Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stalin's view that Capitalist apples will inevitably fall

We are so used to hearing that Liberal Democracies don’t fight against other Liberal Democracies that we forget that Marx and Lenin once taught that Capitalist Countries were always going to fight against each other. All Communists (by this term I mean those who believed in Marxist-Leninism) had to do was wait for the apples to fall.

Let us return to the first few years of the Cold War, of the practice of “Containment.” Stalin had been functioning in accordance with Communist doctrine. He was poking here and there but he had no intention of provoking a serious war with the USSR. In fact he had contrary worries. While he had no intention of starting a war with the U.S., he thought the U.S. might be planning a war with him. The U.S. didn’t know that’s what he thought. The U.S. without just cause continued to believe almost until the USSR fell, that it was at a disadvantage and that the USSR had the military upper hand.

But Stalin knew how to play the game of Realpolitik. When Truman demanded that Soviet troops leave Iranian Azerbaijan in 1946, he pulled them out. He wasn’t going to risk nuclear war for Azerbaijan. And when the U.S. seemed as though it might eventually get tired of flying supplies into Berlin and push through on the land militarily, at least that’s what he thought might happened, he ended the Blockade. When Kim il Sung asked Stalin’s approval to invade South Korea; however, he gave he gave it. After all, Acheson had just announced that Korea was beyond the U.S. sphere of interest; so the risk was minimal.

But no sooner had the North Korean forces moved south than the U.S rushed a force from Japan to help defend the South. It is true that Korea at the time wasn’t in the U.S. sphere of interest, but Japan was, and Japan had always considered Korea as a buffer against China. If the U.S. let Korea fall to the Communists that would have seriously strained Japanese-American relations. And at the time, we mustn’t forget, most in the West, at least most of those with influence, believed that there was a “Communist Conspiracy” headed by Stalin in Moscow. They believed that he was pulling the strings. And at a very superficial level this idea had some plausibility. Stalin did after all give the go ahead to Kim Il Sung, but what happened after that was a shock to Stalin.

As a result of the Korean war, the “Communist Conspiracy” theory gained more credence in the West. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization founded in 1949 was given impetus as a result of Kim Il Sung’s invasion of 1950. Also given strength was the idea that Western Germany should be rearmed. Stalin had lost considerable ground after World War II, and he saw it. Yes, he had the Eastern Bloc nations but they were no advantage in the way that the Western Nations in NATO comprised an advantage for the U.S. The Eastern Bloc nations were a drain on the USSR’s resources. The European nations were self-supporting.

Kissinger on pages 495-6 of Diplomacy writes of Stalin’s political strategy at this point in time: “. . . Stalin’s approach was particularly obtuse, because he wanted to avoid giving the slightest hint of weakness to an adversary that was in the process of basing its policy on positions of strength. His goal was to indicate that he wished to avoid a confrontation without appearing to shrink from it. Stalin’s pretext was a view put forward in a highly theoretical book published several years earlier by the economist Yevgenii Varga. The author had argued that capitalist systems were becoming more stable and that war among them was therefore no longer inevitable. If Varga was right, the strategy Stalin had pursued since the 1920s – of playing the capitalists off against each other – would no longer work. The capitalists, far from fighting east other, might go so far as to unite against the socialist motherland, a possibility foreshadowed by the creation of NATO and the Japanese-American alliance.”

Well of course! Varga seems to have presented the obvious. Liberal Democracies don’t war with Liberal Democracies. But we forget that the Communists back then didn’t understand “Liberal Democracy.” They were caught in a Marxist-Leninist time warp that thought only of the old “Capitalist” nations that Marx and Lenin first criticized. Perhaps Stalin understood that his world had changed, but he couldn’t very well let on that one of the key assumptions of the Communist process had been undermined by the transition of “Capitalism” to “Liberal Democracy.”

So Stalin countered this argument of Varga’s “with an elaborate essay of his own entitled ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.,’ which was published in October 1952 . . . . In his article, Stalin reconsecrated the true communist faith as he had promulgated it in 1934, 1939, and 1946, to the effect that, far from becoming more stable, capitalism was facing an ever-accelerating crisis:

‘It is said that the contradictions between capitalism and socialism are stronger than the contradictions among the capitalist countries. Theoretically, of course, that is true. It is not only true now, today; it was true before the Second World War. And it was more or less realized by the leaders of the capitalist countries. Yet the Second World War began not as a war with the U.S.S.R., but as a war between capitalist countries.’”


Kissinger goes on to tell us that this was Stalin’s largely ineffective attempt to assure the West that he was going to continue to be content to let the Capitalist apples fall from the tree, that is, that he had no intention whatsoever of launching World War Three. The ongoing collapse of Capitalism was progressing on schedule just as Marx and Lenin had predicted.

We here in the U.S. don’t think of ourselves as being just another Capitalist nation like Nazi Germany. In fact, from our current perspective, we see commonality between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. We, or course, aren’t being influenced (unless we are die-hard radical leftists like Bernardine Dohrn) by Marxist-Leninist ideology. We see that the Liberal Democratic governments have worked many of the bugs out of our social systems, the bugs that Marx thought so poisonous that the proletariat would rise up against these nations. Even beyond that, some post-war European peoples have voted themselves entitlements that would amaze Marx, if not Lenin, and probably have caused him (could he have known) to abandon his project.

Now it is not the Capitalistic countries that have to worry about an angry proletariat revolting, it is the former Communist countries’ leaders worrying about economic competition. They are busy working the bugs out of their system; which we might simplify in a cynical way by saying their desires are to make their nations enough like Liberal Democracies to make them economically competitive without forcing them to abandon their power. Which is interesting, for what they ended up with far more resembles the Capitalist nations that Marx and Lenin railed against than a modern-day Liberal Democracy.

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