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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 11. August 12, 1954

Natural Causes

Natural Causes

It was natural, if not inevitable, that the revolutionary movements of Asia in the thirties and forties should look to Communism for their pattern and inspiration. Beside the vast upheaval in Russia, the changes brought about by Social Democrats in Western Europe were insignificant. In any case, what Asian people wanted was not economic and constitutional reform by democratic procedures—this was in most instances quite meaningless—but drastic and swift action to overthrow the exploiting landowners and moneylenders, and to end their age old poverty and degradation. Western ideas had shown the possibility of a different sort of society; Russian experience, had shown how it could be brought about. The surprising thing is not that Communism is widespread in Asia, but that it is not more so. The absence of Western political freedom under Communism means nothing to millions who have never known, it, while the facts that in Russia the feudal landlords and capitalist owners have been overthrown, that illiteracy has been abolished, that industrialisation has preceded at an ever-increasing pace, and that the standard of living of the mass of the people has leaped ahead, these are what have counted in the eyes of the Asian peoples. I remember before the war meeting an Indian in Moscow. What struck him was not the drabness and the poverty, but the wealth and progress. The British, he said, had been in India for two centuries and had achieved nothing compared with the changes the Bolsheviks had brought about in two decades.

Nevertheless, the Communist movements in China and Indo-China followed distinctive policies of their own. In North Korea, under direct Russian control the situation was different, and the pattern was no doubt imposed from without, as it was In Eastern Europe. But it was neither the Red Army nor Russian backing Which brought success to the Communists in China and Indo-China, and in both cases Russian recognition only came after they had gained substantial success on their account. The Russians have shown an understandable, if possibly misguided, determination to establish puppet governments in the nearby countries to their West, and agreed to the partition of Korea rather than allow American influence and arms to reach the outskirts of Vladivostok. There Is little evidence that they made serious efforts to influence the destinies of countries beyond this perimeter, and the fact that Communist China and Viet Minh are now ranged alongside them Is probably due as much to Western as to Russian policy.

It is moreover a fallacy to suppose that because nations share a common form of government they are inevitably allies in war and peace. Self-interest is stronger than ideological unity. Fascist Spain remained neutral in the war, while Japan joined the Axis powers not out of sympathy with their political systems but in the hope of sharing their victory, Communist Yugoslavia is outside the Russian orbit, while capitalist Egypt can hardly be regarded as a dependable ally of the West.

The fact that Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh have followed political policies similar to though not identical with, those of Lenin and Stalin is no guarantee that Malenkov can count on them as loyal followers "through thick or thin, right or wrong." They have indeed, nothing to gain and much to lose through being involved in war outside their own territory Chinese intervention in the Korean war when western armies were on the Yalu river was not surprising: and it would have been understandable if the Chinese hud long ago participated in force in Indo-Chma, though it would not appear that they have kept out What is perhaps more significant is that Russia, despite her proximity to Korea, avoided entanglement in both wars She certainly supplied equipment to the North Koreans, as America did to the South, but as far as direct support went she has done much less than the Went has done for Syngman Rhee—or the Americans for Chiang Kai Shek Whether through fear of American tombs, or because of a determination to avoid a world war, the fact is that the has not set herself out to win the unconditional allegiance of Communist China or the Viet Minh