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Nigel Harris

Not a Model

(Winter 1967/68)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.31,Winter 1967/68, pp.37-38.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Soviet Middle East, A Communist Model for Development
Alec Nove & J.A. Newth
Allen & Unwin, 30s

This very short book (132 pages of text) presents a great deal of hard economic information on the eight Soviet republics between Georgia on the Black Sea and Kirgizia on the Chinese border. The book includes some account of the general geographical and historical situation, on industrialisation, agriculture, the social services, finance, incomes, and comparisons with non-Soviet Middle Eastern neighbours (Turkey and Iran). The Middle Eastern republics began as put of Tsarism’s imperial possessions, were reintegrated into the Soviet Union, and have, by and large, been swept along by the process of Soviet development. What hard information the authors can gather suggests a very high rate of growth since the War, relatively high and rising standards (given that the starting point was low).

It is useful to have this factual material in one place, and to have what was known brought up to date. The authors are a little weak on the general social picture – no mention appears of the extensive French material on social change in the Soviet Middle East – and the book bears witness to having been rather rapidly written. More serious, however, is the lack of any general theoretical analysis, the lack of the ‘model’ promised in their title. In their final chapter, they do look at various general topics, but rather from the viewpoint of assessing whether Soviet control of it) Middle Eastern republics constitutes imperialism – a most boring side issue in the context, since the criteria for imperialism the authors offer are rather shallow. This theoretical weakness is a pity, but to remedy it would have required perhaps a much larger and more wide-ranging book.

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Last updated: 28.12.2007