Prophecy Not Without Honor
To the Editor:
Paul Willen’s keenly analytical and prophetic article “Can Stalin Have a Successor?” (July 1953) has been dramatically confirmed by Malenkov’s sudden downfall from apparent power. I suspect most readers of your magazine didn’t appreciate the significance of Mr. Willen’s contribution when they read it.
Willen pointed out that Malenkov’s speech at the 19th Party Congress in the fall of 1952 was quite routine. If Stalin had really meant Malenkov to be his successor, he wouldn’t have given him so humiliating a role at that Congress. Before Stalin’s death, Willen went on, the succession question was never alluded to in the Communist press anywhere in the world. The explanation? “The whole deification campaign [of Stalin] presupposed everlastingness; how can one allow even the suggestion of the death of a god?” Malenkov may have represented the wishes of the bureaucrats who wanted a vacation in which to enjoy the fruits of victories already won. He looked like the potential leader of an opposition which might try to “liberalize” the totalitarian structure of Soviet Russia.
Willen pointed out that the new leaders of Soviet Russia, however, must restore “to the throne . . . its initiative as the expander and oppressor, the inaugurator of plans, and merciless persecutor of ‘enemies.’” This too-little heeded article should be reprinted and re-read today. It is representative of other penetrating articles which have appeared in COMMENTARY.
Walter R. Storey
[With what we hope is pardonable satisfaction, we direct our readers' attention further to Boris Meissner's “The Kremlin's Terms to the West” (June 1952), which pointed out, eight months before Stalin's death, that Beria, Malenkov, and Khrushchev already dominated the party apparatus, and that a “shift in the balance of power has permitted Marshal Bulganin, who has the confidence of the army as well as of the state and economic bureaucracy, to come forward.” Mr. Meissner also wrote that Beria and Malenkov had formed a common faction against Zhdanov, and then against his surviving supporters. Those mystified by references to the “Leningrad case” in connection with the recent announcement of the execution of Abakumov, former Soviet Minister of State Security, allegedly for his handling of that case, would have learned from Mr. Meissner's article that “One group [in the old Politburo] was Great Russian in national composition and based on the party organization in the Russian Federated Soviet. Leningrad was its center. . . . Zhdanov, Slicherbakov, Andreyev, and Voznesensky were its members.”
In May 1953 Franz Borkenau, in “Was Malenkov Behind the Anti-Semitic Plot?” referred to Bulganin as “a close associate of Lazar Kaganovich (who was opposed to both Zhdanov and Malenkov)”; and mentioned Khrushchev as “possibly the most up and coming of all the Soviet bosses.”—Ed.]