Tag Archives: communism

George Lenczowski: Diplomat, scholar, and defender of Western civilization

George Lenczowski 2Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of my father, Dr. George Lenczowski.

This is a significant milestone for me, because of everything that my father did to inspire in me a passion for international affairs and the defense of America and Western civilization. The intellectual and moral/philosophical influences he had upon me lie at the heart of so much of what I have tried to do in building The Institute of World Politics.

My father was born of Polish parents in St. Petersburg, Russia. His father had been studying at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology, which was one of the foremost academic institutions at the time, even for Poles, who had lost their independence a century beforehand to the partitions by the three surrounding empires: Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary. Most of Poland had been gobbled up by the Russians, and it made some sense for a Pole seeking advanced education in science and engineering to study in the empire’s capital city.

Two and a half years later, after my grandfather had secured his first job in Russia, the Bolsheviks overthrew the weak democratic order under the Provisional Government. As people with higher education and who were working for private enterprise, members of my father’s family were considered “class enemies” by the Bolsheviks.  So, to save their lives, they took the few possessions that they could carry, and escaped to Poland, which then won its independence at the end of World War I.

My father earned a law degree in Poland and a doctorate of laws in France. He joined the Polish diplomatic corps, and was stationed in Tel Aviv in pre-war Palestine. He fought the Nazis as a member of the Polish Army in North Africa. During the war, his parents were arrested by the Nazis in Warsaw and were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. My father was reassigned to the Polish diplomatic mission in Tehran in time for the conference of the Big Three – Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin.

He met and married my mother there, who had just escaped from two and a half years imprisonment, also as a “class enemy” in the Soviet Union. When the Yalta Agreement was signed, where Roosevelt and Churchill consigned Central and Eastern Europe to communist domination, my parents came to America.

Having lost his parents to national socialism, and having lost all his family possessions twice to international socialism, my father was particularly sensitive to to the fragility of civilization. Indeed, he could see very clearly how politics can take radically ugly turns in places where one might not normally expect it.

He eventually became one of the founders of Middle East studies in America, and taught political science and international relations at the University of California at Berkeley. He wrote some of the pioneering works on oil and great power conflict in the Middle East, all the while concerned about the security of the United States and the Free World.  He and my mother never forgot the cause of human rights within the Soviet empire.

My father’s commitment to the cause of freedom and to protecting the dignity of the human person lay at the heart of his newfound patriotism for America, and his concern for the defense of Western civilization.

His spirit lives on in our efforts at IWP, and may his immortal soul rest in peace.

China may be going down the old Soviet path to disintegration

chinaThe repression of Chinese anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong is part of a political crackdown on scores of activists, journalists, and intellectuals.  This crackdown involves increased internet controls and a Marxist-Leninist ideological purification campaign for Chinese journalists on which I have commented earlier.

What is particularly fascinating about this new and predictable round of Chinese communist repression is that it has been accompanied by an official anti-corruption campaign organized by none other than Chinese Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping. This is uncannily reminiscent of the official Soviet reaction to corruption within the ranks of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

Effects of corruption in the USSR

In the Soviet case, this corruption was the tip of an iceberg of a much larger crisis — namely, a crisis of Party discipline.  It was this crisis that was one of the central reasons for the collapse of the communist enterprise in the Soviet Union.

What is the connection between this crisis and the Soviet collapse?

First of all, one must recognize that the CPSU had grown to be a massive bureaucratic monstrosity with over 20 million members.  Most of them were ideological workers — i.e., propagandists and agitators — and prefects, who were non-productive monitors of what productive activity was undertaken in the USSR in order to ensure conformity with the Party line.  The fundamental problem that had developed within this system was that orders issued from the top would suffer from erosion and ultimately would not be implemented efficiently or at all when they reached the lower and local levels.

This lack of discipline was partly a function of bureaucracy and partly the result of corruption.  The corruption, in turn, originated from the black market, which the Party had to tolerate because it was the only vehicle ensuring literally the physical survival of the labor force.  It was the only means by which acute shortages of goods and services could be filled — and this was done through the price mechanism.

The underground economy always existed within the USSR, even during the harshest periods of Stalinist repression.  Over time, the underground entrepreneurs, led by the mafia, gained ever greater influence and freedom of operation because of their success in bribing Party officials.  Eventually, those officials began to invest in illegal underground commercial ventures.

So, both these investments and the bribes meant that ever larger numbers of Party cadre were developing forms of self-interest that were at variance with the Party’s interest.  This was called a crisis of partiinost’ (Party-mindedness).

A crisis of Party discipline

By the time of the General Secretaryship of former KGB Chief Yuri Andropov, the Party leadership had recognized this crisis of discipline and had begun to initiate measures to combat it.  When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, he intensified these measures.  He conducted an ideological purification campaign of the Party membership.  He arrested and prosecuted 250,000 members of the Party and managerial elite for various types of corruption.  He conducted a massive crackdown on the underground economy, during which 800,000 underground entrepreneurs were arrested or fled their jobs for fear of arrest.

Gorbachev launched the glasnost’ campaign, which Soviet propaganda gave Westerners to believe was a campaign of increased openness, transparency, and even freedom of speech, when in fact, it was designed to encourage people to tattle on and denounce Party corruption.  The irony of this situation was that ordinary people took advantage of this campaign, exploiting a critical vulnerability of the Party state. This vulnerability grew out of the crisis in the Soviet military economy, which was unable to remain technologically competitive with the United States.

The only way the Party could remedy that military industrial crisis was to seek an economic bailout from the West.  But to do this, Gorbachev could not present himself and the Party as ruthless oppressors of their own people or active enemies of the West.  So, in one of the few such periods in Soviet history, there opened a window of opportunity for people to criticize the regime, denounce its corruption, and call for radical political change without the usual risk of being thrown into the Gulag.

Let us not be under any illusions, however.  Gorbachev was forced against his will into presenting both an image and a partial reality of liberalism.  But he did invade Lithuania.  His regime incited inter-ethnic conflicts in many of the Union republics as part of a divide-and-rule strategy.  The KGB spurred pogroms by Azeris against Armenians.  His armed forces invaded Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.  His goons used poison gas on freedom demonstrators in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and slaughtered them with sharpened military shovels.  Most of these ruthless measures remain unknown in the West, as they were overshadowed by Gorbachev’s charm campaign.

It is for this combination of reasons that close to a million people could take to the streets of Moscow to demonstrate for radical political change in 1991, putting immense pressure on the regime.

Corruption in China today

The Chinese communist regime has worked mightily to learn from, and avoid, a repetition of this Soviet experience.  It has attempted to make self interest compatible with Party membership as part of its controlled economic reforms, where most major enterprises are under the control of Party officials or People’s Liberation Army officers.

But there is no escaping the corrosive effects that corruption has on Party discipline and the social alienation that this corruption causes.  So long as there is this amazing level of corruption in the Chinese Party, the regime will continue to be the target of anti-corruption activists.  It will continue to suffer from pandemic civil disturbances — over 70,000 of these nationwide on an annual basis.  And it will continue to have to crack down on all of this.

The Chinese communists are riding a tiger that they may not be able to control.  The question for the United States is: should we continue to allow our trade with China to provide the regime with resources that help it survive such pressures?

Surprise! China still is a communist regime

Great Wall of ChinaA couple of days ago, the Washington Post reported the latest episode of an ongoing story about ideological control in the Chinese media.  This story should be — but is not — familiar to those who are hoping that economic growth in China will translate into political reform.  With regrettable regularity, the Chinese Communist Party cracks down on the Chinese news media.

The latest crackdown, which involves a sharp intensification of the Party’s efforts to control journalists — is designed to enforce political conformity in order to protect the Party’s monopoly on power.  The enforcement mechanism is Marxist-Leninist ideology.

In the last months of 2013, reporters from all across the country were compelled to attend Marxist ideological training sessions.  Meanwhile, Chinese journalism schools are being compelled to host Communist propaganda officials in senior management positions to ensure that the Party line is enforced in journalistic education.

It is not well understood in the West how an ideology can continue to be operational if most people don’t believe in most of its tenets.  It was well known in the last years of the Soviet empire that ideological fealty was in a state of decay.   On top of this, official Soviet propaganda endeavored to portray the USSR as a country where the ideology was effectively dead or obsolete.  Why?  Because if the USSR was no longer communist, then, by definition, it could no longer harbor unlimited global strategic objectives, including the radical political transformation of the United States.  In addition, if its strategic goals were now limited, then its limited desires could not only be accommodated, but it could be seen as much less of a threat.

For all of that Soviet propaganda, how, then, could one explain why longtime Soviet Politburo member and later Russian President Boris Yeltsin could describe Mikhail Gorbachev’s USSR as a “totalitarian” state?  What did Yeltsin know that few people in the West seemed to understand?  It was precisely this: That the ideology was installed as such an integral part of the Soviet system that people had to march according to its drumbeat, whether they believed in it or not.

The ideology was the key element of the internal security system of the state, setting the standard against which deviationism was measured.  It was the drum beating for the soldiers marching, and anyone who failed to conform with the tempo could be easily identified by the “sergeants” and appropriately punished.

What this means is that the Chinese Communist Party continues to use a totalitarian method.  What the Party requires is not even necessarily loyalty, but most importantly, submission.  It doesn’t care which, because both have the same operational result.

Marxism-Leninism also continues to be the legitimizing principle of the Party’s governing authority.  There is no other credible argument by which the Party can legitimize itself in power.  For illegitimate regimes, which rule without the consent of the governed, legitimacy is a very big deal.  In contrast, we in the West take it for granted.  But without legitimacy, a regime knows that it has a very big internal security problem.  Therefore the central fact of political life in China, just as it was in the USSR, is the regime’s fear of its own people and its fear of democratic ideas.

This is why China, as currently constituted as a Marxist-Leninist regime, will always see the United States as its greatest enemy.  This is not because of what we do, nearly so much as who we are and the ideas which we represent — ideas which offer a compelling alternative legitimizing principle that is a mortal threat to Chinese Communist internal security.

The desire to do business with this regime and its front companies is widespread in the United States, and it has produced a willful blindness about these ideological realities.  As China’s military buildup proceeds apace, and threatens the peace and stability in East Asia and potentially elsewhere in the world, as well as U.S. vital interests, we would do well to be more realistic about the ideological genetic code of the regime that considers itself in a cold war with the United States.

Remarks at the William J. Casey Centennial

On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, The Institute of World Politics and the Sophia and William Casey Foundation co-hosted The William J. Casey Centennial in honor of the 100th birthday of the late William J. Casey, former Director of Central Intelligence and father-in-law of IWP board chairman Owen Smith.

John Lenczowski begins speaking around the 33 minute mark, and discusses the Reagan administration’s dealings with the Soviet Union.

WSJ: William Clark, Freedom Fighter

William Clark, Freedom Fighter
The judge fought alongside Reagan in the long twilight struggle of the Cold War.
The Wall Street Journal
August 14, 2013
by John Lenczowski

When William P. Clark died on Saturday at age 81, his family and colleagues mourned his passing—and recognized that the world had lost one of its greatest champions of freedom.

Judge Clark, as he was known to one and all, served as a justice of the California Supreme Court from 1973 until 1981, and later as President Ronald Reagan’s deputy secretary of state, national security adviser and secretary of the interior. In his foreign-policy roles, Judge Clark became one of the figures outside the Soviet empire most responsible for its collapse and for the liberation of millions from the tyranny of communism.

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