FOR 40 years, American taxpayers have financed a small but potent scholarly publication, Problems of Communism. It has been required reading for anyone seriously interested in the Soviet Union, its Eastern European satellites and communist states.
With communism now pretty much having self-destructed, problems of capitalism have caught up with this magazine. The United States Information Agency, the federal government's overseas propaganda arm, discontinued it with a final issue last month. "The priorities have changed," said Wayne Hall, the magazine's editor. "We are in an epochal period of political transition and the energy should be spent in promoting the changes that we have all longed for for so long."
On the pages of Problems of Communism, scholars once discussed the pecking order of communist hierarchies, using such tea leaves as protocol listings and photographs. Or they debated the latest experiment to resuscitate a moribund agriculture or lessons that could be drawn from such seminal events as the Cuban missile crisis. Even though the bimonthly had only a circulation of 20,000 copies, it was an invaluable tool to the world's Kremlinologists at a time when precious little reliable information filtered through Kremlin walls. Indeed, for a long time it was the only USIA publication that was exempted from the rule that the propaganda agency's material could not be distributed in this country.
Some other research publications devoted to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are in the process of reorienting themselves. For example, much of the material originating from the vast archives of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the congressionally financed U.S. broadcast complex in Germany, is now published commercially. No such profitable future was seen for Problems of Communism. It is going out of business, a relic of a phase of world history that has passed.