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Saturday, March 30, 2002

Roi Medvedev Interview

WorldNow: U.S. overconfidence poses danger: Medvedev

MOSCOW, March 30 (Kyodo) - By: Shigeyuki Yoshida The Russian historian, Roi
Medvedev, is known for being an alternative Marxist. In the 1960s, he fought for
democratization of the Soviet Union, exposed the Stalin personality cult and was
thrown out of the Soviet Union Communist Party. As a member of the
intelligentsia with leftist tendencies, he kept a close eye on the
disintegration of the Soviet Union and the changes going on in Russia. Kyodo
News' interview with Medvedev was conducted in his modest house on the snowy
outskirts of Moscow. In answer to the question as to what is most important in
the uncertain and unpredictable 21st century, he replied, ''Patience and
attention to people's needs.''

The following are excerpts of Kyodo News' interview with Medvedev.

How did the Sept. 11 attack in the United States affect society?

The world community realized that the threat of Islamic terrorism had become
threat No. 1. As leader among the Western countries, this was the first time
that the U.S. had directly encountered Islamic radicalism. Russia had come up
against this threat earlier in the form of the Chechnyan war, but this was
nothing compared to what happened in the U.S.

But Islamic radicalism was around before this.

True. It was born in the Near Middle East, in countries like Algeria and
Egypt and then moved across to Russia, mainly to Chechnya. However, the
terrorist attack in the U.S. showed, for the first time, that Islamic terrorism
had become a force to be reckoned with on a global scale. We need to be worried
about the fact that the terrorists don't choose their weapons of war. In terms
of war, Islamic radicalism is a weak political force. The U.S. is much more
powerful as far as weapons go and no one can stand up to this country right now.
So, there was no alternative for the radicals but to use barbaric methods in
their struggle with the U.S. There was no other way.

Can you justify Islamic radicalism in choosing terrorism as its one means of

Of course not. But the bombing of Palestine by the Israelis is just the same
sort of barbaric act as those carried out by the Palestinian kamikaze attackers.
The victims come from the population at large.

You said terrorist acts cannot be justified, yet the Soviet Union's Communist
regime was responsible for terror on a large scale.

The Bolsheviks maintained that terror was unavoidable during war. Yet, even
after gaining power, they still used terror on a massive scale. This cannot be
justified. As a historian, terrorism repulses me.

Will the 21st century become marked by conflict between the United States and
Islamic radicalism?

Although Islamic radicalism counts the U.S. as enemy No. 1, this is a threat
to the whole of the civilized world. It is a serious matter that Islamic
radicalism puts forward requests that cannot be fulfilled. For example, that the
U.S. pulls out of Saudi Arabia and that the Jewish people leave Israel. In
Russia, Islamic radicals made plans to obtain control of the whole of the
northern Caucasus, Chechnya and other regions. So, the war, more likely than
not, will continue. However, it's not clear if this conflict will continue for
the whole of the 21st century. Is it possible for Islamic radicalism to have the
same global effect as fascism? This depends on the actions of the whole of the
civilized world. In the whole of Islam, made up of more than a billion people,
Islamic radicalism is only a comparatively small part of the Muslim population.

The main thing in the struggle with Islamic radicalism is not to overstep the
boundaries of the struggle. The fight with Islamic radicalism and war with
countries such as Iraq or Iran are completely different things. A war with Iraq
would involve the entire Islamic world. I fear that the U.S. may provoke an
escalation in the struggle with Islamic radicalism.

Can it be said the fight against Islamic radicalism involves all of

Not yet. But there is a danger that this could happen if the conflict with
Islamic radicalism deepens. All available means must be used to avoid this.
Islamic radicalism is an unknown threat for us. The U.S. and the Soviet Union
studied each other in great detail during the Cold War. However, I cannot say
Russia has ever fully studied Islam as a religion. So, it is very important to
look at Islamic radicalism as an ideology.

How should the world community react to this conflict?

It must be overcome. There were a few outbreaks like this Islamic one in the
20th century. There was fascism and, most frighteningly, Bolshevism. Appearing
in the 19th century, the communist movement, aiming for world domination,
proclaimed a world revolution in the 20th century. Thus, it became a threat to
the capitalist world. This became the major reason for the start of the Cold

Has there ever been anything like the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 in the
20th century?

Probably the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was also an act
of terrorism. Something that was meant to frighten Japan caused the death of
several hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

This could be called an act of war, but also war terrorism.

You mean terrorism and an act of war are the same thing?

No, not the same thing. War between governments and the fight with Islamic
terrorism are different. However, there is no clear distinction between an act
of war and terrorism. The United Nations and other International organizations
should give clear definitions.

In your book about President Vladimir Putin, published this year, you support
the war in Chechnya.

The Chechen problem is complex. It involves religion, though it is mainly
concerned with independence and separatism. The war was unavoidable in
preventing Chechnya from becoming independent.

If you say Bolshevism is a radical ideology, how then should Russia develop?

Russia should build a democracy of its own, not based on Western ideology. I
don't think that choosing socialism was a mistake. Now, Russia has chosen
capitalism. And, as a result, a large percentage of the population is in a
desperate position. I hope that Russia returns to socialism in the future. I
mean to a social-democratic path. But Russia is not poor right now. And in order
to change over to a social-democratic lifestyle, a certain social development is

What lessons can be learned from the fight against terrorism in the 20th

The 20th century was a century of revolutions. At the same time, the world
was much changed by technical advances. We must be patient with each other,
attentive to each other's needs. We shouldn't put on airs and act high handedly.
President (George W.) Bush's doctrine agrees with what (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov)
Lenin said. It is wrong to say, ''He who is not with us is against us.'' That is
a dangerous Bolshevik thesis. I would say, ''He who is not with us is not
against us.'' Since someone not in league with our enemy may become our future

Has U.S. domination of the world grown in the aftermath of the terrorist

I don't think so. Why should we automatically side with the U.S.? President
Bush's watchword is its own type of radicalism. It looks as if radicalism can be
found among rich nations as well as poor. At the roots of this radicalism is the
idea that only that which Americans hold dear should be what the whole of
civilization holds dear. I don't like that sort of self-centered confidence.

Medvedev continues by explaining what kind of leftist ideology should be
adopted after the end of the Cold War in Russia, where the entire basis of the
socialist revolution has been completely overturned. He also compares the U.S.
effort to have things and ideas which the U.S. holds dear to be generally
accepted to the persecution of alternative thinkers in the old Soviet Union.


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