Staunton, March 4 – Conspiracy thinking, about which Aleksandr Panchenko of the Moscow Institute of Russian Literature is the leading Russian specialist, is now widespread in Putin’s Russia because it represents “a science for the poor,” explaining why things happen in simple and comprehensible ways that allow Russians to avoid having to take responsibility.
Panchenko, a scholar at the Moscow Institute for Russian Literature, has been investigating conspiracy thinking for the last three years, a topic that he suggests has become more important because such ideas are “an expression of psychological discomfort” as well as a means of “’simplifying’” surround reality (ng.ru/stsenarii/2017-02-28/9_6937_zagovor.html).
One of the key features of conspiracy thinking, he says, is that it is generally unaffected by rational arguments because “it operates so to speak with its own rationality,” a principle he suggests is clearly shown by Russians’ continued belief in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Dulles Plan, despite the fact that both have been unmasked as fabrications.
“The history of ‘The Dulles Plan,’” he says, is particularly instructive about the main features of “contemporary Russian conspiracy thinking.” The term refers to a plan supposedly developed by Allen Dulles, an American intelligence officer, in the late 1940s, to destroy the Soviet Union via social and moral degradation.
In fact, Panchenko says, there was and is no such American plan. Instead, what Russians call “the Dulles Plan” consists of fragments taken from a Soviet novel, The Eternal Call, “which belonged to the pen of one of the literary generals of Brezhnev’s time, Anatoly Ivanov, the chief editor of the ‘ruralist’ journal Molodaya gvardiya.
In that novel, Ivanov followed the standard CPSU line that “all the misfortunes of the pre-war USSR, including mass repressions” were the work of “’Trotskyites’” who sought “not only the restoration of capitalism in Russia but the subordination of the Soviet people to some dark forces.”
By the time that Ivanov wrote his novel, such references had for the initiated a clear anti-Semitic message, and thus “the Dulles Plan” represented little more than a modernized version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the forgery that had circulated in tsarist Russia at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
But for anyone interested in post-Soviet conspiracy thinking, Panchenko continues, what is most interesting is not the first reference to this plan but rather “the history of its ‘reincarnation’ in the form of ‘the Dulles Plan’ and the causes behind its unusual popularity present-day Russia.”
Most students of the subject have assumed that the first person to extract “the Dulles Plan” from Ivanov’s novel was either Ukrainian publicist Boris Oleynik in his book, Prince of Darkness: Two Years in the Kremlin (various editions 1992-1994) or St. Petersburg Metropolitan Ioann in an article “The Struggle for Russia” published in February 1993.
In fact, Panchenko says, neither of them deserves “the credit” for this innovation. The Dulles Plan made its first post-Soviet appearance in pro-communist and national-patriotic newspapers in the spring of 1992 among a collection of “imagined ‘declarations of the enemies of Russia.’”
This text included both sometimes falsified and often distorted texts not only from Dulles but also from Napoleon Bonaparte, Joseph Goebbels, John Kennedy and James Baker. That text has now taken on a life of its own and circulates widely on the Russian Internet. What is striking is that the Dulles Plan has attracted far more attention than any of the other “texts.”
The reason for that is two-fold, the Moscow scholar suggests. On the one hand, rising anti-Americanism in Russia has made a focus on supposedly nefarious plans by the US especially powerful in the minds of many Russians. And on the other, even those who doubt the plan exists believe that it does, saying “’The Dulles Plan’ doesn’t exist, but it is working.”
By invoking the Dulles Plan to explain anything Russians don’t like about the current situation, they can comfort themselves with the idea that they bear no responsibility for it – and that “makes the world more understandable, reduces the level of concern, and guarantees a unique form of psychological comfort.”
Thus, the popularity of the idea of the Dulles Plan in Russia today reflects with psychoanalytic anthropologists call “projected inversion” in which whatever one group is doing or trying to do is in fact blamed on an external enemy, thus reducing still further any sense that the society itself has any responsibility for its own condition.
At the end of his article, Panchenko cites three Russians who very much believe that “’the Dulles Plan’ lives and is winning.” First, KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov who already in 2011 said that the program of de-Stalinization as part and parcel of that Plan and was directed at undermining the ideological foundations of the Soviet state.
Second, Moscow State University historian Mikhail Chisty cited the conclusions of Stalin’s secret police chief Lavrenty Beria that “interesting materials have come from America. They can’t take us by force, and so they want to destroy us from the inside,” confirmation of the Dulles Plan at least in his eyes.
And third, Samara Governor Nikolay Merkushkin last year accused opposition figure Aleksey Navalny of acting as an agent in Russia of the Dulles Plan, one that the governor suggested intended to “split us into 32 states” and arrange things so that “the word ‘Russia’ would never be heard again.”