Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Federation of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

The Soviet Union is a Social Imperialist State!

Resolution on Social Imperialism passed at the National Committee of the CFB (ML)

First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly No. 11, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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The National Committee of the CFB(ML) explicitly declares that the Soviet Union is a social-imperialist state, socialist in words and imperialist in deeds, ruled by a new state-monopoly capitalist bourgeoisie with an imperialist class character, as has been pointed out by the Communist Party of China.

The passing of this resolution follows continued polemic within the CFB over the nature of the Soviet Union.[1] This polemic followed the resolution of the Second Special General Meeting, and was waged against the opportunist and diffuse aspects of that resolution, in order to reach the correct line.

The main weakness of that resolution was that it opportunistically avoided characterising the class nature of the Soviet Union. Instead of speaking of a ruling class, it spoke of ’new ruling force’; instead of ’Soviet Social Imperialism’ it used the term ’Soviet revisionism’, and instead of attacking the Soviet Union as a major enemy of the world’s peoples it vaccilated over the seriousness of the threat posed by the Soviet Union.

In making these errors the earlier resolution failed to apply Marxism-Leninism rigourously. This was a serious error in a period when the Soviet union pose a growing threat and when revisionism and Troskyism continue to sow confusing ideas amongst the masses concerning the nature of socialism. To reach a clear class position, it is essential to clear grasp the idea that a socialist society necessitates that the proletariat holds state power, and is actively engaged in constructing a socialist economy, under the leadership of a genuine Communist Party. If these conditions are not present, then a capitalist restoration is always possible. As Mao has pointed out:

Socialist society covers a considerably long historical period. In the historical period of socialism, there are still classes, class contradictions and class struggle, there is the struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road, and there is the danger of capitalist restoration. We must recognize the protracted and complex nature of this struggle.[2]

In the Soviet Union the masses play no part in controlling the state apparatus, in the planning of production etc. Planning is a bureaucratic process, which has increasingly restored production for profit as the main production criterion, and has also placed power in the hands of the managers of individual firms, thus losing its power of co· ordination of the economy as a whole. The most recent Five Year Plan clearly reveals that the Soviet growth rate has fallen over recent years to that achieved by the western capitalist nations. It also reveals a failure to attain its earlier goals of a developed consumer goods sector, since resources are now having to be diverted to the heavy industry sector.

Similarly in agriculture, collective farms are now run by “experts” who are empowered to dispose of farm property and funds, to buy and sell machines, to transfer land, to fix wages and bonuses etc.[3] The overall degeneration of Soviet agriculture is most starkly illustrated by the Soviet grain purchases over the last three years. In 1972 for ex ample the Soviet Union bought 19 million tons of US grain (some of which was subsequently used in a speculative fashion in the world market).[4] “Planning” in Soviet agriculture is so anarchic that production of many crops in the private plots exceeds that of state enterprises.[5]

The fact that much of the farming sector, and all industrial means of production are state owned is no proof that a socialist economy exists in the USSR. Legal ownership by the state exists in western capitalist nations, and grows rapidly as monopoly capitalism grows more moribund, (see the article on Nationalisation in this issue of MLQ). State ownership of the means of production does not change the fact that surplus value is still extracted from the producers of that value. In the Soviet Union it is the state monopoly capitalist bourgeoisie which extracts this surplus, and which holds state power.

Social Imperialism

The class nature of a state determines the external policies followed by that state. Whereas a socialist foreign policy is based on the principles of proletarian internationalism, mutual interest of the trading partners, respect for sovereignty, and non-interference in internal affairs, the external policy of the Soviet Union is based on competition with the USA for world hegemony, the spurious concept of “limited sovereignty” (the cover for the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968), and a trade policy which is every bit as exploitative as that of the western imperialist nations. Soviet leaders frequently speak of ’launching a tactical offensive’, of ’spheres of influence’.

A striking illustration of Soviet imperialism is the degree of militarisation of the economy. Lenin long ago outlined the connection between this phenomenon and imperialism:

Any other basis under capitalism for the division of spheres of influence, of interests, of colonies, etc. than a calculation of the strength of the participants in the division, their general economic, financial, military strength, etc. is inconceivable.[6]

Militarisation is far from the same thing as a militant defence of the revolution achieved through arming the people, and struggling to integrate the army with the people, as happens in China. Militarisation of the economy is primarily based on super-power rivalry, and distorts the economy in its attempts to outdo its rivals:

According to official Soviet statistics, the Soviet Union’s national income is about 66 percent of that of the United States, while actual military spending tops that of the United States by 20 percent. In 1974, 35 percent of the Soviet Government’s expenditure was swallowed up by its military machine.[7]

This super-power rivalry is nothing to do with a socialist defence of the revolution. It is clearly a necessary element of social imperialism.

The Soviet military machine, like its western counterparts is used to defend, and extend its external interests. Between 1954 and 1972 total capital exports from the Soviet Union exceeded 13 million US dollars, enabling it to control key industrial sectors in many developing countries. Peking Review recently gave the following figures for Soviet trade:

Through capital exports, it (the SU) has looted more than 19 million dollars worth of primary products from the third world. Of these raw sugar accounted for nearly 3,600 million US dollars; cotton, 2,600 million; natural rubber, 2,400 million; coffee, cocoa and tea, 1,600 million; ores 750 million.[8]

In the so-called Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) the Soviet Union controls heavy industry and monopo1ises the raw material supplies and allocations of some Comecon members. For example, over 90 percent of Czechoslovakia’s uranium production, 94 percent of Bulgaria’s bauxite exports and 49 percent of its lead. and 43 percent of Poland’s zinc went to the Soviet Union.[9]

Many more examples of social imperialist policy could be outlined. The blatant interference in the affairs of such nations as India and Angola, seizure of Japanese territories, Soviet policy in the UN in defending the so-called “freedom of the high seas” against the third world demand for 200 mile maritime rights – all these show the out and out imperialist character of Soviet policy. Our task however is to grasp the essence of the nature of the Soviet state – that it is capitalist, and the essential nature of its external policy – that it is social imperialist. A class analysis of the Soviet Union is a crucial plank in the platform of Marxist-Leninist organisations, because it is the duty of Communists in all countries to alert the people to all its enemies. Revisionism and Trotskyism only serve to provide a ’cover’ for the counter revolutionary activities of the Soviet Union, and so disarm the working class. It is our duty to expose this false socialism in our propaganda, and to struggle for a genuine policy of proletarian internationalism.


[1]See MLQ Nos. 8/9 and 10.

[2]Mao “Documents of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”.

[3]“Soviet Collective Farms Degenerate”, Peking Review 1975, No.36, p. 17.

[4] Ibid. p. 17

[5]See MLQ Nos. 8/9, article on Mandel.

[6]V. I. Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”.

[7]“New Tsars Feverish Arms Expansion and War Preparations”, Peking Review, 1975, No. 48, p.9.

[8]Peking Review, 1975, No. 13, p. 19.

[9] Ibid.