The Formidable Reality of Khrushchev's Russia
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Nov 1960, p. 68-80
Duncan, James S., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A joint Meeting of The Toronto Board of Trade, The Canadian Club of Toronto, and The Empire Club of Canada.
An opportunity to tell some of the conclusions of the speaker, following his return four months ago from an extensive visit to the U.S.S.R. The object of the visit. Progress of the U.S.S.R. in the development of hydro-electric, thermal, and nuclear facilities. An investigation of their progress in connection with extra high voltage long-range transmission. Arranging for future exchange visits of specialists. Findings set forth in a 41-page report prepared by Ontario Hydro. A detailed description of the visit. Challenges to the West. An examination of divisions between the Communist world and the West. Hope based on the Russian people themselves. What the Russian people do not know. The issue of peaceful co-existence.
Date of Original
7 Nov 1960
Language of Item
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Full Text
An Address by JAMES S. DUNCAN, C.M.G., LL.D. Chairman The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario to a Joint Meeting of the Toronto Board of Trade, the Canadian Club of Toronto, and the Empire Club of Canada
Monday, November 7, 1960
CHAIRMAN: The President of the Toronto Board of Trade, Mr. William E. Williams.

MR. WILLIAMS: It is a pleasure for me to be here to introduce my friend, Jim Duncan, to this audience although my presence is, in a large measure, superfluous. By this I mean that introducing Mr. James Duncan to a Toronto audience is rather similar to introducing Prime Minister Diefenbaker to the House of Commons.

Mr. Duncan, as you know, has had a long and illustrious business career, and I shall not attempt to detail this other than to give you a very few high points. Mr. Duncan's major business experience was with the Massey-Ferguson Company, which he headed for many years. A world traveller, Mr. Duncan speaks several other languages fluently in addition to the impeccable English which you will hear today. He is perhaps, by far, the most widely travelled man on the Toronto scene, having literally covered every inch of the world many times.

His present post is Chairman of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario. Mr. Duncan is a Past President of the Board of Trade of the City of Toronto; he has been Chairman of the Toronto United Community Chest, and since 1949 has been Chairman of the very influential Dollar-Sterling Trade Council. He is a Governor of the University of Toronto, a Director of Atomic Energy of Canada, and of the Industrial Foundation on Education.

Without further extending this introduction of a man already well known to you, I would like to close by saying that Mr. James Duncan is one of the few major business executives who looks like the popular concept of a business executive rather than being the balding, portly type who are so often business executives.

Without further ado, I give you Mr. James Duncan, Chairman of The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario.

MR. DUNCAN: May my first words be to express my appreciation at having been asked to address this influential and distinguished audience and to have been given this opportunity of telling you something of the conclusions which I have arrived at following my return four months ago from an extensive visit to the U.S.S.R.

During the past few years, we at Ontario Hydro have received numerous visits from Soviet engineers, scientists, and others connected with their power industry. They have visited hydraulic and thermal installations in Ontario and throughout Canada, and it was felt by many of us, that in view of the important developments which are taking place over there, it was time that a delegation of power men from Canada paid them a return visit.

Accordingly, a group of executives and senior engineers, drawn from many of our most important utilities and research and development centres, proceeded to the U.S.S.R. from London on May 14th. I was chosen as the leader of this delegation. The object of our visit was to acquaint ourselves with the progress which the U.S.S.R. is making in the development of hydra-electric, thermal, and nuclear facilities, to investigate their progress in connection with extra high voltage long-range transmission, and to arrange for future exchange visits of specialists. I will not dwell at any length upon our findings, because these have been set forth in a forty-one page report which was prepared by Ontario Hydro and agreed to, with certain modifications, by all our delegates, and it has been given wide circulation.

Our delegation covered over 8,000 miles in the U.S.S.R., travelling as far east as Irkutsk on the Great Angara River flowing out of Lake Baikal, and but two and a half hours by jet plane to Peking in China.

We visited great cities and power facilities, including Sverdlovsk where the U-2 was brought down, and impressive industrial centres in European Russia and the Ukraine such as Kuibyshev, Stalingrad-whose heroic defence against the German invader will still be fresh in your minds and which was 95 per cent obliterated-Stalino, Kharkov, and, of course, Leningrad and Moscow.

Among the hydraulic plants visited was one at Bratsk in Eastern Siberia which, when completed in 1963, will have a generating capacity of 41/2 million kilowatts, or more than twice the size of the new St. Lawrence plants at Cornwall, both on the Canadian and the United States sides.

Their largest thermal plant at Lugansk, with a capacity of 700,000 kilowatts, is small in relation to the plants which we are building in Ontario. The Richard L. Hearn station here in Toronto will have a capacity of l,200,000 kilowatts when completed in the spring of next year, and we are presently engaged in the construction of another at Lakeviewthe site of the old rifle range at Long Branch-which will have a capacity of l,800,000 kilowatts.

Although the Soviets' annual production of electricity has increased immensely during the last twenty years, her installed capacity is still only one-third of that of the U.S.A.

The important factor, however, is that Soviet Russia is proposing to double her output during the next seven years and will probably continue to do so into the foreseeable future, whereas the U.S.A. and Canada are doubling theirs only every ten to twelve years.

This greater rate of production, and the fact that by 1965 the U.S.S.R. expects to generate 50 per cent of the U.S. capacity, is not surprising when one considers the relative stage of development of the two countries. Indeed, during the war years the U.S.A. installed new capacity at a rate exceeding that of Soviet Russia today. The important factor, however, is the end usage to which this production is being put. Whereas the U.S.S.R. is devoting approximately two-thirds of its production to heavy industry and therefore to war potential, the U.S.A. is only devoting one-third to such purposes, the balance, as is the case in Canada, being placed at the disposal of light industry and commerce and to ensure the comfort, the enjoyment, and the well-being of our people.

The average household in Soviet Russia is allocated only approximately 400 kilowatt-hours per annum, whereas the householder in Canada consumes over 5,600 kilowatt-hours.

The lasting impression which I took away with me from my previous visit in 1955 was the spartan living standard of a hard-driven people: their shabby and colourless clothes, their unkempt appearance, the long queues of patient, stoical, unsmiling women awaiting their turn to enter the overcrowded, old-fashioned little stores; the absence of all forms of luxury, the modest and unattractive goods displayed in the shop windows, the dearth of variety, the sparsity of vehicular traffic in the wide streets of the cities, the deserted airports, and the shabby DC-3 type of two-engine aircraft used almost exclusively for VIP travel.

This spartan way of life was the outward manifestation of the iron will of the Soviet leaders to subordinate the comforts, the pleasures, the well-being of the people to the production of the basic things which they considered essential to the strengthening of the state.

The past five years have brought unbelievable changes in the lives of the people. These have been years of great activity, of achievement, of progress, and of success.

There has been more of everything to go round and the government has progressively increased the allocation of consumer goods.

The airports throughout Soviet Russia are now scenes of activity, with a surprising number of large, modem jet and turbo-jet planes on the tarmac.

Motorcar traffic is still insignificant in relation to that which we are accustomed to, but on the other hand, modern, well-built and commodious buses are in evidence everywhere, and trucks roll along in the cities and on the country roads by the thousand.

The Soviet Union's great building programme, which was already changing the face of the cities and the urban communities during my last visit, has proceeded at an even increased tempo.

Hotels, public buildings, schools, hospitals, centres of culture and education, research institutes, sports arenas, and especially apartment blocks-newly completed or in the process of construction-are in evidence everywhere.

On every side one is conscious of Soviet Russia's growing economy. Factories, both old and new, are working at full capacity. Vast power plant developments, larger than any in this country, are completed or under way. Roads are being built, railway lines are being laid, and great strides are being made in the development and exploitation of the vast resources of Siberia.

Agriculture, the Achilles heel of the economy until three or four years ago, is showing evidence of much greater productivity.

A wind of greater liberalism is blowing through the land and in consequence, the people are more relaxed, less harassed, less tense, more willing to talk and to discuss things.

Their living standards are still modest in relation to those of the West but they have greatly improved. People are better dressed. The women in the larger cities are now wearing high-heeled shoes, simple but becoming dresses, rouge, lipstick, nail polish.

One had the feeling five years ago that the masses of the people--docile, indoctrinated, disciplined, apprehensive, without knowledge of how people live in other lands--accepted their lot without question, but also without enthusiasm. Today, one is impressed with their greater degree of contentment, of buoyancy, of confidence in themselves and in their future. Young people particularly are more inclined to be critical, to look upon Communism as a way of life rather than a religion, less ready to accept the statements of their leaders as sacrosanct.

At no time, however, have I detected any signs of active or organized opposition to the broad policies which are pursued by the government. On the contrary, my impression is that the government is more solidly entrenched today and enjoying greater popular support than at any time since the beginning of the Revolution.

Khrushchev's Russia differs radically from Stalin's Russia. But let us make no mistake about it, the essential characteristics and underlying motivations remain the same.

The government's ability to withold or to slant news, to influence people's judgment, to convert its citizens to ideas which were not previously theirs, to "change their thinking" as the Chinese say, is unmatched by any country in the Western World and is still being carried on with unabated vigour.

The Communists' understanding of the value of constant repetition, of association of ideas, of persuasion, indicates a profound knowledge of human reactions.

It is interesting and disturbing to observe how the constant coupling of derogatory words such as "war-mongering Imperialists" with the word "Americans"--and doing so in every speech, on every poster, in every article in the daily or weekly papers in which the United States is mentioned--gradually conditions the thinking of the people so that America becomes automatically associated with greed, aggression, and imperialism. This is the same America which fought reluctantly in two world wars so that peace and freedom should prevail, which owns no colonial dependencies and never demanded or received a square mile of territory or a dollar reparation.

This art of mass persuasion, cleverly applied by the Communist countries to the hundreds of millions of people living in the uncommitted and underdeveloped countries of the world, presents a challenge to the West to which we have failed to measure up.

Let's look at the record. Since 1940 the Western nations have granted independence to thirty-one countries (including ten small French territories) with an estimated total population of 790 million.

Since that same year the U.S.S.R. has taken control of ten countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, with an estimated total population of 108 million, and with proven ability to handle their own affairs. Among these were countries whose old civilization and culture were deeply enshrined in European history.

This is a far cry from the policy pursued by the West of raising the living standard and education of backward peoples to a point where they could learn to govern themselves.

Listen to the words of Dr. Azikiwe of Nigeria speaking of that country's recent independence:

"We are proud of our British connection. Because we have been schooled in the art and science of democracy for nearly a century, this relationship has enabled us to transform our society into a position of prominence in Africa."

The necessity of this period of schooling has been demonstrated by the events in the Congo, whose citizens were untrained, and therefore unprepared, to govern themselves.

By every measuring stick the U.S.S.R. is the greatest imperialist power in the world today. Yet she has been surprisingly successful in presenting herself to the uncommitted nations in Asia and Africa-yes, and even to countries in the Americas-as the protector of the oppressed and the champion of freedom and national independence.

The Western World is facing a challenge today of developing the art of political argument and persuasion which must be met without further delay, because whether we like it or not, the tide is running against us.

It would be folly on our part should we fail to recognize that Soviet Russia is now approaching full maturity and is continuing to surge forward with imposing strength and vigour.

In my opinion, those articles which we read occasionally, apparently designed to "debunk" the Soviet effort and attainments, are doing us all a great disservice.

The arguments are usually based upon the promise that there is nothing to worry about: that Soviet living standards, or at least her gross national product, will only be 50 per cent of that of the U.S.A. by the end of her Seven Year Plan, and that her production of cars, household equipment, etc., is modest indeed in relation to that of the Western World.

The point they miss is that the remarkable factor in the U.S.S.R.'s economy is not so much the levels which they have reached as the rapidity with which they have reached them. No sensible person should doubt that a nation which builds more machine tools and land-guided missiles than the U.S.A., places sputniks in orbit, and builds steel plants, power plants and jet aircraft which compare satisfactorily with those built or produced in America, could not build household equipment and motorcars on a mass production basis if it wished to do so.

The reason why the U.S.S.R. assigns a lower priority to these commodities is because they interfere with the more basic things which, in the eyes of the government, are more important to the state than goods which would add to the greater comfort and well-being of the people.

It is in this light that we must consider their Seven Year Plan ending in 1965. It looks like an ambitious one with an 80 per cent increase in industrial production. But when one considers Soviet Russia's past record in connection with the fulfillment of its various plans, I would be the last to doubt that it will be attained.

In 1959, the first year of this plan, industrial production increased by 11 per cent, whereas the objective called for an increase of only 7.7 per cent.

A group of American economists recently stated that if Soviet Russia can keep up this tempo, her industrial production will equal that of the U.S.A. in fourteen years--or by 1974.

If this were so, and we must allow for inaccuracies and exaggerations in statistics, then the industrial strength of the U.S.S.R. from the point of view of national development and military power would be greater than that of the U.S.A., owing to the different usage to which she puts her resources.

For instance, notwithstanding an 80 per cent industrial increase in seven years, the U.S.S.R. proposes to build only 200,000 cars by 1965. The Russians state that they don't intend to follow the American example in this respect. They consider the massive construction of automobiles as being wasteful of manpower and raw materials, as well as self-indulgent.

They assure their people that they will provide transportation, but it will be communal transportation only: buses, trucks, railroads, aircraft. There is no doubt that pressures are building up for a more abundant supply of consumer and semi-durable goods. These pressures will be resisted by the state. Whether the government will be able to continue to resist them is the $64,000 question.

In my opinion, if the day ever dawns when the people of the Soviet Union will enjoy the same degree of comfort and luxury which is the common lot of the North American people, the dangers of world conflict will be immeasurably reduced.

No one who has travelled extensively in the Soviet Union can be unaware of the fact that the people recoil from the thought of war. Because of their tragic experience in World War II and their 20 million casualties and their long history of invasion, of strife, of revolution and of bloodshed, the Soviet people long for peace as sincerely as any people in the world today.

If their viewpoint could prevail, we could set our minds at rest concerning the dangers of world conflict. Unfortunately, the people have little voice in the matter.

On the other hand, it is equally certain that the U.S.S.R. requires a period of protracted peace-just as Red China does-to consolidate her position, to build up her industries, and to achieve that economic superiority over the capitalist states which she fully believes to be just around the corner.

It is obvious, therefore, that the Soviet government doesn't want war because peace serves its interests better. Just what its attitude would be if the West did not possess such a massive military deterrent force is quite another question.

The Soviet, therefore, stands for peace--but peace on her own terms. And what are those terms? They are the preservation of the status quo and a free hunting licence.

In other words, peace-providing the West accepts the permanent subjugation of the annexed countries of Eastern Europe and does not interfere with her policies of converting independent countries to Communism by subversion, by fear, or by armed intervention.

I have been asked on many occasions since my return from Soviet Russia and even since the astonishing events in New York, with which we are all familiar, whether we should give Khrushchev's proposals for peaceful coexistence more serious consideration than we do.

My answer to this is that I believe the Western World should always be prepared--and indeed I believe she always is-to explore all avenues which would lead to a better understanding between us, to allaying the fears and suspicions which divide us, and to controlled disarmament.

We should always continue to do so with patience, without rigidity, with forebearance, and as much goodwill as is humanly possible for people to muster up when they are the ever-recurring recipients of every form of vulgar abuse and invective, which a vivid imagination, a disciplined temperament, and an unfortunate upbringing can devise.

On the other hand, we must be realistic about these things. We would indeed be very naive if we didn't appreciate the powerful propaganda impact of the Soviet's call for peaceful coexistence.

What could be more desirable? Who would not support the idea of our two differing ideologies living side by side in a world at peace?

By calling for peaceful coexistence on every occasion and from every platform, the Soviet leaders convey the impression, not only to their own people who recoil from war, but to the simple people living in the underdeveloped countries-and indeed to all peoples who do not understand their underlying motives and ultimate objectives-that the Soviet leaders are men of peace; that in consequence, if agreement is not reached, the Western leaders, the alleged "Imperialists", must be men of war and aggression.

Let us not overlook the important and frequently forgotten fact that the Communists' approach to public utterances, to the given word, or to the signed agreement is very different from ours. We believe in the sanctity of truth, but untruth is not unethical in Marxist philosophies.

In Lenin's own words, "The concept of truth is subordinated to the concept of proletarian victory and does not count unless it serves this end."

And then again he states, "Loyalty to the Communist Party must be combined with our ability to scheme, to sign agreements, to zig-zag, to retreat, anything to hasten the coming into power of Communism." Some of you may have heard or read that I attended a luncheon in New York at which Premier Khrushchev spoke. It was interesting to see this consummate showman in action. I have rarely listened to a more plausible speech more plausibly expressed. The difficulty begins, no doubt, when one has to follow up on it, to try to convert the beguiling words into action, to reach common ground. It must be like fighting with a pillow, a frustrating pastime because one never gets anywhere.

During his trip to the U.S.A. approximately one year ago, Premier Khrushchev stated that peaceful coexistence was the declared policy of the U.S.S.R. But he added with unexpected frankness that this did not mean the suspension of the underlying conflict between our societies.

But what is this underlying conflict? It isn't Communism versus Capitalism, of which we hear so much in Russian and Chinese propaganda. These are merely words to play on. To begin with, the system which exists in Soviet Russia today is not Communism at all but state capitalism operated under an efficient dictatorship. And the thing to which the Western World is dedicated isn't capitalism as such, but individual freedom and the protection of our time-honoured institutions which safeguard these freedoms.

The real issue which divides us is the Soviet commitment to the inevitable transformation of all other states to the Soviet system. This is indeed the essential cause of conflict, this basic conflict which is so frequently glossed over by Soviet Russia, but stated with the utmost clarity by the People's Republic of China.

Until the Communist nations abandon this objective of coercing other nations by force, by economic pressures, or by subversion into adopting their political philosophies, talk of peaceful coexistence can only be realistically regarded as a means to an end, a time-saving device, a clever and effective propaganda device.

In the meanwhile, the unbelievable performance at the United Nations during the last few weeks all points with even greater clarity to the fact that, regardless of the sacrifices involved, we in the Western World must redouble our efforts to meet this challenge, not only in the field of overwhelming deterrent military forces but economically, educationally and, of equal importance, in our relations with the less fortunate people in the underdeveloped countries.

Let us be quite clear about this, the Western World's survival as free, independent, democratic peoples depends upon our ability to do so.

However, there is, I believe, just a glimmer of light in the clouded sky which may well presage the dawn of a better understanding between our two nations.

This hope is based upon the Russian people themselves. So many of the differences which divide us spring from a genuine misunderstanding of the events which have taken place since the end of World War II.

But universal education, which is progressing so rapidly in the U.S.S.R., and a growing measure of independence will increasingly make themselves felt, and it is perhaps not too much to hope that many of these misunderstandings will eventually be cleared up.

There is an old saying which has a great deal of merit. Truth always catches up with a lie. It takes a long time sometimes, but it usually does in the end.

The Russian people, for instance, having heard but one side of the story, genuinely believe that our policies of a "cordon sanitaire" of bases surrounding them and the organization of NATO are a clear and irrefutable indication of our aggressive intentions.

The leaders know, but the people do not, why these bases were built and why NATO was organized.

The people do not realize that the Western World believed when World War II was over that peace had been solidly established. We were too credulous, we disarmed too readily.

The people of Russia do not know that the series of aggressive events which then followed, including the subjugation of important groups of previously independent nations, and then the Berlin blockade, threatened the independence of friendly nations, including Western Germany, France, Austria, and even Great Britain herself.

They do not understand that the Western World had no option but to rearm, that Russia had left no other avenue open to us, if our liberties and our freedoms were to be safeguarded.

The Russian people do not know these things. They have been told, and they firmly believe, that proud and independent nations like Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, East Germany, Poland and others, joined the U.S.S.R. by their own free will because they yearned to give up their independence and to become submerged in the great Soviet Union.

They don't refer to them as the "Satellite Countries" but as the "New Democracies", as if they were not democracies long before they lost their independence. My hope for the future is that the day will dawn when, as a result of the education of the masses and greater access to world news, the truth will gradually sift through to the masses of the people, and the logic of our defensive policies will become apparent.

In the meantime, let us not be too rigid in our official dealings. Let us recognize that some of the bluster and rough talk springs from a sense of insecurity, of fear, and of suspicion. Let us be patient, let us continue to talk, to discuss, and to negotiate, and while these conversations are being carried on, let us stimulate cultural relations between our two nations. Let us increase, where possible, the exchange of students and the number of visits by delegations and individuals who travel from our countries to the Soviet, and particularly those who travel from the U.S.S.R. to our countries. Let us place our faith in the friendly, openhearted Soviet people.

They don't want war any more than we do, and perhaps in the fullness of time their views will prevail.

In the meantime, let us be quite sure that we follow the precepts of Oliver Cromwell when he said to his men on the eve of battle, "Put your trust in God but mind to keep your powder dry."

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Harry H. Wilson.

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The Formidable Reality of Khrushchev's Russia

A joint Meeting of The Toronto Board of Trade, The Canadian Club of Toronto, and The Empire Club of Canada.
An opportunity to tell some of the conclusions of the speaker, following his return four months ago from an extensive visit to the U.S.S.R. The object of the visit. Progress of the U.S.S.R. in the development of hydro-electric, thermal, and nuclear facilities. An investigation of their progress in connection with extra high voltage long-range transmission. Arranging for future exchange visits of specialists. Findings set forth in a 41-page report prepared by Ontario Hydro. A detailed description of the visit. Challenges to the West. An examination of divisions between the Communist world and the West. Hope based on the Russian people themselves. What the Russian people do not know. The issue of peaceful co-existence.