Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jack Scott

Two Roads: The Origins of the Sino-Soviet Dispute


The Soviet Union portrays itself as staunchly anti-imperialist, a friend of developing third world countries, using its economic and technical power to help these countries out from under the yoke of U.S. imperialism. Yet on every important question concerning relations with other nations as well as policies for internal development, the Soviet Union stands diametrically opposed to China, a third world country which has achieved national independence through its own efforts.

Why should this be so, when both claim to be communist states, both were founded on principles firmly condemning imperialist aims, and both call for unity against imperialism as a priority in their foreign relations?

The answer lies in examining the nature of imperialism in the modern age, for today it exists in markedly different forms from those of past centuries of open military occupation of colonies by imperialist powers.

We are familiar with many of the examples of economic exploitation and political coercion practiced by the United States and other openly imperialist countries:

– the maintenance in power in other countries of rulers subservient to the aims of the imperialist power; sometimes removed or installed by armed intervention

– maintenance of a huge military establishment as a threat to the rest of the world, including such manifestations as bases in foreign countries and “mutual defence” pacts which place the armed forces of a weaker nation under the control of the stronger

– installation of military and civilian “advisers” in important roles in cultural, political and educational institutions

– encouragement of one-sided industrial development which makes the underdeveloped country dependent on the stronger one for essential components

– unequal trade agreements which profit the more advanced country through exporting at high prices, importing at low high-interest loans restricted to purchase of goods from the loaning country and repayable in commodities

– increasing reliance by the imperialist power on third world countries for sources of raw materials

– forcing subservient countries into buying obsolete arms and industrial equipment at inflated prices

– revaluation of money to the benefit of the economically stronger nation

– forcing subservient countries to follow the foreign policy of the master nation.

It has become increasingly clear in recent years that the Soviet Union, as well, fits every one of the above definitions of an imperialist power, going as far as to boast of huge annual balances of trade and the fact that it has never lost money on dealings with other countries.

Is this socialism in practice? This pamphlet focuses with historical documentation on the particular aspect of the Soviet Union’s policies towards China, from 1919 to the present, to argue that the revolutionary and socialist phraseology of the Soviet Union simply masks blatantly imperialist goals and methods in relations with foreign countries.

Except for an interlude of one month at the founding of the state, the Soviet Union simply carried on Czarist imperialist policies concerning, at that time, a weak and divided China; policies which included seizure of territories, armed attacks to preserve economic interests, collusion with the Japanese during their invasion of China, and looting of Manchurian industry following World War Two.

Further, at Yalta in 1945, as the big powers including the Soviet Union calmly divided the world among themselves, the Soviet Union’s claims were upheld and legitimized in the eyes of the other imperialist powers.

Finally, after the victory of a lengthy revolutionary war which the Soviet Union both failed to assist and openly opposed, a socialist state was founded which now, at least, expected treatment as an equal, not to mention substantial aid, from a professed brother socialist nation. Instead, it was immediately clear that the Soviet Union expected substantial profits from any investment in China, and further that politically the Communist Party of China would be expected to submit to the dictates of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in all areas.

When the CPC showed definite signs of continuing its traditions of self-determination and indeed began principled, internal criticisms of Soviet Union policy in many areas of foreign relations, the Soviet Union took immediate steps to drum China out of its version of the international socialist movement.

The Soviet Union, in pursuing a policy of accumulating wealth by any means necessary in order to show the world that socialism works, succeeds only in showing that, for the present, imperialism works.

In distinct opposition to these imperialist aims are China’s principles and practice of foreign relations: mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence between nations.

The general line of Chinese foreign policy lies in encouraging anti-imperialist unity among nations, believing anti-imperialist struggle inevitably leads towards progress in the internal policies of these nations.

The Soviet Union, on the other hand, pursues the line of peaceful coexistence with U.S. imperialism, and a non-struggle form of “world peace”, knowing full well that any struggle against imperialism would include opposition to its own policies.

This pamphlet does not profess to approach a complete analysis of the Sino-Soviet dispute or argue the theoretical principles of socialism; it does however touch on some brief explanations of how the socialist goals of the Bolsheviks became subverted – the Soviet experience being a rich but relatively untapped source of mistakes to aid in the education of socialists throughout the world.

For example the CPC, through its long years of revolutionary struggle and practice in administering vast liberated areas and populations, developed the experienced and dedicated personnel required for socialist administration of an entire state – but even this did not prevent the development of the serious bureaucratic-capitalist contradictions attacked during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

The CPSU on the other hand, after a virtual armed coup by a relatively small band of Bolsheviks, was forced to incorporate a host of former Czarist officials and psuedo-revolutionary opportunists into its power structure which eventually helped promote the development of an elite bourgeois class not unlike the administration of a capitalist business enterprise, save only for the Soviet version’s more complete monopolistic control over resources and production.

There are clearly two distinct approaches of China and the Soviet Union on both internal social policy and foreign affairs: China puts its faith in the principle that socialism develops both internally and externally through actively mobilized and politically aware people undertaking struggle and gaining experience; the Soviet Union builds “socialism in one country” through imperialist power politics and economic exploitation abroad, and promoting material gain for internal incentive.

On an international scale, the importance of the issue of a socialist foreign policy can be summed up as follows: “How we act at any given moment can influence events for years to come ... the external policy of the Soviets required an abrupt break with past practice, and a venture into untrodden paths in foreign relations . . . Failure to develop an external policy with a revolutionary content that keeps pace with internal revolutionary objectives will, in time, turn inward and deflect the nation from its original aims.”

As revolutionary situations develop, and people throughout the world move to relegate imperialism to the scrap heap of history, it is important to unearth and expose every aspect of imperialism, whatever guise it takes, ’defence of the free world’ or in the name of ’revolution and socialism’.

Revolutionary principles are nothing without an analysis of the actual practice associated with them, and with the power of the Soviet Union in today’s world, the practices it pursues itself and encourages in certain subservient political groups are, on an international scale, just as important for socialists to understand as the machinations of U.S. imperialism.

Al Birnie