On the Horizon: The Litvinov
The “diaries of Maxim Litvinov” reveal once again how compatible Soviet, or Stalinist, sympathies are with a furtive kind of…
BERTRAM D. WOLFE / AUG. 1, 1956
Sometime in 1952 or early 1953, Gregory Bessedovsky, a former Soviet diplomat resident in Paris, approached officials of various governments and representatives of publishing houses with a manuscript purporting to be the diary of Maxim Litvinov, who had died in 1951. At the suggestion of a high official of the British Foreign Office, a British publisher, André Deutsch, asked the historian Edward Hallett Carr to investigate the manuscript’s authenticity. After reading the Russian typescript, Professor Carr encouraged Deutsch to go ahead with the book, and undertook to go to Paris himself for further checking. There he picked up the following trail: Gregory Bessedovsky, the man offering the manuscript for sale, said he had gotten it from a Mr. X, a Russian businessman in Paris (“politically colorless”), who had gotten it from a Mr. Y resident in Stockholm, who had gotten it from the late Alexandra Kollontay, then Russian ambassadress to Sweden, who had gotten it from Litvinov himself. Mr. X proved of no interest; Mr. Y refused to come to Paris or to meet Professor Carr in Stockholm, but consented to answer written questions “given to Bessedovsky.”
Professor Carr wrote an interim report giving it as his conclusion that the manuscript “has a prima facie claim to be regarded as authentic, and a serious historical document.” If Mr. Y should answer his written questions satisfactorily, Carr declared, he would be willing to write a signed introduction and supply notes. If not, he still thought the diary should be published, would give Deutsch help and advice, but would withhold the use of his name. Carr received satisfactory answers, wrote an introduction, and either prepared or gave advice on the preparation of notes.
It was at this point that the writer of these lines was brought into the affair by an American publisher as Professor Carr had been brought in by the British house. The publisher, whose name does not matter, since he ultimately decided against publication, received a microfilm of the Russian typescript, a history of the manuscript thus far, and a copy of the Carr interim report.
The microfilm showed one hundred sheets typewritten in Russian, with not a single alteration or correction in handwriting. At one point there did appear, however, a hand-drawn Chinese character, of which more later. The entries were scrappy and disjointed. Many were fragments of sentences ending with three dots. Some entries bore a date, usually only a year, or a year and one or more months. Page 1 of the microfilm began with what is now the second entry in the book; the first entry was somehow added later. The microfilm began with “May-June, 1926” and ended vaguely in 1936, forming about three-quarters of the book as it now appears. I was subsequently to learn that this same 100-frame microfilm had been sold earlier to a government official as the “complete diary.”
I had long known that Litvinov was secretly alienated from Stalin by the blood purges of the 1930’s, which had claimed all his chief assistants and intimates in the Soviet Foreign Office and its embassies, and only narrowly missed Litvinov himself. Another diplomat whom I knew to be deeply disaffected had been Alexandra Kollontay. At the end of World War II, Litvinov had tried to hint to one of our high officials that America was engaging in dangerous appeasement of Soviet demands which might later lead to another war. When the official failed to take the hint, Litvinov had braved death to call in Richard C. Hottelet, one of our most respected journalists and commentators, and using scarcely veiled “Aesopian language,” he had made the warning more explicit. I know that Hottelet had told American diplomatic officers, but had honorably refrained from publishing his “scoop,” until natural death, that most unnatural of deaths for an Old Bolshevik, had put Litvinov out of danger. With this background in mind, I approached the diary with eagerness and a predisposition to believe in its authenticity.
The opening pages were not reassuring. They began with the first of a series of visits from a rabbi named Schechtman, who comes to Litvinov as one Jew to another to complain that the League of the Godless had looted two synagogues and arrested the rabbi of Kiev on charges of currency speculation. Litvinov promises to intervene, although he knows that “Koba [Stalin] doesn’t like me to interfere in questions concerning the Jewish religion.” The last time he tried to help non- or anti-Bolshevik Jews, Stalin “threatened to bring the matter to the attention of the Central Control Commission. . . . I couldn’t help smiling at the threat; Soltz, the head of the C.C.C., is the son of the rabbi of Vilna.”
Thus the opening passage presented Litvinov as a philo-Semitic Jew, ready to defend any and every Jew against his government and his party. The same un-Communist Jewish solidarity is attributed to the fanatical head of the Central Control Commission, Soltz. Actually, both Litvinov and Soltz had rejected their Jewish heritage in their youth. Their Jewish origin tended to make them more rather than less hostile toward religious and anti-Communist Jews. But such passages, in which all Jews in the Communist camp are portrayed as holding with each other and with non- and anti-Communist Jews against the party, are scattered through the diary. The Jewish Kaganovich gives it as his opinion that “all Jewish members of the party should be Trotsky’s declared and convinced enemies.” In the late 20’s Litvinov is portrayed as getting interested (because “as a Jew he had no right to refuse assistance”) in protecting Zionists in Russia from persecution, arrest, and deportation to Siberia. In actual fact, Zionism was outlawed as early as 1919, and all known Zionists were either dead or in Siberia before the diary opens. I realized that I was dealing with something which I have frequently met in French boulevard “revelations”: the “international Jewish conspiracy,” the myth of a Jewish solidarity overriding all political and other differences.
I opened my report to the American publisher with this observation. He in turn sent it to the British publisher, who may or may not have forwarded it to Bessedovsky and Carr. At any rate, when the book appeared, none of these passages was excised, but the first journal entry on Schechtman had mysteriously become the second journal entry. Professor Carr, who writes that the “problem of authenticity was further complicated after my return to London by the receipt of another instalment . . . the whole section from 1937 onward,” has nothing to say about a new first entry, except to observe that “the conversation with Trotsky and Yoffe in 1926 with which the Journal opens . . . shows an intimate knowledge of party affairs.”
Without stopping to check, I read the microfilm through from end to end, but could not find so much as a line that was in Litvinov’s style. To be sure, he was never much of a writer or theoretician, but we have from his pen and tongue a multitude of speeches, prepared and extempore, interviews with the press, articles, pamphlets, reminiscences, memoranda, diplomatic and semi-diplomatic notes, open letters, political letters, purely personal letters. The style in all of these is distinguished by direotness, simplicity bordering on artlessness, frankness and explicitness insofar as creed, overriding instructions, and special pleading permitted. And always there was a sort of workman-like clarity. Not a line in all these hundred microfilm pages (or in the material which bobbed up later), not even by imitation or accident, was in Maxim Litvinov’s public or private style. Not a hint of his showmanship and public triumphs at Geneva, in Washington, or at the League of Nations. Litvinov once remarked: “The idea of collective security, the formulation, ‘peace is indivisible,’ and the definition of aggression and the aggressor, are perhaps my contribution to the abstract science of peace.” When he advanced these “contributions” they were part of the fraudulent peace campaigns of the Soviet Union, but that he had increasingly come to believe in them as his contribution to his country and his time is proved by his hazardous interview with Richard Hottelet. With false pathos, as the diary draws to a close, its author writes: “All my life is in these notes . . . And my work . . . Some day history will pass its judgment. . .” Yet there is nothing in the diary of that which Litvinov had come to feel was his life’s real contribution.
In his introduction, Professor Carr suggests that the “conspicuous incoherence of the document, and the abrupt changes of mood and style, are perhaps an argument in its favor.” “It is difficult,” he adds, “to avoid the hypothesis that at least two hands have been at work on the document.” But the question remains whether there is any reason for believing that either of these hands was Litvinov’s. If style is the man, then somewhere, either by studied imitation or by accident, the man Litvinov should appear in these pages.
Then whose hand, or hands, had written it? Whose style or touch might be recognized? Available to me were the same clues as were available to Professor Carr, except that I could not interview Bessedovsky or Mr. X, or write to Mr. Y. So the search led me to a study of the writings of Gregory Bessedovsky, who had left the service of the Soviets some twenty-five years before.
I began with the peculiar fact that on page 11 of the microfilm, the diarist had taken the trouble to draw a Chinese ideograph. Litvinov knew no Chinese; drawing or brushing in ideographs is a complicated business—more incredible is it still to remember a single ideograph’s form from the year 1926 to the time when the diary was dictated or typed. According to the diary, Karakhan, Soviet Ambassador to China, was ignorant of Chinese despite his vainglorious pretensions to the contrary. Mao Tsetung is pictured as having been in Moscow in 1926 (there is ample proof that he was not) in order to consult with Russian leaders. He delivers an address in halting Russian, and when he gets stuck, draws a Chinese ideograph to represent the word “eloquence,” whereupon Karakhan volunteers the translation “wooden mouth.”
On page 141 of Bessedovsky’s Revelations of a Soviet Diplomat (London, 1931), the author writes that during the year 1927 while he was in Japan he studied the Japanese language. Japanese has the same written characters as Chinese. “Every day I learned a half dozen hieroglyphs.” On page 149, he tells how he made a laughable mistake owing to a confusion of ideographs, which led him to address a prince as “your imperial electricity” when he meant to say “your imperial highness.” This was the clue I was looking for, and it led me to additional discoveries, of which I cite only a few:
1. On pages 42-43 Litvinov makes an estimate of the Soviet diplomat Dogalevsky. The passage is an adaptation of page 163 of Bessedovsky.
2. On page 42, Litvinov notes the “filthy habits” (now translated “bad habits”) of his chief Chicherin, who works all night, plays piano at every hour of the day or night, makes Litvinov come to see him at two in the morning, and is then playing Chopin. It is highly improbable that as late as May 1926, Litvinov would have noted Chicherin’s habits in one of his first diary entries, for he would have been familiar with them for years, as was everyone who dealt with Chicherin. But it is less unnatural that Bessedovsky should mention them in his first reference to Chicherin, whose habits he knew only from gossip. Actually pages 16-17 of the Journal are an adaptation of Bessedovsky, pages 93-95. Moreover, the diary has Litvinov say: “Chopin is his favorite, and he has no use for any other composer. . . .” The real Litvinov would have known that Chicherin’s favorite composer was Mozart.
3. There is a peculiarly disproportionate amount of attention given to trivial scandals in a few of the world’s capitals, almost always heard about from a third party, just as some minor official in any foreign service might have heard about them. Certain capitals are the subject of frequent allusions and detailed gossip, while others, no less important, are never even mentioned. Places that unaccountably attracted the diarist’s interest for a certain period abruptly stop being referred to. For a space there are trivia from Warsaw, where Bessedovsky held a minor post in the Russian embassy from September 1923 to October 1925. The dates of the reports Litvinov receives from and about “Viktor” (Viktor Kopp) in Japan coincide with those of Bessedovsky’s own year there, and the material resembles pages 131-35 and 137-40 of Bessedovsky’s book. Litvinov receives news from Harbin that danger threatens Soviet possession of the Chinese-Eastern railway. Bessedovsky’s book reveals that he was in Harbin at the end of 1927 “to see what was happening in the territory of the Chinese-Eastern railroad, and to have some conversations with its Soviet staff.”
4. Before his defection Bessedovsky spent some time in the Soviet embassy in Paris under Dogalevsky. The details on Dogalevsky’s life, appearance, and ways given in the diary, of Rakovsky’s difficulties in Paris, the circumstances of his recall, and all the revelations about the “Athenian nights,” the “orgies” and the moral lapses of Soviet officials in Paris are closely paralleled in Bessedovsky’s book. By a suggestive coincidence, Litvinov’s interest in this or another foreign capital and his knowledge of the underworld aspects of Soviet diplomatic life there and of the life of that capital’s statesmen coincide in point of time with Bessedovsky’s stay in that place, and seem to fade when Bessedovsky moves on. After Bessedovsky’s break with the Soviet Foreign Office, the diary, to quote Professor Carr, “becomes markedly inferior in interest.”
5. In various parts of the diary there is talk of the Soviet ambassador to Japan, Viktor Kopp, of a quarrel about moral derelictions, and the need to recall Kopp. This is a reworking of Bessedovsky, pages 131-35. But at this point, Litvinov’s otherwise perfect memory for names fails him. Writes Litvinov: “To Tokyo has been appointed a quite young worker from the Ukraine, a member of the Ukrainian Central Executive. What a strange idea to send as a diplomat to Japan a Ukrainian.” I looked up the name of the Ukrainian. It was—Gregory Bessedovsky!
6. The diary is unusually tireless in its repeating of first name and patronymic every time a personage is mentioned. With Jews the diarist observes a special procedure which is totally un-Russian, setting down only their patronymics without their first names: thus Lev Davidovich Trotsky is called Davidovich, and Adolf Abramovich Yoffee is called Abramovich. Unlike other diarists, Litvinov does not resort to initials even on the tenth mention of a name, but on page 68, there is another singular failure to give a name at all: “The new chargé d’affaires to Paris received instructions directly from Koba. That is monstrous. . . .” The name of the chargé d’affaires turns out to be Bessedovsky! He tells his story of his direct interview with Koba-Stalin on pages 190-92 of his own book.
This coyness about the name of Bessedovsky seems to be contagious. In his interim report, Professor Carr wrote to André Deutsch, “I have had two long meetings with Bessedovsky.” But in his introduction to the book, Professor Carr writes: “I visited Paris—in an attempt to obtain detailed and accurate information about the manuscript’s provenance. According to statements made to me. . . .” The name of Bessedovsky has again disappeared! Since in the supposed chain of “provenance” whereby the manuscript of the diary reached the publisher’s hand there are only three people whose real names are given, and since two of them, Litvinov and Kollontay, were dead, one would have expected Carr at least to put the reader on notice that a man named Bessedovsky had played the key role in the transmission of the manuscript, and in vouching for its authenticity. More particularly since Bessedovsky had been the agent for another dubious manuscript, My Uncle Joseph Stalin, by Budu Svanidze, the foreword to whose American and British editions was written by him. In that foreword Bessedovsky vouched for the identity of Budu Svanidze and the authenticity of his book, but Boris Souvarine was able to show that Budu Svanidze had never existed.
To make matters still worse, Professor Carr a few pages later (page 14) actually uses the Russian edition of Bessedovsky’s own memoirs, from which I have been quoting, to demonstrate the truthfulness of a dubious passage in the diaries! Professor Carr has been less than candid with his readers—to put it mildly—in concealing the chief name in the chain of “provenance” of the supposed Litvinov diary, but when he uses Bessedovsky’s Na Putyakh k Termidory to silence doubts that may be aroused in the reader’s mind by a passage it contains on Benes, I prefer not to try to qualify his procedure.
If in every line of the Journal there are things which the real Litvinov could not have thought or said, on every page there are absurdities and tokens of an ignorance which a man so highly placed as he could not have been guilty of. Professor Carr cites a few of these boners to suggest that “at least two hands” composed the diary, but he by no means cites the most ridiculous and impossible of them. Here we shall have to content ourselves with a random sampling.
There is Zoya Mossina, to whom more space is devoted than to Roosevelt, Bullitt, Hull, Welles, Herriot, Blum, and all the other statesmen Litvinov knew, put together. A character straight out of a scandal sheet, she is represented as the secretary of the Communist cell in the Soviet Commissariat of Foreign Relations. On page 44 she has the cell compel Litvinov to give classes in English to the members of the Foreign Office. On page 46-47, Yagoda, the dread acting head of the secret police, orders the hairdresser’s shop in the Foreign Commissariat to close because people talk too much in barber chairs, and there may be leaks. Mossina gets Stalin to overrule Yagoda to protect “socialist competition among the hairdressers.” On pages 152 ff. Zoya is running for re-election. There is a real campaign, balloting, stuffed ballot boxes, etc., etc. Placards on the wall accuse Zoya of “encouraging abortions.” The Politburo tries to defeat her, but she gets re-elected anyhow. Molotov intervenes, and finally Stalin, who sends Zoya off to a concentration camp. Stalin’s wife, Alliluyeva, who, it is suggested on pages 169-70, seems to be having a Lesbian affair with Zoya, tries to get her out, and failing, commits suicide.
This is a fair picture of the level of most of the inside historical information in the diary. Kalinin impresses Ambassador Davies with his homespun quality (“. . . he was priceless . . . he even picked his nose to show his peasant origins”). A foreign ambassador is seduced by ballerinas who are Cheka operatives and “Yezhov [chief of the secret police] listens in himself (through a bedroom microphone)—the ambassador yelps like a rabbit when he enjoys himself with our ballerinas. . . . so far the only case of collaboration of the NKVD and the capitalist world. . . .” Top party leaders who are about to be “confessed” and purged are brought to Yezhov’s office with their wives, who are undressed and when naked are threatened with rape by Yezhov’s special agent for raping, an ugly, hunchbacked, and syphilitic giant. They are softened by a sample raping, in the presence of Yezhov and his victims, of the eighteen-year-old daughter of one of the arrested party leaders. Bubnov has his son baptized, and Kaganovich has his circumcised. Litvinov was always opposed to the split between Bolsheviks and Social Democrats and there would have been world socialist unity had it not been for the “fanaticism of his [Lenin’s] crazy scrap with Adler, Kautsky, Renner, Renaudel.” (This “scrap,” as both the author of the diary and the historian who introduces it could have ascertained, was about the proper socialist attitude toward World War I and Litvinov himself wrote letters and reports boasting of his role in bringing about the split at a wartime conference he attended as Lenin’s emissary.)
The most deplorable feature of this compendium of trivia, absurdity, and salacious backstairs gossip is that it is solemnly provided with all the externals of scholarship: an introduction by a historian of repute, appendices, a bibliography of Litvinov’s works, and innumerable footnotes. Typical of the use of these last is the following passage from the body of the text:
“Koba has a new passion: the sister. . . . There are rumors about young . . . [who shares this new passion’s sexual favors with Koba]. If Koba found out there would be a tragedy. He is temperamentally unable to share anything. . . . Budyenny was simply a drunken n.c.o. when he killed his wife. . . . Koba is different. . . . If Alliluyeva keeps up her scenes in public he may. . . .”
Here a footnote re Budyenny is appended: “Budyenny, Semen Mikhailovich, Marshal, leading Soviet cavalry expert, Commissar for Defence in 1940.”
Again we learn that “Koba’s liaison with the actress was broken off after he had been told of her amorous adventures in Tiflis with Kinkhadze.” To which a footnote is appended: “Kinkhadze. Chief of Georgian heavy industry, then Foreign Minister of Georgia.” When Litvinov is rusticated, he describes his wooden house as having a cock on the roof, to which is appended the footnote: “Cock on the Roof. Common form of decoration on peasant houses in Russia. Originates from an old superstition that the cock chases away evil spirits.” Such are the uses of scholarship.
There are three questions of real importance touched on in the diary: the purges of the 1930’s, the Chinese Revolution, and the secret relations the Red Army had with the Reichswehr before Hitler.
About the purges Litvinov knows nothing. He hears gossip from third parties, gets the dates of trials and executions wrong, worries about the Jews among the victims, and the possible rape of his daughter by the NKVD’s rape specialist. His diary tells us much less than any hitherto published account, and what it does tell is trivial and poverty-stricken invention.
On the Reichswehr, about which Litvinov could have told much that is still secret, we get an absurd debate with himself as to whether to “withdraw” General Freiherr Kurt von Hammerstein from active service in Germany because “we need a military adviser in Mongolia. We will pay him in Tsarist style even though we are Bolsheviks. We will satisfy the imperial Reichsofficer.” Actually, at that moment Hammerstein was nothing less than Chief of Staff of the Third Command of the German Army. A little later he was made Deputy Chief of Staff of the entire Reichswehr. Even if he were a secret agent, is it likely that Russia would have withdrawn him from that key position? And even if he were paid “in Tsarist style,” it is hard to picture Hammerstein giving up such a post to go to Mongolia.
On the Chinese Revolution, all the dates are wrong, often by several years. All the Chinese leaders in the public eye today are made top men back in 1926-7 when in actual fact they were mere underlings; and everything is drowned in the usual brew of silly gossip. I have documented this elsewhere and will limit myself here to one major bit of “inside” misinformation.
As the diary opens, on “the third Saturday in May” of 1926 (one of the few exact dates given in the entire book), the Russians are conferring in Moscow with Mao Tsetung, Chu Teh, and Li Tachao on how “to get rid of Chiang Kaishek either physically or politically.” Here we have a whole crowded nest of anachronisms. Mao Tsetung, though already a second-string Communist, was still a minor Kuomintang official in Yunnan; his association with Chu Teh was still several years away; all three of them were outranked by many Chinese Communist leaders later to be purged; we know the real names of the Chinese leaders who were in Moscow for consultation in 1926. Chu Teh was there, but Mao was not. More important, Chiang Kaishek was then Moscow-backed, and the hope of all the Russian Communist leaders. His armies did not yet control all China, but held only one province out of eighteen. The chief Soviet concern was to back him to the limit in order to enable him to begin what was to become his famous sweep to the north. Litvinov pictures Stalin as wanting to destroy Chiang at that time, although he controlled only one out of China’s eighteen provinces, because Stalin had to assume a “false revolutionary pose” under the pressure of “attacks by Radek and Trotsky.”
Actually, we have two speeches on the “Chinese question” by Stalin in 1926, and they contain no hint of his future “revolutionary pose.” He rebukes a young disciple named Mif, not an oppositionist, for proposing Soviets for the Chinese peasants, and he calls for “support of the Canton Army, inspired by an idea, the idea of the struggle against imperialism, heartened by the passion which will bring about the emancipation of China” and overwhelm “the counter-revolutionary Northern armies.” Finally, there was no disagreement or opposition criticism for another year on this score, so that in 1927 Stalin could remind his critics that “you too supported and were in full agreement with this tactic and your criticism is an afterthought.”
Professor Carr tells us that if this diary is a forgery, its “motive is commercial, not political . . . the author appears as in many respects ambivalent in his judgments, and in particular in his attitude to Stalin. This gives the document, whether genuine or not, a certain value for the historian.”
The first purpose of the forgery mill for “inside” books on Russia that has its headquarters in France and branches in England, Germany, the United States, and perhaps other countries, is undoubtedly to make money. When we total up the number of first serializations, and publications in France, England, Germany, more rarely in the United States, Italy, and Latin America, and the substantial sums paid by American magazines for options which, after investigation, they generally do not exercise, I am convinced that the industry is profitable. But I fail to comprehend why a forgery is any more valuable to the historian because its motive is profit, and its forged passages, whether through laziness or design, are “ambivalent.”
Actually, the forgeries have a political function too, though that is harder to pin down. On the surface, all these “revelations” designed to fill the vacuum left by Soviet secrecy appear to be anti-Soviet. They are that in a vulgar, prurient, scandal-sheet fashion: full of orgies, lechery, deeds of sadistic cruelty, international Jewish conspiracies, and evidence that the Soviet leadership need not be taken seriously. But virtually all this material, and the Litvinov “diary” no less than the other items, serves a directly opposite aim when it comes to certain large issues. The real cruelties and orgies always concern subordinates, particularly those already dead, whereas, despite a certain capriciousness, Stalin turns out to be a tower of strength, a man of foresight, a good father, a good Georgian, husband, or uncle, a simple lover of Georgian foods, wines, songs, a man who knows the masses as no other Soviet leader, and the posssessor of various other average citizen’s qualities which tend to normalize and humanize the total state and its late dictator. All the great black mysteries of his life are cleared up. Rudzutak is purged for moral reasons; Stalin does not know just whom Yezhov is to arrest next and even Stalin has to give in to him; Stalin shows concern for Piatakov in his illness and sends him honey, so that if Piatakov was purged there must have been good reason; Benes really deserved his fate at the time of the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, since he himself wrote a letter, “unfortunately proved genuine,” which showed that he was “anti-Soviet,” for in it he “claimed that he could bring about a coup d’état in Moscow”; the Soviet generals really did plot to betray Russia to Hitler, and it is suggested that their purge, which Litvinov places in the wrong year, headed off a military coup; Rosengoltz confesses to Litvinov his own, Smilga’s, and Piatakov’s guilt; the Stalin-Hitler pact is justified in a half dozen separate places, although the “ambivalent” Litvinov was dead against it; in fact his “ambivalence” always ends with his testifying that Stalin was much wiser than he; in short, “this man has nerves of steel . . . is what our country and our age need . . . is a cynic but his knowledge of the masses is undeniable . . . is wiser than us all . . . slept under the same roof with the people whom Ilyich idealized . . . knows what is good for them . . . and for Russia.”
It will be instructive to watch what the apocryphal-revelations industry in Paris will make of Khrushchev’s downgrading of Stalin, which calls into question the justice of his purges, the correctness of the Stalin-Hitler pact, and the other strokes of Stalin’s genius. The first fruits would appear to be a story in a Paris newspaper, France-Soir, on June 11 of this year, telling of a “still more secret speech” of Khrushchev’s than the one already known. Date-lined Vienna, “but almost certainly from another source . . . its authenticity cannot be questioned although it was completely unknown until today.” It deals characteristically with Stalin’s “veritable erotomania” in his last years: Beria picked girls for him “of more and more tender years,” and Stalin, after shooting his wife, strangled her. The final section of this second super-secret report is occupied with a “new analysis of the foreign and domestic policies” adopted by Stalin’s heirs, but otherwise France-Soir gives no details on the non-erotic section of Khrushchev’s second report. For the moment, politics is out.
The third, and to my way of thinking, most important role played by this species of literature, at least in France, where it is a booming business, is that by a sort of literary and historical Gresham’s Law, these spicy, disjointed, bemusing concoctions tend to drive out of circulation truly serious studies on the nature of the Soviet system. Statesmen who will not labor to master Stalin’s “Mein Kampf” any more than they did Hitler’s, take Litvinov’s “diaries” on their airplane journeys to conferences with the Russians and recommend them to subordinates as a means of understanding the real nature of the Soviet system. This sort of thing is easier to write than serious Soviet studies—and easier to read. Professor Carr finds the present volume “the most sensational of its kind yet published.” He feels that it “makes a useful contribution to our understanding of the conditions in which Soviet policy was framed and conducted in these years and of the attitude of those concerned.” The answer to this is best put in the words of the historian who reviewed the book for the Times Literary Supplement of September 9, 1955: “This book adds to our understanding of Soviet affairs and of Litvinov’s personality about as much as a forged banknote adds to our wealth.”
1 Notes for a Journal, by Maxim Litvinov. Introduction by E. H. Carr. London: André Deutsch, 303 pp., 18s. American edition, Introduction by E. H. Carr and Prefatory Note by General Walter Bedell Smith. William Morrow, 347 pp., $3.75.
2 The three dots (. . .) do not represent omissions by the present writer, but are in the microfilm and text as published.
3 The ideograph itself has been omitted from the published version of Notes for a Journal, but the reference to it can be found on pages 36–37.
4 See Bulletin de l’Association d’Etudes et d’Informations Politiques Internationales, May 1953, Nos. 88 and 89.
5 The New Leader (New York), August 1, 1955.
- Bertram D. Wolfe. The Case of the Litvinov Diary. Encounter, January 1956, pp. 39-47. // www.unz.org. voiks