Marx and Soviet Reality. Daniel Norman (1955)

XIII: The Guiding Star

The kinship between Tsarist and Soviet autocracy is even more evident in foreign policy.

There is no more striking feature in the politics of Russia [wrote Marx], than the traditional identity, not only of her objectives, but of her manner of pursuing them... no complication of the present Eastern Question, no transaction, no official note, which does not bear the stamp of quotation from known pages of history. (New York Tribune, 12 August 1853) [9]

As much could be said as truthfully today.

Like the Tsars, the Soviet leaders present their conquests and acquisitions as ‘liberations’ and themselves as champions of the independence of nations. ‘Russia has remained constantly a stranger to every desire of conquest – to every view of aggrandisement’, proclaimed the Tsar in 1829. ‘The Soviet Union has no territorial claim against any state whatever, including any neighbouring state’, proclaims Malenkov in 1953. Nevertheless, as Marx pointed out (14 June 1853), Tsarist Russia doubled her territory in sixty years. [10]

Since Stalin’s pact with Hitler, Russia has annexed or occupied European territory of over one and a half million square kilometres, with a population of over one hundred and fifteen million inhabitants.

To illustrate these methods, Marx quotes in Herr Vogt a memorandum which could easily be signed by Molotov:

Russia does not like to incorporate immediately states with heterogeneous populations... It seems better when it is a question of countries whose acquisition is decided upon to allow them to exist for some time under their own native leaders, but in complete dependence of Russia, as we have done for Moldavia and Wallachia.

Marx adds: ‘Before annexing the Crimea, Russia proclaimed its independence.’ Before annexing the Baltic States, Soviet Russia also proclaimed their independence. As for the European satellites...

This ‘shrewd, judicious, cunning, subtle’ foreign policy never gained Marx’s ‘admiration’ as Stalinist ‘history’ pretends. On the contrary, Marx and Engels waged ‘a war of life and death’ against it and denounced it whenever possible, considering its successes but a proof of the ‘weakness of the Western Powers’ and its ‘stereotyped mechanism’ a proof of the ‘intrinsic barbarism of Russia herself’ (12 August 1853).

They, saw, for instance, in the seizure of ‘Rumanian’ Bessarabia – as of Polish or Finnish territories – ‘nothing but barefaced conquest of alien territory by brute force, nothing but simple theft’ (Engels’ Foreign Policy of Russian Tsardom, 1890; also Herr Vogt, The Eastern Question, etc). What of Stalin’s Note of June 1940, demanding from Rumania not only Bessarabia, but also Northern Bukovina ‘as a compensation’ for Rumania having recovered Bessarabia after the 1914 war and held it for ‘twenty-two years’? Shylock’s bargain pales to insignificance!

‘The lode star of [Russian] policy [was and] is a fixed star – the empire of the world’ (Marx’s speech of January 1876); the most powerful component of Russian imperialism was, and is, ‘not the expansion of capital eager of accumulation, but the political interest of the state... which is here directing, and not directed’ (Rosa Luxemburg’s Juniusbroschure).

Engels’ opinion, still valid, was that:

The danger of a general war will disappear on the day when a change of things in Russia will allow the Russian people to blot out, at a stroke, the traditional policy of its Tsars, and to turn its attention to its own internal vital interests, now seriously menaced, instead of dreaming about universal supremacy. (The Foreign Policy of Russian Tsardom).