Shortly after the Korean War broke out, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin
published a curious little essay. It was not about the war that was
being fought in the Far East, and it was not a propaganda piece. It was
about language. Stalin titled it, “Marxism and the Problems of

The essay was highly technical, seemingly out of place, even
incomprehensible to Western readers. Because of Stalin’s authorship, the
article was carefully scrutinized in the West. It raised eyebrows. Some
experts thought that Stalin was playing a joke. Linguistics? What could
the old dictator mean by it?

Stalin’s essay, as it turns out, was extremely important. He noted
that there are class differences inherent in language. The workers
understand certain words differently than the bosses. By implication,
the same would also hold true between nations. The words “freedom,”
“peace,” and “democracy” are understood by the capitalist nations as
meaning one thing, but these same
concepts are understand differently by the Communist nations.

Under despotisms like those in Russia and China, language is never
straightforward. Realities are expressed indirectly, so that only the
faithful, the “insiders,” know what is really being said. In this way
outsiders are routinely deceived about what the leaders in Russia and
China really intend. To take one example: the idea that Russia is a
“democracy,” that the Russians now enjoy “freedom,” is one of those
misunderstandings that Moscow has successfully promoted by the use of
Stalinist linguistics.

Take the word “perestroika” for example. Many don’t know this, but
“perestroika” was Stalin’s favorite word. It means “reorganization” or
“restructuring.” In the West we took this to signify the democratization
and liberalization of the Soviet Union and its satellites. But for
Gorbachev and
his fellow Politburo members it meant something quite different. In
order to demonstrate this difference in language, let me quote from a
telegram that Yeltsin sent to Gorbachev on the 1988 anniversary of the
October Revolution:

    Dear Mikhail Sergeyevich: Accept my congratulations on our great
    holiday — the seventy-first anniversary of the October Revolution!
    Believing in the victory of perestroika, I wish for you, through the
    efforts of the Party that you lead and all of the people, complete
    implementation of Lenin’s wishes and dreams for our country. — Boris

In this note, the victory of perestroika is clearly linked to
the “complete implementation of Lenin’s wishes and dreams. …” In this
context, we ought to ask what these wishes and dreams were about. What
was Lenin after? Well, Lenin planned to bring Communist revolutions to
every major
country by using Russia as a subversive base. The goal was to smash
capitalism and the world market, to destroy “the hopes of false
democracy,” which is what the Communists call the free institutions of
the West.

The October Revolution, which Yeltsin’s telegram to Gorbachev
celebrates, was the violent seizure of power by an armed and highly
coordinated minority. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote that the
October coup was “an act of villainy” by Lenin and Trotsky. Solzhenitsyn
also said that Lenin’s goal — from the outset — was “voracious

If you look carefully at Yeltsin’s telegram to Gorbachev, you will
see that he clearly understood perestroika to be completely in line with
Lenin’s program. It is time we took a closer look at the theoretical
thinking behind perestroika.

On March 1, 1989, there appeared a fascinating article in the Russian
publication, “Literaturnaya Gazeta.” Its title was, “We Are All in the
Same Boat,” and its author was Nikolai Popov, a doctor of historical
sciences (that is, a professor of Marxism Leninism). According to Popov
the main problem confronting Russia in the late 20th century is how to
defeat the West without triggering a nuclear war.

“It goes without saying,” wrote Popov of the struggle between East
and West, “that in general we are still enemies, and were it not for the
threat of nuclear apocalypse we would not experience any special
pleasure from communication. …”

Communication with the West, therefore, becomes a necessity in order
to defeat the West without the mass use of nuclear weapons. Employing
Stalinist linguistics, words now become instruments of deception in
order to avoid a war of mass destruction. If this attempt to avoid a
nuclear war fails, if
the West refuses to give up its last few thousand nuclear weapons, then
Russia will have no choice but to launch a preemptive strike. This is
not directly mentioned by Popov, but it is nonetheless intrinsic to the
overall pattern of Soviet strategic thought.

“Any school child will tell you,” says Popov, “that the reason for
discord between our socioeconomic systems is that capitalism and
socialism are irreconcilable enemies. …” Popov then adds that “our
progressive system must replace the capitalist system, which has
outlived its time. And peaceful coexistence is a peaceful form of …
struggle between them, so that the ‘elimination’ will take place without

The disarmament process, says Popov, is the key. This process is not
about giving up the basic enmity between East and West. It is merely a
way to get around the nuclear stalemate. The aim of disarmament is to
disarm the Americans — not the Russians. Unfortunately, it is not easy
to disarm the Americans. The number one obstacle, says Popov, is
America’s distrust of Russia. He quotes George Will, the conservative
columnist, as saying that Gorbachev’s perestroika was merely an attempt
to “camouflage a tank with sugar coating.” Popov asks the question: How
does one overcome the suspicions and distrust of Westerners like George

With stunning clarity Popov gives the answer. “Our main task today,”
says Popov, “is to divorce Stalinism from Communism in the eyes of the
world.” In terms of World War III, Popov tells his Russian readers that
“openness is our parity, restructuring is our weapon, and
destalinization is
our main ammunition.”

How does Communism separate itself from Stalinism? This is difficult,
says Popov. “It is even more difficult before the world audience,” he
admits. Some people in the West may sense a trap. Because of past
conflicts between America and Russia, a whole anti-Communist bureaucracy
has grown up
in the West. This bureaucracy was created to fight Communism and to
support what Popov calls the “rotten influence” of the “world
bourgeoisie.” This bureaucracy must be deflated. Its reason for existing
must be taken away.

“The renunciation of Stalinism is a long and painful process,”
laments Popov. The main fault of Stalinism, of course, is that it put
the West on guard against Russia. Therefore, says Popov, “In order to
dissociate ourselves from Stalinism … we shall need a court trial of
Stalinism as a criminal political system … as well as a trial of its
main leaders.” In writing this, Popov clearly anticipated the August
coup of 1991 during which those evil Stalinist hardliners attempted to
overthrow Gorbachev.

The only way to get America to set aside her nuclear missiles, to
build down her armed forces, is to convince the United States that
Russia is no longer a threat. Therefore Russia must appear to give up
the brutal ways of dictatorship. Only then will it become possible to
reach the right arms control agreements with the U.S.

“If we want to break the ice of disbelief we must provide an example
of self-purification, of deep criticism of our own vices of the past,
including the quite recent past,” says Popov.

He then recites some polls, showing America’s distrust of the
Kremlin. In 1989 only 2 percent of Americans felt great confidence in
the Soviet leaders. At the same time, says Popov, 56 percent of
Americans believe that “the Soviet Union would attack the United States
if the United States were
militarily weak.”

This distrust, says Popov, has to be broken down if Communism expects
to win without a general nuclear war. “We are offering more and more
peace initiatives,” says Popov. “A unique situation has now developed in
which people are ready to believe us if we go all the way in the
restructuring of
our country and our thinking. …”

The strategic shrewdness of “perestroika” is thus revealed. The
purpose behind the changes in Russia, and the reason for their existence
is here explained in the plainest, most obvious terms, by a leading
Russian Marxist. As it happens, perestroika was never about bringing
real democracy or freedom to the Russian people. It was about winning
the trust of the West, so that comprehensive disarmament treaties would
be signed.

Some might point out that Popov’s article was written ten years ago,
that it no longer applies to what is happening in Russia today. That
would be a comforting thought, if honesty allowed it. Sadly, Yeltsin’s
Russia has routinely violated arms control and disarmament treaties,
from the ABM Treaty
to START I. Look at the testimony, for example, of Ken Alibek. Before
defecting to the West he was one of the top leaders in the Soviet
biological warfare program. Toward the end of his book, “Biohazard,” he
gives evidence that Yeltsin’s Russia has continued its biological
warfare preparations
despite Yeltsin’s promises. Russian defectors to Great Britain in 1994
confirmed this thesis, saying that Yeltsin’s Russia was developing a
superplague which the West had no antidote for.

Just as Popov suggested ten years ago, America’s disarmament treaties
with Russia are a strategic technique engineered by the Kremlin to
disarm the West so that Russia can triumph without having to fight a
global nuclear war. The game is a simple confidence trick. The changes
in Russia are meant to win our trust, so that we will set aside our
great arsenal of mass destruction.

To some extent the Russian ploy has failed. The U.S. still retains a
large — though significantly reduced — arsenal of nuclear weapons.
NATO has also disarmed to a large extent, but was not disbanded as the
Moscow planners hoped. On the other hand, the U.S. reductions are
enough to give the Russian generals a fighting advantage if war becomes
the path of last resort.

In dealing with Russia, Americans must keep the words of Nikolai
Popov in mind. No doubt he explained things without the usual Soviet
obfuscation. But Moscow’s overall strategy had to be explained to the
Communist faithful, to those in Russia who needed to understand what was
really happening. The fact that “peace” and “democracy” mean something
different in the Communist
lexicon only serves to mask what strategists like Popov are talking
about. In truth, no deception is perfect. As it happens, all deceptions
rely on the self-dishonesty of those who are willing to be deceived. We
must admit that we wanted to see the Soviet Union fall. When this
appeared to happen we seized on it without exercising the necessary

But now we need to admit that Yeltsin’s Russia is not a democracy,
that the Russian people are not free, and that a Cold War is still being
waged against us.

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