Publication: The Economist

Full Citation

  • Title Catalytic Cracking
  • Publication Title The Economist
  • Collection The Economist
  • Date Saturday,  July 6, 1963
  • Volume 208
  • Issue Number 6254
  • Page Number 13
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Editorial
  • Publication Section Opinion and Editorial
  • Source Library The Economist Newspaper Limited
  • Copyright Statement © The Economist Newspaper Limited.
Catalytic Cracking The problem of breaking away from rigidity without imperilling strength is common to both East and West EADING the latest speeches of Mr Kennedy and Mr R-Khrushchev. an otherwise uninformed person might have difficulty in visualising the two men as seriously groping for each other's hands. In east Berlin on Tuesday. lhe Soviet leader assailed the President's speeches made last week in the other half of that city as having -poisoned the already poisoned atmosphere.o On the same day Mr Kennedy. before leaving Naples for home. made a speech which he described as a review of his findings and feelings at the end of his European tour. and in which the main insistence was on western strength and unity. He assured his audience that no ally will abandon the interests of another to achieve a spurious detente.o Mr Khrushchev. who had come to Berlin to prop up Herr Ulbricht. now a septuagenarian. with very similar assurances. was meanwhile accusing the West of bad faith in negotiation for disarmament. and seemingly slamming the door on all progress toward that goal by reviling the whole idea of international inspection. which he once more equated with espionage. He spoke still of peaceful co- existence- but many of his east German listeners must have had fresh in their minds his long speech to his own central committee. delivered on June 21st but published only on June 29th. in which he anathematised any and every tendency to coexistence in the realm of ideas. Certainly. readiness to negotiate was a theme common to both sides. But the sceptic has not far to look for evidence that would seem to confirm his doubts whether serious dealing is intended. The trail of communiques that the President left round Europe insisted that interest continued in the project for a mixed-manned Nato nuclear force-a project Mr Khrushchev denounced on Tuesday as a mere mask for the dissemination of nuclear arms. In the past fortnight positions of apparently flat deadlock between East and West have been restated or newly reached not only over Berlin. but also on such issues as Laos and the financing of the United Nations. And the current crop of revelations and allegations about espionage can hardly be said to have left no mark on the perspective for East-West negotiation. But communiques-like spy trials-illuminate only certain 1)-levels of truth. One outcome of the President's European journey is that the mixed-manned force project is not likely to be thrust under Mr Khrushchev's twitching nose for some time. Another is that Mr Kennedy has. if not reduced. at least circumscribed General de Gaulle's power of veto over western bids for an accommodation with Russia. And those who have analysed the whole pattern of the public statements and private talks comprised in the presidential tour of Europe are left in little doubt that it is Mr Kennedy's sincere and firm intention to keep the line to Moscow open-and to use it meaningfully. The talks on a nuclear test ban for which Mr Harriman and Lord Hailsham are due in Moscow on July 15-th are now taking on the shape not merely of a fresh attempt to break the deadlock on this specific issue. but also of a broader confrontation. The President has been careful to avoid giving any ruling that these talks must not stray into other. related. topics-and in this context there is a great deal that is related. As to Mr Khrushchev's position. whatever may still be obscure. there is now no doubt that he wants to broaden the scope of the coming talks. In his Berlin speech on Tuesday he clarified in some respects (while seeming to cloudify in others) the points he had made in mid-June to Mr Wilson and Mr Gordon Walker. He had told them -absolutely categorically and clearly -according to Mr Gordon Walker. in the Commons foreign affairs debate on Tuesday-that he was retracting his offer of on-site inspections under a test ban treaty. In Berlin he was less precise on this point- but more receptive to the idea. which his Labour party visitors had pressed on him. of a ban on all tests except underground ones. Such a partial ban. as Mr Macmillan told the Commons on Wednesday. would be. although not the -great prize.o an advance from which much might follow. Russia has repeatedly rejected a test ban of this type. on the ground that it meant legalising underground tests. On Tuesday. however. Mr x0303 Khrushchev adopted it. tacitly abandoning his former objec- tions. But he linked it with the familiar Soviet demand for a non-aggression pact between the Nato allies and the members of the Warsaw alliance. is aim in so doing is clear enough. although it is still H-uncertain whether. in actual negotiation (as opposed to a speech in a Berlin sports arena). he would make a partial test ban categorically dependent on the non-aggression pact. Such a pact would commit west Germany to at least a degree of acceptance both of the east German government and of the Oder-Neisse frontier. (It would not. on the face of it. involve the United States in any recognition of the Chinese government. which is not a Warsaw member.) The Soviet leader evidently hopes that western anxiety for even a partial test ban may secure for him one of his long-standing objectives in central Europe. Or should it be said that one hopes that that is what he hopes- Better that he should be interested in seeking even a hard bargain than that he should be bent on scuppering the Moscow talks altogether. It has to be recognised that Mr Khrushchev. whatever his own personal inclination. faces obstacles to any move toward flexibility in East-West dealings that are quite as formidable as any that confront Mr Kennedy. The now open breach with China. formalised in. and quite unlikely to be resolved by. this week's descent on Moscow by Teng Hsiao-ping and his colleagues. has presented Soviet diplomacy with an unparalleled problem. As the Rumanian boycott of Mr Khrushchev's little gathering in Berlin has just shown. it is now open to members of the -socialist camp -who feel dis- satisfied with Moscow's behaviour to shuffle away significantly in the direction of Peking. The more scope for manoeuvre of this kind accrues to Russia's former docile satellites. the more constricted is Mr Khrushchev's own elbow-room. As the talks with the Chinese begin. he shows no sign of modifying in any way his insistence that he must be free to talk to the Americans. whatever Peking may think. (The brusque expulsion from Moscow. on June 30th. of several Chinese diplomats-who then got a hero's welcome in Peking-set the tone.) But what he can actually say in such talks must be affected by the Chinese charges that his policy amounts to something like betrayal of the revolution. So far the ranks in Russia itself are steady behind him- but how far can he move (assuming that he feels the need to make moves of real substance) without gaps appearing in those ranks- It is natural to connect these vexations with some of his latest words and deeds on the domestic plane. In his speech to the central committee. he dwelt at length on the need to protect the pure ideology of communism against foreign infection. Ideology and organisational unity. he said. are the cement that binds the party into a monolith. The exact opposite of cement is salt. If salt is thrown into the mixture. the concrete will fall apart.... Our enemies want to toss salt in by appealing for peaceful co-existence in ideology.o In another passage. he said that -our enemies have concen- trated their main efforts on the ideological struggle.o believing that Soviet society will become more vulnerable as more and more Russians become educated. Aware that the salt of youthful curiosity about many things still hidden is indeed working away at the Soviet monolith. yet equally aware of the peril. in a nuclear world. of reverting to the apocalyptic Chinese gospel of war and ill-will. Mr Khrushchev and his advisers have to tread a nimble and devious path in their evident attempt to break away from barren rigidity without fatally imperilling their strength. They must watch their stirring. salt-infected young men on one side and. on the other. the mass of nervous party hierarchs (in eastern Europe as well as in Russia itself). This latter is an outwardly concrete-like mass up to the present. but who knows what cracks may appear in it under the action of China's fierce condiments- Cracks. it must be remembered. are still alarming novelties in the communist world. whereas in the world outside it -there will always be differences between friends.o as Mr Kennedy remarked on Tuesday. On both sides of the search for a settlement that is bound to be a vastly long job yet. there will be recurring need to make due allowances for the other side's need to step back from time to time and concen- trate on straightening its own ranks. And. as and when any real progress is made. this straightening of ranks may well become more difficult-and thus look more alarming to the other side. But in the end the lesson (a harder one for Russians than for westerners) must still be learnt one cannot make an omelette without cracking monoliths-and this can be an uncommonly long process.