First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly No. 10, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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In MLQ 7 we published our statement on the International situation. This was an attempt to set out systematically our view of the ’main contradictions in the world today, and as such represented an important step forward. Without such analysis even of a preliminary character the Marxist-Leninist movement will not be able to make progress. Consequently it is all the more important that when such a document appears, Marxist-Leninists must make all round criticisms of it, noting its good points and weaknesses, in the attempt to improve it.
The statement resulted from polemic at the second Special General Meeting of the CFB in 1974. As the introduction to the statement showed however, a number of points were blurred and confused. It argued that:
And while we recognise that the US and USSR are the two main enemies, differences arise as their relative strengths and weaknesses. It is agreed that the Soviet leadership is Social Imperialist in Leninist sense of the term, although since a substantial minority do not accept the ’social-imperialist’ characterisation of the Soviet State, such a characterisation has been dropped from the statement. A large minority do not agree with the statements made about internal and external contradictions and thus does not accept some implications regarding the rules of socialist democracy drawn in this document. There are differences on the question of relative rates of degeneration in the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries. (Introduction. to the Statement on the World Situation, MLQ 7)
It is essential then that polemic over these issues be continued, with the aim of achieving unity. It is for this reason that the London Group have submitted this criticism of the Statement, whilst being in general agreement with it.
In the section of the statement headed ’Imperialism’, the United States is clearly labelled as ’the most aggressive enemy of the peoples of the world’ and the USSR as the ’next most powerful’. But in a subsequent paragraph, the document argues: “Thus strategically the two combined are the main enemies of the world’s peoples. Tactically one or the other will be the “dominant hostile force depending on the specific situation indifferent countries and areas of the world.”
The two formulations are clearly contradictory, insofar as the first one, regarding “the paramount position of the USA”, is rendered meaningless by the second. If the USSR ’tactically’ is the main enemy of certain peoples, depending on geographical proximity; the existence of spheres of influence, patterns of economic domination etc., then the USA cannot be the main enemy of the world’s peoples in general. It is clearly the case that the main enemy of the peoples of Eastern Europe is the USSR, far example.
What the document argues is that the USA is the main enemy in general, because of its overseas investments, and military strength. Thus the document ignores the class nature of social imperialism, and. fails to analyse realistically the balance of military forces. Clearly, overseas investments themselves do not transform any Western Imperialist nation into a greater threat to world revolution than is the USSR, yet most of these nations have more overseas investments than the USSR does. Regarding the military balance of forces, the situation is not one of obvious superiority of the USA. The annual publication of the Institute of Strategic Studies gives the following information. The USSR has more nuclear missiles but the USA more warheads, the USSR more submarines but the USA almost a monopoly of aircraft carriers, the USSR more planes but the USA more long-rage bombers, the USSR more troops and tanks (according to Peking Review 1974 No.3 p.8) – these are concentrated in Europe. These figures in themselves are not conclusive, but the existence of the Strategic Arms Institute Talks in themselves demonstrate that the two superpowers themselves consider that they are roughly in balance. More telling, the admission of a US admiral recently that the mobilisation of US forces during the 1973 Middle East War was a reaction to the fact that the USSR had obtained an overwhelming advantage in that area, shows that the assumptions of the World Situation document are far from accurate.
Military strength is not the deciding factor however. Political factors internally and externally decide on the possibility of the use of military hardware. This is why an understanding on the threat posed by the USSR is of great importance. In the CFB we are agreed on the nature of the threat posed by the USA. Indeed this is true of the left generally. The revisionists however make great play of the question of the ’struggle for peace’ and use this as a mask for the reactionary activities of the USS on a world scale. It is essential that we are equipped to expose this particular tactic. An essential basis for this is an understanding of the meaning of ’social imperialism’.
Social imperialism, “socialism in words, imperialism in deeds,” does not necessarily follow the same laws as the imperialism of the US, Britain etc, but it is nevertheless a form of exploitation of weaker nations, and is a response to the need for resources other than those available within the USSR. It rests primarily on bourgeois concepts of an ’international division of labour’ equal terms of trade-tied loans etc. Other articles in MLQ, notably in no.6, and the present issue go further into this question. Indeed the Statement on the World Situation itself goes into the details of Soviet exploitation on a world scale. How much more opportunist then, that we should fail to give the phenomenon its real name, and that we should not struggle for unity on this question.
We are not merely drawing demarcation lines over the use or non-use of names; the phenomenon of social imperialism rests on the basis of the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. There is thus great difference between speaking of ’Soviet Revisionism’ which characterises an earlier stage in the degeneration of the Soviet Union, and speaking of Soviet Social Imperialism, which sets the phenomenon in its true context, and gives due importance to the threat posed by the USSR. To equivocate on this question is to equivocate over the class nature of the USSR.
For Marxist-Leninists, the Soviet Union must be either capitalist or socialist – there is no third category, although the Trotskyists have tried to invent one. Our assessment does not depend on categories of legal ownership, laws of inheritance etc., but on the relationships to the means of production; whether or not the masses have real control of the use of means of production and appropriation of the product of their labour, control of planning etc. State ownership is neither here nor there especially when the masses are excluded from administration and decision making. These are the factors we consider when polemicising over this question. If comrades reject the arguments already advanced then let them enter the polemic and explain why.
In the section of the Document headed ’Socialist Camp’ we read, “Strategically, the internal contradictions are prime and therefore tactical attitudes towards bourgeois states must serve the interests of the internal progressive forces.”
Although it is generally true that internal contradictions are the most central for the working class and party of a particular formation, it is not always so even here in the case of Britain during the war against Fascism, for example the situation was such that the international situation demanded a united-front against Fascism. A similar situation arose for the Communist Party of China when the Japanese invaded.
More significantly, this statement, in the context of discuss ion of the foreign policy of socialist countries, implies a criticism of the foreign policy of the Peoples Republic of China – but opportunistically avoids stating it openly. This the Statement ignores the general strategic line of Chinese foreign policy, which we have always taken to be correct, and also ignores the elementary fact that what is primary for a state where the working class holds state power and is able to enter into diplomatic relations with states of a different social structure, may be secondary for the oppressed working class of a capitalist country. The relationship of internal to external contradictions is determined by analysis of the order of importance of contradictions in the world today. For us the main enemy is clearly our own working class -strategically, the aim is the taking of state power. The situation is quite different for the Communist Party of China whose strategy at the diplomatic level is to oppose the two super powers in their attempts to achieve world hegemony. The fruits of this strategy are clear for all to see; if comrades look at the statements of the Chinese UN delegation, at the statements of the Non-Aligned Nations Conferences, or merely note the changes in the balance of forces within the United Nations itself it is clear that the non-aligned nations are increasingly following an anti-imperialist-and-progressive path, a path to which China increasingly gives a lead.
This policy follows that laid down by the Chinese themselves. The statement on the World Situation on the other hand, is vague and imprecise on this point. It ignores what the CPC have said about their policy, and in essence falls into left opportunism in its assessment.
In general we support the positions expressed in the Document on the World Situation. We have however attempted to identify a number of errors, to draw demarcation lines and reopen polemic on a number of points. In general, the errors result from an opportunist blurring of central points, and it is essential that such opportunism be eradicated from the CFB.
 See the article ’Mandel and the Soviet Economy in MLQ 8/9 and the review of Birchall’s book in the same issue.
 See articles cited in Note (1).
 For continued polemic on this question, see the critique of Birchall already quoted, and the ’Response to SM’ in this issue.
 “Peaceful Coexistence: Two Diametrically Opposed Policies”, December 1963. Editorial Depts. of ’Peoples Daily’ and ’Red Flag’. ’Unite the People, Defeat the Enemy!’ Peking Review, no. 35, 1971. ’Whence the Differences’, collection of CPC statements.