Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Commentator Collective

A shift in World Politics


Published: The Commentator, No. 10, February-March 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Those of us on the left have long since grown accustomed to thinking of U.S. imperialism as the most aggressive, most imperialist and most dangerous force in the world today.

However, events and developments of the past several years raise the question of whether this notion is still fully valid.


Few would deny that U.S. imperialism has been growing steadily weaker for a long time. Since WWII at the end of which the U.S. stood astride a good portion of the globe, the U.S. has met with one defeat after another in its neo-colonial empire. First China and Eastern Europe, then Korea, Cuba, and now Vietnam and Indo-china. Practically the entire third world is in one stage or another of throwing off U.S. control and domination. Western Europe and Japan are far from being the pliant clients of U.S. imperialism they once were. Internally the U.S. has been suffering from both political and economic crisis for several years now. The Tiger is getting old and losing some of his teeth.


There is but one power in the world which has the strength and resources to contend with the U.S. for its imperial mantle and scepter. This is the Soviet Union.

After the death of Stalin, and with the rise of Khruschev, the Soviet Union abandoned the road of socialism, and began restoring capitalism. Nominally, control and ownership of the means of production remain in the hands of the people. But in actual fact, they are controlled and owned by a Soviet elite, a new capitalist class, in the pursuit of profit and not at all in accordance with the needs of the people. The profit motive is very openly extolled in the Soviet press. The elite is able to appropriate a portion of these profits of the state enterprises by various means – whether it be by large bonuses, salaries, perquisites of office, or just plain skulduggery.

It is a big mistake to think that state ownership alone is socialism. Are the Pentagon and the Post Office socialist institutions?

In the Soviet Union petty capitalism permeates everyday life as doctors, plumbers, repairmen, tutors, and others go into business for themselves to take advantage of the breakdown of state supplied services. The black market in commodities and currency abounds.

Working people are increasingly subject to the same evils we know so well here –unemployment, inflation, poverty and insecurity. They have once again become wage slaves with nothing but their labor-power to sell. What is more, the working people there do not even have rights that working people here have, including the right to strike, or speak out freely. Numerous visitors have remarked on the fear of the Soviet citizens in “talking politics”. Many people balk at using the term “fascist” in regard to what was the first socialist state – but what do you call a country in which people are afraid to speak their minds for fear of going to prison, losing their job, or other forms of persecution? Neither fascist Germany nor fascist Italy began by putting masses of people in ovens. They first abolished elementary bourgeois democratic liberties and herded dissidents into prisons. Breznev, as Nixon jealously observed, is not threatened with any Watergate exposures. Gromyko does not suffer the constant embarrassments and annoyances our “poor” Kissinger has to suffer.


The Soviet economy is about half the size of the U.S. economy in terms of total production. But the Soviets have exceeded U.S. expenditures on defense for a number of years. The Soviets have achieved rough equality with the U.S. in nuclear capabilities, but have pulled out ahead in terms of conventional capabilities. Whereas the U.S. is being forced to withdraw from many of its military bases and strongholds around the world, the Soviets are expanding their military bases around the world. The Soviet navy now plies the seas of the entire world. This buildup of the Soviet military, so far beyond the needs of its own defense, has been done directly at the expense of the Soviet people. Agriculture and consumer goods production are openly admitted to be in a state of crisis – and yet the Soviet “planners” continue to put forth militarization as the top priority.

This development is very similar to the case of Hitler Germany. Hitler put great emphasis on building his military machine while neglecting consumer goods production. We all know how he eventually resolved this growing contradiction. He used this military machine for conquest and the plunder of Europe and other’ parts of the world. How does one suppose the Soviets will resolve this contradiction? Having embarked on the path of imperialism and state monopoly capitalism, what grounds are there for supposing they will act differently?

State monopoly capitalism has certain laws of development which do not in any way depend on the labels the Soviets use to describe their system. Nor do words such as “detente” or “policy of peace” have any affect on these laws.

Soviet imperialist involvement around the world has grown steadily for many years and one might be surprised to review its actual extent.

The invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 revealed clearly the Soviet Union’s imperialist relationship with Eastern Europe. (Only Albania, Yugoslavia, and Rumania can be considered outside this empire, but all three are increasingly menaced by Soviet imperialism and are taking measures to prepare against attack.)

India has become a client state of the Soviet Union and Indira Ghandi’s fascist regime is in turn fully supported by the Soviets. Moreover, the Soviets fully supported India’s dismemberment of Pakistan, not to mention her occasional but sobering forays against China. In the Middle East, the Soviets have put several of the Arab countries deeply into their debt through munitions sales. The whole gambit there burst out into the open when the Egyptian rebelled against the onerous schedule of debt and interest repayment. Nor did the Egyptians take kindly to a Soviet backed coup attempt against Sadat.

A byproduct of the huge military economy of the Soviet Union is a huge surplus of outmoded weapons. The struggles of various countries against U.S. imperialism or even each other provides the Soviets opportunities to unload this surplus and turn a neat profit to boot.

In South East Asia, where the U.S. has been kicked out to a large extent, the Soviet Union is moving in. Moreover, it is doing everything it can to turn some of these countries against China.


Currently, the Soviet Union’s work is being done in Africa. The Soviets have succeeded in splitting up the liberation forces in Angola and are now very pleased with themselves for having split up the OAU and the unity of the entire continent. The South African regime and the U.S. are well recognized enemies of the African people. The Soviets have taken advantage of this fact to pose, as liberators and maneuver various forces there into a position of dependence on them.

The military victories of one faction over another are very much the result of Soviet aid and foreign troops. Each of the factions had a certain base of popular support. This kind of victory places the victor in dependence on his benefactor. As a result of the splits and hostility, many forces are more likely to turn to one superpower or another - resulting in a setback for the liberation movement all around. It is interesting to note that the great “liberator” fears to expose itself by sending its own troops. It sends those of a dependent Latin American country half a world away. Those troops most definitely could not be there without Soviet say so. The U.S., on the other hand, much as it would like to stick its snout in Angola more massively, is having many difficulties. Angola itself is one of the clearest examples of how the balance of power is shifting from one superpower to the other.

However, the biggest plum on which the Soviet leaders have their eyes is Europe. They have large numbers of troops and tanks in Eastern Europe, far exceeding the NATO forces. They periodically flex their growing muscle with vast military maneuvers and exercises. The Soviet Union utilizes any conflict – as for example between Greece and Turkey – or any unrest – as in Portugal – to make a grab for power and influence – and, if possible, military bases. There is nothing new in the methods the Soviet Union uses to exploit its new empire. We have already mentioned the sales of outmoded weapons. It also uses the “price scissors” paying low prices for the raw materials and goods it imports and charging high prices for its industrial goods and munitions. It extends loans at high interest which are tied to purchases of overpriced Soviet goods. It sets up jointly owned state industries as in India. It keeps its various dependencies enslaved by chaining them to the “international socialist division of labor”. This keeps third world countries backward and dependent on world markets for their raw materials or basic commodities. It prevents more advanced Eastern European countries from achieving economic independence and all-sided development. The Soviet Union is trying to shift its crisis to Eastern Europe through raising prices for oil and raw materials.

It is enough to make a review like this to realize that the Soviet Union is no mean imperial and, in many respects, is already a greater imperial power than the U.S. This is something that has snuck up on us almost imperceptibly, so to speak, but is fact nonetheless.


It is sometimes argued that since the U.S. economy is twice as big as the Soviet’s, how could the Soviets be more dangerous than U.S. imperialism? But this was also the case with Hitler’s Germany. The much lower standard of living allows a big military expenditure. The lack of any democracy gives the leaders much greater room to maneuver. The fact that the S.U. has an anti-imperialist and revolutionary past and continues sailing under the socialist flag, plus the fact that the people of the world are much less awakened to the imperialist nature of the S.U. gives the Soviets a big advantage over its adversary. The greater centralization and concentration of the Soviet economy gives the Soviet leaders the possibility of accomplishing specific objectives with much greater ease than the U.S.

Then too, it is not often realized how desperate the Soviet leaders are. The Soviet Union is afflicted with a severe economic crisis as a result of its retrogression to a State monopoly capitalism. The Soviet Union’s socialist pretensions aggravate this contradiction, not lessen it. If in the U.S. there is, for a time, a cynical and despairing attitude toward such phenomena as mass unemployment, inflation and poverty, this is partly because people take these things for granted in a capitalist society. In the Soviet Union, unemployment, poverty and inflation are rearing their head but these capitalist features are more dangerous in a country that still has constitutional guarantees of a job for every person. It is only through the Soviet’s frantic militarization that sue open capitalist manifestations are momentarily retarded. This is much the same as was the case in Hitler Germany. Then too, the S.U. is entering its imperial career at a very dis-advantagous time. The Third World and people generally are much more awake and active than at any time in the past. Carving out an empire is a much more difficult job these days. China grows stronger with every passing year. Time is not on the side of the Soviet leaders for these and other reasons.


The U.S., on the other hand will not forever lie back and watch a redivision of the world against its own interests. At some point the U.S. will join the issue in defense of its own interests and position in the world. In short, war is inevitable sooner or later.

Some of these facts are recognized by people in high places in the U.S. Nixon actively sought out improved relations with China. Today James R. Schlesinger and William Safire, among others, are openly advocating closer relations with People’s China as a counterweight to the growing ambitions and threat of Soviet expansionism. All of these figures are above any suspicion of sympathy with communism. That such figures actively seek some sort of rapproachment with People’s China is ample testimony to the seriousness with which even they take the Soviet threat. The Chinese point out that, of the two superpowers, it is the S.U. that has become the more dangerous and aggressive. China has begun making use of the contradictions between the two. As far as the S.U., it regards People’s China as its arch-enemy in the world. And yet, it is unlikely that China is its objective in any immediate sense. Of all the various adventures the S.U. might embark upon, war with China is one of the least promising. It might not be hard to get in, but it would be impossible to get out. Rather, to a certain extent the Soviet sabre-rattling in China’s direction is more in the nature of a ruse to deflect attention from its true objective, namely Europe. At present, the Soviet Union is busily engaged at snipping the lifelines –in the Middle East, in Africa. And all the while, as it constantly nibbles away at the timbers and raves at the Chinese menace, it preaches peace and detente. When anyone complains if you’re so interested in detente – why do you keep nibbling so furiously? Ah, they answer, detente does not mean we will give up aiding wars of national liberation. And what, to the Soviet Union, are wars of national liberation? Cambodia? Certainly not. India’s war against Pakistan–that was a war of national liberation. The war of one Angolan faction against two others – that was a war of national liberation. The sale of surplus arms to the Egyptians, the pressing for repayment of debts, this is “aid” in a war of national liberation. The end result of which is to place this or that force in dependence on the Soviet Union. Again, the situation is reminiscent of Hitler’s tactics: which was to proclaim peace, denounce the Soviet menace, and take another bite out of Europe – then promise never to do it again–only to repeat the whole process all over again.

There are those in the West who hope to get out of this pickle cheaply, and for this they would prefer to see a “war between the two communist giants” as they put it. But some of these people have apparently taken up the study of history. China released some Soviet fliers recently, two or so years after their helicopter was first downed. They said that they now found the pilots’ explanation of accidental overflight credible. What is interesting is not so much the Chinese action as the reaction in the West where it was taken as a sign of Chinese unwillingness to pull U.S. and Western chestnuts out of the fire.


It is important to understand that the basic character of U.S. imperialism has not changed in all this. Permit us one more historical analogy. Winston Churchill through his whole life was a Tory and arch-reactionary. He organized the 14 nation intervention to strangle the then young and socialist Soviet Union. Yet, by the 30’s he recognized the anti-communist rhetoric of Hitler for what it was, and became one of the principal advocates of an alliance with the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler Germany. And then again, before the ashes of WWII had begun to cool, he visited Missouri and called for the beginning of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, or rather a resumption of the old war so to speak. In all three phases of his career he remained a faithful spokesman of British imperial interests.

This shift in world politics by no means signifies that we should relent in our struggle against the domestic oppression of the U.S. rulers. But to only oppose and expose U.S. aggression, and neglect the activities and danger of the other superpower is but to aid the other superpower in its bid for world hegemony. It would also mislead people in regard to the danger and source of another world war.

A footnote. This question is still under discussion in our group. The ideas in this article, while the majority view, do not reflect a unanimous opinion.