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Interview with the American Republican Presidential Candidate, Harold Stassen

Protocol of the Interview

April 9, 1947

Stassen declared that he was grateful to Stalin for receiving him. He, Stassen, had wanted an interview with Stalin as the State leader, to show his respect. He, Stassen, had undergone an interesting journey through the European countries, and during this journey was particularly interested in the economic situation of different countries after the war. It was his opinion that the living standards of the people was of great significance for their prosperity. The relations between the Soviet Union and the United States were of great significance during the war and would also be of further great significance. He was aware that that the economic systems of the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America were different. The economy of the U.S.S.R. was on the principle of planning, was built on Socialist principles and its development led by the Communist Party. In the United States there was a free economy with private capital. It would interest him to know if Stalin was of the opinion that these two economic systems could live side by side in one and the same world, and if they could cooperate together after the war.

Stalin answered that of course the two systems could cooperate together. The difference between them was of no great essential significance as far as their cooperation was concerned. The economic systems in Germany and the United States of America were the same, nevertheless it had come to war between them. The economic systems of the United States of America and the U.S.S.R. were different, but it had not led them to war with one another, but rather led them to cooperate during the war. If two different systems could cooperate during the war, why should they not be able to cooperate in peace time? Of course, he meant by that, that cooperation between two different economic systems was possible if the wish to cooperate existed. But if the wish to cooperate did not exist, then the states and people even of similar economic systems could come into conflict.

Stassen declared that the wish to cooperate was, of course, of great importance. However, earlier, before the war, in both countries, different declarations of the impossibility of cooperation had been made. Before the war, Stalin too, had himself declared this. He, Stassen, would like to know whether Stalin was of the opinion that the events of the war, the defeat of the fascist Axis of Germany and Japan, had changed the situation, and one could now, if the wish existed, hope for cooperation between the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America.

Stalin answered that he could in no case have said that the two different systems could not cooperate. Lenin was the first to express the idea on the cooperation of two systems. "Lenin is our teacher," said Stalin, "and we Soviet people are Lenin's pupils. We have never deviated from Lenin's directives and we never will deviate." It was possible that he, Stalin, had said that a system, for example the capitalist system, was not willing to cooperate, but this remark concerned the wish to cooperate, but not the possibility of cooperation. But where the possibility of cooperation was concerned, he, Stalin, stood on Lenin's standpoint that cooperation between two economic systems was possible and desirable. It was also the wish of the people and the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. concerning cooperation; they had this wish. Such a cooperation could only be useful for both countries.

Stassen answered that that was clear. It reminded him of the explanation Stalin had given to the 18th Party Congress and the Plenary Session in 1937. In this declaration he had spoken of "the capitalist environment," and of "monopoly and imperialist development." from the explanation that Stalin had made today, he, Stassen, had inferred that now, after the defeat of Japan and Germany, the situation had changed.

Stalin declared that at no Party Congress and at no Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party had he spoken, nor could he have, of the impossibility of the cooperation of two systems. He, Stalin, had said that in a capitalist environment there existed the danger of an attack on the U.S.S.R. If one of the parts did not want to cooperate, that signified that the danger of an attack existed. And, in fact, Germany did not want to cooperate with the U.S.S.R., and had attacked the U.S.S.R. Had the U.S.S.R. been able to cooperate with Germany? Yes, – the U.S.S.R. had been able to cooperate with Germany, but the Germans had not wanted this. Otherwise the U.S.S.R. would have cooperated with Germany as they had with other countries. "As you see, the wish for cooperation existed, but not the possibility.

One must distinguish between the possibility of cooperation and the wish to cooperate. The possibility of cooperation is always there, but the wish to cooperate is not always there. If one part does not want to cooperate, it results in conflict, in war."

Stassen declared that the wish must be present on both sides. Stalin replied that he wanted to attest to the fact that Russia had the wish to cooperate.

Stassen said that he was pleased to hear that, and that he would like to go into Stalin's declaration about the similarity of the economic systems of the United States of America and Germany. He must say that the economic systems of the United States of America and Germany had been different from one another when it was Germany that began the war.

Stalin was not in agreement with that and explained that there was a difference between the regimes of the United States of America and Germany, but no difference between the economic systems. The regime is transient, a political factor.

Stassen said that many articles had been written saying that the capitalist system had produced the menace of monopolies, imperialism and the oppression of the workers. In his, Stassen's, opinion, the United States of America had succeeded in preventing the development of the monopolist and imperialist tendencies of capitalism, had led to prosperity and through this the workers in the United States of America had a larger say in many matters than Marx and Engels had thought possible. Therein lay the difference between the economic system of the United States of America and the economic system that existed in Hitler's Germany.

Stalin said that one must not allow oneself to be carried away by the criticism of the system of the other. Every people holds firmly to the system that it wants. History will show which system is better. One must respect the system that the people choose and approve. Whether the system in the United States of America is bad or good is a matter for the American people. For cooperation, it is not necessary for the peoples to have the same system. One must respect the system approved by the people. Only on these terms is cooperation possible.

Concerning Marx and Engels, they of course, could not predict what would happen forty years after their deaths.

The Soviet system was called a totalitarian or a dictatorship system, but the Soviet people call the American system monopoly capitalism. If the two sides begin to insult each other as monopolist or totalitarian they would not come to cooperation. One must take note of the historical fact that there exist two systems which have been approved by the people. Only on this basis is cooperation possible.

Where the passion for the criticism of monopolism and totalitarianism was concerned, it was propaganda, –, but he, Stalin, was not a propagandist, – rather a man of deeds. We may not be sectarian, Stalin said. If the people wish to change a system, they will do so. As he, Stalin, had met Roosevelt and discussed military questions, he and Roosevelt had not insulted each other as monopolists and totalitarianists. They had considered it more essential that he and Roosevelt had established cooperation with one another and had achieved victory over the enemy.

Stassen said that this manner of criticism of both sides had been one of the causes of the misunderstandings that had arisen since the end of the war. He, Stassen, wished to know whether Stalin hoped in the future to raise to a higher degree the exchange of ideas, students, teachers, actors and tourists, if cooperation was established between the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America.

Stalin answered that it was inevitable, if cooperation was established. The exchange of goods led to the exchange of people.

Stassen said that in the past there had been misunderstandings between the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America, that the Soviet side did not wish to exchange ideas, as was seen in the introduction of censorship of reports sent out by foreign reporters from Moscow. So that in the circumstances, that the newspaper "New York Herald Tribune" was refused permission to have a reporter of their own in Moscow, that this mistake was one of the causes of the mutual misunderstandings between the peoples of the U.S.S.R  and the United States of America.

Stalin answered that the case of the refusal of a visa for a correspondent of the "New York Herald Tribune" had, as a matter of fact, happened. That this misunderstanding, however, was an accidental phenomenon and had no relation to the politics of the Soviet government. He, Stalin, knew that the "New York Herald Tribune" was a respectable newspaper. In this respect, it was of great significance that some American correspondents were unfavourably disposed towards the U.S.S.R.

Stassen answered that it was a fact that there were such reporters. The reporter of the "New York Herald Tribune" was given permission to stay in Moscow, however, only for the duration of the session of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Now this newspaper posed the question of sending a permanent reporter to Moscow. The "New York Herald Tribune" was a leading organ of the Republicans, that was gaining more importance now that the Republicans had gained a majority in Congress.

Stalin answered: "That is of no importance to us, we see no great difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.” Concerning the question of the reporters, he, Stalin, remembered an incident. In Tehran, the three great powers held a conference in which they worked efficiently and in a friendly atmosphere. An American reporter whose name he could not remember at the moment, had sent a report that Marshal Timoshenko was present at the Tehran Conference, although in reality he was not there, and that he, Stalin, had violently attacked Timoshenko during the dinner. But that was a big and slanderous lie. And now? Should one praise such a reporter? At that dinner, where the participants celebrated Churchill's sixty-ninth birthday, he Churchill, Brook, Leahy and others were present, in total about thirty people could attest that no such thing had taken place. Nevertheless this reporter had sent his false report to the newspaper, and it was published in the press of the United States of America. "Can one trust such a reporter? We," said Stalin, "are not of the opinion that the United States of America or its politicians are to blame for this. Such incidents do happen. That caused bad feelings among the Soviet people."

hoped, – would come to terms. In his, Stalin's, view there would need to be international control and inspection and this would be of great importance. The application of atomic energy for peaceful purposes would cause a great revolution in production procedure. Where the application of atomic energy for military purposes was concerned, it possibly would be forbidden. The desires and the conscience of the peoples demanded so.

Stassen answered that it was one of the most important problems. If it was solved, atomic energy could be a great blessing for the peoples of all the world, but if not, then a great curse.

Stalin said that he believed it would be possible to establish international control and inspection. The development moved towards that. Stassen thanked Stalin for the interview. Stalin answered that he was at Stassen's disposal and that the Russians respected their guests.

Stassen said that during the San Francisco Conference he had had an unofficial talk with Molotov. In the course of this conversation he had been invited to visit Russia.

Stalin said that he believed the situation in Europe was very bad now. What did Mr. Stassen think about it?

Stassen answered that this was right in general, – that some countries had not suffered so much from the war and were not in such a difficult position, for example Czechoslovakia and Switzerland.

Stalin said that Switzerland and Czechoslovakia were small countries.

Stassen answered that the large countries found themselves in a very difficult situation. The problems they were facing were of a financial, raw materials and nutritional nature.

Stalin explained that Europe was a part of the world in which there were many factories and works, but where there was a perceptible lack of raw materials and food. That was tragic.

Stassen thought that the poor level of the output of the coal production in the Ruhr area had led to a coal shortage in Europe.

Stalin said that a coal shortage had also been felt in England and that this was most strange.

Stassen explained that the coal production in the United States of America fortunately stood at a high level. In the United States of America, two million tons of bituminate coal was mined daily. Consequently, .the United States of America was in the position of being able to supply Europe with large amounts of coal.

Stalin declared that the situation was not so bad in the United States of America. America was protected by two oceans. On the northern border of the United States of America was the weak country of Canada, and in the south the weak country of Mexico. The United States of America did not need to be afraid of them. After the War of Independence the people had not been involved in war for sixty years and had enjoyed peace. All that had contributed to the swift development of the United States of America. In addition, the population of the United States of America consisted of people that had liberated themselves long ago from the yoke of kings and land aristocracy. All these circumstances had also favoured the rapid development of the United States of America.

Stassen declared that his great-grandfather had fled from Czechoslovakia because of imperialism. Of course, the geographical situation of the United States of America was a great help. "We are lucky," said Stassen, "that the enemy was defeated far away from our coasts. The United States of America was in the position to adapt itself completely, and after the war to resurrect production in great volume. Now the task is to avoid a depression and economic crisis."

Stalin asked if an economic crisis was expected in the United States of America.

Stassen answered that no economic crisis was expected. He believed that it was possible to regulate capitalism in the United States of America, to raise the level of employment to a high standard and to avoid any serious crisis. The main task lay, however, in avoiding a crisis in the economic system of the United States of America. But if the government followed a wise policy and if one took account of the lessons of the years 1929-30, there would be established regulated capitalism and not monopoly capitalism in the United States of America, which would help to avoid a crisis.

Stalin said that to achieve this a very strong government would be needed, which was also inspired by great determination.

Stassen said that he was right, besides which the people must understand the measures, that the stabilizing and preservation of the economic system is aimed at. That is a new task for which there is no parallel in any economic system of the world.

Stalin declared that there were favourable circumstances for the United States of America, that the two rivals of the United States of America in the world market – Japan and Germany, had been removed. Consequently, the demand for American goods had increased and that had created favourable conditions for the development of the United States of America. The markets of China and Japan were open to the United States of America, like Europe. This would help the United States of America. Such favourable conditions had never before existed.

Stassen said that on the other hand no means of payment existed in these markets, so that it would be a burden and not a profitable business for the United States of America. But of course the removal of Germany and Japan, two carriers of the imperialist danger, was a great blessing for the United States of America and for the other countries from the point of view of peace. Earlier, world trade had, of course, not been a factor of great importance for the United States of America. Their market had been confined to the area of the United States of America or the western hemisphere.

Stalin said that before the war about 10% of American produce was exported to other countries. As far as purchasing power was concerned, he, Stalin, believed the merchants would find a means of payment, so as to buy American goods and sell them to the peasants of these countries. The merchants in China, Japan, Europe and South America had saved money. Now the United States of America will probably raise its exports to 20%. Was that correct?

Stassen said that he did not believe so.

Stalin asked: "Seriously?"

Stassen answered in the affirmative and said that if the United States of America's exports increased to 15% they would be lucky, in his opinion. Most of the merchants had saved money in their country's currency, which was all tied up and not suitable for transfer. Thus, in Stassen's opinion, the exports of the United States of America would not exceed 15%.

Stalin thought that if one considered the level of production in the United States of America, then 15% was no small figure.

Stassen agreed with that.

Stalin declared that American industry, it was said, had many orders. Was that correct? It was said that the works of the United States of America were not in the position of being able to fulfil all these orders, and that all works were functioning at 100%. Was that correct?

Stassen answered that that was correct, but that they handled the inland orders.

Stalin remarked that that was very important.

Stassen said that they succeeded in meeting the demand for food, women's clothing and shoes; the production of machinery, motor vehicles and locomotives was still lagging behind.

Stalin said that reports had appeared in the American press that an economic crisis would soon occur.

Stassen said that the press had reported that the unemployment figure in the United States of America would rise to eight million in November of last year. This report, however, had been false. The task therein was to raise production to a high level and to increase stabilization, and so avoid an economic crisis.

Stalin remarked that Stassen obviously had the regulation of production in mind.

Stassen answered that that was right and explained that there were people in America who asserted that there would be a depression. But he, Stassen, was optimistic and believed and maintained that the Americans could avoid a depression; he, Stassen, knew that the people had a deeper understanding of stronger regulation than earlier.

Stalin asked: "And the business people? Would they understand, allow such regulation and submit to restrictions?"

Stassen said that the business people would oppose such a rule.

Stalin remarked that of course they would oppose it.

Stassen thought that they had, however, understood that the depression of 1929 must not repeat itself, and they could now see better the necessity of regulation. Of course, to be a far-reaching regulation, the government would need to make many decisions and to proceed sensibly.

Stalin remarked that he was right.

Stassen declared that it was necessary for all systems and forms of government. Under any form of government it was bad for the people if they made mistakes.

Stalin agreed to that.

Stassen said that Japan and Germany had proved this to be correct.

Stalin said that in these countries the economy had been under the control of the military, which did not understand economy. So, in Japan, for example, the economy was led by Toto, who only knew how to conduct war.

Stassen said that that was right. He thanked Stalin for giving him the possibility of speaking to him and for the time Stalin had spared him.

Stalin asked how long Stassen meant to stay in the U.S.S.R.

Stassen answered that he would be going to Kiev the next day. Upon that he wanted to express his admiration for the heroic defenders of Stalingrad and he thought after that, to leave the U.S.S.R. by way of Leningrad. During the defence of Stalingrad he had been with the American fleet in the Pacific, where he had followed the Epopee of Stalingrad with anxious attention.

Stalin said that Admiral Niemitz was clearly a very important marine commander. Stalin asked whether Stassen had been to Leningrad yet.

Stassen said that he .had not yet been to Leningrad and had the intention of leaving the U.S.S.R. by way of Leningrad.

Stalin said that the talk with Stassen had given him much.

Stassen said that the talk with Stalin had also been very useful .to him for his work in the study of economic problems.

Stalin said that he had also been occupied very much with economic problems before the war and only through the compulsion of necessity was he a military specialist.

Stassen asked whether he could get and keep the protocol of the interview from Pavlov and whether he had permission to speak to reporters about the interview if he came together with one.

Stalin said that of course Stassen could keep the protocol and talk to reporters about it, – there was nothing secret about it.

("Pravda," 8 May, 1947)