- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2000

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE By Brian Crozier. Forum, $35, 829 pages

This massive tome on contemporary history is one of the most valuable published in recent years. I say this not merely because of Brian Crozier's high reputation as historian and publicist, but because almost half the book consists of texts of eye-popping Soviet top-secret documents released in Moscow before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. They are now archived at the Hoover Institution. These documents, a handful out of thousands, have been chosen by the author to document his analysis of how a global catastrophe Lenin's revolution began, how it spread and why it ended.
Excellently translated, these documents are in a sense footnotes to the book's 51 chapters. For scholar and average reader alike, these archival materials in the book are as riveting as Mr. Crozier's prose is illuminating. The verbatim Politburo discussions and memoranda afford a fascinating glimpse into the minds of Soviet leaders during crises like the 1956 anti-Soviet Hungarian uprising, Poland's anti-Soviet Solidarity, the war in Afghanistan. The archives reveal hair-raising conversations between Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung, Stalin's unsuccessful plot to assassinate Marshal Tito and the genesis of the Soviet-inspired 1950 war in Korea.
(I wish that I.F. Stone groupies like Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Anthony Lewis and other news paladins, would study the Soviet archives on the Korean War in Mr. Crozier's volume to see how meticulously Stalin and Kim Il Sung plotted the aggression against South Korea. Mr. Stone's scandalous "Hidden History of the Korean War" claimed that the U.S. military-industrial complex started the conflict and used villainous methods to wage it. No wonder that the evidence that Mr. Stone was a paid Soviet agent becomes more and more plausible.)
One achievement of this book is that it should lay to rest the claim by left-liberal historians that the West started the Cold War. In fact, what both Mr. Crozier and the once-secret Soviet archives show clearly is that the Cold War began the day V.I. Lenin seized power and then created what the author calls Lenin's "expansionist machine."
The "laws" of Marxism-Leninism predicted the defeat of capitalism by the world proletariat. Therefore, by perverted Bolshevik logic, all the Soviet Union was doing in seeking world domination was expediting the fulfillment of the "laws" of history. Nikita Khrushchev, when he told Adlai Stevenson "We will bury you," put crisply what Lenin had written soon after the Bolshevik Revolution:
"We live not only in a State but in a system of States and the existence of the Soviet Republic besides the imperialist states during a lengthy period of time is inconceivable. In the very end either one or the other will win. And before this result, a series of horrible conflicts between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois states is unavoidable."
The document, which may be key to understanding how World War II started, is to be found on Page 519 of the book. It is the text of Stalin's speech on Aug. 19, 1939 to the Party Central Committee. Few scholars knew about this speech until its recent publication. These in his own cold-blooded words are the points Stalin made to justify the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact which unleashed World War II:
1. In peacetime, the communist movement in Europe cannot seize power. Or, as he put it, "The dictatorship of a Communist Party may be envisaged as a result of a great war."
2. "It is in the interests of the USSR … that war should break out between the Reich and the Franco-British capitalist bloc … and the war should last as long as possible with the aim of weakening both sides."
3. "We shall maintain a position of neutrality, while biding our time."
4. "We have before us a vast field of action to develop the world Revolution."
What Stalin couldn't believe was that the Nazis would ever violate the nonaggression pact and attack Russia, which they did in June 1941. Stalin's towering miscalculation, a tribute to the unrestrained arrogance of this murderous dictator, cost the lives of 20 million Russians in the war.
Mr. Crozier's present-day concern is that despite the fall of the Soviet empire, the onetime defunct communist parties in Central Europe under aliases are returning to power. As he writes: "The Soviet Empire has collapsed. But the rise of another Communist empire cannot, in 1999, be ruled out."
Perhaps. But despite the existence of communist China and Vietnam, Cuba, the makings of a new communist empire are nowhere to be seen. There is no center, no beacon as there once was in the Kremlin; there is no ruling ideology to legitimize an "empire." Rule by terror in a modern state is no longer as feasible as it once was and the lure of capitalism is becoming more and more irresistible. I would not rule out a drive to create a Russian empire but even that is improbable. Empires are costly to administer, as witness the war in Chechnya.

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