Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Letter: The Two Superpowers and the Arms Race

First Published: Class Struggle, Vol. 11, No. 2, April 1987
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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Dear Editor,

The December/January issue of ’Class Struggle’ printed a letter criticising the November article on the US-Soviet arms summit. The writer of this letter appears to have not only missed the whole point of the article, but seems to analyse superpower relations in the most simplistic terms.

Of course, it is true that for many years the Soviet Union has posed a major threat to the peoples of the world. In fact, for some of these peoples, notably the people of East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia Afghanistan etc., it has been more than a threat, but has invaded and occupied their countries. This does not mean however that a) there has been unanimity among the ruling class of the Soviet Union about these and other actions, or b) that there are not contradictory pressures operating on both the Soviet Union and the USA with regard to military spending.


Communists believe that both of the major political parties in the USA are imperialist parties, which have both presided over governments that have engaged in military action against Third World countries. American Communists have also recognised that the present administration has not only pushed military spending to a new level, un­matched historically by any other country in ’peace’ time, but has put the country on an almost rabid war footing. Because of the Democrats clearly committed themselves to non-interference in Central America, Marxist­Leninists gave their (possibly reluctant) backing to the Democrats during the last US presidential election.


The Soviet ruling class is no more monolithic than is the US, and anyone who has carried out more than a cursory study of Soviet politics during the last two decades will have seen a fundamental split between the Brezhnev-Chernenko and Andropov-Gorbachev camps. This split covers not only military strategy but also encompasses very substantial divisions on economic and political institutions. While it is not possible to go into these questions in any depth here, it is necessary to restate that there are fundamental and extremely powerful economic forces at work in the USSR that operate against the massive levels of military spending taking place at the moment, let alone against what will be spent if the Soviet Union responds to Star Wars on a tit for tat basis. The letter argued that “the Soviet economy is an imperialist economy. Any rise in general living standards is incidental to regenerating profitability.” But this misses the point that such profitability cannot be regenerated while a) living standards are so low with the resulting ’problems’ of labour absenteeism, alcoholism, low level of economic demand etc. and b) that the capital investment necessary to take the Soviet economy out of its present stagnation cannot take place if the arms race continues at its present rate.


Even if none of this was true, the letter misses the most fundamental point about the summit. The Star Wars programme represents a qualitative and manic acceleration of the arms race, and it is the USA that is responsible for this, breaking several treaties as it does so. In response Gorbachev offered, in front of the world’s press, to destroy the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal over a ten year period, if the USA would follow suit and abandon its Star Wars programme.

Gorbachev’s offer does not mean that he is a socialist. But it does imply that, at the very least, he wishes to preside over a more wealthy and stable empire (and the Soviet empire is neither wealthy nor stable at the moment). The Reagan refusal of this offer and subsequent US entrenchment represents a major blow to the prospects for world peace.

A Leeds reader