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The Past. The Revolution that was begun in 1917 by a handful of leather-coated working men and pallid intellectuals waving the red flag, by 1942 had congealed into a party government that has remained in power longer than any other major party in the world. It began under the leadership of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, on Marxist principles of a moneyless economy which challenged the right to accumulate wealth by private initiative.
The world reviled and caricatured the early Bolsheviks as bush-whiskered anarchists with a bomb in each hand. But Lenin, faced with hard facts and a war-beaten, superstitious, illiterate people, compromised with Marxism. Stalin, succeeding him, compromised still further, concentrated on building socialism in one state. Retained through the years of Russia's great upheaval was the basic conception that the ownership and operation of the means of production must be kept in the hands of the state.
Within Russia's immense disorderliness, Stalin faced the fundamental problems of providing enough food for the people and improving their lot through 20th-century industrial methods. He collectivized the farms and he built Russia into one of the four great industrial powers on earth. How well he succeeded was evident in Russia's world-surprising, strength in World War II. Stalin's methods were tough, but they paid off.
The Present. The U.S., of all nations, should have been the first to understand Russia. Ignorance of Russia and suspicion of Stalin were two things that prevented it. Old prejudices and the antics of U.S. Communists dangling at the end of the Party line were others. As Allies fighting the common enemy, the Russians have fought the best fight so far. As post-war collaborators, they hold many of the keys to a successful peace.
The two peoples who talk the most and scheme the biggest schemes are the Americans and the Russians. Both can be sentimental one moment, blazingly angry the next. Both spend their money freely for goods and pleasures, drink too much, argue interminably. Both are builders. The U.S. built mills and factories and tamed the land across a continent 3,000 miles wide. Russia tried to catch up by doing the same thing through a planned program that post-pioneer Americans would not have suffered. The rights as individuals that U.S. citizens have, the Russians want and believe they eventually will receive. Some of the discipline that the Russians have, the U.S. may need before the end of World War II.
The Future. In his 25th-anniversary speech Stalin emphasized that the most important event in foreign affairs, both for war and peace, was Allied collaboration. "We have the facts and events," he said, "pointing to a progressive rapprochement among the members of the Anglo-Soviet-American coalition and their uniting in a single fighting alliance." This was a frank approach to the post-war world, as realistically sensible as Stalin's expressed ideas on dealings with Germany. "Our aim," he said, "is not to destroy all armed force in Germany, because any intelligent man will understand that this is as impossible in the case of Germany as in the case of Russia. It would be unreasonable on the part of the victor to do so. To destroy Hitler's army is possible and necessary."