only the theory of unity, but also the authority of the Soviet Party over other parties which was the practical reality on which the appearance of unity was built. In the best of circumstances it was bound to become increasingly difficult for Moscow to maintain the unity of so large and varied a movement with so wide a range of differing views and interests. In addition, these events have aggravated the frequent conflicts between the requirements of the foreign policy of the Soviet state and those of the international Communist movement. Altogether, it is evident that Communist political institutions, like all other institutions, are subject to pressures for change and are in fact changing. (Paras. 13-21, 34-40, 59)

Disciplinary Problems in the Communist Movement

Stalin’s authority over the international Communist movement was tested almost as soon as the new Communist states came into existence at the end of World War II. Challenged by Yugoslavia in 1948, he failed either to impose discipline or to prevent Yugoslavia’s subsequent survival as an independent Communist state. When the Chinese Communists achieved state power in 1949—like the Yugoslavs, largely by their own efforts—they inevitably acquired a special status in the Bloc. After Stalin died and his awesome aura of personal authority over the parties disappeared, his less eminent successors attempted to overcome the abuses of his brutal and open control by substituting a more flexibly exercised but still decisive influence. These experiments were cut short, however, by the Eastern European upheavals of 1956, which showed that the balance between influence and outright control would be a difficult one to strike. (Paras. 13-15, 19-21)
Since 1956, when Peiping helped Moscow to restore its badly shaken authority in Eastern Europe, China has become an increasingly important factor in the direction of the movement, and has developed pretensions as an authoritative source of Communist doctrine. When the [Page 116]Chinese leaders resorted in 1960 to open politics in their policy disagreements with Moscow, and also lobbied openly among Communists against Soviet policies, the Soviets responded by, in effect, putting the Chinese on trial before the other parties, first at Bucharest and later at the November conference in Moscow. Nevertheless, during the Sino-Soviet dispute of 1960 the Chinese were able to bring a successful challenge to Soviet authority and to establish the formal principle of mandatory consultation among the parties on matters of general Communist policy. (Paras. 16, 21-28)

Prospects for Soviet Authority

Since the 81-party conference of November 1960, the Soviets and the Chinese have continued, within limits, their separate efforts to preserve and expand their own authority in the movement. It seems to us unlikely that the two major parties will be able for some time to come to resolve their differences and achieve a stable arrangement for directing the Communist movement. On the other hand, an open rupture between them appears to us equally unlikely. We believe that the course of their relations will be erratic, cooperative at some times and places, competitive at others. (Paras. 35, 38, 59-62)
In this situation the Soviet Party possesses enormous advantages, because of its greater military and economic power, and also because of its traditional authority and prestige within the movement. The ability of the Chinese Party to contend for leadership is currently limited by China’s serious internal difficulties. The Soviets retain some opportunity to exert pressure by virtue of China’s relative economic and military weakness, though this apparently was not very effective in the dispute of 1960. Because of the present preponderance of Soviet power, Moscow will probably be able, though with increasing difficulty, to maintain its primacy in the Communist movement for some time to come. The Soviet leaders will endeavor to maintain the substance of their former authority by exercising pressure and influence bilaterally upon other parties, by confronting their rivals with strong majority coalitions at international gatherings, and sometimes by shrewd adjustments of Soviet policies in order to undercut Chinese criticisms. Because the role of personalities has figured in some degree in the Soviet-Chinese difficulties, the appearance of new leaders in either country could have an important influence on the further course of their relations. (Paras. 60-62)
In these circumstances, the other parties will almost inevitably be tempted to bargain between Moscow and Peiping in order to obtain greater advantages for themselves. Within certain parties which develop serious prospects of achieving power, and which therefore must make important tactical choices, conflicting brands of advice may tend to intensify factionalism. In the long run, some of the parties in Eastern [Page 117]Europe, or factions within them, may attempt to develop further the autonomy conceded by Stalin’s successors. In the Asian satellites, where Chinese influence is already strong and has a good prospect of increasing if China’s power continues to grow, the regimes will be better able to bargain with both Communist great powers for economic and political support. (Para. 63)

Implications for Policy Toward the West

It is evident that the international Communist system, for decades little more than an instrumentality of Soviet policy, is being changed, because of the forces of nationalism and diversity within it, into a movement reflecting an appreciable diffusion of power. While the altered relationships within the Communist movement and the decline in Soviet authority have not altered the fundamental hostility of the Communists toward the non-Communist world, we believe that these developments are having an important influence on Communist policy. They have already diminished to some extent the flexibility of Soviet policy towards the West, and the Soviet Party will probably encounter increasing difficulties in its efforts to coordinate general Communist policy. These difficulties may not be as serious in times when events generally favor Communist interests, but they may again erupt into open polemic during periods of adversity, or even at times when fundamental decisions are required for the exploitation of unfolding opportunities. (Paras. 59, 65)
The development of the relationship between the USSR and China, and the evolution of the international Communist movement generally, will obviously be of profound significance for the security and interests of the West. In the long run Chinese power, assertiveness, and self-interest might increase so far as greatly to impair the common policy with the USSR, and even lead the Soviets to believe that they had more in common with the ideological enemy than they have today. For some time to come, however, the most likely prospect is that the USSR and China will maintain their relationship in something like its present form. It will be an alliance which is from time to time troubled and inharmonious, but which nevertheless preserves sufficient unity to act in concert against the West, especially in times of major challenge. However, present trends as described in this paper point to an increasing complexity, diversity, and interplay of forces within the Communist system, and to a remarkable survival of old-fashioned impulses of nationalism. (Para. 67)
These trends may have various effects. They may from time to time result in more aggressive anti-Western policies intended to hold the forces of disunity in check. They may enable certain parties, free from the restrictions of a rigid, general Communist line, to pursue more effective policies in local situations. But eventually, if such trends persist, they may considerably diminish the effectiveness of the Communist movement [Page 118]as a whole. This would give the West opportunities for maneuver and influence which could provide important advantages in the world struggle. (Para. 68)

[Here follow paragraphs 13-68, comprising the Discussion portion of the estimate, in four sections entitled “Development of Relations Among the Communist Parties,” “Current Relations Among the Bloc Parties,” “The Non-bloc Parties,” and “The Outlook.”]

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/EAP Files: Lot 90 D 110, NIE 43-61. Secret. According to a note on the covering sheet, the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence agencies of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Joint Staff and the FBI participated in the preparation of this estimate. All members of the USIB concurred in this estimate on August 8 except the representative of the AEC who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside his jurisdiction.