Russian imperialism

Richard Bos Richard.Bos at
Thu Aug 1 23:10:46 MDT 1996

Hans Ehrbar wrote:
> A very good analysis of the mechanics of what has
> been falsely called "Soviet imperialism" was made
> by the (now defunct) Marxistische Gruppe in
> Germany.  I just re-read an article which they
> wrote in 1981 in their journal MSZ, and I still
> like it.

I am not surprised that they are defunct with a shallow analisis like

> (a) the Soviet Union did not need imperialism for
> economic reasons.  Their economic system was not
> even very good at exploiting their own people, and
> it did not have the need nor the means to tap into
> and benefit from foreign resources the same way
> capitalism does.

This is not scientific at all. Check out the economic growth figures
posted by Doug the other day. Did you ever go to the GDR,
Czechoslokakia,etc.? I thought the standard of living was pretty high
compared with most people in this country.
> (b) But they still sought friends and influence in
> the imperialist camp.  This was their misguided
> policy of peaceful coexistence, a response to the
> aggression by the Western camp.  It was misguided
> because it was an attempt to defend themselves
> against imperialism with the means of imperialism.

Peaceful coexistance was a way to avoid imminant war, due as you say to
"aggression from the Western camp". The last sentence doesn't mean
anything: it certainly contradicts the former.

> (c) They did not have any leverage in their diplomatic
> dealings with the West.  It was not profitable to
> deal with them, since they strictly controlled exports
> and imports.  Therefore they resorted to military power
> as a means to be recognized by the West.

Every increase in military power came first from the West. The Soviet
Union was always coming from behind in that race. It could well be argued
that it was a mistake to get into the race in the first place,and the
opposite could be equally well argued. Neither would make a case for

> (d) This was a mistake on the propagandistic front,
> since you cannot convince the populations in the West of
> the benefits of communism by aiming missiles at them.
> It was also a mistake economically because in order to
> be able to benefit politically from their armed threats,
> they needed to build a full arsenal and thus opened
> themselves to the challenge of the arms race.  And it
> was unnecessary militarily since they could have had
> a so-called "minimal deterrence" which does not
> need arms equality but only a believable second-strike
> capability.

The Soviet Union was not trying to convince the populace of the benifits
of Communism by pointing missiles at them. It was trying to deter people
who were pointing missiles at it from actually using them. The Warsaw
Treaty were never an armed threat to the West. I thought that this was
generally accepted by the Left, but obviously not.

> There are many subtleties in this which I cannot do
> justice in a short posting like this.  I have an
> English translation on file, which I am glad to
> send to anyone by private mail who is interested.
> It is longish (90 Kbytes) but worth while.
> Hans Ehrbar, ehrbar at
> --
Best wishes,

      New Worker Online

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