- Editor’s Note
This issue begins with an article by Deborah Kaple discussing Sino-Soviet relations in the 1950s from the perspective of Soviet advisers stationed in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese officials with whom they worked. Almost all recent analyses of the decade-long Sino-Soviet alliance have approached the topic from the standpoint of the highest policymakers on the two sides, whereas Kaple sets out to understand how the relationship was viewed by those working at ground level. Drawing on archival materials, memoirs, interviews, and other sources, Kaple shows that the Soviet advisers who came to China transmitted the concepts and practices they knew best: Stalinist economic planning, rigid centralization, and hierarchical political control. These practices were fully in line with what the leader of the PRC, Mao Zedong, had been intent on pursuing from the very start. The transfer of expertise from the Soviet advisers went smoothly for several years, but when signs of disagreement began to emerge in the latter half of the 1950s, especially over the question of de-Stalinization, the erstwhile cordial working relationship began to fray. Mao’s growing embrace of radical schemes in the PRC that diverged from Stalinist orthodoxy—schemes like the Great Leap Forward that had catastrophic consequences in China—undermined the work of the Soviet advisers and augured the more general breakdown of Sino-Soviet alliance ties by the start of the 1960s.
The next article, by Denise Lynn, explores the mysterious case of Juliet Poyntz, one of the many U.S. citizens who turned against the United States in the 1930s and 1940s and became spies for the Soviet Union. Poyntz abruptly disappeared in 1937 and was never seen again. To this day, the circumstances of her disappearance remain obscure. Lynn shows that although very little is known about Poyntz’s fate (the evidence suggests she was murdered by the Soviet secret police), her case became the subject of narratives among Communists, anti-Communist leftists, and mainstream and rightwing anti-Communists. For each group, the narrative had a gendered dimension. For some, Poyntz was an uppity woman who fell afoul of the male-dominated establishment. For others, Poyntz was a woman of fallen virtue who had betrayed her country and then paid the price for it at the hands of the foreign despot whom she had secretly aided. For still others, Poyntz was a well-meaning but naïve woman who chose the wrong lover out of devotion to a legitimate cause, anti-Nazism. Lynn argues that the various narratives, despite their differences, usefully illuminate the changing orientation of anti-Communism in the United States. The anti-Communist left believed that the problem lay not with revolutionary socialism but with Iosif Stalin’s supposed betrayal of socialism. Later generations of anti-Communists, by contrast, saw the problem as inherent in revolutionary socialism itself. [End Page 1]
The next article, by Allen Pietrobon, highlights the role of Norman Cousins, the long-time editor of The Saturday Review of Literature, in facilitating negotiations that culminated in the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) in August 1963. Talks on arranging a nuclear test ban had been sporadically under way since the mid-1950s but had never borne fruit because of a few key points of disagreement. However, after the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 came perilously close to triggering a large-scale nuclear war, the U.S. and Soviet governments relaunched the test ban negotiations with a greater sense of purpose. The two leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, spurred the negotiations along with support from the various government agencies responsible for national security affairs and foreign policy. Pietrobon contends that, in addition to these official actors, a few unofficial actors on the Western side played a surprisingly important role. Cousins, a staunch advocate of nuclear disarmament, served as an unofficial emissary to Khrushchev for President Kennedy on two occasions, seeking to overcome deadlocks that had arisen during the official talks. Although Cousins never played a formal part in the negotiations, his role as an unofficial intermediary between the two leaders provided each side with a better understanding of the other...