This essay sums up some of the arguments presented in Syzmanski’s book, Is the Red Flag Flying? and addresses several key issues on the Soviet Union including military intervention, socialist planning, so-called Soviet imperialism, trade relations, and class structure. Here’s an excerpt
It’s not sufficient to show that Soviet foreign aid requires partial payment. We have to make sure in order to claim that it’s imperialism that there is exploitation, there is Systematic exploitation. We can’t use circular arguments — I think much of the RCP position is circular. The claim that Cuba is not socialist because it’s allied with the Soviet Union, which is imperialist, and the Soviet Union is imperialist because it trades or aids Cuba, which is not socialist. I mean, we get that kind of circular argument too much. We have to have independent criteria of what imperialism is and what socialism is, and we can’t argue in that kind of circular way.
And it’s not sufficient to show that the Soviet Union intervenes in a country. Intervention has never been a criterion of imperialism — the export of capital in order to economically exploit a country, that’s the criterion of imperialism, not intervention. In no place in Marx or Lenin was the claim ever made that Marxists don’t support intervention. Marx supported the Civi l War in the United States, that is, the North’s intervention in the South. Lenin intervened ac-tively in Poland in 1920, and in Armenia and Georgia, and in the suppression of the counterrevolution in Central Asia in the early 1920s. The Bolsheviks intervened many times. Stalin intervened in 1940 in sending the Red Army into Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Lithuania. You have to judge interventions in terms of the line, in terms of their policy, not in terms of some abstract criterion that interventions are bad or good. In other issues the RCP is very good in talking about line decides, but when it comes to interventions the claim is often made that interventions are evidence of imperialism. That’s very un-Marxist.
And, again, remember, if you have the Maoist position it means the Soviet Union was internationalist, was proletarian internationalist, before the mid-50s, so you have to present evidence that it changed. And believe me, virtually all the evidence is very strong that it went the other way, especially in its relationships with Eastern Europe. Before 1953, it bought Polish coal at 10 percent of the world price. In 1953, it went to paying the world price, and in 1956 it compensated Poland for all the cheap coal it had bought before. There maybe were 1,000 or so joint enterprises that the Soviet Union took over that had been the Nazi businesses in Eastern Europe, and they ran them 50-50 supposedly, but a lot of value was transferred to the Soviet Union before ’56. And between ’53 and ’56 they turned over all those enterprises but one in Bulgaria to Eastern Europe without compensation. So Soviet relations with Eastern Europe qualitatively changed alright, they qualitatively changed in favor of Eastern Europe and away from subsidizing the Soviet Union. I don’t argue that the Soviet Union was imperialist before ’56 by any means, but the economic change was definitely not in the di rection of any kind of social-imperialism after that period.