Commentary Magazine

U.S.-Soviet Exchange Contd.

To the Editor:

I admired Theodore Draper’s treatment of the larger issues of détente in his article, “Appeasement and Détente” [February], and found it quite perceptive on some critical questions facing the United States in its relations with the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to enter some serious caveats in your June issue [Letters from Readers] regarding Mr. Draper’s presentation of the state of academic relations between the two countries. My letter was intended as a footnote and minor corrective to his larger thesis, and I regret the hostile tone of his response in that issue.

Mr. Draper’s recourse to “authority” in his rebuttal by citing certain statements of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert F. Byrnes, and Richard Pipes hardly closes the case. Each of the gentlemen concerned holds more complex views on the matter than he suggests in his excerpts. Professor Byrnes is more than familiar with both the achievements and persistent problems of these programs through his extraordinary services as chairman of the Inter-University committee on Travel Grants during the 1960’s. and he would hardly have devoted almost eight years of his life to them unless he thought that they were, on balance, worth it. The challenges, minor victories, and constant frustrations which these programs entail have changed little since the days when Byrnes was at the helm, and lend themselves poorly to simplistic summations.

The Brzezinski comment which Mr. Draper quotes (with which I am inclined, on the whole, to be sympathetic) is addressed to a broader range of Soviet-American relations, contains only one sentence on scholarly exchanges, and can hardly be considered as exhaustive of Professor Brzezinski’s views on the issue. It should be pointed out, however, that harassment of American scholars has all but ended in the last five years, a development at least partly due to the International Research and Exchanges Board’s frank discussions of consequences with Soviet authorities. Moreover, every Soviet exclusion of an American scholar is immediately matched by IREX’s rejection of a Soviet nominee so that the “score” is absolutely even in this regard. It is leverage that we are more than happy to use in the interests of reciprocity. The image of an absolutely open door to the United States for Soviet scholars is simply false: not only do we reject their nominations when they reject ours, but only a minority of long-term Soviet visitors are even placed at the primary universities and other research centers which they request. Because of rejection by the American university departments requested and a variety of other considerations, more than 70 per cent of incoming Soviet scholars are thus “misplaced” in an average year. Furthermore, a survey of American hosts of Soviet visitors in the last two years shows that approximately 45 per cent of the latter have had to change their original research focus at the insistence of their American hosts or under the research conditions existing at the host university. This is a far cry from the image presented in Mr. Draper’s comments that the Soviets step all over us and that we receive nothing in return.

The letter which Mr. Draper solicited from Professor Pipes is for the most part a reasonable discussion of the issues and describes one scholar’s fate on the exchanges: his experience “in sum was a mixed one.” He was glad he went because he gained access to some essential materials but he “failed to see a great deal more.” Such an evaluation is not uncommon among the reports from returning alumni. Yet, with all due respect to Pipes and his position in the field, I must point out that his experience was but one of many and that I have read at least as many contrary reports from alumni stating that they had received more data and access than they had expected and that their visits were a great success.

Furthermore, Pipes’s very acceptance and placement by the Soviets was a cause of some small satisfaction to the IREX staff. The Soviets had for years rejected the nominations of scholars whom they had branded as anti-Soviet, and Pipes himself was the object of numerous vicious attacks. We argued strongly with our Soviet counterparts that their sensitivities to criticism in this regard were exaggerated, and that, were we to apply similar criteria of “anti-Americanism” to the published work of Soviet scholars, we would hardly be able to accept a single one of their nominees. The situation was impossible and, if carried to its absurd conclusion, would have led to a cancellation of the exchanges. In effect we argued that the Soviet Union was a “big country now” and would surely not come crashing to its knees because of the real or perceived criticism of a handful of American scholars. As a result of these discussions, Pipes was accepted. It was nothing dramatic, and surely neither deserving of Pipes’s gratitude nor a guarantee of flawless hospitality to him while actually participating on the exchanges. But it was a small note of progress and a precedent from which to build a more satisfactory experience for similar cases in the future.

We are prepared to cancel the programs if necessary. In the summer of 1975 when the Soviet Academy of Sciences arbitrarily rejected two of our senior scholar nominees, we suspended all activities on that program, informed the Soviets of the moratorium, and made clear our intent to annul the agreement if the scholars in question were not received. One month later the Soviet Academy accepted them for the program and the exchange was resumed.

Mr. Draper creates another seriously misleading issue through his reliance on Pipes’s final comments to the effect that little work is being done by young American scholars on such topics as the Cheka, forced-labor camps, food requisitions, etc. He implies that the topics actually being done by Americans on the exchanges are worthless. This is nonsense. Pipes was on the exchange and did not work on the Cheka or similar topics. Yet I am sure he considered his actual theme of serious scholarly substance and worthy of inclusion in the exchanges. Byrnes has been nominated for the exchanges to the Academy of Sciences for next year and plans to work on the great 19th-century Russian historian Kliuchevskii. The topic has nothing to do with labor camps. Does that mean it is worthless in terms of “reciprocity”?

Furthermore, such a judgment would be based on a false premise: that Soviet scholars are actually working on topics of comparable “sensitivity” in the United States. They have not, are not, and most probably will not. In his June rebuttal, Mr. Draper persists in twisting the description of research themes done by Soviets here. The actual and more neutral titles which I provided, he writes, “could easily cover the subjects mentioned by Professor Byrnes and me.” They could and probably do, but the point is that Mr. Draper (qua Byrnes) lists not the titles themselves, but only the most negative and hostile possible description and interpretation of those themes. I provided a counterpart list of American research topics done in the USSR this year: “General Supervisory Functions of the Soviet Procuracy,” “Planning the Time-Rate Use of Resources under Socialism,” “Systematic Social Engineering in Soviet Central Asia: The Revolutionary Experience of Moslem Women, 1930-1970,” etc. These titles are similarly susceptible of negative interpretation and criticism by narrow Soviet bureaucrats who might (and surely do) read them as hostile and subversive of Soviet society.

Mr. Draper writes of “disingenuous double-talk” in my discussion of reciprocity. Neither of us used the term very carefully in our June discussion, and it is crucial to be more accurate. There is a confusion over three different criteria for reciprocity employed in our discussion, and Mr. Draper is wrong on all three. The first criterion simply states that a given number of American scholars spend a given period of time engaged in research in the Soviet Union on topics of legitimate academic and scholarly concern in return for identical units spent by-Soviets here. This condition is being fulfilled; the topics done by American scholars are not fraudulent and worthless; they are substantial pieces of research, and the failure rate in performance does not exceed the failure rate of Soviet scholars here. Reciprocity in this most basic sense definitely exists.

The second level of reciprocity would insist that “negative topics” such as those listed by Mr. Draper and Byrnes be included and done in equal numbers by both sides. I had this category in mind when I used the term “growing reciprocity” to indicate the inclusion of an increasing number of topics previously considered sensitive or taboo. In fact the number of Americans pursuing such “negative” topics easily outnumbers the Soviets similarly placed. It would seem, from such simple enumerations, that it is the Soviets who are increasingly suffering from a lack of reciprocity. This, of course, is not true either, since considerations of quality of access and ease of arrangements substantially modify and balance such a picture. In any case, there is reciprocity in this growing category of interchange as well.

The third category of reciprocity (and the one which is the major object of Mr. Draper’s concern) is the area of the “super-topic”: the Cheka, the labor camps, the food requisitions. A discussion of this category is simple because it does not exist. It is a non-issue. Such topics simply are not done by either side, and the question of reciprocity here does not arise at all. Comparable topics from a Soviet perspective might be (and I do not insist on their “moral” identity, only on their “comparability from a Soviet perspective”): “CIA Assassination Plots in the Third World,” “The Internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II,” “Pentagon Bombing Strategies in Vietnam,” etc. These or similar topics are not being done by Soviets here, nor should it be much of a mystery why similar topics are not done by Americans in the USSR. If Pipes writes that there are “understandable reasons [why such topics as the Cheka and the labor camps] are not treated by Soviet scholars,” does it strain the imagination to understand why foreigners wishing to do such research in the USSR are not greeted with open arms by Soviet authorities? These are, after all, simply academic-exchange programs which function within a very specific and limited range; is it reasonable to expect that one of their functions should be to effect the instant reformation of Soviet society? Every effort should be made to “normalize” these relationships and to make room for even the “super-topic,” but it will not happen tomorrow. In the meantime, I do not find it particularly accurate or useful to blame the exchange mechanism for their relative scarcity. One might become more exercised over the matter if the Soviets were actually doing the “super-topic” here. They are not.

I am afraid I do not see why it is impossible to speak of the simultaneous existence of essential reciprocity, the slow development of increasingly frank scholarly interchanges, and the persistence of serious problems and deficiencies. These problems have both strengths and weaknesses, and I am not comfortable with the all-or-nothing Manichean dichotomies Mr. Draper seems to prefer.

Aside from our own annual reviews and reports, and ongoing reviews by the Department of State and the Board of Foreign Scholarships, there have been recent evaluations of these programs by the Ford Foundation, by specialists from the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University, various congressional committees, and a presidentially-appointed Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs. The reports of these groups are available to Mr. Draper on request and should begin to satisfy his closing call for a “thorough inquiry into this program.” I trust he had nothing more sinister in mind for us.

Daniel C. Matuszewski
International Research and Exchanges Board
New York City



Theodore Draper writes:

This lengthy, self-serving statement by Daniel C. Matuszewski is in part irrelevant and in part misleading. Some of his arguments violate the proper ethics of controversy. Before I get down to details, some things must be made clear.

In my original reference to the scholarly-exchange program in my article, I based myself wholly and solely on the political analysis given by Professor Robert F. Byrnes of Indiana University, who has watched this program at close range for many years. Professor Byrnes, according to Mr. Matuszewski, “is more than familiar with both the achievements and persistent problems of these programs. . . .” But Mr. Matuszewski wishes to quarrel with me, not with Professor Byrnes. This tactic is in itself a shifty device to avoid meeting Professor Byrnes’s indictment directly.

It must also be kept in mind that I never mentioned the International Research and Exchanges Board or anyone connected with it. Mr. Matuszewski, a deputy director of IREX, chose to assume responsibility for the exchange with the Soviet Union and to inject himself into the problem raised by Professor Byrnes. I did not seek out this controversy with Mr. Matuszewski or with IREX.

At this point, the interested reader would have to turn back to the original quotation from Professor Byrnes and the subsequent statements by Professors Brzezinski and Pipes. The point made by Professor Byrnes was entirely political. It dealt wholly with the kind of historical subjects which American scholars are permitted to study in the Soviet Union and the kind of subjects open to Soviet scholars in the United States. That and nothing else is the issue, despite Mr. Matuszewski’s efforts to distort it.

I am quite willing to agree that the sentence by Professor Brzezinski on the scholarly exchanges did not exhaust his views on the issue. I doubt whether a paragraph or even a page would exhaust his views on this or most subjects. But this is a cheap evasion. He was quite clear in that sentence that a double standard has been operating. He does not have to be “exhaustive” to be able to tell us that something has been wrong.

Mr. Matuszewski’s comment on Professor Pipes’s statement is another typical evasion. I am quite willing to believe that other alumni of this program have “received more data and access than they expected and that their visits were a great success.” But were they dealing with the kind of subjects that happen to interest Professor Pipes? Or were they studying something on the order of the “Moscow Plague of 1771” or the “Formation and Function of the Russian Adverb”?

At this point Mr. Matuszewski seriously violates the ethics of controversy which should govern such a discussion. Mr. Matuszewski writes: “He [Draper] implies that the topics actually being done by Americans on the exchanges are worthless. This is nonsense.” What is nonsense is that which I am supposed to have implied. Anyone who reads or rereads what I have written on this subject will find that this imputation by Mr. Matuszewski is utterly false. I have never implied any such thing. I have asserted—and not merely implied—that Americans have been restricted in their political and historical subject matter as Russians have not. That is all; the rest is malicious invention.

It is Mr. Matuszewski who nonsensically implies that I have somehow charged that American scholars were working on “fraudulent and worthless” topics. This is another one of his red herrings. I am quite ready to believe that Americans in the Soviet Union are doing “substantial pieces of research.” The issue is whether they are doing the same kind of substantial research on the same kind of subjects that Soviet scholars can and do work on here. Mr. Matuszewski prefers to kick in open doors. I want to open some closed ones.

Now let us get to the main issue. I decided to take up Mr. Matuszewski’s invitation to look at his reviews and reports. I have gone through several hundred pages. Here is what I found.

Two outside reviews were made available to me—by two members of the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University, and by two consultants for the Ford Foundation. I do not know why they were recommended; they do not really address themselves to the political and historical issue in question. The closest the Columbia study comes to it is in a one-sentence observation that “the majority of fellows, especially those in the Soviet Union, had real problems in getting permission from local authorities and gaining access to archives.” The other study, which I am not permitted to cite, has a brief reference to what is acceptable as “non-controversial” in the Soviet Union and East Europe; it hardly lends itself to Mr. Matuszewski’s case.

Virtually all the material made available to me originated with IREX itself. The most informative were IREX annual reports from 1968 to 1975. The last three, for 1972-73, 1973-74, and 1974-75, contain lists of the actual subjects worked on by American and Soviet participants. For at least these three years, Professor Byrnes’s analysis may be tested.

Of the 221 Americans, only one was able to work on a post-1945 subject—“Soviet War Fiction.” Only six had worked on post-1917 subjects, none of them political in nature. The closest to it was “Soviet Economic Policies and Thought, 1917-1930.”

Of the 245 Soviet participants in these three years, at least a dozen had worked on post-1945 American politics and problems, sometimes in the most sensitive areas of American life. Among their subjects were: “American Revolution and Crisis of the 60’s in the U.S.,” “Recent History of American-Japanese Relations,” “Ideals of Young Workers and Students in the United States,” “Early and Contemporary U.S.-China Relations,” “Multinational Corporations, U.S. Foreign Policy, and Capital Export,” “Industrial and Labor Relations in the U.S. During the 1960’s and 1970’s,” and “World Economy and U.S. Economy.”

In this period, 1972-75, the only one I could check from the material given to me, it is utterly clear that Americans—especially those in the “graduate student/young faculty” category—have found it opportune to stay away from Soviet history and politics if they wish to get into the Soviet Union. Soviet scholars have suffered from no such inhibition in comparable American history and politics.

I also understand that about half-a-dozen Soviet scholars have worked freely at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park where they can get the most intimate and voluminous documentation on the United States of the 1930’s and 1940’s and much else. I know of American scholars who would like to enjoy a similar privilege in the Soviet Union. Is it too much to ask that American scholars should be able to work in the Soviet Union on subjects such as “Soviet Dissidents and Crisis of the 60’s in the USSR,” “Recent History of Soviet-Japanese Relations,” “Ideals of Young Workers and Students in the Soviet Union,” “Early and Contemporary Soviet-Chinese Relations,” “Industrial and Labor Relations in the Soviet Union in the 1960’s and 1970’s,” and the like? Or should Americans be treated as if they were Russians in Soviet Russia, and Russians treated as if they were Americans in the United States?

If Mr. Matuszewski, who is in charge of the Soviet-American program, cannot recognize the existing lack of equality and reciprocity in this exchange, he is not the right person for the job. No one is asking him to be comfortable “with the all-or-nothing Manichean dichotomies Mr. Draper seems to prefer.” I do not need lessons from Mr. Matuszewski on Manichean dichotomies. This kind of snide distortion is utterly uncalled for. There is no political and historical “essential reciprocity” in this program, though there has been a “slow development of increasingly frank scholarly interchanges, and the persistence of serious problems and deficiencies” (emphasis added). One of the most serious problems is Mr. Matuszewski’s subterfuge of combining in one sentence a glaring untruth, immediately followed by admissions designed to soften the blow. Mr. Matuszewski’s letter has convinced me more than ever that something is wrong with this program and, in his case, with those who are administering it.

About the Author

Pin It on Pinterest

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.