President Carter's reprisals against the Soviet Union for invading Afghanistan seem sure to increase the influence over life here of Russophile chauvinists in the Communist Party who have always warned that expanded Western contacts brought by detente could corrupt the Soviet masses.
This is the judgment of Western observers long familiar with the inner workings of totalitarian Russia and of Moscow intellectuals as well. Even as they applaud the president's response to the Kremlin for its intervention, these adventuresome dissidents are certain his actions have unreined the "darkest side of our ideology," as one Soviet put it.
In the eyes of Russian and Western sources, every Carter reprisal, from embargo of grain to cutback of scientific exchanges, to cancellation of trade, ironically adds power to hardline ideological voices in the inner councils of the ruling Communist Party Central Committee. "We back Carter because Soviet aggression must not be tolerated," said one elderly survivor of Stalin's camps who has faced intermittent secret police harrassment for his outspoken ways. "But we know what it means for us."
There is persuasive evidence that this man and others who make similar grim forecasts will be proven right. Most here who have commented in recent days on the complex question think the party will rely upon time-proven methods of repression, and xenophobic, chauvinistic propaganda to turn the reprisals to its internal advantage.
With complete control of all madia, the party has at its hands powerful means to influence the attitudes of the U.S.S.R.'s 263 million citizens. Already, Soviet television news shows have been converted to virtually non-stop anti-American programming, not seen here since the pre-detente years. n
The internal conditions are at hand for hard-line zealots to strengthen their voices in the affairs of party and people, created in part by the unusual access to Western goods and "corruptive bourgeois" Western ways of thinking that came with the expanded trade and cultural ties of the detente era of the 1970s.
For 63 years, Communist Party doctrine and propaganda have honed and limited the instincts of this country's rulers and people into two fixed points in a turbulent world: self-sacrifice and ideological vigilance to preserve the embattled Soviet state, and the eventual triumph of communism throughout the globe.
While detente brought a sense of political accommodation with the West and greatly expanded contracts, the Soviets barely relaxed their internal controls, warning their people repeatedly to beware the taint of corruptive bourgeois ideas, watching carefully for unauthorized friendships, stifling dissenters.
Nevertheless, ideological fervor sagged noticeably during those years. The West hailed this as evidence of the liberalizing impact of trade, cultural exchanges, tourism and communications, but the Soviet leadership sent many signals in recent years of alarm and dismay. Last year alone there were major directives from the party for increased ideological fervor and eradication of crime.
That these ideological concepts reflect historic traditions of totalitarian government, Slavophile fear of outsiders and Russian expansionist aspirations has fascinated Western students of the Soviet state since is founding. But the historic roots of Communist ideology make it no less potent today than during the early days of the revolution. The Central Committee edict on ideology of last May 6 gives the flavor of this fire-and-brimstone preaching:
"It is necessary to act in a most resolute way to expose the imperialist advocates of the cold war, the exacerbation of international tension and the arms race . . . to disclose the antipoplar, inhumane essence of present-day capitalism, the predatory nature of neocolonialist policy and the true face of the hypocritical defenders of 'right' and 'freedoms.'
"Molding in Soviet people of a scientific world view, selfless devotion to the party's cause and Communist ideals, love for the socialist fatherland and proletarian internationalism has been and continues to be the core of ideological and political upbringing work."
Extravagant language is as much a part of the Soviet mentality as stealth and self-interest. But were the passages written seven months ago simply empty rantings or gut-level conviction?
The Soviet people are now being told that President Carter is a advocate of the cold war, that U.S. and Chinese imperialists sought to undermine fraternal Marxist Afghanistan, and that the grain embargo unmasks capitalism's inhuman nature. And the propagandists are recalling the years when Western powers sought to unhorse the communists by economic sanction and blockade of the "socialist fatherland."
From the hard-liners' persepctive, every Western reprisal that results in less trade, less meat, or fewer contacts can be offset by the opportunity for appeals for sacrifice and implanting still deeper in the Soviet psyche the concept of the embattled nation, strengthening the role of the party and quelling disgruntlement.
The grain embargo provides an example of the effects of the American reprisals inside the country. Many Russophiles have sharpened their private criticism over the years of the leadership's willingness to trade Russia's precious raw materials like gold and oil for hard currency to buy grain and technology in the West.
"There may be several difficult years ahead for the U.S.S.R., but we must guarantee our own production of agriculture," commented one source. "Even if the international climate improves again, the U.S.S.R. will never place such massive orders for grain. Now the country saves its hard currency, and the fact that people will be fed worse doesn't bother the Soviet authorities. Deliveries of meat to the party bosses will not be cut back."
Meanwhile the party will tell the people that new shortages are part of life for an embattled country.
The leadership's nervousness over consumer discontent was one reason the Kremlin began major efforts to improve meat supplies in the aftermath of the Polish food riots of 1970 and again in 1976.
To further reduce causes for discontent, the party also has allowed a sizeable "second market" and black market to flourish, in which most items unavailable through official channels can be obtained through bribes, favors, and theft. It is thought here that if the consumer situation worsens markedly, these activities will be allowed to increase to relieve the pressure. m
Meanwhile, Western sources and Soviets alike predict that the most visible sign of internal tightening will be a reduction in the number of Soviet Jews allowed to emigrate. In pursuit of U.S. trade concessions that never materialized and now have been put on indefinite suspension, the Soviets cleared a record number of more than 50,000 Jews for Israel and the West in 1979.
"The incentive has disappeared and the tap undoubtedly will close at least part way," said one Western source. So far, there has been no sign of this in the first weeks of the new year.
Further clampdown on dissident activities also seems likely. Amnesty International, the London-based world human rights organization, said yesterday the Soviets have arrested more than 30 human rights activists in the past three months in what most here see as a pre-Olympic drive to cleanse the country and reduce possible foreign contact with dissidents.
In other areas of intellectual life, such as the arts, liberal-minded artists have increasingly identified their foes in recent months as chauvinist Slavophiles who damn experimenters for flirting with poisonous Western art forms.Much of the response to the "Metropol" almanac group's challenge to hidden censorship was formulated in these terms within the powerful Writer's Union, which refused to admit as members two young Metropol contributors.
"It has been our experience," said one Soviet activist recently, "that after an invasion the authorities crack down." He was realilling the aftermath of his 1968 Soviet move into Czechoslovakia.