A Flounder and the Shark

Vladimir Bukovsky remarked that without a guide through the "labyrinths of the Soviet soul," studies of socialism "are simply useless—or worse, they make the subject even more obscure. " Were it not for the fact that Adam Ulam has been interpreting the Soviet Union since long before Bukovsky made his comment, one could suspect that Ulam wrote Dangerous Relations to prove Bukovsky right. It is surprising that the Director of Harvard's Russian Research Center could pay so little attention to how the Bolshevik leaders explain their conduct both to themselves and to the world at large, but then intellectual idiosyncracy appears to be Ulam's trademark.

Dangerous Relations reflects Ulam's long-standing misperception that Marxism­Leninism has nothing to do with Bolshevik behavior. As Ulam conceives it, the real problem in Soviet-American affairs is the clash between "the moralistic and legalistic strain of the American approach to foreign relations" and Soviet fondness for "old-fashioned" concepts such as "spheres of influence." Ideological "incantations" are therefore irrelevant, and the billions of words the Bolsheviks have uttered on the subject are apparently to be considered nothing more than reflections of an elaborate Russian plot.

The error in Ulam's notion can be...

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