Peter Sedgwick

Defending Russia

(Autumn 1963)

Peter Sedgwick, Defending Russia, International Socialism (1st series), No.14, Autumn 1963. (review)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

War and the Soviet Union, Revised Edition, H.S. Dinerstein, Praeger, Paperbacks 14s6d.

Dinerstein’s study of the evolution of Soviet nuclear strategy first appeared in 1959 and provided useful source material on the ‘workers’ bomb’ (see Raymond Challinor’s article Zig-Zag in IS3). The present edition makes no attempt to up-date the text to take in more recent developments. There is however a fairly useful but cursory introduction of less than a dozen pages, commenting upon such topics as the Soviet lag in ICBMs in 1960-61 and (more importantly for ourselves) the renovation in leading Soviet circles of an earlier emphasis on the ‘pre-emptive strike’.

Previous Soviet discussion of pre-emption had, as Dinerstein establishes in the main text, erupted painfully over 1955-6 with the shedding of Stalinist military dogmatics (which were essentially pre-nuclear). The author’s skillful dissection, clean through the pulp of successive Red Army magazine-numbers, displays a process of gradual calcification, from the tender tooth-buds of the first nuclears into the horrendous fangs of amateur H-bomb strategy. Dinerstein’s approach to his subject-matter may be described as technological or simply amoral. That is, he does not stop to denounce the Soviet ‘first-strike’ theorists, but exhibits their ideas as a fact of the modern world. And yet the strategy of the pre-emptive strike (like its near relative or even twin, the doctrine of ‘preventive war’) surely makes nonsense of many of the broader political rationalisations which habitually bolster military science; if the doctrine of the first strike follows so closely upon the evolution of modern weapons, how any longer can a distinction be maintained, at least by the nuclear powers, between ‘aggressive’ and ‘non-aggressive’, ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ wars? But then it would have been odd to find such considerations looming large in a study (quote from the preface) ‘prepared as part of the research undertaken for the US Air Force by the RAND Corporation’.

Peter Sedgwick


Last updated on 20.8.2007