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The Sad State of Cultural Life In Moscow (Or Peking) As Viewed From Peking (Or Moscow)

ISSUE:  Winter 1975

During the last decade Cold War rhetoric has taken an unexpected turn. The quantity and intensity of angry exchanges between capitalism and Communism have subsided almost everywhere, while the two major practitioners of Communism have been having it out. Moscow and Peking have blasted each other with charges more scurrilous and personal than the wildest anti-Communist might have ventured in the fifties. In May, 1970, the New York Times, reflecting on the fact that Mao had included in his celebration of Lenin’s centennial a comparison of Brezhnev and Hitler, and Moscow had reciprocated with a charge that Mao was a philanderer who had murdered his own son, observed that “even at the height of the Cold War, it is doubtful that any official American pronouncement matched, much less exceeded, the bitterness” of such exchanges.

Lost in the shadoAvs of the more newsworthy arguments about borders, nuclear war, and leadership of world Communism, is another aspect of the unprecedented Sino-Soviet ideological quarrel—a no-holds-barred and below-the-belt brawl on the nature and function of culture in a Communist society. Each of the Communist giants contends that the other is a traitor to Marxism and has done irreparable harm to the cause of proletarian culture.

This enormous, orchestrated propaganda campaign is carried on not only in the press, but especially by round-the-clock broadcasts over the back fence from Radio Moscow and Radio Peking. The Soviet Party journal Kommunist complained in 1969 that two-thirds of some Chinese newspapers were filled with anti-Soviet material and that Radio Peking was broadcasting to the USSR up to fifty hours per day on forty frequencies, including some reserved for distress calls. The Soviet press and radio were answering on the same scale, the latter intensifying its effort beginning in that year through “Radio Peace and Progress,” beaming broadcasts from Tashkent in the languages of the Chinese minority peoples, as well as standard Chinese.

The campaign has had its ups and clowns. It grew more and more intense from 1967, reaching a peak in the summer of 1969. It was then turned off like a faucet for a few months—neither Moscow nor Peking saying a disparaging word about the other—while border talks were being held. It has had periodic outbursts since. The Soviets have recently made occasional references to the relaxation of Mao’s cultural policies, but have not retreated from their basic charges. The Chinese have not retreated one iota, but have observed long periods of silence on the subject.

Each side holds that the other has strayed from the Marxist path and betrayed the proletariat. The method of betrayal is the same in either case: the Communist Party of China (or the Soviet Union) has been “kidnapped” by a small clique, which is building its power and ruling for selfish goals. Each side assigns a definite date to the betrayal. The Chinese claim that Stalin hewed to the Marxist line, but soon after his death that “buffoon,” Khrushchev, and his “renegade revisionist clique” began a clandestine but systematic program for “the all-round restoration of capitalism.” The Soviets hold that at roughly the same time the Chinese Party lost its battle against Mao, who is not a Marxist at all, but an unprincipled opportunist Avho has built a fearful “personality cult” through purge and intimidation.

The cultural policies of each power, as observed by the other, are an important manifestation of the Marxist heresy and a means of realizing the tyrants’ goals. Each side presents a caricature of the other and in the process reveals something about itself. The Chinese have concentrated on detecting and exposing capitalistic characteristics in Soviet culture; the Soviets have dwelt on the wild, romantic, whimsical experimentation of Maoism, which “has nothing in common with Marxism.”

In support of their proposition that the Soviet “renegades” are restoring capitalism, the Chinese point to what they consider scandalous wage differentials and examples of high living, in the worst tradition of bourgeois capitalists, among Soviet leaders. These cases prove to Chinese satisfaction that a new class division is growing in the USSR and that the class struggle—that hallmark of a capitalist society—is not only present, but is intensifying.

The Chinese find many examples of extravagant living among the “high-salaried privileged stratum.” While among Soviet workers “two or three families share a single room,” the tycoons are concerned about luxurious second houses by the sea. One villa on the Black Sea “has two swimming pools, one for fresh water and another for salt water” and another has a special room for the master’s dog. While Soviet workers suffer from periodic food shortages, their leaders enjoy “beef and mutton from Mongolia, champagne from France, onions from Poland, grapes from Bulgaria.” And while the Avorkers complain of shortages of shoes and underwear, the privileged squander hard currency on imported fashions. As evidence, the Chinese once wryly quoted a compliment from the camp of the enemy: Die Welt’s opinion that the Soviet Union “has never seen a Party chief as fashionable as Brezhnev . . ., with a silvery grey necktie and an impeccable, well-tailored black suit, he is so smartly groomed that he gives no thought at all about Lenin’s style of dress.”

It is little wonder that Soviet leaders, seduced by these capitalist comforts, should be diverted from the causes of the people. “When these fat and comfortable Communists . . .tog themselves up in Italian fashion, sip a glass of martini [sic] and bounce to the rhythm of American jazz, how it is possible for them to think of the liberation fighters in the South Vietnamese jungles, the starving peasants in the Indian countryside, and the Afro-Americans in Harlem?”

The evils of the system are not confined to the “upper strata,” but have seeped down to another group which can only be identified by its capitalist nomenclature, the middle class. The Chinese have denounced such capitalist trappings as pawnshops, classified advertising, and the free markets where agricultural products and handicrafts are sold by individuals. When the Moscow Pawnshops Administration tried in 1967 to promote its operations by offering better guarantees, transactions by telephone, and even house calls by the pawnbroker, the Chinese press rose to the occasion, asking rhetorically, “Just what is a pawnshop?. . . Whatever the color of its signboard, and whatever its sidelines, its main business is usury, in other words, sucking the blood out of the poor. It is rather strange that thriving pawnbrokers should be a sign of the transition to Communism and that the workers will enter Communist society with wads of pawn tickets in their pockets.”

The Chinese were also disturbed by the proliferation of classified advertisements in the Moscow evening newspaper. The mere existence of such ads was regarded as prima facie evidence of a capitalist society, since “advertising in the bourgeois press is a medium by which capitalists push sales, carry out cut-throat competition, and grab profits.” But the Chinese turned the knife in the wound by noting the business being transacted: villas and summer cottages wanted, medals wanted, lottery tickets wanted, jobs wanted, and divorce announcements. “Multiplying like fungi , . . .these ads reek with the stink of bourgeois ideology and way of life.”

The Chinese share with the Russians great fears about the profit motive in the private sector of Soviet agriculture. They regard the free markets, where products from the private plots are sold as “a paradise for kulaks and speculators. . . . In the free markets, people rub shoulders in crowds. They push and jostle each other. It is a sickening scene of noise and confusion, with hawkings to attract customers, angry bargaining, etc.”

The Chinese also detect signs of restored capitalism in the trappings of popular culture in the USSR. What could be more symptomatic of decadent bourgeois society than fashion shows, fashion magazines, beauty shops, nude pictures, fancy wedding ceremonies, dog shows, and comic strips?

According to the Chinese, “the Soviet revisionists have discarded the plain working-class clothing of Lenin for the sophisticated styles of the bourgeoisie.” They publish “fashion and hair style magazines to corrupt the Soviet people, particularly the youth,” and have staged fashion shows at home and abroad. At one “Soviet fashion design show” in Washington, the models wore fashions by “the Soviet Union’s best-known avant garde designer, who copied the cowboy pants and mini-skirts of the West.”

The Chinese claim that even the Communist Youth League, the customary apprenticeship to the Communist Party, has entered the race for fashion and beauty. They were alarmed to find out that “there is a Beauty Parlor for Young Communist League Members and Youths” in Leningrad, where discussions on “new hair fashions” and “hair-do contests” are held every Sunday. And “in Moscow, so-called clubs for girls have been set up in some cultural palaces to attract young women workers to study “the secrets of beauty culture” and “problems of love. ” Is this following the behest of Lenin?”

It is only a short step from the fashion show to the even more decadent dog show. “The Soviet revisionists also put on dog shows in Moscow similar to those in New York and London and went so far as to make this thing fashionable. All this is the height of rottenness.”

In popular Soviet wedding ceremonies, Peking detects a throwback to tsarist days. “In Moscow nowadays, one often sees troikas of the type common in the days of old Russia galloping by. They carry no ordinary passengers, but cater to newlyweds,” carrying them to the wedding palace. The hiring of troikas has become a thriving business, for, according to TASS, “wedding vehicles have been booked up for the whole spring season.”

For the younger set, Soviet authorities have tried to make learning about scientific subjects more palatable by using the form of the comic strip. The Chinese reaction was this:

The Soviet revisionists have resorted to new methods of corrupting the young by churning out “science” fiction and comics modeled after “Alley-Oop,” “Blonclie,” “Batman,” etc. Under the pretext of disseminating scientific knowledge, such garbage from the Soviet press fosters venomous fantasy.

Having set the Soviet Union on such a dangerous course, the leaders have accepted the uglier features of bourgeois society—unsavory night life, increasing crime, alcoholism, and prostitution. When the Soviet press called on recreation officials to “brighten up night life,” the Chinese press wondered what the workers, who “toil from dawn to dusk,” could possibly do with a nightclub. They have no time to loaf, and such “decadent and licentious recreation is completely alien” to them. Nightclubs are “the hallmark of the Western way of life” where “bourgeois ladies and gentlemen and their offspring, who fatten on the sweat and blood of the working people . . .squander their ill-gotten gains.” And “since night clubs are being readied, brothels, gambling houses, and other such foul trades will also make their public appearance before long.”

On at least one of these subjects, alcoholism, the Chinese get plenty of ammunition from the Soviet press. But characteristically they accentuate the negative, citing the most glaring cases from Soviet articles, without acknowledging that the whole purpose of the Soviet discussion is remedial. They suggest that Ivan drinks a lot to cover his disillusionment with the régime, his sorrow for a revolution betrayed.


The Soviet counterpart of the Chinese charges of restored capitalism in the USSR is the contention that Mao’s erratic ideas and adventurism have wrecked traditional Chinese culture and have not put anything worthwhile in its place. Maoist thoughts not only drive out the harder currency of creative ideas; they serve as a religious opiate: “Mao Tse-tung’s thoughts do not differ from the religious intoxicants which develop the minds of the people and promise them a better lot—in another world.” Furthermore, Mao has a deep anti-intellectual streak (“the more books you read, the more stupid you become”) and Chinese intellectuals have been the scapegoats for the failure of his many experiments. As a result of all this, the Soviets see China as a cultural wasteland.

According to Marxism cultural life, like almost everything else, is based on economic underpinnings and the Soviets contend that Mao has failed the Chinese people at this basic point. The standard of living in China remains at a very low level, and there is no plan to improve it substantially in the foreseeable future. According to Mao’s doctrine of “primitive asceticism” all incentiAres to material gain are denounced, and poverty is a virtue. While the Chinese rail against wage differentials in the USSR, the Russians deplore the grinding poverty of the whole Chinese population, a condition which is accepted and lauded by the leadership. One Soviet spokesman cited the chorus from a popular Chinese play:

First you walked barefoot. Then you put on rag slippers, and then—rubber shoes. This time you may wish to sport leather shoes, or even high boots. What will become of you in this process of bourgeois degradation?

Another Soviet position in this quarrel rings strange in the Western ear, for vis-à-vis the Chinese, they are champions of the rights of the individual against the demands of the state. They charge that Mao has so completely subdued, “brainwashed,” and regimented the Chinese people that there are no areas of individual freedom left, and this includes all cultural life at a personal level. The demands for group activity are so great that a Chinese can no longer enjoy the simplest pleasures—taking a walk, going fishing, playing cards, or taking a nap on his day off. Such activities have been condemned as bourgeois. One Soviet broadcast lamented Mao’s purge of billions of goldfish. “The Peking press, . . .calling for greater revolutionary vigilance, urged the people to destroy the fishbowls and to carry out the revolution, because goldfish breeding was an assault by the bourgeoisie on the proletariat.”

The goal of Maoist cultural policy, in the Soviet view, is to reduce the individual to the rôle of an ant in the giant anthill. Several phrases on this theme, which were upheld as ideals in China during the Cultural Revolution, have been quoted in contempt in Soviet propaganda. Workers are asked to become “little stainless screws” in Mao’s machine. According to the diary of a Chinese soldier, “although a cog is small, its rôle is inestimable. I want to be a cog always, . . .cleaned and protected so that it does not rust.” The peasant’s variant has him aspiring to be “an obedient buffalo of the great helmsman,” and children pledge themselves as “red seedlings.”

Chinese culture has been submerged in the morass of Mao worship. Instead of reading traditional Chinese literature (much of which has perished in the flames of the Cultural Revolution) Chinese children memorize twenty quotations per day from Mao’s thought. Mao quotations are chanted at meals and at public rallies. “From the very early morning Peking’s streets are filled with a roar which comes from loudspeakers. . . . It is impossible to collect one’s thoughts and think about what is happening.” There is no escape in visiting the theater or the music hall, in listening to the radio, or reading the popular press, which are all saturated with Mao themes.

The Soviets are also, rather surprisingly, the champions of traditional cultural values and have given much attention to the cultural nihilism of the Cultural Revolution. While the Chinese were citing Marx and Lenin passages calling for the destruction of bourgeois culture and the remolding of intellectuals, the Soviets have cited other passages emphasizing the need for continuity and critical assimilation of the culture of the past.


In the fine arts the Chinese are somewhere to the right of Stalin; they advocate socialist realism with a vengeance. Every work of art is judged strictly on its utility in furthering the revolution, and any work that does not do so in a straightforward way is a “poisonous weed” which must be eradicated. One of the earliest criticisms of Khrushchev’s cultural policy was that he had permitted the rehabilitation of “revisionist royalist writers” who had quite properly been suppressed by Stalin. Among these were Mikhail Zoshchenko and Anna Akhmatova, who shared the heresy of ideological neutrality in some of their works. Like Stalin, the Chinese regard non-conforming literature to be extremely detrimental: “a single bullet can only kill a single person, but the influence of a single reactionary novel can harm ten thousand people.”

The Chinese have attacked more than a dozen Soviet writers, but their main efforts have been made against three. Mikhail Sholokhov has drawn more fire from Chinese critics than all other Soviet writers combined. They regard him as the most dangerous kind of cultural figure, a counter-revolutionary who manages to hoodwink his countrymen, a “termite that sneaked into the revolutionary camp.”

In the Chinese view, Sholokhov’s works are full of counter-revolutionary messages, and his characters are not properly oriented. In “And Quiet Flows the Don” Grigory is an out-and-out white guard, whose tragic experiences are treated sympathetically. Sholokhov weighs the personal sufferings of his characters against the Revolution and questions whether the sacrifice was worth it. Furthermore, the author “exaggerated the counter-revolutionary rebellion,” stated openly that “there were too many bad elements” in the Bolshevik Party, and pointed out the “excessive actions” of the Red Army against the enemy-—all “impermissible” according to Maoist literary standards. In “Virgin Soil Upturned” Sholokhov “maliciously distorted the features of the poor and lower-middle peasants and vilified them as opponents of collectivization.” He “prettifies the class enemy” and “describes collectivization as a series of endless disasters.”

Sholokhov’s Nobel prize confirms Chinese suspicions. “Sholokhov, in a state of awed excitement, accepted the Nobel prize for literature, which even the French bourgeois writer Jean-Paul Sartre would not accept. In Sartre’s words, to accept the prize would be to receive “a distinction reserved for the writers of the West or for the traitors of the East. “”

Konstantin Simonov’s popular war novels, “The Living and the Dead” and “Days and Nights,” have been attacked for their strong condemnation of war. In Mao’s view the violence and destructiveness of wars should not be emphasized to the exclusion of the positive results of just wars, which are the means by which the working class will destroy imperialism. In Mao’s words, “war is politics with bloodshed.” But Simonov’s novels, concerning the German invasion of Russia in 1941 and the battle of Stalingrad, view war in a totally negative way. There is too much gore, not enough glory. The main characters only want to survive—to survive for such selfish reasons as to return to a lover or to school. Simonov would “stamp out the flames of peoples’ revolutionary wars.” Besides, he emphasizes the might of the German army and the weakness of the Red Army. He had the Red Army falling back to Stalingrad because of weakness and not to launch a counter-attack, as the Chinese prefer to have it.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who is always referred to as a “playboy poet,” has committed all the cardinal sins: he has condemned Stalin, China, and written anti-war poetry. Furthermore, he is a writer “who sold his soul” to United States imperialism. He first came to fame for “brutally defaming Stalin after the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU. This clown described himself as “weeping like all others when Stalin died. ” Yet before his tears were dry, he had trod upon Khrushchev’s heels in attacking Stalin.” Yevtushenko’s “mud-slinging” poems against the Cultural Revolution have drawn heavy fire from the Chinese, as have his popular recital trips to the West.

Soviet criticism of the current Chinese literary scene seldom involves specific writers or works, since the main Soviet complaint is that the Cultural Revolution and the Maoist cult have destroyed old literary works and prevented new ones from being written. “In effect, sentence of death has been pronounced on China’s centuries-old culture.” A 1969 broadcast charged that not a single novel had been published in China during the last four years and that the author of the last one was soon in trouble. The fate of foreign literature in China was equally bad. According to Sovetskaya Kultura, “between 1949 and 1956, 2683 works of classical Russian and Soviet literature had been published in the Chinese language in a total of 66,500,000.” But these have all been swept away in “the prairie fire of the Cultural Revolution.” Soviet accounts are full of descriptions of book burning, the destruction of bookshops and libraries, and of trash heaps which serve as collection points for condemned literature. Meanwhile three billion copies of Mao’s works have been turned out in China.

The Russians do single out one Chinese writer for biting criticism, and it cuts to the quick: they have a very low opinion of the literary efforts of Mao Tse-tung. His poems are always vague and sometimes incomprehensible. One of the Russian translators of Mao’s poetry stated in an interview that “these verses are incomprehensible, not merely on first reading; even readers with philological education cannot explain the meaning of some phrases exactly.” Red Guards sing Mao’s words “frequently without understanding their meaning.”

Furthermore, Mao’s poetry is ideologically suspect. The Soviet verdict on one of his poems was that “it is merely an imitation of decadent court poetry, full of embellishing phrases.” Other Soviet critics have noted that “Mao’s imagination has always been captivated by the imagery and personalities of the rulers of old imperial China. Moreover, Mao’s personality has clear traces of the characteristics of the Chinese Emperors.” Radio Moscow has broadcast detailed analyses of “Yellow Stork Flying,” one of Mao’s most popular poems, detecting almost precise figures found in the verse of one of the Tang emperors, “an aesthete, whose life . . .was given over to meditations concerning the apparition of the yellow stork.”


“Counter-revolutionary plays dominate the Soviet stage”—so reads a typical Chinese critique. Popular Soviet plays are condemned for sowing “the virus of pacifism,” “distorting facts about the anti-fascist war” with Hitler, “repudiating the Stalin cult, vilifying the dictatorship of the proletariat,” and for advocating “a life of eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”

Chinese objections to the Soviet theater center about their attacks on Konstantin Stanislavsky, whose method acting has drawn frequent fire from Peking. The core of the method, as the Chinese see it, is the “self,” the “innermost I.” Such “stinking egoism” is a betrayal of class consciousness. According to the method, the actor who plays a landlord or capitalist must delve into his sub-consciousness and evoke all those hated traits of the class enemy. He “becomes” the landlord or capitalist and presents his new “self” in the best possible light. This is intolerable for current Chinese critics, who argue that all characters, including the darkest villains, must be played from a proletarian viewpoint. There must never be the slightest doubt about the true colors of the actors; the theater must occupy itself with showing the class struggle in action. “If the proletariat does not turn the theater into a red revolutionary crucible, then the bourgeoisie will change it into a black and stinking dyeing vat, disseminating the ideological poison of the bourgeoisie and contaminating the ideology of the masses.”

Soviet films come in for the same treatment. Blunderbuss attacks on Soviet films strongly suggest that the Chinese critics have not had an opportunity to see what they are condemning, the giveaway coming in some variation of the clause: “such titles alone suffice to show what these movies peddle and what sort of creatures their producers are.”

One favorite theme of Chinese critics is the growing popularity of United States films in the USSR. Peking regarded the Moscow Film Festival of 1969 as “a sickening spectacle of dewy-eyed admirers standing spellbound before the altar of Western imperialist films, . . .a disgusting exhibition of the clique’s maneuver to use the junk cranked out by the bourgeois scum . . .to promote the full-scale capitalist restoration.”

Among Soviet film figures the director Grigory Chukrai shares the villainous rôle of Sholokhov among the Chinese, and for some of the same reasons. His pictures are soft on war, and besides he made the tactical error of commenting unfavorably on Chinese films in an article for the British magazine, Films and Filming, observing that “with dogmatism and logic alone the Chinese artist cannot make good films.” Taking on his best known films one by one, a Chinese critic condemned “The Forty-First” as a flimsy love story, in which “human nature overcomes class nature, and the enemies become lovers”; “Ballad of a Soldier” is really a “condemnation of war, [showing] how the anti-fascist patriotic War wrecked people’s happiness”; “The Clear Sky” is an anti-Stalin diatribe: “when Stalin dies, “the ice melts” and “the sky clears. ” ” Chukhari’s films are all revisionist, reeking of the “odor of bourgeois humanism and pacifism.”

The Soviet view of Chinese theater and film is similar to that on literature, emphasizing cultural nihilism and political subservience. By one Soviet account, “of 3,000 theatrical companies which existed until quite recently, less than ten are alive. The silence of the Chinese theater is proof of the crisis in its art, until recently extremely popular and widespread in China.” The “spectacular revolutionary plays” which have replaced the classics are artistically worthless, and are mere propaganda pieces. “The theater in China has become a primitive means of frontal propaganda for the political lines of the present leadership.”

The Soviets also react sharply to the repudiation of Stanislavsky and to the Chinese practice of casting all characters from the proletarian viewpoint. One Soviet visitor reported a shocking experience on a visit backstage in Peking: “I was looking for the actor whom we liked very much and who appeared in the rôle of a Japanese intelligence officer. Finally I discovered him at the end of the line; it turned out that he had no right to stand next to the actors appearing in positive rôles.”

Soviet critics also regret the demise of the popular theater in China.

In the old days Chinese rural areas were blessed with popular forms of art; Chinese theatrical performers would tell stories and give performances and magic shows. . . . Thousands upon thousands of native theatrical groups used to roam from village to village giving performances, but the Maoists today have wiped out the native arts the same way they have wiped out the professional arts.

The Russians have complained about the arid film fare as well. They have from time to time reeled off the titles of films showing in Peking; all feature Chairman Mao in the titles, and most are produced by his wife, Chiang Ching. Chinese documentaries are especially deplored for their anti-Soviet bias.


Impugning the merits of “Swan Lake” is for the Russians as low a blow as discrediting Mao’s poetry for the Chinese. A Red Guard penned the following reaction:

Treasured as a masterpiece by people like you and your kind, the ballet “Swan Lake” has been going on and on for decades but the performances remain the same. What can “Swan Lake” arouse in a revolutionary of this era . . .except disgust for its corrosive rôle in leading people astray into a world far removed from real life?

A presumably more mature critic in Red Flag found it to be “a cacophony of primitive dance melodies [which] can in no way compare with the elevated music being written today in China to the words of Mao Tse-tung.” The plot is as bad as the music: “Evil genius romps about the stage, suppressing everything, while devils have become the main characters! This is indeed a sinister picture of the restoration of capitalism on the stage.”

Soviet music critics weep for the fate of the Peking opera, whose rich repertory of hundreds of masterpieces has been eliminated and replaced by a handful of worthless “revolutionary model operas.” One reason the Peking opera had to go was that Mao’s henchmen felt implied threats from its Aesopian language: “in every character, in every situation, the Maoists’ sick imagination felt an allusion.” The same fate has befallen the ballet, whose ballerinas now carry rifles to attack imaginary bourgeois fortresses.

The Chinese critics are most indignant of all when it comes to popular music—specifically the Soviet surrender to the wishes of young people to hear jazz and other mod music from the West.

Disguised as “cultural co-operation,” degenerate Western music, commercialized jazz, has become the rage in the Soviet revisionist musical, dancing, and theatrical world. . . . As a result, various weird-named American and British jazz bands have performed in the Soviet Union.

The Russians could hardly be expected to defend jazz festivals, but they do counter such charges with their own broadsides against the politicization of popular music. In one commentary they noted that the stirring old songs of the Chinese revolutionary movement had been abandoned, and new words had been set to the tunes. The new lyrics “praise Mao, his current policies, and the threat of war from the Soviet Union” and are “published in all newspapers and endlessly broadcast by the radio.”


The non-Communist bystander can only react to these arguments with a certain amount of amusement, and it is not unlikely that the people on the receiving end regard them the same way. The great majority of the charges go unanswered. Aside from an occasional angry riposte resulting from wounded national pride, there is little evidence that the charges are taken very seriously. Neither government is concerned enough to put up funds for systematic jamming of the broadcasts, and while the USSR tries to prevent Chinese printed matter from coming into the country (as it does for all unfriendly materials), the Chinese have from time to time reprinted the Soviet charges with a brief editorial note asking readers to see how ridiculous they are. While each side claims a large, sympathetic audience in the other country, there is no evidence of a large number of converts.

This propaganda is to some extent intended to persuade the rest of the world (the broadcasts are usually aimed directly at the adversary in his language, but elaborate translation services turn out news releases and magazines in all major languages). Its influence cannot be measured, but the total effect must be negative, judging from the singular lack of success of each side in converting the third world. If there are impressionable Marxist-leaning leaders of the future looking to Moscow and Peking for guidance, their frustration must be equal to that of Christendom five centuries ago when two rival popes demanded allegiance.

Each country reveals something about its view of the world in this propaganda, even through the thick layers of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. The Chinese revolutionists are still in the fiery, youthful, idealistic stage, while the Russians have reached middle age and want its comforts. In some respects the Chinese are where the USSR was a quarter-century ago: many of these charges are similar to those Stalin hurled at the West. And unquestionably the USSR has softened somewhat in the last two decades; its lecturing of the Chinese on human rights and tyranny could hardly have been made in Stalin’s day. The big question is whether the Chinese have also begun to move in this direction, and there are indications of such motion in the new diplomacy and the dampening of the fires of the Cultural Revolution.

Above all, these cultural polemics add a new dimension to the proposition that the Sino-Soviet conflict is deep and fundamental. These charges are somehow more drastic and irrevocable than border disputes, which can be settled on a legal basis. The good old days of a mere twenty years ago, when cultural agreements were signed with great fanfare, when cultural troupes of every description traveled between Moscow and Peking, and the press was full of congratulations of the cultural achievements of the other, seem far removed, and not likely to return.


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