THE SOVIET SYNDROME by Alain BesanÇon

THE SOVIET SYNDROME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this short theoretical piece French historian Alain BesanÇon formulates yet another catchall ""model"" analysis of Soviet policy. In BesanÇon's scheme, oscillation between the ""War Communism"" discipline of the Russian Civil War and the ""New Economic Policy"" (NEP) relaxation of the brief economic recovery that followed, has become an enduring ""syndrome"" in Soviet domestic and foreign policy. The result is a state that ""is neither a tyranny nor a true despotism,"" but a ""logocracy"" based upon ""pseudoreality"" that retains only the ""verbal substance"" of its original Marxist ideology. What are the consequences of the ""syndrome"" for the West? According to BesanÇon, the Soviets are now moving away from detente (""NEP"") towards a harsher (""War Communism"") foreign policy. Meanwhile, says he, the West is enervated by profitless attempts to ascribe familiar motivations to the Soviets. BesanÇon laconically advises that the Soviets can be countered only through ""unremitting asceticism and effort."" Throughout his arguments BesanÇon fails to flesh out his theories by explaining how and by whom decisions are made. He exhibits a propensity towards extreme statements: collective farms are ""slave plantations"" and, he avers, ""not one single medicine, not one single useful consumer product, has been invented in the USSR during the past sixty years."" Sometimes BesanÇon's ""syndrome"" model is thought-provoking, more often it is merely a cyclical interpretation of history in a new guise.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich